Mr & Mrs Wanderlust shares their packing list and some tips for travel
How much stuff do you need for a week, month or year away? Or even an indefinite trip? Remember that whatever you take you’ll have to carry and keep safe, so minimal is the best option. It is supposed to be an easy journey but struggling with heavy luggage every day would just bother. The less you’re carrying, the more flexible your transport options become.
It is best to apply the old saying: "You should take half the luggage you think you’ll need and twice the money."
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General Packing Tips
You need to research where you’re going – what will the weather be like, how likely are you to be able to buy more equipment or supplies where you’re heading, what type of accommodation are you staying in, how often can you do laundry, what sort of plugs will any electrical gear need?
The internet is your friend here, you can just Google the weather on the city where you plan to go. And you can see comprehensive weather information up to a week in advance.
Will you stay in hotels? Pitch tents in organised campsites? Or getting out there in wild camps?
Hotels and Hostels will be the easiest and require minimal luggage. Even low-end hotels tend to provide guests with shampoo and shower gel.
Quick note about home stays. If you’re lodging with a family and want to chat, nothing breaks the ice faster than a few postcards of home, and maybe photos of your family.
How to carry all your things and stuff?
Backpack: After years traveling on the road, the quality we look for most in a bag is ease of access. A top-loading backpack may be comfortable to carry across the mountain, but if all you’re doing is moving between the bus and a hostel it’s rather wasted. Having a bag with multiple opening points means you can keep everything in its place and get to it rapidly, without unpacking each time.
However, easy access to you means easy access to pickpockets as well. Always keep an eye on your bag.
It’s important you’re able to carry it when full. Many people get by with 35L for extended periods. You may be able to carry 90L, but limit it to a 55L for convienience – it’s much easier to store when travelling by bus or train.
Day-sack: We have a very small but lightweight 15L pack for day to day walking. It is large enough to fit a snack camera, other things and expands enough to accommodate a coat.
Big Luggages: It is fine using big luggage if say, you have a 5 day trip with your family and children abroad , and you are sure that the place you are going to is a developed city with efficient transport system that is "luggage friendly". What do we mean by luggage friendly? Some transport modes, especially in poorer countries will not allow you to fit your heavy luggage in which sometimes, you would rent 2 separate tricycles / tuk-tuk / cabs for you and your things, unless you rent a van big enough to fit your big luggages and your family (which would definitely cost more).
Some developed Asian countries such as Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore have very efficient transportation systems that will allow you to travel to your destination / hotel without leaving train stations. Same goes for big cities in EU, US and all over the world. Finally, make sure you do a little research, again Google maps will be a lot of help letting you know how to get from point A to point B.
You can always wear those specially designed travel gear, which is light and practical, but instantly marks you out as a tourist or your usual home clothes which you may feel more comfortable wearing. On a long trip a mixture of the two is preferable. Hiking in jeans not ideal, as is going to a fancy restaurant in zip-off hiking trousers.
Also remember that you’ll be able to buy clothes almost anywhere. Unwanted clothes can be sent home or donated to local charities.
The key here is coordination, so that whatever you have can be worn in multiple combinations. Darker items hide stains better, whether they are from sweat or lunch.
Shoes: Favour a low cut hiking shoe or even athletic shoe for general active wear, and in cities a pair of smarter or smaller shoes for evening wear. Flip-flops or sandals are useful everywhere, from the beach to an unsanitary bathroom.
Socks: Stick to Smart Wool. It’s comfortable and fast drying.
Underwear: Usually whatever you wear at home, plus a couple of anti-microbial pairs for long walking days.
Tops: Mainly t-shirts and shirts. Bring at least one long-sleeved shirt to deter mosquitoes.
Trousers: One pair of ‘normal’ trousers for nights out, one pair of (convertible) hiking trousers
or a pair of shorts is generally enough. Don’t forget the swimming gear.
Skirts: At least one long one, or a sarong wrap/pair of trousers to cover up in religious locations.
Hats: Much cheaper if bought along the way as the locals best know what you need – often a woolly one for cold weather and a wide-brimmed one for the sun. A strap is useful for windy locations, or one with a neck guard for extreme sun.
If packing clothes for hot weather, be mindful of local customs. A lot of places won’t appreciate short shorts and low cut or sleeveless tops. It’s always useful to carry a sarong or two to cover shoulders and legs when visiting sensitive areas.
Perpetual wet weather is the hardest work, as it’s no fun putting on damp clothes in the morning. In warm wet weather it’s important to keep the upper body dry with a light poncho or packable rain jacket but I find it far easier to just wear shorts and let my legs get wet.
Cold weather is the easiest to accommodate. Just stay dry and layer up all your other clothes. There’s rarely any need for bulky down jackets and salopettes. A long-sleeve moisture-wicking base layer is particularly useful in these conditions and can be worn on its own at temperatures down to zero degrees.
Most people take way too much. We carry the bare minimum for emergencies and buy anything else:
Anti-Asthma / Anti-allergies
Pain / Fever Relief
Couple of plasters
A few headache pills
Be wary of the drug laws of your destination. Always carry the prescription for any medicines you need.
Glasses: may be preferable to searching for contact solution in remote areas.
Makeup: As required, but most people end up not worrying in hot weather.
Birth Control: Your local version may not be available.
Sanitary pads: Hard to find in some Asian countries
For toiletries we repack them into smaller bottles and buy more along the way. Put them in a plastic bag to avoid any leakages. With globalization nearly everything is available everywhere. Sometimes, if the hotel room we got has excess toiletry set, we keep them for future use.
Documents / Paperworks
Keep these in a waterproof bag, and keep photocopies separately, or take photos/scans and store them in your camera and in a web mail account or the cloud (Dropbox). Also email yourself the numbers to call in case of lost bank cards or insurance claims.
Over time this is becoming a larger and larger portion of our luggage.
Smartphone, Laptop, netbook or tablets: plus all the power cables and adaptors you need. A laptop is useful if you’re working, otherwise a tablet will usually suffice. A neoprene cover acts as padding and waterproofing. Consider a buying a VPN for added security (allows you to browse on countries with internet limitations)
Camera: DSLR or point and shoot, along with charging cables and the cable to upload your photos. Spare batteries and memory cards are a good idea. Modern smartphones often have excellent cameras if you’re trying to save weight. A tripod can be useful, but you can often use a nearby wall or your daysack.
If you’re a prolific photographer, consider a portable hard-drive to save your work. Toughened hard drives are available, but are bulky and weigh more.
Music: An MP3 player is an easy way to carry lots of music/audiobooks to pass the time. Most travel speakers are useless, but it’s worth getting noise-cancelling headphones for long bus/train/plane rides.
Reading: If audiobooks aren’t your thing, then consider an eBook reader, like a Kindle – the battery lasts for ages! Failing that, many hostels will have book-swaps.
All-in-one power adaptor (I like to have a USB charger built in): This one works in over 150 countries. If you have a lot of electronics you can use a power strip to get more plug sockets.
Head Torch: Keeps your hands free whilst camping, reading or during power outages.
Sunglasses: The cheap ones you buy abroad won’t offer any protection against UV rays.
Multi-knife: Scissors, corkscrew, tweezers and a blade are enough. Remember to take it out of your hand luggage when flying.
Travel towel or Sarong: These dry quickly and can be used as a picnic blanket
Silk bed liner: Weighs nothing, but helps avoid bed bugs (and dirty sheets…)
Stuff sacks/dry sacks: to help organise your backpack. If space is at a premium, have a look at compression sacks.
Duct tape: Fixes rucksacks and clothes, covers blisters
Extension cord: Depending on the place you will go to, especially if with family / friends, it is best that you have your own extension cord as usually the electrical power sockets on your airport / hotel room wouldn't be enough to accommodate all the gadgets you need to charge, as well as your room mates' phones, cameras, laptops etc.
Any additional tips or specific recommendations from the comments below will gladly be incorporated into the lists above.
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