Aside from the obvious stuff – like passports and a supply of clean underwear – there’s a collection of items I don’t dare travel without.
Here’s what makes my travel must-have list:
Although (somewhat unfortunately) you can’t always tell by looking, I’m a bit of a fitness addict. The idea of going away for more than a few days and not being able to keep up some kind of fitness regime makes me sweat for all the wrong reasons.
I always pack my running trainers and several sets of kit. Not only is this useful when I fancy heading out for a morning jog to combat the let-lag, this kit lends itself to doing adventure-type actives on your trip because it’s so easy to wash and get dry in your hotel room. It’s much easier to dry off in your yoga pants and a gym vest than it is to dry off in jeans and a cotton cami when you’ve been on a high-speed jet boat ride or been caught in an Indonesian 2 minute downpour.
OK, so most phones have a camera in them capable of taking pretty reasonable snaps, but they’re still no match for an SLR. You simply don’t get the crisp detail you see on a photo from a good camera if you use your phone, however good the phone.
I don’t pretend to know much about cameras, and there’s no way I’d want to cart about a huge SLR with a massive lens when I’m exploring new landscapes and city spots. So what camera do I use?
My Dad bought us a Canon Eos M as part of our wedding gift two years ago. They still sell them, but the model has been superseded).
Labelled a ‘bridge camera’ it’s a good step between a compact point-and-shoot and a larger DSLR. It’s light, durable and small enough to be discreet (for those times when you feel like you need to cover your valuables)!
Make sure you take both a charger and a huge memory card so you can happily snap away! On my last 3 week trip, I took just over 3000 photos. Many of them were garbage, but lots of them made it into the holiday scrapbook and even into some photo frames!
if you really can’t be bothered carrying a camera, perhaps try a snap-on lens for your phone. I’ve had relative success using a fish eye lens which slid onto the corner of my iPhone. Don’t expect massive gains in photo quality but you can expect lots of fun snaps!
Even before I started blogging, I always carried a travel journal. I like to keep hold of tickets, receipts, maps and other bits and bobs so that I can make a holiday scrapbook when I get back. In my journal, which I tend to write daily during our evening meal, we bullet point what we did in that day.
it takes only a matter of a few minutes, but means we can tear out the page and stick it in the scrapbook when we get home, amongst the memorabilia we’ve gathered and the photos we’ve chosen to print!
It’s great looking back over the scrapbooks after a few months or years!
Nowhere does tea like Great Britain. I tend to take a selection of teabags, but you still have to awkwardly seek out non-UHT milk to complement your Earl Grey, unless you’re one of those people who believes milk in Earl Grey is akin to Blasphemy.
When you’re going on a multi-destination trip, you’ll probably have a lot of tickets and booking confirmations. I find that it’s well worth having them all printed off and tucked into an organised document wallet.
Why do that when you have electronic copies? When you arrive at the car hire office after travelling for 36 hours with very little sleep and your phone is flat, the last thing you’ll want to do is explain that you need to charge your phone before you can provide proof of payment and take the keys.
Why anyone would take hard bodied luggage is beyond me! I always take a rucksack (like this Eastpak one) and this Eastpak suitcase / holdall.
I tend to do multi-centre trips, so being able to easily stuff things back into the hold-all is essential. Hard bodied luggage doesn’t really lend itself to disorganised and last minute packing, so having the flexibility of the expandable and flexible case is essential for me!
I like to read on holiday – especially if I’m going long-haul. The problem is, I could get through a good fiction book in one flight. Back in the olden days, that would mean carting 5-10 books in my hand luggage or buying books in the airport and leaving them in the hotel when I was done.
In comes the Kindle. Small, backlit and books are normally cheaper on it. The only downside is you lose the ‘feel’ of reading a paper book and you’re a bit screwed if you run out of power. I never travel without it.
Phone (+ Data!)
We’re so attached to our phones now that you’d be forgiven for wanting to switch it off and leave it behind for a few weeks.
I would argue that the phone is actually one of the best tools you can have when travelling! I usually opt in to the roaming packages so I can use my data (cost effectively) and that allows me to message, blog, instagram, tweet and use google maps as much as I want!
I also use it to check ratings for restaurants I might be about to go into, or to see what’s going on in the area I’m in!
Google’s translation app (which uses the camera on your phone to read and translate text) is great for deciphering menus and making sure you’re ordering chicken breast and not chicken eyeballs. This came in handy in Barcelona, where the menu at Tapas24 was not available in English! If only we had used it back in Hong Kong, we might have avoided the chicken feet incident.
I also use apps to help me navigate public transport and use the sat-nav to make sure the taxi I’m in isn’t ripping me off by taking me around several blocks before we go back to the hotel.
There’s no excuse for not being a savvy traveller when you’ve got the immense power of the internet at your fingertips.
Not everyone wants to take a laptop on holiday, but when you have a travel blog it’s par for the course! I like to start writing about my experiences whilst I’m still immersed in them, and have also been using travel time (long flights) to write my non-fiction book.
Whats essential is that it’s light, small and quiet to type on (for the sleeping travellers around me)! The Macbook covers all that and more.
First Aid Kit
Not because you might need to stitch yourself up, but because you’ll probably encounter blisters, insect bites and a jiffy belly at some point in the trip. Pack there usual first-aid-kit contents (or buy a travel first aid kit) then top it up with indigestion tablets, Immodium and UK-purchased pain killers and antihistamine tablets.
The last thing you want is your request for paracetamol getting lost in translation and ending up with a laxative.
Nobody wants to be in an emergency situation when you’re on holiday, but the fact of the matter is – it does happen sometimes.
Be it getting bitten my a monkey and needing a rabies shot, falling off a moped in Thailand and needing stitches or getting food poisoning on the last day and missing your flight because you’re on a drip in hospital in Barcelona – it happens. I know it happens, because those things have happened to my friends!
Not everyone is a fan of credit cards, but even if you’re ‘against’ them you would be a fool not to travel with one. If you’re in the back-end-of-nowhere and you need medical assistance then the chances are you’ll need to pledge a form of payment (even if you’re going to claim it back through your travel insurance later).
Not only that, if you’ve followed the principles in my guide on how to get the best hotel deals, then there’s a good chance you secured your booking with a credit card. Present this card on arrival for faster check-in.
What I Leave Behind
Obviously there’s loads of stuff I leave behind. This section is about pointing out the things that people tend to thing they should take, but that you never end up using!
The main thing you might be tempted to take, but should definitely leave behind is your travel guide book. Yes, you read that right.
If you’ve not read the guide books by the time you’re heading off on your trip, it’s probably a bit too late. Don’t send hours of your holiday with your head in a guide book. Leave it at home and just go and get lost in the culture and scenery of the place you’re actually in. That’s much more exciting that reading about it.
Do read travel guides, but make it part of your holiday planning process rather than an afterthought.
For more tips on packing, read this!