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My trip’s not over yet, I know, but as I look back and realize I’ve been on the road now for more than 6 months, I can’t but help give myself a pat on the back for my packing job. *Pats self on back.*I’ve made it through summer, fall (real fall!), winter and will be starting spring by the time I get back to the good ole US of A. Through hiking in the hot Mediterranean and the Highlands, last-minute travel planning, and my first white Christmas, some of my stuff has really made the travel grade.

Here are the 7 things I’m glad I packed for my extended trip to Europe.

My comfy black yoga pants

  These were a Christmas gift a few years ago from my parents. Mine happen to be by GapBody (something like this), but I’m pretty sure any black dance pants with cotton-y, stretchy goodness would have been swell.

Not only have they proven great for actual yoga and dance, they’re also good for layering under a short dress in chillier climes or more traditional cultures, perfect for lounging around the house/apartment/hostel/farm/commune, and also function as my cold-weather PJ bottoms! The black color helps with their versatility, too!

Lowa Trailrunners 

I went through quite a process to find the perfect shoes to bring on this trip.

I knew I’d be hiking in many types of weather, and doing a lot of regular walking. I didn’t want super chunky boots for packing reasons. I went to my favorite outdoor store in Tucson, Summit Hut, no fewer than three times to find the best shoe. I even bought a pair and tried them out at home for a day; when they weren’t quite right, the kind folks at Summit Hut let me return them.

The ones I finally ended up deciding on (shout out to Jess for her patience and GREAT recommendation!) were Lowa S-Curve Mesh WS.

My Lowas even ran in Olympic Stadium. Bamf!

Although they’re not waterproof, they dried very quickly so even hiking on the rainy Isle of Skye was no problemo. They got me half-way up (and down) Mount Olympus, and despite all their wear are still as comfy as ever. Because of the mesh, they’re also really easy to pack into my suitcase, and have excellent traction for all kinds of terrain. Win!

Moleskine Notebook

I begin each long trip with a blank Moleskine. I love Moleskines because of their size–they fit into the pocket of my jeans comfortably, into my purse (which isn’t very big), have a little pocket in the back, a handy bookmark string, and stay closed. I use it for storing important information like flight times and confirmation codes, directions to hostels, names and addresses of the many new friends I make as a traveler, all that jazz.

It’s great to have even if you have a smartphone because guess what: sometimes, the batteries in those suckers die, or you forget to charge them and then you’re stuck somewhere without the essential info you might need.

Also, I’m one of those people who likes writing things down in long-hand–always have been. To top it off, I’m a writer! Story ideas, article pitches and character sketches have all gone into my little notebooks over the years, and I don’t have to turn them off during take-off and landing (which also helps when I’ve got travel jitters).

After I got through my first Moleskine of 2012 sometime in August, though, I found it hard to justify paying the high price for a dinky notebook when there were similarly crafted knock-offs to be bought. In Turkey, I found Keskin Color notebooks, which have a line that are the same size, have the same little pocket and essentially offer what I like about a Moleskine, only for a LOT less!

My Moleskine on top, with its fellow Keskin Color buddies.

Universal Travel Adapter-Converter

This gadget is less useful if you’re sticking to one power zone, but even in Europe Ive relied on my plug adapter/converter. Don’t forget, the UK uses different plugs than the rest of Europe! The one I have is by Accord and I can’t seem to find it online specifically, but I’ve heard great things about the Conair Travel Smart Adapter.

It charges everything: my computer, my Kindle, my camera battery, my Droid, and I don’t have to worry about carting around multiple plugs or converters. In the era of “flashpacking,” we need to pay tribute to our tech, and this is an essential, hassle free accessory!

Columbia Sportswear Interchange Jacket

This jacket has been featured in too many photos to post. And here’s a big confession: 

I have owned and worn this jacket since I was 11 years old and I took my first class trip to Colorado.

Again, I remember my mother and I going to Summit Hut (clearly I’ve been a loyal lifelong customer), and along with the first pair of proper hiking boots that I wore for 14 years and only recently replaced, we bought the Bugaboo Interchange Jacket. 

Since that purchase, this jacket has seen numerous sledding adventures on Mount Lemmon, the rains of Ireland and Scotland, kept me toasty on a freezing day in Amsterdam and even took a tour of Maddame Tussaud’s. What? It was cold that day!

7 Things I'm Glad I Packed
That’s right. The Abridged Adventures of Bugaboo Jacket, by Sara Button.

Just like any practical travel gear, I love this jacket because it’s versatile. 

 It can be a fleece jacket, just a windbreaker, or it can zip into itself and be both. When I first packed it back in July, I wondered whether I’d ever use it–after all, at that point I wasn’t entirely sure what my itinerary would be for the winter, and I didn’t realize just how important it would be to have in Scotland! I’m glad I had the foresight–and packing skillz–to fit it in. It’s not the most stylish garment in my wardrobe, but it has been one of the most useful!

Pacsafe RFID Blocking Wallet

The most important possession I have on any trip is my passport. I have been lucky is that I haven’t been mugged or pickpocketed on any of my travels *knock on virtual wood* and I’d like to keep it that way. When I found out that scams were developing that enabled thieves to “scan” your passport/credit cards/anything with an RFID chip, I definitely was interested in protecting myself from identity theft.

Not only does this wallet prevent that, it’s super durable--I don’t take good care of my wallets, just ask any of my friends who can testify to my George Costanza-like size and treatment of the last wallet I had, which was another middle school purchase. This Pacsafe wallet has stood up to the many currencies, credit cards and tidbits that I tend to stick into my wallet. 

Kindle

One of my favorite smells in the world is that of a used book store or old library. There’s some sort of romance in the musk that accompanies yellowed pages and flecked black type. But on the road, books take up a lot of real estate, which is worth a lot in my bag. Now that there are approximately 7 zillion types of Kindle, Ill tell you which one I have, and why I made sure to buy the exact same kind when my first one broke due to water spillage. RIP, Sara’s Kindle. 

The Kindle Keyboard 3G is my e-reader of choice. Keep in mind that I was a Kindle user pre-Fire, pre-touchscreen, so it’s possible that the new Kindle Paperwhite 3G could be just as handy.  

For travelers, I recommend the Kindle with 3G because you can access the internet for free anywhere with a modicum of 3G service.This is particularly useful for those of us who don’t pay for an international data plan. There have been times when there’s no wifi available, I have no credit on my cell phone and I really need to get ahold of someone or let my family know I’m alive. 

To clarify, I haven’t used a Nook or any other kind of e-reader; perhaps they’re great. But I’ve been really satisfied with the selection of books and games on my Kindle, as well as the customer service Amazon provides

Keep in mind: Kindles are NOT water proof. I highly recommend buying a case, sleeve or cover of some sort. My boyfriend is obsessed with the Belkin sleeve he has for his Kindle, and I will sadly admit that if I had had a sleeve on my Kindle when water spilled in my backpack, I wouldn’t have had to replace it. 

What are you glad to have had on a trip? Share in the comments! 

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