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One critical thing you forgot to pack or forgot to do before your last trip to Europe?

As I get ready for my first Rick Steves tour (GAS) in late September, and continue to refine my planning and packing lists, curious as to things I haven't thought about already. I know you can replace just about anything in Europe, but wondering if there are items NOT mentioned on Rick Steves' site or in books that people would recommend bringing with vs. waiting to get in Europe, or critical 'to do's' that aren't typically mentioned. Thanks in advance! :)

Posted by
334 posts

Use waterproofing spray on all your shoes to keep your feet dry when it rains!
Safe travels!

Posted by
30 posts

Good one, Pat! Scotchgard the old backpack, too! Say hi to San Diego for me--my old stomping grounds (and SDSU grad!)

Posted by
30 posts

I just thought of something new--use old twist ties to tame the cords for your various devices. I hate dealing with the spaghetti mess of cords when I travel. Just ordered RS' go go gadget bag and am organizing all my cords with twist ties found in my junk drawer. This might make me a bit OCD, but that's okay. ;-)

Posted by
413 posts

Jill, I know what you mean about the cords! On that note, my travel self is always happiest with my packing self when I have plenty of little bags, sacks and envelopes to keep everything tidy and easy to find while I'm moving around on my trip. And a bit of bubble wrap.

The item that has salvaged a few days of my past vacations is a few cold tablets. Just enough to get me through that first few days and nights until I can get to a store to buy something that looks like cold meds.

Posted by
555 posts

I learned the hard way that over the counter medicines aren’t all the same as at home. For instance I once forgot to pack my favorite zinc throat lozenges which really help if I start getting a sore throat. When I needed them on that trip, in York, I found no equivalent product in the chemist shop. And even if you could find what you want in a store, will you have time to go shop for it just when you need it? If you haven’t already, you might list the OTC meds you might need and whether each product will be easy to buy at your destination. I don’t know if this is addressed in RS books or tour info. Apologies if it is something you have already thought about.

Posted by
1124 posts

Lesson learned. We needed cough drops on a trip for a dry cough post Sinus infection. I recall our visit to the pharmacy in Greece trying to explain what we needed. The Pharmacist finally said, "Oh, Candy!" Not quite the equivalent as our home brand. Another item is powdered Gatoraid. If it's warm we would add some to our water to prevent dehydration. Couldn't find it in Europe.

Posted by
4708 posts

Twist ties are always on my packing list. Many uses.
Same with ziplock bags.

And instead of trying to track down a pain reliever I always take a small bottle of Alleve

After walking 6 -7 miles a day which is how I explore where ever I’m visiting my lower back aches some.

I also take small Kleenex Tavel packets. Very handy when restrooms are out of TP.

Posted by
662 posts

Jill, instead of twist ties to corral cords, I use colored pony tail bands. That way I can color code which cord goes with which device since some of the cords look similar and they are quick to find.

I talked myself out of buying a rain poncho before leaving for Italy. Why waste money on something I wouldn’t there or at home. My 99cent store plastic rain coats lasted a day each in Italy’s worst May rain since 1958. I finally found a decent poncho half way through the trip at triple the price I would have paid at home. Oops!

Posted by
1709 posts

I discovered last summer that Paracetaminophen doesn't work as well as Tylenol PM. I will always pack multiple containers of it in the future-I had pain in my leg last year that didn't respond to anything else.

Posted by
334 posts

I also vote for ziploc bags- so easy to store opened snacks, half sandwiches, leaking toiletries.

Posted by
203 posts

Another vote here for zinc lozenges. I started coming down with a cold once in southern Italy and couldn't get zinc lozenges. I always pack some now.

Posted by
194 posts

Healthy portable food for the plane and all day in case hunger hits. I try not to eat anything salty or bad on the plane so my plane food is critical plus instant packets of Starbucks and a few tea bags.

A portable water bottle.

Portable hand wipes and tissues for bathrooms and cleaning airline tray tables, etc.

Of course most important are my phone adapters and chargers and phone with the International Feature added for $10/day.

Euros and coins ideally once you land I get them if I am out.

Nasal spray for plane, zinc or other cough drops, a small packet of coconut oil and cold prevention, band aids.

Always a huge scarf for the plane, etc. doubles as a layer jackets w a light rain jacket w hood with a little umbrella.

Posted by
8587 posts

Great list being developed! Yes, you can find most things in Europe but prices for some OTC meds are higher. Ibuprofen in Italy, for example, is €€€€. In Switzerland everything is expensive! Benadryl if you worry about allergic reactions is handy to have.

So take any analgesic you prefer, Ziplocs, as mentioned, are indispensable.

I pack along washEZE which makes laundry whether sink, apartment washer, or laundromat easy. Yes, they are expensive, but beats having to buy an unknown product in a large quantity Ina language I don’t understand. I only use them for travel.

I also like WetOnes in individual packets. I use them to clean tray tables, hands, bathrooms that aren’t up to my standards, remote controls, and they even take stains out of clothing. They don’t dry out like the ones in pop up containers or resealable packs. I tuck them into purse, backpack, and suitcase corners.

Posted by
40 posts

One thing I forgot to do before hurrying out on a 10 day trip was to empty out the grounds from the coffee maker. When we returned they had developed a layer of fuzz and a musty smell. This is now on my departure check list.

Posted by
2690 posts

The otc meds issue is a big one. I take ibuprofen daily for knee problems. On one trip I forgot to pack it. So, in answer to RS and others who blithely assure travelers that you can get anything you need, in Europe, I respond, yes but:

You may need to get it at a pharmacy. No going to the nearest supermarket or convenience store. This includes things as commonplace as aspirin. Think about how much fun it would be to need something in the middle of the night or on a Sunday and have to go looking for an open pharmacy.

It will cost much more than in the U.S. That time I forgot the Ibuprofen I wound up spending as much in 3 weeks as. a year’s supply would cost at home. Another time I ran through my supply of sudafed. Yes, I was able to get it - - - at the cost more than $1/pill!

Somethings are not, actually, available in Europe, Peptobismol being one. I don’t know about immodium, but I bring my own.

Posted by
1124 posts

Thanks for all the suggestions! Another vote for washEze and Wet Ones. The nice thing about washEze is you can cut them in half for smaller loads. Wet Ones can also be transferred to a ziplock bag without becoming compromised. We always have extra ziplock bags for snacks & leftovers.

Posted by
421 posts

As someone mentioned OC meds. I use a cream for my to treat dry eyes at night. I forgot it in Ireland, learned that it is by prescription only. I did have it in Spain but ran out. I was able to buy something similar but I was a bit nervous about having an allergic reaction (common when switching eye meds). Everything worked out both times, Ireland the atmosphere is so moist, didn't need it and the Spain brand worked just fine.

Posted by
2828 posts

An item that we have forgotten on some trips is to tuck in a plastic grocery bag for our dirty laundry. We wash items in the sink every other night, so it doesn't need to be too big.

Items that I have on my list that you might want to consider:

  1. Burts Bees lip balm for the flight. My lips get dry on a plane.
  2. A plastic spoon, fork, knife in a couple of sandwich Ziploc bags, tucked into a quart bag, tucked into a gallon Ziploc bag. We like to stop into the grocery stores for a yogurt, roll, fruit, meat or cheese picnic lunch.
  3. Last year was the first time I tried a travel pillow, and I really slept well on the planes. For me, it was the Trtl pillow/neck wrap because I'm a stomach sleeper. Those inflatable types to lean back are uncomfortable for me.
  4. Even though you can use your phone, I like to have a small flashlight. I've used it walking home at night, especially in areas of cobblestones or when needed to see the key slot. I keep it next to the bed in case it would be needed during the night, also.
  5. Last year I also added a collapsible travel cup. I just don't want to use the drinking glasses in a hotel (how were they cleaned?). And, sometimes I make a cup of Via coffee in these with just the hottest water from the tap when I really need some caffeine those first few mornings of the time zone change while getting ready. https://www.amazon.com/ME-FAN-Collapsible-Travel-Cup-Expandable/dp/B07545HPT2/ref=sr_1_3?crid=68248WTF7BS2&keywords=collapsible+cup&qid=1560727633&s=gateway&sprefix=collapsible+%2Caps%2C447&sr=8-3
  6. One year we forgot to bring a couple of pens. A very small notebook or a small pad of Post-its are also handy.

The GAS tour was our first RS tour. You will have a wonderful time!

Posted by
30 posts

Thanks for those who suggested zinc lozenges/Cold Eez...I had Tylenol/Aleve and Pepto on the list, along w/Allegra for allergies, but didn't know what to bring for my cold. Last March, I got a head cold right when I got to Europe and suffered through it. Allergy meds helped some, along with some Emergen C, and I bought a LOT of travel packs of tissue along with way in England, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Wish I had had the zinc lozenges!

Thanks, Laurel for the WashEez suggestion! Those Tide packets only go so far!

Posted by
112 posts

There seems to be 2 camps for how extensive a first aid kit should be, especially for packing light believers. Finding a pharmacy and equivalent product is one aspect, but issues don't always happen at convenient times. I would leave home a piece of clothing before getting rid of anything from my kit!
Wrap several lengths of thread around a tiny piece of tagboard. Thread one with a small sewing needle. This has made it past every security check for 15 years, domestic and international. I tuck it in between a couple of my supply of various size bandaids, including Compeed or another blister option. Bandaids abroad don't stay on as well! Anyway, I can mend a rip or take out a splinter, have done both! A few safety pins. A tiny tweezer, and teensy scissors ( also never yet confiscated). First aid cream, and also you can get antibiotic ointment at REI or camping supply stores in single- use little packets, I take several. 2 packets of electrolyte powder, blister pack of anti diarrhea tablets. Etc.
I keep it packed and then, when my next trip comes, just need to replace anything that has expired, rather than rethinking the whole thing. ( I feel grateful if I never had to access it!)
For out and about during the day I have a tiny pouch for a couple bandaids, an antibiotic packet, a couple pain reliever tablets, etc.
A great tip I learned here was the small "pill bags" at pharmacies. They are so useful for all kinds of this small stuff. Small stuff quickly adds up to becoming big and heavy. Not so much to cover any potential crisis, but must enough to keep you comfortable through a bout of something with products you know work for you.

Posted by
869 posts

I think it's not only important WHAT you pack but HOW you pack. Is your personal item organized in a way that your liquids bag can be easily pulled out in security, is there a logical place for your passport, boarding pass for quick access. What about the stuff you plan on using on the plane (Scarf, lip balm, snacks, book, tablet, medication etc)? Once you land do you have cash for the taxi, directions or an address for your lodging (I write the address down on a index card and hand to the driver). Once we land I find a corner of the airport, husband stands over me, from my personal item I pull out a fully packed cross body purse that has a wallet with Euros, a small envelope with index card with lodging address, sunglasses. I KNOW I will be tired, a little disorientated and don't leave anything to chance.

Posted by
1709 posts

Great post, Letizia. Having the things you need readily available on the plane is really helpful-but you have to stick to your system and always put things back in their proper place. The problems I have occur when I don't do this and don't remember where I put something.

Posted by
1432 posts

I will second the suggestion above to have a little "fix-it" kit - mine is in a re-purposed metal lipgloss container (size 1 inch x 2 inch) and it has needle/thread (making sure the thread matches my outfits), safety pins, a small eyeglass screwdriver, a few eyeglass screws, spare buttons and snaps (wardrobe malfunctions happen). I also take a few feet of gorilla tape (stronger than duct tape) wound around a piece of old credit card and a couple of binder clips (hold curtains closed, reinforce clothesline). I always bring a small reusable grocery bag - for groceries of course, but also for using on the bus to hold snacks/sweater, and a laundry bag in a pinch. On my last trip I also found Life Laundry sheets - they completely dissolve in water and don't have a strong scent. They come in a pack of four resealable pouches, perfect for travel and sink washing (I cut them in strips for that purpose)

Posted by
2661 posts

A small magnifying mirror! Doesn't anyone else has this problem? I wear minimal make up, but that goes down to about none without a magnifying mirror. It is also the thing I forget most often in the hotel room. Very frustrating.

Posted by
30 posts

I found a small magnifying mirror with a built-in brush at Target or Ulta (can't recall). Super handy and I have a couple of them.

As for liquids, if you have TSA PreCheck on your way to Europe, you don't have to worry about them at all. They do not check liquids in my experience over the past couple of years. Coming back, I'm not sure about the different restrictions in the foreign airports. I plan to throw away any unnecessary liquids anyway since I will be heading home...or they will have run out by then.

Posted by
26 posts

I pack individual daily dosages of meds in those little plastic bags rather than bring all the prescription bottles.. I also put ibuprofen, etc in those little bags. They don't take up space that way. Agree with others, it is sometimes hard to find what we think of as simple stuff in Europe.

Posted by
102 posts

Handkerchief/neckerchief...whatever you want to call it. Available everywhere (dollar store, Walmart, Target) for about a dollar. Use it as a towel in restrooms, as a lap cover on the planes when you are eating, as a face cover for sleeping, as a napkin when doing a carry out lunch. Folds up flat and small, easy to wash out in the sink, dries in a thrice.

Posted by
324 posts

This is great guys......I am always shocked at the small things you take for granted at home that become a must when you are abroad. I ALWAYS take the adult toilet wipes in my travel backpack.....toilet paper is never where you want it and these double as wipes for your airplane tray, etc when you need them. We love our ear plugs for the plane and sleep.....and make sure we have a pen and small pad.....shocked at how handy that comes into play when you need it. Hardly any baths have small wash rags so we love to take the ones you buy for infants that come as small squares and expand into the cloths when wet....Old Navy, Gap seem to always have them. I have a bungee-type cord that I take that I can hang my hand-washed underclothes on to dry if we cannot find a laundromat....and I always take 3-4 Tide capsules for the laundromat, making it so much easier having those already. I also put 2-3 French clips into my bag.....in Sweden one summer the sun was still out at 10 pm so we clasped the curtains tightly together with those and it darkened our room......sometimes a small roll of masking tape will do the trick as well!

Posted by
555 posts

Letizia and cala make good points, about having your in-flight items ready at hand when you get settled into your seat, and getting into a routine with how/where you carry things. Having developed a routine has helped me a lot, especially if I arrive at my destination very tired.

This has been an overall very helpful topic. I've made some notes for my own use. Thanks, everyone!

Posted by
2828 posts

Jules M, if you’re forgetting to repack your mirror, wrap the rim of it with red or fluorescent tape. The color will help you notice it when you’re packing up.

Also, if you’re using a toiletry bag with a specific spot for your mirror, you might have a design or piece of colored tape in that location. If you see the tape, you’ll know your mirror hasn’t been placed in that slot. I do that for my medicine.

I have a similar system for my outlet adapter and phone charger. I have a red mesh bag that sits on the bedside. It’s the last thing I pack, and my charger & adapter go into it. The red color is very noticeable.

Posted by
194 posts

We have never turned our water off before going on a vacation but will do that from now on. We returned from a trip to France last fall to discover that the hose supplying water to the icemaker in our refrigerator had sprung a tiny leak. A pin-prick sized spray of water can cause a lot of harm in a two week period! The water damaged our kitchen floor and the ceiling and carpet of the room below the kitchen.

Posted by
2661 posts

Jean, great idea, thanks! I have a system now for most things, except for that darn mirror! I usually buy my stuff in red for that exact reason--red wallet, red iphone case, red ipad case, etc. Should have thought about getting some red duct or electrical tape and doing it on other items. I also like the idea of having something on the nightstand. We move around a lot, seldom staying in a place more than 3 days and it would be nice to have all my "night time" stuff together so I wasn't collecting it every night.I think someone once mentioned the red lid from a Jif jar. I think that and a little red bag for transporting would be perfect!

Vickie, I know quite a few people who have had problems "spring" up with icemakers while on vacay. Not fun.

Posted by
22 posts

Just remember that if you turn the water off to your house, turn off your hot water heater, too. No burned out element that way. Lesson learned the hard way... I leave a note on the inside of the garage door to turn the water and hot water heater on as soon as we arrive home, so the shower is ready when I am after we've unpacked and had our end of trip cocktail!!

Posted by
30 posts

End of trip cocktail, that's what I forgot last time! Except for what I had on the plane of course. :-D

Posted by
881 posts

Great topic and I’m taking notes as well! Last trip I forgot to bring my good roller brush for blow drying my thick hair. I usually get by with the weak hotel blow dryers because with my brush I can make my hair look managed. Without the brush, my hair just frizzed! I looked like Hermione Granger lol.

Jill, I’m on the Oct 1 GAS tour. It’s my first ever RS tour. I’ve taken one bus tour before and have traveled independently for the other times using his guidebooks so I’m really looking forward to this.

Posted by
324 posts

Meant to add this to my list....and some of your will probably think this idea is CRAZY......but hubby and I carry a small $15 metal electric fan from WalMart. It serves 2 purposes.....the white noise from it masks sounds so we can sleep AND it moves the air around in our room making sleep a lot better. We discovered this one summer when we were in Marseilles, France at a camp for a conference with NO AC....it was a record-breaking heat wave and people were begging us for our fan......it was miserable. Taking it makes it necessary to pack the adapter it must plug into before we plug it into the wall......and yes, it does take up space......BUT....it has saved us more than once in a hot room where the hotel management will not turn on AC because it is out of season. I may have to leave something at home but the fan is ALWAYS top priority to go!

Posted by
30 posts

Unfortunately, I can't do ear plugs or I won't hear my alarm, and I can't do sleep masks because I can't sleep with something on my face. However, one thing I wish I would have done last time is downloaded a sleep sounds app for my phone. Huge help if I can listen to rain sounds all night long. Some white noise apps also have sounds of fans so you don't have to lug a fab with you!

I've already I downloaded a new app for my upcoming. Would have helped tremendously with all this street noise in Brussels last year. It's definitely a red flag when your Airbnb host leaves earplugs on the nightstand. ;-)

Posted by
106 posts

We once came home from a month in Europe to find we’d forgotten to lock the front door. Oops!

Posted by
8587 posts

A couple more things now permanently in my suitcase as I missed having them on prior trips.

We do longer stays in apartments (up to two weeks in Europe) and cook a fair amount. I now take a couple of bag clips like these from Amazon but I get ours at IKEA, a Vac u Vin wine stopper for those rare occasions we don’t finish the bottle, and a corkscrew. We have occasionally had an apartment without a corkscrew and when in a hotel or B&B we often have a bottle and they don’t have corkscrews in rooms, generally, Yes, we have to check the bag with the corkscrew but I am usually checking a bag with trekking sticks anyway,

Posted by
62 posts

Ziploc bags! I didn't thought I would need one, until I did: It was raining and we needed to buy and put a parking permit on the dash of our car. But it was raining so hard... We had to walk a couple of blocks from the car to the store. I didn't mind getting wet but the permit!!! It looked like a scratch ticket. So we walked to our apartment where I had one 2 gallon Ziploc where I kept my PJs, that's what we used to put the permit inside and take it from the apartment all the way to the car.

I always pack Ziplocs with me but this time I just winged it. Lesson learnt.

Posted by
30 posts

I saved screen shots of all passes and tickets to my phone, saved pdfs to the cloud and printed hard copies. For the latter, I got a clear make up bag (sturdier than a ziploc), cut down a manila folder, and kept my paperwork in that folder/bag so it didn't get wet. Was still pretty rainy in Europe in March last year and so glad I did this. I threw things away once I no longer needed them to keep my backpack's weight down.

Tip: Big Bus Tours prefer hard copy passes vs. electronic versions. In Paris, I had to go to their ticket office to get a hard copy that they could scan.

Posted by
108 posts

I’ve found the RS “Removable Toiletries Caddy” to be really handy. Great for hanging over a shower head or rod to hold small shampoo bottles, and keep them accessible. No more hunting without my glasses for my face soap! I hadn’t packed the caddy for light travel, but after I used it for summer grad residencies (in dorms), it’s earned a spot wherever I go. I’ve switched to bottles that fit well in the slots. I use a Tom Bihn 3D clear cube for my toiletry/TSA kit, and pack the RS caddy in a baggie in my roller.

Also, I pack a teeny packet of salt and pepper (found in fast food restaurants). I’ve only needed them twice, for Sunday night room picnics, but a pinch of salt seemed critical at the time.

Posted by
1 posts

I’m also going to GAS for the Sept 21 tour date. I think twist ties are good. Also I am taking a picture of my medications and carrying them in an pill box without the plastic box in it. It makes for more space. Also water proof your shoes :)

Posted by
555 posts

I saved screen shots of all passes and tickets to my phone, saved pdfs
to the cloud and printed hard copies. For the latter, I got a clear
make up bag (sturdier than a ziploc), cut down a manila folder, and
kept my paperwork in that folder/bag so it didn't get wet.

Jill, that's pretty much what I do. Among other things, I have a scan of my passport ID page saved to a cloud drive in a pdf file that is not named "passport" or anything like it.

For carrying documents, I haven't been as creative as you (hat tip for that solution to keeping papers dry!). For years, I've used nearly-transparent poly string-tie envelopes for hard copies during a trip planning phase and to take necessary papers on the trip. Lately, I use a smaller version of those envelopes. They slip easily into my luggage and hold all receipts etc. that I acquire during the trip. But neither size is a 'daily carry' item. I've just taken my chances that needed tickets/papers won't get rain-soaked when I'm out for the day. I'll consider your solution for the next trip. And, I'm going to look at these zip-top transparent plastic envelopes next time I'm at the office supplies store. Luggage and office supplies - my shopping weaknesses. At least office supplies are usually much cheaper than luggage. . .

Speaking of water damage. I was lucky - ignorant, but lucky - that when I traveled as a single family home owner, I never turned off any water lines, and never returned home to damage. After moving into this condo I learned fast, fortunately not by way of personal misadventure. Water + gravity = damage, and lots of it when you have two condo units directly below yours. Not only do I maintain/replace the water shut-off valves in my condo, I turn them off when leaving even for a weekend. Also I shut off the refrigerator's icemaker. (Can't turn off all the water to this condo because of how the building plumbing is set up; hence the importance of shut-off valves for all the fixtures and the washing machine.)

Posted by
4232 posts

Luggage and office supplies - my shopping weaknesses.

Suz — my soul sister!!

Posted by
476 posts

Not so much what I forgot but what I took out that I shouldn't have....
the little pair of sandals/slipper to wear around the room ( not a fan of bare feet on tile)
my travel curling iron which is super little and my hair is super yucky without it
I did forget to pack a real sweater - sometimes a jacket isn't the right thing

Posted by
1144 posts

Splenda for my am coffee....... didn’t have it any of the places we stayed on our month long trip to Europe last summer. Only raw sugar-not the same.

Posted by
10 posts

I never leave home without my anti-diarrhea pills. Some of that different food or water just doesn't always sit right.

About those Adult wet wipes...our friend brought some with him and the TSA at Chicago checked him out for around 30 minutes...apparently they have some chemical in them that the scanners don't like...so beware!

Also, we also AWLAYS bring USB fans. They are small but work like a charm to move air and make some white noise. Also, don't be afraid to ask the hotel desk if they have any larger fans. Usually they do.

I always bring 2 small bottles of Downy Wrinkle Release with me. Usually there is not iron available and this works great...just spray on clothes and smooth out. By morning they will smell refreshed and be without wrinkles.

And, always always at least bring an extra top, underwear, and socks, and toothbrush and makeup with you in your carry-on bag in case your luggage goes missing. Happened to us on last trip and glad we had a few things.

Posted by
236 posts

WetOnes in individual packets are an essential item for me and I've never had any problems putting them in carry-on bags at any airports in the US or Europe. I did create a minor incident once when I accidentally left one in my pocket while being scanned at security. Make sure you take them out.

Posted by
4477 posts

Added to our must-carry stuff after discovering it in Budapest -- Nestle 3-in-1 coffee packets which include sugar and cream. Husband can get his early-morning coffee fix without my having to get up for 7 a.m. breakfast. We have also bought them in France (Monoprix) and Germany.

Posted by
413 posts

I am getting such great ideas for my fall trip from this post! I took the idea of the Jiff lid .... but wanted something a bit bigger. Found one of those small plastic trays that packaged foods are microwaved in. Lightweight, easy to pack and perfect size for my chargers, phone, watch and whatever. Got some red duct tape (another great idea above!) at the dollar store and put bold red stripes on the tray and my adaptors.

Also picked up (dollar store again) a red zipper pouch (has a plastic side window) with grommet rings to make a hanging airplane utility bag. Thanks for another great idea there!

Posted by
216 posts

Hi Jill-we went on this tour 5 years ago and LOVED it! We always forget something, but it's usually not a big deal (forget the trash, lights, etc--I just let the house sitter know) . I make lists of the really important things so we don't forget. Recently, I started keeping a small medicine bag packed for travel throughout the year, not just to Europe.
As a side note-buy Ricola throat lozenges in Switzerland. Seriously! They are very different, and MUCH better than ones in the U.S. I bought two bags and made them last three years. You will not be sorry!
If you have the chance, go to the (newer) baths in Baden-Baden. The building is gorgeous. If you have gumption, go to the no-clothing section upstairs. People of all shapes and sizes. It's a normal and accepted part of Europe.
Enjoy the tour!

Posted by
220 posts

My good friend gave me a folding paper fan (like the one used by ladies in a gentler age to hide behind). I keep it in my day bag. Many times I'll be in a large room with hundreds of people (think Versailles or the Vatican museum). I pull my fan out to "fan" myself and everyone looks at me and wishes they had thought of bringing something similar. I've actually had people offer me money for mine. I bought some at the Dollar store recently for my grand-daughters to play dress-up with. I also use a powdered laundry detergent called "Forever New" fabric care wash. I bought it in the lingerie department at Dillards. I use it to sink wash my clothing. It does a great job and it makes my suitcase smell nice.
Enjoy your trip. The GAS tour is one of our favorites.

Posted by
3 posts

In Austria, at least, grocers don't provide shopping bags - you're expected to have your own. However they do sell them for about 10cents to a quarter (equivalent) at checkout.

Posted by
2 posts

Such terrific tips in this thread.
My adds, briefly:
I remembered the 2 gallon ziploc to do my 'sink wash' and the Tide handwash packets from the drugstore (and the costly REI camping handwash sheets that don't foam up at all); the small, soft, baby washcloth and small tiny hotel hand soap; the multiple other ziplocs for food, etc; the weekly pill container filled with herbs/spices for cooking; prep in advance with waterproofing spray; the all-Europe sim card available on Amazon.
What I didn't know about was to pack a tunafish 'pouch;'- ( to go along with a small ziplock of instant ramen) for sustenance on those nights when we arrive late and all the food service is closed!

Posted by
662 posts

Congratulations Jill for having this thread posted on Rick’s Travel News!
https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/read/travel-news

Janet, thanks for reminding me to buy more Forever New. It works great. Very easy to wash out so no endless rinses to get the soap out. For those who haven’t used it, a packet does a sink load of laundry. I used 6 per week.
https://www.amazon.com/Forever-New-Granular-Travel-Packs/dp/B0148YWM7W/ref=mp_s_a_1_16?keywords=forever+new&qid=1562213006&s=gateway&sr=8-16
Kathy

Posted by
18 posts

Mucinex for colds/congestion
Neil Sinus Rinse bottle & packets for pollution, like in London, or to help get over a cold faster. They also make a nasal inhaler that looks like lip gloss that is useful.
Ricola lozenges, for coughs and tour guides who are having voice problems.
Hand sanitizer in small bottles.
Gootubes, 100ml from REI for shampoo, etc.
Phone charger battery pack, either flat, or like a lipstick, with a rubber band to attach to your phone, so you can still use it.
Multi plug goes into one adapter plug, because there are never enough outlets.
Short, lightweight extension cord, esepically if you have a CPAP machine.
Rick's small backpack that has a sleeve on the back that goes over your suitcase handle, to put your CPAP machine in. You are allowed this as an extra carry-on, because it's medical.
Battery tea lights, in a soap dish, for putting next to step at bathroom, so you don't trip in the night.
Small flashlight on a lanyard for use on the plane, especially if you drop something on the floor.
"Here maps" app on your phone, because it tells which bus or metro to take, including route to walk there and back. Load "favorites" , hotels, etc ahead of time, the do screen shots of how to get from the airport or the metro to your hotel when you have wifi, in case it doesn't work well when off wifi. Practice using it at home.
T-Mobile phone with a one month contract, because it's way cheaper than $10/day.
Unsubscribe to all the extra "junk" that comes into your email in box.
Shout wipes for spots on your clothes, Target often has them in the travel section.
Solid stick deodorant, so it doesn't have to go in your 1 qt liquids bag.
Tiny toothpaste tubes like your dentist has. 1 lasts 2 people for 2-3 nights.
Charge cord if you bring an electric toothbrush, or if a battery powered brush, put it in a hard toothbrush case, so it doesn't turn on accidentally.
Don't Tell Rick bag that folds up, for stuff on the your bus, or under the bus for your purchases.
2 Bright 24" plastic bungie type cords, from Home Depot, to tie your suitcases together, or to a chair while in an airport or train station, or to the rack on a train, to keep someone from doing a snatch & grab.
Small wallet, change purse, or zip lock sandwich bag for all those coins in your front pocket.
First Republic Bank ATM card, because they reimburse all ATM use world wide, and a real person answers the phone to help if needed.
Empty water bottle to fill at water station after security.
That's about all I can think of. Hope it helps!

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1 posts

I always bring a few safety pins and a small sewing kit, in case I have a "wardrobe malfunction".

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4 posts

Distilled water for CPAP machines can usually be found in laundry section of larger grocery stores. It’s there because of its use in irons. Pharmacies in a pinch, but the hand gestures trying to explain look like a bad game of charades when neither of us speaks the other’s language.

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5 posts

A paperclip, if you plan on changing out your smartphone SIM card. Cellphone service is way cheaper in Europe than in the USA, and 25$ will buy you more than enough data and phone service for a month. Just remember to suspend your account here at home when you leave, to save some money

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1 posts

Small roll of duct tape, 2-3 feet will work. Great for multiple emergency repairs, especially for tears in luggage bags.

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17 posts

Having just returned from Iceland, Scotland and Germany, next time I'll be packing a bar of soap and a little hair conditioner. Only two hotels in 5 weeks of travel had bar soap, the rest used all purpose shower gel... far more prevalent than it used to be?...yes I know less packaging and waste but it's really not for me, so I will bring my own from now on, even if it adds slightly to the luggage weight which we usually keep to a minimum. For what it's worth I also bring a few clothespins and a little bit of line, although I generally use those less in Europe and more in other parts of the world.

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120 posts

Jill, we just returned from our fifth RS tour (Best of Eastern Europe). As travel veterans, we're at the point where we forget little. But this time I did forget to bring extension cords with multiple outlets. In conjunction with adapter plugs, they come in handy in hotel rooms that have a shortage of outlets. Turns out that the hotels that we stayed in on this trip had plenty of outlets, and we didn't need them. (Note that surge protectors made for American electricity are a big no-no in Europe.)

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6 posts

A couple of thin 14" x 24" polyester hand towels from the dollar store. At the airport, handy to dry off my water bottle after filling it at the drinking fountain. On the flights over and back, they cover my lap far better than the paper napkins provided with the meal. Once there, I keep one in my day bag for the many times there are no towels in the bathroom and a wait for the air dryer. Also great to dry off a wet bench before sitting down or clean up a small mess while eating street food. They clean up easily in the sink and are dry in a flash.

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1 posts

My most recent trip to Germany was with "light" luggage. It meant that I was allowed to take a 13 pound carry on case plus a personal item. Even with the weight restriction I decided to take a travel pillow because I know from experience that pillows in hotels have not been comfortable and robbed me of sleep. This small travel pillow fit on top of my clothes and toiletries in my carry on suitcase. It weighed about one pound, but was well worth the effort to take along. When staying in hotels I didn't leave it on the bed during the day but put it back into my suitcase.

I took along vitamins but no night time cold pills. My daughter got a cold on the third day. We went to a pharmacy ( Apotheke ) to get some night time medication which is available over the counter but before they handed it to us we first had to explain at least three cold symptoms. Then we could purchase a tiny bottle of liquid night time cold medication which was good for three nights only. The price was about 10 Euros, more expensive than in the US. Mountains of Kleenex we found at another store. If you don't have time to go shopping for Kleenex you can also use soft toilet paper.

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18 posts
  • Twist ties to keep the zippers closed on my backpack and make it less appealing to pickpockets.
  • Mesh bag tucked in my backpack for shopping. Especially handy for those places that charge for bags.
  • Photo of medications. My travel companion lost her meds in transit when we were in Spain. Our AirBnb host translated for us at the pharmacy. She was able to get everything she needed, same brands and quantities, for less money than the US.
  • Flashlight. On more than one occasion the light went out in the bathroom. A small LED flashlight provides plenty of light.
  • Binder clips to hold charger cords together neatly.
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16 posts

I always bring a plastic microwavable dish & lid along with knife, fork, spoon. Europe doesn't have microwaves so much in the room, but I use for storing leftovers or preparing foods (oatmeal) with water from the hot pot (where there is one). I'm also a grocery store frequenter on trips, so having a way to put away extras helps.

I also bought some flat plastic hangers and usually add some plastic pants ones (all in the lid of my suitcase) as there are often none to few available.

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1 posts

Love all of these wonderful suggestions. Years ago I started taking one 13 gallon trash bag with me & I tuck it into my day bag. Comes in great if it has rained & you want to sit down on a park bench or anywhere it’s wet. It also comes in handy if it’s time to pack & you still have wet or damp laundry - just spread the bag out on top of everything dry & then place the damp items on top.

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1 posts

Don’t forget your carryon bag! I did that once. Thankfully my husband and I are freaks who leave very early for our flights. We returned home, I picked up my bag and off again we went. We made our flight and all was well. My carryon bag is now an item on our pre-trip checklist.

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157 posts

Ex-officio quick dry underwear rolled into a ziploc baggie, packed in my carry-on

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1 posts

I enjoy doing research before a trip and make notes on my phone with sights I want to see and a couple restaurants in each town I'll visit. HOWEVER, on my last trip I lost my phone! Next time I will use old fashioned pen and paper to write down the addresses of sights and restaurants, transportation details, and a couple of phone numbers for emergency calls back home. I realized just how dependent I am on my phone.

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36 posts

A Swiss army knife with a corkscrew. I was in Chile a number of years ago and bought a corkscrew there. One night the corkscrew straightened out while I was trying to extract a cork from the bottle of wine that I had bought. Fortunately another guest at the hotel had a Swiss army knife with a corkscrew and saved the day. Don't leave home without it.
And instead of using twist ties from the grocery store [ which don't last long ] I use a "Gear Tie- Reusable Rubber Twist Tie" from a company called "Nite Ize", available on Amazon. Much stronger, more robust, and available in different sizes.

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1 posts

If you will attend the theater in London (or anywhere) take a small pair of binoculars. Chances are your seats are not up close! I now also pack one flat sheet as well. Most beds in Europe and UK have a bottom fitted sheet and a comforter wrapped in a sheet like protector that they wash, and that is TOO HOT to sleep under for me. Just roll it up and put it in the bottom of my backpack.

Jill, have a great time on your GAS tour in the fall. Everyone who's posted has had such great suggestions. I very much agree with eborngus who mentioned the top sheet. Some hotels will provide one when asked, but I think that I will include a light one next time I travel. Too hot with the duvet! From the office supply store I bring page protectors, one for each day, where I can put the receipts, post cards, and brochures collected during the day. Also a journal, sketchbook and art supplies to record my experiences. My sister gave each of us a small sketchbook when we boarded our plane for our first RS tour in 2014. The assignment was to do a drawing a day. Just back from our fifth RS tour, had so much fun documenting the "wow" moments from each day.

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15 posts

Bringing a sheet is a great idea. I am always too hot under those duvets, even in winter. And I bring my own pillow. It's down, so it's not difficult to fit it into my carry-on. And so true about bringing your own meds. I tried to buy Dramamine at the Amsterdam airport, where there is one pharmacy. They don't have that product in the Netherlands, but the pharmacist was very nice about researching on her computer another, similar drug.

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4477 posts

Forgot to check the expiration dates on my credit/debit cards one trip -- had to have Schwab send me a replacement debit card by Fedex. One day later and it would have been a disaster since that is my principal cash card.

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469 posts

Great ideas and great posting! For those who find the down comforters too warm, as do I, just remove the comforter from the covering it is in and use that for your top sheet. I do it all the time. That way you will save room in your luggage and not have to carry a top sheet from home.

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30 posts

@Laura B: The credit card tip is a great one! Just checked mine...all good. Thanks!

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7695 posts

Forgot to check the expiration dates on my credit/debit cards one trip -- had to have Schwab send me a replacement debit card by Fedex

On Friday, I was setting up travel notices when my bank said I had no atm cards. I looked at my card and it was still good but expiring at the end of the month. The bank never sent me a replacement. I called and was told they cancelled my card in May for lack of use. (Thanks for telling me Bank of America.) They sent me a new card overnight and I had to go into a branch to set my pin.

This card is my back up ATM card but I leave Tuesday and wanted to have it. My Schwab card is my main atm card but on every trip I use less and less cash.

Posted by
4294 posts

I called and was told they cancelled my card in May for lack of use.

I had the same problem just before my last trip. I have a separate bank account where I only use the atm card when I travel overseas. I found out it the card had been canceled when I called to put a travel note on the card right before my trip. Now I know to make a small withdrawal occasionally to keep it active.

Posted by
2001 posts

If you have space for a spare sheet, have at it. But you could just remove the duvet from its cover and sleep under the cover.

Posted by
30 posts

Guessing and hoping that since I'm on one of the Rick Steves tours and not touring on my own that I don't have to bring any bed linens? Traveling in the fall as well so not worried about being too warm.

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1 posts

Thank you to everyone for your tips. My tip: Take lens cleaners for you glasses, camera lens, etc. I am always smearing my glasses and the little packets of lens cleaners are lite and I take one or two with me for use during the day.

Posted by
2001 posts

@Jill, your title says 'crucial'. I don't consider a sheet 'crucial' and wanted to offer an easy alternative. I wouldn't prioritize it or stress about it.
Let's face it, crucial is money and passport. I guess meds for those who need them....and maybe a spare pair of panties for day 1. The rest is replaceable in Europe. Annoying to do, but still replaceable.

Posted by
32 posts

So many great tips on these boards that I have used in the past!
Just wanted to second the suggestion for buying cough drops in Switzerland. I've gotten to the point where I use my trips to Europe to stock up on cough drops! I like these so much better than the ones that I buy in the US. I also found a great substitute lip balm in Munich last year when I lost my Chapstick. Now to find that again ;).
We also pack Rick's collapsible carry on bag in our carryons. We use these to carry on the plane on the way home filled with our dirty laundry and anything that we want to have control over on the flight home. We bought "wine wings" to put in our harder rolling carryon bags which we then check so that we can purchase wine and other liquids in Europe and check them for the flight home. Have never had a bottle of wine break but even if they did, these are closed up enough that a spill will not leak into your luggage.
https://www.amazon.com/Reusable-Wine-Bottle-Protector-Sleeve/dp/B01F6CDE68/ref=sr_1_4?crid=3K94Y3OFL9G8L&keywords=wine+wings+wine+bottle+protector&qid=1562601663&s=gateway&sprefix=wine+wings%2Caps%2C884&sr=8-4

Posted by
4232 posts

Too funny — I do kind of the opposite, often checking a collapsible duffel on the way home with dirty laundry in it — I am certainly not interested in hauling my dirty laundry around with me more than I have to!!

Posted by
6441 posts

"Guessing and hoping that since I'm on one of the Rick Steves tours and not touring on my own that I don't have to bring any bed linens? Traveling in the fall as well so not worried about being too warm."

You are correct. No need to haul bed linens on a RS tour and yes, you'll probably not be too hot at night.

Excellent information about checking the expiration dates on ATM and CC's. I do use an ATM from my Edward Jones Money Market account for my back up debit card and have a cue for myself in my "Things to do before I travel" to use it at the grocery store about a month before I travel to get it "heated up", lol!! Fortunately I got a new one recently but since it's so rarely used I had not realized it expired in June. Thanks to all who mentioned that!

I'd take light glove liners as well. It can be cold up at the top of the Schilthorn.

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3 posts

Ladies - although I don't have this worry anymore, I used to think I was home free to not start my period on a trip overseas, but for some reason (moon in a different position?) I would tend to start early and there I was with no lady products. Even in places like London and Paris, sometimes it was really difficult to find an open store/pharmacy that had acceptable products. And in places like Prague, it was especially difficult, particularly on a Sunday. And if you are on a tour, you can get to the small town after 5pm and all the shops are closed. So I got used to always bringing lady supplies, and also bandaids since I have badly needed those too and had a heck of a time finding them at odd hours or in small towns.

Another thing that has been an excellent overseas purchase is curling irons and hair straighteners with UK and EU plugs. You cannot use the US versions at all, even with a converter (y'all may know how but I'm skurred to even try). I like not having frizzy vacation hair. They aren't super cheap, usually about 40-45 euros, but so worth it.

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11 posts

Great ideas all, thank you for sharing. A few of my rituals include:
Pre trip - stop mail, contact credit union for ATM travel notification, and check primary cc knows I’m traveling. Set neighborhood watch request with local police. Set auto light timer and check that it works. Set furnace to hold rather than auto and set frig setting to “vacation mode”. Toss milk, salad.
Day of - check that I have most current airline app, check in online, check flight seating chart for any updates. Double check carryon bag has meds, philosophy wipes, umbrella, extra undies, socks, cords/plugs.
In packed bag,I bring foot tape instead of bandaids. My splurge packing item is a bath “pouf”, one of the mesh types that turns shampoo or soap into great lather. I buy them when they are on sale and leave it behind on my last day of the tour.

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1 posts

I take a business sized envelope, 9 1/2 x 4 inches, into which I place ALL of my receipts. I actually now have a clear plastic one that is very sturdy. When I'm on the plane back home, I can fill out the customs declaration very easily. I don't have to dig through multiple bags or miss anything important.

Posted by
334 posts

Interesting- I had the same experience as Frank II with Bank of America. One of my atm cards had JUST expired, [a card I frequently used] and I never received a new one. B/A overnighted that one.
Regarding my second atm card, [my extra card on a different account,] that I never used, B/A canceled for non-use, so did not send a new one.
So- this a GREAT point- check credit and atm cards expiration dates when you book your flights.
Safe travels!

Posted by
10654 posts

On our 2011 trip to Spain, we arrived in Barcelona only to discover my husband had forgotten to pack underwear. SHOPPING OPPORTUNITY!!! We went to Corte Ingles and found some great trim boxers by Dustin that are better than anything he could find in the US. (He calls them his lucky underwear). Now whenever we go to Spain, or someone one close to us does,we ask them to bring back a 3-pack of the Dustin boxers.

In the meantime, he has totally switched to ex Ofiicio dry-within-hours boxer briefs..

Posted by
4477 posts

Good one, Lola! Just shows that if you have your passport and cards (and prescription meds) you can buy most things you forget to pack.
Also shows why it's important that each adult be responsible for his own packing. ;-)

Posted by
4232 posts

Speaking of prescription meds, my dad forgot his on one visit here. We found a pharmacist to help us, I can’t even remember exactly how we worked it out. I would say that my uncle (who is also a pharmacist, along with two of my cousins), probably faxed us a couple of my dad’s prescriptions — but that doesn’t make any sense, because why would a French pharmacist fill out a prescription requested by American doctors!???

I guess it worked out ok though, as my dad lived to tell the tale. He had put together all his meds in the right quantities for the trip — but then simply had not put them in his bag!!!

Posted by
4232 posts

Ha, and I just realized what I forgot on one trip to Europe — when I came to get married, I forgot my strapless bra for my wedding dress!! And alas, didn’t think of it basically until I was getting dressed for the wedding- so had no hope for going to buy a replacement either. Now that was dumb.

Posted by
2528 posts

On a recent long trip to Europe I miscalculated my prescription drugs needed for the trip. The dosage had recently been increased, but I still counted the old dose when packing. I was going to be in a very difficult situation without the drug. I checked with a local doctor and he would not write a prescription for the local pharmacy to dispense enough for me to make it to the end of my trip even though I had a letter from my doctor listing all of the drugs I took with enough detail so a prescription could be written (also, this particular drug has no generic and would have cost me around $2,500 for the amount needed without insurance coverage). Luckily, a coworker was heading to London and was able to drop by my house and pick up enough to get me through my trip. I took a slight detour from my trip and we met in London. Disaster averted.

So, I learned to make absolutely sure I take the right meds and the right amount with me. I miss the days when I was healthy enough to not need drugs.

Posted by
413 posts

Oh mgreear, great idea on packing a shower "pouf" !! Some of my hotels for my upcoming trip are "minimalist" on the toiletries, so I've stashed one in my bag!

Posted by
993 posts

Jean, I wrap small, easy to overlook items in brightly colored electrical tape (e.g., phone chargers) but your suggestion to put matching tape somewhere in your bag to remind you that something might be missing when you pack up is a great one that I will adopt.

The USB fan idea is good, too. Gadgets that run on a USB charger make sense because these chargers work on different electrical currents with only an adapter plug and anyone with a phone or tablet will likely have a USB charger.

I have looked for a 240 volt night light without success -- finding the bathroom in the middle of the night in a strange place can sometimes be a problem. My solution is that I found little LED lights that run off a USB charger. They should work in the U.S. and Europe. Bought them but haven't tried them out yet. Here is a link to the version I bought on Amazon: LED night light.

Posted by
4477 posts

Re: nightlights. I found one in a €1 store (which means it works on European current without adapter.)

Posted by
993 posts

Laura B: Thanks for that suggestion. I've looked for European voltage night lights in the U.S. (Amazon, Ebay), but haven't checked Pound or Euro stores.