Travel Tips & Tricks

Backpacking Europe Checklist

Gathering helpful items and creating a backpacking Europe checklist of lightweight items is very important to having a trip of a lifetime. We have learned over the years what works for us, so we will share our thoughts. Check out our shop here.

The miscellaneous items we take are here: (Our clothes list is HERE.)

  1. Sunscreen
  2. Lotion
  3. Toothpaste
  4. Toothbrush
  5. First Aid kit
  6. Insect repellent 
  7. Prescriptions
  8. Nail clippers
  9. Hairbrush
  10. Electric converters
  11. Electrical extension
  12. Ear buds/air buds
  13. Chapstick
  14. Razor
  15. iPad with plug
  16. Camera with plug, John carries an iPhone
  17. Apple Watch and plug
  18. Laundry detergent strips
  19. Currency
  20. Credit cards
  21. Passport
  22. Eye mask
  23. Ear plugs
  24. Sunglasses
  25. Clothesline
  26. Copies of passport, saved to our iCloud, too
  27. Water bottle with high tech filter
  28. Anti Chafing Stick
  29. Antibacterial hand gel
  30. Ziplock bags
  31. Deck of cards
  32. Car charger, if driving

What you pack as your miscellaneous items vary so much between personal preferences, but here is an example of what we have in our packs. I have explained a few of the items. Disclaimer: When you purchase through our site, we get a small commission, so thanks for the support.

Backpacks

Fairview 40 Travel Pack
Osprey Fairview 40 Travel Pack for Women
Farpoint Travel Pack
Osprey Fairview 40 Travel Pack for Men

Truly the best investment we made was to switch backpacks from a top loading one to a true travel pack. The ones we purchased were Osprey Fairview 40 and Osprey Farpoint 40. Both packs open like a clam shell, similar to a carry-on travel suitcase. Everything in your pack is immediately viewable. Take it from us is important for sanity when. You travel.

These packs have the added benefit of including a zip-on-off day pack. We love this feature because we can unzip it on planes and trains, keeping this part with us. Being able to stow our important documents, electronics, and a sweater, is great. The day packs are perfect for taking with us when we tour a city or site.

We love the quality of the packs and they are comfortable. Plus, they fit the TSA size for carry-on luggage. They hold our big water bottle, too. Rather than suffering through a trip with the wrong pack, consider upgrading to these. As I write, they are on sale.

Sunscreen

This is something that can be purchased on your trip, if you run out or you just want to buy it there; however, it oftentimes is in a foreign language, and I have a difficult time determining the level of protection and reading the directions. I hate to buy sunscreen on the road because it is hard to find the brand I like and trust. I’ve bought bottles everywhere in the past, but this is such a common frustration that I really plan ahead now. We have a favorite, Sun Bum, that doesn’t use Oxybenzone, thought to contribute to the bleaching of the world’s reefs. We love fish and live on the water, so we try to use a sunscreen that doesn’t damage the oceans. Plus, our fav smells so good!

Lotion

CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion
CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion
CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleaner
CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleaner

I use a lotion that I can use on my face or body when I’m living out of a backpack, but you might choose to bring both. For me, sunscreen is vitally important during the day, so I need a lotion that I can use to hydrate my face and body before bed that doesn’t contain sunscreen. My favorite is CeraVe Moisturizing Cream. This brand also has a hydrating facial cleaner that works great.

Toothpaste

This is something that you should plan to replace as needed on the road. Everyone uses toothpaste and it’s pretty easy to find good brands. If you carry your pack on the plane, make sure you don’t bring a big tube that has to be thrown away at TSA check in. The limit is 3.4 ounce.

First Aid kit

We don’t carry a store bought kit. Like others, we put a few items into a plastic zip pouch that we think we might need. We put bandages, ibuprofen, itch cream, antihistamine, blister pads, and anything else that looks important. We always end up going to a pharmacy to get something on the road. Finding items we need has never been a problem.

After the Coronavirus of 2020, we have added two cotton masks we can wear if we feel we need them. Hand sanitizer is important to have, and we keep it at the ready so we can apply it often. We have always done this, but now we will be more vigilant.

Once, I fell in Columbia on an uneven sidewalk and scraped up my leg, and we have had other issues from time to time. We have learned not to sweat it if we need something we don’t have. That said, we do like to have a few things, so we don’t waste time tracking it down. We always carry Ciprofloxacin and Imodium for traveler’s diarrhea. Having it ahead of time is important, even if you never need it.

We always check the Center’s for Disease Control & Prevention for health updates before we travel, and we always get the new flu vaccine each year, along with all recommended vaccinations. Our doctor has done research to help us get what we need for our destinations, so ask your doctor to help you.

Insect repellent

Ben’s Insect Repellent

We like a certain brand, Ben’s, so we make sure we take our favorite, especially if we are going into the jungle. We don’t want to get bit, and since I have a hard time reading labels in another language, I like to take the brand I trust. This one has deet protection and doesn’t smell bad. It also comes in a TSA approved size of 3.4 oz.

Medications

Be sure you don’t leave your meds at home. Just in case, we always carry a list of our drug names in the brand and generic names, in case we need to replace them. Take a picture of your prescription bottle or your prescription list and save it to your cloud with your passport information. Some people get a letter from their doctor to show immigration if they get questioned. Documentation is never a bad idea. You don’t want to be held up at a border for suspected drug trafficking. Check each country to double check before you go. Some counties have very strict policies. For example, Japan doesn’t allow the decongestant pseudoephedrine, an ingredient in Sudafed. They also forbid medications like Adderall, even with a prescription. So, be mindful of each country’s requirements.

I lost a medication in Vietnam once, and I had to go to the pharmacy to get a replacement. It was wild to me that all I had to do is go to the pharmacy and ask for it, no prescription needed there. They just sold it to me. I assume it was the same medication. It was, however, a little disconcerting to take something that the pharmacist wasn’t able to explain in English to me.

I traveled a few weeks in Europe once when I was taking a medication that had to be kept cool. I had a very small insulated lunch bag and included a separate frozen block. When I stopped, I just asked at every hotel to refrigerate it when I checked in. They accommodated me. It was a simple step, even though I got a few funny looks. I was able to keep it cool the entire trip.

Dison Medication Cylinder

I’m currently taking a migraine preventative that is an injection and needs refrigeration. I have purchased a high-tech cylinder to keep it cool as we travel between countries. I still have to refrigerate on our arrival and freeze the inside, but it is an easy step. Certainly, easier than living through migraines on the road. I’m hoping that the medication will become more widely available and I can get it on the road. If you need insulin, this might be an option for you, too. It’s heavy, for a backpack, but it might be a lifesaver, so you might want to carry it anyway.

Electric converters/extension cords

Extension Cord/Electric converter

Be sure you research which type you need for the country you are traveling to and buy them before you leave. We have bought so many on the fly, and we ended up paying a premium for them. If you are carrying a blow dryer or something that uses electricity, be sure you know what the wattage setting is and if you can change it. Our electrical system uses a different watt, and your blow dryer or curling iron can catch on fire or break if you don’t have it correct. I try to only book in places that have blow dryers, so I don’t have to carry them, so if you need one, check with your hotel if they are included in the room.

We each have several electronic devices, phone, watch, tablet, etc. that we need to charge each night. We each take an extension cord that has electric converter plugs so that we can connect our devices and not need a million plugs in the room. It’s just a good idea to have something that helps you manage a limited number of available outlets. Here is what we like.

Ear buds/air buds

We use Apple products, so our devices use air buds which we like, but when we are traveling in a plane that has an earphone outlet for movies, we need headphones that have that plug and we hate the ones the planes provide. So, we carry a separate set of ear buds for this. Since I have some old Apple earbuds, I don’t have a recommendation for small plug ins, but just look around for some you like. I know some people love their noise cancelling headphones for travel, but we think the big ones take up too much room in our packs. You should carry what you like, especially if sound and music are very important to you.

Laundry Detergent Strips

TruEarth Laundry Strips

We like to carry some detergent with us when we travel. If I am able to book a place with a washer in the room or building, I try to determine if they include detergent. We oftentimes aren’t able to get this luxury, so we go to the local laundromat to wash, or we wash in the sink. Since laundry detergent has always been heavy, we bought detergent as we needed it. Now, there is a growing push to create products that have no waste, and we have been able to find no-waste laundry detergent sold in strips, without water already in them. The ones I like are TruEarth. You just add them to the machine, and they do a great job. When we are washing something in the sink, we just use half a sheet. This is a handy item, and we take them everywhere we go.

Currency

We have found that you can buy some currencies before you leave for your trip online. The rates are good, and it allows you to skip the counter at the airports when you land. The company will deliver the money to your home.

Our local airport has a currency window, and we are able to convert currency here, but the counter salesperson told me that she would honor the online rate, if we called ahead. That is a good option, too.

Buying currency in a foreign country at the airport is oftentimes the most expensive place you can get it. We don’t like having to stop, as we feel it is not as private as we like to be. No need showing people around you that you just pocketed a wad of cash.

The other choice that is good is to use your ATM card. Usually, your rates are very good at ATM’s. Be sure you check to make sure the card you use doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee. These can add 3% or so to your bill once you get home, so choose a credit card that has no foreign transaction fees associated with it. Call you bank and your credit card company before you leave to make sure you have this figured out. While you are at it, get your PIN numbers clarified and let your banks and credit card companies know you will be out of the country, so they can watch and alert you to foreign charges you didn’t make. 

We went on a Caribbean cruise once, and we stayed in a hotel near the airport in Nashville, Tennessee. Unbeknownst to us, our card had been copied and while we were away on our cruise, the perpetrators, took our card on a shopping spree. Once we returned, we learned what had happened. It might be inconvenient for a credit card company to put a hold on your account while you are away, but they have fraud protections in place to protect you. Just be patient if you encounter this situation. It’s a good idea to have a couple of ways to charge something, just in case you run into a problem like this.

Eye mask/Ear plugs

This is an item that is personal, but we like to be able to cover our eyes and ears on overnight flights. Sometimes we like napping on trains or if we take an overnight train it is nice to tune out the noise and extra light. The other benefit is that sometimes hotels have thin walls or are located near busy streets. It’s worth the effort to have something that will help you find some peace and quiet. Find the perfect ones before you leave because getting good ones on the go is hard. We also use a noise app on our phones that make noise like white noise or a running brook. It’s just relaxing to be able to drown out extra noise.

Clothesline

We carry a line with us that is lightweight. A bungee cord or lightweight clothesline works great. You’ll need it for long distance travel. It’s just a great idea to have one, and it takes up so little space or weight.

Copies of passport

We carry copies of our passports because we have encountered a few hotels that want to hold our passports. While we just won’t do that, we give a copy. They seem to be okay with that. We just believe if you are in a foreign country, it’s important to be able to prove your citizenship and identity. We also take pictures of it and save it to our iCloud, in case we need to retrieve it in an emergency. You can also email a trusted friend in the states, in case you get separated from it. If all else fails, you want to at least be able to enter the country again and having a copy can speed things up.

Water Bottle

Nalgene Wide Mouth Bottle
Life Straw

The more we traveled the world, the more we realized that carrying our own, refillable water bottle was important for the environment. After seeing the amount of pollution in the oceans and waterways, we didn’t want to contribute to more of the same. You just never know where your single use bottle will end up. The problem is you never know how safe the municipal water system is, so we hated to just fill our own bottles and felt better to buy single us water. 

After doing some research, we found a company, LifeStraw, that makes a high tech filter for your water bottle. They have a universal filter that fits many brands of water bottles. We carry Nalgene and our filter works great on that bottle. It filters out 99.9% of all contaminates, i.e. bacteria, protozoan parasites, lead, etc. We tried them, and while they don’t allow you to just gulp water, they do provide an adequate flow. Knowing that we are protected is worth the extra effort to stay safely hydrated. They last for a couple of hundred gallons, so we replace them each time we go on a long trip.

One word of caution, I have read that capping machines are relatively inexpensive, so in some areas of the world, there are people who reuse single use water bottles and resale them using unfiltered water. I don’t know how to confirm you are actually getting good water, so to be on the safe side, we just use our own bottle with our own filter. 

Anti Chafing and Blister Stick

for her
body glide
original
body glide foot
foot

Few things are more painful than having thighs that rub together and create chafing, especially when you add sweat to the mix. John uses this product on long runs, and he couldn’t run in humid, hot places without it. It is also used to prevent blisters on your feet and heels and to prevent saddle sores when riding bikes. It’s just a great product! I like the Body Glide brand.

Containers and Packing Cubes

Osprey Packing Cube Set
Eagle Creek Toiletry Cube
Kathmandu Packing Cell

Using packing cubes in your packs are a great way to stay organized. Look for ones that add very little weight. I love Osprey, Eagle Creek, and Kathmandu.

humangear Gotoob

We also use some silicone bottles (TSA approved size) for transporting our sunscreen, lotion, and soaps. Our favorite, humangear, has a lid that snaps shut to prevent leaks. The last thing you want is soap all over your pack. It is a nightmare, so be VERY careful you have an adequate storage system. Check out our shop for more humangear items.

We hope this helps you plan for your next adventure abroad. Remember to always think about the weight of your pack. It is very important for the enjoyment of your trip. Let me know if I left something out!

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