I’ve been scouring websites and quizzing veteran travelers for strange but useful travel tips for my upcoming European trip. Suggestions on packing light but efficiently and stylishly because we are making this journey in a scaled-back style.
No five-star hotels. No comfortable but cloistering herd of fellow tour animals. No tour guide to make sure we have the right money, papers, and tickets. And no waiting bus or cruise ship to schlep all our bags.
Learning from past travel mistakes
The last I toured Europe was fifteen years ago with my husband and another couple. Here’s a memory I hope I don’t repeat. Making two trips over the steep Scalzi Bridge in Venice to get our mountain of luggage to the train station.
This time, it’s just my two adult kids and me. I’m using lessons from my recent experience with Hurricane Harvey flooding. If you can’t carry it out yourself, you don’t need it.
Where to find a complete list
Just so you know, this is not a comprehensive list of everything you should carry. Check out Leyla at Women on the Road for the exhaustive packing list.
To my packing started, there’s laundry basket in the bedroom that I have been throwing things in as I think of them. The weekend before the trip, I’ll start doing some hard sorting.
I’ll check the latest weather. Then I’ll turn to Leyla again to decide what to take based on comfort, portability, and some other ingenious standards.
For my toiletries and medicines, I’ll check everything to make sure the supply is adequate to last through the trip. As I do my morning and evening routine, I’m putting medicines and makeup/skin treatments in a small plastic box.
Then I’m paring down where possible. Can I combine that makeup step? Use lipstick for blush too? Not worry about shampoo and use what’s in the hotel. Then buy a larger container for the apartment where we will spend the most time.
8 Strange but Useful Travel Tips
Now for the things that you might not find on the more comprehensive list, but you’ll be glad to know or have.
1. Get a new credit card just for this trip.
The son of a friend lost his credit card on his first day in London. It happened to be his main card, the one he had all his automatic payments on. He spent the initial few days of his vacation taking care of switching card numbers on those accounts.
Having a new dedicated travel card eliminates that problem. Also getting a new credit card lets you grab one of those intro specials like $150 when you spend $500 in the first few months.
2. Order groceries online when you arrive.
We use Airbnb a lot. After we arrive at our destination, we usually make a mad dash to get groceries. Including those critical coffee supplies for the morning. And most times, we are jet or car lagged, so that’s the last thing we want to do.
I love this strange but useful travel tip. Find a grocery chain nearby that does curbside service and order your food necessities online to pick up as soon as you land. Milk, bread, coffee, cream, fruit and other staples to get you through the first day or so.
You can continue to stock your shelves online, but I like to visit the local grocery at some point. It gives you a good feel for the neighborhood. But you get to do it after you’ve gotten some rest.
3. Plan a plane picnic
Buying food on the plane is expensive and usually pathetic. I heard a tip on the Happier podcast from a listener who packs a picnic lunch from Trader Joe’s in her carryon. All the treats she and her family love from TJ – cheese, meats, sweets and bread in an insulated bag.
Order the water, soda or wine in the airport or on the plane and remember to toss in some plastic utensils. The rest of the passengers will be so jealous.
4. Bring stylish and packable shoes
Rothy Shoes are stylish, machine-washable, moisture wicking and weigh less than ten ounces. And Rothy’s are made from recycled water bottles!
And did I say they were stylish? When you want a break from hiking boots or athletic shoes, Rothy’s dress up an outfit and are still comfortable. Since I’m packing black, white and denim, my animal print flats should spice things up.
5. Have Downy Wrinkle and Odor Releaser in your backpack
While the perfect travel wardrobe is wrinkle-free, it’s nice to know you can refresh and unwrinkle after an overnight flight. The travel size is a legal three ounces. That refreshing part is essential after spending the night with 300 of your closest travel buddies!
6. Carry a collapsible water container
Yeti’s durable tumblers may be impressive, but they are bulky. Same with other rigid water containers. The Hydaway collapsible water bottle stores easily inside your purse or backpack when empty. It holds 21-ounces. While collapsing it takes a little practice, and it sometimes has a plastic taste when it’s left in hot weather, the convenience outweighs the minor drawbacks.
Especially useful at airport security. Finish your drink, collapse it before you go through the line and then refill it on the other side.
7. Mouthwash vs. Hand sanitizer
Go for the travel container of mouthwash. It is a disinfectant and antiseptic that can clean your hands and toothbrush.
Dab it on cuts, and blisters.
Sanitize cooking or eating utensils.
Spot treat blemishes or wipe away the bacteria that causes body odor if you’ve forgotten your deodorant.
8. Imprint your vacation with a signature scent
Gretchen Rubin of the Happier Podcast is my favorite happiness bullies, and she has drummed into me the power of scent. According to Psychology Today, smell is closely linked with memory, probably more so than any of our other senses.
To make memories of your vacation last a lifetime, pick up a candle, room spray or potpourri from your vacation destination. And use it freely in your hotel or rental. When you get home, every time you notice that fragrance, see if it doesn’t take you back immediately.
I know this is true because we spent many pleasant summers at Waltonia, a rustic Guadalupe river camp. Every year, we visited a crafts show in a neighboring village, and I would buy a unique woody/orange potpourri. Even thirty years later, I’m back at the river whenever I catch a whiff of that fragrance.
Strange but useful travel tips also keep you bold!
And bringing home a small, consumable souvenir like a candle or a fragrance keeps your bold commitment to rid yourself of clutter but still get to go shopping!
Please share your favorite tips
I’ll update after the trip on how these eight strange but useful travel tips worked. In the meantime, share your favorite tips. I love hearing from you.
GREAT tips! As an addendum to #3, check with your airline on overseas trips to see what food they might be offering and if it’s offered for free. We flew Lufthansa between U.S., Scotland and Ireland, and both ways across the pond they fed and beveraged us CONSTANTLY. And at no cost. We had no idea – it was a pleasant surprise!
Great idea. I think you’re right. But will it be better than a plane picnic!