So you landed in a foreign country and found your way to a hotel or an Airbnb. First off: Congratulations! That’s a big deal. Pat yourself on the back, okay?
Now it’s time to explore. I’m sure you already have a list of places you want to go, but I thought now would be a good time to talk about what to carry with you.
A lot of people forget about this part until, you know, they have to face it. So let’s talk about what’s in my day bag. This is the bag I carry with my out and about the town. This can be any kind of bag you want, with a few caveats. Here’s a quick checklist:
- Not too big and not too small: you want it large enough to carry your basics, and with a little room to spare, but not so massive you’ll hate carrying it. This bag has been my pick for the last several trips thanks to its size and versatility.
- Difficult to pickpocket. Make sure it has zippers at least. While you don’t need to seal it like a safe deposit box, you do need to make sure it’s secure enough that your important stuff would be hard to reach for a thief.
- Convenient to reach what you need quickly. While you need security, you also need convenience. You don’t want to spend 5 minutes to dig out your metro pass or your wallet when you need it.
Okay, so you have a bag. What on earth is worth putting in it? This can vary quite a bit depending on how you travel, but I thought I’d share what’s in mine to give you an idea.
- A map—yes, a paper map—of the area you’re traveling in. Trust me, when your phone battery dies, or your service disappears, you’ll be relying on this bad boy to get you from point A to B. You can get one for free at pretty much any tourist information post when you arrive; there’s usually a few at the airport. Get one and thank me later.
- A wide-angle lens that clips onto my smartphone. This isn’t necessary, but it makes for some killer travel photos with just your phone. I regularly receive compliments and/or attention from brands due to my photos. Which I took on my phone. With this clip on lens.
- A bottle of water. I typically buy a bottle past security at the airport and just keep refilling it from the tap in my apartment. (This is provided, of course, that the tap water where you are is drinkable.) Stay hydrated—I can’t say this enough.
- Snacks. These can take whatever form you want, but carry them. When you’re hungry and thirsty, you’re likely to make poor decisions. So carry something to eat and drink always. All it needs to do is hold you over until you can make it home or to a restaurant.
- Sunglasses. Just carry them. You can get a cheap pair at Target so if you lose them it’s not a big deal. Even if it’s supposed to rain, bring them. The sun will burst through the clouds eventually and you’ll be squinting with the sudden exposure to light. Protect those retinas and wear sunglasses with UV protection.
- Identification. In the EU, you’re required to carry ID on you or you could be fined. At the very least, you could get carded when you order alcohol (I have a friend who, at 30, continually got asked to prove she was at least 18). Check the laws where you’re going, and tuck your ID away in a safe place in your bag.
- Spending money for the day, obviously in the currency local to where you’re traveling. Only carry what you think you’ll need for the day, and leave the rest behind.
- A small wallet with a credit card. You know, in case you need more money than you have in cash (rare, but it sometimes happens). In a lot of places, you’ll need a zippered pouch for coins. Grab one before you go and use it.
- Essential oil (or perfume, or whatever). I carry this purely to reapply after a long day when I feel like my deodorant is beginning to struggle. Purely optional, but do what’s right for you!
- A hair tie and clips. Just in case my hair gets a little out of hand in the rain or wind. Or for any other things you can use them for. Fun fact: once the plastic hook on my bikini top snapped, and a friend I was with engineered a fix out of a hair tie and a couple hair pins. They take almost zero room; carry them.
- Tissues. Because you never know when you’ll end up in a situation where you need them. For your nose or as toilet paper or whatever.
Stuff that’s not pictured but is also important:
- A smartphone. For pictures and navigation and other information. Make sure it’s charged before you leave for the day, and set it to power-save mode before you go. It’ll last much longer.
- A metro/underground/bus pass. This purely depends on where you’re traveling, but if it helps you get around, make sure you don’t forget it. And make sure it’s topped up before you leave.
- Lip balm. Not sure why, but I find I always need this and hate myself for it when I forget it.