Monday, February 14, 2011

Packing tips and hints for Europe

Packing can be broken down into some elemental parts and tips.
First off whatever you pack in is okay. Just remember that the majority of cars in Europe are smaller than American cars. My wife likes to travel with four bags, a large suitcase for her clothes, a smaller suitcase with her electrical essentials; hair dryer, curling iron and so on, her carry on which has her makeup and perfume and her purse. She now has a Kindle so we can leave the books at home. I try to get everything I need into one bag that I check and my camera bag.
Here are a couple things to remember as you pack. Even if your suitcase has wheels you are going to have to pick it up sometime. Getting it from the car to the ground or onto the train or up into your hotel room can be a pretty daunting experience. Unless you are on a tour that takes your luggage for you it will still be up to you at some point to move it yourself. So the less you carry the better off you are.
Things to do before you leave:
I put all this info on a jump drive. I carry this jump drive in a passport holder around my neck along with my cash and other valuables.
1 Have photos of all your valuables that you are taking with you.
2 Serial numbers of all Camera and computer parts.
3 Name, addresses and phone number of where you will be staying along with maps if possible.
4 Check with your phone provider to see if your cell phone will work in Europe. My cell phone did work and I paid an extra $10 per month for the time I was gone for unlimited text and $5 so I could call home at a reduced rate. I didn’t need anything special to call home. I was able to use my normal numbers just like I was at home.
5 Call your credit card provider and tell them you will be out of the country. There is an 800 number on the back of your card. You need to do this otherwise your bank will cancel your card after the first time you use it.
6 Take only the info you’ll need. Drivers license, insurance card, passport and your debit or credit card. You won’t need anything else on your person as you travel.
7 This is only if you plan on renting a car. Go to the AAA office and get an international drivers license. You’ll need a passport photo. It is just filling out a form and waiting about a half hour. It seems there is an issue about auto insurance. You can rent a car with a drivers license. If you happen to have an accident then you may end up paying out of pocket unless you have the international drivers license. For the $10 it is worth it if only for the peace of mind.
It doesn’t matter when you travel just make sure to pack old clothes. That way when they get dirty you can leave them behind either during your trip or at the end.
Summer or winter travel?
How long is your stay? Most people take two or three weeks or around that time generally. So let’s work from there.
This one is important because if you are staying for an extended period of time then you will need to do your laundry at some point. Doing laundry in Germany or Austria isn’t like doing it in America. It takes hours to wash and dry your clothes. The washing machines are small. The dryer won’t get your clothes completely dry. Having the hotel do your laundry is very expensive. If you plan on doing your own laundry then you will have to set aside the major portion of a day to get that done. You can rinse out your socks and underwear in your room at night.
Are you going on a tour?
If you are on a tour are they going to move your suitcase? You’ll still have to get your suitcase outside your room every time you change locations. If you are on a river cruise you can leave your clothes in your room for the trip.
Are you going to need any dressy clothes?
I always take along a nice dress shirt.
Here are some basic items to pack. You’ll need an umbrella or rain gear of some sort. If you are planning to be gone only a couple weeks then all you should need is an extra pair of long pants or shorts. You’ll need a good pair of walking shoes. If you are planning on doing just tourist stuff then you only need the one good pair of walking shoes.
I have grown up in America. When I traveled I tended to pack like an American which means I bring way more stuff than I really need. Since the 9/11 and new security precautions getting certain items through the security points are a bit more difficult. Also now that most airlines charge for the extra suitcase and charge for extra weight then the less you actually take with you is cheaper. You’ll also have the additional benefit of not worrying about getting all those bags from one area to the next. This is a benefit if you travel by train as you can just pretty much board the train with your suitcase in tow.
When packing for a trip outside the USA aside from probably encountering electrical issues and the need for getting the proper converters. That is something that can't be avoided but can be planned wisely. I've said this before you go out and buy one of those converters check to see if your power supply is rated for dual voltage. If it is then all you need is the appropriate adapter plug.
On my last trip I decided that because of the new liquid restrictions I wouldn't pack any liquid items. I didn't take anything buy my razor and toothbrush and tooth paste. I didn't bring my usual shaving lather. Soap, shampoo, rinse and those items can be purchased at your destination if you are traveling to a well populated area. If you are in Europe you will pass by all kinds of places to pick up these items while you are on your tourist excursions. I bought travel sized Hygiene products. When we went from one place to another it was a simple thing to put all of those items into one shopping bag and carry it along. When we left for home I didn’t bring anything back except for the deodorant I purchased there.
I pack in groups of three. I follow the routine of wearing something for a day and at night I’ll rinse that out. While that is drying I’ll wear the shirt /socks/ underwear I washed the day before. I know already before I go I’m going to get other Souvenir shirts there. That tends to make the cycle a little longer. I have friends in Germany that I visit every time I go and I leave the older clothes with them. It is possible also to barter your clothes for something else.
My last tip is using the post office flat rate boxes to send stuff home. You can use some of your clothes as padding material.
The next time I go to Germany I’m going to send my film camera to my friends house by flat rate and have it delivered to their house. I’ll do that a couple weeks before I leave just to make sure it got there. I’ll order film on line and have that sent to their house too just to avoid taking it through the airport and the x-ray machines. If you are planning on staying an extended period of time it might be possible for you to ask your vacation land lord if you could do the same thing.
I like to send all of my photos home on DVDs before I get on the plane. Just in case.
Travel smart, travel safe

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