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Just back from Italy -- here is what I was glad I packed, wished I'd packed and didn't need

First of all I found a GREAT packing app for my phone "Packing Pro" that helped my with list making then packing. Highly recommend.

Here is what I was glad to have packed:
A big handful of safety pins in a ziplock bag. The zipper to my bag broke on the first leg of our trip. I secured it with about 20 safety pins for the rest of the two weeks. Plus side: no worries about someone trying to steal it since I looked like Ellie Mae Clampett in an episode of "The Beverly Hill Billies go to Italy".
RS Italian phrase book used it all the time in restaurants.
Clothesline for washing clothes in the sink.
One size fits all rubber drain cover for sinks, not all had stoppers
Raincoat (even thought the forecast was for sun we had one morning of torrential rain
Smart phone -- I downloaded the RS Audio Tours (free) and listened to the Grand Canal Tour while in Venice and the walking tour of Florence. Also a flashlight app on my phone was invaluable. I kept it in "airplane" mode all the time so I didn't have to worry about running out of charge. It was also my camera and the pictures turned out great!

Here is what I wished I had packed:
Different detergent -- I packed Woolite single use packs -- not enough suds and no fragrance, believe me after wearing a tee shirt all day in Rome you want to wash it out and have a nice fresh fragrance. Next time I'll pack a travel size of Forever New it's dry detergent that is made for hand washing. Better suds and a nice fragrance.

What I didn't need
Third pair of shoes. Never used them. I wore my Keen Rose sandals 95% of the time and some running shoes for the day of standing at the Vatican

Posted by
4411 posts

"...no worries about someone trying to steal it since I looked like Ellie Mae Clampett in an episode of "The Beverly Hill Billies go to Italy"."

LOL!!!

I also travel with safety pins (small and large; they stay in my luggage) because they are so handy! If you don't use them, they weigh nothing and take up no space. Same thing with Ziploc bags...

Very good if you only have a couple of 'I wish I had...'! And I agree with both of them. I learned of Forever New right here on the forum years ago, and that's all I take for hand washing (or machine washing...if I ever come across a machine). DO double-bag the powder in freezer bags; I love the scent, but it's really strong! Plus, you don't want any 'oopsies' with it :-( It starts off as a heavy bag, but gets lighter as you wash...

There are some hard calls to make sometimes - for instance, the raincoat. If a heavy downpour is really going to ruin a travel day, I absolutely take one. I get the lightest and smallest one, smoosh it into the smallest size possible, and pack it. If I'm somewhere where I could get caught in a downpour with my backpack, I also have a $1 rain poncho that lives in my luggage. Otherwise, I just call a taxi. I'm learning to relax my grip on the wallet...somewhat... ;-)

I also make room for RS' phrasebooks. I think they are the best out there.

I hope you had a fabulous trip!

Posted by
507 posts

Thank you! Your comment about safety pins jarred my memory that these are not on my packing list!

Packing Pro and a flashlight app are also going on my list of "things

It sounds as though you thoroughly enjoyed the trip!

Posted by
232 posts

Sue -- I don't remember if its free but it must be less than $4.99 that's my threshold :)

Posted by
33123 posts

Such a picture you paint with the safety pins... LOL

Posted by
3580 posts

I travel as light as possible, but will always TAKE my electric battery-operated toothbrush. I take a few of the detergent pods for the laundromat. I need a travel alarm clock, a warm head band, cotton knit pants for sleeping and casual wear, and men's deodorant because traveling makes me more stinky. I'm traveling now with a mini Ipad instead of books, laptop, camera etc. It saves weight and can be carried everywhere. I have my Kindle collection on it so am never without a guidebook or novel. I usually take light-weight sandals, extra arch supports, several extra pairs of sox and underwear. A super-light (1 oz from Trader Joe's) recyclable grocery bag is handy for shopping or hauling laundry. I make sure to have print-outs of all necessary arrangements. A thin nylon bag is handy for keeping dirty laundry separate.

I DON'T TAKE an umbrella, extra shoes, dress-up clothes, or books. I don't take large amounts of toiletries such as shampoo or hand lotion. These can be bought in Europe is necessary. I rarely have needed to telephone in Europe, so have learned not to carry one "just in case."

I sometimes FORGET: a nail file, flashlight, list of addresses and phone numbers.

Posted by
1857 posts

I travel with Forever New and to use it also pack a plastic measure spoon that is tablespoon at one end and teaspoon at the other. Helps me measure the correct amount.

Posted by
9110 posts

If you carry two feet of Gorilla tape and a big thing of floss you can refloat Noah's boat.

Posted by
60 posts

I'm in Germany now & I wish I'd packed a short sleeved shirt or two. It's much warmer than the forecasts indicated, and the long sleeves are too much.

I am glad we packed a bar of soap and shampoo/conditioner. Neither hotel so far has had shampoo, and the tiny bars in hotel#1 and liquid soap in hotel #2 aren't what we want to use.

Posted by
8293 posts

But, Zeeba, if you had not packed soap and shampoo you could have bought both probably steps from your hotel. I usually buy shampoo, toothpaste, moisturizer, etc., in Europe. There's something pleasing when I get home about squeezing Greek toothpaste onto my toothbrush, even if it does have the name Colgate on it.

Posted by
127 posts

I only brought bar soap and shampoo (for colored hair). I forgot the conditioner but I was able to buy what ever I needed at the store. I stayed at many hotels that only provided soap in a dispenser. I used that soap to wash clothes in the sink and it smelled great when dried. Trial sizes avail at most drug stores.

Posted by
162 posts

Wow, safety pins are a great idea; I'm taking that advice, Gretchen. Thanks! As for laundry, I will admit that I just pack extra money and have the hotel or a local laundry service do it for me.

Posted by
232 posts

One thing I just remembered that I wish I had packed --- one of those shower puffs. The ones that are made out of plastic netting type stuff. None of the hotels in Italy had wash cloths and most had liquid soap.

Posted by
162 posts

Oh I use those too Gretchen, so I remember to pack one :). But I saw them in stores in Prague, so this December when I return there, I can just buy one instead of packing it.

Posted by
89 posts

After spending 3 days in a hotel in NYC with no power (after hurricane Sandy) I now pack a small Maglight flash light everywhere I travel. I had to walk 20+ blocks every day to get somewhere I could charge my phone so I wanted to use it as little as possible and finding a flashlight to purchase in a city wide power outage was next to impossible.

I also keep a stash of safety pins in my travel case. Zip locks in a couple of sizes, zip ties have also come in handy. And a new addition this summer, which won't always be needed since I rarely drive in Europe, but I was in Georgia & South Carolina and using my phone GPS quite a bit - the rental car did not have a USB outlet to charge while I drive, so I had to buy an adapter for the 12 volt outlet. That will stay in the travel case now too, for "just in case" needs.

Posted by
14157 posts

Add a small ziplock to put the damp shower puff in, Gretchen.

I've gotten a lot of use out of the plastic clothes hangar and 2 clothes pins I packed.

Posted by
232 posts

Two other things to add (maybe I should have waited unt AFTER I was over my jet lag to write this post):

Little hand fan. The one I have is made out of cedar I think -- just a little Chinese fan. Used it in the Vatican and all over Rome to get a bit of a breeze.

Rx bottle top with a timer. It resets to zero every time the bottle is opened. Great for travel days when you are crossing time zones to make sure you are on schedule for taking your meds. Got it on Amazon.

Posted by
5 posts

The must useful flashlight I've ever used is this one, http://www.rei.com/product/858703/black-diamond-orbit-lantern. I used it all through Italy and now I take it on any trip, including to relatives.

It is small and collapsable, and can work as a bedside lamp as well as a flashlight. It is engineered to perfection, and when carried as a lantern to light your way it does a great job of throwing the light downwards where you need it and not up into your eyes. For laying in bed and reading or writing in your journal it is perfect. You can turn it all the way up or way down, and when you are in an unfamiliar hotel room you can put it on the bedside table and not have to fumble for a strange (and overly bright) hotel lamp. I know I can make a late-night trip to the loo or stay up and read without bothering the rest of my family.

Black Diamond makes bigger versions, and I have one of those for camping.

Posted by
1420 posts

also a small "sheet" of bread ties (like 6)......great to hold the zipper on my bag secure after my TSA approved lock was cut off instead of keyed.....(grr)

a few herbal tea bags for damp cool evenings......

Posted by
4411 posts

Intriguing flashlight, Bill - thanks for the handy-dandy link!

Posted by
502 posts

Love the safety pins idea.

But the soap I wouldn't like. Is there one than is fragrance free? The fragrance is really made up of chemicals and some of us are allergic to "fragrance". Sort of like "natural flavors."

Posted by
22 posts

Some of the things I'm really glad I packed are from RS store online. The toiletries kit was the perfect size. The Hidden Pocket money belts kept our passports and money secure and handy for access and were comfortable. The packing organizers really kept things in place in groups of like clothes, even on our 6 week trip. I'm so glad we took synthetic under ware that washed out in the sink and was practically dry after wringing it out in a towel. The RS Italian phrase book really helped. I'm really glad I had layers (cool to warm) and only a few colors (turquoise, tan and black). Two pairs of pants actually were enough. I had a thin down jacket with hood and a warm scarf. I also took a rain jacket with hood; it folded into its own pocket and crushed down. We were in Italy and Germany in April and May, which is similar to fall weather. One thing we took we ordered online: a "Pacsafe" fanny pack. Rick says, don't take a fanny pack, because it will be ripped off, the belt slashed, etc. But this one is nearly impossible to cut without wire cutters, and even the zipper pockets can be secured so pickpockets will target someone else, getting into your pack will be just too much trouble.
We took a smart phone with T-Mobile service. Texting everywhere was free and unlimited with no roaming charges. My phone had 3 features which were perfect: a flashlight, my Rick Steves App with free podcasts, and an app to easily convert money, miles to kilometers, etc., called "Convertible." A crushable sun hat went in the outside pocket of my rolling bag, which was small enough to fit in the overhead bin. I'm glad we took Rick's advice and packed light. Our taxi driver said, "You can't be American, you don't have enough stuff!"

Posted by
32241 posts

@Colette,

Packing Pro and a flashlight app are also going on my list of "things

What type of Smartphone are you using? iOS 7 includes a Flashlight app, which is accessed by swiping the screen up from the bottom. It's not as effective as a MagLite, but works quite well.

Posted by
32241 posts

Gretchen,

I always travel with many of the items you mention and definitely agree that they're very useful to have. Some of the same items I pack.....

  • Safety Pins (only about 10, but I've never had to use them
  • Rubber Clothesline and one-size-fits-all Sink Stopper
  • Rain Poncho (usually an Umbrella as well)
  • Smart Phone with audio tours (where required) - this is a more recent addition.

Some other items I always take.....
- Liquid laundry soap - so far I've been using the small bottles of RS travel wash, but I may try Forever New in future, based on all the good reports I've heard here.
- Zip-Lok bags of various sizes. I've found these to be useful for a variety of purposes and I tend to use some of them on every trip.
- Duct Tape (a small roll) - this also tends to get some use on all trips, and my recent trip was no exception. It was helpful in sealing wine in plastic (fortunately both bottles survived the trip).

I typically travel only with one pair of shoes and a pair of Flip-Flops.

Posted by
507 posts

@Ken . . . "What type of Smartphone are you using?"
I currently own an IPhone4.

{Addition: Thanks for the note about swiping my IPhone to get a flashlight. I just deleted the flashlight app. :-) }

Posted by
19 posts

Hi Gretchen,

Just wanted to thank you for the tips ( now considering safety pins for my next trip :-) ) and add to the list some things I always make sure to double check before leaving home:

-smartphone charger
-an electrical socket adapter (depending on the destination)
-xerox copies of my personal id documents and
-a small emergency meds supply

Posted by
1 posts

It is always better to pack such smaller things with you while traveling as one can not say when and where you will need all these things.

Posted by
11613 posts

I also use the flashlight app on my smartphone instead of carrying a flashlight.

Posted by
693 posts

And why carry a RS phrase book when google translate is free, can be used offline by downloading the italian language at home, and works by speaking, typing or even scanning text with your smartphone camera.

Posted by
141 posts

I love google translate, but it doesn't seem to always produce the desired translation. A few have been real head scratchers!

Posted by
222 posts

I have been looking for a dual voltage electric toothbrush. On a past trip even using a converter I blew my charger for the toothbrush. Any suggestions appreciated. I am also looking for small plastic clothes pins.

I take a plastic coffee cup, an electric immersion coil (for instant coffee or tea) and a small plastic plate for picnics - cutting fruit etc. Too bad we can no longer take a knife or wine opener!
Barb

Posted by
693 posts

Quite true revirain. But it is much more practical 99 per cent of the time than dragging out a phrase book.

Posted by
1333 posts

I have been looking for a dual voltage electric toothbrush.

I think you can get a battery operated one. That may be an idea for vacation.

Posted by
15532 posts

I agree with the previous poster about battery operated toothbrushes.

All of the major electric toothbrush manufacturers make battery operated versions that use the same toothbrush heads. Very inexpensive and they can be found at the big box stores or chain pharmacies.

Posted by
16674 posts

The Sonicare Flexcare and Healthy White models are dual voltage.

Posted by
32241 posts

Barb,

The current models of the Philips Sonicare toothbrushes come with a 110-220V. charger, and I believe it's supplied with a USB travel charger.

Posted by
222 posts

Thanks so much for the info on the toothbrushes. I've tried the battery operated ones in the past and that doesn't work well for me but I'm very glad to hear that I can find a dual voltage one!
Now any ideas on the small plastic clothes pins? I've also had another kind in the past that basically is a hook with a clothes pin attached at the bottom - works great for socks. I should say "worked" as they were left behind somewhere.

Barb

Posted by
507 posts

Barb,
You can find the hooked clothes °°pins°° on Amazon.com or possibly in Dollar Stores.

Posted by
1068 posts

I have a flashlight app on my cell but carry one of the little LED cheap Flashlights They weight almost nothing and are super easy to carry. I will admit a luxury I enjoy is a travel tray. Too many times I have laid something down and forgotten where. With a travel tray I always notice it (mine is bright yellow) when getting ready to check out and don't put it in the suitcase until it is empty. I have gotten into the habit of always putting everything from my pockets into it (hotel key, phone, money, tickets etc.) Since I've had it, I have not left anything behind. The Bihn model is probably fine, but I prefer this Travel Tray. Yes, it is a luxury!

Posted by
1952 posts

Glad I brought:

RS toiletries kit--carried a LOT of stuff, even the basic kit. I brought plastic sandwich bags to put my cologne, or hair gel in case of a breakage/spillage. And the good thing about that is that it's soft and therefore scrunchable in the suitcase. Good to hang in bathroom--never enough counter space.

RS packing cubes--actually only brought the big one, used it mainly to keep dirty laundry separate. Again it can be manipulated with the mesh to fit in.

RS 'Don't-Tell-Rick' auxiliary bag--wife made fun of it...UNTIL we bought 3 leather jackets in Florence and still had to travel to southern Italy. That dang bag fit the leather jackets, my VPAP machine, and still had room to spare. Had it as a carry-on from Naples to Munich to Chicago. No real problem except in the future under similar circumstances I would fashion a soft pad for the shoulder strap so it wouldn't bite into me. Just buy one, throw it in your suitcase/bag, and forget about it until you need it.

RS Pocket Florence book--great book, fantastic tear-out street map of the city. Gave it to our B&B friends in Salerno from Australia who'd never heard of RS and they're in Florence now & loving it.

RS French/German/Italian Pocket phrase book--invaluable in Paris & southern Italy.

I had read somewhere that it was a good idea, when interacting with families abroad, to bring a little something from the homeland to present as a gift. So I picked up 4 small boxes of toffee from Chicago and used them as gifts to the hotel in Paris, the apartment owner in Florence, and to the caretaker of & the family that owned the B&B in Salerno. It was a nice touch, and very much appreciated by them. Another small step to rid the globe of the 'Ugly American' syndrome!!

Posted by
67 posts

I'm a fan of the Tim Bihn travel tray. The sides fold up and have a drawstring so if i'm n a hurry I can grab it, close it up, stuff it in my day bag and am assured that I haven't forgotten my things. It generally holds the things I have to put away when going through security - watch, phone, wallet, jewelry etc. Once settled in a room I empty my pockets into it daily and know where to find everything the next day.

Posted by
553 posts

Barb, if you're talking really small clothespins, try a craft store such as Michiels or Hobby Lobby.

Posted by
250 posts

Ok, I know it sounds kind of disgusting, but a roll of doggy waste disposal bags. The roll is only a couple of inches,so takes up no room, but great to slide dirty shoes in, a wet swim suit, leftover sandwich... Many a use!

Posted by
1420 posts

oh, GREAT idea......and in a real emergency (like if you dropped something into the toilet by accident) you could use one over your hand as a "rubber glove",,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Posted by
93 posts

Jays, I just took a peek at the Tim Bihn travel tray. It looks great. I will have to consider that. How much stuff does it hold? It might be nice on the bus during the day. I was always looking for something in my daypack.

Posted by
960 posts

Ellyn, another vote for the Tom Bihn Travel tray - watch the video at the bottom of the page - it's a great accessory to have . . . there are MANY Tom Bihn bags I love = the Cafe Bag, Side Effect, Travel Stuff Sacks, Spiff, Aeronaut, Double Organizer Pouches. . . the bags are so durable & all hand sewn in Seattle.

Posted by
93 posts

Chinalake67.. I took a better look I love the Spiff kit. Do know are there ever deals or coupons?

Posted by
222 posts

Thanks Collette and Hillie. I found the clothes pins on Amazon. They had several different kinds so it was a stab in the dark to decide which one. I already received them and they are much lighter weight than my old ones - which is good and bad. They were cheap - $6.00+ - but may break easier - but take up a lot less room.

Barb

Posted by
79 posts

Barb,

I take one of these hangers

It will hold a shirt, socks, bra, and underwear and I can hang it in the closet. Came in very handy our last trip.

Posted by
222 posts

Thanks, Akron,
I'll check that one out. It might be just the item to add to my laundry "kit".

Barb

Posted by
4411 posts

FWIW, I've used this style of travel tray (sold by Magellan's and others) for years and really like it.

Kathi, the 'doggie-doo bags' are inspired! And using one as a glove? Excellent call, doric8!

But the main reason I'm posting again is to add an observation on something I somehow completely missed the first go-around...Gretchen, you could have spewed a 7-paragraph rant on how crummy your bag was because your zipper broke. Instead, you gave us a priceless mental image of your Ellie Mae ingenuity. Now, I'm sure it wasn't all Sweetness and Light when the zipper broke, but you found a fix and carried on with your trip. You sound like an easy travel partner - something that is highly valued ;-)

Well done!

Posted by
507 posts

Recent March Trip to Portugal, Spain, & French Alps

Glad I Brought
Instant Ice Pack -- Ms.Clutz fell while taking pics on an incline. Immediately "popped" & applied ice pack to stop a bruise from forming.

Clothesline, Inflatable Hangers, Flat Drain Stopper, Absorb Shammie -- Wish I could have taken a pic of the back of the 2nd hotel. Several of us ladies had our laundry hanging on clotheslines outside our windows. Used Absorb to squeeze the excess water from sink wash. Last hotel thought an adult could dry off after a shower with a hand towel. Absorb to the rescue!

Wish I Had Left At Home
2nd pr of shoes (sandals) -- Too cold for sandals. Walking shoes were just fine.

Digital Camera -- It would not charge at home. Why would Europe be different?

1/2 of First Aid Kit -- Did not know DH packed his own & I packed for both of us. I DID have the Neosporin he did not pack.

Wish I Had Packed
Camera, Film, 2 Batteries -- This one I know works!

L/S Shirt I Left on Bed -- Was to be part of my small wardrobe.

Sweater & Knit Cap -- Was expecting 45° F to 65°F temps, not freezing & a snowfall that I have not seen since a child. Several people (Houstonians) were having snowball fights at the first rest stop 2 hrs N of Burgos, Spain.

A Second Electricity Converter -- I use a CPAP at night which cancels out charging gizmos during that time,

Two more s/s shirts -- Seems I was constantly washing my shirts.

A few more qt-sized Zip Slidelock bags

Posted by
80 posts

I take solid shampoo bars, which you can get from Lush ( www.lushusa.com ). It is a bit pricey, but it is made from natural ingredients, lasts forever, and can be used as hand and body soap or even laundry soap when necessary. As I have very long hair, taking liquid shampoo, even buying it in Europe, makes for more weight than I want to put up with.

Posted by
11613 posts

Ziplock bags, several sizes, freezer style is best for thickness. The 2.5 gallon bags are great for storing boots or other large items, but my favorite use is as a portable washing "machine". I use Woolite dark, put the clothing, washing liquid and water in the bag, seal it, shake it around for a minute and leave it to soak for an hour or so while I do something else. Then rinse the clean clothing in water and put it out to dry. Laundry water is disposed of in the bidet or tub/shower. The bag can be reused many times.

I also take a Tide-to-go pen.

Posted by
567 posts

Sicily & Rome renting apartments and staying in hotels:

*Jacket with detachable hood
*Bathingsuit
*Money Belt
*Hat
*Italian phrase book as I don’t always have mobile phone with me.
*Chamois face cloth from Dollar store
*Body puff travel size from Dollar store
*Facial Suncreen in 2 oz holder I keep in my bag
*Lip Sun Balm
*Collapsible cup for meds
*Prescription labeled bottles ordered in smallest size from my pharmacy
*Pen, Mechanical pencil, Slim highlighter, Mini note pad, Magnifying Glass
*Flat sink stopper
*Ripped out RS Rome travel pages
*IPhone Notes and self sent Emails of downloaded Google directions for driving directions in Sicily
*Assorted Ziploks
*Mesh Market Tote
*Reading material in English language

There are others but like I some I already listed they’re duplicates. I always have a bathing suit with me. You never know where the journey will take you

My newest packing additions are a small jar of vaseline and a light pair of white ped liners. This takes care of my feet overnight. For years I watched Joan Robinson on the RS travel show and finally after tired feeling feet, I said to myself I must try it. In the morning I now have happy travel feet

Posted by
232 posts

Eileen -
What a nice thing to say. I have to admit when we landed FCO and were looking at the luggage carousel and saw a bag go by wrapped in Delta tape saying "DamagedBagDamagedBagDamagedBag"

I said "wow that would be a bad way to start your vacation. I'd hate to be that guy."

Dear husband said "Honey, you are that guy"

Posted by
524 posts

Diane...magnifying glass is a good one. I have the streetwise maps and it is just too small to read with my old eyes.

Posted by
792 posts

Zoe just blew my mind with the portable washing machine thing. I am definitely trying that next trip.

Posted by
14157 posts

Reinforce the sides and bottom of the big ziplock with mailing tape and it will last longer.