On a three-week trip to Europe in April 2019, my husband and I took only one carry-on and one personal item each.
What will you need in your personal item bag for the airplane ride and for sightseeing three weeks in Europe?
I’m going to share with you travelling essentials and tips when it comes to the personal item bag.
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Helpful drop-down menus for travel packing…
- Toiletries – click here for video
- Dental floss
- Face wipes
- Liquids bag provided by airport
- Ziploc bags
- Plastic bags
- Double-walled water bottle
- Chewing gum
- Lens wipes
- Eye mask
- Ear plugs
- Medicines (for consideration): Gravol, Immodium, Advil, Birth control, Prescribed diarrhea medicine
- Cough drops
- RFID paper passport holder / Passport RFID sleeve
- Marriage certificate
- Credit card insurance coverage travelling abroad information
- Health insurance coverage travelling abroad information
- Trip itinerary
- Print outs of train tickets or museum admission tickets
- Liquid / Disposable cloth hand sanitizers
- Lip balm
- Sunglasses case
- Foldable bag
- Extra toilet paper
- Extra underwear and socks
- USB cable
- USB-C cable
- Charged external battery
- Phone / electronic device plugs
- International plug adapter
- Sticky notes
- Blue / black / red pens
- Sharpie pen
- Cable for lock
- Elastic hair bands
- LED light
- RFID waist pouch
- Euro notes and coins
- Waterproof and windproof jacket
- Long sleeve shawl
- Comfy shirt
- Comfy pants with pockets
- Shoes that have been broken into and are comfortable walking in
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We purchased these products ourselves and are not sponsored by anyone:
→ Personal item travel backpack 13″ or 15″ (Shown in this video)
→ International Travel plug adapter (2 USB, 1 USB-C)
→ International Travel plug adapter (3 USB, 2 USB-C)
Similar products to what we used (Better):
Choosing the personal item bag
I would recommend to pick a personal item bag that preferably meets these criteria:
Meets air carrier dimension restrictions
The strictest restrictions we needed to comply with out of the three air carriers we went with, which were Air Canada, Air France, and Lufthansa was maximum size 40 X 30 X 15 cm OR 16 x 12 x 6 in (Air carrier: Air France).
Make yourself a difficult target to steal from. Choose a bag that doesn’t have exterior pockets easily accessible to others. Have concealed pockets or compartments close to your body. If you do have external pockets with zippers on them, put a lock on the zippers to decrease chances of pickpocketing.
Multi-functional such as having additional things like…
A reflective sticker on it so you can be seen at night.
A USB outlet to charge your electronic devices (you’ll just need an external battery connected to it).
Has straps that allow you to easily attach the personal item bag onto your carry-on so that you can roll it together rather than carry it on your back.
Well designed shoulder straps
Lots of padding on the back of the bag and / or shoulders.
Thick shoulder straps that hug your shoulders comfortably.
It can rain at any time and we experienced this the most in Amsterdam, Netherlands, so have something that is waterproof.
Check out this video for information on choosing a travel backpack!
Below is the backpack featured in this blog!
Airplane and sightseeing essentials
Whether you are at the airport, at the security gate, in the airplane or on tour, it’s important to have easy access to items you need in your personal item bag. Everything else is usually locked up in your carry-on which is either inconvenient to open or left at your accommodations while you are out and about.
Passport in a waterproof bag – as it’s an electronic device and must be kept dry. I also purchased an RFID paper passport holder, which will protect my passport information from being electronically stolen from high tech thieves.
Marriage certificate, if you’re married and want to have it just in case as proof.
Credit card and health insurance coverage information for travelling abroad.
Extra official identification (I.D.) like your driver’s license.
Money – in this case Euro notes and coins.
Itinerary for your trip and any tickets you printed out for train rides or museum admissions. I put all these documents in some sort of plastic bag to prevent them from getting wet.
Pickpocket safe items
Waist pouch with RFID protection that you can wear 80% of the time under your clothes, especially if you want to carry your passport, credit cards and money on you.
I say 80% of the time because there will be times where you will go into a museum, palace, or historical site where they will make you go through security and a metal detector and wearing this can be a hassle because:
- You have to remove it and then put it back on, as it will set off the security alarm when you pass the metal detector
- You have to watch it as it goes through the conveyor belt at security to make sure you catch it at the other end of the conveyor belt as someone could steal it
- If this was the case, if you have a backpack or bag with you I recommend putting the waist pouch in it as you go through security as you will have to put your backpack or bag onto the conveyor belt
Ladies, putting some cash and paper photocopies of your passport and credit and bank / debit cards in your bra. It’s up to you whether or not you want to do this as I know it can make things uncomfortable and your bra will feel bulky. This is just another extra precaution to protect yourself from theft and for emergency purposes if you need extra cash or if you lose your passport. I had these items on me whenever we left our accommodations to go sightseeing.
Lock and cable just in case if you’re out in the public with all your luggage you can lock it OR if you’re on the train and you need to put your luggage quite a way from your seat, you can lock it as well.
Don’t forget plane rides can be cold. Make sure to layer up your clothes to stay warm and make sure it is a bit loose fitting so you can be comfortable on the plane when you’re sleeping. I have a loose mid-length shirt and comfortable pants with lots of pockets. I have a water and wind resistant jacket. I’m wearing a long sleeve shawl to keep me warm on the plane as well.
Pack extra underwear and socks, just in case you lose your carry-on or checked-in luggage.
Don’t forget air carriers have liquid restrictions. Therefore, when travelling by plane my toiletries bag that has all my liquids will be carried in my personal item bag for easy access when going through security, as they tend to ask for these items to be displayed outside the bag. Especially when you’re only bringing one carry-on and one personal item.
Don’t forget to bring pads, dental floss, face wipes to clean your face and keep it fresh when you’re on the plane.
Check out this video on toiletry packing!
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Electronic devices and accessories
Keep electronic devices and accessories organized in a bag, so you don’t have to go shuffling through your bag for what you need.
A fully charged external battery pack as some airplanes don’t have free electrical outlets.
Headphones – on the airplanes you could pay for headphones. If you’re touring a museum and you need to get an audio set to listen to during the tour, sometimes they don’t provide you headphones and its way more convenient if you can use your own. Plus you will probably own better quality ones. For example, we experienced this at the Anne Frank museum. Luckily we brought our own headphones as I would hate to have to hold the audio device to my ear the whole time I’m walking around in the museum.
Micro-USB and USB-C cables
Purchase here using our affiliate link:
This international plug adapter also has two USB outlets and one USB-C outlet in addition to the plug adapter at the very front. This feature came in very handy for our trip as all our devices plugged into these three USB outlets.
Bring an international plug adapter for electronic devices as the electrical outlets in Europe are shaped differently than North America. Note that adapters do not convert the voltages, they only adapt for the different plug types. So you need to make sure the devices you plug into these are compatible with the voltage system of the outlet. Most device USB chargers support both 110 and 220 volt systems, you just have to check for the supported Input Voltage, as seen below.
If your device is not compatible then you will need a voltage converter if you plan on using it. In that case you will also have to make sure it can supply enough power for what you plan on using it for.
It’s rare to find a hotel or AirBnB that has an outlet that both adapts and converts the plug type and voltage to North American standards. You would be lucky to find one of these so bring your own international plug adapter and voltage converter for convenience.
Food and snacks
Bring food / snacks you like as sometimes plane rides may not have what you want. Also when you go sightseeing a light snack won’t hurt to keep your energy levels going as you walk to your next tourist site.
Double-walled water bottle & Water
A double-walled water bottle is the most underrated item to bring. These dual walled bottles keep your water cold for those hot days or alternatively can keep your water warm/hot for those cold days. I love this water bottle (featured on the left) as it doesn’t condensate outside, is cool to the touch and it keeps my water cold / hot for at least a day.
Always have water on you when on the airplane or sightseeing. On the plane they may not give you enough water to drink and during sightseeing if you get thirsty you have some handy on you.
O.k. reality check – airplanes are dirty. Make sure to bring liquid or cloth hand sanitizers to keep your hands clean and to keep the area you’re sitting in clean. Did you know the water in airplane washrooms is non-potable, that is it is not that clean and is not safe to drink? Your hands are also not that clean after washing in non-potable water.
My husband and I always sanitize the arm rests, tray table, buckles and head rests before getting comfortable in our seats on the airplane. We also like to sanitize any surface area, items, TV remotes, phones and light switches we will use at our hotel or Air BnB accommodations.
Not recommendations just reminders of what to think about for medications to bring: Prescribed diarrhea medicine (luckily never had to use these), Gravol for motion sickness, which I’m prone to, advil for aches and pains, birth control (if you need it ladies), and cough drops.
Roasted green tea, chewing gum, and lens wipes for my eyeglasses.
Bring an eye mask to save your eyes from the dry air on the plane when sleeping and to block out light. I like these ones as the mask concaves in, so it isn’t pressing against and putting pressure on your eyes, which can make you feel uncomfortable.
Ear plugs to drown out noise while you’re sleeping or if you don’t want any noise. It is amazing how much noise can be heard on an airplane.
Extra plastic bags
Bring extra plastic bags for souvenirs, keeping documents from getting wet, extra plastic for your liquids or if you need to vomit on the plane. I mainly used these to put items that I didn’t want getting wet or to keep my purchases and my euro coins organized in one bag. Also I brought a big plastic bag to put my personal item bag in, so it doesn’t get dirty when I put it under the seat in front of me. Think about it for a second and you’ll realize plane floors are nasty. Washrooms in planes are dirty, where do you think everyone’s shoes walk on after going to the washroom?
Sunglasses and sunglasses case, foldable bag if you need to purchase souvenirs or groceries and the vendor doesn’t provide bags or provides bags at a fee, and extra toilet paper roll in case there’s no toilet paper in the washroom.
Bandages, lip balm, tissues, and a mirror and comb.
Sticky notes, different coloured pens, and a sharpie for labelling things. Write your name, address, and phone number on a sticky note and put it in your personal item bag just in case it gets lost.
An LED light in case you need to see in someplace dark or there’s a power outage, extra batteries for the LED light, and elastic hair bands.