HOW TO EUROPE
The Complete Travelers Handbook
By John Bermont. Internet edition.
A page from
with photographer and author
Your packing list — the shorter the better.
How much you pack for your trip will have a greater influence on
your enjoyment of traveling in Europe than any other factor. Pack light.
A rundown on your clothing list was given in the prior chapter 5,
What To Wear in Europe:
Travel Clothes for All Occasions. That is only half
of your pack. Your suitcase must
also be a miniature bathroom closet, laundry room, drugstore,
tool box, photo gear headquarters, office supply,
and library of guide books, maps, and dictionaries. This is all
in addition to your clothes. Good luck!
For details about what kind of luggage to use see chapter 7,
Luggage for Europe:
Let It Roll.
If you want to skip over all the verbiage in this chapter and go straight to a check-off packing
list then see The Finale,
Packing List and Last Call:
For Travel In Europe. Come back here later to see why
you need to pack vinegar and vodka.
Before discussing what you should pack in your luggage let's have
a look at what you can not pack. Safety and security govern. These subjects
are patrolled by the Transportation Security Administration, TSA.
The TSA is perhaps the most criticized of government agencies, except for the IRS. The TSA is
part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, itself the object of
continuing and severe criticism. The purpose of these agencies is to
protect us, but they have caused a great deal of frustration to travelers
due to the delays and inconveniences their actions generate. For the sake of
your own mental comfort let's assume that they are human beings and they
are doing a critical job to the best of their ability. Let's also assume
that you are a human being and are doing your best on this planet. But then again,
TSA officers are government employees and that is not a high recommendation.
September 11, 2001
The rules have changed since the
horror of September 11, 2001. Nothing that can be used as a weapon can be
brought on board in your carry-on luggage or on your person. I had carried
a Swiss Army knife in my pocket on
planes all over the world for over 35 years. It was always in my
pocket. No more on planes. Now I must put it in checked baggage, if
any, or budget the price of a new one for every flight.
Weapons include scissors, baseball bats, hammers, mace, and anything else capable of
injuring or incapacitating a person. Even knitting needles are prohibited on board.
August 10, 2006
On August 10, 2006 a couple of dozen terrorists were uncovered in London. This group had
discovered a new way to kill us and disrupt air travel. They had come up with a
method of assembling
liquid bombs on board. These suicidal maniacs intended to put various chemicals in ordinary
bottles of shampoo, mouthwash, and such. After the plane was in the air they would
mix the chemicals and set off an explosive reaction, destroying the plane and murdering
hundreds of people. Of course this would also send the terrorists directly back to Hell,
to their great joy.
The immediate reaction of security officials was to prohibit all carry-on luggage
on planes from London. There were severe delays and many flights were canceled.
Over time the new rule was modified to allow small laptop size cases on board but
security officials continued to ban all liquids in carry-on
luggage. The rules have been modified gradually since then and hopefully the present
carry-on rules will stay constant for a while. If not, I'll up-date this page again.
December 25, 2009
Following the attempted bombing of NW flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009,
the Transportation Security Administration issued a statement saying:
TSA issued a directive for additional security measures to be implemented
for last point of departure international flights to the United States.
Passengers flying into the United States from abroad can expect to see additional
security measures at international airports such as increased gate screening
including pat-downs and bag searches. During flight, passengers may be asked
to follow flight crew instructions, such as stowing personal items, turning
off electronic equipment and remaining seated during certain portions of the flight.
This makes no sense. The Christmas bomber had the bomb strapped to his thigh, it was not
electronic, and he was sitting through the whole affair. As for gate screening the security people
at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport have been giving me the pat down since the mid 1990s.
But they go only half way up the thigh, not into the crotch. The bomber probably knew that from
test runs so he had the bomb way up there with his private parts. Carry on bags, plus coats,
shoes, and everything else has been going through gate x-ray for years and anything
suspicious has been hand inspected. That has happened to me several times.
The TSA nitwits have made a mighty swing at thin air. They better get ready for the next event,
a woman with the bomb hidden in her bra. It is time to start profiling and/or get those
backscatter X-ray machines in operation. The next bomber may not be so stupid as to not
know how to set off his bomb and blow off nothing but his balls.
November 8, 2010
The TSA has now banned printer ink and toner cartridges in checked and carry-on luggage.
March 5, 2013
The TSA has just issued a press release advising that the rules for what you can bring on a plane will
be changing on April 25. Their message is:
In advance of the upcoming changes to TSA's Prohibited Items List, effective April 25, 2013,
the guidelines below on small knives permitted in carry-on luggage are provided to help
passengers prepare for airport security procedures prior to checkpoint arrival.
Employee associations representing flight attendants (stewardesses) and federal air marshals
(under-cover police officers on the planes) are protesting loudly over this relaxation
in the rules. Box cutters have blades
much shorter than 2.36 inches but are still banned. Box cutters were the only weapons used by the
9-11 hijackers. Apparently the rational is that fixed blade knives are more lethal than
fold-up knives. The TSA, which was formed as a result of the 9-11 plane hijackings and attacks
on New York and Washington, has made this questionable decision. TSA certainly has something other
than airline safety on its mind, if it has a mind. Duh.
TSA continues to evolve and strengthen its multi-layered approach to aviation security -
through better technology, expanded data analysis capabilities and an enhanced understanding
of current intelligence. The decision to permit certain items in carry-on luggage was made
as part of TSA's overall risk-based security approach and aligns TSA with International
Civil Aviation Organization Standards and our European counterparts.
Small knives permitted in carry-on luggage must meet all of the following requirements:
- The blade must be no more than 2.36 inches or 6 cm in length - from tip to
where it meets the handle or hilt
- The blade must be no more than a half inch in width
- Knives with locking or fixed blades
- Knives with molded grips
- Razors and box cutters
If a passenger is unsure if an item meets the above requirements, TSA recommends that the item be placed in checked luggage.
The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items through security checkpoints.
Latest revision: 05 March 2013
The TSA is also allowing certain sports equipment on board. These include golf clubs, ski poles,
and hockey sticks. I wonder if the airlines will install putting runs in the aisles?
I have certainly been inconvenienced by the ban on pocket knives over the years. But I would rather
suffer that inconvenience than open up the slightest opportunity for villians to commandeer
a fully fueled jumbo jet and have their way with it. In my opinion the "TSA's overall risk-based
security approach" is looking at this issue from the wrong angle. They should be basing their policy
on a passenger's need to use an item while on board, or need to use it in case the passenger's luggage is
lost in flight. If a person doesn't need a potentially lethal item while on a plane then why should the passenger
bring it on the plane? I didn't see anything in the new rules about knitting needles so I assume
that these are still banned.
By the way, how did they come up with the 2.36 inches? I know the answer to that —
they measured my pinkie. I mailed it in and they sent it back. So, anything bigger than your little finger
is verboten, except that the TSA leaves itself an escape clause in the final sentence above —
The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items through security checkpoints.
In other words they'll let a somewhat trained inspector make a decision that has the possibility of
causing untold harm to thousands of people.
The flight attendants are leading the fight against the TSA stupidity. A few flight attendants were
the first to die on September 11 as the bastards commandeered the airplanes. The flight attendants
have now set up a petition
to the White House asking that the TSA knife decision be reversed. You can access the official petition at
NoKnivesOnPlanes.com. Click and sign to help make us all safer.
Remember, there were more people murdered at their desk as a result of the hijackings than died on
the planes that day.
I have put a special link to this section of my web site at:
knives. That will help me
find it and and change it if/when the TSA starts using the fat between their ears.
If this TSA stupidity stands there will be many more knives on planes. Passengers had better
arm themselves to protect themselves. Unfortunately, the large blade on my Swiss Army knife is 2.52" long,
a full 0.16" too long. Holy terror! I'll just get out the grinding wheel and cut that down to TSA
size. Whoever said that TSA stands for Too Stupid and Arrogant? I'm saying it now.
Well, a few days before it was to go into effect the TSA "postponed" the new rule allowing passengers to
bring knives into airplane cabins. Out of self-imposed self-righteousness TSA did not cancel the stupidity.
They just "postponed" it until they could have the legally required hearing which would include the interested
parties — airline staff, law enforcement, and passengers.
Liquid 3-1-1 Rule
The current liquids regulation (November 2010) on flights originating in
the USA is that passengers can bring on board
a limited number of small bottles of liquids, aerosols, and gels. None of the
containers can be more than 3.4 fluid ounces and all must fit into a single one quart
clear resealable plastic bag, e.g. a quart size Ziploc® bag. This is 8"x7" (20.3 cm x 17.7 cm).
When you get to the belt which runs through the x-ray machine, remove the plastic bag
from your carry-on luggage and put it in a container on the belt.
Exceptions include an allowance for baby milk, prescription drugs, and diabetic glucose
solution. Declare these items to the TSA officer at the belt. Make sure that you have
a doctor's prescription or a baby with you if you are bringing these items on board.
The TSA recommends that you carry on board only those liquids that you will need during
the flight. Hey, this makes sense! Put everything else in your
checked luggage. But before you do that, read through this chapter and give some thought
to your needs. Remember, Europe is not the Gobi desert. Everything you normally use
can be purchased in Europe.
Travelers can bring on board beverages and other items which they have
purchased in the secure boarding area after clearing the security check point. So yes,
you can bring duty free booze and perfumes on board. BUT, if you make a connecting flight
in Europe or the USA you are subject to gate security screening again and bottles greater than
3 ounces will be confiscated. TSA will have a party!!
For a list of common articles that are banned or restricted please see the TSA web site at
It's not a rule but the TSA has a recommendation for packing your bags. They say
Make it easy for the gal or guy looking at the x-ray image to quickly determine what you
have in your luggage. This speeds up the process and reduces the frustration of
everyone in line. The TSA people are not causing the problem. The problem is the small
number of people who don't know the rules or who think that they are above the rules.
Traditional Airline Rules
Examples of some long standing prohibitions by airlines are: no flammable liquids like fuel
or solvents on board, no fireworks, and no harsh household or
industrial chemicals. If you have a question about the propriety of
any unusual item you wish to bring on board, ask the airline.
If you need any of these for traveling, buy them after you land in
To be sure, TSA officers are not perfect. On my flight from Amsterdam in January
2006 I was stopped after the x-ray belt and asked to open the small bag in
which I was carrying my laptop computer and exposed film. The agent reached
in and pulled out a knife. This was a combination knife and fork which looked
just like a Swiss Army knife. It had been in my bag for years and I had
forgotten all about it. In order to save it I had to put it in checked luggage,
but my bags were already checked and on their way to the plane. So I did some quick
re-arranging, put my laptop and film in a shopping bag and checked my laptop case at the gate.
The interesting thing is that this knife had escaped the notice of TSA in Detroit
when I flew to Amsterdam a month earlier.
Incidentally, "mistakes" are not an excuse. If you are caught with a prohibited
item while attempting to pass TSA security you are guilty of a Federal crime
and can be prosecuted whether it was deliberate or an accident. But TSA people
have a heart, and thanks to that I still own my Swiss Army knife. In another episode
my daughter got a permission slip from the American Airlines check-in agent
that allowed me to accompany Stephanie to the boarding gate for a last hug.
I walked through the metal detector and then the TSA fellow ran the wand over me.
Beep, beep, beep! I had my Swiss Army knife in my back pocket. Oh NO! My reaction was loud,
but not obscene. A nearby female TSA agent accepted my knife and told me I could have
it back when I returned from the gate. She slipped it into my hand as I exited. I guess
she broke the law and for that I am grateful. I had bought that knife in Switzerland
years ago and figured that it would last the rest of my life. Close call.
OVER THE SEAS
As you can see above, the TSA rules for USA passengers are pretty clear. So are the European
Union, EU, rules for passengers departing from European airports.
Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam and Heathrow Airport, London
The Schiphol Airport Amsterdam web site reports the following rules effective
6 November 2006 for hand baggage. Liquids, gels and aerosols are only allowed in
hand luggage in small quantities (no more than 100 ml per item) and if correctly
packaged. These rules will apply to all passengers departing from or changing
planes at EU airports.
The new rules cover liquids such as water and other beverages, gels, pastes,
lotions and the contents of aerosol cans. Toiletries such as toothpaste,
shaving cream, hair gel, lip gloss and creams also fall under the rules.
These are the rules for liquids in your hand luggage:
1. You can only take liquids and gels in containers of no more than 100 millilitres on board the aircraft.
2. These containers must be carried in transparent plastic bags.
3. There is a limit of one transparent plastic bag per person.
4. The volume of the transparent plastic bag may not be greater than 1 litre.
5. The transparent plastic bag must be re-sealable.
As you can see, the EU and USA rules are pretty close. The quantities 100 ml and 3.4 ounces
are virtually the same. Trying to find bottles of anything in either of these sizes
in any store in the USA is difficult. However my local grocery store has introduced a small travel
section with legal sized bottles of essential liquids and gels, plus a special quart
plastic bag holding four 3 ounce bottles which you can fill with your own stuff.
The 100 ml rule is strictly enforced to the absurd max. My friend Paula flew from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport
in mid-2010. In her purse she carried a 110 ml bottle of contact lens solution. It was only
half full and obvious. The Dutch security official confiscated it!
The EU allows the liquids in a one liter clear plastic bag. One liter is equal to 1.06 quarts.
The size in the USA is one quart. So the
quantity you can bring back is slightly larger than what you can bring over.
If you stay within the USA rules you are within the EU rules.
When coming home many travelers like to bring back some local firewater or a few bottles
of a favorite wine. Prior to August 10, 2006 it was perfectly acceptable to bring wine
in your carry-on
luggage. Many sellers of wine in Europe even provide a handy padded carrying case
that could hold up to six bottles. Alas, no more in carry-on cabin baggage.
All is not lost. You can still bring some beverages in carry-on baggage if they are purchased in the
duty free shops located in the secure boarding area. Many duty free shops
have an impressive selection of distilled spirits. But, if you change planes in
Europe or the USA you have a problem. The Schiphol web site says: "If you buy liquids
or gels (duty-free) at a European airport and change planes at a European airport,
travelling on to the United States, you should allow for the possibility
that your purchases will be confiscated at the security checkpoint. This
can happen with purchases you make on board an aircraft operated by an
airline from an EU country." The lesson is that you want to make your duty free
purchases at your last airport in Europe.
You can also place beverages in any quantity in your checked luggage, up to the size and
weight allowances of your airline and the import allowance of the state where you will be
disembarking and passing US Customs. Pack the bottles securely and double wrap them in socks or t-shirts to
prevent breakage. Then, just in case, put them in a resealable plastic bag.
The airline baggage handlers do toss luggage about. I hear that it will become an
Olympic sport. Theft is an on-going problem so use the wire tie locks on your luggage if you
are bringing home any golden or ruby colored liquids.
If you are changing planes in the USA with a bottle of duty free liquor purchased as you left
Europe you must make a quick switch.
When you return to the USA you must claim your luggage, pass US Customs, and recheck your luggage
before continuing. So before rechecking put the bottle in your checked luggage. I caught this at the
last second on a recent trip from Amsterdam with a connecting flight in Detroit and saved my bottle
from TSA confiscation. The TSA certainly knows that your booze was bought in a secure duty free shop
with the cap seal in place, is still in the sealed duty free shop bag, and is not a bomb.
TSA guards also know that this is a sure way to legally steal your fine cognac.
Before bringing home any wine or spirits make sure that your state allows it.
Alcohol is regulated by each
individual state, a system that goes back to the elimination of Prohibition. Some states
are relatively free and others are strict when it comes to importation of alcoholic
beverages. In some states it is a felony to bring even one bottle over the state line. You could
end up in the slammer with murderers and rapists, depending on how many votes the local
prosecutor needs for the next election. US Customs
does enforce these state laws. Call your state liquor control commission before you
go to find out what you can bring home. The states which have no-wine rules are primarily in
the Bible Belt. Funny isn't it? Jesus made wine. He would have been arrested in those states
where the powers preach the loudest. Oh hypocrisy, how bitter thy kiss.
If you are thirsty on your flight to or from Europe you can get a drink from
the flight attendant. While you must pay $5.00 to $8.00 for a drink on domestic flights within the USA,
airlines still give it out for free on trans-Atlantic flights.
The standard airline liquor bottle is 50 ml, 1.7 ounces. Some airlines are getting stingier
with the booze so if you want more than one you can pack your own in carry-on luggage. At
least eight airline bottles fit in a one quart Ziploc® bag. Of course, airlines
don't want you bringing your own on board so drink out of sight of the cabin attendants. I do
this regularly and share with seat mates. On my last flight to Paris I had a good chat with the
French fellow sitting next to me. He was ordering two bottles at a time from the
flight attendant who served me just as generously, plus we were drinking from my private stash of
Crown Royal mini bottles until sleep set in. On my return to Detroit a week later the same flight
attendant was working the plane. He recognized me immediately and gave me two at a time again!
One Bag Rule
The UK Department for Transport had a one-bag carry-on rule at certain airports. This had been the rule
throughout Britain up until January 2008. Then it was relaxed for many airports.
Thanks to the Christmas underpants bomber, the UK has reintroduced the one bag rule. Being as how this
is in a state of flux, check with your airline when flying out of Britain.
Although the TSA web site does not say as such, there is annecdotal evidence of a one-bag
rule in effect for all flights departing Europe and going to the USA. This again is due to the
Christmas underpants bomber. Be prepared.
Current EU regulations allow cabin bags whose dimensions
may not exceed 56cm/22" long, 45cm/18" wide, and 25cm/10" in height. Airlines have their own rules which
may be more restrictive than the legal requirements. For example, Lufthansa allows one bag in economy class
and two carry-on bags in business and first class. Each piece of hand baggage may not be larger
than 55 x 40 x 20 cm and may not weigh more than 8 kg (17.6 lbs).
I recommend that you have a bag
with one dimension not more than 23cm/9" because that is the dimension for the opening to
overhead storage on many airplanes. In fact, 9" is the maximum dimension for US airports. Note that
the allowable dimensions for US carry-on are 22" x 14" x 9". That is less on two sides than the EU allowance.
Some luggage is sold based on volume. The volume allowed in the EU is 63 liters and in the US it
is 2,770 cubic inches (45 liters).
For flights departing the USA the rules are more convenient. For example, in addition to your
carry-on bag Delta Airlines allows
one handbag or briefcase, or a laptop or camera case, a jacket or umbrella, and
various equipment and supplies for infants and invalids. Check the website of your airline for specific
Wear your coat, and stuff the pockets if you wish. All coats and jackets must be removed
and screened separately at the security x-ray belt. Shoes are always x-rayed also so this is another
reason for wearing Birkenstocks. Kick them off and then slip them on at the other side. If you
are wearing regular shoes I suggest that you have a shoe horn in your pocket.
Laptop computers must be removed from your bag and placed in one of the baskets for x-ray
screening and chemical screening. If your laptop is in it's own case or bag with nothing else
you don't need to remove it. Laptop computers are not allowed in checked luggage. You wouldn't
want to put it there anyway.
Even though there is no law regarding the maximum weight of a carry-on bag, individual airlines
do have weight limits.
These rules vary from airline to airline, and may be different for first class, business class, and
tourist class. Go to your airline's web site for their details. Links to the web sites for many international
airlines are at Airlines to Europe to make it
easy for you. However, these airline
web sites are not always user friendly so finding the section on luggage rules may be a challenge.
Use the search bar if there is one.
PERSONAL CARE ITEMS
OK, now that you know what you can not bring with you on the plane let's see
what you should bring.
You will need your toothbrush and a few other items of personal hygiene while
you travel. Check your bathroom sink, tub, and the top of your bedroom dresser
for those things that you use on a regular basis. Toothbrush, toothpaste, razor,
dental floss, and nail clippers come to mind. Most women have additional things. You know
what you use in the bathroom every morning so you are the best
list maker for these little items. To save last minute packing you might want to buy an
extra toothbrush, mini tooth paste, and other essentials so you can pack your one quart Ziploc® baggie
early. If you are traveling with a companion, save some donkey
duty by splitting your list and sharing the use of normal necessities.
If you are checking luggage do not put these daily items in your big bags.
Put them in your carry-on bag. Also, make sure you have a spare pair of boxers,
socks, t-shirt, and an outer shirt
in your carry-on bag. Ladies, you know the equivalent of my list. The reason for carrying
these undies in your carry-on is that your checked luggage might not arrive when you
do. When making connections, especially in Europe, my experience is about
50% on having my checked luggage arrive when I do. It arrives two or three days later.
If you are traveling for
a long period, don't bother bringing along enough of everything for
the whole trip. You can stop in any grocery, drug, or department store for
your consumables. In fact you can leave all of your liquid products
at home, especially if it means the difference between checking or not
checking a bag on the plane. Airplane temperature and pressure,
especially in the baggage hold, are lower than ground conditions.
Liquids can leak and/or freeze and present the potential for
serious consequences in an airplane. If you have any liquids in your checked
luggage double wrap them in Ziploc® bags. You don't want them leaking out
into your shoes. This happened once when I packed a couple cans of
Heinekin beer for a trip to St. Louis where I feared that Bud might be
the only "beer" available. One of the cans sprung a leak due to low pressure at
flight altitude and wetted my suitcase.
European electric voltage and
frequency are not the same as in the USA, and the plugs are different.
Many items used in the home are not suitable for travel, and some
will not work in Europe. If you use an electric razor, hair blower, hair straightener,
travel iron, or other electric appliances check them over carefully before you pack
them for your trip. If the nameplate says ~120 volt only, and not ~120~240 (dual voltage), leave
it home. It will not work in Europe. I am getting more and more letters from readers
telling me their story of sparks and amazing lights, followed immediately by losing all electricity
in their room, after plugging in their 110 volt hair blower or power surge strip. You can't put ten
gallons of water in a five gallon pail and you can't run 240 volts
through a 110 volt machine. Note that voltages are approximate — 120 volt covers the range of 110 to
130 and 240 covers the range of 220 to 250.
Another number on your appliances is the frequency, Hz. Due to the lower frequency
in Europe, 50 Hz versus 60 Hz in the USA, items with motors will run slower in Europe.
The power required by these appliances is considerable, especially for hair blowers and irons. It is
500 to nearly 2,000 watts. If you bring
a dual voltage unit with you then also bring an adapter plug for it. Do not plug heating items into
power surge strips.
Power surge strips are designed for small electronic items. Make sure that your
power surge strip is rated for 240 volts. American power surge strips are only rated for 120 volts.
Some of them, those which have a generous design safety factor, will work on 240 volts.
Most of them will give you a startling fireworks display. Play it safe and get one
that is certified for 240 volts unless you want to burn the hotel down.
Electronic gizmos such as battery chargers for laptop and netbook computers, cameras, and phones
are generally dual voltage and can be used in Europe, if you have a plug adapter. Most of them
state 110-240 volt and 50/60 Hz. Check the nameplate to be sure. If you have a few of these things with you,
as I do, a power surge strip will allow you to charge everything overnight. European hotel rooms
rarely have a spare electrical outlet, and if they do it is behind the bed headboard.
There are several types of electrical outlets and plugs used in Europe. Most of the Continent uses a plug
with two round prongs. Britain and Ireland have a different style, as does Switzerland and some
hotels in Italy. See the images in the green column on the right to learn more. If you click an image or
description it will take you to Amazon.com where you can purchase it. Amazon.com pays me a small
commission on items ordered through my site. This is a way you can help keep this site "on the air."
Further intelligence on the use of electricity in Europe is detailed in chapter 11,
Electricity in Europe:
Travel Voltage Fundamentals. Note particularly the comments on the
device called a "converter." These things are dangerous.
Here are notes on the personal
care electrical gadgets that many travelers are inclined to pack.
You'll have to think for yourself on this to decide what you want to
bring. There are as many packing
lists as there are travelers, multiplied by the number of destinations
An electric razor with rechargeable batteries and dual voltage charger
(110/220) is quite handy. With this baby you can shave anytime and
anyplace in minutes as long as you keep your batteries charged. It
will present only an occasional nuisance because special outlets
for electric razors in many newer or refurbished hotels will not
supply enough power to operate the charger. In such cases, use a
regular outlet in the room to charge the battery.
Hair blowers are more or less a standard American appliance.
If you use a normal 1,600 watt hair blower leave it
home. Your sink-size blower will require a ten pound transformer.
You'd rather carry around a watermelon. If you feel you
need a hair blower, purchase a compact dual voltage model designed
for travelers. You can buy this in most department stores in the USA and
Europe, at a duty free shop before boarding your plane, or from Amazon
using the advert link in the right column on this page.
Maybe you don't need to carry a hair blower with you.
Most upscale hotels, even some standard tourist hotels, now have
a hair blower permanently wired in. Even the B&Bs, hostels, and university dorms I have stayed in
over the past several years have a hair blower in the room. I guess they do this
out of self defense, to prevent clients from popping the circuit breakers with the
mega-watt blowers they are inclined to bring with them. If you make advance reservations
ask your hotel(s) if the room has a hair blower.
A hair blower can be used for more than one thing.
Occasionally it will come in handy for drying your clothes, whether
rained on or washed in your room. I used mine one night to furnish
heat in a freezing German hotel room.
If you notice that the lights in your room start to dim or
flicker when you turn on your hair blower, turn off everything but
the one light you really need. Dimming lights means that the hotel
or hostel wiring is old. You may blow a fuse if you keep everything turned
on. Yup, I've done that.
As with electric razors, I gave up on
hair blowers years ago. Now I simply comb my hair straight back
after showering. It dries in about half an hour.
This is something that most travelers will not need. If
you are doing your own laundry in your room, hang it up above the tub and let it
drip dry. It won't look perfect when you put it on, but nothing
does after an hour of wear anyway.
For a quick touch up,
ask your hotel if they have an iron to loan or if there is a nearby
pressing shop. Test the hotel's iron on a towel to make sure it is clean
before laying it on your clothes.
If you do carry an iron, buy a compact dual voltage
travel iron. See the advert for a model from Amazon in the right column on this page.
There are other models available at Amazon but make sure that whatever you buy
is dual voltage.
Other Options for Personal Care
I've come to the conclusion that shampoo is
one of the most worthless substances known to man. Right next to it
is hair conditioner. Why wash all the natural oils out of your hair
just to put back a mixture of overpriced perfumed chemicals from another
fancy bottle? Try washing your hair in water for a week and see if
you find yourself presentable. If so you can scratch two bottles of
chemicals from your packing list. You'll also be saving some
environmental damage that went into making the stuff and extra
expense at the wastewater treatment plant getting rid of the excess
chemicals before they reach our beautiful fish. I haven't used
shampoo for years.
Casual reading of the labels of some of those
green and blue bottles in the drugstores reveals the fact that they
are full of many ingredients, including alcohol at a concentration
of up to 26%. Some of the ingredients are poisons so you won't want
to drink the stuff. There is another form of alcohol which will
kill most of those germs causing bad breath, but won't kill you
unless you really try. It will just make you feel warm and
comfortable. It's called vodka, normally about 40% alcohol. I
sometimes use vodka as mouthwash before bed. It has other uses as
described in the next section of this chapter, "Traveler's
Body odor is the stink put out by
bacterial action on your perspiration. Instead of using regular deodorants try vodka.
Vodka also snuffs these bacteria. High strength isopropyl alcohol (91% or 96%
IPA) is more effective than vodka, and cheaper. Vinegar is also a very effective
deodorant. It is mildly acidic and kills the odor causing bacteria.
One thing to be
aware of is that many deodorants contain aluminum compounds as
antiperspirants. A high level of
aluminum in the brains of deceased Alzheimer's persons is a common
factor of the disease. The cause of Alzheimer's disease is not
known and there is no cure. It would be prudent to avoid putting more aluminum in or
on your body until the medical investigators find out what is
happening. A google.com search turns up a number of reports from doctors
and researchers indicating a high level of alarm over aluminum. Alzheimer's
disease is an excruciatingly debilitating disease affecting 10% of Americans
over 65 and 50% of those over 86 years old. I have first hand experience in
supporting my 90 year old Mother who died of Alzheimer's after about 4 years
with the disease.
Those deodorants also contain a brew of other
chemicals. The spray versions usually contain butane and other flammable
gases derived from crude oil, with appropriate warnings against using the
product near an open flame. You could blow your house up with a few cans
of this stuff.
If your body wants to perspire let it do so and take a shower. If you are
not ticklish you can let a dog lick your arm pit. Dogs love that
Another good use for IPA is as an insecticide. It is cheap and effective
at knocking down flying and creeping critters without the dangerous
chemicals in insecticides. It evaporates in a minute and leaves no residue.
I keep a small spray bottle handy in the kitchen. No
fly goes out on his wings.
Not everybody will need all the things in the following lists.
Look them over and consider the accompanying explanations.
Two Dozen Little Things
There are a couple dozen items to consider bringing with
you in order to make your travels comfortable and enjoyable. This
may look like a lot of gadgets and stuff, but most of it is small
and light. All of it fits into
one of those 8"x6"x3" mesh travel sacks. This is about the size
of your travel guide book plus a Thomas Cook European Timetable.
I have only two liquids on this list, vinegar and vodka. As mentioned above,
shampoo, deoderant, and mouthwash can be left out of your life
whether you are traveling or not. Assuming that you are traveling light per
Luggage for Europe: Travel Light,
Travel Light, you might need to make a quick trip to market
for some vinegar after your plane lands in Europe. Finding a 3 ounce bottle
of anything, much less a commodity like vinegar, is nearly impossible. But
see the "Travel Bottle Set" below. You can pour your own vinegar in one of the 3 ounce
bottles of this set. The optional liquids, tanning lotion and IPA, can be purchased in
Europe if you want them. Vodka is free on the plane.
A digital "alarm chronograph" is a wristwatch of ultimate utility to the traveler. They
feature at least a half dozen functions, including: time, time in
another time zone, chronograph (a.k.a. stopwatch or elapsed time
meter), date, day of the week, alarm clock, and night light. Some
include miniature calculators. When buying an alarm chronograph, go
through all the motions with the experienced sales clerk so that
you know how to use it. Instruction books with these watches are
notoriously difficult to follow. The battery will last 6 to 12
months. It may not be possible to find equivalent batteries
overseas and it's very difficult to change batteries yourself. If
in doubt about whether the battery will last through your trip,
waste the few dollars and have a jeweler change the battery before
departure. If it's water resistant you can wear one of these
watches while swimming and showering. I have a Casio brand "Illuminator"
purchased at K-Mart. These are tough items, but my last one didn't quite
make it through a snow blower last year. How about your Timex®, Mr. John Cameron
Bungee cord: I use a bungee cord to secure my shoulder bag to the frame of my roller
bag when I am on the move in airports, train stations, and city streets. This prevents the
shoulder bag from flopping around which would otherwise destabilize the roller bag and tip
it over. That usually happens at times the mishap does the most to ruin your day —
when you are running to catch a train or plane. I always keep a small bungee cord in an outside
pocket of my luggage.
Business cards: Business cards are very handy. They save you the trouble of writing
your name and contact information on a scrap of paper when you meet an interesting person.
They imply special status in life and sometimes get you through doors where
you normally wouldn't be allowed.
They make great luggage tags also. I use wide clear tape on both sides of a card, punch a hole
on one edge, and then attach it to my bags with a wire tie (see below). I attach one inside also
in case the outside tag should disappear.
You can print your own rather than use your company cards. Design anything and
put anything you want on them. The brand Southworth produces
fine business cardstock that you can print from your computer. Print out a sheet of 10 at
a time, split them along the micro cut, and bingo you have a professional calling card. I
normally carry two versions and use them as the situation calls for, chemical engineer or
travel writer. I am both.
Calculator: If you are traveling through a lot of
countries, a credit card size electronic calculator is very handy
for converting the cost of goods and services into American dollars
so you know how much you are spending. It is not difficult to get confused
when you are in a different country every other day. Even though 16
countries of central Europe have adopted the euro as their
common currency, 30 other countries including Britain,
Switzerland, and Denmark have not. None of the eastern European countries
have adopted the euro, though it is widely circulated and accepted by merchants
from Tallinn to Istanbul and beyond.
A calculator is also a powerful tool when you are negotiating for a
lower price in hotels and shops. In Europe, almost everything is
negotiable. Your calculator is a strategic assistant and it shows
the hotel keeper or merchant that you are a formidable shopper. Play dumb. Heck,
you don't know what 89 euro or 52 krona is worth in terms of your paycheck.
Pull out your calculator and do the math. Then meditate for a little bit so you can give the
merchant time to think. He is thinking whether he wants to make
this sale at a 30% discount, or no sale? Keep in mind that some shops and
restaurants have "tourist prices," charging 25% or more extra to people who are not regular
customers. Hotels make no bones about it with "in-season" or "high-season"
dual pricing. Hotels are probably the easiest places to negotiate and are also
the places with the highest profit potential for travelers. See chapter 14,
Hostels, B&Bs, Private Homes:
Sleep Options for Travel in Europe to learn how to
negotiate any hotel down by 20% or more, even 50%.
Can opener: Although the Swiss Army Knife mentioned
below has a can opener, you may want to avoid the risk and effort
required to use that feature. Due to frustration with my Swiss Army knife can opener I have started
carrying a regular can opener. These are small and certainly
make it easier and safer to open a can of tuna. I loaned my Swiss Army knife to
a fellow on a train years ago so he could open a can of something. I still
remember the bleeding gash when it slipped on him and cut his thumb open.
Coffee beans: Chew on a bean for a quick perk up
when it's not convenient to get a cup of coffee. If you don't like
grit in your mouth, swallow the bean whole. Caffeine is a
handy cure for mild headaches. Dark chocolate
is also an alkaloid source if you don't like coffee. My favorite
is chocolate covered coffee beans. Double whammy. Get them from
Coin purse: When traveling around a lot, you
need something to keep the coins of each country separate. A coin
purse with several pockets would do. Or use a disposable latex
glove and slip coins of different countries in different fingers.
Compass: Since you won't often be able to see the
North Star, one of these guys comes in very handy very often. It
saves a lot of steps walking to corners and checking street signs,
which are always missing when you need them the most, just like cops and
cabs. Make sure that a big chunk of metal does not interfere
when making a reading.
Condoms: Besides the intended purpose, use these to hold your
toothbrush, soap, coins, and other odds and ends. They also come in
handy as water balloons during civil disturbances.
Dictionaries, guidebooks, and maps: There are more bad guidebooks than
good ones so chose with care. A bad
guidebook can ruin your trip. A detailed discussion of
recommended literature for the road is in chapter 10,
Europe Guide Books and Maps
Tomes for Travel.
Earplugs: Sometimes you don't know you have a
disputatious room until midnight. Carry a few packets of foam
rubber roll-up earplugs for those noisy nights. These might also come
in handy on the plane. There is usually a baby on board within
earshot, and pilots sometimes get diarrhea drawl over the loudspeaker
just as you are falling asleep.
Electrical devices: Electricity over there is 220 volts, twice as high
as in the USA. This is a continuing challenge. A list of electrical devices and
intelligence on European electricity is in chapter 11,
Electricity in Europe:
Travel Voltage Fundamentals.
Don't singe your stuff or yourself.
Emery boards: You'll have plenty of time on the plane to get your nails in
shape. However, one of my correspondents wrote that he finds this in poor taste and that
"attending to personal grooming should be done in the privacy of the lavatory." Be discreet, at least.
Envelopes: To help keep your receipts in order a couple of
business size envelopes is handy. I put receipts for cash and credit card expenditures
in one and train tickets and reservations in the other, in chronological order. A few
smaller envelopes are handy for city bus and metro tickets, hotel cards, and phone cards.
Stay organized and keep a financial record of your travels. Heck, write a travel story
and deduct the entire cost of your trip. Note that this is not tax advice! Anybody could
write a better story than an "educator" who recently got his stuff published in our
local newspaper. He didn't even know the metric system and didn't know that his cruise
ship went through the Dardenelles, historically one of the best known waterways in the
world. I guess they stopped teaching geography 40 years ago.
Flashlight: Bring a mini light operating on AA
cells. A penlight is slightly
bigger than a felt tip marker and throws a good beam. An LED light is very good and doesn't
run down the batteries as fast. If traveling by
auto, carry a big heavy duty flashlight. Test it now and then to
make sure the batteries are always good. Replacement batteries are
available throughout Europe. British use the word "torch" for
Hand soap: You will appreciate having a bar of your favorite hand soap as you travel. Not
all hostels and dormitories even have soap, and B&Bs and hotels may have something not to
your liking. I prefer that green stuff, Irish Spring®. Hand soap can also be used for shaving if you are put off by my vinegar suggestion below.
After showering do not dry your face, or whatever part of your body you intend to shave. Run some
hot water and get the area good and soapy. It softens the hairs and lubricates the skin. Shaving
with a safety razor is much faster than with an electric shaver.
Magnifying Lens: Maps, phone books, schedules, and other items of interest to travelers
often have microscopic print. A magnifying lens is very helpful.
Mirror: Slip an old CD in your toilet kit. The underside
makes a handy, good-enough, safe, and very lightweight mirror.
Nail clippers: Besides the obvious you can use these to clip the security wire tie
on your luggage on arrival. See below. I prefer the big size. It works on fingernails also.
Contrary to some reports, nail clippers can be carried on the plane.
Paper bags: Consider nabbing a few bags when you see
them. Paper bags preserve fruit much better than plastic bags, the
common bagging material in Europe. You may want an
orange or a lemon (as in lemonade) in the morning and you will not
want to pay the hotel price.
Paper clip: Bring a big one in your pocket to clip your napkin to your
shirt while eating on the plane. The eating position on a plane lends itself to drips of
salad dressing and sauces on your shirt. A paper clip will hold the napkin in place.
Paper towels: Take a few extra towels from the restroom on your plane
or train, fold them up, and keep them in your hip pocket or purse.
Washrooms in Europe are not always supplied and these will come in
Photo equipment: A discussion of travel photography, digital
and film cameras, and other equipment is presented in chapter 12,
Photography in Europe:
Travel with Your Camera. If you have a
digital camera study the manual. If you have a digital SLR study the manual
and take a short course to learn how to use the features. These babies are complicated.
Bring the manual with you.
Plastic bags: Bring a dozen Ziploc® baggies, in the
sandwich, quart, and gallon sizes. They can be
used for dirty clothes, soap, lotions, and miscellaneous small
items. Squeeze out the excess air just before sealing so they don't
waste too much room in your suitcase. You can save money with the similar
plastic bags sold under store brands, e.g. Kroger Snap n' Seal®.
Another handy bag is a one-gallon size plain bag with a twist-tie closure. These
are much cheaper than the zip-type bags and do almost the same job. Low
budget travelers can use bread wrappers or grab a few plastic bags from the
roll in the produce section of your home supermarket.
The two gallon size Ziploc® bags are great for packing clothes.
Each will hold a couple pairs of slacks, a few shirts, or a suit.
Fold your clothes neatly — do not roll them unless you want
to look like a frump. After putting your clothes in the bag, zip it
almost closed, lay it on your bed or a soft chair, and sit on it to
squeeze out the air. Then zip up the last inch. Your clothes
become "vacuum packed" and easy to arrange in your luggage. Sometimes you
have to show the contents of your suitcase or backpack to a customs
officer. If everything is in Ziploc® bags, just turn your luggage upside down
and dump everything out in front of him. The look on the guy's face
is a travel moment. I chuckle every time I think about the day I did this.
That was about 10 years before those custom designed vacuum storage bags
came on the market. There is nothing wrong with those, except the price.
Write your name, phone number, and email address on each bag with a water proof felt tip pen.
Another good use for baggies takes advantage of their ability
to hold air. Simply give them a couple lungs of air, zip them up, and
tuck them in the voids. I used them once to pad a suitcase chuck full of
champagne, which I successfully carried as checked baggage from California
to an eastern state which must remain nameless because it was illegal to
bring alcohol into that state without a license. I didn't have no stinking
borrowed from 'Treasure of the Sierra Madre'
— Bogart's greatest performance.]
Ziploc® bags are also handy for making ice balls to keep your groceries
and beverages cool. Fill a couple with water and put them in the freezer.
A one quart or one liter Ziploc® type bag is now required if you are bringing
liquids into the cabin. See the first section of this chapter, "Forbidden Items."
A few plastic spoons, forks, and
knives will help you picnic. I haven't found a way to carry plastic
cups without breaking them. Most hotel rooms and overnight train cabines
have a glass or two anyway. At other times I just drink my wine from the bottle.
Portable radio: A miniature AM/FM radio is
nice company. Most of the budget hotels now have TV in the rooms,
but very few have radios. In Britain you can understand everything.
On the Continent, tune in to one of the BBC stations (excellent
humor) or American Armed Forces Network (football, top forty,
etc.). Unfortunately, Radio Luxembourg (rock and roll with English
disk jockeys) went silent in 1992. It was the
greatest and could be heard throughout northern Europe. It has come back
on several Digital Radio/DRM frequencies, and it has an active website
with streaming of its radio output. On
local radio in Europe you are likely to hear the
original version of American popular music, mixed in with politics
and classical compositions.
On the trains the AM band is all static but the FM stations come in
clear as a bell. My radio is smaller than a deck of
cards and has a stereo head phone jack but no speaker. Perfect.
Instead of a radio you can bring your iPod. Teenagers
are no longer hauling around a CD player and a case of CDs. An iPod or
Zune is a fraction of the size of a CD player and case and can
be loaded with thousands of tunes.
Rubber bands: Grab a few of those fat rubber bands from the office. They are
great for getting a grip on things, like pickle jar lids. If you don't work in an
office use the blue ones that hold asparagus bunches together.
One of these can come in handy now and then. Put a few in your sew repair kit.
Snack bag: To avoid the atrocious prices and
mediocre food in most American airports pack a sandwich and a drink to tide
you over the couple of hours that you will be waiting for your
plane to depart. Your airline will request that you arrive 2 to 3
hours before departure. Most of this time will be wasted, but it is
necessary for security clearance.
In Europe carry a chocolate or granola bar for emergencies.
A can of tuna or sardines might come in handy now and then. Always carry
something with you in case everything is closed when your train
arrives. If you are arriving late in the day or on a Sunday take advantage
of the market that you may find in the train station because the regular
grocery stores in most cities normally close by 6 PM or 8 PM.
Sun screen a/o tanning lotion:
If you are going to southern Europe during the summer you
might want to pack a bottle of your favorite sun screen. If you are
going to do some beach time maybe you want tanning lotion. Olive
oil works for me. All of these can be purchased in Europe.
Swiss army knife: Don't leave home without it. This
is a superbly engineered and manufactured item. Get one with the
scissors, corkscrew, and screwdriver blades as a minimum. Be
careful and have a lot of patience with the can opener if your knife
has one. Some European corks are very tight so if you are weak in the
pulling department buy a bartender's corkscrew in any wine shop. It's a nice
and practical souvenir, also.
There are two brands of "official"
Swiss army knives — Wenger and Victorinox. Each brand has scores
of models. Don't waste your money on a cheap thing made in China.
As you know, regulations prohibit knives in airline carry-on luggage
so you will have to put this knife in your checked luggage (if any) or
buy a knife as soon as you land. If your first stop is Switzerland,
you are in luck. You will have a much greater selection and will save
money. You might also buy your alarm chronograph over there. The Swiss are
known for precision watches.
Tape measure: When shopping for something to fit, a
small tape measure will help. A cloth tape from a sewing shop is
Telescope/binoculars: A telescope or binoculars can
be very useful in examining gargoyles on cathedrals and bullet
marks on the sides of castles. There are some good quality small
glasses available at camera shops. For a different view of things get a
pair of night vision gogles.
Public restrooms in most of Europe are usually supplied but not
often in Spain and Portugal. Even in Holland and Germany you sometimes
discover an empty TP holder, after you paid to get into the stall. That
happened to me in The Hague recently. I paid a euro to get into a toilet
that was built like a bank vault and both TP holders were bare. No
problem — I had a roll of my own.
In the eastern countries toilet paper is rare. I entered a
public WC in Poland to find a woman at the door selling TP by the square piece.
Gosh, how do you estimate how many pieces you are going to need?
Even when supplied in the pottie stall you may fail to recognize
it as TP, though its location will tell you what it is. Sometimes, especially in bars,
there isn't even a pottie — just a hole in a ceramic floor basin
bracketed by two little mesas for your feet.
So, carry a pocket package of Kleenex® tissues or the real thing in a
Ziploc® bag, and have it always with you in your day bag.
Toothpicks: In some countries,
toothpicks are everywhere and in others they are nowhere. Fill a
cigar tube with toothpicks if you use them. Or carry the matchbook
size Johnson & Johnson Stim-u-Dent® to clean your teeth after
dinner. Stim-u-Dent® is readily available in Europe wherever you
Travel Bottle Set: To help you cope with security regulations some companies
are producing travel bottle sets. These consist of 3 to 6 bottles in 3 ounce or
smaller capacities. Some of the sets include the one quart resealable bag. These
allow you to pack your own liquids in TSA compliant containers.
Vinegar: Have an open mind as you read this section. I don't know
why but I get criticized a lot for my advocacy of vinegar in some
unconventional applications. Heck, just because your moma didn't teach
you about vinegar doesn't mean that other advice shouldn't be considered.
For dry hands, a vinegar rub works better,
quicker, and lasts longer than the fancy expensive
á-la-gooey products. Just don't get vinegar in your eyes. It
stings real good in an open wound also, but is excellent in calming
down minor skin irritations and in relieving itchy scalp. One reader wrote in
suggesting vinegar as a hair rinse. I've started doing that after showering.
Speaking of eyes, a small spray bottle of vinegar can act as a junior version of
Mace®. Mace® is not allowed in hand baggage on the plane. Vinegar is innocous, or so
it would seem. But if you hit a thug in the face with a squirt you can buy enough
time to flee. I have never done this but considering the increasing incidence of
violent crime in some major European cities I think I'll carry a small spray bottle
in my day bag from now on.
Vinegar makes a good deodorant. Swab it in your armpits. The vinegar aroma
is gone quickly. A reader sent me this tip. It works.
You can shave without the foamy stuff using vinegar instead of
shaving cream. It softens your whiskers so well that you won't
feel them being cut. Rub the vinegar onto your face and let it soak
in for a few minutes. Give it another go before shaving. Some readers of
this chapter have written that they doubt that
this works and some are afraid of the vinegar sting if they get a
nick. Yes, it does work and I shave this way every day. No, you
won't get a stinging nick, and so what if you do? You're a man and you don't
whimper, do you?. Most likely you will
be surprised that there are no whiskers left because there was no
tug on your razor or sandpaper sound as you shaved.
I use vinegar to soften the whiskers even when I use my electric razor.
People who are
queasy about putting vinegar on their face should look at the
ingredients list of any popular shaving foam. It's a
brew of unheard-of chemicals. My brother's
overpriced aerosol can has ingredients of stearic acid,
triethanolamine, isobutane, laureth-23, and others. After reading that
list I go with vinegar any day.
If you buy a small bottle of vinegar in a grocery store after
you arrive, transfer it to a plastic bottle if
it isn't already packaged that way. Do not buy the high strength
25% acid variety sold in Germany. Get the normal 5% solution.
Vitamins: If you're in the
habit of popping a few alphabet pills every morning, don't forget
to pack a supply.
I buy a tube of 1,000 mg (that's one gram) vitamin C tablets at a
pharmacy after arrival in Europe and then
walk into any pharmacy when I'm running low and simply show them
the tube to buy more. That way you only have to translate it once.
Tip: write down "Vitamin C" and show it to the clerk. It's
spelled about the same all over Europe but pronounced much differently.
Some vitamin C tablets look and act like "Alka-Selzer." Drop them in a glass
of water or juice and they fizz up and dissolve. They come in
various flavors. Multi-vitamins are also available in these fizz pills.
Notice that I have an advert in the right column for valerian. This is a natural herbal
food supplement. It has amazing relaxant properties. If you have trouble sleeping
this is what you want. I use it for helping to sleep soundly on the plane to
Europe and preventing jet lag. Some people, even doctors, confuse valerian with
valium. Valerian and valium are totaly different.
Vodka: Vodka is the diminutive
Russian and Polish word for water. Vodka is distilled
grain alcohol, though it is also made from potatoes in Poland. Whiskey and brandy
are also alcohols, made by fermentation of grains and fruits with subsequent
are many types of alcohol and most of them are poisons. Vodka, whiskey, and brandy
contain ethyl alcohol, also known as ethanol. It is safe in moderate amounts. You would fall
off your chair drunk before it killed you. It is
normally 40% alcohol, 80 proof. Some brands are a higher concentration.
As with vinegar, some people have written unfavorably about my advocacy of
alcohol. Alcohol has been around for many millennia and has quite a few worthwhile uses.
- Vodka can disinfect cuts and scratches. This is
painful, but very effective in preventing infection and helping the
healing process. I saw a professional
bottle of anti-septic at a nursing home that contained one active
ingredient, ethyl alcohol, and it was guaranteed to kill 99.99% of the bacteria
that it contacted. How many soldiers and cowboys would have died of infections
if it wasn't for a bottle of whiskey to disinfect their wounds?
- Use it to knock out a cold better than any cold
medicine on the market. In the evening, down a pint of vodka or
brandy, bundle up with more on than you would wear in an Arctic
howl, and sweat it out. You might still be drunk in the morning,
but voila! — no cold. Use a good quality (triple or quadruple distilled)
product to avoid a hangover and a headache the next morning. My
preference is Hennessy cognac, with or without fresh squeezed
lemon juice. I call it my Dr. Hennessy. The traditional bowl of chicken soup,
also known as Jewish penicillin, also helps to snap a cold or flu.
- If you are beset with
crabs or other body lice, soak a handkerchief in vodka and sponge
around the infested areas. The vodka will dehydrate the little
buggers and get rid of them surer and safer than those other
products. Wash out your clothes in very hot water to get the
- As mentioned in a previous section, alcohol can also be used as a
mouthwash, disinfectant, and deodorant. You see it on the
ingredients lists of many of those products, even though it is usually
listed as an "inactive" ingredient. It's also a nice refreshing
aftershave, without the perfumes.
So, if only for medicinal purposes, carry a bottle of firewater. You can
buy it in the duty free shop before you leave, or duty free on the
plane, though these are usually liter bottles and are pretty heavy.
Ask your flight attendant for a couple extra 50 ml airline bottles while
the in-flight bar is still open. These are free on most
international flights, though the flight attendant is not likely to give
them to you if she knows that you are taking them with you.
If you are "underage" you probably won't have to worry about that in Europe.
In many countries you can buy distilled spirits at age 18, and beer at age 16.
Be careful if you are drinking for the first time. Alcohol has a profound effect on
your behavior and body coordination.
Wallet, RFID Blocking type
New USA passports contain a chip called a
Radio Frequency Identification tag. This is abbreviated to RFID tag. This chip makes it easier for
passport police to read and record the goings and comings of your passport. The RFID reader
can be yards away from your passport and you never know that it is being scrutinized. That is
nice for passport police, but not necessarily good for you. Bad guys can get their hands on the
hardware and software and pirate your confidential data.
To prevent this you can buy a special wallet which blocks the RFID device. These wallets include a
thin piece of aluminum which intercepts the radio waves. Leave your passport in the wallet
until you greet the passport officer.
Credit card companies are starting to
adopt this technology so your personal security is going to have a new hole in it. As if
identity theft was not already a huge problem, here they go and make it worse.
Water heater: If you like to have a
cup of tea, instant coffee, or Turkish coffee in your room before
you venture out in the morning, carry a one cup immersion water
heater. Morning java in the room is very nice. I prefer green tea lately.
Making unfiltered Turkish coffee is a snap. Add a spoonful of
espresso roast fine grind coffee to your cup of hot water, stir it up, and let it settle. Therefore
half of the cup is grounds. Use the glass which you find in virtually every hotel room, except that
the newer "motel 6" type sleepers usually have only plastic drinking
cups. In that case go out and buy a souvenir ceramic mug, you know, the one with
the Tour Eiffel image on the side. You were going to do
that anyway, weren't you?
If you bring a water heater you might consider bringing some of your favorite coffee
or tea. A reader recently wrote to recommend Starbucks instant coffee instead of making
Turkish coffee, which she called "cowboy coffee."
Wire ties: Wire ties are small strips of high
strength plastic which are made to hold electrical wires in place.
They are also called cable ties. Buy them in hardware stores, the
electrical section. Use a wire tie instead of a lock to secure your
luggage, and hold anything securely. To remove them, snip with your
Your rudimentary first aid bag should include at a minimum:
- Antiseptic ointment, e.g. Neosporin®
- Aspirin or equivalent
- Anti-itch cream, e.g. Lanacane®
Other products to consider are discussed in chapter 20,
Health and Safety in Europe.
Things made by human beings break sooner or later. The sole
exception might be refrigerators made during the early 1950's. Most
appliances were made for use at home with a life expectancy of
several years. Traveling with them will increase their breakdown
probability by a factor of ten. Even things made for the road don't
stand up as you expect.
The fix-it kit described here can
probably be assembled from the tools and things you have around the
house. Most of it fits into one of those zippered carrying cases
used for pocket size electronic calculators.
There are limits to being a repairman
on the road of course — if you are not handy at home, you
certainly won't be any better at it while traveling.
Glue: Bring Duco cement or something like that, and
carry it inside a plastic or metal cigar tube so that it doesn't
squeeze out early. A tiny tube of Krazy or Super glue could also
find a place in your bag.
Needles and threads: Make
up a little sewing kit with needles and a few yards of thread to
match your clothes. Check your buttons and reinforce those danglers
before leaving home. Keep your pins and needles in a plastic 35mm
film canister. If you don't have one of those stop in a camera or photo
processing store and see if they happen to have one of these antiques.
Latex gloves: Disposable latex or vinyl gloves are
handy when you get into some dirty work, like putting the chain
back on your bicycle or hand washing your clothes. A package weighs
almost nothing and can be stuffed in anywhere.
Oil: A squirt will get some things moving and stop
some things from squeaking. A drop of oil can help obstinate
zippers, but be careful not to get any on your clothes. Miniature
oilers the size of felt tip markers are available at hardware
stores and sportsman shops. Carry this in a cigar tube or Ziploc®
sandwich bag. If you
don't want to carry oil and need a drop or two, ask for a bit of
olive oil in a restaurant or use a dab of hand soap.
Leatherman Tool: This is one of the handiest
multi-tools you'll ever find. It's a rugged stainless steel item made in
the USA (don't buy a cheap Chinese knock-off) and can cut, screw,
saw, file, etc. Since September 11 you won't be able to carry this
on the plane so it will have to go in checked luggage.
Pliers: A small pair of needle nose pliers with wire
cutter is handy. The Leatherman includes a pair of needle nose
Scissors: Your Swiss Army
knife probably includes a pair of scissors. Scissors are
not allowed in carry on luggage so you'll have to put these in
Screwdrivers: Bring a skinny small blade, a stubby
handle wide blade, and a small Phillips. A jeweler's screwdriver
set can be handy, especially if you wear eyeglasses. The Leatherman
includes several styles of screwdriver and your Swiss Army knife
has at least one screwdriver.
String: A small roll
of 140 lb. nylon test line can be purchased at your local hardware
or sporting goods store. This makes a great clothesline if you need
to hang your clothes up to dry.
Tape: Nylon filament tape, also known as package
wrapping tape and strapping tape, sticks great and doesn't break.
Fixes suitcases, wraps parcels, etc. Tape is also a good lint
remover. Brush a piece over your clothes and the sticky side will
grab up all the loose dust.
Duct tape is suggested by other travel writers. This is not a good idea
because it leaves a sticky residue. Also, it is not nearly as strong as
nylon filament tape. You can rip duct tape but you need a knife or scissors
on strapping tape.
Tweezers: They come in
handy once in a while, especially for people with fat fingers, like
me. Many Swiss Army knives include a small pair of tweezers.
Wrench: A good
quality, miniature 4" adjustable wrench can come in handy.
Another that is very helpful is the 8mm x 13mm open
end wrench from an old VW tool kit. This little
piece of steel once saved my bladder from certain eruption by
getting me into a locked toilet on an overnight Swedish train.
If you plan on doing your own cleaning and spiffing up,
some of the following items will be helpful:
- Woolite or dish detergent
- Inflatable hangars
- Shoe polish
- Shoe brush
The first three items, Woolite, line, and pins, are sold in
convenient traveler's kits available in some luggage and travel
supply stores. The Woolite package contains 10 individually sealed
packets with ¼ fluid ounce in each, just right for a
bidet-sized load. The line and pins kit leaves a lot to be desired with
the clothesline, but the hooks and pins hit the spot. For a good
clothesline, use the 140 pound nylon test line mentioned above. A
length of strapping tape is also a good clothesline. It is strong and you can
attach it in odd places. You might be able to do without the clothes pins
if your wet clothes are not too heavy. Just stick them to the tape.
The inflatable clothes hangars are very practical for travelers. They are small
and light and give faster drying because they leave an air space between the front and
back of your dripping clothes. They also prevent shoulder crease.
See the laundry section of chapter 5,
What To Wear in Europe:
Travel Clothes for All Occasions if you
are queezy about washing your clothes in a bidet.
Since Woolite is pretty rough on your hands, use your latex
gloves when washing. Dish detergent is also very good for cleaning
clothes. It is easy on the hands, but rough on some colors. Your
shampoo, if you use the stuff, can also be used for washing clothes
but may leave a strong aroma due to the fragrances they put in it.
A mini shoe brush and miniature can of polish should
suffice. Many of the better hotels have electric shoe shine
machines on each floor so you could skip the brush. Or wipe off
the excess with a paper towel and buff your shoes with a sock.
DOCUMENTS AND VALUABLES
To conclude this chapter, below are listed the items to
carry on your person, not in your luggage. Again, you won't need to
bring all of these items. For example, if you have a Eurailpass you
probably won't need train tickets. If you need train tickets it is
cheaper to buy them in Europe. These subjects are
discussed in detail in separate chapters as noted in the third column.
By the way, and again to be repetitious, do not put any of these
valuables in your luggage. I repeat this warning because I have just
found a web site authored by a "travel guru" who is apparently well-known,
judging by the reviews he gets in the national press. He is bragging on
a certain brand of luggage and mentions that it has a narrow zippered side
pocket for your plane ticket, passport, check book, etc. This is absolutely
the most idiotic advice for travelers that I have ever heard of. NEVER put any
valuables in your luggage, outside pocket or not. That guru is dishing out
punk stupid advice, but he is making money selling luggage.
cash, credit cards, ATM cards
passport, visas, driver's license, international driving
permit, student I.D. card, business cards
airline ticket or boarding pass, hotel confirmation, rail pass, car rental reservation
notebook, cameras, video recorder, blog setup
NOTE TO READERS
I welcome questions and comments. If you have any concerns about your trip to
Europe that have not been covered well enough in this chapter do not hesitate to write and ask.
My email address is
When you write please include as much detail as possible. There are about 50 countries in Europe.
It will help me answer if you mention the countries and/or cities you plan to visit.
I will reply in a day or two.
Don't forget to scroll through the Table of Contents below. The other 29 chapters of
HOW TO EUROPE
are also available, free to read on line.
For a check-off punchlist of everything go to The Finale,
Packing List and Last Call:
For Travel In Europe.
If you know of someone else who would appreciate reading this web page please send
the URL link to him or her. To easily do that, click your "File" tab in the tool bar and scroll down to
"Send" or "Send Link." Your friend will thank you, and I thank you.
To bookmark this page type Ctrl D.
To support this site, please buy your goods at:
The Amazon Store
Shop in your shorts!
links in this green field take you directly to a page at Amazon.com.
That page details the item, and in some cases includes candid and critical comments
from others who have bought the item.
pays my site a
small commission when you click and order an item, if you put it in your shopping
cart within 24 hours based on the cookie they set on your computer. If you don't
want to make a quick decision just put it in your shopping cart, think it over,
and come back later. You benefit when buying here because Amazon.com
has a 20% to 30% discount on many items plus a free shipping
deal. The third bonus is that there is no sales tax on internet purchases in
most states. Delivery is fast
even when it is free, and returns are easy if you are not happy with the product.
You win we win. Thanks for your support!!
Have a good trip in life,
Note: Italicized notations by the author.
It rains. Be prepared.
Totes Titanium Auto-Open/Close Umbrella
Weather protection is essential. This is a great lightweight water repellent windbreaker.
Devon & Jones Women's Signature Colorblock Jacket
Look sharp and be comfortable.
Hot Chillys Women's Peach Skins Solid T-Neck Shirt
London Fog Women's Double Breasted Trench Coat
Clarks Women's Wave.Run Slip-On
Tilley Endurables TH9 Women's Hemp Hat
Wear a scarf for comfort and style. Nobody will ever suspect that you are an American.
Very soft houndstooth neck scarf, Kanye West style, different colors available
I wore one similar to this on my early spring trip to London and Dublin.
Leather Bomber Jacket
My "standard" shirt for off-season travel in Europe.
Kingsize Big & Tall Turtleneck Long-Sleeve Cotton Shirt
My favorite T-shirt/undershirt has a pocket for securely carrying passport, cash, and credit cards.
Turfer Tagless ComfortSoft T-Shirt with Pocket
New Casual Grey Herringbone Wool Cap
Weather protection and extra pockets.
SCOTTEVEST Travel Vest for Women
For leg comfort on the plane.
Arriva Travel-Tec Travel Legwear with Smart Compression Technology
Block the light and noise while flying.
Bucky Shades Sleep Mask
Certainly a better pillow than the corporate issue on the plane.
Bucky Fuzzy Wuzzy U Pillow With Snap & Go
To relax and sleep on the plane.
Organic Valerian Root 515mg - 100 - Capsule
Rolling luggage sure beats lugging a pack on your back.
Delsey Luggage Helium Fusion Light 21 Inches Expandable Carryon
Day luggage for your walkabout.
Travelpro Luggage WalkAbout LITE 4 Deluxe Tote
Here is a convenient travel purse.
Rothco Venturer Travel Portfolio Bag
An RFID blocking wallet protects your passport and credit cards from identity theft in public places.
Travelon RFID Blocking Passport Case
This portable combo door stopper and alarm will give you additional security in your hotel room.
GE 50246 Smart Home
Door Stop Alarm
A bungee cord is very handy for tying your shoulder bag to your roller bag frame.
Crawford-Lehigh 6102 Bungee Stretch Cords Assortment
Walk on cork for all day comfort.
Birkenstock Bali Sandal
Birkenstock Arizona Sandal
Just as comfortable as tennies but look great. I've gone through several pairs over the years.
For leg comfort on the plane.
Arriva Travel-Tec Travel Legwear with Smart Compression Technology
Stay trimmed and neat.
Royce Leather Ladies
Travel Kit with Shaver
Make sure that your electrical appliances are 110-220 dual voltage so they will work in Europe.
These appliances require a plug adapter(s), NOT a converter, for the countries you are visiting.
Vagabond Compact Styler
Conair's Dual-Voltage Ionic Hair Dryer
Conair Flat Iron 2" Ceramic Straightener
Travel Hair Setter
SteamFast SF-717 Home-and-Away Mini Steam Iron (dual voltage)
Braun Series 1 150 Men's Shaver with Automatic Worldwide Voltage Adjustment
For light sleepers here is an international "white noise" machine. Includes a Continental
Marsona TSCi-330 White Noise Travel Sound Conditioner For both USA and International Use
For coffee or tea in your room, without waiting or paying for room service.
Lewis N. Clark Immersion Heater 120/240V
Starbucks makes the best instant coffee I have found, and these little packets cost only 58¢ each
in the 50 unit sack. That's a bargain in the USA and an absolute steal anyplace in Europe.
Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Coffee, available in House Blend, Colombia, Italian, and Italian Decaf roasts.
Be on time. Trains and planes don't wait.
Casio Men's G-Shock Ana-Digi Chronograph Sport Watch
Casio Women's BLX100-1 Baby-G Multi-Function Digital Black Resin Sport Watch
Wash in your room basin and save time, trouble, and money.
Woolite Laundry Soap
20 packs, ¼ ounce each
Inflatable clothes hangars help with drip dry clothes washed in your room.
Inflatable Travel & Laundry Hangers Set Of 4 by Whitney Design
Keep your stuff organized.
Luggage Packing Cubes
eBags 3pc Set
eBags Small Packing Cubes - 3pc Set
This carry-on liquids kit meets TSA airline rules.
Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It Custom Travel Bottle Set
The two gallon size is excellent for packing your clothes, but it is hard to find in Europe.
2 gal. clear plastic bags
ZipLoc by SC Johnson
Much stronger than duct tape, and doesn't leave a messy residue. Fixes luggage, serves as
a clothesline, wraps your international mail packages, etc., etc.
1" x 60 yards
3M Company #8957-1
My book will get you started.
HOW TO EUROPE
by John Bermont
The best travel guide to all of Europe.
Europe on a Shoestring
The essential timetable and handbook for rail travelers.
European Rail Timetable
Two excellent maps to help you plan and execute your journey.
Rail Map Europe
Thomas Cook Rail Map
Rail Map of Britain & Ireland
Thomas Cook Rail Map
A comprehensive guide to 3,000 hotels and restaurants in 44 major cities throughout Europe, in English.
Separate books in the Michelin Red series cover individual countries in greater detail. This is a must have
for frequent travelers.
Main Cities of Europe 2013
This will come in very handy very often.
For reading maps and other stuff with fine print.
Bausch and Lomb 2X Folding Lighted Magnifier
A Swiss Army knife is probably the best traveling tool there is, but it must be
in your checked luggage on the plane.
Victorinox Swiss Army Fieldmaster Pocket Knife
Bring home the memories.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX150 18.2 MP Exmor R CMOS Digital Camera with 10x Optical Zoom and 3.0-inch LCD (Black) (2012 Model)
I just bought one of these. What a dandy of a camera! It includes HD video and a GPS so you'll
always know where you took the shot.
Panasonic Lumix ZS20 14.1 MP High Sensitivity MOS Digital Camera with 20x Optical Zoom
A camera case protects your LCD screen.
Caselogic TBC-302 Ultra Compact Camera Case
This is the camera that I use,
Nikon D60 10.2MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)
with this amazing lens,
Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR [Vibration Reduction] DX Lens
and this filter.
HOYA 72mm Circularizing Polarizing Filter
More camera options.
Canon Rebel XTi 10.1MP
Digital SLR Camera with
18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens
Olympus Evolt E500 8MP
Digital SLR with
14-45mm f/3.5-5.6 & 40-150mm f/3.5-4.5
35mm SLR Camera
Deluxe Kit with 28-90mm Lens
Canon EOS Rebel 2000 Silver Date
Sony DCR-DVD108 DVD
with 40x Optical Zoom
This is one of the handiest camera accessories I own.
Adorama SMALL 4001
Who wrote this?
Home and general index.