Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Travel Essentials - The Not-So-Obvious

I have seen quite a few blog posts recently that give a list of the traveling essentials. All are usually pretty helpful to those who are fairly new to traveling. Traveling Essentials lists usually consist of the obvious -headphones, a scarf, an umbrella, etc. These items were on my list the first time I traveled in Europe (which is really the only place I have ever traveled), but there are other essentials that I learned about the hard way that you rarely see on any list. Maybe my list is really only helpful to those whose travel style is similar to mine? Not sure.
So what's my travel style?
1.) I try to save money as much as possible. All those little extras add up to a fairly large lump sum of money in the end. I'd rather save that money for our next adventure!
2.) I try to save space since I travel with a rucksack (33L or 8.7gal) and a small backpack purse. Think about the size of trash bags that you buy and that will give you a somewhat good idea of the size of my backpack. I like that I can walk anywhere and everywhere with my luggage. I don't have to worry about stairs or cobblestone streets or checking it on a flight. It can sit on my lap during public transport where I know for a fact it is safe.
3.) On long trips, I don't bring enough clothes for each day we are traveling. I hand wash or machine wash (if possible) my clothes and wear things more than once.
4.) During our travel days, we usually leave our place of stay in the late morning and don't arrive back until we are done for the day after dinner. That means we have to be prepared for all day and bring everything with us that we need for the day.

After quite a few adventures, I have come up with a list of essentials that aren't as "pretty" as the normal list but they are definitely useful!
1.) Anti-Bacterial Hand Gel - Yes, this one is an obvious one, but I feel it has to stay on the list  because you can never have too many reminders when it comes to this one. Probably one in ten bathrooms I enter while traveling have hand soap. It is pretty disgusting at the end of the day to think about how little I have actually washed my hands, but at least I have used anti-bacterial gel.
2.) Wash Rag - Europeans aren't the biggest fans of wash rags or wash cloths from what I have experienced. Occasionally, we will come across a hotel or apartment that provides them, but usually not. One time when we first began traveling, we asked the front desk if they could bring us wash rags and they had absolutely no clue what we were talking about. Finally they acted as if they did, then brought us big hand towels... yeah, that didn't work. Now, we always bring our own.
3.) Tissues or Napkins - Just like very few bathrooms have hand soap, so many of them don't have toilet paper either. I always stick a few napkins from a coffee shop in my bag to make sure I am not stuck in that super awkward position that us ladies avoid at all times.
4.) Laundry Detergent - Even if you don't plan on doing any laundry while you travel, it is not a bad idea to have some detergent just in case an item that you expected to wear a few times (jeans, a jacket, a bra, etc) needs to be cleaned. Rome was so hot that we could not wear some items more than twice like we usually do.
5.) Floss - This recently became an essential for me. I always have floss in my toiletries bag, but twice in the past two months, I have needed floss in my purse. Now, I keep some in my purse :-)
6.) Water Bottle - Remember, I like to save money. I am a big fan of reusing water bottles rather than buying new ones. If I have room in my bag, I bring an empty one with me to the airport or I buy a bottle after security. Then, we use that bottle during our whole trip. Plus, those small cups in hotel rooms just don't cut it for my middle-of-the-night-thirsts.
7.) Medicine (Ibuprofen, Band-Aids, and Neosporin especially) - Really you should not travel without some type of medical kit, but I specifically always need those three things. I keep band-aids in my purse because I never know when I will get a blister. The neosporin is a pain killer in itself, plus I get infected ears quite easily and neosporin zaps that over night.
8.) Plastic Baggies of all sizes - Luke and I usually pack sandwiches for lunch to help cut back on cost and it prevents us from gorging on food every meal. Without baggies, we would have no place to put our sandwiches. Plus, they come in handy at the most random times, like if a necklace or bracelet breaks - where are you going to put it? Oh, in a sandwich baggie! Or you can't find a trashcan for your gelato cup that you just finished and you're not going to litter and you don't want to hold it - where are you going to put it? Oh, in a gallon baggie then in my purse until I find a trash can!
9.) Plastic Grocery Bag - Many European countries are moving toward charging customers for grocery bags. I always bring my tiny fold away grocery bag to avoid any extra few cents that may increase the cost of our travels.
10.) Snacks - When that hungry monster inside starts to eat a hole in my tummy, a granola bar or some peanuts or gummy bears (that are in one of my sandwiches baggies) does the trick for the time being.

Again, obviously there are other essentials, but most of these are things that no one really told me about. I had to learn the hard way or from experience. Now in no way do I feel I am an experienced traveler, but I have learned how we like to travel and have learned what works for us.

What not-so-obvious items do you make sure to pack when you travel?

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