Most Useless Pre-Trip Purchase

Old Feb 1st, 2002, 11:26 AM
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Most Useless Pre-Trip Purchase

Hi Fodorites,

I am going to England in March, and I see so many suggestions of what to buy specially for a trip - alarm clocks, rain ponchos, money belts, neck pillows, luggage locks, special quickdrying clothes, etc. What do you think is a waste of money? Obviously a lot of companies are interested in making us think these things are all essentials!

So far I have considered the following as essentials, but I don't want to buy too much more:

wheeled backpack
good loafers
long underwear
Pack-It compressor
money belt
laundry kit
alarm clock

Am I ready to stop spending?


Old Feb 1st, 2002, 11:28 AM
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The pack it compressor is not needed. I paid so much for mine and after a few times of being rolled to squeeze out the air, they acquired little holes and the air seeped in anyway. Maybe just freezer weight zip lock bags would be better, I have used them and they are fine.
Old Feb 1st, 2002, 11:35 AM
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The last thing I want to hear on my vacation is an alarm clock! I bought a money belt for my husband and he never used it. We got money from the ATM as we went and he put his wallet in his front pocket.

I also don't worry about laundry. No one knows you anyway so don't worry if you smell a little. I also bought cheap undies and threw them away as I went so I had more room for souvenirs.

Be sure and take two pairs of shoes so you can switch off.
Old Feb 1st, 2002, 11:37 AM
Nan Again
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As to laundry kit: you can use your shampoo or the shampoo provided by hotels for washing out clothes, and just have inflatable hangers to dry out items, they let the air circulate and they dry fast. That is all you really need laundry-wise.
Old Feb 1st, 2002, 11:39 AM
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I agree the pack-it compressor is unnecessary. The freezer-weight gallon size ziplock bags worked great for me. Just fill them up, zip almost closed, press your knee or elbow on the bag to whoosh the air out and zip closed. They are great for organizing outfits, keeping dirty clothes separate from clean ones, etc.

I found a money belt to be cumbersome and unnecessary. I wouldn't use one here in San Francisco, why need one in London? If you plan to use your Visa card for most large purchases (best exchange rate) and just get cash from the ATM for walking around money, you won't have much cash to carry anyway. I did always keep my passport and airline tickets on me, but in my daypack, strapped to the front of me when in crowded situations, like the tube, seemed safe enough. I'm sure you'll get differing opinions here.

I also think a poncho is silly. You are going to England, you'll bring your raincoat, right? And a small foldup umbrella. You don't want to look like a dork with a wrinkled plastic raincoat draped over you.

I've also found a travel hair dryer to be unnecessary. All the hotels I've stayed in in Europe have had them available. Have fun!
Old Feb 1st, 2002, 11:49 AM
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I'm not sure what a laundry kit would entail, but you can use shampoo to wash out stuff, hang it over the tub or shower to dry; you can buy laundry detergent everywhere, and there are self-serve laundromats in the cities and larger towns.

Unless you plan to tromp the Highlands, long underwear would probably be better left home. Tights or pantyhose should do the trick, and you can wear them with a skirt and not look like a dufus.

Good loafers? I'm assuming you mean a pair of comfortable walking shoes; if not, do.

Old Feb 1st, 2002, 11:50 AM
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No need for inflatable hangers . . . just take along a few balloons, they take up no room, and when inflated, will help your clothes dry faster, works like a charm.

And, I don't travel anyplace (abroad or in US) without my Eagle Creek nylon hidden pocket (see People who carry their money, credit cards, passport, tickets in their purse or wallet are just asking for trouble. The hidden pocket hangs from your belt on the inside of your pants and is a more convenient and comfortable version of the unpopular money belt that goes around one's waist.

And . . . I can't travel without my earplugs!

Happy travels,
Old Feb 1st, 2002, 11:53 AM
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What a good idea, Sandy. Balloons, who would have thought! Do you hang your clothes on something and stick balloons
inside them? Then leave them for the maids? :^)
Old Feb 1st, 2002, 12:08 PM
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Good heavens, Julie, if you listen to everybody, you'll end up spending your whole travel budget on stuff! In my 30 years of traveling, I have never used any of the things in your list, so I guess I think all of it is a waste of money.

Wheeled backpacks are too heavy to be good as backpacks and too small to be good as wheeled luggage. Get a good model of whichever you'll really use. Or better yet, borrow one.

Loafers aren't sturdy enough for most vacations, even if you're just marching around museums or shopping all day. Pavement, especially cobblestones, requires thick, bouncy soles.

What's in a "laundry kit" besides a tiny bottle of detergent and maybe a piece of string to hang things on?

If you don't wear a money belt at home, you don't need one in England either.

Where do you think you'll be staying that you'll need to provide your own clock? Based on my experience, unless you're camping or staying at the Howard Johnson's in Kent, Ohio, you should be ok without packing one.

England in March doesn't warrant long undies unless you've been living in a tropical climate for several years. Even so, just another layer will be fine, and easier to shed if you find yourself in an overheated musem exhibit. England isn't the North Pole!

If you can't create a temporary neck-pillow out of a rolled-up blanket or sweater, I feel sorry for you! This is the type of item that some people swear by, but which IMHO really fills up a suitcase unnecessarily.

Chances are that you don't need to buy quick-drying clothes. Just don't bring any heavy cottons. Synthetic sweaters are warmer and lighter than cotton, anyway; if you don't already own a dark-colored lightweight acrylic sweater, you have my permission to get one.

There! I think I've just saved you a bundle, so you can stay in England a day or two longer!
Old Feb 1st, 2002, 12:14 PM
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I try to get balloons that are rather small or those long skinny ones. You just blow them up, tie them off, hang up your blouse on a hanger and put the balloons inside, the skinny ones work great for pants legs and sleeves. All you want to do is keep something between the front/back to let the air circulate. It does cut the drying time 'way down.

I think I got this tip from a Fodorite on this board last year!

Old Feb 1st, 2002, 12:27 PM
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Re: "you don't use a money belt/pouch at home, why use it on vacation.

At home, I'm not carrying my passport, and a stolen credit card is only SLIGHTLY inconvienient. Plus, I'm not distracted by the unknown surroundings.
Old Feb 1st, 2002, 12:32 PM
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Julie--I've never taken any of the items you mention. What I can't live without is my hygiene product organizer (mine's from LL Bean, although others make them), earplugs for the plane, those small, oil-absorbing papers for your face (great for feeling a little cleaner0.
Old Feb 1st, 2002, 12:40 PM
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I arranged to have my bathing suit tailored and sent to me in Guadeloupe, FWI, unaware a postal strike was planned. As back-up, I purchased black dye for a pair of white shorts, to swim in ... forgetting of course about the chlorene in pools. Ciao
Old Feb 1st, 2002, 12:43 PM
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A number of years ago I went to Radio Shack and paid about $100 for a small currency converter that could be programmed to convert a number of currencies. (Of course these things are really cheap now, but not then.)
When we arrived in Europe we discovered it wouldn't work -- tried a new battery and it was totally useless. We were in Europe for four months and when I got home I immediately took it to Radio Shack for a refund. They wouldn't do anything about it because it was more than six weeks (or some similar time frame) old. So it was a total waste of $100. Later it finally occurred to me that all you'd need to do is use any basic little calculator and multiply any figure by a simple number that you had to look up and program anyway, so in retrospect I have no idea what I was thinking when I bought the stupid thing. It was also the last time I've been inside a Radio Shack. Even though I explained there was no way to return it since I was in Europe all that time, and I still had my receipt, there was nothing they would do about it.
Old Feb 1st, 2002, 01:04 PM
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Let me tell you a story. I graduated college five years ago and took off for Europe with three friends for 6 weeks. What preceeded my trip was a massive preparation that included a $400 backpack, rain gear, "travel clothes" that are quick dry as you mentioned, and several more items that I felt were necessary. The total amount spent exceeded $800 (including some new shoes). Not to mention a ton of other stuff that I brought, that I already owned. I think my backpack wieghed 35 lbs. full! Two weeks into my trip, my pocket was picked, which included my locker ticket at the train station, which enclosed my backpack. I put it there so that it would be safe and ready for me to take on the train the next morning. Essentailly, I lost everything, except my money belt which had my credit cards, plane tickets, and passport. My camera was also on my person, thank God. After a day of shock and despair, I decided that I would be ok - and realized quickly that I was MUCH happier without all the stuff. I traveled lighter, happier, less concerned about material goods, and with more energy to enjoy the sights. I bought toiletries and some clothes, but not many, just to get by and it was a terrific way to travel. I learned more about the culture buying these items than I did touring churches and cathedrals. Essentially, I would be very careful not to overpack, you don't need nearly as much as you think you do. Luckily, my renter's insurance covered my goods in full when I got home, for which I was VERY thankful.
Old Feb 1st, 2002, 01:19 PM
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Can you tell everyone has his special need?

I hate the money belt or money pocket, but I use it; it's not about the money or the credit card--it's about a stolen passport that can be used by a terrorist or that can fund a terrorist organization. If there's a room safe, I get rid of it; if not, I wear the thing.

After years of European hotel rooms, I am finally a convert to ear plugs. I find I am much more relaxed about the hotel/city because I know I'm going to sleep!

Pack-it compressor is a waste--freezer bags are our life. Heck, pack a dozen of them.

I disagree with posters on the long underwear because I use silk (not the bulky) underwear constantly. England and Ireland in general have required this extra layer, and I need it when we're walking the Seine in Paris. It takes up no room on your body or in your luggage and it breathes even better than a pair of stockings. You don't feel sweaty in this fabric. Sometimes in very changeable weather (like March!) I can throw the top and/or bottom in my daypack to avoid having to return to the hotel room. For the same reason, I like to toss a 99c rain poncho in the back on a sunny day. However, for March I always have a little umbrella in my suitcase.

I do carry the inflatable hanger (liked the balloon idea, Sandy) and the little clothesline, but only when we're on Backroads-type hiking/biking trips. Our clothes are dripping with sweat then and we have no allotted time for an hour or two at the laundromat. I use a baggie of powdered Tide then--we need a heavy-duty, get-the-mud-out type stuff.

However, unless you're planning to hike, don't worry about it. Shampoo is great. Pack your oldest underwear and throw it away as you go.

I don't know why you're carrying a wheeled backpack, though. Would have to know more about your trip, I suppose.

Alarm clock? Never use one until the last day--and then...have had the power go out (in the US), have had many a late wake-up call, etc. that could have spelled disaster for making the plane back.

I don't use luggage locks or neck pillows. Because of allergies, I do bring an allergy cover for the pillow(but that's just me).

Old Feb 1st, 2002, 01:27 PM
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"Waste of money" is like "worth it?" questions, it's in the eye of the beholder, or the check-writer. No one is wrong, everyone is right for him/herself.

I too am a no-security-wallet, no-money belt person, never have been, if anyone feels better with one it's fine with me.Maybe those of us who live in big cities are more likely to feel we don't need them, but maybe that's a generalization that isn't always true.
I use my carry-on totebag as my daily handbag, it is lightweight nylon, black,
has internal zippered compartments and enough room for my guide book, map, bottle of water, and everything else I'm lugging around that day. I pack a small clutch bag for evenings when I want to look and feel less loaded down.
I don't carry my passport every day, I leave it in my hotel room safe along with my extra credit card and my plane ticket. I carry with me daily the xeroxed picture page of my passport, to show to stores if I'm trying to qualify for a VAT refund. The photocopy will also come in handy should my passport become lost for some reason.
I too use shampoo for hand laundry, or else I bring a couple of little packets of woolite--each is enough for one sinkful.
I do carry a travel alarm if I think my hotel or B&B won't have a clock and I use it for back up anyway on urgent wake-up calls, because I've almost missed a couple of planes in my life due to failed wake-up calls.
I use regular jumbo baggies for "compression", as mentioned above. I can't say if it works as well, but it works well enough for me.
Long underwear--do you mean woolies?
I do pack ultra thin silk ski underwear, sink washable, tops only. For bottoms I do what elvira does and wear pantyhose or tights.
Old Feb 1st, 2002, 02:05 PM
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I wouldn't trade any bag for my old Eagle Creek wheeled backpack. Rolls most places, but when you get into the stairs/train aisles/flooded walkways in Venice situation, it's got an abundance of ways to be carried. Beyond that I've always figured I could buy whatever I really needed.
re: currency converters - does everybody use one? I just divide in my head. Maybe I should be more careful with my $$$?
Old Feb 1st, 2002, 02:39 PM
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Thanks for all the great replies. I know this will help me pare down my purchases! I can clarify a bit, too, about some of the things on my list:

wheeled backpack - actually, I already bought this, and it seems very cool because it has a detachable daypack as part of it

loafers - I found some Easy Spirits with comfy rubber soles for $30; maybe I should have said walking shoes

long underwear - not woolies or Grandpa-type long underwear!; I just meant lightweight silk stuff (and actually, I *am* from a subtropical climate and absolutely hate to be cold)

laundry kit - its a few packets of Woolite with a clothesline and sink stopper; using shampoo instead is a great idea!

alarm clock - we have some early trains to catch to get to some appointments but maybe this isn't necessary; I was thinking some rural B&Bs might not have alarm clocks in the room...

Thanks to everyone who's replied so far! I'll print this out and reread it when I feel myself being seduced by an unnecessary travel gadget!
Old Feb 1st, 2002, 02:50 PM
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Preparing for my last trip to Paris I purchased a collapsible cup. What on earth was I thinking? Boy Scouts? Where did I think I was going? Those travel/luggage shops can be dangerous to the wallet.
Julie; Long underwear? Don't bother. If necessary, in England, you can find really nice wool/cashmere tights and silk undershirts. But I doubt you will need either in March. Also,I take a very small little plastic bottle of concentrated soap (like shaklee basic h) for washing stuff out. But the shampoo idea is even better. Sometimes you might need the money belt if you are not using the hotel safe and they don't take up much room in your luggage. But in England, unless things have really changed since last I was there, I don't think you'll need it. Just take the same precautions you would at home. Good shoes are the most important thing on your list. At least have one pair that you have tried out and you know will be comfortable for long days of walking.

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