We have all read travel websites and self-proclaimed gurus announcing to drop everything, go off grid and travel the world. The reality is that most of us actually have jobs to keep, bills to pay, families and pets to come back to and it pays to stay connected and top of everything before we take time out to explore what’s beyond our office spaces and backyards.
Normally, we plan our trips in advance, our recent European trip was actually booked 6 months prior to our travel period. Visa preparations trained me to plan ahead and be as detailed as possible. Travelling at different times of the year also allows time to prepare gadgets and necessities to take. To preempt lost, wayward luggage, I normally keep the following necessities in my carry-on suitcase. Either prepared beforehand or arranged in advance for a pick-up for some of the gadgets upon arrival.
Here are our top barest travel necessities:
1. Soft and hard copies of documents
Quite self explanatory. While it is fine to bring soft copies or scans of documents with you, sometimes, a print out of your itinerary, boarding passes, photocopies of tickets, passport information and visa pages can be a good way to ward off overzealous immigration officers or ticket checkers. Scott composes extremely detailed itineraries, so when the officer at Charles de Gaulle asked me where I was headed to, I handed him the pages of our itinerary. Suffice to say, he’d only gotten to the second page when he broke into a grin and let me through without any hassle. On the other hand, our ticket checker on the OBB train from Bratislava to Vienna refused to honor the PDF copies of our tickets in our phones no matter how much we explained that it was the same ticket sent online by their website. It took a Czech granny who went out of her way to convince the lady that our tickets were legitimate.
2. Change of clothes in carry-on
Imagine this, it’s the dead of winter at your destination and your suitcase is left back in your tropical home and arriving at night with no shops around, you would end up freezing if you had no change of clothes in your carry on. Clothing stores at the airport are very expensive, sure, your travel insurance will take care of you… after you’ve paid for all of it, then they will reimburse you. It makes more sense to take a change of clothes and underwear in your carry-on.
Needless to say, a reliable smartphone is an important part of the trip, it doubles as a camera, storage device, form of communication and a map. Slag them all you want, but a smartphone is a nifty, lifesaving device, without it, I would have been stuck for a really long time in between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
4. Car chargers, Power Banks, Travel Adaptors
Now that you have your smartphones, it is very important that you can power them. It helps a lot when you are navigating, or looking for a friend in a new city, or recording a very important event. Certain apps like Facebook and live broadcast apps eat up a lot of power and they drain your battery so fast it’s not funny. Make sure your cords are in good condition, and be aware of the specific voltage of your destination. When driving, save your power banks by charging your phone in your car.
5. Pocket Wifi
We used to buy SIM cards at our destinations, and for some short, trips to nearby countries in Southeast Asia, we still do. However, for longer trips and/or for multi-country destinations, we opt to use pocket wifi. We started using pocket wifis during our Japan trip, it was easy and helped us navigate the seemingly confusing and intricate Japanese train systems as well as its streets. We picked up the pocket wifi at Narita and then dropped it off at Kansai days later. Instead of buying two SIMs for myself and Scott, we just hooked up our devices directly to one device!
This year, we partnered with My Webspot’s pocket wifi while traveling through Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Germany and Czech Republic. Roaming charges in Europe are prohibitive, and the moment that you cross a border, fees automatically apply. We arranged our pocket wifi to be mailed to our hotel in Munich at the beginning of our trip, instructions are easy and clear and in minutes we were racing through the city, figuring out city’s train stations for the first time using directions from Google Maps. We had two devices connected to the wifi at most times with no problems, and if there were any- customer service was quick and efficient. It is advisable to reset the device once in a new country for optimum performance. Not only did it save us money, it saved us a lot of headaches in changing or buying SIMs every time we crossed a border.
And to help you save even more - use this coupon code ‘thenextescape’ when you book your My Webspot pocket wifi and get 5% off!
6. Cloud storage
My smartphone can only hold so many videos and photos. During a week-long trip, I would normally take nearly 1000 photos on my phone. With this in mind, I make sure that I buy cloud storage, I have one for Google Drive and another for the iCloud. This is how I make sure that I always have enough space for those unforgettable memories!
7. First aid kit
When on a trip, it is important to pack the barest of first aid kits composed of: medical plasters, allergy medicines, flu and tummy medicines, rehydration salts, prescription painkillers, as well as one’s personal medical information and emergency contact. Additionally, with the rise of terror attacks worldwide even in erstwhile ‘safe’ destinations, it would also be a good idea to know your own embassy or consulate’s emergency phone number. On our last day of our trip in India many years back, we contracted the infamous Delhi Belly. The train ride from Jodhpur all the way to Delhi would have been much worse if we weren’t prepared. We made sure we had oral rehydration salts and clean bottled water. Dehydration can be fatal and should not be ignored. For more serious cases, it is important that one should seek professional medical assistance right away.
8. Travel insurance
Often overlooked, but I cannot stress its importance too much. Aside from the usual coverage, good insurance will also cover lost or damaged luggage and delayed flights, among others. From Malaysia, I normally take out insurance from AXA Affin Insurance, again as I was accustomed to getting coverage as part of my Schengen requirements previously. Insurance is one thing that you hope to never to use at all. Unfortunately, on our trip back from Europe in Summer of 2016, Qatar Airways damaged a much beloved suitcase beyond repair, unfortunately, because I found the huge hole when I arrived at home, Qatar Airways refused to accept liability. After I reported this to my insurance, they gladly reimbursed me part of the cost of my suitcase. So two lessons learned here. One, check your suitcase right after you take it from the carousel. If there is any damage, file a report immediately with the airline concerned. Two, purchase travel insurance.
Right after this article was written, a friend of mine living in Doha travelling to Myanmar via Singapore lost his luggage, good thing he bought insurance as I've suggested! He is well covered now!
9. Standalone DSLR camera,. extra memory cards and card reader
It never hurts to have another camera. We learned this the hard way when we lost over 1000 photos from our trip to Iceland, Sweden and parts of our trip to Denmark because of a corrupted memory card. The only thing we had were a few photos from our mobile phones and in our GoPro. Ever since then, we take photos from various cameras, and we ensure to upload and change our memory cards often.
10. Laptop or a notebook
At the end of the each day, upload your DSLR shots to your notebook and cloud to safeguard any data corruption of your memory card. Again due to the experience we had from our scandinavian trip, we try to upload photos right away on the same night, or the following night at the most.
11. Clip-on lens
Perhaps more of a vanity than a necessity, it would be a great idea to have either a macro, wide eye, or fish eye clip on lens to add variety to your mobile phone shots. There are many cheap ones in the market costing anywhere between 10USD to 100USD (although the lower end would do the same trick, pretty much.) Just make sure you keep them somewhere safe, it is easy to lose these tiny lenses.
While it is not a problem in most western countries, it would be a very good idea to have toilet paper, a small bottle of disinfectant and cologne. You know just in case, nature calls. That does not work however if you find yourself at the Amsterdam Central Station after midnight, the toilets there needs hazmat suit!
So there you go, those are some of our travel necessities and what you may find in our carry-ons. What else do you think we should include? What’s in your carry-on? What are your travel necessities? Sound off below!
DAVE RYAN A. BUARON, OWNER AND CO-FOUNDER THE NEXT ESCAPE: TRAVEL, ARTS, SPORTS AND LIFESTYLE