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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!