Travel Tips

Travel Tips for the Minimalist (Smart) Traveler

19 Oddball Things to Bring

It’s vacation season! As you pack your bags for destinations yonder, you may want to consider my tried-and-true list of oddball items to include. However, a warning to you… for airplane travel, I am admittedly the quintessential minimalist traveler, strictly adhering to the Rule of One: one carry-on and nothing more.

It doesn’t matter if I’m going to San Diego for a weekend or Europe for three weeks; I never bring more than one bag small enough to stash in the overhead. A strategic layering of clothing worn on travel days, along with a judicious choice of pieces and colors packed away in the bag, can expand your vacation attire dramatically with a minimum of bulk.

But beyond a carefully contemplated wardrobe, there are a few items you may be surprised to find in my otherwise edited backpack. Despite my strictly followed minimalist packing philosophy, here is a list of 19 oddball, but essential, things to bring:

  1. Money belt – the most important item to bring. Keep all big cash, all credit and ATM cards, passport, plane tickets, cheat sheet (see #2). Wear it always.
  2. A “cheat sheet” that you typed up at home listing your itinerary and all hotel info (name, location, phone, directions). If you forget where you are staying or where you need to go tomorrow, just check your cheat sheet. It is also a good reference to show taxi drivers when you do not speak the language. You can also leave a copy for those at home.
  3. Day bag – for your guidebook, “day” money (so you don’t fish around in your money belt in public), your small notepad (see #7), phrase book (see #8), camera.
  4. Yellow highlighter (to use on maps).
  5. Small magnifying glass (to read teensy map print).
  6. Small sticky notes (to flag things in your guidebook, leave a message, etc.).
  7. Small notepad (to write rather than speak particularly hard foreign words). I have used small notepads to haggle on paper for the price of a handmade Greek tablecloth, confirm with a French ticket clerk about the departure time of a particular train, and record the various flavors of gelato I consumed that day.
  8. Small foreign language dictionary/phrase book.
  9. Compass (especially helpful in Venice!
  10. Small, lightweight flashlight (for after-dark map reading, finding the bathroom down the hallway, exploring dark medieval tunnels, Etruscan tombs, etc.)
  11. Moleskin (for blisters from all that walking).
  12. Earplugs (for noisy planes and/or hotels) Essential!
  13. Safety pins of various sizes (they can fix a multitude of things).
  14. Scotch tape (for taping notes on doors, fixing things, mailing things – bring a small half-used roll removed from its plastic dispenser).
  15. Large, fibrous (unrippable) envelopes – find them at an office supply store (great for mailing home books and other flat items. Pre-address the envelopes at home and cover the address with transparent tape to prevent smearing. I have mailed home tablecloths in these envelopes.)
  16. One thin terry-cloth washcloth. Many European hotels don’t offer washcloths at all, or they are of a slick linen material rather than absorbent terry-cloth.
  17. Various sizes of baggies: use for double-bagging your miniature-sized toiletries and keeping clothes contained and orderly. Clothing can be grouped: underwear in one bag, blouses in one bag, socks in one bag, etc. Kneel on each bag to squeeze out all air, then seal. This “vacuum-packs” it and reduces size, leaving more room for all those Italian ceramic pieces you inevitably will be bringing home! Airport Security will also like you.
  18. Line the bottom of your bag with a strong but non-bulky cloth tote bag. On the trip home, you can stash all your carefully chosen treasures in the tote and store it under your seat. The tote qualifies as a “purse” or “briefcase” which is allowed in addition to your regular carry-on containing your clothes. In extreme cases (an abundance of breakables), I have (on the return trip ONLY) packed my clothes and checked them (usually against my rules), carrying on only my treasures. Once, on my last day in Spain, I bought a large box at the post office, packed it with every stitch of clothing except for my travel clothes for the next day, and mailed it home. This left the entirety of my regular pack AND tote free for items I had collected over the course of three weeks. These flew home with me in the overhead and under my seat. My box of clothing arrived fully intact three weeks later. It was worth the postage.
  19. $50 in US cash (for minor airport purchases to and from your destination).

TIP: Don’t bother getting European currency before you leave home. Just pick up your foreign currency at the airport ATM upon arrival in Europe. It’s fast, easy, and cheap. If I happen to have a short layover in one European city, I use the time to pull Euros from the ATM while I’m waiting for my next flight. That way, I’m all set with “bank” when I arrive at my final destination (assuming you’re travelling to another Euro-using country).

Another TIP: Make sure your PIN has only 4 digits and you’ve memorized them as numbers rather than letters. BE SURE to notify your bank that you will be using your card in Europe and not to freeze your account when they see European transactions.

Pack light, pack smart, and plan ahead. Otherwise you could be Sleepless in Siena. Above all, Buon Viaggio!

© 2007 by Melinda Brovelli

3 Responses to Travel Tips

  1. Becky Bennett Blevins says:

    WOW!!!!!!! IMPRESSIVE!!!!!!!!

  2. Becky Bennett Blevins says:

    Hi Lindy, I just read your tips to my sister and we have been looking at your blog for the last 30 minutes. It is very entertaining.
    Would u please elaborate with detail on precisely what u pack? We are assuming a simple black dress in part. Your details would b most helpful.
    Love, Becky

    • Melinda says:

      Ciao Becky! I’m glad you are enjoying my blog. Another coming soon from Turkey.
      As for packing, the trick is to pack as little as possible. What you do pack, make sure it does double-duty — mixing and matching. Yes, a simple black dress is perfect. I can wear mine hiking or out to dinner. Just a change of shoes is all you need. And those can do double-duty, too.

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