Every time I go travelling I think, ‘Next time I’m not going to bring that. But I AM going to bring that.’ Some things that seemed like a great idea pre-trip turn out to be totally useless on your travels. Others you wish you’d had the foresight to pack. Here are five essential items that, from my own experience, I will never get on a plane without:
This is something I have had on every trip I’ve done, and used a lot. However, I’ve been surprised to hear some people abhor the very idea of lugging walking shoes around on an extended trip. Sure, they are bulky to carry when you’re not wearing them, and when you’re in a region with a hot climate the idea of putting your feet into thick socks and sweating your way through the jungle does not appeal. But most of the trips I’ve done have involved a lot of walking and trekking, up volcanoes and mountains, on often fairly dodgy terrain, and my trusty walking shoes have been a real treasure.
A good pair of walking shoes support your feet a lot better than normal trainers (or flip flops!) avoiding achy feet, and will keep your feet well ventilated in hot climates. Invest in a pair of comfortable, waterproof walking shoes (I would only bother with boots if you’re doing some serious mountain trekking and therefore need the extra ankle support), and don’t be like the girl I once met who ruined her feet by hiking the Annapurna Circuit in a pair of Converse.
I definitely used to turn my nose up at microfibre travel towels, convinced that their drying powers were about as good as rubbing yourself against a wet dog. However, having since used them on a couple of occasions when provided in hostels, I have accepted that my preconceptions were in fact misconceptions, and bought my own! It takes up SO much less space in my bag, and it really does dry much quicker, putting a welcome end to squishing a sopping wet beach towel into a plastic bag to rot on a 10 hour bus journey.
Photo: Flickr – Inessa Akhmedova
First aid kit
Squeamish ones, look away now.
Halloween 2014 was the bloodiest Halloween of my life. Literally. I spent the evening on a beautiful Pacific beach, mopping up the blood spewing from my travel buddy’s severed toe. For the remainder of the trip we looked after it with antiseptic wipes, spray and cream, covering it up with reams of bandages.
In most places you can find first aid supplies in local shops, but if you find yourself somewhere fairly remote, like we were when the ‘toe incident’ occurred, the antiseptic and bandaging powers of your little first aid kit may well be the gift that avoids infection and a ruined trip. I would definitely recommend carrying a small first aid kit in case of any little accidents on your travels – deep cuts and grazes can easily become infected in tropical climates especially, so are best kept clean and covered to avoid the risk.
I have very pale skin that is extremely prone to sunburn. Anybody who knows me well enough is well aware that I relentlessly lather the sun cream on and carry several bottles of varying factors with me when I’m travelling. But I have still had to learn the hard way that, finding yourself without shade, on a scorching hot day, entirely hatless, is no fun at all.
However stupid you think you look in a wide brimmed hat, get over it. No doubt you’ll look stupider when you’re wincing at the pain of a tomato-red face. Also, a hat can make a great fashion accessory! I shall wear mine with pride.
We would all like to think that we’re such travel pros that our sixth sense of adventure will simply draw us to the best places to see and the most exciting things to do, and that our seventh sense of direction will never allow us to get lost. However, in reality it’s not usually so easy.
A guidebook doesn’t need to be your bible; it doesn’t even need to be your main reference. It’s definitely best to ask the people you meet on the road about the places they’ve been and where they would and wouldn’t recommend, read online blogs, and ask the locals about spots that might be less well known to tourists.
But a guidebook can be a great starting point. They’re full of useful maps, info about the places that you wouldn’t dream of missing, and even bus times and fares that are often difficult to find elsewhere. Somebody has already done a lot of the tedious logistics research for you, so you might as well buy the book. I wouldn’t go anywhere without one.
Photo: Flickr – Jaymis Loveday
What have you found to be absolutely essential on your travels, and what has experience told you to go without? Tell us in the comments!