Now that we are five months into our journey I thought that I might just share a few travel tips I have learnt along the way. Some of this is from my own experience and some from other travellers.
When we left home neither of us were rookies. We had both travelled before and, indeed, Dave and I had done a 7 month trip a few years before with only carry-on luggage. I thought I had it down pat but of course time tells a different story.
I managed to pack 2 things that to this day I have not worn (taking up precious bag space) and a couple of really poor choice items. So my first little pearl of wisdom would be that anything that goes into a bag (especially a small one) should be comfortable, not so worn that it will fall apart with repeated hard washing and potentially big enough that a couple of gained kilos won’t make it too tight 😉 . If you are going to be travelling for a while try to bring clothes that you can happily throw away as you make new purchases that way your wardrobe can be a constantly evolving entity, as well as potentially providing clothes to charity or other travellers when you discard them.
Pretty much everyone when they travel sees things that they would love to own. Some call them souvenirs, I call them memories. Either way they take up space. So there are a couple of ways around this. One would be to work out postage on an item and then send it home. We have done this with a few things, the biggest being a 1.5m x .4m teak carving we bought in Thailand last time we were here. We paid $15 for it, then paid $30 for shipping with instructions that if it required any handling costs at the other end we would go as far as another $20 and anything above that was not worth it. We now have (in storage) a lovely teak elephant carving that cost us $45 instead of $100-200! Well worth it 🙂
Alternatively you can start with empty bags, sometimes one packed inside another works well, and fill the spare, or buy a new bag when you start shopping. Again, I must admit to doing this myself. Last big trip, after travelling 6 months with only carry-on luggage we hit Europe and Egypt and ended up with nearly 35kg of luggage and a new bag. I have heard of people bringing a spare bag that is collapsible inside their luggage and filling that one as an addition. If it is a soft bag though I would certainly only put clothing inside, luggage handlers are not always gentle.
That said, another tip regarding baggage handling (other than I hope the obvious that you NEVER put anything valuable or breakable into checked luggage, always take it carry-on) is that if you are one of those who hate hanging around the carousel waiting for your bags to turn up, and who doesn’t, apparently putting “fragile” stickers on it means that it is last into the hold and first out. I personally have not tried this but have heard that it does work.
Also, if you are travelling as a pair or group with people that you trust (eg: husband/wife combo) and are checking in your bags, make sure that you mix the contents. What I mean is that don’t just pack a bag for him and a bag for her, mix-up the clothes and toiletries. That way if one of the bags is lost you will have something in the bag for both people. The likelihood of both bags going missing at the same time is less than just one. That said, as a solo traveller, do put a spare change of clothes in your carry-on when practical. Could mean the difference between clean clothes the next day and not.
One of the things that I wish I had brought a lot more of are ziplock bags. These little beauties take up practically no room but are a godsend. I use them to keep documents dry, keep random spare money in when we have left a country, store sunscreen and insect repellent in my handbag to stop leakage, keep medicines dry… all sorts of things. I am so wishing I had a dozen all in different sizes. When we were in the mouldy room I would have loved to put our passport wallets in a ziplock. It would have meant that I didn’t have to wash the money with the mould on it – no money laundering 😉
As for money, well that is very much a personal preference. No one that I know of uses travellers cheques anymore. There are specific traveller debit cards that can be pre-purchased at home and have a set amount in it (like a bank account) and you can use them at atms. For us we just use our normal banking cards. We have visa debit card and a mastercard credit card. The fees are not too bad (although each bank is different and this would be worth checking before leaving) and the convenience is priceless. The reason for 2 cards is twofold. If a machine eats a card then we are not left with no access to money and some atms are very fussy about visa vs m/card. I have friends that travelled with a m/card and the whole city was visa only. They were in quite a bind until a hotel agreed to cash advance from their card. It is definitely something to consider. We also make sure that we have a stash of hidden money in US dollars. If all else fails and we are robbed of obvious money (wallets, credit cards etc) then we can still get by for a few days while we get things sorted.
And finally I will leave this here with one last practical tip when travelling to hot countries. If your budget doesn’t include air-conditioning (or there is none) getting to sleep at night in muggy conditions can be a bugger. A fan is great but it doesn’t always do the job. So, I take my specifically bought sarong, dip it in water, wring it out so that it is still damp but not really wet, and lay it across your feet. The water evaporates and cools you down enough that you should drop off and once asleep, just hope you stay that way 😉 (Thanks for the learning of that Mum 🙂 ) It is simple but it does work.
Below I have included a few other things that I have found useful when travelling:
- Sarong – as mentioned above but also useful as a towel, sheet, makeshift bag, curtain
- Pegs – a dozen stashed away for hanging clothes (or money after laundering), closing curtains, securing mosquito nets, closing half eaten chippie(crisps) bags
- Kids library book bags – or any lightweight drawstring bag; keeps clothes separate eg: underwear, handy as a spare shopping bag, great for keeping all electrical cords in one place
- Bright ribbons to identify your bag on the carousel, tie it round the handle to make it easy to spot
- A decent padlock – a lot of rooms in Asian hotels have padlocked doors so to prevent someone else having a key we always swap their padlock for ours.
If you have any tips to add or want to know more let me know in the comments below. Cheers for now.
And this is Harry, the Tokay gecko. He is a nightly visitor to our light hoping to catch some big moths. And when I say big that is because Harry is huge. He is the second biggest gecko in the world and when fully grown will get to 40cm!! Our Harry is only a teenager at about 20cm but he is still one very impressive bloke 🙂