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10 Reasons You Need to Plan Your Oktoberfest Weekend Now

10. 14 big tents made just for beer-drinking

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Let’s start with why everyone comes to Beerfest Oktoberfest. There are 14 tents, each holding thousands of beer-lovers like yourself, ready to be your new best friends.

9. …and various beer gardens

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Nothing says “best day party ever” like enjoying a Maß (liter) of beer in the German sunshine.

8. Pretzels the size of your head

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Soft, salty, chewy pretzels that are literally the size of your head. Not to mention all the bratwurst, whole chickens, and Spätzle (basically German mac&cheese) your heart desires.

7. You can wear a dirndl or lederhosen

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You will never have more fun day-drinking than while wearing traditional German leather overalls or corseted dresses. Plus, you’ve never looked better.

6. It’s literally a centuries-long party

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This festival originated in 1810, beginning as part of the wedding festivities of Bavarian King Ludwig I and his wife Theresie. Cheers to you, Ludwig!

5. Bavarian parade

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The first weekend (September 20th), there is a colorful Bavarian parade through the festival grounds, followed by the traditional tapping of the keg by the Munich mayor.

4. Munich itself is stunning

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If you venture off the Theresienwiese festival grounds, you’ll find a beautiful city waiting to be explored. Take a bike ride to the English Garden and you’ll be rewarded by the second largest beer garden in the city at the Chinese Pagoda!

3. You’ll hear drinking songs from around the world

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There’s no friendlier group of people than those bonded by liters of beer, so be prepared to join in rowdy national sing-a-longs of traditional drinking tunes!

2. It is Disneyland with beer

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Between beer-tent-hopping, there are rides galore to enjoy. Spin, twirl, take in the bright lights and carnival atmosphere, and your hometown county fair may never feel quite as good again.

1. If you don’t plan it now, you might not get to go

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The hard reality is that this magical festival books up fast. When I went to Oktoberfest the first time, I paid over 200€ for a hostel 15 miles outside of Munich. Don’t make the same mistake–book the weekend of your life today, before it’s too late!

 

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How to Enjoy Everything a City Has to Offer Without Overspending

Weekend travel within Europe is typically pretty simple. You can find cheap flights on sites such as SkyScanner, EasyJet, and Ryanair that will take you pretty much anywhere. Depending on your home base, country-to-country flights are about 2-3 hours. Again. 2-3 hours to go to a different country! Pretty great, right? Right. Well, kind of. The ease and accessibility of getting there is awesome. But once you arrive at your destination, you have to consider hostels, transportation, recreational activities, food, etc.

It’s exciting to be in a new country – you want to take advantage of everything the city has to offer. How do you reconcile a tight budget, only a few days to see an entire city, and wanting to eat every cultural dish in sight?

Plan…plan…plan…and then plan some more

TripAdvisor and Hostelworld are your best friends. Check out these sites to make sure the hostel you stay at:

  1. Is a safe and reputable place to stay for a few nights. You’re a student so you don’t need a 5-star hotel but it should be somewhere where you would show your parents. You don’t want to show up and realize your room has 25 strangers and bed bugs and then pay for another hostel. Keep in mind most places won’t offer refunds.
  2. Is in the city center. Metro passes can be expensive, let alone taxi rides across the city. If you find a hostel in the middle of everything, you may be able to skip public transportation and walk. Walking is a great money-saver because it’s a free activity and you get to wander and explore the city on your own terms.
  3. Offers at least a few amenities. Some hostels will offer free breakfast, dinner, or even drinks! Eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner out adds up quickly so welcome the free food! If you plan on showering during the weekend, check out the policy on towels. You don’t want to have to pay 2 euros for a semi-decent shower that will make you feel dirtier than you went in.

One of the best things about European cities is the food. Part of experiencing the culture is eating anything and everything. TripAdvisor will find amazing places for you to eat and you don’t have to use your museum money. Just choose how much $$ you want to spend and it will find the best places in your area to match your budget.

Learn before you go

Planning also means learning about the city beforehand. If you know a little about the culture and the history, it will be easier to decide what is most important to see while you’re there. Tourist sites can be pricey so you’ll want to pick and choose. Sometimes your hostel can get you free walking tours or point you to the best spots. Check with them before you embark on the day!

Use your status as a young person/student to your advantage

It may seem basic but using a student discount can save you big! It never hurts to ask if there’s a discount; the worst they can tell you is “no.” Now here’s your golden ticket: if you look young, capitalize on it! A good number of sites and attractions will offer free admission for those under the age of 16. I got into the Colosseum and a Roman Castle for free by using my preteen face to my advantage. True story.

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Why Ireland? A (Long Winded) Reprise

My personal abroad-blog was titled “Proceed with Caution.” With this post, I give you the same advice. Please proceed with caution if you choose to read. 

Before departing for study abroad, I was continually asked ‘why Ireland?’ To be honest, it was a little frustrating. But for the past month with a similar uncalled for frustration, all I hear is my own voice asking ‘why did I have to leave Ireland?’

As many study abroad stories go, I completely and full-heartedly fell in love with my home abroad. My stomach aches at the memory of the last days and nights; I cried like a little baby because I was just not ready to leave. There was absolutely no ounce of me that was ready to say the goodbyes, no ounce of me that wanted to face the dreaded final walk through the white awning in Dublin airport.

Sure sure, I get the logistics – there’s that whole illegal immigration thing. I have no classes to take and no visa. I understand, I legally could not stay in the country. I would say all good things inevitably come to an end, BUT if my pre-departure plan to marry an Irishman had only been successful I could still be frolicking around those fields….

Kidding. Sort of. (No, I’m definitely maybe kidding.)

Anyway, I’ve already adjusted back into my state-side reality. But of course, it took me a while to be okay with being in Loyalsock and not Limerick; I was really bitter when I came home. It was hysterical because I remember laughing at whatever the hell ‘reverse culture shock’ was. I now know it’s a real, evil, living thing. All the while, I spent a few weeks genuinely appreciating my quiet, home-town; with my incredible 10-person family and my life-long friends by my side. Now I’m moved in, working, and taking classes in my favorite city – Boston. And life is way too wonderful.

These days, friends prompt me with ‘How was Ireland?” When I begin to tell them about my trip, I jump to share all the visuals that flood my head. I talk about staring off the Cliffs of Moher and swaying from the wind; catching foam from the waves at Giant’s Causeway; climbing abandoned ships in Inis Oirr. The incredible weekend in Glendalough paired with the beautiful souls I met; walking toward an incredible sunrise through the streets of Limerick on a rainy night. I share the happy moments where I proudly heard the difference between a Cork and Kilkenny accent, and the inevitable joy of hearing the same (exact) playlist every Friday night from our favorite middle-aged DJ. Sigh.

Amidst my rambling I noticed how that frustration and bitterness within me readily disappeared; my face is covered with a smile and my voice moves a little too fast. I share all these pretty stories with absolute contentment. But on rare occasions, friends have asked ‘what did you learn in Ireland?’

And that is entirely different. That opens the door to share so many of the emotional lessons that overtook my heart. Over these few weeks of debating and reanalyzing my answers, I realized that the answer to what I learned goes hand-in-hand with answering that spiraling internal thought: why did I have to leave Ireland?

I learned way too much about the tin whistle, rugby, beer, and how to get a free beer. More deeply and irrevocably, I gained an entirely new mindset, built by an emotional understanding of honest relationships, embracing simple beauty, and having an unshakeable confidence. I learned how immensely important each of those things are for contentment, and how each of those things really do exist – in all their childish glory – everywhere. Everywhere meaning, yes, everywhere – even beyond Ireland’s coasts.

I had to leave the place that built this mindset because if I had never left, there would be no true test of authenticity to the things that I swore I learned. If I stayed in that fairytale any longer, I would go on naively professing that these things exist only in the magical world of Ireland. What a silly thought.

So here I am. Drinking a really poorly made cup of tea, trying to put sense into what I learned and why I had to leave Ireland. And those few reasons, the few things I learned, are painfully simple.

I learned that trust and gratitude is in the core of all good relationships. And I had to leave Ireland to see that.

Studying abroad forced us to delve into new relationships far more quickly, deeply, and honestly than we naturally feel inclined to. Those very first conversations stemmed by nerves and excitement held the potential to build into the most meaningful  of friendships. These friendships were full of complete risk – but we all chose to trust instead. These friendships were full of stressful plans, missed busses, and sloppy nights – but we all remained entirely grateful that we had someone by our side. As we choose to completely trust someone and we choose to express gratitude daily, good friends and amazing people were so easy to find.

But okay, if you think America is evil and those type of people for those relationships just can’t exist here…get over yourself. Because I promise they do. Throw your pride away and go find them. If you continue mistrusting the world and proclaiming it’s filled with bad people who ‘just don’t understand you/woe is me..’ you’re never going notice that stranger that’s trying to.

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I learned that beauty is not bound by geographic location. And I had to leave Ireland to see that.

All of Ireland is filled with this sense of purity – of untouched beauty and complete simplicity – and it made us all wonder how it’s real. There were moments where nature’s overwhelming beauty made us cry; where I couldn’t bring myself to place my eyes behind a camera to separate myself from the view. I can’t begin to explain how deeply some of these moments moved me. Still sometimes, these moments existed in our apartments, in our lecture halls, or sitting at bus-stops. Some beauty ended just as quickly as it came forth in the most mundane and the cloudiest of scenes. None of those latter memories have anything to do with being abroad.

But in order to notice such beauty back home, our attitude is the thing that needed to be adjusted; not our world. I’m reminding myself of that every day. We all habitually refuse to see beauty and we push it away in our normal lives in hope for something better…which is honestly so wasteful. Because surprise, you don’t need a passport or Eurorail to experience whatever beauty or truth your hipster soul is devoutly pining after. The grass is actually greener in Ireland, yes, but it’s just as soft in Boston. Go outside, walk a little slower, and eliminate your useless complaining. Beauty is flourishing everywhere, even if those beloved accents aren’t.

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I learned a lot about confidence. (Ugh. How cliche.)

I learned that the confidence you build in your heart and mind during study abroad wasn’t just your country or that breathtaking view talking; that was actually you. And, I had to leave Ireland to see that.

While we’re in such a non-judgemental, new environment during study abroad, we got rightfully inspired to talk about grand ideas that were only ever meant for our own mind. We shared ideas of changing lives; of what we fear, of what faith means to us, of who we were, of who we want to be. We were brave enough to share our heart with people we met 3 hours ago and with people we’ll never see again. We were brave enough to unapologetically dance in an empty pub, unapologetically say yes, unapologetically scream no. We were brave enough to do brand new things in a brand new place. What good would it be to forget that confidence we built upon our arrival home? The answer is none; no good at all. So hold onto that, and always forgive yourself in the times you don’t.

Self acceptance and confidence is absolutely not limited to wherever you found it. Just don’t pretend like you left that lively person back in Turkey or The Netherlands or Rome because there’s really no use for them there.

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Arriving in Ireland I was a little scatterbrained, wide-eyed and jetlagged on a rainy day. I departed Ireland feeling completely scatterbrained, teary-eyed, and (shocker) it was was raining. Aside from a few extra pounds on my hips and luggage, the scenes of arriving and departing seem identical; but nothing about it was the same with these endless ideas and memories crowding my brain.

I’ve learned that if I can just work to combine these ideas together and hold them in this new state of mind, my entire world seems a lot like Ireland. There’s a lot more trusting, a lot less cruelty, and there’s a lot of more laughing is to be shared. I fell in love with every part of the world Ireland gave me and I shamelessly fell in love with myself, too.

And now, I fully realize that I had to leave Ireland in order to continue appreciating every ounce of reality wherever it may fall or distort itself…because even amongst many of those literal rainy days, I learned how.

And I guess that’s my long winded answer as to why I had to leave Ireland.

I blame – no, I applaud, Ireland for changing my eyes to recognize a sense of truth and humility in my life; to be confident enough to reveal its existence in a world where so many swear it is absent. Respectfully, dear reader (hi, mom/dad), you may replace Ireland with whatever home-away-from-home you’ve had and I am sure it’d fit beautifully as well.

But for me, it will always be Ireland.

Sure, maybe the Irish drink a little more than we do. Maybe I detest their Adidas sweats and Hollister hoodies. Maybe I’m just an excitable, melodramatic, basket-case of a 20-year-old who was optimistically enthralled by their culture.

But all craic aside, the Irish love a lot more; so from here on out, I intend on doing the same.

I would say I’m sorry for the mess I just spewed out -  that this is a little too much like a diary entry, that it’s a little too sappy and a lot too scattered. But if you scroll back to the top…I warned you, ya eejit.

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Mouthwatering Must-Try European Drinks

Studying abroad is all about stepping outside of your comfort zone and immersing yourself in new cultures…so why bother trying to deny that a signature cocktail is a vital part of any foreign culture? While in Europe, give up the usual rum and coke or vodka soda and try some of the delicious, creative drinks on the European menu! Live it up while you can because once you’re back in America all you will receive is a confused look when you try to order your new go-to beverage.

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1. Spritz
It’s spritz o’clock! No doubt you’ve already spotted this bright orange drink while out and about in Italy. The orange color comes from Aperol, adding a slightly bitter but addicting taste to the drink!

Ingredients:

  • 2 to 3 ounces Prosecco or any sparkling wine
  • 1 1/2 ounces Aperol*
  • Splash of soda water, sparkling water, mineral water, or Club Soda
  • Orange wedge or slice

2. Caipiroska & Caipirinha
These lime/sugar based drinks are traditionally Brazilian but are also extremely popular in Europe. If you have a sweet tooth, this drink packs a sugar/alcohol combo punch! Look for variations that feature strawberries, peaches, mangos, or any other kind of fruit.

How to make:

Cut up a lime into 8 wedges. Muddle the wedges in a rocks glass with sugar. Add vodka for caipiroska or cachaca (distilled Brazilian rum made of sugarcane juice) and top with ice. Stir and serve. Add different varieties of fruits for new flavors!

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3. Iced tea drinks
These creative and colorful twists on the Long Island Ice tea are a must try while in Europe–there is a different one for just about everyone out there!

Varieties:

Japanese tea, Passion tea, Alaskan tea, Miami tea

4. Dragoons
When in Florence, make sure to stop by Kikuya Pub in the central Piazza Santa Croce. The Dragoon Strong Ale is extremely popular and as the name suggests, very strong! You won’t find this beer anywhere else in town. Make sure to ask for a lollipop to dip in it!

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5. Negroni
This strong, bitter aperitif was invented in Florence back when Count Negroni asked the bartender to make his Americano stronger by adding Gin instead of soda water. Cheers to you if you can handle its extremely bitter taste!

Ingredients:

  • 1 ounce gin
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • Slice of orange

6. Absinthe
The taboo on the “Green Fairy” in the U.S. has students running to sample this infamous spirit while in Europe! Science has proven the myth that absinthe makes consumers hallucinate to be untrue…maybe it’s just the extremely high concentration of alcohol (up to 95% in some kinds) that make absinthe drinkers get weird.

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7. Grappa
For the full Italian drinking experience, put on a brave face, ignore your screaming taste buds, and take a shot of Grappa! Made with distilled grape skins, this Italian brandy is most definitely an acquired taste.

8. Pimm’s No. 1 Cup
When in England, this fruit-and-spice-filled drink is a must try. The official drink of Wimbledon was invented in the 1800s in England. This drink is centered around Pimm’s liquor and can be served with or without gin. If you’re digging Pimm’s, make sure to try Pimm’s Cups 2-7 too!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2-inch thick English cucumber wheel
  • 1/2-inch thick lemon wheel
  • 2 ounces Pimm’s No. 1
  • 4 ounces 7UP, lemon-lime soda, or ginger ale
  • lemon twist

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9. Shandy
Continuing with the UK theme, this drink places a British twist on beer. The Brits love a sweet taste with their beer and prefer to add either carbonated lemonade or sprite to it. Order a shandy in the U.S. and you might be met with a strange look.

10. Grapefruit and lemon beer
Is it beer or is it candy? The Croatians have mastered beer for those with a sweet tooth! Looking to rage? This might not be your best choice. This beer is more like a soda, with only 2% alcohol content.

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11. Sgroppino
This Italian cocktail is perfect for a summer day. Originally created in Venice, this dessert drink combines only the best ingredients: sorbet and champagne! Make sure to serve it immediately–otherwise it’ll melt!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chilled Prosecco (Italian sparkling white wine)
  • 2 tablespoons chilled vodka
  • 1/3 cup frozen lemon sorbet
  • 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh mint leaves
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Off the Beaten Path in Prague

Prague is my favorite city in Europe; I spent a year living and working in this magnificent melting pot that is truly a fairy tale land of adventure. Each alleyway leads you to a stunning view or architectural masterpiece. Prague is the standard I use to compare other European cities and it still reigns as the champion of Europe. Great nightlife, affordable, rich history, beautiful architecture, friendly Czechs and great expat community makes Prague my favorite city in Europe.

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(Taken from my favorite terrace restaurant called Hotel Prince)

When most people visit Prague they normally marvel at Old Town Square, Astronomical Clock, Prague Castle, or take a stroll across the Charles Bridge. All these are the top places to see and I highly recommend going to them. But there are a few places you might of missed if you only had a few days. Below is a list of 6 places off the beaten path in Prague.

1.)  The John Lennon Wall

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This wall is famous for displaying free speech during communist time when the right to speak your mind wasn’t allowed. Currently, the wall displays some beautiful legal graffiti art. Make sure to bring a marker to sign your name or to leave a message. Although, this is still a semi popular spot for tourists, I think many pass it up accidentally since it is a tad hidden, but it is actually really close to the Charles Bridge. The John Lennon wall will always be a special place for me since it is where I created my Mother’s Memorial. Click here for the location.

2.)  Modern Art: Pissing Statue and Big Baby

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The art community is thriving in Prague and there is a lot of cool modern art to look at. If you head to the Lennon Wall there is a pretty nice modern art center nearby. If you want to see the pissing statues you can go here or head here for the BIG Babies. Both of these modern art pieces were made by a famous Czech artist, David Cerny. The black crawling babies are also found on Prague’s TV tower.

3.)  Underground Catacombs

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Prague was actually raised up one story due to flooding, so it is still possible to explore underneath the Old Town Square. You can take a short informative tour of the catacombs; just ask the information desk inside the Astronomical Clock building for the tour times. You can also find a great view of the city at the top of the Astronomical Clock Building.

4.)  Bone Church

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A church made completely out of human bones is located just 1 hour trip outside of Prague in Kutna Hora. The place is called Sedlec Ossuary and it is possible to take the train and see the church in a half-day. Honestly, there is not much else to see next to the bone church, but it is worth the trip to see this eerie chapel. Check out this blog for more information and for a few other activities in Kutna Hora.

5.)  Letna Park

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Czechs consume the most beer per person in the world. There are plenty of great spots to sit down, relax and enjoy a few pivos. One of my favorites is Letna Park which provides a stunning view of the city. For directions to Letna Park click here.

6.) Cross Club

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This place is crazy. The entire club, bar, café was designed from reused car parts and other crazy items. It is by far the trippiest place I have ever been to. You can go here during the day to enjoy food and coffee or come at night to rave out to some Drum and Bass or EDM. Here is the cross club website.

More stories and travel tips can be found on the SwigMeetsWorld travel site.

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Eleven handbag essentials for frolicking through Europe

When galavanting through Europe, it’s best to pack light. Even though dealing with the unexpected (both good and bad) is part of what makes traveling to new lands so exciting, you won’t want to wander the old continent without these 11 save-the-day items in your handbag. Most will help you avoid some sticky — some more literal than others — situations.

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1. Travel-sized tissue packs come in handy in more ways than one when traveling. Of course they’re great for a runny nose, but a lot of times bathrooms in Europe won’t have toilet paper, so these will be your on-the-go TP.

2. An empty (and durable) water bottle is essential if you want to stay hydrated and energized while you’re blissfully getting lost in new cities. Most restaurants in Europe will automatically bring you the bottled (and pricy) stuff when you ask for water, so it’s smart to keep an empty bottle on you and fill up in bathrooms or at fountains. If all else fails, you can ask a fast food joint to fill up your bottle from the tap, and most will oblige. This will save you a few pennies that can go towards that evening cocktail (or two) later.

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3. A scarf is not only oh-so European, but it has many practical purposes for travel, too. It can be used to layer up when the fickle European weather (especially in the UK and Ireland) decides to change from summer to autumn in a flash, and it can be used as a shawl to cover up in places requiring a bit more modesty (a prime example of this is the Vatican in Rome where your knees and shoulders have to be covered). If you’re going from a daytime jaunt to a night on the town and you don’t have much time to change, the right scarf can quickly dress up your outfit. It can also be used as a makeshift pillow on those long train journeys — just scrunch it up a bit and, as the French say … voilà!

4. Sunscreen, chapstick, and hand lotion are an essential trio you want to have on your side when traveling. When walking around outside all day (whether it’s sunny, cloudy, or even snowy), most people are bound to get a little pink, or maybe even crispy (for those fair-skinned wanderers out there). There’s nothing like a bad sunburn (or windburn) to zap all the energy out of you. Be proactive about it by not only applying sunblock before you head out, but by keeping it on you (just a small travel-sized bottle will do) to re-apply every so often. Chapstick and lotion, meanwhile, aren’t only other ways to keep your skin healthy when on the go, but you’d be surprised at how refreshing they are after a long day outside (especially in the wintertime).

5. A small combination lock is a great way to give yourself peace of mind, especially when leaving your bag at a hostel (or in a train station locker) while out exploring. Most hostels and hotels will allow you to leave your bag with them after checkout while you enjoy the final hours at your destination, but you never know who else has access to the storage area.

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6. A Tide to Go pen could be the difference between having those three or four outfits you carefully crafted using just a few pieces of clothing and being left with just one. Mixing and matching pieces to create new outfits is the best way to do it when traveling. So one stain (with all that mouthwatering pasta and pizza you’ll be eating in Italy, you’re bound to have a small spill!) can not only knock out one day’s outfit, but it could erase your whole wardrobe for the trip. A Tide to Go pen will get the stain out quickly, plus it’s easy to carry.

7. Cash and spare change are essential when frolicking through Europe, because a lot of places still don’t accept credit card (especially in Central and Eastern Europe). The change is for the public bathrooms, which usually charge a small fee (typically around 50 cents).

8. Face wipes, gum, and deodorant are one of those other trios you will want on your side. If you end up staying out and about later in the day and don’t have enough time to go back to your hostel or hotel before exploring the nightlife scene, these items are a quick and easy way to freshen up. What’s more, if you have them with your oh-so fashionable scarf, you’ll be ready to take the town by storm in a matter of 15 minutes!

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9. A bun maker is another one of those items that will help you shift easily from daytime casual to nighttime couture in a matter of minutes. And again, it’s light to carry. If you want to get fancy with your bun maker, try this.

10. Band-aids aren’t just for those unexpected boo boos, but they’re a great protector against those once comfortable shoes that all too often turn into torture devices when put to the traveler’s test. If you feel a blister coming on, stick a band-aid on the spot and it will at least slow down the process until you can slip into a more comfortable pair of shoes.

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11. A student ID card (or your old one if you’re no longer a student) is a great way to score on discounts that many European cities (especially Paris) offer to those under 26. A lot of times, places will accept any official ID proving you’re under 26 (not even necessarily a student), and then you’re all set for the discounted (or occasionally free) entry.

Have other essential handbag items for frolicking through Europe? Share them with us!

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