Recently I filled in as guest editor for Journeys to Come, a blog by Australia’s Queen of Travel, Catriona Rowntree and one of the sections I had to provide advice on was my favourite gadget.
This got me thinking about all the random things we take when we travel, things that we don’t even think about but that make life on the road that bit easier.
My response on Journeys to Come was my Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 camera. I love it, it’s small enough to fit in my handbag but takes beautiful photos and 4K video. When I’m travelling with Ade, of course, I don’t need it. I let him worry about all the camera paraphernalia, but when I’m hosting tours, or travelling with family and friends and Ade’s not there (this happens fairly regularly, probably more than it should if I’m being honest.) I need something to get high quality images but that is easy to use and light to carry.
So what else do we take with us to make travel easier?
We both have an arlec headtorch, which always travel with us. You just never know when you’ll end up somewhere with limited power. I used it constantly in Uganda when I was volunteering. The school we stayed at only had a generator for power, which meant there was no light to cook by or to read by at night. I’ve also used it in Australia when I’ve been pitching tents and on day trips when I’ve been walking through caves.
Metal drink bottle.
Mine is a University of Melbourne drink bottle – a souvenir from my days in the corporate slog. I find water tends to stay colder in the metal drink bottle than in a plastic bottle, which is particularly handy in hot countries. I also use it during transit. Most airports now have water fountains so as soon as I’ve cleared security I look for the water fountain and fill up my bottle ready for the flight. Note: This doesn’t always work when flying into Australia, which doesn’t allow any liquids in the final departure lounge or on the planes, but it works for most other flights.
Ziplock plastic bags
This is a relatively new one for me and I got it from a client on one of my tours to Mexico. (Ade has often used ziplock bags to store his batteries so also takes credit for this one). Now I always take a few ziplock bags with me. You just never know what you might need them for. I use them to put soap in if I’ve started using it and want to take it with me – takes up less room and weight than a soap container – for snacks, and small amounts of washing powder.
I have a little head so the headsets they give you on planes are uncomfortable and constantly fall off my head. But my in-ear bud noise-cancelling headset sits in perfectly. Plus, it tunes out much of the background noise on planes when I’m trying to sleep.
On my last tour we stayed in the heart of Saigon. Right opposite a nightclub. It was loud. But the earplugs, which take up very little space, kept out most of the noise. Now I keep a little pouch of ear plugs, my noise cancelling headset and an eye mask with my carry on travel gear.
I don’t really like umbrellas, I like to keep my hands free for photographing things, talking (yes, I sometimes talk with my hands) and well, just random things I might want to do with them. I always keep a plastic poncho in my day pack in case it rains. The poncho takes up no room and is light so it’s easy enough to carry. I have just bought a lightweight rain coat so we’ll see how that goes instead.
I usually take a small lined Moleskin notebook, but while I’m travelling I do like to pick up notebooks in different countries. I use it to record notes about what I’ve seen, how I feel about a place, things to do in future, things people say… Anything that I find interesting, really.
Multi plug cube/double adaptor
As well as taking local adapters to be able to adapt our power plugs to local plugs we always take a double adaptor or powerboard with us. When you’re travelling you can get limited time to charge camera batteries, laptops, phones… Being able to charge more than one item at once saves a heap of time. Another trick I’ve learned is if you get two entry cards when staying in a hotel, leave one card in the power socket in the hotel room while you’re out so you can continue charging your devices. Just remember to turn off your AC and lights.
For everything. Headtorch, camera, Li ion recharge pack for phone etc. Just remember to carry Li Ion batteries on the plane with you. You can’t check them in with your luggage.
A Good Book/ Kindle
Ok, this may not actually make things easier but it does make everything better! On short trips a book is fine, but for longer trips the kindle means I can take multiple books at no extra space or weight. I read everywhere – in airports, while waiting to check in to my room, in my room, in restaurants, and sometimes while I’m waiting for Ade to finish photographing something… I always like to read a novel about the country I’m travelling through and will often buy local books when I’m on the road – because really, even when you’re travelling, you can never have enough books!
I know, I know, it’s a little old-fashioned, definitely old school. It’s a complete contrast to the high tech gadgets we usually think of to make our lives easier. And maybe it’s a sign than I’m getting, ahem, older, but lately I’ve found a fan to be very useful while travelling through hot climates. I bought my most recent fan in Vietnam and it’s so easy to keep it tucked away in my bag while touring and actually does help keep me cooler.
So there you go, 11 things we take with us when we travel, all things we’ve added to our travel bags along the way to make life on the road more comfortable.