Fri, Apr 12, 2019
5 min read
Here are some tips about what to pack for a trip like ours, what has come in useful and what hasn't.
Now that we are through our trip we can reflect on what kit we needed and what we didn’t. Here are some ideas for what to pack, in no particular order (some items are called-out after in more detail):
Might be needed:
What not to bring:
It’s very useful to have at least a smartphone and possibly a tablet or laptop too. Not only are these good for organising your trip but you can also have electronic backups of your important documents on them.
The one hassle with tech is keeping it charged. Make sure you have chargers, cables, adaptors and extra battery packs. Don’t use dodgy cheap chargers, as you’ll need ones with good electrical insulation that also accept a wide voltage range. Otherwise you might get some shocks, or worse.
It’s worth setting up a VPN if you don’t already have one (you should). This will protect you on insecure WiFi, stop you getting blocked by your bank and allow access to home entertainment.
Last time I went travelling was pre-smartphone and I didn’t even take a basic phone. However, these days the world assumes that you have a smartphone and it’s easier if you do.
You probably don’t want to take anything too shiny, so an old phone is better. Mine is over five years old and still going. Make sure it is backed up and encrypted in case it goes missing.
It should be carrier unlocked so that you can buy local SIMs and use them in it. You may want to take an additional phone for your home SIM (if your phone isn’t dual SIM) to receive security codes over SMS. Take a small zip-lock bag to store your new collection of SIMs and removal tool in.
It’s a good idea to wear a waterproof wristwatch so you are not solely relying on your phone for the time and alarms. Smart watches can be cheap but require charging. My digital watch has a 10 year battery and handles multiple time zones.
Here are some ideas for apps (you don’t need to worry too much about these before you leave though):
It’s important to download language packs / maps / music / videos for offline use in case you have no / slow data.
An old but light laptop can also be useful for writing, copying photos or watching videos on a bigger screen. Again, make sure it is backed up / encrypted and set up a VPN on it too. An HDMI cable is handy if you find yourself staying somewhere with a big TV.
It’s best to take many layers and stay flexible. Research the destination conditions and be prepared for the heat or cold.
Long sleeves / trousers are useful even in hot conditions. They can protect you from the sun / biting insects and are required for some attractions. Trousers that can zip off into shorts come in handy. If you need a belt then a webbing one is less bulky than leather. We didn’t take jeans as they are bulky, hot and don’t dry easily.
It’s important to find a balance between utility and portability. Try to minimise weight and remember you can always get things washed if you have the time to dry them.
The main piece of prep required is vaccinations. You should think about this roughly six months before you leave and get medical advice. Take sensible precautions when travelling (e.g. insect repellent). Disease is not the biggest risk and can easily be managed. Road travel is probably the largest danger.
Visas can be sorted before you leave but can also be done as you go along. Some can’t even be arranged too far in advance as they expire. Passport photos are required for these as well as for some passes. Take some physical photos and electronic copies too.
Do make sure that you have comprehensive travel insurance cover. Take the policy details and contact information with you.
Don’t worry too much if you forget something. Most things can be bought and are probably made in Asia anyway.