Since I’ve been away, I’ve had a few messages from people asking for travel-related advice, from which backpack to which bank card. I thought I’d share a few things I couldn’t live without right now. After the whole lost-luggage incident, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good grasp on what’s actually useful.
There are so many things I would tell past me whilst I was frantically trying to plan what to take. It’s bloody hard knowing what you’re going to need, particularly when you’re exploring different counties with opposing temperatures, contrasting terrains and different currencies. I couldn’t get my head around trying to pack for the sweltering heat of Thailand, the wilderness and mountains of New Zealand, and Spring-time city life in Japan – with many variations in between – all in a single backpack?! Traveller friends kept on at me: “don’t take too much, you’ll instantly regret it.” But how to know what the necessities are? In all honestly, you just don’t until you get there. And some of the time, you will rely on buying temporary seasonal adjustments you can throw away with each new country. But mostly, it is possible to take everything you need for most climates and activities all in one bag. The bag itself is also paramount to your planning of possessions, so I’ll start with that in my list of things I’m so very glad I took travelling:
1. A ZIP-AROUND BACKPACK
I am completely in love with my backpack. I knew I didn’t want a top-loading one, which requires removing every single item from a tiny opening just to find a clean pair of knickers. I wanted one that zipped all the way around like a suitcase, and chose the Osprey Porter 65. 65L is pretty big when you weigh 45kg but this backpack has ‘straight jacket’ fastenings across the front so that you can reduce the size and keep everything compact when it’s not full. It also has a million pockets, is super lightweight and really comfortable. The only downside is that you definitely look like a tortoise when you wear it because of the rounded shape, but I’m ok with that. Osprey Porter 65, £79.99 from Surfdome.com
2. A TRAVEL LAPTOP
I am writing and blogging my way through my travels, so naturally I needed to take a laptop with me. Rather than risk losing my trusty old Macbook, I bought myself a HP Stream for about £125 on ebay. At 11.6 inches, it’s small and discreet enough carry around everywhere. The memory space is terrible, so I save photos externally, but in terms of just having a solid laptop to write with, is definitely does the job.
3. A SLEEPING BAG LINER
Being an unfortunate morning sniffler prone to puffy eyes, I am apparently allergic to pillows, or dust or something. I use my sleeping bag liner as a layer of protection to keep my allergies at bay but they’re also amazing for when you’re confronted with questionable sheets. It folds up really small and is breathable, too.
4. A DECENT TORCH
In Thailand and Gili T, we had few days and nights of no electricity. Having a good torch that was able to light the whole room was a life-saver. My Nan bought us ours from Wilko. Good old Nan. Good old Wilko.
5. A POWER BAR
And the same goes for the power bar. When faced with no electricity, we were still able to charge our phones. It’s also great if you’re going to be out in the wilderness and risk running out of battery. Just remember to keep it charged! Teknet PowerZen 2nd Gen, £20 from Amazon.co.uk
6. A MICROFIBRE TOWEL
I have actually lost my micro towel which I’m most upset about. It folds up really small and dries quickly – perfect as a backup. Most places seem to give out towels but I’ve found New Zealand to be a bit stingy on the towel front, often charging you to rent a shitty old towel. Better to have your own. Microfibre Quick-Drying Towel, £9.99 from Kathmandu.co.uk
7. A FIRST AID KIT
Another nifty present from my Nan, a little first aid kit can go a long way. Stock up on plasters, painkillers and antiseptic because you will undoubtedly need them at a time where there are no shops. I would take sun cream too as it’s often cheaper in the UK.
8. A MAGIC UNIQLO JACKET
Have you seen those jackets in Uniqlo in all the colours of the rainbow? Well they fold into a tiny bag like a pac-a-mac, are water proof, lightweight and filled with down, making them really warm. My sister bought me one in khaki and it’s by far one of the most useful things I have. Perfect for an extra layer on chilly flights and overnight buses and for staying dry on boats and rainy days. Ultra Light Down Jacket, £59.99 from Uniqlo.com
9. A TRAVEL WASHING LINE
Just a stretchy cord with hooks on each end. Genius when you’re forever washing swimwear and socks in the sink. Travel Clothes Line, £5.47 from Amazon.co.uk
10. A WATERPROOF PHONE POUCH
There may be times where you’re on a boat in rough seas, or you’re simply dancing in the rain. Invest in a waterproof pouch for your phone and money so you can be carefree about it. Dry Phone Waterproof Phone Pouch, £6.74 from Amazon.co.uk
11. PORTABLE SPEAKERS
I would avoid taking anything expensive, just in case. We took knock off Bose speakers and they’re actually pretty good. I also made a shed-load of playlists on Spotify beforehand.
12. A GOOD CAMERA
I can’t stress enough how much you will wish you had a decent camera once you reach your dream destinations. This is the trip of a lifetime. Invest in a camera that can do your memories justice for years to come. It’s risky, so be sure to backup photos as you go and insure all your equipment just in case. I have a Nikon 3200 and it’s a great option for anyone wanting decent shots that isn’t a pro.
13. AN INDESTRUCTABLE WATCH
It doesn’t have to be an expensive one, I’ve just got a little gold Casio. But it’s waterproof and very resilient. I hate not knowing what the time is, especially when I’ve got pre-booked flights, ferries and buses to catch.
14. A FOLD-UP DAY BAG
I bought a Homdox packable backpack from Amazon and it’s so handy for when you need an extra bag. It completely folds into itself so takes up no space at all. It also fits loads in!
15. TRAINERS YOU ACTUALLY LIKE
I was in two minds about whether to take old trainers or lovely new ones. I decided to treat myself to a pair of Nike Janoski Maxes because, to be honest, I’m going to be wearing them every day so better to start with a new pair, right? Plus they are nice enough to wear with all my clothes for pretty much any occasion so I don’t always feel like a tramp. And because I love them.
16. BANK CARDS THAT WON’T CHARGE YOU
Without boring you all to tears, we decided to transferred all our money into a joint Santander 123 account. We also chose to have Halifax clarity credit card and a pre-paid card with a company called Resolut. The Halifax and Resolut cards are free to use aboard. We set up direct debits from the Santander account to pay off the Halifax and we top up the resolut card using an app on our phones as and when we need to. I would like to point out that this was Joe’s planning. I am hopeless with money and numbers. If in doubt, consult moneysavingexpert.com
17. DECENT DENIM
I’m so glad I took a good-quality pair of jeans and denim shorts (Topshop and Levis). I know they go with everything, are flattering and won’t go out of shape. They also require minimal washing. Light trousers and shorts are everywhere (and cheaper) in Asia.
18. PLENTY OF SWIMWEAR
This will probably be the thing you wear the most. It’s also the quickest thing to get ruined thanks to salt and chlorine, so take a good selection of swimwear.
19.INSECT REPELLENT WITH ‘DEET’
Well worth the extra couple of quid in Boots. We’ve found that, often, little corner shops in Asia only have crappy insect repellent that does nothing at all. It is so horrible being covered in bites, so check the ingredients for ‘deet’.
20. A KINDLE
I love the romantic notion of travelling the globe with a pile of books under my arm, but in reality it just doesn’t work. You will suddenly find you have much more time to read, so treat yourself to a kindle and save some space in your bag. Alternatively you will find second hand book stores and book swaps in hostels.
If you are as clueless about travelling as I was a few months ago, I hope this post has enlightened you in some ways. Basically, try your hardest not to fill up your backpack with clothes (which, admittedly, I did do), and take it from someone who honestly believed she couldn’t live without them, you can, and you will.