Before I head off to catch my flight to Seoul I thought I might share a few travel tips that I’ve picked up over the last few years. One thing which traveling has consistently taught me is that less is more when it comes to the amount you have to carry around. Trying to negotiate urban jungles or remote wildernesses with a heavy suitcase is a nightmare you’ll not want to repeat so packing light is a skill worth learning. As a general rule if there’s something you are unlikely to use then don’t take it ~ if you need something desperately when you’re out on the road buy or borrow it.
Here’s my general packing list of things I don’t leave home without:
- Documentation (passport, travel insurance, online bank codes, emergency contact numbers) + photocopies – essential items to keep with you at all times. Somewhat obvious perhaps but these can be life savers (as I have found out). If you have an accident or loose your wallet etc. you’re going to want these close to hand. Some people don’t bother about getting insurance but to my mind it’s not worth the small cost for the peace of mind – the last thing you want is to be landed with massive hospital bills.
- Maps (dual language) + guide book + phrase book – going somewhere is great but actually finding your way around is the tricky bit. Most guide books have maps in English which isn’t always so helpful when asking a local for directions if they can’t understand where you want to go! I recommend picking up a map when you arrive as you will be more likely to find one written in both languages. A phrase book never goes a miss but in most situations body language is going to be more helpful when trying to communicate.
- Camera + memory cards + small tripod – taking pictures is a part and parcel of most peoples holidays; whether you use a point and shoot or something a bit more professional be sure to pack enough memory, especially given the large files modern digi-cams produce. For even better pics I recommend a GorillaPod which is a small, ultra flexible tripod that can easily be carried around in a backpack.
- International power adapter – extremely useful if you’re caring around gadgets which need recharging. You can get all-in-one models which will fit most sockets around the world. Just be sure that whatever your plugging in uses the same voltage (it should usually be written on the plug).
- Multitool – I’ve often found having a multi-purpose tool to hand comes in very useful. Weather it be fixing you camera or just cutting up an apple you’ll be thankful you have it. I recommend the Leatherman Wave which has a good selection of blades, screwdrivers and full sized pliers. Don’t leave this in you hand luggage or you are likely to have a very unpleasant experience at the airport!
- First aid kit – for minor scrapes it’s always handy to have a few plasters to hand. If your prone to headaches or stomach upsets then its also worth taking along some medication as it can be hard to find what you want in a foreign pharmacy at short notice.
- iPod + book(s) - for long flights and airport transfers this is a must have. Even better if you have a modern iPod with video so you can watch the odd movie or TV show. Having a good long book is nice but can add a lot of weight so best avoid hardbacks!
- Unlocked phone – if you’re staying somewhere a long time or need to coordinate between friends in different locations having a mobile phone is an added bonus. Most airports will allow you to hire a phone for a modest fee but if you have your own then it can be even cheaper just to buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card.
- Light clothing – this obviously depends on the expected weather conditions. Most outdoor shops sell some pretty decent lightweight garments made of special fabric which is bacteria resistant and hence can be worn for longer. This of course can be taken to different extremes!
All this should fit in a moderately sized backpack – I use a Berghaus Freeflow 35+8 (43 litres) which has very good back support making for a more comfortable experience. Some more good advice on packing light here.
For times when you need to phone home but don’t have much cash for an international call try finding an internet cafe with Skype installed which will cost a fraction of the price than using an ordinary phone. If you’re ever in a country with restrictive internet access there are some simple ways around this.
I’ve also written about dealing with jet lag before.
What are your must-have travel essentials?