To Pack Or Not To Pack – What To Take Travelling

Ode From a Rucksack

Stuff me like a chicken tight,
And my stitches will burst in spite.
Make me slave with the weight,
And forget that I’m your mate.
Leave me alone without a chain,
And you’ll never see me again.
Treat me clean with respect,
Or I’ll see your holiday is wrecked!

Nigel packed well at Hong Kong AirportMost travellers pack too much. However, on a recent trip, an unexpected typhoon rotted my feet for days because I only brought sandals. It’s difficult getting it right.

What to take depends on the excursion and destination. If you’re going on an expensive cruise to the Antarctic, then you’ll need more clothes than backpacking in Thailand.

However, your trip length makes little difference to what you pack. Clothes are heavy, but can be easily washed while travelling. If your hotel can’t do it, buy some suds. To dry quickly, wring well and hang on a fan or leave overnight in the air-con.

what to take travellingIn a hot country, four t-shirts and underwear, with a spare pair of shorts and perhaps a jersey is adequate. If you really need more: buy on the trip. Sandals or flip-flops are healthier than sweaty trainers. In bright sun a cap is essential, although easily brought anywhere. For the beach: take one set of swimwear. The only addition for cheap back-pack hotels, is maybe a thin small towel.

Airports can get cold. After a few hours air-con and on long flights, you need long pants and a light sweater or jacket.

In cold regions, drying washed clothes is a problem: take more. Thick outer-garments need no washing. So if you’re leaving from a cool place, wear a lot to start with. If you’re going from hot to a cold, carry your coat at checkin. Layers are the secret to warmth. You’ll need a sweater, but it’s better to pile on dirty shirts if you’re cold, rather than take too many changes. If it’s freezing, you need 5 or 6 layers and a woolly hat.

Now the extras. If you’re in Asia in the summer or Europe any time, a small umbrella is handy – especially waiting in the rain for cheap transport. Any type of coat in hot terrain is trouble, even thin anoraks sweat. But if you do get wet, you’ll soon dry – and usually the downpour, although heavy, is only for 15-minutes.

what toiletries to take travellingEveryone over-packs toiletries. I can’t speak for the ladies, but why carry more than you’ll use? In a standard 6×8-inch airline plastic bag, I can just-about fit everything.  That’s 100mls shampoo, deodorant, moisturizer, tooth brush & small toothpaste, baby power for humid regions, a tablet of soap and two razors. Besides, that’s not at your hotel, can be brought nearby.

USB travel adaptersChargers are trouble. Everyone needs leads for their phones and gadgets, plus adapters for different countries. Bulky, and the weight ads up. Even on short trips, I take a smart-phone for Skype with wifi and another with longer batter life, a laptop, a camera and an iPad or Kindle. However, most phones and gadgets can be charged with a USB plug, by your laptop or a mains or car adapter.

plugs to take travellingGoogle what plug is needed for your computer in the country you’re going, and replace the lead from its transformer to one for a local socket. A two-prong flat pin works in most of Asia, and these can be brought cheaply from an electrical shop after you arrive. This lead can then be used for your other gadgets too, so there’s no need to take any home plugs.

coffee and water heater while travellingA small satchel or day-bag is useful for valuables in situations where your rucksack is too big. In Asia, I like to take 3-in-1 coffee – and in Thailand a heater to boil water. In China, boiling water is everywhere. Empty plastic bags of all sizes are handy. If you take vitamin or other tablets, put only what you need into a tiny plastic bag.

The only other things I tend to lug around are to read. I can’t resist books at the airport and newspapers from home. When I’m in the UK I get the Sunday Times, but never find time to read it until I’m travelling in another country. I appreciate it more there too. However, ebooks are lighter and almost as good as the printed word – and long battery life of a kindle or iPad helps.

A little thought before you leave home will make travelling much more pleasant. I usually get my carry bag down to under 6-kg with magazines, peanuts and gadgets; and my rucksack around 8-kg. I could do better – but at least I only need checkin luggage on short flights.

See my personal site at NigelHayMckay.com