As you may have gathered, we both love to hop on planes and explore the world.
We’re not the most glamorous of travellers. Most of our travels feature backpacks rather than concierges.
I tend to pack with obsessive practicality, though as I get older, I find myself wanting to sneak a few small luxurious and im-practicables into my bag. Kirst is a well-seasoned traveller who nevertheless ‘glam-packs’ as she terms it.
These are a few of the things we don’t leave home without:
Clean underwear in your hand luggage
I swear, as soon as you tell people this, they looked stunned and then you see the realisation on their face as they comprehend how important this is. Luggage gets lost sometimes. You fly from Brisbane to Bangkok but your bag goes to Singapore. It will probably only take 24-36 hours for the mistake to be fixed. In the meantime, you can wear the clothes you are in without a worry, but having a clean pair of underwear makes all the difference from feeling like yesterday to feeling fresh.
After having her luggage lost on one long-distance flight, Kirst goes a step further and when travelling by air, she has a whole (compact) fresh outfit in her bag.
This stuff is a traveller’s best friend. Not often used at home, when you are out exploring, particularly in a country where you can’t rely on the presence of soap, having a little bottle of hand sanitiser in your bag makes you are you a little less likely to get sick or feel dirty after eating or else after a toilet stop.
Spare SD cards and camera batteries
The camera batteries might be an obvious one for luggage, but we keep ours in our handbag. There is nothing more annoying to a holiday photographer than to be out somewhere new and exciting and have your camera die. The same can be said for having an SD card replacement. You might recharge your camera every night (you shouldn’t as it will ruin the battery life) and think you have plenty of space on your SD card. Chances are you won’t need either urgently, but they take up so little room in your luggage it’s worth having spares.
Items to feel comfortable and human on the flights
We fly economy class. We wish we flew business class and maybe in a few years we will, but not right now. You can find a lot of ‘how to look stylish on a flight’ guides but let’s be honest, when you are flying for over 20 hours, you just want to sleep and get through the ordeal.
Hand luggage is for valuable items such as your electronics, and whatever you need to get thought the flight. For toiletries, this may include: hand sanitiser, hand and face moisturiser, toothpaste, toothbrush, a face washer and anti-bacterial, face wipes, dry shampoo and tissues. Also some snacks, depending on who you’re flying with and the quality of their offerings.
If we’re being met at the airport, throw in BB cream, mascara, tinted lip balm, a small bottle of perfume oil and some blush to be applied at the last minute.
Of whatever size you prefer. I tend to travel with a large shawl-sized scarf. This scarf can be just about anything; blanket, towel, headdress or skirt when in sensitive areas, extra seat padding, bandage in emergencies, or just a scarf. I prefer cotton because it is breathable, washable and crush-able, or 100% wool when travelling in the cold.
Silk sleeping bag
This one is pretty specific and not everyone will be able to get their hands on one of these. I was converted on my trip to Vietnam when my travel companion had one from a previous visit. Her one-person silk sleeping bag folded up to A5 size, slim, crush-able and light as anything. She only pulled it out once, at a hostel in Sa Pa where we looked at the sheets and decided we didn’t fancy them. I bought two and took them on honeymoon to Cambodia, where they came in handy in Phnom Penh of all places. If you’re staying in hotels or houses you won’t need it, but if you backpack or travel rough, this little sleeping bag is all you need to rest safe is a strange bed. It may not be great in cold climates but you can always rug up with extra clothes.
One dress that goes ‘from day to night’
Even if you’re the most practical packer, you need a bit of frivolity on your holiday. So take out the third pair of jeans and throw in a dress that is more day than night, but which you can throw on a scarf and some jewellery before going out to a local tavern or bar and having some fun. Crushable, comfortable and knee-length is best as in most countries in the world, women dress more demurely than in Australia and it’s always best to avoid stares or causing offense.
This one may not be security-PC now a days, but a small serrated bread knife in your luggage takes up no room and can be useful if you like buy your own food at a local market to be enjoyed on your room balcony or an impromptu picnic. You just need to be very careful and always pack it in your check-in luggage.
A travel towel
Douglas Adams was right. A towel is just about the most useful thing you can carry, for the same reasons as the cotton scarf. A travel towel is a worthy investment and an essential in any backpack. We have one friend who insists a bucket is the most useful travel item but cannot agree with him there.
So there you have it. A short list of some of the other items we take with us when back packing around Asia and Europe.