Practical tips for the intrepid traveller…
We travellers love the feel of the open road, the sense of adventure, encountering the unexpected and savouring the unfamiliar. Right?
Of course we do, that’s what makes us intrepid, after all. However, while experiencing all the wonders that this awesome planet has to offer, as difficult as it may be at times, common sense must prevail to ensure a safe and relatively event-free trip.
As good old Major Baden-Powell advised the Boy Cubs and Scouts: “Always be prepared”.
While Baden-Powell’s advice centred around “always (being) in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your duty”, this blog is more about being prepared for eventualities that you may encounter while travelling.
Before the trip
For starters, you have all the documents that are required, right? Many a traveller has thought so and, at the last minute, realised their visa has expired (ask this writer!), the suitcase zip breaks on the way to the airport, that tube of suntan lotion has burst during the manhandling of your luggage at the airport luggage receiving section and covered your clothes in goo during the flight, or horrors, your luggage is overweight at weigh-in and you don’t have the bucks to cover the excess.
While some things cannot be remedied in this blog (eg your lack of funds) there are a number of other tips that you may find helpful!
Check and double-check what documents, are required for your destination. These can include:
- Vaccinations — from Yellow Fever if travelling to Brazil, for example, to good old Covid requirements.
- Accommodation — do you have your booking confirmation? Always a good idea to have a printed copy on hand as well as the digital version on your phone. This prevents fumbling for confirmation in a foreign language and trying to find it on a phone with a flat battery.
- Vouchers — package tours often require vouchers for specific activities, whether it be hot-air ballooning to washing an elephant in Thailand. Refer above tip: keep a printed copy handy for confirmation.
- Car hire — it’s always cheaper to organise this with your accommodation and airfare as a bundle — and yes, print everything in case technology plays up!
Before you even start packing, spend five minutes writing down all the items you need to bring, as it’s so easy to forget the little things like a phone charger, pen or a hairbrush. Tick the items off once you’ve packed them.
Use a lightweight suitcase as remember, it takes up part of your weight allowance. The lighter your suitcase, the heavier the items you can bring. Choose a lightweight suitcase or even consider a large backpack as carting around a wheely bag may get tricky and damage the wheels if you are constantly on the move during your adventure.
Movement can cause bottle and tube lids to loosen while in transit, so for liquids and semi-liquids like shampoo, conditioner, sunscreen lotions, body cream and such, always put plastic wrap under your bottle lids before screwing on the lid and then put into separate zip-lock plastic bags. You’ll never have a gooey mess to deal with at your destination even if a lid comes off completely.
A note to make is that liquids account for a lot of your luggage weight and if you’re not travelling for months on end, the chances are, you won’t need to bring the full-size version so invest in a range of silicon travel bottles into which you can decant your liquids.
While we are talking mess prevention, shoes can also soil luggage, so putting pairs of shoes into separate plastic shopping bags is also a good idea.
When you have decided on what you’re taking, leave at least half of what you were going to take behind, as you’re not going to need it! Whatever is left, roll stuff, don’t fold it as it takes up less space and makes items less wrinkly.
Another way to lessen the amount of clothing you bring is by choosing fabrics that are breathable and antibacterial, so they don’t smell after a few wears. Linens are great for hot weather as they are breathable and keep you from overheating. Merino wool is great for both hot and cold temperatures, while wool is antibacterial so you can wear items multiple times before they start to whiff a little!
Wool also regulates body temperatures keeping you warm in the cold, and cool when it’s hot. (Well, so they say, but wearing a woollen jumper in the heat of summer does seem counterintuitive? Mind you, I have never seen a sheep panting in the heat… Thoughts anyone?)
A great tip for those on a holiday where there are stretches between laundromats, put dryer sheets in your dirty laundry bag to keep your clothing from smelling, with the bonus that they barely take up any space!
Consider instead of bringing many items of clothing, to rather do your washing while on holiday. Bring a few teaspoons of washing powder or liquid detergent in a travel-sized bottle and get a travel wash line that you can string up easily in your room.
Along with your toiletries, always carry an extra pair of undies in your carry-on as your flight may be delayed and a change of undies may just be what the morale needs!
Aircraft air becomes dehydrating so make sure you have packed lipbalm to prevent dry lips and it’s also good to dab on your nostrils for the same reason, seriously! Another way to filter air is through a headscarf, which is multifunctional too as you can use it if it’s cold, if you need to cover your face while you sleep, to sit on, and more.
As an aside, I once used a headscarf to tie two kayaks together when a paddler became too fatigued to paddle! You just never know when a scarf will come in handy.
Utilising every nook and cranny in your suitcase is also essential, so try these tips for maximising space:
- Store socks inside shoes
- Stack bras then tuck underwear in the cups to keep their shape
- Store a belt in a shirt’s collar to keep its shape (of the collar, not the belt, silly!)
If you pack the heavier items at the bottom, like shoes and toiletries, it’ll be easier to wheel around your suitcase.
Overweight baggage can be expensive, and a quick fix for overflowing luggage is to wear your bulkier items. This could be that floppy sunhat, large coat or bulky boots. While you may also be able to free up a bit of weight doing this, it could hamper you when on board and trying to stow things away to free up seat space! Ah well, win some lose some…
- If you intend going to different countries in a single trip, invest in an international travel adapter and at least one power bank.
- On holiday, a sarong is like having one’s own McGyver kit as it’s cheap and has multi-uses: use it as a wrap for modesty on the beach (although that may sound like an oxymoron), lay it out for picnics or sunbathing, or even use it to dry off with as they dry quickly, even in humid environments.
- Pack a pen and a little notebook. You’ll need a pen to fill out departure/arrival cards on your flight, and if you need to quickly jot down an address or someone needs to explain but would prefer to write, this could also come in handy.
- Catching a nap on a trip goes a long way to arriving refreshed so pack a travel pillow. Either choose one that clips onto your carry on or opt for a cheap blow-up travel pillow that you can throw away if you need that extra space.
While the tips for travel are as varied as the travels themselves, I’m sure that in this missive, somewhere, a nugget of information will help you on your next journey. Bon voyage!