Part of being a traveller is packing like a traveller. The newbies to the scene are often easy to spot – bent in half by their enormous backpacks as they drag along another bag or two. At the other end of the scale is the guy who is carrying one small duffel bag and is forever borrowing things from his fellow travellers. In between are the seasoned folk who have managed to hone their backpack contents down with the benefit of experience. What constitutes essential will vary between individuals of course but there are several items which most commonly fall into the I-should-have-left-it-at-home category.
1) A Guide Book
Travellers tend to fall into the love ’em or loathe ’em categories with regard to guidebooks but one thing is for sure, they are bulky and heavy. Sure, e-readers offer digital versions but these can be clumsy and impractical to use compared to their hard-copy counterparts.
So, what’s the alternative? Well these days many, if not most, hostels and budget hotels offer Internet access computers for their guests’ use and the amount of travel information at your fingertips here is huge – vastly more comprehensive and certainly more up-to-date than even the latest guide book edition. Of course this is all available directly from your smart phone too. If you simply must have a guide book then consider just copying the pages or sections you are most likely to need. Nobody uses all of a guidebook unless they intend to stay in one country for several years.
2) The Just-in-Case Items
Anything that gets packed with a just-in-case intention should definitely be left behind. These items take up valuable space and are very rarely needed or used. Remember, that if a need does suddenly arise for something you don’t have then all is not lost. Unless you are intending on taking an excursion to the moon they have shops where you’re going (honest!) and the people who live there also have a need for day to day items.
A supply intended to last the whole trip of shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and any other toiletry item you use is going to take up a huge part of your backpack and be super heavy. Pack a few sample sized items to get you through the beginning of your trip and until you are orientated and then buy as you go. You can also buy items like soap leaves, which are compact and great for travelling.
And girls – do try and scale down that complicated beauty regime which involves tons of pots, potions, hair straighteners and the like. Embrace that just-off-the-beach look – it’s all part of the experience after all.
4) Flashy Jewellery
There is no place on the travelling circuit for expensive jewellery. Apart from anything else it makes you a target for thieves, pickpockets and scammers. Swap your expensive baubles for local-made bangles and jingling ankle chains – you’ll fit in with the backpacker crowd better that way anyway!
5) Excess Clothing and Underwear
Your choice of wardrobe will of course be destination dictated. If you intend to island hop in Thailand, for example, you may well get away with flip-flops, bikini and sarong although trips involving trekking in the Guatemalan mountains may need something more. However, although careful thought will be needed, what you won’t need is an excess of clothing wherever you go and something for every conceivable occasion.
If you do find yourself suddenly invited to tea with local royalty then you can buy an outfit where you are (see entry 2, Just-in-case items) Also, bear in mind that if your destination is a hot one then any clothes washed will get dry overnight and all over the world are locals offering same-day laundry services.
6) Towels from Home
Towels are another bulky item which can easily be ditched. Swap your fluffy bath sheet for a light-weight travel towel which folds up super small and dries in the blink of an eye to save space in your backpack. If you’d rather not pack a towel at all, some hostels do offer towels to their guests for a small fee, but you may not be able to take these to the beach, so having your own travel towel is wise.
7) Extra Gadgets
Have a serious think about what gadgets you really need. Of course the word ‘need’ is defined differently from person to person but cutting down on these will mean you can also cut down on heavy and bulky chargers and adaptors. So……do you really need an electric toothbrush/hair dryer/travel iron/insert gadget of your choice? It’s up to you but you may well find, that once you embrace the travelling life style, what you thought was vital at home may lose much of its importance once on the road.
8) Extra Reading Books
Some of us find the idea of life without reading inconceivable but that doesn’t mean you have to stuff your backpack full of enough material to last your whole trip. Almost all hostels have some type of book exchange while many destinations have a wide choice of second-hand book shops and there are always other travellers to exchange with too of course. If your reading tastes are a little off-the-wall or obscure then invest in an e-reader. Small, weighing virtually nothing and allowing you to get hold of as many new books as you like wherever you have Internet access.
9) Loads of Cash
Of course you’re going to need money to keep you going during your trip, but make sure that all the funds for your trip aren’t in the form of a big wad of cash! It’s wise to spread your travel funds over a number of different channels. So, take some cash, a credit card and a cash passport. Traveller’s cheques are an option, but aren’t as widely used as they once were.
10) Any That-Would-be-Fun-to-Get-There Items
Travelling is all about the experience and shopping locally for items can bring all sorts of fun and adventure with it. You get to interact with the locals, help fund local economies and could make all kinds of exciting discoveries while on the search for the shop which sells whatever you are looking for.