April 10, 2014

10 Essentials I Don't Travel Without

Sadly, I can't take her on my trips - no matter how hard she tries to sneak herself in!
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

So you've established a budget, saved up money for your trip to avoid debt, mapped out where to stay and what to do, and now you're ready to pack that suitcase.  But short of packing the kitchen sink, you really have no clue where to begin!

The type of vacation and your destination will dictate what sort of items you'll need to bring.  For example, you wouldn't pack a formal evening gown for a back-pack trip across the Himalayas, but you would for a week-long Caribbean cruise.  You don't need your passport (or photocopies of it) for a weekend trip in San Francisco, but you would for a week in Amsterdam.  There are a few common denominators for every packing list, though.  Here are a few examples of what I carry with me no matter what type of travel or time of year:

10 Essentials I Don't Travel Without

Good camera, extra memory card(s) & battery charger
Outlet converter
Comfortable walking shoes/sandals
Moisturizer, hand sanitizer & chap-stick
Light jacket
Water Bottle
"ICE" kit
Guidebook with a map
An Open Mind

Not pictured: band-aids, anti-biotic ointment, tweezers, nail scissors, or an "open mind"
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

Some of these items are self-explanatory.  A camera with all its accoutrements and outlet converter are necessary for every-day life in the 21st century, not just for traveling.  More than likely you can replace these items if you're traveling in Europe or on a cruise ship, but they might be more difficult to obtain if elsewhere.  Comfortable shoes, jacket, moisturizer, et al, sunscreen, and water bottle are also no-brainer items; if you're fretting over your physical condition (hot, cold, thirsty, chapped skin) then you're not going to be fully enjoying your destination.  A small draw-string pack or a tote bag should be large enough to stow these items without adding a lot of weight and bulk.

My "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) kit is something I carry everywhere, at home and abroad.  In my world, if I don't prepare for bumps in the road, I'll hit every one of them, so I try to be as prepared as I reasonably can be!  Now before you think it's some sort of Survivor Jane type of kit, here's a list of what's in it: wallet (cash, card, identification); 3x5 card with an emergency contact list, my blood type and known allergies; band-aids and antibiotic ointment; tweezers; small nail scissors.  Simple, really!  Depending on my destination, I may add more to the kit, but those are the basics. 

Being caught red-handed as a
typical tourist in London
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
I've listed a guidebook among my essentials (I prefer Rick Steves' guidebooks for Europe), but sometimes I substitute a print-out of our itinerary and basic information about the sites (usually for when I'm traveling domestically).  A real, honest-to-goodness map, however, is non-negotiable.  As dependent as we have become on our smart-phones and their unlimited apps, there's still no substitute for a good map. 

And finally, it's very important to pack an Open Mind.  No matter where you're traveling -- even within the continental U.S. -- you will be experiencing cultures different than your own.  Rather than complaining that shops in small-town Germany are closed on Sunday, how about you stop and appreciate that the business considers a day of rest important for everyone, including their employees.  While traveling, you'll discover the good, bad, and the ugly in many things, but please leave your ethnocentric bias at home.  Whether your culture is "better" or worse than your destination's way of life is irrelevant; you're not in Kansas anymore and you need to respect the culture and laws of the country you're visiting!

What do you think?  What items are on your essential packing list?

~ Just a Thrifty Gypsy


  1. Great little list :) Love the last bit about packing an open mind, always necessary but often forgotten by many!

    1. Very true. It makes me cringe any time I hear a traveler complaining in another country that "we don't do it this way in my country." Well if you're so set on how things are done in your country, STAY THERE! :P It's a pet peeve of mine!

  2. I really love your ICE kit! That's a great idea!

    And I looooove Rick Steves' guidebooks for Europe. I wish he had an American series! I'd sop that up with a biscuit and eat it right up! :)

    -- Erika from America

  3. You always need a band-aid when you don't have access to one! And yes, I wish Rick Steves' would expand his show to cover other continents!


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