This guide to traveling abroad was written for women traveling from the United States to Europe and appeared in Godey’s Lady’s Book in May of 1892.
by Augusta Salisbury Prescott
The first time one goes abroad, one spends nearly all the time regretting that things were not done differently. The second time there are only about half as many regrets, and the third time the journey may be said to be a triumphant one, for all previous mistakes are rectified and the whole trips accomplished without waste of time, money, patience or any of those things that one hates to expend needlessly.
Now it is impossible to tell anyone who has ever been abroad, just exactly how to go and what to do so as to avoid being swindled by railroad porters, steamship stewards and other dignitaries who preside over the grand steamboats and cars which are the vehicles to take one from one country to another.
But it is possible to give so many hints and suggestions that one half of all the pitfalls are laid open to notice, and so the novice who is going abroad for the first-time may safely put herself under the second class of people who have been abroad once and who know something about it and yet who have not learned everything.
Now let the novice take heed and notice each and all of the things suggested, in order that she may arrive at a jump at the knowledge which it costs many people a great many dollars and a great deal of time to learn.
First of all, hire, but do not buy, a steamer chair. You can hire one for fifty cents, and, for twenty-five more the obliging man who looks after the chairs on board ship will paint your initials on it in bold black letters, so that you may spot that chair as far as you can see it across the deck. Now, with the size of your chair well in mind, make a big soft cushion for the back of it. Have it about eighteen inches wide and two feet long. Make it of any common material, and do not have it so nice but that you will be willing to throw it away when you land on the other side.
One of your chief objects in life as you prepare to go abroad, is to avoid the accumulation of much baggage, and so, it will stand you well in hand to take very little which you care to preserve afterward.
A large rug, which is just another name for a big double blanket shawl, is a necessity. If you buy one of these rugs, get as large a one as you can, and have it of very coarse material, so that it will shake out and be as good as new for the return trip. The rug is one of the few things that you are not going to throw away when you get over there, and so you want to have it of some material that will be none the worse for wear and tear.
Have your steamer trunk as low a one as you can buy, so that it will be sure to slip in under the berth in your state-room, no matter how low the berth may be. If you share the state-room with someone else, you will find that it is very much more convenient to have a low, flat trunk that will serve as a settee, than a round high one which constantly proclaims itself as an aggressive trunk.
It is all very pretty to have a nice traveling dress, and your first thought as you get ready to go away, is put upon the gown that you will wear. It isn’t a bad idea to have one neat stylish suit for traveling, but bear in mind that you do not want to cross the ocean in anything which is any good at all. The first dash of the salt spray leaves traces behind it and the constant wetting and dampness will draw any dress out of shape.
Take then with you an old half worn-out dress. Do not mind if it is soiled or even ragged, because no one is going to notice you when once the ship is started and there is a wonderful ocean to gaze and look upon by the hour without tiring.
When your friends go down to see you off on the ship, you may have on the pretty traveling dress, but as soon as you are out of sight of land, you will be willing to put on the old dress and will not care to change it again until the journey is completed.
You will want an old ulster also—the warmest one you own. If you have a mackintosh so much the better, and you can wear under it a small warm jacket if the mackintosh is not sufficient. A pair of heavy gloves, a hat that can be tied on securely and one or two heavy veils will complete your outside costume.
The steamer trunk will accommodate very nicely the traveling dress when not in use, and there will be room also for an evening dress and any trifles which you regard indispensable to your comfort. It is well, in providing the evening dress, to select one that has two waists, one waist may be used for calling and other possible social occasions, while the dressier waist may be kept for the opera which you will be sure to visit, or the dinner parties to which some friend to whom you have letters of introduction, will invite you.
Now a word as to underclothing. To most women the idea of wearing old underclothes is an abomination. Ragged flannels, frayed linen and the like, are regarded as a hissing and a by-word, and no woman with a particle of self-respect will deliberately clothe herself in such garments if she can get any others to put on.
But now, you dear particular little woman, who always wear underclothing all of one set, and would rather die than mix Torchon with Hamburg, hold your patience for a moment and try to restrain your tongue and countenance while I tell you some of the advantages of old underclothing while you are going abroad.
You will find it is very difficult to get washing done aboard ship. The prices are high and you have to wait a long time for your work. Your state-room is too small, and you do not care to keep soiled clothes lying around, and so before you know it you find yourself “chucking “your soiled clothes out of the port-hole into the briny deep and forever afterward mourn the loss of that lovely set you threw overboard.
Now, tell me, why isn’t it better to take along six or seven complete suits of almost worn-out underclothing that you can wear once, and then conscientiously throw overboard to the sharks and whales? You will want to change your clothes very often, because they get so damp and soggy; and if you wear nice ones you will be sure to mourn your folly ever afterward.
Provide yourself then with as many sets of old flannel and muslin as you can save up in a year’s time, and then, folding the old clothes respectfully, place them in the steamer trunk, and when you get aboard ship you will wear them as proudly although they were the cherished silk which you wear when you are at home.
Be sure to get ten or fifteen dollars’ worth of foreign money before you start, and more, if you can carry it. Get a letter of credit from some good foreign banking house, and deposit your money on this side ready to be called for on the other side when wanted. Don’t try to carry all your funds with you, for the fear of robbery and the idea of being stranded penniless in a foreign clime will keep you awake nights and haunt you by day.
Take along a shawl-strap, a good capable one, so that when you get over to Europe you may store your trunk and travel blithely with your baggage in your hand, independent of porters and railroad men.
Find out from some good, reliable source, just how many of each kind of goods you can bring over without laying yourself open to penalties from the Custom House, and then do your buying judiciously, keeping well within bounds.
Take with you half a dozen bottles of Champaign, and a box of water crackers to eat in your state-room at night. The Champaign will often ward off the pangs of sea sickness, and the water crackers will stay down when nothing else will.
Don’t take perfumery and knickknacks. You can buy them over there a great deal cheaper than you can here, and they are sickening in the state-room.
Be sure to have a pair of cork-soled shoes, and, also, a pair of heavy gaiter-tops, warranted to be water proof.
Before you go, consult some agency that has a branch office in this country, and get the addresses of English-speaking boarding houses or hotels in each city that you intend to visit. You may not care to go to these hotels, but in case you should wish to avail yourself of them, you will find it very convenient to know where they are.
Above all, don’t try to show that you are an American and a foreigner, for you are sure to be cheated if you make the display of your strangeness to the country.
Don’t try to cheat the Government by smuggling home things that are not allowed. It is as simple to do this as it is to cheat an individual, and purchases that are brought over here without having a duty paid upon them, will be regarded as stolen goods, for which blood money will have to be paid sooner or later.
When you have packed your trunk and are once off, throw aside the cares that bound you while here, and decide that, for once in your life, you will be free from everything—free to enjoy strange sights, free to look upon all the historical scenes of which you have heard and read so much, and free to come home again, a good, free American woman, unhampered by nerves or any of the trying things which made a vacation desirable and necessary.
Source: Godey’s Lady’s Book, May 1892
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