4 Things I Wish I’d Packed On My Trip to Europe

March 14, 2012

I recently came back from a two week guided tour in Europe and thought I’d share the 4 things that would have made my trip so much better if I had thought to pack them!

Coin purse

For next time I’ll either buy a coin purse when I arrive at my destination (cool souvenir!) or buy one before I leave like these cute coin purses I found on Etsy:

Fortune Cookie Change Purse!

Blue flower coin purse.

I never thought to bring a coin purse because at home in the US I rarely have any small change on me as I use my bank card for everything and hate lugging dirty coins around that are only useful at parking meters and have minimal value to buy anything more than a pack of gum (and let’s be honest, bad gum at that).  As soon as a few coins accumulate in my purse they are banished to a jar on my dresser until the day they’ve amassed enough of an army to march on the coin machine and turn into bills.

However, when traveling my coin ban doesn’t really work out since:

  1. Many small shops and restaurants are cash only.
  2. In some currencies coins are far more valuable than in the US and you can basically pay for small meals/items with only 1 or 2 coins.
  3. I’d often rather carry small amounts of cash than have my cards on me because if the cards are lost/stolen while I’m out of the country I’ll have a major problem on my hands.

Given that coins are far more valuable and useful in other countries it was frustrating not having a coin purse to put them in.  The bag I was carrying had no convenient pockets for storing coins and I kept finding myself fishing through the bottom of the bag with a line of people behind me as I tried to locate the correct change. Hint: not the best way to make friends.

Bag with pockets

Like I mentioned above, I was traveling with a day bag that had minimal pockets.  It was basically a cavernous laptop bag with only 2 pockets that didn’t have zippers or a way to keep anything in the pockets in the event that the bag was dropped or ended up upside down. Everything was stuffed in and I was always searching for something (a pen, small notebook, earphones, coins, vitamins, metro ticket) that  was inevitably in the bottom corner tangled with something else. Ugh.

The unfortunate bag in question. Colline du Château (Castle Hill), Nice, France.

Yes, I could have taken a backpack and problem solved but I didn’t want a backpack. They make me uncomfortable in some areas where I know there will be pickpockets. The idea of all my stuff behind my back where I can’t see it and conveniently organized into easy zipper pockets seems like a bit of a thief buffet to me. I know a lot of people will wear their backpack facing forwards in neighborhoods they are concerned about so everything is in front of them…but that’s just a little too baby-wearing-esque for my taste.  Let me keep my precious youth!–there will be enough baby wearing someday.

In my next bag I’ll look for:

  1. Adjustable over the shoulder strap (comfortable and I feel safer making it harder to snatch by wearing it across my body)
  2. POCKETS! Big ones, small ones, ones that are just right, and zippers.
  3. Deep and wide enough to hold a water bottle, maps, a book and a few small items I may need that day.
  4. Small enough that it feels like a purse not a backpack so I can only put what I need for the day in it and still be able to wear it out at night without looking like a traveling hoarder who has so much stuff crammed in her bag that she could Mary Poppins a tent out of it and set up camp right in the middle of the dance floor.

More Outlet Adapters

I have an electronics problem. I need them.  This is not an open point for discussion. On my most recent trip I brought and USED on a daily basis a:

  1. Camera
  2. Phone
  3. Kindle Fire (loaded with books and travel guides)
  4. Universal portable power pack that can charge #2 or #3 while out and about.

…And this was me roughing it by leaving my laptop and iPod at home.  I did think ahead and brought an outlet adapter set so I could plug into any outlet I might run into…but it was ONE adapter for each type of outlet.  Attempting to fully charge 4 items after using them all day with only one outlet adapter left me waking up throughout the night swapping what was plugged in—not the best way to catch up on much needed rest when on the road.  Next time I will definitely at least bring one more set of outlet adapters or a small power strip so I can have a chance to re-charge too.

Travel Hair Dryer

Stop judging… I’m not high maintenance I just happen to be fond of showering AND dry hair.  Also, my last trip was a tour so I didn’t have to worry too much about baggage restrictions so it wouldn’t have been a big deal to bring a small travel hair dryer.  Because I was staying in hotels on the tour I didn’t think to bring a hair dryer since most hotels these days have one. The hotels we stayed in did have hair dryers, but in a few of them I ran into the dreaded wall mount hair dryer.  You know, the one where you’re not sure whether you’re supposed to vacuum the floor with it or make a quick call back to the 80’s?  The one that lightly blows warm-ish air like a soft summer breeze—which is great on a late afternoon in June but not so much when you need your hair dried in under 30 minutes.



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