Packing for an overseas trip can be a daunting task, particularly if you will be away for several months. So, how do you decide what makes the cut for the precious space in your backpack? And, more importantly, which items will you consider essentials when on the road?
Having travelled to over 60 countries, I have accumulated some knowledge along the way about what I consider to be the items I simply don’t leave home without. Assuming you have the basics covered, such as your travel documents, spare memory cards for your camera, and plug adaptors for your electronics, I have compiled a list of 10 items that I have found to be of most use.
So here they are, a list of must-haves!
A sarong is a very versatile item, it can be used as a wrap for the beach/swimming; as a makeshift beach towel; to sit on for picnics, or on the grass/ground; roll it up to make a pillow; for covering shoulders or legs in temples/religious sites; as a shawl over your shoulders for extra warmth; as a scarf…..and I’m sure there must be more uses to add to the list!
2. Hand sanitiser
Many bathrooms don’t have soap - some don’t even have water to wash your hands! So having a little tube of sanitiser is essential. It’s also great to use prior to eating, or when you otherwise need to “wash” your hands, clean off sunscreen residue etc. Wet wipes also serve a similar purpose, and you can buy anti-bacterial ones as well.
3. Ear plugs
Especially useful if you are staying in shared accommodation such as hostel dorm rooms, but even some hotels can have street noise/noise from other guests/dogs barking etc. So unless you’re a good sleeper, a set of earplugs can make the difference between a good night's sleep and lots of interruptions. They are also handy for shutting out noise when sleeping on planes, trains, or buses.
4. Eye mask
Many hostels and hotels don’t have good blinds or curtains to keep the light out in the early morning. And if you're in a hostel, you may find other travellers come in and out of the room and turn on lights when you are trying to sleep. An eye mask will ensure you remain blissfully unaware! It’s also handy for shutting out the light if you’d like to sleep on a plane, bus, or train (sunglasses are also handy for this purpose if you don’t want to pull out an eye mask!).
5. Travel towel
This one only applies if you are intending to stay in hostels or cheaper accommodation where towels aren’t provided. In my experience, most hostels don’t provide a towel. Some do have towels available to hire, but the majority don’t. So pay a visit to your local travel/outdoor/camping store prior to your trip, and get yourself a compact foldable microfibre towel (or equivalent).
6. Inflatable neck cushion
Travel is tiring, and I often find myself wanting to catch up on some sleep when travelling on a bus, train or plane. But sleeping upright plays havoc with your neck – unless you have a neck cushion. They don’t offer perfect support, but an inflatable neck cushion can mean your nap is a little more comfortable and restful.
A combination of a spoon and a fork, you’ll find this unique piece of cutlery in most outdoor or camping stores. Very useful for self-caterers, or for when you buy snacks to eat along the way. Also saves on plastic rather than using disposable spoons or forks all the time :)
8. Universal sink plug and pegless clothes line
I have combined these together, since when doing hand washing it can be handy to have both of these items. Not all accommodation offers laundry, and laundromats can be non-existent, so you might find yourself washing a few items along the way. Since many sinks don’t have plugs, a universal plug that "fits" any sink configuration can make this task a little easier. It can also be handy to put some liquid detergent in a 50 or 100ml bottle to take with you, so you don’t need to find detergent along the way. Otherwise, liquid soap will usually do the trick.
Why is this on the list you may ask? Well, sometimes the obvious is overlooked! This one is probably geared more towards the ladies, but tissues can be handy for guys too. In many countries they don’t provide toilet paper, and even when they do, it can run out! Also useful in place of serviettes/napkins when eating.
10. Flip flops
An obvious inclusion for a beach holiday, but also an important item for any sort of travel. Useful for showering (especially if cleanliness is questionable), or just when walking around indoors at your accommodation, make sure you pack a pair of flip flops.
There are numerous other useful items to pack, but I have found these to be the most well-utilsed on every trip I have taken.
So now you’re set for a more comfortable journey!