10. A good bag
Buy a bag you are happy with. Something you can carry up the stairs of a three story hostel in London or walk across cobblestone in Italy. I met many girls on my trip with massive bags who complained about how difficult it was to carry them in subways and up stairs; and these were backpacks! Look at the reviews, try find recommendations from people who have done the trip you’re doing. I bought a backpack after I noticed one of the reviews talking about how well it lasted on their 3 month trip to Europe; perfect!
9. A reusable shopping bag
The amount of times I ended up carrying breakable, hole filled plastic bags from random grocery stores is astounding. I would always go and buy some bread and basics before any trips on a train or bus and then carry them simply because it meant super easy access on a possibly crowded train/bus. Having a small carry bag/ reusable shopping bag is also great for going between climates and needing to take off jumpers or put them on. You can also use this on the way home as a second carry-on for the plane if you have bought a bit too much!
8. A quick dry towel – a big one!
It’s always exciting when your hostel rents out towels cheap but occasionally they just won’t have them, or they will be an exorbitant price. Solution: bring your own! But bringing a big fluffy towel is not good when you only have limited space. The quick dry towel works great and folds into a tiny packet – like this one! Buy one that is large, especially if you are female/ have long hair.
7. A Powerboard
Buy one before you leave home. There are many hostels across Europe that have one socket for a room of 8 to 20 people. If you have a small powerboard you will be the King/Queen of the room, and I am dead serious about that. It’s also very useful when stopping in cafes so you can quickly charge, your phone/ table/ electronic devices all at once. Just don’t forget the adapter! P.S. Europe, Switzerland and England each have different plugs
6. A comfortable neck pillow
I constantly asked myself whether I should get a neck pillow, but by the time I realised I should, I just didn’t have the money to get a good one. Having one is the difference between sleeping and not sleeping on that 20 hour bus to Amsterdam. If you’re smart you can grab one with a clip that is easily attached to your backpack until you need to use it.
5. Washing Powder
This is a bit of a hit or miss. Something that is essential in some places and unnecessary in others. In an Italian hostel I was told they would have no washing powder that day and to please come back tomorrow. In London it was included in the price of using the machine. It is a good idea to put a bit in a little Ziploc bag and then chuck it in with your toiletries. This can be great when you realise you have no undies and need to wash them ASAP. Sinks are your friends.
4. Flip flops/ thongs
I’m Australian so I’m going to call them thongs and everyone can just deal. These are ESSENTIAL. Each hostel shower has had thousands upon thousands of people in there, you have no clue what could be in those drains. You do not want to spent precious money on going to a doctor for a fungal infection (ick).
3. A good camera lens!
I’m a (amateur) photographer so having good camera equipment with me is a must. I bought along two lenses that were great at close range and with people but not fabulous for the intricate details of European architecture. It is a good idea to have a capable lens with a wide focal length range, for example 50-200mm. Going with cheaper, less well-known brands (Pentax, Tamron, etc.) is a great way to save money; just make sure to look at reviews on the internet!
2. Emergency Money
Keep some money separate, either in a compartment in your valuables and/or online in an account you can easily access. There may be a time that you desperately need cash because something has gone horribly wrong. An overbooked hostel, a lost visa, a missed plane; all can be solved if you just keep enough emergency cash to deal with them.
1. A Lock!!!
I’ve heard a lot of stories about people who have had stuff stolen in hostel dorms. Well, in three months backpacking Europe I didn’t have a single thing stolen. I bought a trusty lock when I started in Chicago and it lasted me until I unlocked my locker on my final day in London. It is not about locking your whole bag away in the lockers; what is important is putting every item of value that you own into that locker in your room. If the hostel doesn’t supply one ask if they have secure places at reception to leave a laptop or passport when you go out.