Travelling overseas is usually quite an adventure, especially if it is your first time or on a much anticipated holiday. However, inexperienced travellers usually end up packing way too much of the wrong stuff, and not enough of the right stuff!
If you are travelling to a country with a similar culture to your own it usually isn’t too serious if you leave something behind. More than likely it will be easy enough to buy it when you arrive, either at the airport or in a local shop.
However, troubles start to arise when you are going to a completely new environment that does not stock your particular product, or to countries that do not speak your language. Trying to explain to someone that you are looking for contact lens fluid, or anti-nausea pills in a foreign tongue can be a very frustrating event.
The key to a successful trip is planning, planning and more planning! Rather take the time to do the necessary due diligence and have a fantastic time, then leave essential goodies behind and create a huge hassle for yourself.
Your first piece of ammunition is a means of creating a list – whether it be a notepad and pen, a tablet or your cell phone – make sure that it is available and on-hand at least a week before you plan to depart.
Create individual headings under which you will be able to categorize and list items as you remember them. Heading items include: Clothing, Personal Hygiene, Medication etc. We will cover them in more detail further on in the article.
From the first day of compiling your list, wake up in the morning and start making notes. What is right next to you that you will need for your travels? Reading glasses? Sleeping tablet? Cell phone charger?
As the day and week progresses keep adding, taking care to put it under the correct heading so that you do not duplicate. Got a headache? Add your favorite headache pills to the list. Your only comfortable walking shoes? Again, add to the list.
The aim with the list is to get something comprehensive, and even if don’t take half of what is on the list, rather that than leave something behind. Once you have created this list template, it can be added to, amended and used for all your future travels. You can even create lists dependent on where you are going, for instance beach holidays, skiing holidays, or walking holidays and personalize each list for that environment.
Below I have created ideas of headings you can use, and a few points of things you should try to remember in each category. Remember that not everyone needs the same items, so use these as a guide and change where appropriate.
- Try and pack the smallest sized bottles for items such as shampoo, conditioner, shaving foam etc. What I do is keep a ready packed toiletry bag at home fully stocked with travel-sized items. When I return from a trip, I refill the bottles, replace any items that might have been finished, and keep it in the cupboard ready for the next trip. I then just take it out, and pack it in my suitcase.
- Sunscreen tends to be very expensive in tourist areas. Buy sufficient to last your whole holiday, especially beach holidays. Consider an after-sun lotion too, if you know sunburn is inevitable!
- Should you wear contact lenses, make sure you pack your fluid and storage container. I would highly recommend taking 2 additional pairs of contacts with, especially if the trip is more than a week or two. Should you be as blind as a bat, make sure you pack your glasses too, in case you are unable to wear your contacts.
- Should you wish to take along items like tweezers and manicure scissors, remember that most airlines will not allow you to take them on your person – you will need to pack these items in your suitcase.
- Do a bit of research of the typical weather conditions of the period and pack accordingly. And when you have finished packing – halve it! As someone who has travelled overseas regularly, I have learnt the drill. I usually end up wearing the same items over and over, and at least half the items I never wear once. Unless you are heading off to model your own clothes in Paris fashion week, pack frugally, you will be thankful.
- Pack a small amount of hand-wash powder in a plastic container and keep it in your suitcase. I would not suggest packing it in your hand luggage – white powder is never welcomed by the transit police! When you are staying more than a night in a place, hand wash your socks and underwear and leave to dry whilst sleeping or out during the day. This will save you having to find a Laundromat just for a few small items.
- If possible, try and wear your bulkiest or heaviest shoes on the flight to free up space and weight in your suitcase. If they are uncomfortable to wear whilst flying, slip them off and just wear socks.
- Use the space in your shoes to pack socks and underwear whilst travelling, so as to utilize all space in your suitcase effectively.
- A pair of plastic flip flops or sandals will always come in use, in case you are faced with a filthy shower, a quick run down to the ice machine, or a walk on the beach.
- Remember to pack accessories that are required for specific clothing items, such as belts or cuff links (which hopefully you will not require on holiday!)
- Try to keep accessories to a minimum; if you are going on holiday, the chances are that you will not need different jewelry for every different outfit. Rather stick to neutral items that you can wear with all outfits.
If you are going to be taking over gifts for family and friends, familiarize yourself with the laws of the destination country. Many countries place a limit on how much alcohol and cigarettes/cigars you can bring in, as well as outright bans on foodstuffs, wood etc.
Copies of documents
Before departing home, I always ensure that I scan copies of my most important documents and save them to a folder on either Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud etc. These will be copies of my passport, air ticket, visas, travel itinerary, travel bank cards, credit cards, contact details of destination hotels, travel insurance, and any prescriptions that I might be carrying on me. I also make 2 extra physical copies of the most important of documents, my passport and visa, laminate them and keep one copy in my hand luggage and one in my suitcase. This way, should something get lost or stolen, at least you always have identification on you. Should I be staying in an area for more than a day or so, I will always lock my passport in the hotel safe, and carry the copy around with me. If I do get pickpocketed, at least I still have the original in order to be able to get home!
- Ensure that you have packed chargers for all items that you will be travelling with including cellphones, tablets, digital cameras, laptops etc. Try not to take all of those on the same trip!
- For digital cameras I would suggest you try and back-up your images on a daily basis if possible. If you are able to do that, remember the cable that connects to your backup device.
- I would also pack an additional memory card for your digital camera, they can be rather fickle, and on my last holiday overseas I lost 3 days worth of images as my card broke!
- I always pack a small plastic container with the most essential of items. This includes blister plasters, headache tablets, antihistamine for allergies, anti-diarrhea and anti-nausea tablets. I also get three sleeping tablets in case I struggle with jet lag and sleep issues either on the plane or the destination.
- I also get a broad-spectrum antibiotic that can cover general bacterial infections in an emergency. In all my years of travel I have never had to use them, but I would rather be cautious and know I have the medication that works for me, and not something I could potentially react adversely too. You would need to check with your doctor whether they would be happy to prescribe something, you would need to ensure you carry a copy of the prescription on you, and also ensure that the country you are entering allows that specific medication.
- Make sure that if you are going to a Malaria area that you have taken the necessary medication before you travel, and continue to take it as long as the doctor recommends.
- Examine whether it is completely necessary to bring an item with or whether it is possible to rent or hire it there. For example, if you are going diving or snorkeling for a few days of a 3 week trip – do you really want to be carrying your fins and mask around the whole time?
- Pack a small sewing kit and safety pins, in case an item of clothing breaks and needs emergency repairs.
- I also carry a small travel pair of scissors in my suitcase in case I need them for getting into packages, cutting off tags etc.
- Remember that every country has different electrical sockets and if it doesn’t match your plugs, you will need to take adapters.
Travelling can be enormously exciting and if you plan properly, you will never have that sinking feeling of having left something behind!