By Anne McAlpin

I just returned from hosting our AAA OR/ID Amawaterways Rhine Christmas Markets cruise – what a great time we had!  Some of my favorite memories include celebrating European traditions like putting our shoes outside our stateroom door to wake up to treats from St. Nicholas, exploring beautiful, charming towns, and of course all the delicious meals prepared every day for us onboard – especially the Chef’s Table seven course dinner.

Traveling Internationally again reminded me of two things:  Flexibility is key, and that many of the age-old travel tips and essentials we’ve used for years are still so relative today. Here are five travel essentials that I recommend on every trip:

Passport & Vaccine Card Organization

When I was asked for my passport at check-in I was met with an enthusiastic:  “I wish everyone had one of these!”.  This convenient organizer was invaluable in keeping my passport, vaccine card and Global Entry Card all together.  When not in use, I kept it in my security wallet for safe keeping.

Tip:  Put a post-it note inside your passport with your cell phone number.  In case you misplace your passport along your travels, it makes it easier to catch up with you.

Passport Slip and Vaccination Card Sleeve
Member Price $4.95 

Mobile Power

I used my smartphone continually on our cruise for access to trip documents and travel apps – like my vaccine app, for keeping in touch, and of course, as my camera, which meant I was always running down my battery. I was so happy I had my mobile power the day we cruised the Rhine Gorge – with over 400 castles – as my smartphone ran out of charge that morning.

Tip: Be sure to travel with one like this Z-Gear that provides up to three full charges for most devices.

Z-Gear Power Bank 6000 mah
Member Price $26.99

Undercover Passport Security

True story:  Someone on our trip was pickpocketed – her wallet taken right out of her backpack.  They were so good she didn’t even notice it happened.

To avoid this situation – I always recommend – and wear – an undercover security wallet. Its proven design hasn’t changed much over the years and its purpose is still the same: to keep passports and other valuables safe – like credit cards and large amounts of cash.

I like the waist wallet; its elastic belt and quick release tab make it easy to access items  – some travelers prefer a neck wallet.

Tip:  Don’t keep anything valuable in a backpack and wear a security wallet.


RFID Waist or Neck Security Wallet
AAA Member Price $17.99

Cross Body Day Bag

I use my Baggallini cross body GO Bagg as my everyday handbag at home – and it was the perfect travel bag for this trip.

Being hands-free while traveling is imperative – the most important reason to travel with a cross-body bag is to wear it in front for security – but I also like the convenience of being able to take photographs and eat and drink easily without having to put my handbag down and possibly leave it somewhere if I’m not paying attention.

Tip:  The GO Bagg has a removeable RFID zippered coin purse which was ideal for keeping a few Euro coins handy for bathroom attendants – and a small packet of tissues – both which were needed along our journey.

Baggallini GO Bagg
Member Price $68.95

Travel Healthy Comfort Kit

It’s quite a distance to Europe – so I was glad to have my comfort kit at the ready.  I packed a few KN95 masks so I could change them often for comfort on the plane and I found packing my gum near my masks made they smelled minty fresh.  My sanitizer wipes were great for cleaning high touch points like the tray table, and I was surprised to see blankets and pillows were provided– wrapped in plastic – however I still preferred to use my own inflatable neck/lumbar pillow and microfiber travel blanket.

Thanks to a compression packing cube, I was able to keep all the following items easily accessible under the seat in front of me in my personal bag:

  • Face masks, sanitizer wipes
  • Eco-friendly silicone straws
  • Snacks
  • Eye shades, ear plugs
  • Inflatable neck/lumbar cushions
  • Microfiber travel blanket

Tip:  Confirm in advance with your airline, tour, or cruise company what type of mask is required for your trip.

Baggallini Compression Packing Cubes
Member Price $31.50 Set of three


Upcoming Events

AAA Travel and Packing expert, Anne McAlpin will be sharing her tips for Packing for Cruises as well as Solo Travel tips at our upcoming Virtual AAA Travelers Showcase on Saturday, Jan. 29th at 11am.   

Travel Smart, Pack Right with Anne McAlpin
Saturday 1/29 at 11:00am PST
AAA Travel and Packing expert, Anne McAlpin, will be sharing her tips and advice for packing for Cruises as well as Solo Travel tips.Sign-up for this Webinar



Join AAA and Travel Expert Anne McAlpin for tips on effortless travel.

Learn How To:

    • Pack efficiently for any trip
    • Be prepared for airport security
    • Travel smart in today’s world

AAA Clackamas Service Center
10365 SE Sunnyside Road
RSVP: 503.241.6800

Wednesday, February 16th 10am & 2pm