Folks, after a loooong delay—a year of recovery from my 3-month 2019 hospitalization in Amsterdam, two years of pandemic isolation, and a year of planning—my husband and I recently celebrated a return to traveling with a two-week trip to Northern Europe. I shared pictures from our reunion with the people who saved my life when a ruptured aneurysm dropped me to the pavement in Amsterdam. Next week, I’ll share pictures from our visit to Norway, a trip that was interrupted by my unexpected illness.

Today, I’m sharing tips from the useful items that enhanced our travel, and some things we will do differently the next time.

Eye masks and earplugs

The sun sets late in Northern Europe and city life is loud. And, if we expected to sleep during our nine and ten-hour red-eye flights to and from Oslo, we needed to block out airplane noise.

These Mzoo eye masks block out light without smooshing your eyes with a soft, padded covering that fit us each very comfortably. Two big thumbs up.

And these earplugs also worked pretty well for us both. Good tip: you roll the tapered end in between two fingers til the plug resembles a golf tee, insert, then press into your ear for 30 seconds.

Lightweight alternative to heavy perfume bottles

My favorite fragrances come in heavy bottles, and this trip pushed me to find a portable, lightweight alternative. These atomizers did the trick—easy to fill, non-spill, a couple are now living in my purse.

Simple packing

We always pack too much. I pared down pretty well this time, sticking to a basic black and blue wardrobe. The 65-75 degree temperatures in Oslo and Amsterdam allowed clothing to last longer than one wearing. Nylon underwear and running wear made for easy hand laundry every couple of days.

My favorite new item is the short-sleeved black-and-white top from Loft—roomy enough to wear over a t-shirt and loose enough to stay fresh for a couple of wearings.

However, my husband realized he could have gotten along with about half of what he packed. The large suitcase was heavy and cumbersome—two bruises on my thighs attest to the difficulty of hauling it around. Next time, we’ll pack two small bags so that we can more simply wheel them behind us down airport concourses and city sidewalks.

My Mary Poppins Backpack and handy fanny pack

I bought this St. John’s Bay backpack at JC Pennies in 2018. It has been my primary purse ever since. It shows hardly any wear and is large enough—with loads of compartments—to accommodate so much that it seems to be like Mary Poppins’ magical carpetbag. Travel documents, wallet, notebook, socks, eye masks, eye drops, perfume, snacks… seems to accommodate all I ask of it.

And the fanny pack held hotel keys, cash, ID, phone when I went out for a run.

Pressure sock, neck pillows & WALKING CANE

Our daughter gave us trip-related Mother’s and Father’s Day gifts: compression socks and travel pillows.

The compression socks helped our circulation during the long flights, though my feet swelled a little bit. Reminded me that I had puffy feet for 15 months after my illness. And to be grateful to be back to boney normal again.

These Napfun neck pillows kept our heads upright while providing a 180 degree cushion for comfortable snoozing. The trick is to latch the pillow under the chin.

My husband uses a cane for balance when walking. For the trip, we bought this folding cane from our local medical supply shop A1 Medical Supplies. It was plenty sturdy, but also to fold up and pop in a bag when we were on a train, plane, or tram. Best of all, it reassembles with the flick of a wrist like a magician’s wand. Quite the fun trick!

Happy trails

So, vax and boost, pack light and go see the world!

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