Here's my list of trusty essentials:
- Ipod and Bose Noise Reducing Headphones (great when your room mate snores)
- iPad and charger -- no more heavy books to carry
- Cameras, SD Cards, Extra Batteries for both, and travel charger
- Macbook Air -- weighs 12 ounces -- how else would I create this blog, upload and label pictures, store trip information and copies of important docs, check emails, etc.??
- Card Reader -- Digital Foci II is a small 160GB portable hard drive with card reader -- great way to clear your SD cards for additional use; but, if you take a laptop, that works too
- Power cords for iPod/iPad/iPhone, Macbook Air, video camera
- Cell phone(s); charger - I can now use my iPhone 4s which is unlocked for international use - buy a local SIM (mini) card; I also use an international phone from Mobal.com and a Mobal SIM Card with permanent UK phone # - great for traveling companion for inexpensive texting when you are separated (international minutes are usually around $1.29 depending on where you travel).
- Program your phone with the numbers of those who will be traveling with you ahead of time, as well as any hotels you will be visiting, contact info you might need, etc.
- AA Batteries (rechargeable and disposable), AAA batteries, Battery Charger
- Small Post It Notes and two colored pens
- Mini Flashlight and Magnifying glass (60+ year-old eyes)
- International Plug Adapters and power strip - carrying a small, lightweight power strip makes it much easier to plug in several cords at one time when you have limited plugs in rural hotels; I also bring a Belkin multi-outlet plug that has to USB plugs - easy to charge up multiple devices.
DRUG STORE ESSENTIALS
Travel to rural places like Eastern and Southern Turkey and Armenia (sort-of) require things you wouldn't normally have to take on vacation because there are no drugstores as we know them. So, here is what I take for this type of trip:
- First Aid Kit - bacitracin, anti-itch cream, band-aids, peroxide, anti-bacterial wipes
- Sun screen, insect repellent wipes
- Anti-diarrhea medicine, laxative (it's always one or the other!)
- Benadryl, Day/Night cold tabs
- Antibiotic (Cipro by prescription) - A MUST!! Those bacteria can really mess with your stomach!
- Pain medication (Motrin, Aleve, or stronger prescription meds) - backs, knees, who knows what blows when you are on a trip like this
- Nail file, Krazy Glue (one-time use mini-tubes)
- Duct Tape -- ever had a suitcase break? A small roll is always useful
- Prescription Meds (pack these in your carry-on luggage) and vitamins
- Shampoo, conditioner, face cleanser, moisturizer, small bar of soap, hand lotion, deodorant, razor (I use Venus disposables with the moisturizer built into the blade - saves on shaving cream)
- For the girls: Make up -- who needs makeup -- take a tinted moisturizer with SPF 15, colored lip gloss, and you're good to go
- Woolite/Tide Portable detergent, and a few hanger style clothes pins for a quick wash at night
- Toothbrush, floss and travel tubes of toothpaste
- Bubble wrap and tape for those breakable souvenirs
If you have room, these are the basics for a decent wardrobe for a spring/summer trip:
- five solid colored cotton short sleeved T-Shirts
- 1 lightweight cotton sweater or hooded jacket (hoods are great for that quick summer rain)
- 1 cotton 3/4 length sleeve t-shirt (for cool evenings)
- 4 pairs of crop pants, lightweight cotton with spandex (they dry fast)
- 1 pair neutral colored long slacks
- 5 pairs of tennis socks (these take a few days to dry)
- 7 pairs nylon underwear (they dry fast)
- 3 bras
- 1 good pair of running shoes
- 1 pair of good walking sandals
- FitFlops (or any flip flops) - good for walking around your room when you don't want to wear shoes, into communal showers, or a quick walk to the lobby/pool etc.
- bathing suit and cover up (definitely don't forget the cover-up) - one never knows if you want to take a dip somewhere
- 2 pairs of light weight PJs (for a 3-4 week trip)
- pillow case (cover the hotel pillow cases) and wash cloth (not everyone provides them)
- brimmed hat (optional)
- ZipLoc bags for wet clothes, bottles and miscellaneous stuff
WHAT DO I PUT ALL THIS STUFF IN?
- Carry on bag -- 17" - 21" with rollers - intra-European flights often do not permit the standard carry on size used in the U.S. A rolling duffle, or slightly smaller bag with wheels is a better bet if you are flying within the country. Get the lightest bag you can find. I used "Antler" luggage - made in England, exceptionally light luggage.
- 24" Suitcase (expandable) -- you just don't need a bigger suitcase, and you could probably get away with a 22" (or so says Rick Steves). Smaller hotels in small hotels don't have "lifts" (elevators), or they may be very tight (like in Amsterdam), and you may have to climb stairs before you get to the reception area. If you are driving, you must consider the size of the trunk and how many bags total your group has. And, they weigh your check-in luggage. It doesn't take a lot of stuff to reach 17 or 44 pounds! Antler's 25" rolling bag weights 7.5 pounds before you start packing. Can't get lighter than that unless you take a Glad Heavy Duty Trash bag!
- For gals - a purse or tote - I use a Rick Steve's Civita Day Pack which doubles as a backpack for day trips. It easily fits under the seat on the plane, will hold the laptop, a small camera, your book, passport and essential prescription pills (never pack your pills in check-in luggage!) - watch out -- airlines in the interior of Europe may weigh this with your carry-on and you may still have to pay for excess Kilos!
- For guys - you can substitute a small day pack for a tote in addition to your carry on
- For day trips -- use the same day pack you carried on -- it will hold your point and shoot camera, map, a guide book, bottle of water, cell phone, etc. -- remember, you have to carry this all day long so make sure you don't overload it!
- Fold up large tote or bag -- if you have shopped, and have too much for your luggage, this bag can be unfolded and you can put all your dirty clothes (crammed) into this bag for the return flight home. The breakables go in the suitcase.
- Unique baggage labels, TSA locks (good luck ... TSA often breaks these off your luggage)
- Money belt -- yes, you HAVE to take one of these with you -- wear it whenever you are carrying more than just the basic amount of cash you need for the day. Use the hotel safe for the rest of your money and your passport. Carry a copy of your passport and lock the real thing up at the hotel!
- Always take 2 or 3 ATM cards for different financial institutions -- sometimes one card won't work and you could be stuck. Banks charge fees on both ends for ATM withdrawals so pull enough local currency to meet your daily limit -- most cities have ATM machines everywhere - - use one attached to a bank if possible, and pull money during the week so if you have a problem, you will be able to go into the bank for assistance. Airports usually have ATM machines for that first stash of local cash.
- A Capital One Credit Card or AMEX Platinum Card -- Capital One and Amex do not charge an international transaction fee for charges overseas - however, most smaller towns outside of Europe discourage credit card use and prefer cash; same with outdoor markets and vendors.
- Notify your financial institutions that you are traveling overseas: If you call your banks and credit card company before you leave, they will put a note on your account, with a contact phone # so that they won't block your account when you charge. It could happen anyway -- so carry the phone #'s of your financial institutions and credit-card companies with you.
- Take some Euros and U.S. Dollars -- buy a trip pack of Euros (AAA sells them, for example) for use in airports and for that first taxi ride and tips at the airport. Carry some American dollars -- money changers are around if you can't access your ATM.
- Copy of your passport, driver's license, travel insurance and important docs: I usually keep those types of documents on my iPad and store them in a cloud-based folder such as DropBox so that I can access them anywhere that I have internet access. I put a copy of my driver's license and passport in my day-wallet and keep the original with my passport safe in the hotel.