As the world is starting to open up, I thought now might be a good time to share some of my favorite travel tips. I’ve been lucky enough to visit around 30 countries in my lifetime, on lots of different types of trips, and even spent an entire year backpacking in South America.
Here are some of the things I’ve learnt to keep your trip simpler and less stressful.
1. Only take carry-on
Not needing to check in anything at the airport has a number of benefits. It saves a lot of time – you’re straight on and straight out again at the other end. You don’t need to worry about the airline losing your bag or things being stolen (yes this does happen!). And if your flight does get delayed, cancelled or re-routed, you’re much more likely to be able to jump onto another flight if the airline doesn’t need to factor in your suitcase.
I have a back-pack that is inside the maximum dimensions for international carry-on, and coupled with a small handbag I find this is plenty of space for luggage. I do have to be mindful not to pack any sharps or larger than 100 mL liquids, but I can always buy a disposable razor when I get to my destination.
2. Order the vegetarian meal on flights
When I get hungry, I get hangry. And there’s nothing worse than being trapped on a plane, stomach rumbling and being at the mercy of the cabin service. Meals can be delayed if there’s turbulence, or staff have to deal with other issues, and the popular options can run out if you’re sat near the back of the service section.
I mitigate all these risks by pre-ordering the vegetarian option for flights when I book them. Special order meals always come out first, plus you don’t run the risk of dodgy tasting cheap meat.
3. Pack Compeed blister plasters, travel sickness pills and a pack of cards
Among some of the more obvious essentials, these are three things that I always pack for every trip.
Compeed blister plasters are amazing – they cushion blisters and sort of meld with the skin so they don’t come off. They’ve been a life saver not only on long hikes, but on city trips when I’ve sweated all day in sandals.
Travel sickness pills (I use Quells, which are a fast acting, non-drowsy brand) can similarly save you from a very unpleasant experience. Whether its a winding coach ride, choppy seas or a rough flight, they do wonders for getting rid of that horrible queasy feeling and wishing you hadn’t eaten that greasy breakfast.
My final must-pack item is a pack of cards. Just a reliable source of entertainment when you’re out of Wi-Fi range or battery, and find yourself delayed or away from civilization. They’re also a great, inclusive social activity if you’re looking to connect with others on your trip.
4. Pick one item as a souvenir from each country
When you’re in another country it can be tempting to fill up on local arts and craft pieces that you think would look great in your house, and serve as interesting conversation pieces. I’ve nothing against buying unique items, especially if they support local artisans, but it can easily get out of control. Before you know it you’re bags are stuffed, you spend hours traipsing around shops looking at knick-knacks, and when you get them home they just look chintsy and out of place.
A way to get around this temptation, but still create memorabilia of your trip, is to pick a single item to buy from each country you visit. I get a fridge magnet – it’s small, I can easily display them in my house, they are easy and cheap to buy and they are all unique to the particular destination.
5. Minimize the photos you take
The last international trip I took, my partner and I made a conscious decision to minimize the number of photos we took. We wanted to soak up the experience as much as we could and not have to worry about capturing it. It worked really well – we restricted ourselves to only one or two shots on each hike or attraction we went to, focused on having ourselves in the photos and kept the camera away most of the time.
In a four week trip we came back with only about fifty pictures, but they were much better quality than from our previous trips, and they were more personal because we were in them. We figured if we ever want to get a print out of a really special place we went to, there are plenty of professional photos available for purchase online that are much better than the ones we can take in flat daytime light.
More importantly, my memories of the trip are much more vivid. I can still recall the feeling of ancient wooden boards in the Japanese onsens, worn smooth by hundreds of years of feet walking on them. I can remember the freshness of the crab and the rich umami flavor that hit me with my first taste of uni, in the little seafood shack that we stumbled across in a remote fishing village. And I can visualize the rugged beauty of the mountains we climbed, and my wonder at spotting a troupe of wild monkeys.
What are your minimalist travel tips?