Packing for Your Trip
Taxi of by foot?
Before you start, determine what kind of traveling you will be doing, where you will be going, what transportation will be available, and what the terrain and weather will be like. "We will only have to walk to the other side of the airport" can turn out to be a miserable nightmare of strUGGling with baggage, tired kids and travel-weary legs.
There are 3 general types of travel:
Leisure: Easy pace, includes the comforts of home, more traditional activities.
Adventure: Physical activity, usually off the beaten path, less creature comforts.
Business: Basic, traditional.
Once you have analyzed the type of trip you will be taking, you can anticipate and prepare for your travel needs.
The rule of the road (or jet stream) is to always pack light, plan enough time to get to the airport early, and have a contingency plan should your luggage get delayed or lost.
Adventure travel demands tough, light, and versatile luggage, often limited to a single, well-chosen piece. Leisure and business travel are not quite so demanding, but still require lightweight, convenient bags. Soft sided luggage is easier to pack, lighter to transport, and more flexible than hard-sided. (Shop All LUGGage)
Wheeled luggage is easier to move between
distant airline gates, or through train stations. If you have more than one bag, it also
doubles as a baggage cart, minimizing back stress.
(Shop Wheeled Luggage)
Travel packs, a large bag that converts to a backpack, are ideal on a long trip, or a trek off the beaten path. Many have a side pocket that zips off to become a day pack for everyday use. If you are going to carry your travel pack on your back for an extended period of time, make sure the suspension fits your torso length and hip size. Fit and load the pack like you would an internal frame pack. Duffels make excellent soft luggage with their size and flexibility, but aren't compartmentalized so use organizer bags within the bag. (Shop Travel Backpacks)
Take an extra, empty duffel for laundry or purchases. (Shop Duffel Bags)
Organizer pouches, pockets, bags, and packs (with zippered compartments) keep things together and accessible. Simply throw them in your bag, strap them to your waist, slip them through your belt, or sling them over your shoulder. Padded ones will keep binoculars and cameras safe. (Shop Travel Organizers) (Shop Toiletry Kits)
Document folders, for tickets, passport, traveler's checks, multiple currencies, vouchers, receipts, and identification are especially useful. Carry a refillable memo pad for jotting down notes and directions. (Shop Security Pouches) (Shop Travel Wallets) (Shop Organizers)
Travel light. Whenever possible, choose carry-on luggage, avoid the delays at baggage claim, and have the security of knowing that fewer people are handling your luggage. Airlines generally limit under the seat, carry-on luggage dimensions to a maximum of 22"x14"x9". Limits for overhead storage, carry-on dimensions average 10"x14"x6". Some airlines limit carry-on weight to between 40 and 70 pounds, and all count a briefcase as one carry-on. These numbers are subject to change, so check with your carrier prior to departure. Compression straps are invaluable for squeezing a bulky bag down to regulation size. (Shop Carry-On LUGGage)
If you are checking your luggage, pack a carry-on bag with 24 hours worth of essentials in case you lose your luggage. After you get there, this bag will carry your guide book, street map, camera, document carrier, jacket, book, and a few snacks. Besides knives and such, don't try to carry on sharp implements like ice axes, crampons, or ski poles. You'll never get past the security guards. If the airline allows them as check-in luggage, wrap them up in foam padding, and stuff them in a heavy-duty duffel. (Shop Duffels)
If you are checking your bag, make sure that all straps, waistbands and gear are tucked inside so they don't snag in baggage conveyors, and damage your luggage. Carry your pack inside a duffel that is lined with closed-cell foam padding to protect your gear. If you must check an unprotected backpack, ask the airline for a heavy-duty plastic bag. Use nondescript luggage, or put your designer bags inside an army surplus over-bag to deter theft.
Make sure your luggage is clearly identified, and carries a final destination address. Slip a small lock through the zipper pulls, locking them together. Combination locks with resettable combinations allow you to set your numbers with something like your birthday which you won't forget, and no one else will know. (Shop Locks)
Most airlines limit each bag's weight to 70 lbs. and its size to 62" (length+width+height). If your bags are ridiculously heavy, bring them to the baggage check outside the airport, not the check-in counter inside. Skycaps are more likely to overlook a heavy bag, especially for a crisp $5 bill. Never check items you can't afford to lose.
Passports, visas, vaccination
certificates, exposed film, prescription medications, and other important items must stay
with you at all times. Cameras, iPods, back-up hard drives, laptop computers and other tempting electronic devices are never-check items.
(Shop Computer Packs and Bags)
After you have an idea of the terrain and the climate, you'll know what type of clothes to pack. Be prepared for all types of weather, and plan to layer your clothing. Lay out what you think you need, then pack half of that plus extra cash.
Toiletries and personal care products should be in a self contained bag, or zip-lock freezer bag in case there is a spill or a leak. (Shop Toiletry Kits)
Restricted items: Airlines have changing restrictions, so call ahead, check their website, or ask your travel agent for all current restrictions. Or better yet, go directly to the government's excellent Travel Security Administration web site. You will find the most up-to-date travel information right from the agency that is enforcing policy.
Water: A filter and backup iodine tablets are essential for traveling outside the U.S. or Canada. If traveling in third-world countries, make sure you have a purifier, not just a filter. If not, drink bottles or carbonated water only, or use your filter in combination with iodine tablets to purify the water. In addition, refuse uncooked vegetables, peel all fruit, and only consume dairy products that have been pasteurized. (Shop Water Filters) (Read Water Filtration Advice)
Your watch or alarm clock should be Quartz or battery operated, lightweight, water resistant, shock resistant, and reliable, to wake you in the early morning, or in time for your midnight train stop. Handy features on a pocketknife are a basic blade, can and bottle opener, scissors, tweezers, and the all-important corkscrew. Get a flashlight that is water-resistant, light weight, palm-sized, and has enough candlepower to light a hallway, read in a train compartment, or study a map under the stars. (Shop Travel Accessories)
If camping: Often it is simpler, and no more expensive, to stay in guesthouses, modest hotels or hostels than it is to find a safe, permissible campsite. (Try American Youth Hostels at 800 444-6111.) While a tent provides certain freedom, perhaps you can get by with a sleeping bag and bivy sack. For long trips, consider an easily washed bag liner. A stove gives you added independence in places where the local cuisine features stewed goat brains or raw grubs. (Plan to purchase fresh foods as you ramble, but pack prepackaged, dried meals as a standby.) Remember, you can't ship any type of fuel, and your preferred fuel may not be available at your destination. Although kerosene is the most common third-world option, there's no telling what you'll find, so a multi-fuel stove is your best bet. Make sure you have a complete stove repair kit, and clean the unit regularly. (Shop Camping Supplies) (Shop Sleeping Bags)
For women only
Shorts are not acceptable attire in most countries (on men either). You'll be treated respectfully if you wear a skirt and loose, non-revealing clothing. Besides, a skirt allows plenty of ventilation, and is advantageous when answering nature's call in the wild. Bring plenty of tampons (without applicators) or pads.
Appliances and electronics
Though the United States uses 110 electricity, most of the world uses 220 volt. That means that when you plug in an American appliance into a foreign 220 outlet, the motor goes twice as fast as it's designed to, and is then burned out or damaged. There are converters for both low wattage (0-50 watts) appliances such as battery chargers, calculators, portable CD players, radios and shavers, and for high wattage (50-1600) appliances such as hair dryers, heating pads, hot plates, irons, and steamers. You don't need a converter if your appliance has a dual voltage switch (allows you to switch between 110 and 220 volts), or a voltage rating of 100-240 volts (works on both 110 or 220 without having a switch flipped, though performance might be different). A plug adapter may also be necessary.
Other countries have various wall socket, and phone jack designs, most of which will not accept your American plug or jack. Even those plugs that appear the same, might not fit without an adapter since newer appliances have polarized plugs. Electric appliances are simply heating devices. Electronic appliances have electronic motors, circuits, or chips. These items, such as a lap-top computer or camcorder, require a transformer. What makes a transformer different than a converter? Most power generators supply an alternating current (AC) that moves in the shape of a sine wave. A converter turns a 220 current into a 110 current by cutting these sine waves in half. Electronic devices require a full sine wave so a transformer alters the length of the sine wave, creating a 110 current with a full sine wave.
In North America, the electric current alternates 60 times a second, but in many parts of the world, it does so only 50 times a second. A transformer will not adjust for these variations, and the difference can cause problems for sophisticated electronic appliances, such as memory loss with computers. Check each product's requirements (some have transformers built in) before traveling.
Your cell phone may have the capabilities of working in Europe or other country, but then again it may not. GSM is the technology used in Europe, and with some carriers in the US. If your phone is uses GSM, it might just work fine there, or you may need a different SIMM card. Prepaid SIMM cards can be purchased for use in Europe. If your phone does not use GSM, you may need a whole new phone in order to make and receive calls in foreign countries. Some carriers don't support the technology needed for European phones. As a general rule, GSM phones will work in Europe, but have to be set for a different frequency. The best bet is to check with your carrier well in advance of travel so you can work out the details before it becomes a panic. Toll charges will be vastly different, so ask before you go and maybe rack up a huge bill.
Depending on your carrier, sometimes it is cheaper to buy a separate phone and prepaid SIMM card to use abroad - that way you are using local service when on your trip and not incurring huge charges. This will depend on how long you will be there, how much you use your phone, and if you will be going back there in the near future.
- Never leave your passport, tickets, and money in your car or hotel room, keep them on you at all times. If possible, put all your valuables in the hotel or motel safe-deposit box.
- Do not draw attention to yourself by displaying cash or expensive jewelry. Use a passport pouch concealed under your clothing or a money belt.