Getting caught in rainstorms with just a cotton jacket: 4 simple tips on how to choose what to pack for your upcoming travels

I think all of my fellow travelers out there can probably say that they’ve struggled at one time or another knowing exactly what to pack when traveling to a particular destination. I know that I definitely have. Though you can scour different blogs and Pinterest for ideas of what you should bring (I know that I definitely do. The resources are endless.), I’m here to approach it a little differently. Everyone has their own style and not everyone’s travel experience is the same. So, I think it’s primarily important to focus on how to go about choosing what to pack rather than only on what to pack, specifically packing light into one carry-on and a purse, because who doesn’t like to travel light? Not only does it save you money on flights with budget airlines like EasyJet, Ryanair, and Aer Lingus, but it also saves your back and your feet from extreme discomfort!

Most of these tips I learned along the way in my own travels due to messes that I got into during my travels. Basically, these are the things that I learned after struggling through some sort of discomfort.

1. Look at the weather of your destination!

This is the absolute best tip that I feel that I can give you out of this list. There is nothing like being caught in a rainstorm wearing your cotton, lightweight jacket that you’ve had since you were 18 was completely soaked through within two minutes. (guilty!) Do your research about what the climate is generally like in your destination before you go. Does it rain most of the time? Is it generally hotter or colder? Should you expect a lot of wind?

In addition to that, a week before you go, check the weather for the specific days that you will be there. Though weather is crazy and can change even within the same day, a week ahead will at least give you a good idea of what you should expect. I personally love to use http://www.weather.com. You can look at the weather for the day of, 5 days ahead, 10 days ahead, and even a month ahead (though honestly looking a month ahead is unwise as it is very likely to change). It also tells you whether it’s sunny/cloudy/windy, what the levels of humidity are like, the likelihood of precipitation, and the exact temperature with and without wind in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. I absolutely love it because 45 degrees Fahrenheit with sunshine feels completely different than 45 degrees Fahrenheit with cloud cover.

2. Consider the activities that you are participating in during your travels!

Having to end up hiking in your thick soled, doc martins because you forgot to bring your tennis shoes can end up causing you to have extreme blisters on all areas of your feet and heals, making the rest of your trip quite uncomfortable. (Again, quite guilty!) Go through your itinerary and make a list of things that you expect to do while you are traveling. Do you plan to go camping or hiking? Do you plan to go out to clubs, bars, and restaurants many times as well? Do you plan to walk most of the time instead of taking public transport? Do you plan to go to museums or art galleries?

You’re going to really want to know that you are well covered  with all the potential things that might come up so that you don’t get stuck hiking in a pair of thick, not made for hiking boots!

3. Think comfort, think versatility.

While you’re traveling, you are going to be away from all the comforts of home, obviously, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still be comfortable. You are going to want to pack items that will keep you rather comfortable during your travels, as well as items that are multi-functional. Do you really want to bring that sequined top that’s a bit scratchy just because it looks super hot on you and you might go out to a club? I’d advise you to not, instead bring a top that you find comfortable to wear, that you can either dress down for walking around the city during the day or that you can dress up with a cute necklace for going out to bars and clubs. Then not only will you be comfortable, but you will also be versatile, saving yourself from having to pack two separate tops for two separate occasions.

Also, when thinking about what activities you’ll be doing, think about what items of clothing will make you feel the most comfortable in those situations but also look appropriate. For example, if you know you are going to go hiking, pack of pair of tennis shoes that you can also use for walking around the city during the day, so as to avoid getting blisters. I like to pack some yoga pants that will be comfortable to hike in but that can be dressed up with a cute tee and a cute cardigan with my boots for casual wear while I’m walking about the city. For museums and art galleries during my travels, I really like to pack one pair of nice but comfortable jeans and a cute top that can be easily transferable to going out at night. Again, think comfort, think versatility.

Don’t just consider clothing when considering comfort though. I advise thinking about packing things in case discomfort does occur. For example, I like to pack bandages (for in case my heals get blistered), chapstick (due to chapped lips from wind and cold), and advil (for in case you get headaches from dehydration). Also, consider packing a travel blanket and a travel pillow. You never know when you are going to have to sleep on a plane, train, bus, or in any stations or airports.

4. Expect the unexpected! 

I live by one golden rule while traveling: never be without a clean pair of underwear! I always pack extras just in case. Getting a little personal here, as a woman, I really don’t want a little friend creeping up on me while on my travels, because even though my cycles are quite regular and even though I can usually plan around them, sometimes stress from traveling, slight change in diet, change in environment, and traveling with other women can change them. So, it’s best to pack extra under things just in case. In addition to that, it’s good to pack a few feminine hygiene products as well, you know, just in case (Don’t, however, pack an entire box. That’s just a waste of space. Plus, if you get really desperate for space, all women in all countries go through the same thing. So, feminine hygiene products should be available for purchase no matter where you are).

This bit of advice doesn’t just apply to woman though. Men should follow this advice, too, just as much as woman should. Who knows? You might get caught in a rainstorm and have all of your clothes get soaked. You might fall into a mud puddle while hiking. You might have your flight home canceled, leaving you in your destination with the clothes you have on you. Though most people can stand to wear the same jeans and shirt a couple days in a row, I doubt most people like to wear the same under clothes for an extended period of time (Am I right?!).

Even though the weather says that it’s suppose to be sunny 100% of the time, bring that small umbrella anyways. You just never know when the skies are going to open up on you.

I like to bring a small notebook and a pen with me at all times. You never know when your phone is going to die on you, leaving you without data and having to jot down notes of directions real quick from a local. Perhaps, you even run across some people that suggest a fantastic place to eat, you don’t want to be without a way of remembering the name and/or the address! We can’t be 100% reliant on technology, because we all know that batteries run out and sometimes technology breaks for no apparent reason.

I also always make sure to pack at least one hat if there is any possibility at all of chilly weather, even if it’s as small as a one percent chance (pretty much from the months of September to May). As someone that is quite petite, I do tend to get cold easily, so I don’t want to leave myself without some way of warming up. Plus, hats are generally small pieces of clothing that you can roll into a tight ball so that it doesn’t take up too much space in your pack.

 

With every new travelling experience, something new gets added to the list or something gets taken off the list before my next trip. Don’t make the same mistakes that I’ve made. Plan ahead and do your research!

I hope this is helpful for all of you fellow travelers out there!

Do you have any other tips on how to go about choosing what to pack on your travels? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Until the next time…

A plus mes amis….

 

 

 

Choose experiences, not things: 6 tips on how to remember your adventures on the cheap

I’m poor most of the time, being an English language assistant in France does not pay that great. However, it does pay enough for me to take advantage of my vacation time by traveling as much as I can, if I remain on a budget. Many people, especially friends and family back home, wonder how I’m able to travel as much as I do with my measly little income. One of the ways that I achieve this is by choosing to pay for experiences, rather than things, meaning that the souvenirs that I choose to keep while traveling cost me little to nothing because I spend most of my money experiencing things rather than buying things. Here are ways in which you can personally save money on remembering your awesome adventures while traveling.

1. Keep a travel journal! 

So maybe you aren’t really the writing type. Maybe the thought of writing makes you cringe, bringing back memories of school essays. I totally get that, but hear me out. You don’t have to be a writer, a good writer no less, to keep a travel journal. Though the initial expense of a journal can cost you anywhere between $8 – $20, I can confidently say that it is well worth it and will save you money in the long run. Keeping a journal while you are traveling, to write down your thoughts about the things you’ve seen, done, and experienced, the awkward situations you encountered while trying to communicate with someone who speaks a different language, memories of you getting lost in an unknown city, how impressed you were by the local cuisine or architecture, is the best way, in my opinion, to preserve the experiences that you have. You don’t need a small key chain or plastic miniature to remind you of the experience you had while visiting the Eiffel Tower. Write about your experience instead! Even doodle in your journal as well, even if you aren’t very good at drawing, to capture how things appear to you (or just for funzies, really). A travel journal is for you, for your thoughts and experiences. If you are really shy about the idea, no one even has to see what you write about. Plus, writing is a great way to really process what you’ve experienced.

2. Make it a point to collect maps in all the cities that you’ve visited! 

Collecting maps is one way in which I preserve the memories that I’ve made. Most city maps are FREE or cheap if you go to the visitor center and ask for one. Not only are they great for navigating your way around the city while you’re exploring, especially for saving yourself from using too much of your phone data, but they are also great for two other things: circling all of the monuments, buildings, landmarks, museums, restaurants, etc. that you’ve visited as well as for seeing what all else there is to see in the city that you didn’t know about before. After you use it, you can then put it in a picture frame or only cut out the part of the city that you spent most of your time in and preserve it in a scrapbook, in your travel journal, or a shadow box! That way you can always look back at it and remember the different parts of the city that you saw!

3. Keep ticket stubs and restaurant receipts! 

Now most people throw away their ticket stubs or their restaurant receipts, seeing them as having no value after the experience. I say, keep them! Keep them to remember your experience there. If you choose to pay to see a museum, a monument, an art show, an old building, etc., then you’ve already paid enough and shouldn’t buy extra souvenirs to remember the occasion. Just keep that little piece of paper that was FREE with your entrance. There’s no need to spend extra money for a book that you might possibly never read or a plastic trinket that will just collect dust on your bookshelf anyways. With restaurants, you have to eat, right? So, might as well keep the receipt to remember the experience you had trying Paella in Barcelona for the first time! You can put these in your travel journal or keep them to put in a scrapbook or a shadow box later. Plus, these little pieces of paper save lots of space, which is especially important if you are only traveling with one backpack.

4. Take pictures! 

Most people these days have either a camera or a smart phone. It is 2016 after all, right? Well, you are going to probably take pictures anyways, might as well be intentional with your pictures. Instead of taking snapshots of every little thing, take pictures of things that really surprise you or shock you, of places where you had a fantastic meal, a building where you learned about the history of the city you’ve been in, architecture that is different than anything you’ve ever seen before, with people that you’ve met along the way on your travels. You’re probably going to take pictures and put them on your Instagram or your Facebook anyways, might as well use them to remember your travels. Then, later, you can choose a few of the more important ones to print and put either in your travel journal, a scrapbook, or a shadow box.

BUT, If you must spend some money….

5. Spend money on useful things!

For example, when I was in Sevilla, Spain, my boots were rubbing my heels raw, so I decided to invest in a new pair of flats. Not only did I need these flats to make the rest of my travels more comfortable, but I now have a pair of shoes that say ”Made in Spain” on the bottom. Now, every time I wear them, I’ll remember my travels in Sevilla. (Plus, the yearly sales were going on, so I got them for only 10€.)

Another example, I was quite chilly in Madrid, Spain, so I went to a souvenir shop and bought a 5€ blanket scarf. Not only do I have constant scarf envy (I’ll admit, I have an obsession), but it also helped to keep me warm. So from now on, for only 5€, I can keep myself warm in future cold or chilly weather and simultaneously remember my adventures in Madrid!

Spend your money on things that you will use often, and it’s even better if you don’t spend too much money on them to begin with.

6. Lastly, if you must absolutely buy at least a couple of true souvenirs, go for the postcard!

The postcard is a classic. Firstly, most postcards are super cheap, the max that I’ve seen being about 1€ to 1.50€. So, they are a great way to remember specific places that you really enjoyed because they are professionally taken photos. This is especially great if you aren’t the greatest picture taker or don’t have a very good camera/phone. In addition to that, you can use them to write to someone you love about your travels, that way you can always remember the time you had when you go to visit that person. OR, you can do what I do and just keep them for yourself. OR, even better, buy two from the same city so that you can send one to someone you love AND keep one for yourself. They are usually less than 1€ after all.

 

These are just some of the ways that I remember my travels on the cheap. This is one of the ways that I achieve traveling on a small budget. I choose to pay for experiences rather than for things.

To all my fellow travelers out there, what are some ways that you preserve memories from travels on the cheap? I’d love to hear your thoughts!