Last-minute packing for anywhere is a big no-no. What’s in your bag? Here are 10 things for your check/dump list.
I thought these were silly travel gewgaws until I learned that the colour of your passport identifies where you come from. If going through a place where foreign travellers get targeted (like an airport) keeping the colour of your passport private could be a good idea. A wallet that blocks RFID readers can also keep your chipped passport and credit cards safe.
Using WiFi hotspots in transit hubs is fine, as long as you don’t mind the security risks. Security-wise, this is the equivalent of leaving your cash-filled wallet on the seat of a car with the windows open. A VPN masks your identity. Sure, this might slightly slow down already-pokey free WiFi speeds, but the protection is worth it.
Trust me, they have toothpaste where you’re going. And the flavours are half the fun! Just make sure you brush up on the lingo, or you may end up cleaning your teeth with diaper cream, which, trust me, is horrible. Plus, it’s a great way to practise the polite phrases you’ve learned.
Ladies, bring sanitary essentials, if you’re particular. Everyone: carry important medications, along with their prescriptions. Enough to get you through the trip, plus a little extra. Tip: In the US, contact lenses require a current (not expired) prescription. No Rx? Prepare to spend the day (or longer) squinting in an optometrist’s, and splashing out full price for the eye exam.
Basic language skills
Hello, goodbye and thank you are good, but a firm ‘No thank you’ is essential. Plus, it’s nice to be nice.
This lightweight garment packs a punch! Not just a fashionable sartorial statement, this scrap of cloth is a multi-use tool. It can hide stains, block the sun, double as a picnic blanket and then a pillow for a post-prandial nap, wipe up tears, act as a shawl, head covering or sari in places that require modest dress, and more. Bring your own, in a culturally-appropriate pattern, or pick one up at a local market.
More than one mask
Nothing worse than trying to buy one, but they won’t let you into the store with a naked face. (In a pinch, your scarf might serve as a temporary mask until you can get to the checkout counter) Check for requirements before you travel, for both airline standards and your destination.
What you need depends on where you’re going, and regular access to clean water for hand-washing. That little bottle you’re allowed to carry on the plane isn’t going to cut it for a longer trip. Hitting a shop in-country for a big bottle to glug into your smaller walking-around bottle isn’t a bad idea. Most Islamic countries now allow sales of alcohol-based hand sanitiser, but always check the guidelines.
Small gifts for people who help you
Ok, not essential. But I’ve never met anyone who said ‘no’ to a strand of New Orleans Mardi Gras beads. Avoid melty chocolates, and be aware that Altoids and Nerds contain pork gelatine.
Gifts don’t have to be things. Veteran traveller Leon McCarron carries a penny whistle on his peregrinations.
Insurance that covers what you need
Consider basic medical, gear, trip-cancellation, COVID-19 medical cover, emergency evacuation and more.