Day 13: Top 10 Must Haves for International Travel

The first time Kyle told me that I had to fit all my belongings into a backpack for our European Holiday, I nearly spit out my beer at him. And when he showed me his backpack, I nearly threw my beer at him. You see, my hubby is a frugal, light-weight backpacking fiend. He spends hours online looking up ways to get rid of ounces, not pounds, for our backpacking and camping adventures. It just so happens the peak of his light-weight obsession coincided with our holiday.  Lucky me.

Realistically, I knew that backpacks were the way to do it. Because let’s just be honest, cobblestones + stairs + rolling suite case = a very frustrated, sweaty, cussing Jackie. But, when push came to shove, and I looked at our packs, I kinda wished we were millionaires and had butlers to carry all our stuff.  But alas, we are not millionaires and have not won the lottery (nor will we). So, I begrudgingly started getting rid of items from my wardrobe list. I guess there would be no outfit changes for me. Sigh.

So you may be wondering, what exactly did she pack with her? Well, friends let me tell you, it wasn’t as hard as I thought. Granted it took some time….okay, a lot of time, to match up shoes with outfits, making sure cardigans matched tops which also matched pants, but it was well worth it.

The European Holiday Wardrobe

The European Holiday Wardrobe

But, I digress. This post isn’t about my wardrobe or how many ounces Kyle got ride of for his pack but rather the top 10 things that we couldn’t live without for 4 weeks. Without further adieu….

10. Sperry Top Sider Shoes: My biggest concern wasn’t carrying a 60L back throughout Western Europe. It was actually how I was going to do so with severe foot pain. Earlier in the year I developed a lot of pain in my right foot. Most of my doctors and therapists think it’s from my earlier car accident and my body continues to compensate for it. Despite giving up heels and falling in love (not by choice) with flats, most if not all my flats I had acquired over the  years no longer helped me but rather hurt me. Praise the Lord for Sperry’s. I had a few requirements while hunting for a pair of flats.  They had to be comfortable. They had to be cute. They had to go with every outfit I was bringing. They had to work in sunny weather as well as rainy weather. These are the winners!! Kyle even has a pair and loves them!!

Sperry Top Sider Angel Fish Boat Slip-On Shoe

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9. Bose Quiet Comfort Noise Cancelling Headphones: These are an investment. But I promise they are well worth it. Especially if you’re on 13-18 hour long plane rides and even longer train rides. I swear by them…apparently Trip Advisor does as well. I’ve continued to use them beyond travel. These puppies helps drown out the incessantly loud talkers at the office so I can actually get work done.

QuietComfort® 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling® headphones

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8. Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf:  Like my Sperry’s, I needed a scarf that would go with everything and anything. It had to be comfy, not scratchy and be dressed up or dressed down. This scarf not only fits the bill, but is so amazingly soft, it reminds me of a baby’s blanket.  There’s also so many ways you can wear this scarf, it’s amazing. On the planes and trains, I need up using it as a blanket and shawl. Unfortunately, I could only get it in a drab gray color when I was shopping for it. The color went with everything but it’s definitely not my first pick. Lululemon is always changing their colors each season so be sure to check back often!

Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf

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7. Thermarest Pillow: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know what you’re thinking. “She actually brought her own pillow?!” Yes, I did. This is my true stand-by, for all travel needs. My pillow accompanies me on camping trips, backpacking trips, road trips Portland, visits home to Hawaii, and now throughout 7 countries in Western Europe. It’s made of the same amazing foam for backpacking Thermarests and stows into a little roll that fits nicely in one’s carry-on luggage.

Therm-a-Rest Compressible Pillow

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6. Kindle: Well, this shouldn’t be a surprise now should it? Considering that I raved on and on and on about this lovely device in my previous blog post.   It also looks like Amazon upgraded their Kindle collection to the Paperwhite with the same great features, plus some cool new ones. Regardless of what version you have I highly recommend this device. The iPad was too heavy and we hardly used it especially since connecting to wifi was a hit or miss.  But I had loaded my kindle with at least 50 books before I left so was quite content throughout the entire trip.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

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5. Starbucks Via (Flavor- Columbia): Not all European countries favor coffee as much as Seattle-lites do. And those that do, well, let’s just say it’s roughly $8 USD for a latte. Way too much for a budget traveler. On a last minute whim, I decided to buy a large pack of Via coffee from Costco. Thank goodness I did because every morning I was treated to the lovely aroma and taste of back home. It’s the best way to start a day full of adventure.

Starbucks Via Columbia

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4.  Travel Mug:  In order to enjoy my delicious Starbucks Via each morning, one must have a travel mug, similar to the one below.  I ended up bringing an old stainless steel mug I wasn’t worried about losing, breaking, or someone stealing. It served my purposes wonderfully. Unfortunately Kyle’s mug didn’t turn out to be such a good thing. We ended up purchasing him a KeepCup from a local Whole Foods for $24. Turns out it was one of the our worst purchases ever. The sides of the cup aren’t insulated so you can’t hold the cup once you fill it with a hot beverage, which completely defeats the purpose of having a mug for hot beverages. We used it once, washed it when we got home, and returned it. Like I said, worst purchase ever.

Bodum Travel Mug

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3. Nalgene: Since we’re outdoor folks we naturally brought along our small (12 and 16 fl oz.) to bring in our day packs and purses It actually turned out to be a great, free idea. We filled our water bottles at drinking fountains and even filled it with large bottled water for day trips throughout the city. I would definitely recommend this for all travelers. For trips home or car rides, we always bring along it’s larger, older sibling…the 32 fl oz version.

Nalgene 16 oz Wide Mouth Water Bottle

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2. Medicine: In hindsight this was probably one of the smartest things we packed. At first Kyle was pretty adamant against it. It would take up more space and we ‘probably’ wouldn’t even use it. Well, we had both worked ourselves into a tizzy up to the minute we left…I was even handling phones calls and emails as we were boarding the plane which only means one thing. Colds. Naturally on day two of adventures in London, we both weren’t feeling too great. Kyle got hit the first half of the trip and I the second half. We used all of our medicine we brought along and had to buy some along the way. The reason I say to bring your own is that in some countries and cities, over the counter stuff isn’t really over the counter. And pharmacies aren’t open every day. It became a nightmare just to find something that resembled Nyquil. And once you finally do get your hands on it, you can’t read the instructions. Most, if not all grocery stores, we found only carried cough syrup and Percasit. Go figure. Nyquil, DayQuil, Emergency, Airborne, and Advil PM, served us well.  I would advise bringing these along with whatever other medicine you need to have with you.

rborne Effervescent Health Formula Pink Grapefruit -- 10 Tablets

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1. Ziplock bag, Dr. Bronner’s soap, Webbing (thinner version of climbing rope), and Binder Clips: I realize this is more than one item. But it serves one purpose. Clean Laundry. Kyle had read up quite a bit about backpackers doing this…along with international travelers who are on a budget. Besides who wants to fork over $13-$20 USD everytime you need some clean underwear. We actually ended up doing laundry in our hotel or hostel rooms every 4 days or so. We love Dr. Bronner’s because you can use it for laundry, bath, shampoo, even toothpaste. I wouldn’t go as far with the latter but apparently others swear by it. I’d suggest the baby, no-fragrance version esp if you’re traveling.

Dr. Bronners Mild Liquid Soap

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The trip was amazing on so many levels but we also learned a lot about ourselves. We’re pretty resourceful when we need to be. We are addicted way too much to REI. And we can successfully live off “very little”… 3 dresses, 3 cardigans, 2 pairs of pants, 2 tops, 2 pairs of socks, and 2 pairs of shoes. Kyle, even less than that (minus the dresses and cardigans).  I guess I don’t need that butler after all. Perhaps Kyle’s light-weight backpacking obsession is starting to rub off on me? As we start to plan our next adventure, I’m sure we’ll both be drinking beers together as we celebrate how much we’ve paired down from this last trip.

Have you done a lot of international travel? What have you found to be irreplaceable when you’re thousands of miles away from home? I’d love to know!

Day 1: Surviving your spouse on an international trip
Day 2: Never order flowers online
Day 3: Bucket List
Day 4: Pet Peeves
Day 5: Biggest Fear
Day 8: A little honesty goes a long way
Day 10: A voice from the past
Day 11: Confessions from a wanna-be-cook
Day 14: Food


Because January can be boring. Join us for a January Blog-A-Thon. Post a photo, video, sentence, anything that you want to! And if don’t feel inclined to blog, do come back and see what we’re up to. I can guarantee you’ll be entertained.


  1. I feel like Sperry’s should be on every girl’s top ten list — not just for international travel, but for life in general. They’re kind of amazing.

    • Agree Kat. Seriously, most comfy shoes ever. I think my second pair will need to include glitter though. I need some bling that won’t get me mugged on the next trip.

  2. I feel like Sperry’s should be on every girl’s top ten list — not just for international travel, but for life in general. They’re kind of amazing.

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