Spring Travel: The Curse of the Caterpillar


It’s spring. There is pollen everywhere and if you are lucky, some sun. You are suffering miserably. You are also looking forward to traveling on your spring or summer vacation. The dilemma of packing for travel. To bring toiletries or not bring toiletries, that is the question? And what it really means to deal with customs and travel with a portable medicine cabinet, because if you have allergies you are probably carrying creams and any other magical thing to ward off the sneeze or itch. But really, you should have they very basics that you need purchased when you get there, and a small first aid kit. Think of it as warding off all evil. It’s not worth being held up in customs over the littlest thing.

The fashion statement of small cosmetics bags should just be for cosmetics, and that’s it. Even these should travel in a clear bag. Even if you are a seasoned traveler, the ports of call can be a challenge with the toiletry and meds dilema. You will be stopped and asked questions, just accept that you will. So make it easier to deal with. If you are on medications, you need these to be clearly labelled and kept with you at all times. You may wish to keep a copy of the full description your pharmacist prints for you. For the most part, prescription meds make it through okay, but packs of allergy meds that can be used to make recreational drugs are very regulated. Don’t bring large blister packs of allergy meds through customs. Packing liquids and lotions still requires that you store them in small, less than 3 oz. bottle and it’s best to just use a clear zip bag. Have these out and ready for declaration. All airports require a clear bag of some kind and people have been forced to repack and use airport provided bags in some cases.



Which comes to the next part. Plan to get to the pharmacy or apothecary upon arrival, and stock up on travel sizes there. The £/€ 20 is worth not being hassled at the airports. I discovered over the years that stuffing little bottle full of products that you will have to have tested by customs officials, and told you cannot take it, and toss is more expensive in the long run. Now this may be difficult if you are going to Asia or a country where you may not speak or read the language printed on containers. Let’s face it, personal grooming products are recognizable for the most part, but it may not be made or have the ingredients you approve of or can tolerate if you have sensitivity issues. If you are the average Joe or Jane, you can get by with the minimal and maybe share with travel companions on shampoos and such. Washing powder for laundry is another issue for sensitive skin and nose people.

Health and Wholefoods Markets are Your Friends

They can be your saviour if they are open when you arrive. One of the first things I did when I hit Glasgow or Dublin again was find the whole food mart. Unscented soaps and laundry detergents and toiletries can be found here,  not to mention organic foods and veg you can get up to your room. Many Gluten Free options as well. You will benefit from keeping fresh fruit around if you are in a place for a few days, it helps your immune system and is cheaper than always eating out. Grab a tube of Aloe Gel to help with sunburn and other scrapes. Natural sunscreen can be grabbed. Yes, I got sunburned in both Dublin and Glasgow last year, go figure.


If you know you have severe allergies, skin and pollen related, you will need to plan to bring what you can. However, in many English speaking countries, the U.K. and Ireland, you can find the allergy over the counter meds you are used to in the US and Canada. Keep in mind that there are different flora and fauna in these countries than you are used to. I found that because I was also going between islands, I had to plan to have to dump things for all airports if I had over 3 oz in any container.In the U.K. and Ireland, brands like Zyrtec and Benadryl and other allergy medications are known or have equivalents, so if these work for you you can get them there.

You will always find a Boots, or other apothecary. But if you are into whole foods and the whole body approach, you may want to research this a bit for each large city you may visit. I found this really helpful when I was choosing a place to stay as often I would have to rely on the whole market for meals because kitchens had closed at restaurants early or I needed things with ingredients I could decipher.

And Now for the Creepy Crawlies

March of the caterpillars may make your spring really unpleasant. A particularly pesky crawling teen, the larva of the Processionary Moth, can be seen in lines, end to end roaming London. Eradication crews are on the loose throughout the city, and it is thought that this creature came from Southern Europe to invade the shores. Why the fuss? Because the tiny hairs that are shed by this inching creature can cause severe rashes and bronchial problems in unsuspecting humans. 



Caterpillars in London

Midges are the scourge of the Highlands, and yes, right in Glasgow off the Kelvin. If you are near any waterway in the spring and summer months, these flying fiends bite and some people are very allergic to them. You can get repellents, but the clouds of them are so big, you can just find another way around them. Long sleeves are good for the river hiking and running you may do.

Ticks are a danger in the isles and Europe as they are in the US and Canada and some carry Lyme disease. As you would in any wooded area, check your clothing for the tiny, expanding arachnids. Clean wounds well and monitor. Again, when you are at the chemist, you may want to pick up anti itch and antiseptic creme to be on the safe side.

Health Food Stores

Glasgow https://www.organicfacts.net/organic-products/organic-stores/glasgow.html

Dublin https://www.organicsupermarket.ie/

Edinburgh https://www.realfoods.co.uk/

London https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2007/nov/03/ethicalfood.fooddirectory2

Keeping Track on Your Travels and Traveling Abroad


You have been living in America or Canada your whole life. You decide it’s time to adventure past your borders. You have mostly flown domestic or done a border hop to the US or Canada. Because the borders and cooperation between countries was fairly easy for years, you never took much notice of what it really requires to travel beyond. You’d be surprised at how many people forget they need a passport until about 6 weeks before travel, if not a few weeks. I have met people where I have asked how fun their passport pictures have turned out after they told me about their trip. I got the deer in headlights look. If you are lucky enough to live in a very large American or Canadian city with embassies from most countries available to you to stand and line and wait hours, you can wait physically in line for help with this. If not, you have to go to a passport center and wait some weeks, up to two months to get your passport. Then you need to figure out what visas are required for what countries. And if you will need to get shots for disease prevention. That cheap flight that attracted to you visit somewhere exotic suddenly becomes very complicated.

Americans have been traveling abroad more in the last few years. The economy is still not great, but many more people seem to be venturing out. But now we have countries, including our own, tightening borders and placing restrictions on travel. And face it, Americans tend to over do most things. Packing or not packing right is no exception. Then there comes the keeping track of how you travel.


I travel with a folder filled with many things. I may be an electronics nerd, and I use a lot of travel apps, but I know that things happen with electronics, that you will not have WiFi on the plane and sometimes having a hard copy to prove you paid in advance for a tour just feels a little more secure. It also helps organizing yourself if you have planned a crazy itinerary that isn’t all included in say a travel site like Booking.com.

I also have a digital folder in Google Docs and may do one in Dropbox as well just in case. I also have a folder with my professional CV and such. Yep, being a teacher means looking for the next year’s classroom while on vacation sometimes. Sigh.

The hard copy file though is my talisman. It shouldn’t be, maybe it’s better to think of it as a touchstone. I have printed copies of itineraries, booking confirmations, the list I started of gyms and other facilities. Oh, and the gym routine for the month copy so if I can get to a gym I can keep up with my plan. I know, you are on vacation, but I think of travel as a serious adventure and training and keeping fit helps you get through the marathon. Plus if the bathroom facilities in your accommodation are lacking, you have a backup shower. Also if you book in advance for theatre and comedy shows like I am doing for Galway’s Arts Festival and the Fringe Festival, having a hard copy of receipts may be a good idea. I do keep lists on my smartphone as well, but if the battery dies I am out of luck.

What to keep in this folder? Well, flight details are good. Yes, you should join the online website of your flight providers, not just rely on digital access when you need it. This way you can do things like make sure you have seats, because JustFly can only do so much with that on some participating airlines. It may say you have a reserved seat of choice, but when you get there it’s another story.

Any prepayments for tours. Yes, tours abound when you are traveling. You may book a tour or two from the city you are in. Many of them do not have cash facilities for when you get there and you will need to book online. Having a printout with a ticket is still the thing on many tours, they don’t all have online ticketing where you can download to your smartphone’s wallet app. And since many tour companies have very similar names in certain regions, it’s a good idea to have a hard copy with name print out and any tour meetup instructions. See, paper is really good for notes. Note that because tourist season is insane, it is best if you can book tours a month out, so retain your receipt. Many good tours get booked solid.

Notes on Your Smartphone
Yes, they all have a note app. You could also get Google Docs app to just play it safe. You should have a travel folder online as a backup and a document about your trip with notes, dates, etc. Travel can be overwhelming. I know for a fact that Fringe Festival is going to be massive and cramping 3 days of it is a marathon. Having a diary doc will work if you don’t have a travel journal. I have to do this since I blog. I will of course write bits in my hard copy journal while visiting sites and museums for notes. But constantly using your device in a heavy data city will rack up your minutes. Paper is cheaper.

Travel Checklist

Six or More Months Out
Shop for plane tickets. Great sales happen during end of year holidays. Shop even earlier and tickets will be less than half. Do research on visas.
Start booking rooms and reading reviews. You can change them later, but if you are going during high season, festival season in Europe and mean your fav city is already booked solid, you may have to stay in a neighboring town.

Two Months Out
Passport, Visas applied for 3 months out hopefully. Check embassy websites to see the requirements for the country you are coming from. Many countries are now revising their visa requirements.
Cases-Research luggage sizing allowed on all flights. European flights are restricted more than US flights and many of the newer small planes have very little overhead space.

Get laptops and electronics cases, sleeves suitable for travel. TSA is moving towards all electronics packed in the hold.

Week Of
Packing: Pack everything you would need for a mini vacation in the carryon in case luggage gets misplaced. Get trackable luggage tags. They have a online app that you can use to track luggage with and you can upload pictures of luggage and contents in case they get misplaced in travels. This supposedly helps if your tags get separated from bags. Take enough clothing and plan to wear some items several times. Baggage allowances are less than domestic US or Canadian flights allow.

Carry on is Your Life: Luggage Loss Defense Part 2


Getting There

For mental prep for traveling this summer, I have been researching my miniscule in flight cabin storage accommodations and what really needs to be in the flight bag. Since in some respects I lucked out last year on the way in, I may not be so lucky this time.

Stock Up on The Personal Products

The fact is, no matter how many tiny travel bottles you fill, they will leak or barely get you through a few days. You will need to stock up. I found it was just easier to do this than be concerned with wet goopy clothes on arrival. Luckily traveling in the U.K. Before taught me a few things. Most supermarkets like we think of them, are usually outside major cities. In the cites you will have Apothecaries and Chemists like Boots. You can get most of your real needs basics here. Plan on a budget of about £/€ 25.00 to stock up.

Baggage Loss/Delay

Not a pessimist, not I. Sorry, I experienced luggage loss, excuse me, misplacement, last year on the trip home. Well, at least I got there. Problem was I had borrowed the larger case and found it to be a pure nuisance. I think the cursing and swearing contributed to the luggage just deciding to disappear on the way back. However this is really bad if its misplaced on the start of your trip.

So, you should know by now that whether you fly domestic or abroad, you should have a change of clothes in your carryon luggage. Make it three days. That is the average time that misplaced luggage can take to get back to you, and woe be you if you are immediately leaving your airport city and won’t be around. What else should you consider about this tiny bag space for carry on?

Wheels, yes. Make sure wheels are not too bulky or will catch easy. If they are bulky the airlines may default to check in as that can ad to the width.

Luggage Size
Carry on luggage is shrinking. We have been spoiled here in the Us where we insist on brazenly taking everything with us. Can’t do it on international flights. Especially if you are riding smaller planes traveling between countries, they will tag your bags and cram into the hold.

You need to pack 3 days of basic clothing in a tiny space, plus make sure you have all necessities to exist. That means all the hygiene and medicines that you must have, and it is better to carry that in your personal bag. Most flights allow you a small personal bag, however some are restricting this. If you have medicines such a insulin or any lifesaving epi pens. These you should check with airlines about as they are considered under pressure objects. Makeup, everything needs to survive the banging around you will do. Also plan to be inspected. Bring laundry soap in a pod or soap leaves as you will need to launder, especially f the main bag goes missing. Don’t forget your electronic devices and power converter, which should really be in your personal items in case they decide to put your carry on as checked.

Electronic Devices: Call the airline before you travel. The US has been restricting the laptop and phone policies for travelers coming in. Other countries may start restricting these to checked baggage as well, so call the airlines before you depart.

Hold Baggage
Hold baggage sizes for most European airlines at the time of this writing average 50 to 52 inches total width, measuring a total of L x W x H. Always check all airlines you may be flying with, including any smaller flights. Getting a bag just under this size helps you to not have that excess baggage fee. Thinking about what you really need to pack is what you need to do next. Keeping it basic is best. I found that having 3 to 4 pairs of jeans and a few more pairs of tee shirts was the mainstay, maybe one dress if I get to go to a play. Buy dress shoes there? Yes, a lot of people like to shop while traveling and dealing with less bulk may be the thing to do. What to pack, the rest of what you need. Check articles for where you are traveling to and see if there are helpful hints.

Basically, whatever you would wear if traveling to Portland or San Francisco. Layers.

Travel Tips and Hints for Packing
http://www.traveling-savage.com/2016/05/18/know-before-you-go-packing-scotland/ Great practical tips on packing