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Logistics: What worked and what did not

I returned recently from an 11-night trip to Switzerland (May 24-June 5). I'm in the habit of noting in my journal what worked logistically and what did not on each trip. This helps me refine things a bit for the next trip - assuming I remember to consult my notes.

What I would do differently:

  1. Pack more ibuprofen.

    I never noticed this before, but ibuprofen, aspirin, etc. are not sold OTC in Switzerland. I never needed it in Europe before but this time I was nursing a sore shoulder. Are these types of pain relievers not generally available OTC in Europe?

  2. Pack a wash cloth.

    Two of the 3 places I stayed did not provide one, only a hand towel and a full-size towel. It would be simple to pack one of my own and put it in a zip-lock baggie when packing it away.

  3. Fly non-stop from the USA.

    I wanted to start my trip on Lake Geneva, so I flew ATL-AMS-GVA rather than ATL-ZRH. That was a mistake in retrospect because the ATL-AMS leg had to land in JFK unexpectedly and delayed us 5 hours. This could happen to any flight, but the more connections you have the more times you are rolling the dice. It would have been better to fly ATL-ZRH and take a train to Vevey.

New Things I Tried that Worked Well:

  1. Electric toothbrush.
    I used to pack a regular brush to save a little on weight and bulk, but nothing does the job like an electric brush. Totally worth it packing it.

  2. E-Books.

    I'd rather read real books, including guidebooks, but their bulk and weight are at odds with packing light. I reluctantly tried e-books and they worked great. I can bookmark, highlight, and make notes with the ebook version of the RS guidebooks. And I can bring along a much greater variety of fiction and non-fiction when they are in ebook form.

  3. Noise-Cancelling Headphones

I no longer fear the screaming baby or the coughing adult on a long flight. I can now make them disappear.

Not Broken, So Not Fixing It:

  1. Packing Light and Backpacking

Totally in love with hands-free mobility of packing a light backpack.

  1. Swiss Rail Pass

It's super-convenient to get on any train/boat/gondola I want without having to buy a ticket. Spend money to save time.

Posted by
5927 posts

Thanks, FastEddie. A couple of trips ago, one of our tour mates said she always added to her journal, at the end of a trip, what she would have done differently. I think it's a great idea.

Once when we were in Italy I tried to buy aspirin. You do have to get it at a pharmacy, but a prescription was not required. But it was very expensive, so I've always made it a point since to pack a supply of aspirin and acetaminophen, and maybe some ibuprofen.

Posted by
3580 posts

Pain medications are sold in expensive blister-packs in France and Italy, in pharmacies. I think Switzerland probably has the same system. I take a generous supply of Naproxen with me, just in case.

Posted by
2971 posts
  1. Ibuprofen is available without prescription in Italy, but you must ask the pharmacist or it. And it is expensive. So yes, best to bring what you need.

  2. Always best to fly direct if you can. But if not, most here advocate for having the first flight be a longhaul one, landing in Europe, then a short connection to your destination. Sounds like thtis what you booked, but the flight was diverted to JFK for some reason?

Posted by
224 posts

As for France, over the counter pain relievers are sold, well over the counter. You have to ask the pharmacist for them and they'll hand them to you over the counter, sometimes with a concerned look and detailed advice on how to take the pain reliever you've been taking off and on since you were a little kid. No prescription needed.

And they're expensive. They cost more than many prescription medications.

Posted by
2424 posts

Thanks for posting this valuable information. I'm interested in the noise-cancelling headphones you mention. What brand, etc.? Cost? Buy from Amazon?

I'm leaving 9/02 for a Ireland/London trip and have been considering buying them. Bose headphones are $349, I'm sure they're excellent but is there a brand just as good that costs less?

Thanks for your help!
Judy B

Posted by
11613 posts

I've bought a number of OTC meds in Italy, it seems like everything has a base price of around €7. Which will buy a giant-size bottle of aspirin in the US.

Posted by
5697 posts

Agree with all your points, FastEddie. I bought Sony noise-cancelling earphones at Target for about $30 and they were quite adequate.

And on the electric toothbrush question -- mine comes apart for travel so it cannot turn on by accident.

Posted by
15 posts

I'll also chime in the noise cancelling headphones.

While these do take up space, I find them excellent to reduce outside noise.

I bought a relatively inexpensive pair from Amazon - Panasonic -

They cost $26.95 and really work well for listening to movies or audio or just silencing surrounding noise.

Thanks for your list!

Posted by
3938 posts

Last trip I finally took some face cloths - but we have some old ones that are ready to be demoted to 'dog drying' status, so I pack those for however many nights we have accoms, then leave them behind when we move on...damp face cloths get smelly pretty quick.

E-books for sure - all the things I can read on my iPad - I have the Texture app so I can have my Time, Newsweek and MacLeans fix, the e-books from my local library, I can even access my provincial newspaper when away so I can keep up with what is happening at home.

Posted by
2249 posts

Thanks, FastEddie! I love posts like this one. It, plus the replies, are a source of valuable information for me. I do keep a wishlist of things I "wish" I had brought with me but it usually gets lost somewhere in all the excitement of coming home, unpacking, etc. I agree with you about the electric toothbrush. I have a "traveling" Sonicare I usually take with me that works exactly like the one I use at home but it's really bulky and heavy. Which brand of electric toothbrush do you take with you?

Posted by
2498 posts

I hadn't been taking my battery-powered toothbrush on trips but was finding a regular toothbrush too irritating to my gums for 2 weeks, so this year I decided it was coming along--just removed the battery for transport. Happy teeth are worth it. Still can't cross over into e-reader world and just leave behind a trail of books all over Europe as I go.

Posted by
106 posts

Thanks for all the great practical information. I fly out of Atlanta and have chosen to fly to AMS so that I could avoid JFK. BUMMER. What a disappointment about the flight. E-books are the best. Listen to an interesting book or if you want to sleep, listen to a boring book!!!

Posted by
1441 posts

I use an Oral-B electric toothbrush. It doesn't seem like it can be flipped on accidentally. Even if it did, it recharges quickly. Takes 120/240 so just need the plug adapter for your destination country.

Posted by
3763 posts

Noise cancelling headphones well worth the money, but don't spend a lot because they don't differ that much between levels. Read reviews on Amazon and plan to spend $50 or so, also realize if you're travelling in business (which you really should to Europe) it's likely you'll get a set at your seat that unfortunately can't go home with you. If you're a real road warrior the big names like Sony and Bose are worth it, for tourists not so much. Beware bulk and weight.

Just be realistic. If you do any reading up on them you'll discover that they are designed to deal with constant rumbly noises like airplanes and trains. Ironically, by filtering those out they sometimes make voices MORE audible! So while the physical headphone itself if it's around the ears will help block those kinds of sounds, the electronics may accentuate them. I find the most important issue for use on planes is comfort, since you'll be wearing them for hours on end. Also make sure you realize whether they require AA or AAA batteries or are recharged from a USB port; you don't want to run out of juice mid-Atlantic.

As for washclothes, if you really do bring one and drag it around Europe in a ziploc bag, pretty soon they'll be smelling you back in Paducah. Improvise. And while I love, love electric toothbrushes, I would never carry one on my travels. Lighten and simplify.

Posted by
5697 posts

Back on the electronic toothbrush question -- we carry one each, plus one charger (1-2 month trips), brand Sonicare. Afraid to face the dentist if we skip for an extended period. The reason for disassembling during travel is one time having the toothbrush turn on and start buzzing ... like a bomb ... and having to explain to inspectors.

Posted by
3090 posts

Noise cancelling: I have $50.00 Sony NC headphones. My husband has expensive Bose. I can Just barely discern the difference.

Electric toothbrushes: I asked my dentist about whether I should get one. She said, "no", only some people need them, and I'm not one. Lucky me. I say this because it was also added that for travel there was no need at all...unless gone for an extended period of time. People can save them for home use. Just an FYI from last week.

2nd paragraph sounds kind of obnoxious but just something I found out about brushing, and it is being discussed here.

Posted by
991 posts

I use the same Bose Noise-Cancelling Earbuds as Fast Eddie. They are super light, come in a little carrying case, and are very comfortable to wear. I wore them all night in noisy Rome hotels and slept great. The USB charging is very handy too. Highly recommended.

Posted by
1056 posts

1) About ibuprofen -- don't know about the tablets, but what I have bought in Europe that isn't available in the USA (unless things have changed in the past couple of years) is an ibuprofen gel sold in a tube. It works so well we have taken to calling it miracle cream. Always buy an extra tube or two t take back home. You'll have to ask the pharmacist for it, It it doesn't require a prescription.
2) about washcloths -- take one of those net puffy things. Dries fast and works well and takes no space or weight to pack.

Posted by
2314 posts

Which version of the Swiss Pass did you get and how, specifically, did you use it?
I'm finding the 15-day pass to be very tempting.