what does a male travel professional pack?
Rick’s Packing List (click here to see his womens’ list)
[NOTE: square backets & italics = comment from me, the kiwi travel writer]
Shirts. Bring up to five short-sleeved or long-sleeved shirts in a cotton/polyester blend. Arrange mix according to season.
Sweater or Lightweight Fleece. Warm and dark is best — for layering and dressing up. Dark colors don’t show wrinkles or stains.
Pants. Bring two pairs: one lightweight cotton and another super-lightweight for hot and muggy big cities and churches with modest dress codes. Jeans can be too hot for summer travel. Linen is great. Many like lightweight pants/shorts with zip-off legs. Button-down wallet pockets are safest (though still not as thief-proof as a money belt, described below).
Shorts. Take a pair with pockets — doubles as a swimsuit for men.
Swimsuit. Especially for women.
Underwear and socks. Bring five sets (lighter dries quicker). [ I suggest 3]
One pair of shoes. Take a well-used, light, and cool pair, with Vibram-type soles and good traction. My wife and I like shoes by Ecco. Sturdy, low-profile tennis shoes with a good tread are fine, too. (Some people bring along an extra pair of sandals in case the shoes get wet.) For winter travel, bring heavy shoes (for warmth and to stay dry).
Jacket. Bring a light and water-resistant windbreaker that has a hood. Gore-Tex is good if you expect rain. For summer travel, I wing it without rain gear — but always pack for rain in Britain and Ireland.
Tie or scarf. For instant respectability, bring anything lightweight that can break the monotony and make you look snazzy.
*Money belt. This hidden pouch — strapped around your waist and tucked under your clothes — is essential for the peace of mind it brings. You could lose everything except your money belt, and the trip could still go on. Lightweight and low-profile beige is best. [I rarely use one]
Money. Bring your preferred mix of a credit card, a debit card, and an emergency stash of hard cash. I rely on a debit card for ATM withdrawals, a credit card, and several hundred dollars in cash as a backup.
Documents and photocopies. Bring your passport, plane ticket (or e-ticket printout), railpass or car-rental voucher, driver’s license, student ID, hostel card, and so on. Photocopies and a couple of passport-type photos can help you get replacements more quickly if the originals are lost or stolen. Carry photocopies separately in your luggage and keep the originals in your money belt. In your luggage, you’ll also want to pack a careful record of all reservations (bring the hotels’ written confirmations), along with a trip calendar page to keep things up-to-date as your trip evolves.
*Small daypack. This is great for carrying your sweater, camera, literature, and picnic goodies while you leave your large bag at the hotel or train station. Fanny packs (small bags with thief-friendly zippers on a belt) are a popular alternative, but are magnets for pickpockets and should never be used as money belts.
Camera. A digital camera and a high-capacity memory card mean no more bulky bags of film. A mini-tripod allows you to take crisp shots in low light with no flash.
Water bottle. The plastic half-liter mineral water bottles sold throughout Europe are reusable and work great. If you bring one from home, make sure it’s empty before you go through airport security.
Wristwatch. A built-in alarm is handy. Otherwise, pack a small *travel alarm clock. Cheap-hotel wake-up calls are particularly unreliable.
Earplugs. If night noises bother you, you’ll love a good set of expandable foam plugs.
First-aid kit. [absolute minimun of items]
Medicine and vitamins. Keep medicine in original containers, if possible, with legible prescriptions.
Eyeglasses, contact lenses, and prescriptions. Contact solutions are widely available in Europe, but because of dust and smog, many travelers find their contacts aren’t as comfortable in Europe. I wear my glasses, and I don’t pack a spare pair, but I do bring a photocopy of my prescription just in case.
Sunscreen and sunglasses. Depending on the season and your destination.
*Toiletries kit. Sinks in cheap hotels come with meager countertop space and anonymous hairs. If you have a nylon toiletries kit that can hang on a hook or a towel bar, this is no problem. Put all squeeze bottles in sealable plastic baggies, since pressure changes in flight can cause even good bottles to leak. (If you plan to carry on your bag, all liquids, gels, and aerosols must be in three-ounce or smaller containers, and all of these items must fit within a single, quart-size sealable plastic baggie.) Consider a vacation from cosmetics. Bring a little toilet paper or tissue packets (sold at all newsstands in Europe). Fingernail clippers and tweezers are also handy.
Sealable plastic baggies. Get a variety of sizes. In addition to holding your carry-on liquids, they’re ideal for packing leftover picnic food, containing wetness, and bagging potential leaks before they happen. The two-gallon jumbo size is handy for packing clothing. Bring extras for the flight home, as they can be hard to find in Europe.
*Soap. Not all hotels provide soap. A plastic squeeze bottle of concentrated, multipurpose, biodegradable liquid soap is handy for laundry and more. In the interest of traveling friendlier to our environment, I never use the hotel bathroom “itsy-bitsies,” preferring my own bar of soap or bottle of shampoo.
*Clothesline. Hang it up in your hotel room to dry your clothes. The handy twisted-rubber type needs no clothespins.
*Small towel. You’ll find bath towels at all fancy and moderately priced hotels, and most cheap ones. Although $50-a-day travelers will often need to bring their own towel, $100-a-day folks won’t. I bring a thin hand towel for the occasional need. Washcloths are rare in Europe. While I don’t use them, many travelers recommend *quick-drying synthetic towels.
Sewing kit. Clothes age rapidly while traveling. Take along a few safety pins and buttons.
*Travel information. Rip out appropriate chapters from guidebooks and staple them together. When you’re done, give them away. [ yes great idea that i do too]
*Map. Get a map best suited to your trip’s overall needs, then pick up maps for specific local areas as you go.
Address list. To keep in touch, many travelers write blogs or send mass emails as they travel. But if you prefer to mail postcards, consider printing your mail list onto a sheet of adhesive address labels before you leave. You’ll know exactly who you’ve written to, and the labels will be perfectly legible.
Postcards from home and photos of your family. A small collection of show-and-tell pictures is always a great conversation piece with Europeans you meet.
Small notepad and pen. A tiny notepad in your back pocket is a great organizer, reminder, and communication aid (for sale in European stationery stores).
*Journal. An empty book to be filled with the experiences of your trip will be your most treasured souvenir. Attach a photocopied calendar page of your itinerary. Use a hardbound type designed to last a lifetime, rather than a spiral notebook. My custom-designed Rick Steves Travel Journals are rugged, simple blank books that come in two sizes. Another great brand, with an almost cult following among travel writers, is Moleskine (also available at my Travel Store).
*Picnic supplies. Bring or buy a small tablecloth to give your meal some extra class (and to wipe the knife on), salt and pepper, a cup, a *spoon, a washcloth (to dampen and store in a baggie for cleaning up), and a Swiss Army–type knife with a corkscrew and can opener (or buy the knife in Europe if you want to carry your luggage on the plane). A plastic plate is handy for picnic dinners in your hotel room.
*Packing cubes. These see-through, zip-up mesh containers keep your clothes tightly packed and well-organized.
*Clothes compressor. This handy invention — I like the one by Pack-Mate — allows you to pack bulky clothes (such as sweaters and jackets) without taking up too much space or creating wrinkles. Simply put the item in the bag, roll it up to force the air out through the one-way nozzles, and pack it away.
Shirt-folding board. Eagle Creek‘s Pack-It Folder is a lightweight mesh container that comes with a thin board specially designed to fold and carry shirts with minimal wrinkling.[ I ca'nt ever see me using one of these]
Small packet of tissue. Stick one of these — sold at newsstands and pharmacies throughout Europe — in your daypack, in case you wind up at a bathroom with no toilet paper.
Nightshirt. Especially for women.
Light warm-up suit. Use for pajamas, evening lounge outfit, instant modest street wear, smuggling things, and “going” down the hall. [never]
Spot remover. Bring Shout wipes or a dab of Goop grease remover in a small plastic container. [Never]
Sandals or flip-flops.
Slippers. On winter trips, I bring comfy slippers with leather bottoms — great for the flight and for getting cozy in my hotel room. [never]
Pillowcase. It’s cleaner and possibly more comfortable to stuff your own. [silk is best]
Hair drier. People with long or thick hair appreciate a travel hair drier in the off-season, when hair takes a long time to dry and it’s cold outside. These are generally provided in $100-plus hotel rooms. [never]
*Hostel sheet. Bring one along (choose silk or cotton), or rent a sheet at hostels for about $4 per stay. It doubles as a beach or picnic blanket, comes in handy on overnight train rides, shields you from dirty blankets in mountain huts, and will save you money in other dorm-type accommodations. [my purple & pink tie-dyed sleeping bag liner has been a skirt in Asia, a scarf in NY and warmth on many a bus or train]
*Tiny lock. Use it to lock your backpack zippers shut. Note that if you check your bag on a flight, the lock may be broken to allow the bag to be inspected. Improve the odds of your lock’s survival by buying one approved by the TSA (Transportation Security Administration, the agency responsible for airport security). While you’ll unlock the TSA-approved lock with a combination, security agents can open the lock without damaging it by using a special master key.
*Small flashlight. Handy for reading under the sheets after “lights out” in the hostel, late-night trips down the hall, exploring castle dungeons, and hypnotizing street thieves. Tiny-but-powerful LED flashlights — about the size of your little finger — are extremely bright, compact, and lightweight.
MP3/video player, CD player, or radio. Partners can bring a Y-jack for two sets of earphones. Some travelers use digital recorders to capture pipe organs, tours, or journal entries. A small, portable radio adds a new dimension to your experience.
*Adapters. Electrical plugs.
Stronger light bulbs. You can buy these in Europe to give your cheap hotel room more brightness than the 40-watt norm. [never]
Office supplies. Bring paper, an envelope of envelopes, and some sticky notes (such as Post-Its) to keep your place in your guidebook. [i use a plane orbus ticket]
Small roll of duct tape. [never]
Mailing tube. Great for art lovers, this protects the posters and prints you buy along your trip. You can trim it to fit inside your backpack (though this obviously limits the dimensions of the posters you can carry). [never]
A good paperback. There’s plenty of empty time on a trip to either be bored or enjoy some good reading. If you’re desperate, popular English-language paperbacks are often available in European airports and major train stations (usually for far more than their North American price).
Insect repellent. Especially for France and Italy.[Asia]
*Collapsible umbrella. I like one that’s small and compact, but still sturdy and well-constructed enough to withstand strong winds.
*Poncho. Hard-core vagabonds use a poncho — more versatile than a tarp — as protection in a rainstorm, a ground cloth for sleeping, or a beach or picnic blanket.
Gifts. Local hosts appreciate small souvenirs from your hometown (gourmet candy or crafts). Local kids love T-shirts and small toys.