This page will, for the near future, be organic and updated as I add new tidbits of wisdom that I’ve gained while traveling. I’m not the foremost expert on how to travel safely and comfortably. There are a lot of people out there that are more seasoned travelers than I am. But I’ve definitely learned a thing or two along the way. I hope my perspective will make it easier for you travel.
1. I see a lot of people that travel with 50 to 70 Liter backpacks and I wonder if they need all the stuff that they’ve packed. Not to mention, a bag of that size will most likely require the person to check it before getting on a flight. The person then runs the risk of the airline losing their bag. Consider instead traveling with a 40 Liter backpack and a smaller day-pack. I recognize that this solution might not be feasible for everyone, but consider that the smaller backpack will easily be allowed on most flights while the smaller day-pack can be stowed under the seat in front of you. It’s a good idea to have a day-pack anyways as I’ll get into in the next step.
2. The day-pack provides 2 very important functions. First, it is a smaller backpack that allows you only to store 1 -3 days worth of items for a hike or side trip, so that you don’t have to carry all your baggage with you on every adventure. Next, it should be used to carry important items (computer, important travel documents, etc) while transporting your stuff through bus or train stations. Bus and train stations are notorious for pickpockets and muggers. Most people will wear their day-pack across their front chest at all times. It’s less unlikely that a thief will get into or steal your day-pack. Your travel bag may still get stolen or broken into, but the best the thief will get is probably some dirty clothes.
3. I’m not a huge fan of money belts. Most travelers I’ve talked to don’t wear them and instead keep some things in their front pockets (never the back pocket) and many have pants with zippers on the front pocket. I do have a money belt, but only wear it when I’m traveling through higher risk areas such as train stations or bus stations. The rest of the time I don’t use one.
4. Invest in a good rain and windbreaker. Something that is form-fitting, yet breathes. I have a Marmot jacket that is both a rain coat and windbreaker, and I consider it one of the best investments I’ve ever made.
5. Depending on the type of travel your planning, consider getting luggage with wheels and a handle rather than a backpack. There are also backpacks / bags with wheels as well. It’s a romantic notion having everything strapped to your back, but you need to consider comfort. If you’re not going to be hiking through remote areas, and your mostly going to be going from one location to the next by bus / train, a good bag / luggage with wheels and a handle will provide much more comfort for you.
6. Get a good pair of hiking shoes. Something durable and fitted to the arch of your foot. You’re feet will thank you.
7. Instead of bringing along equipment for your extracurricular activities, consider renting. The less you have to carry, the happier you’ll be.
8. Consolidate as much of your electronic equipment as you possibly can. I wish I had done a better job of this on my current trip. Instead of carrying an mp3 player, mobile phone, e-Reader (kindle, nook), try carrying a good smart phone with a large display. The large display is big enough for eBooks. And obviously the smart phone can be used to play your favorite music as well. You’ll also have less recharging cords to carry with you. Also, unless you’re planning on doing some blogging or work while on your trip, ditch the laptop and go with a tablet. Or better yet, forget both and rely on your smart phone or all the internet cafe’s located around the globe.
9. Invest in a good pair of sandals for when you want to let your big toe hang all the way out.
10. 3-5 days of clothes should be sufficient. Invest in 1 or 2 wool t-shirts that breathe well. You can wear these shirts repeatedly over many days, sweat in them, and they won’t stink.
11. Invest in a good pair of durable convertible pants. In fact, I chose not to bring any shorts with me on my journey. Instead, my convertible pants function as shorts on those days that are extremely hot.
12. Consider investing in a electrical plug adapter set. Many countries support dual outlets that recognize us plugs, but other countries do not so an adapter set is good to have. I’m not sure it’s necessary to invest in an adapter set with voltage regulator since most recharging equipment has its own voltage regulator built in.
13. Pack a roll of toilet paper. It’s not guaranteed that any bathroom you go into abroad will have toilet paper available.
14. Pack sun protection in the form of sunscreen, sunglasses and a good hat. Sunscreen can be purchased at most travel destinations.
While traveling, your well-being and security is something that should be taken into consideration.
1. Consider investing in travel insurance. This will cover you in the event of your gear getting stolen, or even if you need to get air-lifted off some mountain. World Nomads provides some really good travel insurance that will cover you in the event that something unfortunate happens.
2. Do your due-diligence in regards to researching out the places you’ll be staying on your trip. Check out your destinations at the US Department of State Consular Affairs for information about visa requirements, vaccination requirements, Safety and Security, etc.
3. It’s a good idea to register with STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program). As stated on the website, “STEP allows you to enter information about your upcoming trip abroad so that the Department of State can better assist you in an emergency.”
4. Visit a travel clinic before you go and discuss your upcoming trip with a doctor. If you don’t have a travel clinic near you, visit your doctor. You’ll want to get any necessary vaccinations and antibiotics for your upcoming trip.
5. In many countries, it’s not advisable to drink the water. Buy bottled water. Locals can let you know if the water is potable or not.
Money / Currency
1. If you’re carrying a large amount of cash with you, consider splitting up the money between your backpack, pockets, money belt, etc. This way, if your bag gets stolen or a pickpocket is able to get their hands on a small portion of your money, they most likely won’t get all of it. Also, only carry a small amount in your pocket. If you need to have access to a larger amount of funds, find a restroom or area where you can be alone, and collect whatever money you need. Don’t transfer money from your bag or money belt out in the open.
2. Most countries have ATM’s now. While the service fee’s on ATM transactions are a hassle, it’s better to travel with less money and accept the ATM fees as a necessary evil rather than carry a lot of cash on you.
3. Banks usually place a daily limit on ATM transactions. If you’re in need of a greater amount of cash, some banks will take a credit card and perform a cash advance for you. Note that cash advances are subject to their own fees, but it can help you save a bit on ATM transaction fees.
4. Cash is king. Considering that most places won’t take a credit card, it’s best to make sure that you have money available. Mentally, using cash instead of your credit card will also keep you in check more. It helps to curb any unnecessary unchecked spending.
5. However, converting cash results in money lost as well. Currency exchange offices charge a fee for cash exchanged. If you can use a credit card, this will benefit you by getting you the exact daily exchange rate without being charged a fee.