And I’m Leaving Some Baggage Behind
“I’d rather have a passport full of stamps than a house full of stuff.” Tbh, I did not even own a passport until ten years ago, having only traveled domestically. I am fortunate to have parents who loved to travel. They would load all four of us girls in the car every summer, and we would go on driving trips. They would give us each a state to research. We got to pick out what places we would visit in that state. Of course, and I do believe, this was my mom’s way of giving us homework over the summer. But it instilled in me a love of travel.
Traveling As A Child
Most of our trips took place during summer or winter vacations. They involved driving throughout the United States. My twin sister and I would rate the bathrooms at every stop by their cleanliness and décor (there are apps for that now, so perhaps we were onto something). We usually stayed at a Holiday Inn or Howard Johnsons. 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 young. I had always wanted to go to Europe, having never been there before. A lesson I strongly believe is that life is short and tomorrow is not guaranteed. My opening quote, “I’d rather have a passport full of stamps than a house full of stuff,” is how I feel. We moved shortly after I became a widow. I had a house full of stuff that no one wanted. It made me realize that it was time to start living out my travel dreams.
I have been fortunate to travel to Europe on many Mother-Daughter trips since 2015. We create the most remarkable memories. I strongly believe that my love of travel over things resonates with my daughters. I am blessed to have been afforded the opportunity to travel. Here are my recommendations for accommodations, places to visit, tips, foods, and more.
Pack light and minimally. You 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). Do this at least 3 months in advance. Passports can be obtained from the Post Office or Courthouse. If 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. I also have a Global Entry card. Mind you it renews every five years, two of which were lost to the pandemic.
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 want this in case your 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. Keep a digital copy on google docs. Also, email it to yourself if you lose your phone. I love this journal I got for my trips.
Travel Accessory Must-Haves
The flight abroad is long, and you may feel it in your neck. Help alleviate some of that with a good neck pillow. You can purchase neck pillows from Walmart and Target. Just look for one with 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 simultaneously. 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 do not want to carry heavier items.
For our last overseas trip, 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 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.
Places We’ve Visited Since 2015
Much has changed both domestically and globally since the Pandemic. Some of our trips were pre-pandemic. Some were taken during the Pandemic. And some were taken in 2022. But I do share places we’ve stayed at, restaurant recommendations and activities.