My top travel tips, for every trip

Sharing a list of travel tips is a bit like sharing favourite destinations, it’s largely down to personal preference and I can safely say should not be relied upon to suit everyone.

Despite that caveat, I have had a fair amount of experience travelling the world, and could write post after post of travel tips. So, I wanted to share with you, what I think are the 5 most important travel tips. I would follow these for every trip, if I had to start all over again.

1. Research

In my experience the best trips I have taken have involved extensive research before, during and after departure.

Fleeting or last minute visits can be great, but I still find that a little research ensures I don’t miss anything.  So basically I don’t travel without doing it

These days, there are numerous sources of information at your fingertips. I like to refer to recently written blog posts and usually check on Wikivoyage, but always try to get my hands on at least one guide book as well. E-books or even second hand or borrowed books are fine, even if out of date.

Friends and family who have been there before often have some ideas to share. Or check out knowledge from locals, which can’t be beaten.

2. Plan

This is obvious in the sense that you would plan where you want to go and what you want to see etc. However, what I find is key to a good trip, is ensuring that you have a list of places you want to go or things you want to experience, but that you are prepared to be flexible and not try to tick off everything.

To do list and notes for 2018

Have a list, compiled from your research or following recommendations. However, just pick out a couple of items from it that you feel you MUST do, particularly if you are short on time or travelling with others.

For example, ahead of my trip to Krakow in Poland I was adamant that I wanted to see Auschwitz. Well, I couldn’t possibly go all that way and not go there. So despite my travel companion having been before, I planned to stay an extra day there and booked a tour, to ensure I covered this properly. Fortunately I wasn’t left to go on my own in the end, but it was a hard few days. That leads me on to my next tip…

3. Make friends or hook up

Travelling alone can be, do I dare say it – lonely! Yes, even this independent traveller has sometimes found herself feeling a little bit lost and alone. I’ve actually had some good trips by myself but the best moments are those that you can share. Even if you travel solo, there are always options which will ensure you are not simply alone, all of the time:

  • Book a tour

    Perhaps for the main part of a trip, joining up with a tour company that is pre-organised will ensure you are looked after and have little hassle along the way. I have often booked with a group when I only have a week or 2 to travel. It ensures I don’t miss anything or waste time trying to get from A to B. Organised group tours make travelling easy. However, when I have a longer trip planned I still often either start or end the trip with something organised, or join up with groups along the way. If I’m meeting a friend or relative then it just makes things easier. When I’m on my own or somewhere particularly remote, it just makes me feel a little safer. Finally, free walking tours are a must – these are one of the first things I look for when heading to the next destination.

  • Meet up 

    Friends and family members used to pipe up when they heard about my solo plans offering to join me along the way. This was great, because I could look forward to a friendly face and also experience what someone else might like to do for a change. I’ve travelled with my friends and even my Mum on a variety of trips and there is no doubt that sharing an experience is the best way to do it.

  • Hang out

    Staying in hostals is great for meeting people along the way. Hang out in the reception/lounge or wherever there are others in a similar position. I’ve also had the chance to meet some great people following volunteering and more often than not if I visit a school or orphanage, they are always more than welcoming and willing to show you the local highlights.

The most important thing when you’re travelling is to not be shy, but to also be careful not to step out of your comfort zone. Don’t put yourself in danger by going somewhere that is unsafe. Use your common sense.

4. Experience local life and help

Whether you are planning a short or long haul holiday, or to somewhere rich or poor, there are always experiences to be had that you just won’t get back home. Do you know someone who has been there before, can they recommend a place to stay. How about someone who still lives there? If you don’t know someone living there, someone else you know probably does. Local contacts will provide a wealth of info and experiences.

The best experiences on my travel have often involved volunteering or visiting a local school or orphanage. Find ways to meet the locals and see what life is really like. Best of all you are made to feel so extremely welcome. I haven’t had a bad experience yet, check out my Volunteering page for some of them.

5. Record

In my view there is no point experiencing what the world has to offer if you can’t share it. If you can’t actually literally share the experience with someone special, then I can highly recommend keeping a journal/diary. Many people keep a blog – and of course I would recommend this, and they can just be private. When I started blogging about my travels it was merely to keep my friends and family updated. It also avoid having to go over the same stories time and time again when I finally returned.

I’m so glad that I took the time to write along the way, as I often look back and reminisce over a trip or two, especially when I am busy preparing for another.

My travel writing started out as just a record of where I had been and what I had seen. These days I hope it has become a little more in depth and well informed, albeit still largely centred around my own experiences.

More travel tips:

13 items I don’t travel without
13 items you probably don’t need to carry when you travel
What to pack: For a short break to Europe
My recommendations for maps whilst travelling (and geocaching)
I challenge you to give Wikivoyage a try

Toilet tips for travellers #worldtoiletday

Today is World Toilet Day (yes really!), as designated by the United Nations General Assembly, in 2013. Originally established in 2001, the campaign was created to highlight the sanitation issues experienced in many parts of the globe. Read more information at the official website.

neon toilet signs
To mark the occasion I thought it time to share my top toilet tips for travellers. Prepare yourself… there’s no holding back on the graphic details today!

1. Learn the language

Not literally, but as well as learning how to say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’, as I always recommend when visiting a country, find out how to say, ‘where is the toilet/bathroom?’ by the time you arrive.

toilets are tandas in Malaysia

2. Use the facilities

Even if you don’t REALLY need to go, it might be a while before you find another proper toilet, and you just don’t know when that might be. So use the facilities when you can and take advantage of visits to restaurants and cafes where they are free. You may need to plan or prepare when in rural areas, third world countries and even in cities, such as London, where you often have to spend far more than a penny* these days.

free toilet sign do not pish here

3. Carry tissue

This is probably a good idea when travelling generally, not just for toilet visits. It’s more of an issue in Asian countries where they do not usually supply toilet paper. Even if you’re a bum gun convert like me (see my post ‘Bum guns on my travels‘), be prepared and carry tissue paper when visiting public toilets. Also consider carrying antibacterial wipes/hand sanitiser, especially for the really unpleasant toilet visits.

4. Small change

Whether at home or abroad, it’s very common in public places to have to pay to use a toilet. Small change to hand will make things easier, although be careful not to leave change in pockets when visiting a squat toilet; more on that below.

5. Strengthen you thigh muscles

Ladies will probably already have been well practiced at squatting (!). Often in public toilets this is necessary, especially when there is no seat, wherever you are in the world.

squat toilet hand painted sign

Practice helps…

When travelling to Middle Eastern and Asian countries in particular, male or female, be prepared to squat. Strong leg/thigh muscles are a must for this and there are some exercises you might want to consider doing before this experience, to prepare yourself.

6. Leave your dignity behind

When trekking, walking, camping and similar,  where there are just not going be any facilities, you may be faced with having to be ‘seen’ with your pants around your ankles (bonus tip: try to keep pants around knees in practice).

Rural toilet

On my travels, I’ve found the PUBLIC part of public toilets to be some of the worst for lack of privacy. My personal experience to date includes highlights in both China and Vietnam.

very public toilets with no doors Vietnam service station

yes, these are toilets…

7. What to wear

When you know you are going to be subjected to squat toilets, dress accordingly, or ensure you roll up trouser legs and tread carefully. There’s nothing worse than finding an unidentified damp patch has made its way onto your clothing from the floor, or worse, your feet!

My favourite footwear, my beloved Crocs, are ideal for visiting toilets as they are much better at keeping your feet dry and better still can be washed off easily when needed. Do read about the other reasons why I always travel with these trusty shoes, despite the lack of fashionability.

8. Master the squat toilet

All first timers will go through the fear of falling over (or in). In fact as a well practiced user of squat toilets around the world, I still feel the fear every once in a while. The worst moments being on trains or where the squat toilet pertrude’s somewhat upwards. The flat on the ground types are much easier to navigate!

flat squat toilet shop

I prefer ‘flat’ squats, over…

raised train squat toilet

…balancing on raised train squats (whilst the train is moving!).

If you haven’t experienced a squat toilet then I suggest take note of tips 5 and 7 above, ahead of a potential first meeting with a squat. Then on arrival, just use the foot panels as best you can, get as low as you can, and watch out for your feet. Note: I don’t recommend this on raised squats, particularly on a moving train – just master the ‘hover’ style squatting technique and try not to touch anything!

Simples. Well with a bit of practice you should be facing your fears in no time.

Got any toilet tips to share, I’d love to hear them?

Otherwise, have a Happy World Toilet Day!

What to pack: for a short break to Europe

Short breaks to Europe mean a change of baggage for me. Reluctantly I have to rethink the practicalities of my hand bag as well, so that it is suitable for all my needs, including geocaching, whilst being stylish enough to be taken seriously.

Think my bag from old jeans, bag, will work?

Wherever you go, the importance of travelling light cannot be emphasized enough, and even someone as well travelled as myself struggles to do this each and every single time she leaves the house (!), not just when travelling.

So what items, other than the 13 items I don’t travel without, do I include in my packing list for a week in Europe?

Baggage

Well, my backpack is immediately disregarded for a trip to Europe, and my wheelable compact suitcase comes out. It’s really only suitable for a long weekend, but what’s a few extra days, other than a better choice of shoes.

Wheelable gives you mobility and freedom

Many airlines only allow one carry-on bag. And who wants to pay an additional fee for extra luggage when the radical concept of a bag measuring 50 x 40 x 20cm (check individual airlines as these vary) allows such mobility and freedom.

Plus, when you carry your own luggage, it’s less likely to get lost, broken, or stolen. A small bag allows you to hop off the plane and head off to your first destination, ease through public transport and even meet up with others (or pick up a few geocaches 😉 ) before checking into your accommodation.

Clothing

Don’t pack for the worst-case scenario, pack what you need. Take layers and be brutal about what you can go without.

I tend to pack items that will be worn repeatedly, complement other items, and have multiple uses. I pack with color coordination in mind, mostly neutral colors (black, brown, khaki) that dress up easily and can be extremely versatile. Of course I can’t resist a few items in my favourite colour, purple.

Try and choose fabrics that resist wrinkling, or look good wrinkled. To extend the wearing life you can always wash, wring and wear again, as lightweight clothing should dry overnight in your room.

When backpacking, I’m clear about what 13 items you probably don’t need to carry when you travel, but in Europe I do allow one exception to that list – jeans! If you want to fit in and have the flexibility for day or night, then you must include a pair of jeans in your packing list. I often add a denim skirt to this, depending on the exact destination.

The one exception for travelling in Europe

One skirt or a dress can also double up for day or night wear, with the addition of a pair of leggings. A cardigan is often a god send when it gets chilly, or at this time of year.

Use a stuff sack or packing cube to help keep your clothes tightly packed and well organized. I stand by my recommendation (No. 9) that these storage solutions really help with the speed of packing and unpacking.

Fitting in

It’s important to dress in clothing that you feel comfortable in, particularly when it comes to footwear, but there are also a few things to take note:

Shorts – worn in coastal or lakeside resort towns, but rarely in cities, unless it is exceptionally warm weather.

Churches – mostly in southern Europe, have modest-dress requirements for men, women, and children: no shorts or bare shoulders, although this is often loosely enforced.

Socially – if you want to fit in and dress like a local, then it’s worth doing a bit of research before heading to your chosen destination. For example, Journey Woman, gives some useful tips on what women should wear for specific destinations, and you can contribute your own suggestions too, after you have returned from your trip.

Toiletries

Decant your products into smaller containers, making them flight friendly and reducing weight. Minimise your make up bag – after all, you really don’t need your entire cosmetics collection, when a lip balm, eye liner, mascara, and face powder will suffice.

Don’t forget

  • Wheelable bag
  • Handbag that will fit inside your baggage
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Walking shoes
  • Sunglasses
  • Waterproof/ziplock bags

And remember… anything you aren’t sure about is probably best left behind; after all, in Europe, it is easy enough to find a shop to purchase whatever you need if you didn’t pack it.

13 items you probably don’t need to carry when you travel

So after sharing with you the 13 items I don’t travel without, here are the things that, from my experience, are just not needed when you travel.

However, there are a few caveats concerning destination. So, I have incorporated my thoughts on a few things to consider before crossing it off you’re list.

1. Money belt

People swear by them, but other than observing a number of my travel companions in the past and chuckling at fellow travellers, I have never had the pleasure of wearing one myself.

Sorry, but I think they look stupid, making you look out of shape, fat or just unable to fit in your clothes properly. They also make you sweat and that can’t be good for you or the contents.

Travelling with a lot of money on your person can be difficult, but you really shouldn’t be carrying any more cash than your insurance will cover you for. Is it necessary when there are ATM’s and money changers available worldwide these days? I don’t think so.

I often max out my withdrawals at an ATM to save on fees but I just carry the money in my wallet/purse. Sometimes I will have other currencies with me but I keep those in my bag, which is lockable, and often left in a hotel room whilst I am out for the day. If I’m between destinations, I just carry the money and other valuables on my person.

Be sensible and don’t flash your cash around then the level of risk really isn’t any different than being at home. Keep to within you insurance limit then you are covered if anything unfortunate were to happen.

2. Travel towel

I sometimes head off on a trip with this in my bag, only to end up sending it home, so I’ve lived with the mistake of taking one many times.

Most accommodation provides you with a towel, or worst case you can rent one. It is often not included when you stay in a dorm room, but that, and when you are trekking for days up a mountain is probably the only times I would recommend you take one. Even then, only if it’s for a long period, as renting is cheap for the rare occasions you need to, and far easier than carrying the extra weight.

The backup option is a sarong, as indicated in my previous post. When at the beach I find this doubles up as a mat too.

If you are going to need to take a towel, bear in mind that the texture of a travel towel takes some getting used to. Also, they are often a lot smaller than you think they will be (the standard size probably won’t even wrap around you, so go for extra large) and if you don’t let them dry properly they can start to smell very quickly.

3. Jeans

For the majority of destinations, do yourself a favour and leave the jeans at home. If you’re heading somewhere hot and wishing to travel light you won’t want to wear them. They are heavy and washing them isn’t easy sometimes.
Time to leave the jeans at home

If you hit a cooler climate or need to blend in with western style cultures you can always buy a pair.

Note: If you’re travelling in Europe or the USA then that is probably the only time you will want them with you.

4. Mosquito net

Unless you are camping in the jungle or desert and responsible for bringing your own gear, just don’t bother taking one.

I have only ever needed my own mosquito net when trekking or volunteering in remote areas and often there is somewhere nearby where you can rent, borrow or buy one cheaply if needed; usually for cheaper than back home.

It’s just extra weight if you are heading to Asia or South/Central America and staying in hostels/hotels, as they often supply them if there is a mosquito problem, or they can be rented cheaply.

5. Make-up

Unless you are on a luxury holiday, taking a weekend city break, on a hen do or planning to get dressed up, the average traveller (with a backpack) isn’t going to use make-up unless they want to look out of place.

Consider if it’s going to be hot or dusty or less than luxurious, make-up will just be messy and pointless.

If you really can’t be without it take only eyeliner, mascara and lip balm, which will be sufficient to enable you to make up your face if the opportunity arises.

6. White clothing

It just won’t stay white, so leave it at home.

If you are on a 1 or 2 week holiday or city break then ignore this point. As a longer term traveller though, you will just end up not wearing white or the white item will become dirty and grubby looking (more so than your other clothing).

Glad I wasn’t wearing white!

Greys, khakis, beiges, light blues/greens and even creams are better choices.

Also note that very dark colours are said to attract mosquitoes – although I’m not sure if this is true. But dark colours are certainly likely to make you feel hotter in the sun.

7. Hiking boots

They take up a lot of room and are heavy/bulky to carry. It’s also possible that they cause you to rely on ankle support, making your ankles weaker after wearing them.

Walking boots just made my feet sore

If you are solely hiking then of course this point should be ignored. I am referring to a holiday or backpacking trip.

I’ve made do with walking shoes (more like trainers, sneakers, running shoes) on all my overseas trips, although they’re still bulky. Even then I rarely wear them unless taking a long hike in a jungle or into the mountains. I more often than not wear my Crocs (see previous post), even when walking/hiking. Otherwise its flip flops (thongs, sandals) all the time.

Think about where you are heading, the temperature, altitude and any must-do treks, i.e. hiking in Nepal, Peru and New Zealand, you may need boots. However, it’s really only when trekking in cool mountainous regions with difficult terrain that you might feel you need the extra ankle support a boot offers, but from a standard travel point of view, low-cut (compact), cool and light is the way to go.

Still not sure, take a look at my walking shoes review following the disposal of my walking boots after 7 years – Walking shoes or boots?

8. Sleeping bag

Again taking this into the context of the trip. Unless you are camping or trekking for long periods or suffer from being cold more than others, you won’t need it. If you are on a long term trip and may decide to go camping or trekking at some point, you  can always hire one if needed.

Hiking to Lost City, Colombia – they provided the net, I rented the sleeping bag

I took one trekking to Machu Picchu in Peru and the Annapurna trail in Nepal. These were specific trips and not for longer than a couple of weeks. I trekked to the Lost City in Colombia, whilst travelling the rest of the country for a month, so just rented a sleeping bag.

9. Hair drier and straighteners

This one makes me chuckle as my good friend whom I sometimes travel with, cannot leave home without them. However, usually we are heading to Europe or the USA and probably need to keep hair looking decent, so I can let her off a bit.

The answer is: learn to deal with messy hair. Even in the heat, having a hairdryer or set of straighteners is probably a bit of a waste of space, as your hair is never going to do what you’re used to it doing under these circumstances.

Your best friend will become a hair band, head scarf/bandana or hat. You won’t care after a few days and even washing your hair may become less of a priority.

10. Laptop

Even as a travel blogger I don’t take my laptop on a long trip. Of course I miss it and struggle to back up photo’s, edit documents and stay organised. But without it I adapt and find alternative methods.

Of course I would recommend a tablet as that’s my device of choice these days – see my previous post for more on this.

If you really want to use a laptop you can find an internet cafe to fulfill your needs.

11. Documents

By this I mean copies of printouts of insurance, bookings, emails, etc.

You will need to carry proof of vaccinations, passport/visas and PADI log. However anything that can be scanned and held electronically within your email account or on a tablet/phone, ie where the original won’t be needed. Then do exactly that. You can access and refer to it if needed.

Note that having a hard copy of your insurance policy on your person is worthwhile too, in case you have an accident or more serious, and aren’t able to access online documents.

I PDF (Portable Document Format) and scan documents, then store them on Dropbox and my tablet/phone in case I need them. If I don’t have my tablet or phone I can log into Dropbox online. I used to just email everything to myself – again another easy way to access your documents on line.

Therefore I rarely need any paper work at all. My passport is generally proof enough that I am me and any bookings or info can be verified by other means.

12. Anything you can buy

If you don’t have it or will need more, you can buy it. Often it is cheaper to source locally than bringing from home. Especially in Asia. Things are cheap and readily available, although often unreliable. Similarly in South or Central America.

Western countries should never be an issue.

The items I would include as exceptions would probably be:

  • Medication – many things can be purchased from a pharmacy. You want to ensure you have enough medication until you can find a pharmacy. It may be difficult to communicate what you need. Then possibly you will need to see a doctor or have a prescription. Have an emergency supply of painkillers and I recommend some Tiger Balm.
  • Tampons – these are difficult to source in Asia and Central/South America. They do exist, but often only in bigger cities and usually are expensive (more than back home). I’m not suggesting you fill your bag with them… That’s a bit extreme! Just be mindful that you may have to look at an alternative or plan ahead. Whilst in a city try to stock up. This seems to become even harder in Muslim countries.
  • Religious and cultural items – if this applies to you then you will understand the point. These items are not going to be easy to source everywhere you go, so prepare for this.

13. Comfort items

Everyone needs something to remind them of home. Take whatever it is with you but limit yourself to just one item.

For example, I’ve met a few travellers with soft toys or their personal mascot. Very cute. But you don’t need a whole bag full. One is enough!

I never travel alone 😉

13 items I don’t travel without

Can I travel without it? Will I cry if it gets stolen? Can I buy it locally?

These are the questions I ask myself when packing my essentials for a trip. Whether it’s an overnight stay, a long weekend, a holiday, or a longer adventure.

Often the items I don’t travel without are the same, with a few exceptions, depending on the destination.

Are you planning a trip soon? If so, hopefully my travel essentials may help you in thinking about what to pack.

In my next post, I will be giving my opinion on the things I think are a waste of time and space. It will be interesting to see if anyone agrees with these lists…

1. Passport – Top of the list obviously!

It’s simply not possible to travel without it. Add to that the consideration that some countries won’t allow you to enter without 6 months remaining before it expires; it’s worth digging it out and checking in advance if you need a new one.

I learnt the hard way about the few countries that require you to have at least 2 blank pages; although this isn’t likely to be a  problem unless you travel a lot.

Wherever you are headed, check the requirements for entry carefully, particularly the small print. Those countries that require a visa to be obtained in advance often don’t issue them instantly.

And finally, don’t overlook the need for an ESTA if you are heading to the USA.

2. My tablet – also my lifeline

I have just about everything on it. My diary, my contacts, my emails and everything else I need to connect with people.

Then there’s the books, guidebooks, guides, offline maps, translator, and many other useful resources that I keep on there. Without it I would be totally lost… literally!

On the rare occasions I don’t have it with me, then I carry my phone, which has most of the same.

Then there’s the numerous adapters and cables I need to rig up my tablet for uploading and backing up photos etc. Those are pretty crucial and I’ve left them behind before – don’t do the same.

3. Camera – to capture the memories

The possibilities of what you do with them afterwards is endless.

Of course for me, my first priority for photos is my blog, sharing with friends, family and readers. But how many people just forget about their photos when they get home

 

With my blog I am keeping a record of some memories and sharing then with friends, family and hopefully other travellers.

I keep a selection of photos for collages, and scrapbooking with, and then a few favourites will be framed and added to my wall decorations (when I settle down again).

4. Swiss army knife

I use this little tool a lot. To cut and open things, for chopping up food items such as fruit, when geocaching, for crafting and regularly for popping the top off beers and wine.

I go nowhere without it, even when I am not travelling, although I do have to remember not to carry it when boarding an aeroplane as I was devastated to have it confiscated once. Fortunately it ended up with its own boarding pass and was returned safely to me at the other end.

5. Crocs – yes, those hideous plastic shoes!

Before you turn you nose up or laugh at me, please just hear me out. There have been so many times when my beloved Crocs have saved me from something or other. I can’t possibly leave them behind.

 

They don’t make my feet sweat, I don’t have to take them off to pass through the departure xrays at the airport, they wash off easily if they get dirty and they dry quickly when wet.

I’ve hiked in them, waded through rivers, pushed a boat in them, swam in them, and after nearly 7 years of regular use, they have never let me down.

Yes they are hideous, but they are so comfortable and will no doubt continue to serve me during my travels.

Unfortunately I can’t say the same when home in the UK, most of my friends are deeply offended by their lack of style and to be honest I’m too afraid to wear them in public due to the risk of being sectioned ;).

6. Insect repellent and tiger balm

The repellent is obviously only a necessity in countries with mosquito’s or midges. The latter I understand are a particular issue in Scotland at certain times of the year.

My choice of repellent ranges from the deet free product, that I purchase in batches from Avon (Skin So Soft) and use as a moisturiser, and the deet products that I find burn less, and smell the least offensive. More on these to come in a later post.

 

The other important product is Tiger Balm which helps ease the itching after you have been bitten.

However anyone who has used this will know it has many other qualities: eases aches and pains, apparently works for headaches, can be used for massaging, and I find it useful as a smelling salt substitute when entering very unpleasant public toilets.

Don’t forget to wash it off your fingers as it can ‘sting’ if you get it in your eyes or other sensitive areas.

7. Sarong – so many uses

It can be used as a sarong obviously, but how about a skirt, scarf, shawl, head scarf, bandana, makeshift dress, towel, picnic mat, tablecloth, blanket or for carrying things.

This item gets a lot of use. I find it particularly useful as a towel when there isn’t one available, and it is a necessity when visiting temples and other religious sites where you need to cover up.

More people should carry one.

8. Tissues and wipes (antibacterial)

Particularly in SE Asia I find the absence of toilet paper and often serviettes, results in the need to carry tissues more often than not.

I also like the idea of the hand sanitiser gels, but prefer the antiseptic wipes that tend to remove the residue unlike the liquid gels.

Let’s face it, the level of cleanliness, anywhere that isn’t your own home, isn’t the greatest. Then if you are a geocacher like me you will inevitably find yourself getting dirty hands more often.

I trialled the “Good to Go Anywhere” wipes some time ago, and really would recommend these (see review here), but it is possible in most places you go, to find antibacterial wipes if you look for them.

9. Stuffsack and/or packing cube

I have one of each and will never pack for a long trip without them. The ability to save space by condensing down my clothes and being able to organise loose items in a cube makes life very easy. I can take out all my clothes in one go just by taking out the stuffsack. Likewise, the cube allows a lot of the loose items I carry to be moved easily.

Both storage solutions really help with the speed of packing and unpacking. The only issue I encounter is not always being able to find everything straightaway, particularly if it’s stashed at the bottom.

10. Umbrella

I travel with bad luck. But if I travel with my umbrella, at least I am prepared to deal with the bad luck.

The important thing to remember is that when it’s hot you don’t want to be wearing a hot steamy jacket which doesn’t allow much breathing. And even in hot countries, it rains…

An umbrella is a God send when it’s sunny and warm. Providing shade can be the difference in getting (or avoiding) sunburn or sunstroke.

11. Journal – each one is different

A note pad, a cute book I picked up in a market in India, whatever I can find. At least, I used to be traditional and hand write it all, but as my travel writing has progressed, I now keep it all on my tablet, more as notes initially.

Personalise it and write notes if you don’t have time to write all the details, I promise you, you won’t regret keeping one, as it’s always fun to read back in years to come and if you chose to keep a blog, others can read it too.

On shorter trips or road trips, where I have space in my bag, I also carry my beloved “Smash Book” (see here: My must have travel item, for more). Of course I collect memorabilia to stick in it, such as ticket stubs, so I have a small plastic organiser too.

12. Fleece – I have many

Despite having several, I do only carry one, unless the weather is likely to be cold. My favourite had been with me all over the world, as you can see from the photos over on this post: Have you seen my fleece?

Air-conditioning these days, at airports, on buses, or inside boats, can be almost considered freezing at times, so having a fleece avoids the discomfort of being cold.

It also serves well as a pillow when screwed up, and if you haven’t enough space to carry it, you can tie it around your waist.

13. Headtorch – ignore first impressions

I thought it was a bit poncy the first time I saw someone with one. But as I’ve learnt, these things are so much more practical than a normal torch. Just try hiking or climbing in the dark or using a toilet at night with no electricity. Hands free lighting is the way to go.

So what do you think…. Have I missed anything?

As I mentioned, in my next post I will be giving my opinion on the things I think are not worth taking on a trip, so check back soon.