“Backpack” Europe (or wherever you want!) – What I Always Have On Hand

On your way to somewhere fun and exciting? These are my traveling take-along suggestions. Yes I name drop brands. No, they’re not paying me. Yes, some name brands have less than par products!

At the airport in Iceland, summer 2015, with my friend Kristy.

1. Get some REALLY good shoes. Hiking? Get a comfy hiking/walking/running hybrid. I recommend and will always swear by Hoka One One shoes. One summer I used New Balance’s and my feet hurt every night. My favorite is the Hoka One One Challenger ATR, a perfect all-purpose shoe! Hoka One One Clifton’s are good if you’re not going to hike. If you have room, throw in another pair of shoes. My second pair is a pair of Teva’s. A lot of my friends like to just take a pair of flip-flops.

Sporting my Hoka One One shoes on the infamous PDX carpet in Oregon.

2. Power adapter. You’ll need one per person. Really. Sometimes I even throw in a tiny power strip if I know I’ll have a lot of electronics on the trip and have room.

3. Handkerchief. Sounds strange, but really great multi-purpose travel object. You can clean off glasses, clean up messes, and the list is endless.

4. Wipes. As in like baby wipes, but the flushable ones for adults. Get a small pack to have on you while out and another for backup. Trust me, toilet paper is NOT everywhere in the world. You can use these for other uses, as well.

5. Gift cards. I recommend these two: a Starbucks card to use in case you need wi-fi, not a drink, and a phone calling card (I know, sounds like the 90s). I’ve never had to use these two for either, BUT they’re good to have on you JUST in case something goes wrong.

6. Travel containers.

First: vacuum packs. Get the kind where you don’t actually need a vacuum to suck air out. These are the best way to squish up your clothing you’ll need for a few weeks or more. Find ones that “zip.”

Second: I love the silicone tubes for shampoo and body wash, but do note that they sometimes will alter the smell of the container and/or the liquid inside. I’m not sure why, but have had this happen several times.

Third: GoTubb makes some really nice lock top containers that snap open. I use these for pills and earrings. They come in various sizes.

7. Speaking of clothing, think quick dry. I’m sort of a name brand snob, but… have found the Avia and Danskin brands from Wal-Mart work well for shirts and bottoms and dry very quickly, and are super cheap, especially when they clearance them out in the fall/winter. If you want to spend a little more $ women, Title Nine has quality quick drying and odor masking shirts. Can’t go wrong with either of those qualities! I like Under Armour, too, but it all depends on the blend of materials as some of their clothing doesn’t dry as fast as I’d prefer. Smartwool is the BEST and only way to go for socks. And as of for undies, don’t buy the super expensive brand that is supposedly for travelers OR the Under Armour “one size” ones that look awesome (they fit horribly and are NOT comfortable). So not cool. There are plenty of new “quick dry” ones out there that work just as well or better. I’ve also read that lace underwear dries quickly, but am not really into lace…. maybe you are!

8. Laundry. Buy powdered soap NOT liquid to take with you to get less through TSA. Dollar Tree or other stores often have the powder pods. These travel VERY well and also help keep your bag smelling fresh! Plus, if you have a small load, you can break up the pod and only use half of it or less. Throw in a few dryer sheets to your pack, too, for added freshness and to use if you get a dryer (a rarity in many countries). I used some of the fresh beads last year in with my wash (instead of dryer sheets) and they kept my bag from getting too stinky. Make sure to throw in some rope and a few clothes pins if you’re planning on drying. In many foreign countries you can forget about a dryer being present.

DO NOT buy those little travel soaps or soap sheets for laundry. They’re pretty crappy and don’t clean like you’ll want them to, trust me.

9. All-in-one. I have used Dr. Bronner’s soap before with some luck. Not as good as laundry soap, but a close second! His peppermint soap is my #1 choice because you can use it as toothpaste AND to wash your hair and body.


10. Toothpaste. Just take a normal travel tube. Need more liquid space? I recommend the toothy tabs from Lush. A little expensive, but they might just be what you need.

11. Water bottle. My usual go-to travel bottle is the Platypus brand water bottle. Get one with a carabiner hook on it and don’t buy the dollar store knock off. Pros: easy and light to pack. Cons: can be super difficult to clean. Mine got moldy one trip and I had to pitch it. My second go-to is my Camelbak bottles. I like the Eddy. You can also store things in them until you get to your final destination or next stop.

12. Gotta sleep. And stay awake. Make sure you have a good neck pillow, eye mask if you want, pills to knock you out (I like to take Dramamine, melatonin, and Benydryl all at one time on plane rides over six hours, but….), and take a good book if you have room!

I also swear by this stuff (No-Jet-Lag) when you are moving to a significant time change. I used it on two trips to Europe, but not on my first. My first trip I was in a fog for days. I felt good the other times I used this. Skeptical? I was too, but it’s cheap enough that it’s worth trying.

This works.

13. The plane/purse pack: must haves for the long haul. Make sure you have a small container of pills you need for a few days in case you lose your luggage, baby/butt wipes, compression socks for long hauls, change (ALWAYS have change!), some snacks, a spork or eating utensils, tissues, a carabiner light combo (yes they make these… great for keys and finding your way in dark), hand soap sheets, and disposable compressed cotton washcloths are always a nice addition (just add water!).

14. If needed, buy a quick-dry towel. REI.com has the best options. Get one that can wrap around your body if you’re staying at hostels, FYI.

15. Credit card. Make sure to get one for overseas that doesn’t charge fees. I love my Capital One card. I ALWAYS take my debit card, too, for emergency withdraws. I email my mom my card info in case one is stolen.

16. Choosing a pack.

My pack summer 2015. Not a fan of this one. My back and neck hurt every day.

They’re all so different, some are gender-specific, and price actually doesn’t always matter. You might find a $50 one at Wal-Mart that works better for you than a $300 NorthFace pack. I recommend you try them on, buy one, fill it up with what you might take, then walk around with it for an hour outside and see if you’re dying. If you are, take it back and get another one. Personally, I don’t recommend the Eddie Bauer packs. I returned mine. I have friends who like the Kelty and Osprey brands. Also, make sure you know what will fit your travel needs. Many airlines overseas do not consider our carry-on sizes to be, well, carry-on and you have to pay to check it. Norwegian Airlines are the worst I’ve experienced in this area. Air Berlin was super friendly and more accommodating, and they give you chocolate.

Amazing chocolate. YUM.

17. Day pack. Eddie Bauer RipPac’s are the best and go on sale a few times a year. There are cheaper options on amazon.com, but they’re not as quality or comfortable as the EB brand.

18. Polarized sunglasses and lens wipes.

19. A travel-sized umbrella (again, Eddie Bauer is my go-to) or a pocket poncho.

20. A versatile jacket. I LOVE Eddie Bauer’s Travex line. Most of their jackets have a pocket inside that is passport sized! They also make some really nice quick-dry pants, tops, and dresses–perfect for any of your travel needs!

My Travex jacket came in handy at the top of Europe!

21. Photographing things? Make sure to have all of your gear. I take my Canon Rebel and extra SD cards and batteries. I take night sky photos, so I always have my mini-tripod and shutter release remote with me, as well.

22. Money belt. Yes, they’re ugly. Yes, I think they’re actually worth buying. I don’t use one everyday on the trip, but most of the time I do because they’re the safest and easy to tuck into your pants or hide under clothing. Best deals are amazon.com or at Wal-Mart.

23. A pill box. I’m not on any medications, but find the pill boxes nice to take medicines w/out all the containers. Just make sure to know the dosages.

24. Good tunes and ear buds. I’ve read a LOT of reviews and settled on these: Panasonic’s RPHJE120A In-Ear Headphones. For less than $10 you get noise-reduction and quality sound. Are they Beats or Bose? No, but you’ll hear your music loud and clear over the hum of the train or plane and for a LOT less.

Make a trip playlist. I love having music that reminds me of the trip I ventured on. My friend I went to Alaska with made us a playlist with all Alaska-related songs. Last summer, I made what I think is an epic road trip playlist on Spotify. You can follow it here: https://open.spotify.com/user/12129843437/playlist/5pHWUTJXI5U0A8neRg9tnd?si=4NELx1vaQf6-bxrPaw0KYw

25. Back to shampoo. If you need room or less liquids, shampoo bars (like a bar of soap) are nice and you can get one for around $6 on amazon.com. Try different brands because some are better than others. Lush, again, my favorite in this category.

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