Tips on Travelling Light, Solo in Europe

What to take, what to bring back, where to stay

You’re an independent traveler going solo to Europe where you want to keep your life simple. Whatever your age, make travel easy by learning from backpackers that every ounce counts. Packing mindfully applies even when you stow your things in a suitcase on wheels.

Here are a few tips from my recent one-month solo travel in Europe:

  • A wise friend told me take half as many clothes and twice as much money as you think you’ll need. It’s the “half as many clothes” part I’m focusing on. For me the minimum was three pairs of pants including the ones I wore on the plane, four tops including one with long sleeves, underwear that would dry quickly, a wool vest, a lightweight nylon parka, and a small folding umbrella besides personal items and medications. I think you get the idea. If you’re a clotheshorse, buy a special travel suit that you can have cleaned once in a while.
  • Take clothes that look all right on you but that you’d be willing to leave behind. That way you can make purchases if you want to and won’t be too brokenhearted if you sit down on a recently painted chair.
  • Wear or carry your heaviest clothes on the flight.
  • Try to keep your suitcase under 10 kilos (22 pounds) so you can carry it on. That way you avoid waits for baggage at airports. I always found someone who would put my suitcase in the overhead compartment.
  • Avoid drastic climate change that would necessitate twice as many clothes.
  • If you like swimming, take along your swimsuit and a small towel.
  • Take several lightweight gifts for any hosts you encounter along the way. All I took for my grandchildren were a small sponge basketball and two plastic spoons that the little ones started using right away. For more sophisticated folks, the same principle works.
  • Use the old trick of copying the relevant pages from a guidebook rather than carrying the whole tome. Especially with information available on the Internet, you don’t need to carry much paper. Except for Berlin (and maybe even there), good city maps and information were available at the airport. I did take a special guidebook for Lisbon, the city I visited longest.
  • Be sure you have a list of essential contact information on your travels and of folks back home. It’s prudent to also email this information to yourself in case you lose the list.
  • Pack one lightweight paperback with lots of pages for those nights when you’re tired.

What to bring back and not bring back from your solo trip:

  • I didn’t bring back photos because I didn’t take a camera, but this was a personal choice.
  • Instead, I bought postcards.
  • Some ticket stubs, museum folders, things like that because I like tangible reminders but I didn’t let myself be a paper magnet.
  • I meant to shop for a particular European CD and book I wanted. Unfortunately, I forgot.
  • I jettisoned one pair of pants and a pair of shoes I knew beforehand I would abandon by the end of the trip.
  • But maybe best of all I brought back memories of conversations with people I met traveling, both local people and other travelers.

Where to stay and how to maximize the accommodation:

  • If you’re a solitary type with a highly planned agenda hotels that suit you will be fine.
  • If you’re more gregarious, consider a hostel, whatever your age. Even if you stay in a private room, you can meet other travelers sitting around the kitchen table. Besides the camaraderie you’ll learn of sights, where to eat and where to shop.
  • Don’t be timid about asking questions at the desk at hours when the people working aren’t overloaded.

Everyone has a personal travel style. None of these ideas are right for everyone but the basic principle applies. TRAVELING LIGHT MAKES FOR TRAVEL DELIGHT.

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