Spontaneity has never really been my jam. I like being prepared, especially when far from home. (I could blame motherhood, but who am I kidding?) So with that in mind, as I prepare for my next trip to the UK, I offer my list of travel must-haves.
- Smartphone. Considerations: do I get an international phone plan, or try and squeak by with Wi-Fi alone? It can be done, but the option for an actual phone call in a pinch can be a godsend. It would be quite handy if at least one of your traveling party have a phone plan.
- Charging cords, battery chargers, and the appropriate plug converters. (iPads and smartphones can be charged universally, but certain hair dryers, flat irons and the like may be the wrong voltage for your destination.) A plug converter alone doesn’t do the trick. I myself have not grown brave enough to bring my favorite flat iron and risk the burnout. I did find a battery-powered dual-voltage rechargeable flat iron that will do. I also LOVE my Nomad Key charging keychain. Compact, durable and useful.
- I love my Kindle for travel. So light, and full of the books I never have a chance to read during normal life.
- The under-clothes money belt is a must. Nerdy, and yet, who wants to risk getting stuck across the ocean without a passport?
- Paper maps. I found some that are actually waterproof. Fun for plotting your adventures, even if you plan to use Google Maps to navigate en-route.
- Comfy socks. I have only just recently discovered the joy of really good socks. I like Smartwool, with medium cushion.
- Currency. Don’t show up with a wallet full of dollars and nothing to pay the taxi driver. Order currency of varying denominations from your bank–that may be the best deal. AAA offers small “tip packs” of currency, though I don’t believe the exchange rate is as good.
- A credit card without exchange fees—don’t assume your regular credit card works exactly the same wherever you are going. Make sure sure you’ve converted to chip card, as they use that in most of Europe, and call your credit card company to find out if they charge per-transaction exchange fees. If not, that could get pricey really quick.
- Printed itinerary. In a moment of panic, paper plans are comforting.
- Sleep and tummy meds. You never know when your stomach might get wobbly, and jet lag can make sleep elusive even when you think you’re exhausted. (Don’t try anything new on the road, though—make sure you bring sleep meds you know you can handle. Melatonin is pretty mild, and I also like Tylenol PM.)
- Bring a journal, or some way to keep track of your daily adventures. Otherwise, how will you write your memoir someday?
- Host gifts and special deliveries. Are you catching up with friends abroad who’ve asked you to bring them Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter? Are you staying in an AirBnB or with friends? Small host gifts are always a nice touch, if you have the room. Keep it small and simple though.
- Rain gear. You know the drill.
- If you’ll be in a big city, you may be able to order a visitor subway pass ahead of time—for example, London’s Oyster Card—saving the hassle of trying to purchase one on the spot.
There’s my list. I’d love to hear if there are any must-haves you think I’ve missed. Please share!