Things you should never leave home without
I’ve gathered a list of items that you should never leave home without, no matter the time of year you travel. I have personally road-tested most of these and can vouch for their usefulness while backpacking. All these items are small and wont impact on your luggage space too much.
Lush Shampoo Bars
One of my all-time favourites, is the Shampoo Bars from Lush, around $14. These come in several different scents and I can swear by these little things. I used mine to wash my hair and body, wash my clothes and wash my hands when there was no soap in the washroom. It can be taken on planes as it’s not a liquid and last around 80 washes, so will do you for a long trip. You can also buy a small round tin to keep these in, they cost $4.95. Get the square one (body butter tin, for the same price), it’s easier to get your soap in and out.
Although I wouldn’t recommend using this for washing clothes in a machine, this is nifty for sink washing your clothes, or as I used to do, wash them in the shower with me.
I took this with me last time I backpacked thru Europe, I travelled for almost 6 months and this lasted me right til the end.
To go with this, Lush also sells Conditioner Bars.
Extra Memory Cards
Always carry at least 1 spare memory card with you, as you never know when your going to accidentally snap your card in half, loose it or run out of space. Nothing worse then spending valuable sight-seeing time finding a shop to replace your memory card.
I also highly advise a card reader and a portable hard-drive, preferably 1Tb. Other options for storing your photos is Sky-drive on your Hotmail account.
For obvious reasons.
You will be surprised by how many will forget this. I worked at check-in at Sydney Airport, several times a day people would turn up without this vital document. DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT! Also, make sure it’s not expired. Most countries will require you to have at least 6 months validity. Passports can take up to several weeks to be processed and returned to you. Make sure this is the first thing you do before making any plans. Make sure you scan/photocopy your passport and other documents, and hand to a family member back home, even better, email them to yourself. Also carry some spare passport photos. Should you ever loose your passport, this will make the issue of a new one, and proving who you until you get a new one, so much easier. Also, be sure to apply for any Visa’s you may need.
If your travelling solo, and want some decent pictures of yourself. Make sure you take one of these. Also great for night shots and taking videos. I picked up one of these from a street vendor in Rome for 5 euros. It was the best investment I made that whole trip. Something like the tripod pictured is suitable for compact ‘point-and-shoot’ cameras. I wouldn’t go attaching your DSLR to this.
Don’t forget your adaptors! Some countries require a converter too, be sure to check or your appliances will get fried! Consider a powerboard too for charging many appliances at once. Most hostels will have limited power points so the powerboard will make you some friends.
Your right, nothing will go wrong, probably. Only crazy people travel without travel insurance. If you can’t afford travel insurance, then you can’t afford to travel. Be sure to shop around and get the best insurance for your trip, remember, activities like skydiving, bungy-jumping and skiing are not always covered.
Make sure you register your travel plans and as many details as possible on Smartraveller. If anything is to go wrong, your family, and the Australian Government, can find you, and in the worst case (natural disaster or terrorist attack), bring you home. make sure your family have copies of your travel documents, itinerary and contact details.
Get yourself a ‘travel bible’ from Lonely Planet or Rick Steves. The best pre-trip investment I have ever made. I lived by my guidebook, it was my life. And I wouldn’t leave home without one. Also available as e-books now, you can purchase the chapters you need, saving you heaps of money.
Consider the Lonely Planet App, the App is free but you need to pay for the guides you wish to use, average cost is $4.49.
Also available is the Rick Steves App.
The guides are updated frequently, so make sure yours is the most recent edition, otherwise you could be planning your trip around the wrong information.Also, if your up for the challenge, take a phrasebook with you. Try and at least learn to say “Do you speak English?” in the native tongue of the country your travelling. The locals like it when you try. Other important phrases to learn “Where is the bathroom?”, “Where is the train station?”, “What time is it?”, “1 beer, please”.
Digital Luggage Scales
If your catching planes throughout Europe, grab yourself a digital luggage scale. Some airports have scales you can weigh your bags on before you reach the counter, but normally charge for this (about 2 euros, some free). It’ll save you having to re-pack your bags at check-in.
Depending on what sort of photos you wish to take. A point-and-shoot with decent megapixels and a video option is all you really need. You can pick up some decent cameras for less then $100. If your travelling to the snow, or the Islands, consider a waterproof camera.
For the avid photographer, then a DSLR is a must. Make sure your travel insurance covers it. Many will have a limit of $500 or so, it may cost extra to insure it.
Especially of your staying in noisy Hostels and sleeping on trains. You can grab some from your local chemist, supermarket or eBay.
A pack of Baby Wipes, the all-purpose cleaner. If you plan on eating picnics, this will wipe your hands clean after eating and wipe down your plates so your bag doesn’t stink, clean that nasty looking metro seat, clean your hands when you’ve touched something suspect on a handrail, spilt tomato sauce on your shirt…. the list goes on. Seriously, have some on you, always.
Band aids & First Aid kits
Invest in some good quality blister band aids and normal band aids. If your planning on doing a lot of walking, and even if you haven’t, you will end up walking everywhere. I’ve found the material band aids tend to stick on better then plastic. First Aid Kits should also include any prescriptions that you will need during your journey, and include basics like headache tablets, Contraception and Detol or another antiseptic cream.
Thongs, Flip Flops, Pluggers, Australian Safety Shoes
Tinea and athletes foot are the worst when your travelling and walking around all day. Thongs are light weight, take up minimal space and are a life saver for your feet. Wear them in the shower and around your hostel.
Travel Clothes Line
A travel Clothes Line will come in great use if you only have a few items to clean. Wash them in the Hostel sink and hang them up on your line, preferably on your bunk bed. This is frowned upon by Hostels, but wont get you kicked out. Just make sure you keep it to a few undies and socks and no one will care.
Travel Sewing Kit
Clothes have a way of getting holes and loosing buttons. I had accidentally ripped a small hole in my pants putting my backpack on one day. I quickly whipped out my sewing kit and sewed it up while sitting on the train. You can buy them for a few $$ on eBay.
Swiss Army Knife
Swiss Army Knife. You will use this, at least once. For either opening a bottle of wine, opening a can, doing your nails…. etc etc. Just don’t leave it in your carry on luggage, like i did, and have it confiscated at the Airport. Fail.
Small Flash Lights are great for seeing your way around your hostel dorm at night, without waking other guests by turning on the lights at 3am (A quick way to loose friends). Available cheap on eBay. Also for consideration, headlights, a light connected to elastic and you place around your forehead. Great for reading books and rummaging thru your luggage at night as you don’t need your hand to hold the light.
Good for those days you want to sleep in. If you travel to Europe on an international flight, they should supply you with one of these, hang onto it.
Useful for securing your bag within a hostel locker, and to train shelves. Most hostels will charge you either a hire fee (around 2-5 euros), or you can buy them (around 5 euros). Best to just buy them before you leave home. Also a good idea, a bike chain, again, great for securing your bag to train shelves and your hostel bunk.
Packing Cubes & Space Saver Bags
A great way to organise your clothing within your bag. Separate your underwear, pants and tops. Packing cubes are great for everyday use items and Space Saver Travel Bags are great for items like snow gear and jackets when your not using them. Space Bags compact them to half their original size, taking up less room. Also protects your clothes from becoming ripped or damaged while in your bag. You just roll the air out of them.
Before you travel it is a good idea to join some online travel forums like TripAdvisor, Fodors, Frommers, and LonelyPlanet. These forums are great places to pick up tips and advice from people who have already visited your chosen travel destination. You can also use these forums to find a traveling partner. If you travel to Egypt, you will need an Egypt Visa