Now I am a backpacking kind of gal so these tips probably better suit fellow backpackers, but you wheeled suitcase, hotel staying peeps can adapt to suit your needs!
First of all, and most importantly – make a checklist. In fact make multiple checklists. Make checklists for your checklists! Okay that might be taking things a bit far, but there is nothing worse than getting to your first destination (or even just wheels off runway) and going “oh sh*t… I knew I forgot something”.
Now I know you can purchase pretty much everything, anywhere these days – but the tourist hotspots know you will forget something, and patiently wait for you to purchase their price inflated products.
This happened to us on our last big trip. We wanted to save on space, so we purchased those teeny tiny bottles of shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, sunblock, etc. When we go to the beautiful Greek Islands, we had used all of our teeny tiny bottles of sunblock so we trotted off to the store only to find it was very expensive to purchase. Daylight robbery. So this time, I will sacrifice that extra T-shirt, that I probably won’t wear anyway, for a larger bottle of sunblock.
But what else?
Roll it. Roll it. Roll it. There is the debate of roll, fold or bundle – I say roll. Especially if you are backpacking. You can get that rolled up singlet into that tiny little nook where other things won’t fit. But what about creases in your clothes? Simple… don’t pack clothes that crease easily, but also the rolling will prevent a lot of those creases.
Pack clothes that will dry quickly when you wash them. Jeans and other heavy items take a long time to dry – even in a laundry mat dryer. If you are backpacking and using laundry mats, take a small amount of washing powder. Some laundry mat machines can be expensive so cutting the cost of the powder could be better spent on lets say… a glass of wine while you wait for your clothes?!
Accessorise ladies! Keep a neutral palette allowing you to mix and match outfits. Take less clothes and jazz them up with a couple of nice, light scarves and necklaces to change the look. If you are travelling in winter, take layers instead of bulky items, especially if you are changing between two seasons as you travel.
If two or more people are travelling, split each others belongings between your checked luggage. If one bag goes missing, each of you will still have a change of clothes.
Don’t pack clothes you plan to send home, pack clothes you can bear to part with. Take those favourite pair of shorts you want to get a couple more wears out of, then discard them. H&M is your best friend overseas should you need to replace anything.
LBD. Translation for the guys: Little Black Dress. Ladies if you are wanting a ‘just in case we go somewhere nice’ outfit, grab a nice LBD that can be dressed up with some little sandals, or dressed down with a pair of kicks. I have made the mistake of taking nice dresses and a pair of heels abroad. Worst. Idea. Ever. Remember the point above, H&M will be your best friend!
Dry shampoo. Who has time to wash and dry their hair every day when there are much better things to see out there!
Make a colour copy of your passport. Keep a copy on you, email one to yourself – even email one to your family/next of kin. Also copies of your credit cards, travel insurance, drivers license. These need to be readily available and accessible should you lose your bag.
Pack a multi plug adapter. Nothing worse than needing to charge your camera battery before venturing out to see the sights, and the plugs are all being used or don’t work at all.
Keep plastic bags on hand. If you aren’t able to wash your clothes for a couple days, the last thing you want is the smell of your dirty clothes on your fresh clean clothes.
Carry tissues that can double up as toilet paper. I think most of us have experienced going to the bathroom and reaching for the toilet paper to notice there is only about enough paper for a lizard to blow his nose. The locals or other travellers may not appreciate your hand waving under their side of the cubical in search of help, and the other alternative is unspeakable. Make sure you also carry a hand sanitiser – who knows how clean some bathrooms are.
Know where you are going. No, not just what sights to see. Research the country you are visiting, it doesn’t take long and can save you a lot of time when you get there. For example; you won’t be allowed into St. Peters Basilica if you are wearing a singlet and shorts or if you litter in Singapore you can incur a $1,000 fine. These are things you need to know. Learn their customs.
Why not learn a few phrases to get you around? Especially things like ‘hello’, ‘thank you’, ‘please’ and ‘sorry’. The locals will appreciate that you are giving it a go – even if you get it wrong.
Leave your sarcasm at home. If you are travelling to a country where English is not their first language (and sometimes when it is) chances are they won’t get the sarcasm. Border security is also the worst place to test this theory.
Kick jet lag by adjusting to your timezones prior to arriving. When flying to your destination – sleep when they will be sleeping and eat when they eat. I understand this is hard due to the food service on the plane may not coincide with your destination timezone – so try taking your own food on the flight and eat when you are ready. Remember to stay hydrated – alcohol and caffeine should be avoided. Then when landing, eat small meals, drink water and get active. Trick your body into thinking you aren’t tired.
Don’t think pickpockets won’t get you. If you think you are being safe, go a step further. I have travelled many times and in the one time I slipped up, I put my never-leave-the-house-without-them Gucci aviator sunglasses in my front pant pocket on the metro in Paris. May they rest in peace. Wallets should never go in back pockets and ladies, your purses should have zips inside and should be worn on the front. They are sneaky, they are clever and they will take what they can get. Watch this video on some sneaky tactics to look out for.
Check to see if the water is safe to drink. Get this wrong and it is a sure way to ruin a city if not the holiday. If its not safe to drink, remember to sanitise your hands after washing them, don’t drink the water in the shower and ask all cocktails to be made without ice!
Explore! This is what you are there for right? Just be smart about it. Don’t take shortcuts, even if you are feeling comfortable with the city. Ask the locals for some recommendations on places to eat, things to see – they know this place best. We asked the locals in La Spezia where to eat and to date it was the best ravioli I have ever eaten!
Take copious amounts of pictures. I took hundreds of photos on my last trip, and although I do not share all those photos with people, I still look back at them and think “man I wish I took more”. There’s always that quirky sign you wish you took a picture of, the street performer that blew your mind, that glistening ocean. At the end of the day, all we have are the memories!
Hopefully these tips will help with your next adventure. Feel free to comment with any you think I may have missed!