The Things I Carry . . .

 . . . 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!

My Secret Weapon

My Secret Weapon

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!

Bon viaggio!

Linda Dini Jenkins

5 years ago

Here’s a suggestion from a friend. I can’t stop laughing . . .

Excellent blog post! –

What I always carry abroad:

Top thing I carry is a few “wash cloths”. I had a notable experience in central Mexico once. After checking in to my room for only a short stay I began unpacking my clothes but was interrupted by a friend taking me out to dinner, so I left the remainder on my bed until I returned. I had noticed there were towels in my bathroom but no wash cloths. So on the way out to dinner I stop at the front desk and ask if I can get wash cloths in my room.

I returned to the room around 10pm to find the clothes I had left on the bed were all gone. I looked to see if housekeeping had put them away for me, but only the ones I had already placed into drawers earlier were there. My Spanish is not adequate for a phone call to the front desk, and barely for an in-person description of my missing articles. Then I hear “housekeeping” with a tap at my door. I open it to see all my clothes on hangers, freshly dry-cleaned.. . including my underwear! I asked why they had dry-cleaned my clothes but we were not communicating well, so I accepted them along with the bill for 1500 pesos (approx. $150 US dollars) and went off to see the manager. Now it’s well after 11pm and the desk clerk tells me in very halted English that the day manager is back at 5am I will need to speak to him and his English is “gooder”.

The next morning early I go to meet the manager who is a very nice fella with marginal English and coupled with my less than marginal Spanish, I try to find out why they dry cleaned my clothes? He informs me that that I had stopped by the front desk and asked to “wash clothes in room 108.” With a swirling hand motion in front of my face pantomime, I attempt explain to him that I had asked for “wash cloths” for my face to be put into my bathroom. Finally a look of recognition to what I am saying fills his face and we both break out in laughter at the “wash clothes” vs. “wash cloths” mix-up. He agrees to reimburse me the 1500 pesos they had charged my credit card and the lesson was learned.

Always pack “wash cloths” for all international travel!


Jennie @ Got My Reservations

5 years ago

Funny story!

Jennie @ Got My Reservations

5 years ago

Linda, thank you for allowing me to feature you today at Got My Reservations!

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