Packing is the worst part of travel. Ugh, just thinking about it makes me hate it even more. My dislike probably stems from my difficulty mastering the art (or science) of it. In my first years as a travel blogger, I almost always forgot something important, something that days or weeks before the trip I planned on bringing with me but I would totally forget come travel time. If there’s a stereotype that men are bad at packing, it’s because of men like me. LOL.
Of course, I have improved over the years. When you keep doing it over and over again, you tend to get better. Also, life has thrown at me lessons that made sure I wouldn’t ever forget bringing essentials with me. So you won’t be like me, I have put together a list of things that travelers should make sure are in the bag before they zip it up. Here they are:
1. Enough underwear
As the Secret Traveller says, you can easily re-wear your t-shirts. The same goes for shorts and jeans. But no-one wants to wear dirty pants or socks. Underwear is “a different beast”, as they put it.
Thing is, most of us pack as many pieces of undies as the number of days we would be traveling. The trouble with that is, there are moments when you will need more than one in a day. Sometimes, you will be drenched in rain or you’re gonna have to cross a river or you’ll forget one at the shared bathroom. It’s always best to bring a few extras.
Of course this tip is for short trips. If you’re traveling long term, just make sure you have enough before laundry day.
If you’re heading to France, remember guys can’t wear swimming trunks in public pools – they’ve got to wear Speedo-type shorts, as Rick Steeves reminds you. Luckily, they won’t take up much valuable luggage space.
2. Basic medical supplies
No-one plans to be ill or have any injuries on holiday. But should something minor happen, it’s nice to be able to deal with it easily in your hotel room without creating a fuss or having to visit a local pharmacy. So pack some essentials like painkillers (paracetamol or ibuprofen), cold and flu medication, Imodium, plasters, and antiseptic.
I learned it the painful way literally on my first solo backpacking tour. I crashed my bike and stumbled on the ground after a visit to Angkor Wat. It left me with nasty wounds and scratches on my knees, legs, and feet. Nothing major, but it was tough backpacking while limping. I didn’t have any first aid kit with me, so I had to buy from the pharmacy, where the language barrier became a problem. The wounds didn’t heal even after moving on to Thailand, where I had an even harder time looking for the meds that I was used to.
Another instance was our hike to a waterfall somewhere in Palawan. I didn’t realize that the fruit shake I had the night before had milk. I am severely intolerant of lactose. Long story short, a war erupted inside my tummy while I was in the middle of nowhere! So yes, don’t forget your first-aid kit.
3. A lock
Falling victim to petty crime is one way of ruining a good holiday. You might not think it at first, but taking a lockable bag has huge benefits. The number one way to deter casual theft is to buy a backpack that locks. Don’t be the easiest target – by making it a bit more difficult for thieves, they’ll choose someone else’s bag.
There are also places in the world — *cough* Manila *cough* — where airport staff are notorious for opening bags to either steal something or plant something. And make sure you buy the good kind. There have been a couple of times when my bag, which was locked when I checked it in, was unlocked when I picked it up off the carousel. Happened to me twice.
4. Flip flops
I almost always unintentionally leave flip-flops at home. I don’t even know why it keeps happening, even when I was flying to a beach destination. Flip flops can be worn around the pool. You can throw them on and walk into the local town. They’re the easiest go-to holiday footwear.
Thing is, you’ll probably be able to pick up a pair for relatively little at most destinations. But nothing beats the pair that you’re most comfortable in. And it’s unnecessary expense.
5. Plug Adapters
In some countries, your gadgets and the electrical sockets don’t match. And it’s such a chore trying to memorize all of them when you’re on a multi-city tour. This is where plug adapters come in. Make it a habit to bring your own because not all hotels or hostels around the world can lend you adapters for free. Some sell or rent it out, and that’s additional unnecessary thing you’re gonna spend on. Also, pay attention to the voltage standards before plugging in anything.
6. Reusable Water Bottle
It may look bulky, but bringing your own water bottle offers a lot of benefits. First, the cost. In many cities around the world, tap or fountain water is potable, which means you don’t need to buy a bottle of water every time. If it’s not potable, you can save money by buying a large jug of water from the grocery store and refill your small bottle before heading out. What makes bottled water expensive isn’t the water but the bottle!
We also advocate reusable water bottles to minimize use of plastic bottles. It will help the environment.
Remember to empty the bottle before going through airport security inspection.
7. Ear plugs
If you’re a light sleeper, it’s always worth packing a good set of expandable foam plugs. They’ll help you snooze on trains and flights, as well as helping you with any noise where you’re staying.
None of the things on this list take up much space. But they’ll certainly make your travels easier – take them away with you once and you’ll soon wonder how you did without them before.
What do you always take away with you? Share your packing recommendations with us.