And I’m Leaving Some Baggage Behind
I came across a travel quote recently that encapsulates my life’s goals; “I’d rather have a passport full of stamps, than a house full of stuff.” Tbh, I did not even own a passport until six years ago having only traveled domestically. Truthfully, I was fortunate enough to be raised by parents who loaded all four of us girls in the car every summer and we went on driving trips in the U.S. Of course, and I do believe this was to keep us quiet and occupied, we were each assigned a state and decided what places we would visit in that state.
One memory stands out in my mind… I was about 10 years old and I got Virginia. All I knew was the state’s slogan at the time was “Virginia is for Lovers,” something that did not exactly resonate with a 10-year-old. I don’t recall my sisters and me being thrilled with having a homework assignment in the summer. I called the Virginia Tourism Board (pre-internet days), and they mailed me some brochures. We ended up going to many, many caverns and one naval station because that is what my dad wanted to see.
We took many driving trips throughout the east and mid-west parts of the country but I think it was the start of my love for travel. My twin sister and I would rate the bathrooms at every stop by their cleanliness and decor (there are apps for that now so perhaps we were onto something. We usually stayed at a Holiday Inn or Howard Johnsons on our driving trips. And if we were fortunate enough to go somewhere by plane, that was a special occasion. Mom would dress us up in nice outfits (all four in the same color so she would not lose us). Traveling by air was such a treat for us at that age.
Today’s Travel Experience
Today, getting to a travel destination is an exercise in patience these days and certainly not as enjoyable, but if it is a way to see the world, I am all in. In my twenties, I traveled for work and got to see even more of our country. I would try to wrap my business trips around a weekend or add on some days so I would have time to travel around and explore. And, I knew that when I became a mom, I would want to instill a love of travel in my kids.
When my daughters were young, our trips involved activities so we went to Disney, Busch Gardens, Atlantis, Paradise Island, and skiing at one of our favorite places, Park City, Utah. We also took them to New York City, Washington, D.C., and California when they were in their young teens. I had always wanted to go to Europe, having never been there before. One of the many lessons I learned from becoming a widow is life is short and tomorrows are not guaranteed. Going back to my opening quote “I’d rather have a passport full of stamps than a house full of stuff,” was how I felt. Because we moved shortly after I became a widow, I had a house full of stuff that I needed to part with but I also realized that it was time to start living out my travel dreams.
I’ve been fortunate to travel to Europe as a Mother-Daughter trip since 2015. We have created the most remarkable memories and I’d like to believe that my love of travel over things has resonated with my girls. We’ve had some amazing experiences and I feel blessed to have been afforded the opportunity to travel. I am sharing our recommendations for accommodations, places to visit, tips, foods, and more.
Pack light and minimally. You really do not want to be lugging around suitcases, even if they are on wheels. Sometimes you may be jumping around from city to city or country to country and having to put a suitcase on a train is not fun especially if it is heavy. I try to get an idea for outfits on Pinterest before leaving. It is a great way to get fashion tips where you only need a few bottoms and you can mix and match. Try the ultralight packing cubes from eBags.
Make sure your passport is up to date (with at least 6 months to spare). This should be done at the very least 3 months in advance. Passports can be obtained from the Post Office or Courthouse. In the event that you need to expedite a passport or visa renewal, try Fastport Passport. They are registered with the U.S. Department of State.
Register and enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). It is free to U.S. citizens and will give them important safety information from our Embassy and help them to contact you in the event of an emergency.
While you will want to bring some foreign currency with you (you can typically get currency for free at your bank), use a credit card that does not have any foreign transaction fees. Take a picture, and make a photocopy of the international phone number for the card (and do the same with your passport). You will want this in case the credit card is lost or stolen.
Keep either a digital or written travel journal and add notes to your google doc. I have shared a lot of my travel information with friends (and they have done the same for me). It is a great way to remember the details of each place you visited. If you keep a digital copy, not on google docs, email it to yourself in case you lose your phone. I love this journal I got for my trips.
The flight abroad is long and can get cramped. Help alleviate some of that with a good neck pillow. Ours is a memory foam Cabeau that we purchased from eBags. You can purchase neck pillows from Walmart and Target– just look for one that has a head, chin, and neck support.
Converters and Adapters – These are a must. Last year I purchased a multiple USB wall charger with interchangeable UUS/UK/EU plugs. This allowed me to plug in my phone, apple watch and use a blow dryer at the same time. You can find others on Target, Walmart, Best Buy, eBags, and Amazon or a travel store. I would strongly recommend choosing one that is not cumbersome or big. You really do not want to carry heavier items.
Make sure you have plenty of converters and chargers. Rather than carrying the big clunkier ones that come in a box, I purchased a package of adapters from Amazon. For Europe, these worked just fine.
Toiletry Bag- My daughters and I have the Vera Bradley hanging organizer but they also like to have a small one for overnight or weekend trips which will work when they just need to bring a little. I typically will buy travel-size toiletries to bring so I am not taking up too much space.
Pack a lightweight umbrella. They sell them on street corners in most places (and selfie sticks) but they are not very sturdy and break so bring your own.