Travel essentials? Oops.
There was no greater feeling than arriving in Italy for the first time. I was visiting the small city of Como, which lies on the southwest branch of Lago di Como, or Lake Como. The lake, located in Northern Italy’s Lombardy region neighboring the southern border of Switzerland, is known for its glittering scenery, breathtaking villas, and magnificent views of the Alps.
As the bus rolled into the Como San Giovanni train station, I imagined glistening boats nestled along the shoreline, gelato carts on every corner, and outdoor terraces filled with people and aperitivo. But, as I snapped out of my daydream, I noticed the faint teardrops sprinkling the bus window.
It was raining.
I was wearing beige linen pants with a hemline that was just a bit too long. I had my mother’s vintage black cashmere sweater that I hardly ever washed because I was afraid of getting it wet. I didn’t have an umbrella or a rain jacket, and as I stood under the roof of the train station dumbfounded, it got me thinking of all the times I’ve arrived in a place missing the not-so-obvious travel essentials.
I walked into the train station kiosk and bought an umbrella for five euros. As I left the train station and walked onwards toward my AirBNB, looking down at my exceedingly wet and dirty linen hemline, I made a mental checklist for my travel essentials list.
Top 10 Travel Essentials Under $100
1. Adapter / Converter
I would dare say this is one of the first, if not the top, listed items you’ll find on anyone’s list of packing essentials for Europe, or any out-of-country destination. Be sure to research your destination and determine which converter works best for your trip. The High-Quality AC Power Travel Adapter ($25.00) is suitable for most European countries, except for Italy, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. It has dual ports so you can charge two devices at the same time. The input on the front of the plug will accept two-prong polarized U.S. plugs and three-prong grounded U.S. plugs, as well as standard plugs for Europe, the U.K., Australia, and India.
2. Portable Charger
I’ve said “I’m so happy I have this” at least once on every trip I’ve taken. Portable chargers are convenient and often help avoid logistical errors that can momentarily derail your exploration. I like to have chargers that hold multiple charges in case I forget to recharge it after a single use. But, for traveling purposes, the smaller the better. Fortunately, there are a lot of options.
If you’re more concerned with size and keeping it small, the Anker PowerCore 5000 ($20.00) is ideal. Anker is one of the most reliable portable charger companies in America. The Anker PowerCore can easily fit into your pants pocket and will charge your phone fully with a little bit of juice to spare.
For more power, you can check out the Anker PowerCore II 20000 ($60.00) which, at full charge, will juice an iPhone 8 up to six times.
3. Passport Pouch
As someone who loses her valuables on a far too regular basis, having a home for my passport is really important. Whether the passport pouch acts as your entire wallet throughout your trip, or it is simply a passport cover, having a distinguishable place to put your passport after each use will help reduce the chances of loss.
Before I left for Switzerland, my partner bought me a passport wallet from Crusoe World ($75.00).
The wallets are 100% leather and wear with use, meaning the more you travel, the more “age” your passport wallet will have. I love that concept.
4. Rain Jacket
I learned this one in Lago di Como. Finding a cheap umbrella on the fly isn’t so difficult, but it isn’t as easy to come across a high-quality rain jacket that you’re willing to spend some money on. A lightweight rain jacket is one of the best transitional travel items because it can protect you from the wind and the sun as well as the rain.
I love this Eddie Bauer packable jacket for $70.00. It’s a classic fit, designed to fit over midweight layers. You can also try this Columbia Watertight II jacket for $60.00. Stuff it in its own hand pocket for easy storage.
5. Comfortable Walking Shoes
I hardly expect you to be indoors all day while you’re exploring a new city. A solid pair of walking shoes make a world of a difference when you find yourself galavanting from coffee shops to boutique stores to lakeside promenades. I like to combine style and comfort and find a pair of shoes that meet my aesthetic but keep me on my feet all day.
Check out the Superga 2750 COTU Classic Sneaker in white for $65.00. I love white sneakers because it’s a classic look that can effortlessly pair with a floral dress or a pair of blue jeans. Another option is these Navy Slub Cotton Cabrillo Sneakers by TOMS for $75.00. The shoe was inspired by athletic-wear trends, with a sporty and simple vibe. A bonus: with every pair of shoes you purchase, TOMS will give a new pair of shoes to a child in need.
6. Quick-dry Towel
Quick-dry towels are great because they are packable and, true to their name, dry quickly. These are ideal to have on hand in case you want to go for an impromptu swim in Lake Zurich or lie out beneath the Eiffel Tower with a bottle of red wine and baked brie. You can pick from a variety of colors and sizes here. Prices range from $7.00 – $16.00.
7. Water Bottle
A water bottle is essential for a few reasons: it keeps you hydrated, it saves you money, and it helps the environment. Most places in Europe have drinkable tap water that is easily accessible. Whether you’re out walking through the old city streets of Spain, hiking up the Swiss Alps, or riding through wine vineyards in France, you’ll need water.
8. Moisturizer with SPF
It’s important to protect your skin when you’re outside and exposed to the sun. It’s especially important to protect your face since it tends to be more susceptible. I like to pack a face moisturizer with substantial SPF because of its dual purpose.
My favorite right now is the OLAY Complete Daily Defense All Day Moisturizer SPF 30 ($25.00). It’s currently recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation for its long-lasting hydration and protection for sensitive skin.
9. Travel Day Pack
Wandering the cobblestone alleyways of Granada with a stylish satchel may be the aesthetic you’re looking for. But the chances that of fitting everything you’ll need for a full day’s excursion into a small handbag are not always probable. Even more so, backpacks tend to be more comfortable and distribute the weight of your sac more evenly than a shoulder bag or purse.
Look at Everlane and their Modern Snap backpack ($80.00) for a chic, stylish option.
For a more adventurous, sporty vibe, Matador has a Freerain24 Backpack that is a light, packable pack for $60.00. It also features a fully waterproof main component.
10. Pimsleur Language Lessons
Last and certainly not least in your Top 10 Travel Essentials list, are quality language lessons empowering you to communicate in the local language. The Pimsleur Premium mobile learning app makes learning on the go easy and accessible right on your phone.