I packed my bag and in it I put...
This was going to be a list of 10 absolute necessities and then, the more I thought about what keeps me comfortable on these trips, it kept growing. While I know these essential-everything lists abound online, this one is addressed to the long-term traveler who is a part of the older demographic although any other intrepid journeyer will hopefully find it useful too. My own personal biases are unavoidable in the compilation of the list because I try to practise attitudes of recycling, reusing and making do even when I’m on the move. I offer this up so that you go prepared. Can you tell I used to be a Girl Guide?
1. A mending kit containing needles (including darning needles), threads, a few spare buttons, a small pair of scissors, a collection of safety pins and some straight pins too.
2. A “hardware kit” which you can incorporate into the sewing kit if you choose a suitable pouch for everything. My hardware kit includes a set of those tiny screwdrivers for repairing glasses, a glue stick, a tape measure, mini magnifying glass, a few elastic bands, some twist ties, a length of twine and a few clothes pins.
3. A second pair of your prescription glasses. Pack both into your carry-on luggage in separate bags.
4. A flashlight. Yes, your smartphone has a built-in flashlight but it also runs down the battery. A separate led torch takes up little space. I keep mine next to my bed. I also have a tiny one on my key chain and I used it the other day to get the key in the lock when the outside hall light at my Athens' flat wasn't working.
5. Key chain…remove your home house keys, put them somewhere very safe, and put your “foreign” keys on the key chain. There’s something reassuring about having my key chain in my zipped pocket or feeling it down at the bottom of my day pack.
6. Binoculars! A small pair. I don’t see the distant details as well as I once did. If you play tourist or go sightseeing binoculars are your friend.
7. A first-aid kit. Not your entire medicine cabinet but a few essential items like some gauze patches, a small roll of surgical tape, some of those foil wrapped alcohol wipes and a small tube of antiseptic cream. A few different sizes of adhesive bandages, some tweezers (if they aren’t in your toiletry bag) and you’re good to go. Depending on where you’re travelling you might want to add a couple of single-use antiseptic sponges in the event of an animal bite, some anti-diarrhea medication and re-hydration formula.
8. Reusable shopping bag so you look like a local as you set out for the weekly fruit and vegetable market. It’s also a way of avoiding plastic bags which seem to be proliferating in some countries. The reusable bag could become a second carry on if you want to avoid checked baggage overages on your way home.
9. A shampoo bar. Mine is both shampoo and conditioner. Not only do you avoid plastic if you start incorporating this hair lathering solution into your everyday life wherever you are, but one or two shampoo bars weigh much less than bottles of “product”. In a pinch you can use the bar for general washing purposes.
10. Merino wool long-johns and base layers. At least two pairs for most destinations and still one set for hot destinations. No matter what you think the temperature ought to be, it can surprise you. I went to Laos expecting non-stop heat and overnight the temperature dropped low enough for a couple of weeks that I needed warm clothes especially for sleeping in. In Greece, my winter paddling layers have made unheated classrooms and non-insulated buildings more bearable.
11. A scarf that’s wide enough and warm enough to double as a shawl when airplanes feel cold, for extra warmth on a cool summer evening or to wrap yourself up in in bed.
12. At least one knit toque/beanie to stay warm outdoors and in. I’ve worn one of the two I packed to bed during the recent cold spell here.
13. A couple of pairs of those inexpensive dollar store one-size-fits-all gloves. Your hands will thank you.
14. A couple of re-usable plastic food containers. They hold en route snacking fare, get re-used at destination to store leftovers, carry picnic fare or workday lunches and won’t weigh you down when empty.
15. A refillable water bottle. It’s up to you if you want to carry it around and you might if you’re in a hot climate. I bring two in that case. One stays full of drinking water on my counter so that I remember to stay hydrated. According to geriatricians, one of the reasons older people complain of dizziness and vertigo is that they aren’t getting enough liquid.
16. Some extra plastic bags. While I dislike them, they serve a purpose at times. You’ll want some food purpose size, general use and a couple of big bin/garbage bags. You won’t have to run out at destination and buy (evil) plastic wrap and the big green bags can be turned into emergency rain ponchos if they aren’t serving as laundry bags.
17. A spiral bound notebook so you can tear out pages, at least two pens, two pencils, a sharpener and an eraser. Throw in some cellophane tape too. And I know a guy who swears everybody should travel with a Sharpie®.
18. A photocopy of the front page of your passport because you are not going to carry that precious document around with you. Leave your passport somewhere safe at your accommodation.
19. Emergencies happen. Leave information visible at your accommodation with contact details for getting in touch with next of kin.
20. Details of your bank and other financial information along with passwords for online accounts. I keep these in a small notebook stored at the bottom of my day-bag.
21. Re your day-bag, I keep mine ready to go as the last thing I do at night before going to bed. It’s the one item I’ll grab along with my phone if I have to exit my accommodation in a hurry.
Have I missed anything?