What to take

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

Into the suitcase . . .
To wash or not to wash . . . deciding if you will be doing any sort of laundry makes determining what to pack easier. In some countries it’s very inexpensive to have your laundry done; in other countries, it’s not. If you are going to do hand washing, you’ll only need clothing for a few days, but be aware that your things may not dry as quickly as you expect. I have what is classified as ‘field trip underwear’; these are undies and socks that need to be thrown away. Each day I jettison pairs of each, leaving some extra space in my suitcase. I also have some shirts that, once washed, dry quickly and with few wrinkles.

The clothes you take depend on what you plan to do (well, duh). When I travel primarily for business and education I have a couple of pairs of dress pants and a nice cardigan or jacket. These, good looking, black, walking shoes and a bazillion nice t-shirts will take me anywhere I need to go and to any evening activities that are not formal. A beaded shirt and shoes with higher heels with the same dress pants take care of formal evening events.

If my trip is strictly for sight-seeing, then my wardrobe is only slightly different. I include a couple of pairs of nice jeans and only one pair of dress pants; unless I know for sure that I’m going somewhere formal I don’t bring heels or bling. Depending on the weather, I may throw in some fleece and an extra pair of walking shoes, particularly if I know that the places I’m going to visit could be wet or muddy.

Visiting religious sites may require specific clothing. In many cases you must have your head, shoulders and knees covered. Throw in a scarf that can double as a shawl, wear long pants and you’re good to go. In some instances you’ll be asked to wear a specific article of clothing, but these are usually provided. Some religious sites require that you remove your shoes, and may provide a bag for you to carry them along with you.

Before you leave, make sure that you know what is and is not permissible to wear in public places. For instance, having a bare midriff in Muslim countries is offensive. In many parts of Italy you can be practically nude on the beach, but must be covered from neck to knees when your foot hits the sidewalk.

A word about shoes: if you can’t walk 5 miles in them without sitting and/or your feet hurting, don’t take them traveling. In many places, sidewalks are nonexistent, so flip flops, open-toed sandals and the like are actually dangerous. In other locales, sanitation isn’t the best, making closed shoes a must. Make sure that you walk in the shoes you’re going to take before you leave on your trip.

Depending on the weather, you may need a hat, sunglasses and/or a raincoat with a hood. I always opt for ‘cheap and cheerful’ rather than expensive accessories. If any of these items are lost, I can always replace them in whatever place I’m visiting with no regrets ~ and perhaps a nice souvenir from my trip. If it’s cold, remember, layers, layers, layers.

While everyone knows to take their prescription drugs, there are a few other things you might want to bring. In foreign countries talking with a pharmacist may be problematic if there is a language barrier. A first aid kit and over-the-counter allergy/cold medication may make the difference between being miserable and being able to do everything you want to do.

You hope you’ll never need it, but copies of official paperwork can ease your mind. A copy of your passport, driver’s license, insurance cards, prescriptions, lost credit card phone numbers, and so forth buried in your packed underwear and for sure left with someone at home is a smart move.

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