I think I’m a pretty savvy traveler.
I’ve traveled around the US quite a bit (35 states to be exact), typically one trip per month, so I’ve got my system down. I use the same gear every time – hardside carry-on bag, backpack as my personal item, small cross body bag that I can stuff into my backpack in order to carry everything on. Same packing method every time.
However, when I was prepping for Europe I talked to a few people and read some travel blogs and started to feel like the travel gear I often used domestically was now insufficient.
- My backpack was too large. I read and re-read and re-re-read the carry on requirements for Norwegian Airlines and after measuring my backpack at least 3 times I determined there was no way it would qualify as my personal item if I carried on my hard side suitcase. (Which, it should be noted, I did not carry on, because it was too heavy to meet the weight requirements. I would not realize this was a problem until literally the last second once I had shoved everything in).
- I did not have a secure way to carry my things around. It was suggested that I needed a money belt. And RFID blocking things to preserve and protect my credit cards, passport and other information that could be stolen. (More on this later)
While I plan to do a post and video about how I packed for a two week trip using just a carry-on suitcase and tote bag, this post is to tell you about the products I feel I wasted my money on, and hopefully save you from doing the same.
#1: Money Belt
Several blogs recommend that you keep your non-essential valuables in a money belt which is to be worn under your clothes. I fell for it and bought one. I packed it but never used it. Here’s why.
- In whichever country you’re in, the actual residents of that country are walking around, all day, with normal purses and backpacks. But there you are, lifting your shirt up to get out a credit card. Hmmm, who do you think is going to be the target in this scenario? I deduced that if locals could carry a purse around all day without issue, so could I. I have always believed that your best defense against potential trouble is to try and blend in.
- I had packed a couple of dresses and a romper, rendering the money belt completely useless on the days I would wear these articles of clothing.
#2: Waterproof fanny pack
This seemed like a very good idea. I would be going to the beach and wouldn’t want to leave my phone or hotel key unattended while I swam. (Which the travel blogs scold against pretty severely). So I ordered a triple seal, water tight fanny pack-type pouch that I could wear while I was swimming or otherwise away from my beach chair.
I never needed it.
The first time I went to the beach (in Nice) it was a semi-private beach that required admission and was fairly well-monitored by wait staff. Everyone there seemed to be fine just tucking their things under their chairs. Also, I was in my chair the entire day except for the one time that I tried to swim unsuccessfully (which you can read about here, if you need a good laugh).
The second time I went to the beach (in Monterosso) I was presented with a chair that was literally right at the edge of the water, allowing me the opportunity to easily monitor my belongings while being in the water. This beach also required a paid admission, providing a different and somewhat more secure experience than just being on a public beach.
That being said, I think if you were going to be on a straight-up public beach the waterproof fanny pack could be useful. I just didn’t find a need for it on this trip.
#3: RFID blocking wallet
What first sucked me into these wallets is that they looked super slick but also there were like 25 colors to choose from, and they were pretty affordable (like $14). It had plenty of pockets to hold your passport, cash, a zipper pouch for coins, and some slots for cards while still maintaining a sleek profile.
The problem I ran into was that it was too large to fit into the crossbody bag that I had planned to carry daily on the trip. Which also had an RFID blocking zipped pocket inside. So really the only time I used the wallet was getting from the US to Paris, and then it became useless. I ended up stashing my cash and card inside the pocket of the small bag and that worked just fine.
Can we talk about RFID blocking for a second? This is apparently an unnecessary obsession.
Think about it. Can you imagine thieves or pickpockets walking around with these scanners that are supposed to be able to steal your information, approaching your backside and trying to scan your butt without getting caught? It sounds silly to me too.
So I did some digging and found a really good article that explains why RFID blocking wallets are “security snake oil.” Apparently the simplest thing you can do if you’re concerned about your data being stolen is to wrap your cards in a sheet of aluminum foil.
But I fell for it. And I carried a theft-resistant purse everywhere I went on my trip. It had straps that could not be cut, an RFID blocking pocket inside, and the material itself was slash proof. Yep, I totally fell for all of the security threats. But it was a durable, inconspicuous bag and it served my purposes perfectly. (I will explain more about what prompted my perceived need for an anti-theft bag in a future post).
#4: Trtl Pillow
I got sucked into a Facebook ad for the Trtl Pillow, which was highly rated on Amazon and is supposed to be this revolutionary pillow. I disagree. For one, it takes up about 3 times the amount of space as my normal inflatable travel pillow because it’s padded and has this plastic spine running through it which gives it support during use. I tried to use it a couple times but found that because of this bony structure it is not as comfortable as I hoped. The plastic structure was either digging into my shoulder or into my chin. I could not get comfortable. Perhaps some of you have had a better experience with this product? Or maybe I’m doing it wrong. Anyways, $30 not well spent.
It’s fun to have new gear when you travel, but there are definitely items that are unnecessary. Very soon I will be posting about how I packed for this two-week adventure and tell you about my travel necessities – so stay tuned!