8 Things You Probably Are Not Packing For Your Trip

While everyone knows to pack clothing and toiletries, here are some items you may not think of and some that you may not pack because you don’t think you will need them.

1. Pillowcase:  I have stayed in a lot of hotels, many of which I did not want to touch the bed covers let alone rest my head on their pillow.  Packing a pillowcase lets you keep your peace of mind while you sleep in a strange place whether you’re staying in a sketchy hostel or the Four Seasons.

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1. Pillowcase (pillow not included)

2. Food you can’t get where you are going.  One of my travel companions dips everything in ranch dressing before she eats it.  She freaked when she realized ranch is almost impossible to find in Europe and what you can get is nothing like what she was used to.  If you don’t go a week without it at home, assume you won’t be able to find it in your destination and take some.

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2. Condiments and items you intake daily

3. Adaptors. If you are going to a country where the outlets are different, do not forget to pack an adaptor.  While hotels provide most appliances (such as blow dryers) you are still likely to need an adaptor for something.  It is almost impossible to find adaptors once you reach your destination since all those sold in local stores are to adapt the local plug to a foreign one instead of the other way around.

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3. Adaptors

4. Space bags.  In a previous post, I mentioned that I could not stand travel Space Bags, and that I do not believe they work.  While this opinion stands, there is one excellent alternative use for them that everyone should consider.  Space Bags are a great option to store smelly, wet, or dirty clothes in when traveling, because they are created to seal in everything and store larger amounts of clothing than a Ziploc bag.  Whether your clothing smells like cigarette smoke or is covered in mud from a hike, storing them in a Space Bag keeps them from rubbing off on your other clothing.

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4. Space Bags for storing dirty clothing

5. GPS Tracker. For less than $100, you can buy a GPS tracking unit to store in your checked bag.  If your bag gets stolen or never makes it on the plane, you can check where the GPS system is and find your bag once again. For example, the Mini Real Time Tracker, shown below, uses a SIM card to send its current coordinates to your phone.

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5. GPS Tracker

6. Spare credit card, medicine, and ID. Often travelers are told to keep these items safely in their carry-ons during trips.  While this is sound advice, you should keep a spare of everything you can’t live without in your suitcase. This way if your wallet, purse, or bag get stolen on your trip you can have a backup.

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6. Spare necessities

7.  Spare outfit for the opposite climate you are traveling to.  If you are traveling to Sweden, it is safe to bet you will not be needing shorts and a tank top.  However, the place you are staying may over-compensate for the cold by turning the heat much higher than comfortable.  The same can be said for very warm climates.  Pack just one outfit in-case you are stuck in the opposite temperatures you prepared for.

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7. Spare outfit opposite of destination climate

8. Pharmaceutical needs. On a trip to Europe, I had a cold and did not take any medicie with me.  I tried to find some Sudafed but could not find anything similar to this common medicine even with the pharmacist’s help.  Drug products vary greatly from country to country and even region to region, so bring anything you may need with you.

Though rarely mentioned in travel blogs (probably due to the taboo nature of the topic) the same can be said about products such as tampons and condoms.  The U.S. has very different health standards than many other countries, so stick with what you know to be safe and pack safe and reliable drugstore products from home.

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8. Drugstore products of all kinds

Hostels vs. Hotels

So you are considering a hostel instead of staying in a hotel, but why choose a hostel? Are there any benefits over staying in a hotel? There are a few differences that can help you decide whether it is a better choice to book a hostel or a hotel.

What is a hostel? When you book a hotel, you book a room. When you choose to stay in a hostel, you book a bed.  You are literally reserving the spot in which you will stay instead of the room.  This typically means that there will be other people in your room that reserved the other available beds.

What are the benefits of  staying in a hostel?

  1. Cost. The number one selling point of hostels is the price. I have stayed in multiple hostels for under $15 a night, which is significantly cheaper than many hotels.  There is often the misconception that hostels are dirty and much trashier than hotels.  This is not necessarily true.  Hostels are rated like hotels on sites such as hostelworld.com.  I have stayed in 4 and 5 start hostels that are as nice as some of the best hotels.  Since hostels are aimed toward the budget conscious traveler, they often include things such as guest kitchens where you can cook and discounted tours or attractions, especially for students.
  2. Social scene. If you stay in a hotel, you are isolated in your room.  Hostels are social settings and you are bound to meet other travelers that are sharing your room.  Additionally, almost every hostel has a common room or some type of lounge to encourage social interaction between residents; many even have bars attached.  I have met some amazing people in hostels who are usually like minded travelers ready to share stories.
  3. Hostel Staff.  The majority of the staff members I have talked with in hostels are younger people who love to travel.  They almost always have great advice, both on the local area and other destinations.  Particularly perfect for people who want to experience local culture, their suggestions are usually more off the beaten path than a concierge who often names the top tourist spots.
  4. Location.  Since hostels typically house a fewer number of residents than hotels, their location options are greater.  There are many hostels situated in restored historical buildings, big houses, old prisons, campsites, castles, etc.  

What are the cons of hostels?

  1. Bad roommates.  There have been a couple times when I have had to share a room with a particularly stinky guest, someone who snores, etc.  I will say these times are outweighed by the times I have met awesome people, but keep in mind you have no say in who is in your room, it is just the luck of the draw.  One night my friends and I returned to our hostel and found a guy that had crawled into my friend’s bed instead of his own. Awkward.  These usually make for good war stories though.
  2. Amenities.  It is common for a hostel not to provide towels for guests without an additional fee. Likewise, they may give you sheets when you check in to make your own bed.  If you are looking for added amenities and special treatment, hostels are probably not your best choice.
  3. Privacy.  Hostels are created to form a community.  The atmosphere is often much more relaxed and less formal than a hotel.  With this in mind, guests may stay up late talking loudly, you will be sharing a community bathroom, and you better get used to changing clothes in front of strangers.

Hostels can be an excellent option especially if you are looking for location character and travel buddies.  Just be cautious to do your research first. Below are some pictures from hostels I have stayed in, both costing a little more than $20 USD a night.

Awesome hostel in Marrakesh, Morocco we stayed in.

Adorable hostel in Budapest, there were also stuffed animals around the bathroom.

7 Tips to make the most of your carry-on

With stringent luggage rules, you aren’t left with much room to pack clothing and other goods in your carry-on.  Here are some suggestions to help you make the most of that space.

  1. Wear layers of clothing on the flight.  A great way to get some extra outfits in for your trip is to wear layers of clothing.  Throw an extra plastic bag or reusable shopping bag in your suitcase to put the extra clothes in later.  Always wear your bulkiest shoes and fluffiest sweater or jacket since they won’t condense well.
  2. Pack small objects such as socks and underwear in your shoes. If it is small enough to fit in something, put it there.
  3. Pack your biggest and least moldable objects first, then squeeze softer objects around those items. Pack shoes, bags of toiletries, and anything else that cannot be forced into an odd shape first, then bend your t-shirts and pajamas around them.
  4. If you don’t need it, leave it.  Europeans are known for wearing the same outfit for days in a row, no one is going to notice if you are wearing the same pair of jeans.  Trust me.
  5. Pack dark clothes and plain clothing. If you pack dark jeans and plain clothing, your friends are much less likely to notice you wearing the same shirt in all 300 photos you upload.
  6. Pack accessories. A great way to trick people in to thinking you are wearing a different outfit is by changing something simple like a scarf.  Especially in winter months, focus on packing more of what people will actually see than shirts that will end up hidden under your coat.
  7. Spacebags are a lie, and piss all fellow travelers off. One girl I have traveled with a few times carries the travel version of spacebags with her for short trips.  I guarantee I fit 3x more clothing in my backpack than she did, the hard plastic bags do not optimize space in any way.  Plus they are loud and take way longer to pack in than just rolling your clothing. The only thing spacebags are truly useful for is pillows or other incredibly fluffy items with tons of excess air in them.

Travel smarter, not harder friends.

How to Fly Successfully on Budget Airlines

How to Successfully Fly on Budget Airlines

Taking a budget airline flight can be very cost effective, but only if you can successfully avoid all the hidden fees and traps.  Navigating the regulations of budget airlines, such as Ryanair, Wizzair, and EasyJet, is similar to trying to understand the rules of the Federal Tax Code.  Here are a few tips to help you travel with ease and maximize the little space you have.

1)      Location, Location, Location.  Budget airlines can offer the crazy low prices they do for multiple reasons; one of these is by offering flights out of tiny airports that don’t get the traffic of the mainstream ones.  One example of this is The Paris/Beauvais airport which Ryanair regularly flies out of.  This airport is not really located in Paris, but in the neighboring city of Beauvais over an hour’s drive away from the heart of the city. Airports outside main cities require special travel arrangements and take more time.  In the Paris example, you should arrive at a bus stop to the airport over 3 hours before your flight at a cost of 15 Euro.  Don’t rule out these tiny airports right away, but remember to factor in the added cost of getting to them and the extra travel time to make sure the plane ticket is still a steal.

Map of the Paris/Beauvais airport in relation to Paris

2)      Always pre-print your boarding pass.  Some budget airlines may charge up to 60 Euro to print your boarding pass at the airport if you do not print it before hand.  Even worse, the ticket may not be available to print more than 24 hours before your flight and 4 hours or less before the flight.   Be sure to check the time restrictions to print off your ticket and research a place to print the ticket within that timeframe to avoid paying an extremely hefty fee.

3)      Choose your suitcase wisely. Budget airlines love to pick out travelers with baggage that is outside of the specified size to make them pay for breaking the luggage guidelines. Pack in a backpack or some form of bag that you carry on your person instead of a rolling bag.  Every time I witnessed someone get stopped by the “baggage police” (which happens very often), it was someone using a rolling suitcase.  They love to make everyone with a wheeling carry on try to fit it in the little metal cage that is the measurements of the restrictions.  Can’t get it in? Pay a large fee.  Our backpacks were usually larger than these rolling bags, but never got questioned.

Carrying a wheely bag is like carrying a giant target, just avoid it.