These are the travel tips we’ve used to get started. We are packing very light, so we can be mobile and unburdened by heavy luggage as we Tube, train and jet our way through European countries.
- En route we will carry on. This will ensure we don’t lose luggage AND that we pack light enough to carry our luggage on train trips to Amsterdam and Brussels. We can check our luggage if we want on our way home.
- Choose a color scheme to help pack light…black, brown, navy. Ideally, all your clothes will coordinate together to extend your looks.
- One color choice will help you cut down on shoes, which take up a lot of space.
- Do not wear new shoes. If you are getting a new pair of shoes for the trip, get them 2-3 weeks in advance and wear them on long walks or shopping trips to break them in.
- I take the number of days we’re traveling and divide by 2: that’s how many outfits I bring. I will bring 5-7 outfits for this trip. If we have a laundry available, I will bring fewer. We leave on the 28th, but arrive on the 29th, so that is one outfit for two days right there.
- I have a couple of light, comfy dresses that I will bring unless the weather is unseasonably cool. They are handwashable, which may cut the number of outfits even further.
- I bring things that I can handwash, layer, accessorize in different ways to extend the wardrobe.
- It could be chilly or rainy. Bring stuff you can layer.
- We generally avoid clothes that announce we’re “foreigners” (like US specific t-shirts, etc.) I find it’s better to fit in, so you don’t attract unwanted attention.
- Leave expensive, sentimental favorite jewelry at home, so you don’t have to worry about it.
- I bring little accessories like scarves, costume jewelry and hats to extend my wardrobe, too.
- Have one “nice” outfit, for evenings out and the possible BBC taping. Pants other than jeans should suffice. For girls, a dress or skirt works too.
- Consider bringing an item you’re able to get rid of or donate that you can leave behind to free up suitcase space on the way home. I’ve done this with clothes I love, but need to get rid of that are stained or worn out.
- Wear your heaviest shoes on the plane so they don’t take up space in your suitcase.
- I also plan to wear my trench on board. I will use it as a blanket on the overnight flight.
- Large scarves/shawls are great for multi-purpose use. I will bring one to wear as a scarf, use as a shawl, possible use as a pillow and use as a picnic blanket when we find a good picnic spot!
- When you carry your bag onto the plane, all liquids, gels, and aerosols must be in 3.4-ounce or smaller containers, all of which must fit into one clear quart-size plastic zip-top bag. There are exceptions for certain prescription and over-the-counter medicines, as well as contact-lens solution (see www.tsa.gov for details). We will check this before we leave because occasionally the rules are updated.
- Save sample sizes of shampoo, etc and refill with your favorite hair gels, facial cleanser, etc. (Hotels will have shampoo, soap, blow dryers, etc.)
- I bring snacks with the available room I have left in my suitcase and backpack. Bring what you like that makes you feel good and healthy. I like apples, power bars, almonds, beef jerky, even tuna fish. We will probably have at least one occasion where we are unable to eat a good meal – so snacks can be a lifesaver. (Peanut butter is considered a “liquid,” so you cannot bring an entire container.) I grab snacks from the breakfast buffet to add to my horde during the trip. When we travelled to Budapest, we didn’t realize we were on an 8-hour train ride with no dining car! I had bought a big box of cookies at a gorgeous bakery that we all shared, but that’s all we had all day! These things happen.
- I will also have a reusable water bottle that I will probably have with me at all times.
- I will bring a little cash (British pounds and Euros) to get us started.
- We should be able to get to a cash machine once we arrive at the airport in London. (In the event the cash machine is broken, I will have cash on hand for the group.)
- I find the best way to deal with money while traveling overseas is to get enough cash from the ATM for a couple of days. That way if you lose your money you’re not out everything. You can also use your credit card, as well. But bear in mind, some places don’t take credit, so we always need a little cash.
- Generally, if you get pounds, Euros before leaving the US, you will pay a surcharge to do so. Bear that in mind.
- Generally, there will be a fee on credit card use as well, overseas. Every purchase will have a charge added. Check with your credit card company to see what the charges are so you aren’t surprised.
- There are some credit card companies that don’t charge overseas fees, but you will probably be paying a yearly fee…so make sure you look at all the fine print.
- Same for ATM machines.
- Before leaving, contact the bank and credit card companies to let them know where you’ll be travelling. They are aggressive about checking for fraud. If your card is suddenly being used in London, they could cancel it if they don’t know you’re using it and this is a big hassle.
- Moneybelt: get one if you’ll feel more comfortable.
- I use a small bag that I can wear inside or outside my clothes and keep my hand on if for some reason I don’t feel safe. I bring my phone (which is also my camera), a credit card, some cash, lip gloss and maybe my water for the day – and that’s all I need in my little bag. Sometimes I have a little snack handy too. Even though we will plan to eat frequently, you never know when something better comes along that could mean a delay in the meal.
- Once you decide how to organize your money and stuff, always put it in the same place. “Cash goes here.” “Credit card goes there.” People who aren’t organized are always losing stuff or think they’re losing stuff which is irritating for other travelers!
Souvenirs on a Budget
- I will save unusual coins and bills from overseas. These are good for kids and relatives.
- I will also buy candy at the airport before we go home. There are different kinds of candies that are unusual and inexpensive at grocery stores.
- Postcards of great art make nice souvenirs or keepsakes as well and are inexpensive.
- I will get an international plan for about a month while we are travelling. Then I will cancel it when we get home.
- You will likely get charged for data, so turn data off unless you have wireless service.
- You can try free apps for texting like What’s App. I also plan to try Facetime when I have wireless available.
- We should normally have free wifi at our hotels, but always need to doublecheck.
- Remember that in London they drive on the opposite side of the road. This means we have to be vigilant when we cross the street because cars will be coming from a different direction.
- Europeans don’t seem to use washcloths. You may want to pack one!
- Go to the bathroom every chance you get. You never know when you’ll be without one and you have to pay to use bathrooms in certain locations.
- If you see several guys approach you wanting to make a bracelet “for free” on your wrist, go the opposite direction as fast as you can. Once they ensnare you in the bracelet, they will hassle you about a big tip. These types hang out at the most touristy locations.
These are additional tips from travel expert Rick Steves: