. . . with apologies to Tim O’Brien. His book, The Things They Carried, is one of my top five books of all time and has absolutely nothing to do with what I’m about to write.
It’s trip planning season again. At least that’s what all my travel blog colleagues are writing about in their columns lately. This is the time of year, they say, when people start to plan for their annual holiday, especially if that holiday involves crossing oceans. To help potential travelers in their search, all kinds of lists are appearing to promote the top 10 beach destinations, the best European bargain spots, “undiscovered” this or that, and what you should or shouldn’t pack on said trip.
To which I have two replies.
(1) If you still need a place to go, I still have four spots available on my Umbria trip this year. We leave May 30 and stay just outside of Assisi for a week. Think about it — it’s a great deal and will be a fabulous time.
(2) I might as well weigh in on what I bring when I travel — especially when crossing oceans. After more than a dozen years of serious traveling, I’ve learned a thing or two and offer my list up as to whoever’s interested. Use what you want and throw away the rest. And tell me what things you carry when you travel; I’d love to share more good ideas!
Things to carry/Things to do/Packing suggestions:
(1) Make a copy of your passport and carry it with you. Keep your actual passport someplace secure (like in a hotel safe).
(2) Make a copy of the front and back sides of every credit card or bank card you bring with you. Keep it someplace safe.
(3) Make a copy of your airline tickets, hotel reservations, car rental documents, etc. and keep them in a safe place.
(4) Call your smartphone provider and see what kind of package you’ll need while you’re abroad. Think carefully about how many minutes, how much data, and how much internet time you’ll really need when you’re away. Most providers will let you increase it when you’re on the road.
(5) Be sure to call your bank before you leave and tell them the dates you’ll be traveling, where you’ll be traveling, and which debit or credit cards you’ll be using while you’re away.
(6) If you’re an American citizen going anywhere the slightest bit dodgy, register with the U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program before you go. I even do this when I travel to Western Europe.
(7) Bring a few reclosable plastic bags in all sizes. You’ll need them to get through security with your small liquids, but they’re also good for laundry, damp clothes, wine, olive oil, perfume, loose change . . . you’ll find new uses for them on every trip! Likewise, foldable shopping bags, especially if you’re “living like a local” on your holiday — some places have banned plastic grocery bags entirely or else charge for bags.
(8) When you pack, think one or two colors only. I’ve become a nut for black and white, with a few scarves or other accessories for color. Bring clothes that can do double duty. Respect the local conventions, though: don’t show up in shorts or anything sleeveless and expect to be allowed into a major cathedral.
(9) Comfortable shoes are a must! Most vacations require a good deal of walking, and this is no time to break in new shoes or try a new style. So . . . one or two pairs of good walking shoes and, if you think you’ll need them, one pair of dressier shoes. Lightweight is key. But please, keep your shiny white sneakers at home.
(10) If you want to look like an American, wear a fanny pack. But please don’t.
(11) Even when you think you’re being smart about shoes, your feet can rebel. Bring bandages, blister pads, anti-rubbing goo, orthotics or anything else that helps you walk comfortably. Bad feet = bad vacation.
(12) If I feel a scratchy throat coming on, I bring lozenges and plenty of vitamin C and zinc compounds like Airborne or Emergen-C. I have been known to plead with my doctor for a Z-Pack just in case I need an antibiotic while I’m abroad. I hate to take them and have never had to, but it makes me feel better knowing that I won’t have to face that language barrier when I feel like crap.
(13) Everybody has a secret weapon on a trip and here’s mine: Clove Oil. Yep. You buy it in tiny little bottles and it can make all the difference. Its antiseptic, antibiotic, antifungal, and antiviral properties make it a natural for treating a variety of ailments, including toothaches, indigestion, cough, asthma, headache, and stress. My husband put it on a nasty blister when we were in Paris recently and he was better overnight. And it’s helped both of us with wildly painful dental problems. So buy some and pack it. It’s a miracle in a bottle.
(14) About travel insurance: I don’t always buy it, but I do recommend it when traveling abroad. A $100 policy that you never have to use is not nearly as painful as a $20,000 expense if something goes wrong in a foreign country. If you’re traveling on a tour, chances are the tour operator will suggest (or require) that you buy travel insurance and will have some provider names handy. I generally use Travel Guard, but you can learn more about travel/trip insurance and compare policies here.
What’s your travel packing secret? What’s your pre-travel routine? Use the comment feature on this blog and share them with other readers. And don’t forget those four spots left in my trip to Umbria— we’re going to have a blast!
Linda Dini Jenkins is a card-carrying Italophile, travel planner, freelance writer, and amateur photographer. Travel is her passion, so writing about her travels just comes naturally. She hopes all her travelers find a way to express their joys, surprises, and fears as they travel and gives every traveler a nifty journal to help smooth the way. Learn more…