The Essentials You Need to Pack

The Most Essential Items You’ll Need Before Your Travels

  • Power banks
    • A small/light one that charges your phone halfway. This is for short day trips.
    • A large one that would charge your phone entirely at least 3 times. I love my EasyACC 10,000 mAh. It has 2 USB entrances so my travel buddy can recharge as well.
  • Eye mask & ear plugs
    • Perfect for long flights, sleeping at airports or hostels. Even when you have an all female dorm, there’s always a chance of having a snoring roommate or people coming in late to the dorm. An eye mask & ear plugs will become your best friend!
  • Copy of your passport
    • If you lose your passport, the copy will expedite the process of getting a new one at the embassy. Make sure you locate your embassy at every city you visit.
  • Locks
    • For your luggage and locker if you’re staying at a hostel. I tend to bring a small one and larger one since lockers are not a standard size.
  • Flip flops
    • For showering in public spaces and walking from the shower back to your room, if you’re staying at a hostel. Also, you’ll feet will need to breathe at the end of a long day of walking.
  • Microfiber towel
    • Check to see if your first destination has a Decathlon. It’s a sporting store that carries affordable and good quality microfiber towels. While in the US you find the them at any sport store or Amazon.
  • Sim card
    • If your phone coverage doesn’t cover international trips, or charges extra, for international data, you’ll need a Sim card. If traveling in Europe, a Sim card from any country should work all over the Schengen Area, but double check with the retailer when purchasing. You might have to change a setting in your cellphone, especially if it’s American, but the retailer should be able to help.
    • Most “pay-as-you-go” rates are traps. Even if you’re only traveling for 2 weeks, it tends to be cheaper to purchase service for a month since most companies have a special rate for the first month.
    • Beware of calling rates and try to stick with data. Whatsapp is the most commonly used app for texting and calling.
  • Umbrella or raincoat
    • A lot of cities have thunderstorms during the summer and plenty of rain during April. Better safe than sorry!
  • A good neck pillow that keeps your neck straight.
    • This is for long (6+ hours) flights, buses or train rides. Believe me, a crappy one will have you regretting your choice. Neck issues are no joke!
  • Power Converter
    • If traveling Europe, keep in mind that not all of Europe uses the same power entrance. So I recommend getting a Universal Wall Charger with a USB entrance. Connecting to USB directly charges your devices quicker.

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What You Need to Download Before Traveling

This app is amazing with public transport and it’s free! Start by selecting the city you’re in. For example “Madrid”.

Screenshot_20181001-1935261. Save your favorite destinations, such as “Home in Madrid”, meaning your hostel/Airbnb/Hotel…etc.  Making it easy to always head back after a few beers, wine, vermouths… whatever your heart desires.

2. Select the best route, it can be metro, bus, train or walking based on the estimated time of arrival. Press “GO” on your favorite route.

4. Citymapper works offline, so even if you lose wifi or go underground, your route will still be active in real time.

3. The app estimates arrival time of the metro, bus or train to the station. It’s impressive how accurate it is! The only downside is that it only includes major cities.
In my opinion, Citymapper is very user-friendly, but I’ll gladly go into detail with anyone that would like help figuring out the app.

Google offline map

Another option is to download Google maps offline for the city you’re visiting. This will save you data when exploring the city, as well as save you from getting lost in areas with low coverage. The map saves onto your phone and you can always delete the map when you leave the city to make space for other city maps, as well as the many pictures and videos I’m sure you’ll be taking when exploring a new city.

  • Below is a tacky step-by-step slideshow demonstration of how to download Google offline maps.

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Moovit is similar to Citymapper but it has more destinations in their data. Downside is, it’s not as user friendly as Citymapper and in my opinion, Citymapper has more accurate data from the few locations it has info on.

How to Prepare for Your Trip

  • Create a document with your itinerary, mainly all your flights and lodging info. I like Google sheets where I create tabs for each city. Online options are the best so you’re info is available from anywhere. Also, don’t forget to include the location of the embassy for emergencies.
  • Research transportation to and from airport/station beforehand. Figure out if there’s uber in that city and what an estimated rate can be so you can haggle with the taxi drivers. You can also save screenshots from Google maps to your Gooogle spreadsheet, if you’re taking public transport.
  • Add links for free walking tours. Include meeting points for these tours, which tend to be centric. This is a good way to figure how far or near your lodging is from the city center.
  • With money, expect the unexpected.
    • Get a card (debit or credit) that will not charge you foreign fees and use it whenever. If possible, bring 2 cards with you in case you lose one of them. If you need cash, atms give you a better rate than exchange places. You can also ask tour guides for their recommendations on exchange places.
  • Saving time at the airport
    • If you’re flying and want to save time, avoid checking in your luggage. This means you can only carry one Ziploc bag worth of liquids.
    • Your water bottle needs to be empty, your toiletry bag, laptops or tablets must be handy since you’ll need to take them out of your suitcase (unless you’re pre-check TSA and traveling in the US)
    • Minimize your liquids. There are some products you can avoid using in liquid form.
      • Use stick deodorant
      • There is also stick sunblock
      • Soap. I know a bar of soap is bulky and messy so you can try the “soap sheets”. 
      • Dry shampoo. If you’re itinerary looks anything like mine, you’ll barely have time to get dolled up every morning. So when I don’t have time to wash my hair or there’s no avaiable hair dryer ,I use a powder dry shampoo (remember, you can’t take aerosol sprays in a carry on). Take into account that if the weather is hot, you might want to wear a hat when walking around in the sun all day. And if it’s rainy and cold, beanies and hoodies are your best friends.

I know all of this looks like a lot, but believe me, all these things will make your life easier when hopping around different cities or even countries. Remember to pack light so you have space for souvenirs and you’re not feeling like “El Pipila” (Mexican reference, see below. Make the most out of your trip, it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Even when times get hard, enjoy the moment and BE PRESENT! Follow me on Instagram @joyzcortez to get updates and tips on my trips.

El Pipila

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