7 Essential Items You Never Thought to Pack

Today marks Harry Houdini’s 137th birthday and Google honors the magic man with a very cool Google Doodle.  Coincidentally, our superstar Online Marketing Specialist Del celebrates her birthday today as well!  You may know her from our Facebook and Twitter pages, so send her a shout-out or leave us a message! Happy birthday Del!

Yesterday’s Daily Post asked, “What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?” It got us thinking – what about ways to avoid some big risks?  In the spirit of Houdini, a man whose name comes up in daily jargon to mean ‘getting out of a tough situation,’ we’ve compiled a list of 7 essential items you should consider packing so you don’t find yourself in a bind.  If you’re prepping for your vacation, keep these in mind!

Contact information in your luggage

Waiting at the baggage claim area can be a pain, and what makes it worse is that cute, stylish suitcase you bought to set yourself apart happens to be the same exact suitcase that someone else brought as well.  Never fear, you have a luggage tag! Oh wait…it broke off.  Hmm… which suitcase is yours?  Tuck away a tiny piece of paper inside your luggage with your contact details (First name, last initial, mailing address or phone number), in the event that your luggage gets lost, mixed up, or simply – your luggage tag falls off.  This will help to prove that the cute stylish bag is yours.

A Copy of Your Passport & Visas

Source: travel.state.gov

It’s a no-brainer that if you’re traveling abroad, you need your passport – they won’t let you on the plane without one!  Yet have you ever thought to bring a photocopy of your passport and visas with you as well?  You won’t have to “Houdini” out of a bad situation in the event that you lose your passport and need to get a new one.  Plan ahead to avoid that headache!

Hand sanitizer or antibacterial wipes

There’s nothing worse than being sick while on vacation – and keeping your hands clean plays a major part in making sure you stay healthy.  Many destinations, including Asia and Europe, have restrooms that may not have running water or soap dispensers.  Avoid getting sick on your trip by keeping something on hand to keep the germs away so that you can play!  Antibacterial wipes are great too because they are easier to pack, don’t count against your liquid count on your carry-on, and can refresh you after that big nap you’ve taken on the plane, train, or coach.

An extra memory card


Source: amazon.com

In every day life, a 2GB memory card sounds like it will take forever to fill up.  Yet one wrong setting on your camera, dozens of new friends, and the desire to capture every sight and sound on your vacation can fill up your memory card in a snap (no pun intended!)  While you may remember to bring extra batteries to keep your camera juiced up and ready to click at a moment’s notice, once that memory card is full – you’ll either have to purge some photos or forfeit the photo altogether.

Insect Repellent

On your travels, you’ll most likely be getting up close and personal with some of the local insects and wildlife while you’re out exploring.  Packing insect repellent keeps the pests from turning you into a hot mess of itchy and scratchy.  You’ll be a lot more comfortable, and you’ll thank your lucky stars that you could commune with nature, but not become a bug’s breakfast buffet!

First Aid Kit

Okay, you don’t have to be a Boy Scout – but bringing a few essentials like hydro cortisone cream for bug bites, band-aids for minor scrapes, and some pain medication or cough drops for any signs of a cold trying to ruin your vacay.  If you’re prone to allergies due to dust and pollen, throw in some allergy medicine too and avoid the achoo!  No need to rely on the pharmacy in a different country when you’ve got all the goods in your pack. 

Books to Exchange

Magazines, books, a Contiki brochure (wink, wink) – these items don’t need to be  recharged and can keep you entertained for hours on end.   We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again.  And don’t fret if you don’t want to lug all those books across town.  Many local hotels and coffee shops around the world participate in the book exchange program where you can leave a book and take a new one on your journeys with you.  If you don’t come across any of these, try Book Crossing – a cool way to share your books and track where they go around the world!  Many locals also enjoy having US versions of magazines and books without the import prices.  Just another great reason to grab something to read, to go!

So start planning for your summer vacation already!  GET PACKING!  Feel free to leave a comment about items that you didn’t realize you should have packed!

Suitcase Vs. Backpack – What to Take on Your Vacation

Ah, the eternal battle. Backpack or suitcase? Based on our experience, we think you’ll be most comfortable traveling with a wheeled suitcase for your vacation. However we’re certainly not ones to make a huge conclusion like that based on nothing – so here are some pros and cons for both.


Most of our travelers would agree that they prefer a suitcase over a backpack when traveling on a Contiki Tour.  When choosing a suitcase, wheels are a definite must.  Here are some pros and cons to using a suitcase.

Suitcase Pros

  • You have more room for clothes, shoes, souvenirs, etc.
  • More accessible (you don’t have to rummage through all your things to reach that last pair of clean socks at the bottom of your backpack)
  • Easy to wheel around

Suitcase Cons

  • Bigger, bulkier, heavier and harder to carry up stairs


Even though we suggest bringing a suitcase on your Contiki Tour, there are some pros to using a backpack especially if you plan on traveling through Europe on a Camping Tour

Backpack Pros

  • Perfect for hiking and camping
  • Easier to carry up stairs
  • Great if you are traveling by yourself before or after the Contiki Tour
  • Often come with a smaller detachable backpack

Backpack Cons

  • Less accessible (all your things are mixed up in a limited amount of space)
  • Not as convenient to carry around (unlike suitcases, there are no wheels to carry your load.  It’s all on you, buddy).

The Suitpack

Beware! there is a new hybrid on the prowl.  It is half backpack half suitcase.  Which basically means it is a backpack with wheels.  Still can’t decide between a backpack and a suitcase? Try the suitpack.  Yes, we made that name up, but it kinda works.

Tips from the Professionals

Take it from the professionals.  Our Contiki tour managers are used to traveling.  They spend most of the year on the road living out of a suitcase.  Almost all tour managers prefer hard-shelled suitcases with wheels.  Why, you ask?  They are strong, durable and easy to load on and off the coach. Plus it won’t get smashed by everyone else’s stuff.

There is of course always an exception to the rule.  If you are traveling Europe on a Contiki Camping Tour then you will be staying in a tent for most, if not all of your trip.  This is a perfect time to use a backpack instead of a suitcase.  Backpacks fit better into tens and are perfect for camping.  One quick tip; consider using a backpack that has zippers that can be locked with a small padlock so your belongings stay put.

“I would advise travelers to take a suitcase with an extendable handle and wheels for any overseas trip. Firstly, suitcases can be packed in a very organized manner so that anything is easily accessible once you hit your hotel room. Wheels and a handle allow for easy transport, whether into a hotel, a coach in the morning, or out onto a sidewalk to catch a cab to the airport. Additionally, suitcases offer better structural protection of anything remotely breakable or any souvenirs picked up in your travels.” – Jordan Allen, Tour Manager, USA