What to Pack for Traveling
This is what I consider an essential item for every traveler/backpacker. These are items I have used on my previous trips, and have served me well.
The most obvious first thing for any traveler to decide is whether to use a backpack or a suitcase. During my first solo travel experiences to Southeast Asia, Korea and Japan, I traveled with a backpack. For under 50 I bought the 55 liter Eurohike backpack with rain cover, which comes in handy during the rainy season! The plan is very open, and doesn’t really offer much security. That’s why I bought a special backpack for transit where I put my backpack and keep it safe from theft, but also keep it safe from airport conveyor belts. I’ve heard that conveyors at airports sometimes break clips from backpacks if they’re not secured properly, and that some airlines don’t even want to carry backpacks on their planes because they threaten safety. I literally lost my backpack during the trip, and was forced to wrap my backpack in a black trash bag and masking tape to prevent the clip from snagging on the airport conveyor. The backpack is comfortable, with excellent cushioning. However, I realized as I went along that the pack was a bit too big. I have read on many different websites that the smaller and lighter your package, the more comfortable your trip will be. This is very true. It’s not just about how light the bag is for you to carry, but also practical reasons like traveling on crowded trains and subways with a giant wardrobe on your back. The backpack is especially annoying when traveling on a busy subway, because I don’t know if, and how badly, I hit people – but I’m sure I must! However,
On my second trip to Japan, I decided to ditch my backpack and travel with a medium sized suitcase. I was traveling for 3 weeks, and had planned to move around the country a bit. I was worried about the condition of the suitcase wheels at the end of the trip, but overall I prefer the comfort of a good suitcase. The suitcase takes the use of your arms, but it relieves your back. I found time and time again that my backpack became too heavy and impractical for longer walks; a suitcase, meanwhile, makes walking a pleasure. Trying to find your hotel in the humid and busy conditions of Bangkok with your giant backpack is not a pleasant experience. Though, climbing stairs is a pain with a suitcase, but with a backpack it’s easy.
This may be important to you because it’s best to get around Japanese cities (and many other Asian cities) via the subway system, and sometimes they have big stairs leading up to the platform. Last but not least is that luggage makes you look more business and professional; backpacks make you easily recognizable as a traveler or tourist, and make you stand out more. If I enter a good hotel with my backpack, I will not be provided with the same service as if I were traveling with a suitcase. I believe that backpackers have a bit of a bad name in some countries, as backpackers tend to be younger people who are more prone to stupid behavior for letting some exertion after finishing university. Last but not least is that luggage makes you look more business and professional; backpacks make you easily recognizable as a traveler or tourist, and make you stand out more. If I enter a good hotel with my backpack, I will not be provided with the same service as if I were traveling with a suitcase. I believe that backpackers have a bit of a bad name in some countries, as backpackers tend to be younger people who are more prone to the stupid behavior of letting go after university. Last but not least is that luggage makes you look more business and professional; backpacks make you easily recognizable as a traveler or tourist, and make you stand out more. If I enter a good hotel with my backpack, I will not be provided with the same service as if I were traveling with a suitcase. I believe that backpackers have a bit of a bad name in some countries, as backpackers tend to be younger people who are more prone to the stupid behavior of letting go after university.
You don’t want to carry a suitcase or backpack on your daily outings or outings, so you’ll need a good, comfortable daypack. I actually picked up the shoulder bag, as it looked more stylish than a small backpack. But be warned, shoulder bags can give you annoying neck and shoulder pain if you overpack them with large water bottles or souvenirs. In this case, a good mini backpack is better because it transfers the weight evenly across your back and shoulders.
I always take out travel insurance because you never know what could happen during your trip. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Medical assistance abroad can cost you thousands if you don’t have the right insurance, so always read your insurance policy properly. When I look for insurance I always turn to comparison sites, like moneysupermarket.com. This way you can compare all the different companies that offer insurance and their relative policies.
Skype is a free service that lets you call anyone in the world (who also has a Skype account) for free. This service is completely free when using the Skype-to-Skype service, and is competitively priced if you want to call a mobile or landline. You can use Skype on your iPod Touch, a real Skype phone or on your laptop. If you take your laptop overseas, you can even use the webcam to make video calls, but if you don’t bring your laptop, I found that many cafes in Asia have Skype installed on their computers. Skype also lets you send instant messages, play games, and even transfer files. Overall, Skype is a great tool that you should use on the go.
First Aid Box
I like to carry a mini first aid kit with me when I travel. Boxes come in several convenient sizes that are great with everything you need for your trip. Items can include: plasters, antiseptic creams, insect repellent, and various tablets for common travel ailments.
I will not go into detail about clothing, as I believe it is a personal choice and depends on the needs of different people. However, I would say that you should always pack lightly, and think about whether you will ACTUALLY need an item of clothing. Sometimes, I fall into the trap of packing too many clothes ‘just in case’. When traveling in Asia, you can always buy cheap clothes, so there’s no need to overpack. The minimum I bring for a month of travel is: 3-4 t-shirts, 2 shirts, long pants, two shorts, swimming trunks, 2 pairs of socks, trainers/sneakers (I’ll buy some that look formal but are as comfortable as trainers).
Travel Wash Line
I take a small washing line on my travels if there isn’t enough space to dry my clothes. If you pack lightly, you can wash your clothes more often, and sometimes you may need a clothesline for extra space.
Travel Sink Plug
I use this occasionally when I stay in hostels. In some budget accommodations you won’t have a sink stopper, which makes shaving difficult. Therefore, travel plugs are recommended if you are considering staying in budget accommodations. Also, even some high end hotels have broken plugs in their bathrooms, so generally a good item to carry.
As a cool backpacker, I have a ton of toiletries. My toiletry bag consists of: shaver, moisturizer, sun cream, nail clippers, eyebrow tweezers, aftershaves (which I usually buy from airport duty free), lip balm, deodorant and more!
It’s raining in March
If you are traveling anywhere that has a rainy season then a rainy mac is a great idea. Monsoon rains are incredible, and can take you by surprise and leave you drenched. A small rain mac can be condensed into a very small size and can be easily carried in your daypack.
Swiss Army Knife
I take this with me sometimes on my travels because it has a variety of useful tools: a bottle opener, scissors, toothpick, tweezers, screwdriver heads and lots of knives of various shapes and sizes.
I recommend taking a large travel towel. It can be folded into a very small size and takes up very little space in your luggage. They also dry faster than regular towels.
I really don’t know much about cameras, but I definitely know that you’ll need them on your travels. It is a way of recording experiences that is not possible in any other way. I just bought an 8 megapixel camera in Bangkok – it really helped me.
You will need this for your camera, so make sure you bring enough spare parts from your own country, which tend to be cheaper than when abroad.
Mobile phones are now a necessary gadget in all parts of life, and are essential during your travels. It’s a great device for keeping in touch with other travelers, but it’s also a safety device in case you get lost or in danger. Remember to take your charger with you, or it will become useless after a few days.
Backup Sim Card
Just in case you lose your first Sim card, you can pick up another Sim, which is usually free.
Debit/Credit Card Backup
I will take a spare card just in case I lose my main card. If I lose my primary card, I can cancel it and then transfer money from my main account to my backup account via internet banking.
Pen and Paper
Sometimes you need to write down things, like directions or contacts, and a pen and paper will be very helpful. I always travel with a mini pen and small notepad in my backpack so it’s easy to reach. You can always use your phone or iPod Touch for this too.
A travel adapter is required if you want to charge your iPod or cell phone. Once you know where you’re going, you can figure out what converter plug you’ll need. This will save you having to search around in your destination country. Multiple all-in-one plugs and cover everywhere.
My iPod Touch was irreplaceable during my travels. Not only is it great for watching movies, listening to music and playing games while waiting for your flight or on a long train journey, it also has practical uses. By downloading a free app over its Wi-Fi capability, you can turn your iPod Touch into a hotel or hostel finder, currency exchange service, travel guide, and more. I also bought a special and inexpensive set of earphones and microphones for my Touch, which let me use Skype anywhere I have free Wi-Fi. You can actually find free Wi-Fi anywhere in Southeast Asia: McDonald’s, Starbucks, shopping malls, hotels, and even airports. However, I was surprised to find that Wi-Fi access is not so easy to find in Korea or Japan, and tends not to be free if offered.
I don’t actually own one of these, but it looks like it’s just a big iPod Touch. All the convenience of the iPod Touch as a nice pocket device that is easy to carry everywhere is lost in this device. But maybe I missed something about it.
I love reading travel guides and always carry them with me on my travels. My favorite guide has always been the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide. I regularly use the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Thailand, Japan and Rome to name a few. I found them very helpful, but most importantly I liked the focus on the culture and historical sites. The guides are beautifully illustrated, easy to navigate, and the pictures and captions are beautifully presented. Apart from that, the history section is informative, well illustrated and a pleasure to read. I also recommend Rough Guides and Lonely Planet, which I’ve also used before.
I originally bought one to hide my valuables, but then only used it to store bus/train tickets or change so it was easy on hand and I didn’t have to rummage through my bag or pocket. The money belt can be used as just a regular waist bag (fanny pack if you’re American) with no valuables and just left on display rather than inside your clothes. I just use it as an extra convenient pocket.