I sound like an ass saying this, but when you travel as much as we do, you get pretty good at preparing for travel. And recognizing when it doesn’t matter if you don’t prepare. For example, if we’re heading to the US I don’t need to be too worried about what I pack, or how much I pack; the US is the land of convenience and anything I forget to bring will be available for purchase (and most likely, at a cheap price). It’s the same theory for the cosmopolitan cities of Europe. I’m probably going to want to do some shopping anyway (given the shopping opportunities on the island are somewhat limited) so I’ll throw in the minimum items – perhaps a favourite coat or pair of boots I haven’t worn for a long time if the weather’s going to be chilly, but the rest doesn’t really matter.
Of course, your packing style and level of preparation always needs to be tailored to the type of trip you are about to go on. Our level of preparation when we went to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for example, was very specific, as we needed to ensure that we had the necessary hiking gear, plus specialty items like headlamps and multiple water bottles to get us through.
However, there are some items that have become travel staples for us; things that get packed pretty much no matter what kind of trip it is or where we are going. Some of these items are perhaps based more on superstition than actual need, but nevertheless into the duffel/suitcase/backpack they go!
The biggest one for me these days is the medical kit. When we originally left Oz three years ago, and we were going through the whole “full medical check-up” procedure at the Travel Doctor, the husband, somewhat surprisingly, decided to fork out for a medical pack which was available for sale. The most critical item in that kit for us has been the travel diarrhoea antibiotics. For me, these have been critical in Mexico, Tanzania and Peru – and would’ve been used on an earlier trip to Vietnam had we been more experienced travelers at that time! For people with a delicate constitution such as myself (though even the husband was forced to partake of them in Mexico) they are essential to surviving different food in countries with different hygiene standards, different foods and different cooking methods. The antibiotics are great as they help the digestive system cope with these differences so that one can continue the vacation without one million stops to the bathroom.
Over time, we’ve added to the kit and made it our own – it now contains cold & flu drugs (the good ones with the pseudoephedrine),ibuprofen, immodium, antihistamines (for that pesky hayfever), bandaids & antiseptic, hydrocortisone cream, anti-fungal cream, hydralite powder, and other multi-use antibiotics. The good thing about having these items available is that no matter where you are you already have them which precludes the need to locate an open pharmacy or navigate a language barrier.
Although our clothing choice depends on where we’re going, both the husband and I have our usual “travel uniform” – what we wear for the flights – regardless of whether we are travelling economy or business (it’s not a fashion show people, I’d rather be comfortable than try to prove that I’m posh enough to be seated in business class). For me, the uniform consists of a plain singlet/T-shirt, hippy pants (cheap, light fabric, elastic-waist, harem style), a thin pashmina or scarf for wrapping/coverage if it gets cold on the flight and Birkenstocks. These same items are useful throughout the trip regardless of where you’re travelling – such as when bumming around the hotel at the end of the day and want something comfy to wear. Or keeping your neck warm or covering your shoulders in the case of my man pashminas. Or simply for traipsing around the place in the case of the Birkies when you need some quick on-off footwear. (I admit, we’re still dirty backpackers at heart).
I will admit, the last thing that still manages to trail along with us is probably not what most would classify as “essential.” It no longer even functions as it is meant! Yet – it’s one of our travel artifacts: the original plastic STA Travel wallet given to the husband and I when we booked our Round the World ticket some ten years ago. These days, the sides are split and it isn’t really able to hold passports or boarding passes any longer. To my horror, the husband recently tried to suggest that it no longer needed to be tossed into our carry-on. For superstitious travelers like me, such a change was unthinkable. There may come a time when logic and rational thinking gets the better of me, but for now, the STA remains.
The only other items one really, truly need are the obvious ones; credit cards, passports, vaccination booklet & residency permit… we’re otherwise good to go! Ready for boarding?