What Not to Pack on a Short European Adventure
I think one of the best parts of living in the UK is how quickly and easily a person can travel to other parts of Europe.
When I first moved here I was off to Spain, Holland, France, Germany and Italy almost every month! The one-and-a-half to two-hour journeys make weekend getaways: A. affordable and B. fast. Now in my third year here, I’ve scaled back on the European travel but if there is one thing I’ve learned about these quick trips, it’s what not to pack.
You don’t want to have to lug around any more than you need to, especially if you are riding the tube, bus or trains to and from the airports. I often carry only a shoulder bag or backpack because maneuverability is key and suitcases, even small ones, don’t help this. I still wince at the memory of my first trip to Paris where on the last day, we checked out of our hotel and still had several hours left before our Eurostar train to London departed. Not wanting to have to go back to the hotel, I dragged my suitcase behind me all around the Champs Elysees, Montmartre, into Collette. It was raining, too. All around not an elegant look.
So here is my well-learned list of what not to pack:
- More than two outfits. Most weekend getaways are often 3-nights max, more often only 2-nights. I keep my bag/backpack small by only bringing extra underwear, and extra top and re-wear the same bottoms and cardigan/jacket.
- A computer. Yes, you may “use” it but do you really need it? No! Life carries on without email or internet access and hotel concierges (or a little research before the trip) are more than enough to find a nice restaurant recommendation. One of the things that stops me from bringing my laptop is hotels still often charge for internet access (a set amount for a certain number of hours) and I never bought it as I was only in town for a couple of days and would be out of the hotel room a majority of the time anyway.
- Extra cosmetics/toiletries. The make-up that I carry in my daily cosmetics bag in my purse is more than enough. All that extra stuff in the bathroom (hair serums, perfumes, lotions, nail polish, etc) can stay there! No need for a giant train case, either; this isn’t the Titanic. I do always bring small 50ml bottles with shampoo, conditioner and face wash. Hotel hair conditioner, if they even have it, is a crock (really, what is it? It’s certainly not “conditioning”!)
- Guidebooks, or books (plural). This is very much a lesson-learned for me. First of all, guidebooks point thousands of people all in the same direction. Think about how you feel about that. Second of all, only a few pages of the book are actually going to be relevant during your short break (food, shopping, nightlife in my case). Don’t hesitate to tear out pages and only bring those tear sheets on your trip. Despite what we’ve learned in school, just because it’s in book format doesn’t make it a sacred text. If you want to bring a novel for reading material, bring just one. If you’re about to finish one and need a second, finish the first later. If you do run out of words to read and need a fix, they sell books at airports and train stations, too. Oh and also, browsing for reading material in other countries is pretty satisfying, even if you can’t read the language.
- Too many shoes. There just isn’t space. There simply is not. So, once you accept this, you will choose the one pair of shoes you can easily take on and off before in a security checkpoint, a pair you can comfortably walk around in for hours at a time and a pair that would look perfectly acceptable at dinner or in a bar/night spot. What are these magical shoes, you ask? For me, they are low-heeled, black leather ankle boots, well-broken in treated with water-repellent. Do what you will on this (I suspect people will still insist on having two pairs or more to choose from), this is merely my suggestion for how to have a maneuverable European mini-break!
- Anything that is “just in case”. My “just in case” kit includes Neosporin anti-biotic ointment and a small stack of Band-Aids. That’s it. If you have anything else you are tempted to bring just in case, honestly ask yourself when the last time you used it was. If the answer is not “today and/or yesterday”, you probably aren’t going to need it.
There is no need to travel like a refugee. Keep it basic, keep it minimal and you will thank yourself when you’re wandering around Prague or Paris, savoring the last hours before you’re on a plane or train back to London.