I traveled 10 countries in two and a half months. Here’s my top five list of essentials:
1. A Smartphone – with Unlimited Data
I used my smartphone every day. In Iceland it was the perfect companion since the car I rented had a USB plug-in. I had Google Maps on anytime I was in the car. It helped me find my AirBnb location and it helped me on my drive to Jokucarlson. In London and Paris, I used it to find subways, historical landmarks, and of course my AirBnb hosts. I would’ve been hopelessly lost without it.
I used it to book my AirBnb destinations using the AirBnb app and also installed the Eurorail app to figure out times and travel durations. In Paris, I used the Google translate app to help me speak a little French. In Biarritz, I installed a surf app to predict when the surf would be best.
About a month before I left the states, I switched from Sprint to T-Mobile and picked up the iPhone 5S. My plan has unlimited international data in every country – Iceland, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Brussels. It’s probably the most important tool I had. If you’re traveling to Europe, check with your provider and make sure you have a smartphone with Unlimited Data.
2. A Universal Power Adapter
I brought a lot of electronics – a DSLR camera, a Macbook Pro, an iPhone, a GoPro – all of which needed to be charged regularly. Since I was going to be in a bunch of different countries, I needed an international power adaptor. I picked up the Dynex International Adaptor which worked great, but I ended up ditching the actual power converter since it was so huge. I ended up just using the different plugs directly which worked perfect for me in every country I was in including the trains.
3. Good Shoes!
For the trip, I brought a pair of Kuru‘s and Keen Sandals. I also brought a pair of Puma Classic’s for casual wear. I primarily wore the Kuru’s in Iceland for hiking which worked great but I tried using the Puma’s for a day in London and a day in Paris. I noticed the difference immediately. My Puma day in London was spent walking to Big Ben and around central London. About halfway through the day, my toes and balls of my feet were starting to blister and become very sore. My left knee also began to ache. I started walking on the side of my feet to get through it! Also, I ended up in a salsa class that night in the basement of a church. Sore feet plus salsa dancing is a bad combination.
So the next day, I put my Puma’s in the bottom of my bag and got my Keen’s on. It was like walking on fluffy clouds compared to the previous day. I tried the Puma’s once more in Paris since I thought maybe I just needed to develop calluses first which I now had. Nope, same thing happened – sore knees and sore feet. This time I left the shoes in a phone booth in Paris for someone to pedal. Not saying that all Puma’s are bad, it could just have been that model I brought.
Bottom Line: Puma’s are NOT meant for walking around all day! Stick with a good pair of hiking shoes.
4. A Roller Backpack
Initially, I bought the Patagonia MLC for the trip. It was a nice bag with a shoulder strap and was very roomy for all my things. I didn’t really think I would need a bag with wheels so my plan was to have a backpack for my DSLR and the MLC with shoulder strap.
The day before I left, I tested things out by putting everything on me and walking around for a bit. I walked up the stairs and took a few steps. I was exhausted! And that was only a few steps! My sister saw the exhausted look on my face and suggested the roller bag. So I headed to REI and bought the Osprey Roller Backpack. I also headed to National Camera to exchange my DSLR Thinktank Airport Essentials backpack for a Thinktank Urban Disguise v60 2.0 bag. The advantage was that I could roll all my luggage since the Urban Disguise has a sleeve to slip over the roller handle. Nothing on my back! This setup was essential.
Side note: If you don’t have a second bag to deal with – I had a second bag dedicated to carry my DSLR camera around – you could probably just get away with a good travel backpack like the MLC. If not though, do yourself a favor and invest in a roller backpack.
5. A Large Quick Dry Towel
It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but this has been super handy. I picked mine up from REI. Obviously, I’ve used it for drying off after showers, but I’ve also used it as a blanket to lie on in Green Park and Hyde Park in London, and also used it as a beach towel in Biarritz. It’s quick drying and low profile so it easily fits in a small bag.
There you have it. So far these have been the important tools in surviving my Europe trip.