When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.
– Susan Heller
If you haven’t guessed already, I like to do my research. I like to find out things from other people – things that work, things that don’t. So I Google a lot (other search engines are available.)
This morning, I went on a search for ‘Travel Essentials’.
So, travel essentials… And, I really do see this as my ‘if-you-want-to-waste-space-it’s-up-to-you-but-there-is-no-way-that-I-will-be-taking-this’ list.
I check out a lot of blogs and newspaper ideas. And apparently, a spoon is up there on the ‘you need one of these’ lists. The reason being, you can eat with it, and it is ‘useful for all types of travel related situations’. In my day-to-day life, I have never thought, what I really need to fix my flat tyre/ripped jeans/wash my socks/charge my phone is a spoon. You can eat with it, but unless you are camping on a regular basis and plan to be taking your travel stove with you (which again is not recommended for extended backpacking) you probably won’t need a spoon. If you are staying in hostels, they tend to have cutlery. You might want to wash it before you use it, but it is still there. If you are in places where cutlery is not generally used, then chances are people will be offended if you whip out your own. Could it be useful? I guess so, but does it belong on a travel essentials list? Not really.
Just, why? The guy who said this apparently uses it for ‘cutting things on, a plate, to sit on wet seats and to play with’. I think I will just use any surface, a plate, a plastic bag (if I am in that much of a need to keep my bum dry) and I will just talk to people! There is no need for a frisbee to be carried around. But more importantly, there is no reason to think this is an essential.
Shampoo, Conditioner, Shower Gel AND Clothes Wash
You need at most, two of these. All-in-one wash liquid is utterly fantastic, it works as an anti-bacterial shampoo, shower gel and clothes wash. I will take conditioner – you might not need this – I definitely do! I have ridiculously curly hair, and I want to brush it at some point. But in general, the point is don’t waste space with loads of bottles. And always remember, you can BUY THINGS ABROAD!
Just no. Even if I was going to stay in a villa by the beach for 2 weeks. I would still have no reason to carry candles with me. They can be used for light, I grant, but in that case I would recommend a wind-up torch to you. Lasts indefinitely, no need to carry matches, isn’t likely to set anything on fire, weighs a fraction of a candle. Plus, a lot of hostels have banned candle usage after backpackers have been less than sensible with the open flames.
Your hair will dry, especially in heat. It might not be perfect, but who cares? Just make sure you have something to tie your hair back with if it is really a bad hair day, but honestly, no one will notice (or at least they won’t comment!) Hostels/hotels will have one around that you can use, so save the space in your own pack for the really important bits.
Under-clothing travel pouches
Can you say tourist any louder? A) They tell everyone where you are carrying your money. B) It is highly visible to everyone, it is not hidden no matter what you do. C) You scream ‘I don’t belong here’ which makes you the perfect target. D) It is no safer than a wallet in your front pocket. D) You will want to carry all your money on you because you have this idea that it is safer, in reality, you should spread money about. It will help to keep it safe.
There are pros and cons to all of this one. If you have special dietary requirements, then by all means take things! My dad is very severely coeliac, and for many years this was not treated as a proper allergy, so he carried a couple of loaves of bread with him just incase people didn’t understand. Now, it is a lot better, but he always carries a packet of biscuits for a plane journey after one disastrous long haul where his meal was forgotten and the only thing he was offered to eat was peanuts for 8 hours! On the other hand, if you don’t have dietary requirements, part of the travel is about the food! Try everything whilst you are there! Why would you go to Italy to eat steak and chips? It’s the home of pasta and gelato, and all manner of amazing foods. Why go to Far-East Asia and eat bread and butter, try the noodles, the fish, and everything you can!
Over door hooks
Seriously, where are you going that you are that desperate to hang things up? If you are carrying things in a backpack, they will crease. Don’t add to the weight. Just learn to live with hanging things on bed posts/door handles/window ledges. Travel essential? No.
A robe or slippers
Home comforts are great, but do you really need to pack a robe? My robe is bigger than all the rest of my clothes, and probably weighs the same. So, ditch it for your trip. Again, with slippers, they are comfy, but not practical. Can you go outside in them? No. You can wear flip-flops for slobbing around in an evening, so leave the slippers with the robe. At home. On your bed for when you get back. Save the space in your bag for real travel essentials.
I don’t understand people! There has never been a point in my travels where I thought ‘if only I had a pritt-stick my travel would be complete.’ Seriously, why do I need a glue stick? If something is broken, chances are, gaffer/duct tape will work a lot better. And if it is clothing, then a sewing kit would be of use. Not a glue stick.
For anything back home. You have to lock up your house, I get it. But, give the keys to someone you trust (family, friends, neighbours). If you are planning to be away for an extended period of time, you don’t want to risk losing your keys, and really, what use will they be from the other side of the world? You are far more likely to lose redundant keys than anything else, and then you are stuck.
A massive backpack
The idea is: I have a big backpack, I can take more. But do you really want to? The more you take, the more you have to carry. And the more it hurts. So why do it to yourself? Keep a small backpack and still don’t fill it completely!
And, it hopefully goes without saying, if you are going to Sub-Saharan Africa, do you really think you need your full ski-gear?
Generally, the rule is, if you wouldn’t use it at home, you probably won’t use it away. But think sensibly, and remember: you can always buy things whilst you are away. Are you taking it because you need it, or because you want it?
Any travel essentials you have ever been recommended that seem ridiculous? What items are on your travel essentials list?