5 Travel Gear Items I Never Leave Home Without
Recently, my mom informed me that my little sister was going to spend 10 days in Mexico on a mission trip. This is an amazing opportunity for her! This is her first trip out of the country and the first trip ever without parents. Me being the constant traveler, she had come to me for gear advice. Awesome! This is my favorite topic to lecture people about! Your travel gear is some of the most important stuff you'll ever buy, especially when you're a constant traveler or going on a long trip in uncertain areas.
Here are my 5 items I never leave home without that have made the difference between an uncomfortable pilgrimage and an enjoyable adventure:
1. The Appropriate Bag:
No matter if it's a short trip in port or you're going on a 15 hour plane ride, my bag is my number one item in my checklist. I've actually been using the same backpack ever since I started traveling. I got this Osprey bag from my mom for my birthday just before I left to go work on ships. Since then it has circled the globe, traveled more than a month straight by plane, been dropped in the water on a tender, and carried more stuff than I can remember and it still looks brand new. Backpacks are useful when out in a city because they obviously carry a lot. Water, food, extra clothing and your emergency money is hidden inside.
Backpacks also are good for hiding purchases. If you buy an obviously touristy item and it's not something that can slip inside the pocket, it isn't good to just carry it around in a city where pickpockets might be on the lookout for tourists. Hiding these purchases in a backpack can save you from being marked for some special attention. Wondering why it's orange? My theory is that thieves are less likely to steal a bag that is highly visible from a long ways away. So far, I have yet to test this theory.
I also generally carry a second, smaller bag with lots of zippers for when I'm just out for a quick trip and only need my wallet. Only get cross-body (it's less likely to be snatched) and wear it with the bag part over your thigh when you walk so you always have a clear view of whose hands are going into it.
2. Comfortable Clothing:
Skip the makeup, tight clothing, heels and single layer things. I wore jeans on my first flight. I got off the plane ten hours later with the seams tattooed on my thighs and a healthy appreciation for spandex. Now, my staples are yoga pants or leggings, a tunic top, a zip up sweatshirt, a scarf and some comfy shoes (Uggs are the best). You might look homeless, but you'll be the most comfortable person there. Even if you are flying from India to Texas, always bring layers. The inside of an airport is known for being cold and unforgiving.
A note on scarves: I take this scarf seriously. It's actually a tactical scarf typically issued by the U.S. military for soldiers going to the middle East. They give this one out for a reason: it's extremely large but can fold up small, it's 100% cotton so it will double as a towel in a pinch, and you can wrap it any way you want for any use. I've even used it to bundle packages to tie to my backpack when I needed a second bag. While you wouldn't want to necessarily wear it in Israel, it can look very stylish in most other countries (they have solid color options if this is a concern for you).
3. Travel Bottles:
This is one item that is just a luxury, but one I've appreciated over the years. Silicone travel bottles. I don't have a particular brand I recommend, one is basically like the other, but they are oh-so-convenient. The right size, they usually come with that handy TSA bag, you can get little silicone pots for different liquids, and they don't fall down in the hotel shower and smash your toenail like the hard plastic ones do. Just a hint, though, these are silicone so other silicone products probably won't work with them. Also, get a handy little scrubby brush at home (the one for bottles) to give them a nice once over after you run out of product.
4. Travel-Ready Tech:
My first trip around the world I dragged my super expensive 17-inch MacBook Pro every step of the way. While it survived and is still with me today, I probably created more than a few scars with all the knocks it took. Now I travel tech-lite.
My iPad mini acts as my phone, book, TV, internet machine, and photo editor. With a good lightning-to-USB cable I can even upload all my photos from my DSLR and edit in PS Lr to post online. I have yet to feel the pinch by sizing down my tech, and with a OtterBox case my iPad still looks like new. You shouldn't weigh yourself down with too-big items like electronics, which can be stolen and are highly obvious. While traveling abroad you probably won't even be able to have a phone, so Skype will be your new best friend.
If you are nervous about the price, remember that an iPad is my brand choice, it doesn't have to be yours. Kindles, tablets and other options are just as powerful and useful. For those who are Mac-mad, though, remember that Apple sells refurbished products straight on their website at a highly reduced rate. You can get pretty much any specification at a fraction of the price. They even come with the warranty as brand new products, and I have yet to have a problem with one of my refurbished items.
This is a semi-luxury item. I certainly could have lived without it, but it has gotten me out of a pinch several times. I use a Jackery portable battery, which I charge in hotel rooms and use to extend the life of my electronics. Since I use my iPad as my phone, there have been a few times when I absolutely needed a few minutes of extra battery to arrange for last-minute hotels or cabs and my iPad was just about dead. Since payphones are a dying breed, you want to be sure you have a way to deliver that juice. Now that I travel with my husband (who loves his phone on long trips) we always make sure to charge this item before any kind of outing.
That's my total list of items I recommend taking when you head out for your next adventure (and already delivered to my mom for my sister's maiden voyage)! Other than that, I definitely say leave about half of what you packed at home. You won't need the clothes, because who doesn't love shopping in a new place, and you definitely won't need the toys. Just don't stress about what you're packing after you have the essentials together, it's about the voyage not the paraphernalia. Anyone have items they never leave the house without? Let me know what you consider essential; maybe you have some tricks the world needs to hear!