Traveling Light: European Edition

Oh hai, world travel! I had a drought of almost 9 years where I didn’t get to do any international travel and damn…that’s long enough. Life is short and I’m turning 30 in a few weeks, so let’s see the world! This year, I managed to get myself to France, Sweden, and the Bahamas  via some press trips and consequently got to do some pretty amazing things. I have ridden horseback through vineyards in St. Emilion (France), met an Absolut vodka brand ambassador who was also a Swedish countess, and eaten conch salad and drank LOTS of rum in the the Bahamas. These trips all deserve their own blog entries (and they’ll get them over the holiday break hopefully!), but for now, let’s go over some travel tips that hopefully will help ya’ll not break the bank while seeing the world.

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Checking Bags

I’ll be honest: I almost never check a bag since most airlines have ridiculous checked bag fees now. You can always gate check something for free if there is limited overhead space (neat little trick to get out of paying to check a smaller suitcase!) Normally you get at least one bag checked for free on an international flight, but since I’m not interested in trying to find underwear in another country, I try to survive with just a carry on. However. See that picture above? I felt very cool on my first trip of the year to Bordeaux, France. I bought a GIANT suitcase for this trip because I found out I would get a free checked bag, and what if I wanted to buy everything in the entire country?

Lesson 1: Just because you CAN check a bag doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Guess what: most old European hotels do NOT have elevators. You know what they do have? A lot of stairs and cranky porters who grumble about “huge American suitcases” while they schlep your crap up narrow staircases. Take one carry on sized bag and one purse. Lesson learned. Honestly, most of the people that drove me around and helped me out were awesome and very nice about it, but it was a press trip. It was their job to make sure I had fun, which I absolutely did, mostly because I didn’t have to carry my own suitcases.

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What to bring

  • See those shoes? So cute. So chic. So PAINFUL. I ended up with blisters while still IN THE DULLES AIRPORT because I hadn’t broken them in. Dumb. Lesson 2: Break in new shoes so that your first stop in France doesn’t have to be une pharmacie française to buy French band aids and disinfectant spray. The second stop was Foot Locker (distinctly uncool American) to purchase some Converse. Fun fact: Converse are like $100 in France because they’re imported. I hated my life that day.

    These helped. Plus ALL THE BANDAIDS.

    These helped. Plus ALL THE BANDAIDS.

  • Don’t worry about packing shampoo, conditioner, or lotion. They take up a lot of room, are annoying to get through TSA, and are provided 9 out of 10 times when you stay in a hotel. Not worth it. Plus, I got some awesome souvenirs fo’ free!  The one item I needed on all these trips was a small travel sized bottle of Febreeze, which you can obviously decant from the spray bottle under your sink into a travel sized bottle. I got a tiny bottle of Gain fabric refresher at Walmart for a buck. It helps keep your dirties in check and refreshes anything you need to wear more than once. This matters when you are horseback riding and out of clean socks. Or wearing a bathing suit a couple times in a row.
  • Lesson 3: Always always always check to see if you will need plug adapters for your electronics. ALWAYS. I read some misinformation online before traveling to Sweden and didn’t have an adapter for the entire trip. I was writing using my iPad, using social media, and taking pictures constantly and desperately needed my phone and iPad to stay charged. Obviously this was next to impossible, and I missed some amazing pictures on the most amazing night because of this. If you do happen to go to Sweden (or most other European countries), they are used to Americans forgetting adapters and hotels normally have 1 or 2 at the front desk. Be nice and you might get to borrow one for free. Otherwise, many times you’ll have to put down a deposit that you get back once it is returned.

    Pack lightly. What if these leggings need to come home with you? (Bergerac, France)

    Pack lightly. What if these leggings need to come home with you? (Bergerac, France)

  • Finally, check the weather and pack accordingly. Bring a cardigan/sweatshirt for the plane. Bring a couple versatile pieces that you can mix and match, like black skinnies, a white button down shirt, and a denim jacket. You know what I’m saying. Don’t pack your entire wardrobe, because you are going to buy souvenirs and then may be forced to throw away valuable press materials at the airport because your checked luggage is over the weight limit. Woops.

    Halfway through writing this…I decided to split it up! Check back next week for a few more suggestions on better ways to travel the world. Next time we’ll talk about why all-inclusive resorts are the bomb, cool places to stay in Stockholm, and why you should take a food tour in Nassau!

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