What I PACK

Swiss Army Knife

I cannot tell you how many times it’s been really useful to have had a penknife with me on my travels. Plucking out splinters with tweezers, cutting frayed items of clothing, trimming nails, opening bottles of wine and stubbies of beer, sharpening sticks in order to toast marshamallows in a fire, dislodging pips from between teeth (incidentally, some dental floss is a must pack too), the list goes on. Of course, the knife must go into hold luggage when checking in for flights. It would be a waste of a good, compact bit of kit to be carrying it in your hand luggage as it will only end up being confiscated at the baggage screening station.

Imodium

It doesn’t matter where I go in the world, I don’t want to be compromised by Delhi Belly or Montezuma’s Revenge. There’s nothing worse than being wedged into a window seat for hours on end and needing to rush to the toilet. Sometimes an upset stomach can be brought on simply by being in an area with different water from what we’re used to. Imodium is by no means a cure. It buys you a bit of time until you can get to a pharmacy or a doctor. I also take an Emergency Toilet Roll everywhere I go as I never know when I might need to use a public toilet and there’s no guarantee that it will be stocked with paper.

Plugs/Adapters

These days we seem to carry all sorts of gadgets with us on our travels that we need to plug in and recharge. I’ll always check before departure what type of plugs my destination has and I make sure that I have at least two adapters with me for that region. I also usually take a Portable External Power Bank with me as these are great for recharging phones, digital cameras and other gadgets (though it doesn’t seem to recharge my laptop). Current regulations seem to insist that these Portable Batteries are carried onto flights as hand luggage and that there be some charge in them so that you can prove that they are what they purport to be. They should also be contained within a pouch of some sort.

Travel Wallet

I have had my pockets picked. I have never, however, lost my wallet on my travels to a pick-pocket. When I travel I always use a travel wallet on a chain. If somebody really wants to remove something from my person, they probably will find a way. However, having the chain attached to my belt loop does deter potential thieves and sends out a message that I am more savvy than the average traveller.

Guidebook

I know that in this day and age people travel with e-Readers and that they can easily have an electronic copy of a guidebook downloaded onto that. I just really like the flexibility that a guidebook affords. How often do you find yourself with one finger holding open the map page and a beer mat bookmarking an attraction whilst you look up the phrase you need? There’s something about having an actual physical book with me that I like. On occasions where my weight allowance is strictly monitored, before departure I have taken photos of the crucial pages of the guidebook (including maps) and carried them on my phone, leaving the book at home.

Lucas' Pawpaw Ointment

This has become known in my family as “Magic Red Tube Cream” for its ability to be used on just about anything. I never travel anywhere without it. I keep a tub in the bathroom, a tube in the car and there’s always one in my travel sponge bag. It comes from Queensland in Australia and the nearest place to Europe that I have found it stocked is Hong Kong which means that anyone coming for a visit from Australia is begged to bring some back for me. I read recently that the price of Lucas’ Pawpaw is rocketing because the Chinese have discovered it and its become much more scarce because there is only so much pawpaw crop in Queensland to go around.

Eye and Skin Protection

You never know when sunglasses might be necessary. I’ve even reached for my sunglasses in Norway in the first week of January. Applying suncream is a must. I always pack the sunglasses in their protective pouch because bags take so much knocking about during travel. It would be awful to want to wear them and find them shattered. Suncream has to go into checked (hold) luggage to avoid confiscation at baggage screening. I always use at least a Factor 30. It’s nice to get a tan on holiday but not nice to get sunburnt and much nastier to get a skin cancer. I usually take some aloe vera based after sun lotion too. The final piece of the picture is a hat for shade.

Photocopies of Documents

I always travel with a few photocopies of my passport. In some countries it is a legal requirement that people carry ID at all times and in some places I would rather leave the real thing in the hotel safe and carry a copy. Some hotels insist on keeping guests’ passports at reception and I’m not always happy to surrender such an important document to somebody else’s care so it’s handy to be able to give them a photocopy. Besides which, in case something dreadful happens to my hand luggage (which it did once on a train in Brussels) I pack a second copy of all my travel documents (passport, driving licence, travel insurance, reservations and tickets) in my hold luggage.

Pen or Biro

It’s always useful to have a biro in one’s hand luggage for filling out those immigration cards. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve ended up lending one to neighbours on my flight. If you get bored of looking at the little screen there’s usually a puzzles page in the in-flight magazine to while away some of the time on a long trip (and I usually buy a newspaper in the departure lounge in order to do the crossword anyway, especially since my favourite one started coming with a free bottle of water). In-country it’s handy to have a biro for things like scribbling postcards and observations for my blog.

Spare Camera Battery and Memory Card

People may think this is a step too far but I have had occasions where I have needed both. On the Serengeti, for example, power points were few and far between and I took hundreds of photos. To be able to switch between batteries was a godsend (if I’m completely honest, I took an old camera with me too and needed to use that as well). So many of the places we visit are in all likelihood once-in-a-lifetime chances so to run out of memory on the camera card or battery charge and not have a replacement lined up would be upsetting.

Antiseptic hand gel

It’s really useful to have one of those little squeezy bottles of gel to squirt onto your hands, an action which can be so reassuring when you consider how many things you touch on a daily basis. We are far more vulnerable to picking up illnesses when we travel and don’t take care because the bacteria are foreign to us. Regular use of antiseptic hand gel is a must so far as I’m concerned.

Empty bag

An empty bag can be useful for so many things from supermarket shopping to keeping dirty clothes separate in the suitcase or backpack. I try to use a bag for life or even a canvas bag in an effort to be more environmentally friendly. It's also good to have a bag or two for packing shoes in the bag or suitcase so that any dirt on them doesn't spread to clothing. If I ever have a glass bottle in my hold luggage I tie it inside a bag in case of breakage.

A Padlock

Again, putting a padlock on a bag is not going to deter a thief who really wants to steal it but given the choice between a bag with a padlock and a bag without, the average thief is going to choose the easier one to access. That said, there’s a school of thought that a padlock sends the message that there’s something worth protecting inside the bag. I take padlocks on my travels. It’s your choice whether you choose to do so or not!

A Bladder or Hydration Pack

Made by firms such as Camelbak or Platypus, one of these is a really good thing to have if you’re going on a trip where you might have even one day of hiking. Put them into the freezer overnight and you get a drip feed of nice chilled water throughout your hike as the block of ice melts. Pop it in your backpack (inside the plastic bag you packed so that it doesn’t destroy other things inside your pack) whilst you are walking and thread the hose through, attaching it to your top with the handy clip.