Be on the lookout everywhere for public art, murals, statues, mosaics, painting, sculpture...it's everywhere and the art adds an amazing dimension to visiting Spain and walking a Camino!
I LOVE the Eagle Creek bags for incredibly light (Eagle Creek Pack-It Spectrum products) packing and traveling. They are light, clean easily, and dry quickly. I also love this green toiletry kit (although they come in many different colors).
Eagle Creek also offers lots of other shapes and sizes of bags and I used one for my First Aid kit, too!
As for what toiletries to pack...well, it's totally up to you. The basics are going to be plenty.
For me, well, I'm rather low maintenance, so a bar of soap, small GoToobs of shampoo, a toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, Q-Tips, nail clippers, small scissors, and a hotel style mending kit. That was it for me.
I did carry an extra bar of soap because I love my brand and two bars got me through almost the entire 7 weeks I walked.
For the women, the Australians I walked with wore no makeup and seemed to maintain as basic a routine as the men when it came to toiletries.
Of course, the choice is yours. I recommend to keep it light and simple. Weight is an issue and every extra thing in your pack is going to be reevaluated during your Camino--and you most likely will be dumping the things that you don't need in an attempt to let go of every extra ounce. Everyone who has walked says this, but I don't know that most people truly get it until they walk.
As with most of the packing elements, personal preference and time of year will really determine what you'll need. I walked the Via de La Plata in the late spring and early summer (May-June). The weather was comfortable and I chose two T-shirts and two long-sleeve fishing shirts. If I'd walked in the fall or winter, I'd have wanted something different, I suspect.
For most of the trek I dressed in layers. The mornings were a bit cool and sometimes dew ridden. Then, as the sun rose, off went the jacket. And, by late afternoon, sometimes the long-sleeve shirt went, too and I walked just in a T-shirt.
The T-shirts also doubled as sleep shirts for me. I'd take my afternoon shower, dress in a clean T and then later that night sleep in that shirt and be partially dressed for the next day.
I think the concept of layering is a good one. Being able to add and remove layers helps. But, you also don't want to pack too much (that's why I chose to use my T's for multiple tasks.
The reason I chose the Columbia long-sleeve shirts was first because of the pockets. It's always good to have pockets when walking a Camino. Also, the shirts are designed to breath with vents in useful places. I also liked the buttons that allow you to roll up your sleeves and keep them in place with hooks of fabric and buttons. Like the idea of layering, rolling sleeves up and down give you more options for comfort (and style). Plus, they wash and dry very easily. I'm still wearing these shirts, they hold up great.
No matter what style of shirts you choose, I highly recommend some sort of tech-based materials. You want shirts that wick away moisture, that allow your skin to breathe, that dry quickly, and there are even materials now that cut down on odors (really useful during weeks of walking and sweating and handwashing).
It is worth noting that you'll mostly be handwashing your clothes, so you want fabrics that will stand up to ringing like that.
Ponchos are a preference for many walking a Camino de Santiago. They cover your top half and, depending on the style you purchase, they can cover you and your backpack.
There's also an option to get a poncho that only covers your backpack. And, some packs have a poncho style covering built into them that you can unfurl in the event of rainy weather.
As with everything you'll pack, weight is a consideration. But, more important than weight for some is comfort. When I walked the Via de La Plata, we only had 2 days of rain (in 7 weeks). At the time I was walking, some friends I met on my Camino had a friend walking the France Way. It rained for 30 days straight for the friend.
I packed a poncho, and was glad to have it for my two rainy days. I wore my rain jacket and then wore the poncho over me and my pack. I stayed dry from the rain, but got rather sweaty with so many layers of clothing and jackets. So, it was a trade off.
Pullovers are also great. Especially the ones that pack tight into their own pockets.
As with so many items. I highly recommend that you get out and hike with your selections before heading to Spain. So, on a rainy day, put on your gear and wear a jacket, see how it goes. Put on your gear and wear a poncho on another rainy-day hike and see how that goes. Practice hiking with it in different combinations until you find what you like the best.
There's no question, the Camino journey is a personal one. Yes, you'll meet other pilgrims and you'll also meet many other people along the way in the refugios, hostels, hotels, restaurants, and shops. Still, the Camino is personal. You'll experience many different emotions. You'll also see and hear and taste many different things. Keeping a journal is a way to record these daily experiences for yourself.
Journal writing is also an excellent way to explore topics, thoughts, emotions, and ideas that come up while you walk (or bike or ride). There's something about being in unfamiliar places, about hear and seeing and smelling that conjures up thoughts and ideas and memories. Your journal is an excellent place to capture and explore.
While walking the Via de La Plata, I also found that my journal was the perfect place to collect passport stamps. I'd have my Pilgrim Passport stamped for verification of my journey, but I'd also have my journal stamped. This created a very nice memory that's easy to pull off the shelf and revisit.
Of course, having a bit of paper on your trip can also provide some practical uses, too. A place for notes, directions, and even paper to rip from the book to leave a message along the way.
My journal also proved an excellent place to keep track of lists (lists of cities and towns, names and emails, menu del dias that I particularly liked). It also helped me keep a few bits and pieces I'd picked up along the way handy and in order.
And, while there are many electronic options for keeping notes and images, I really like the feel of writing and the idea of having a tactile book of memories.
Of course, paper and books add weight to our packs. So, the choice is up to you what you want to carry. And, paper and rain don't go well together. But, I kept my journal inside a sealed plastic bag.
Personally, I believe every citizen should get and then maintain a passport. There are great travel options around every corner and if you already have a passport, you'll be ready to fly or sail or walk at a moment's notice.
From the camino standpoint. No matter where you're starting your journey, you'll need identification. And, if you're not a resident of Spain, you'll need a passport.
Passports are relatively easy to acquire in the US. You fill out a form, have a few small pictures taken, and you either mail the form into the US Passport office. You can also take it to a USPS office and submit it, but there's an extra fee.
Passports are issued by the US Department of State. They have a user friendly website here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports.html/ with step-by-step instructions and easy to follow tabs for new passports, renewals, and FAQ.
The website says it takes 6-8 weeks for a passport application to be processed (although, for a higher fee, you can have the passport expedited and cut the time down to as little as 8 days.) My recommendation, if you're even thinking of walking a camino in the next year or two, apply now for the passport. They're good for 10 years.
Depending on expedited services selected, the cost of a US passport as of 2020 is $110. See the fee schedule here: https://travel.state.gov/content/dam/passports/forms-fees/Passport%20Fees%20Chart_TSG.pdf
In addition to the passport, while traveling, it's often a good idea to use a travel wallet of some sort. These usually have a neck strap or waist belt that allow you to keep your passport (and other important papers, currency, and credit cards) on your person (even while sleeping).
In my experience, theft isn't a huge issue on the caminos, but it does happen. It's easy to replace just about anything on the camino, although passports pose a greater replacement problem. So, it's better to be safe.