As I am busy preparing for my next trip, I realized it might be worthwhile to share what I pack for my travels and how. And also how I prepare for trips, and which apps or tools I use. My travel focus is minimalistic, lightweight, practical, no redundancies, no checked luggage. I also do not do extensive research weeks in advance or plan every single minute of the trip, so you might find this a bit lightweight. Lastly, I am just an amateur photographer, so for a pro different rules apply. No go for me is: Sleeping in tents/outdoors, shared bathrooms, or sleeping in the car. “I am getting too old for this stuff” to quote good old Murtaugh. Good preparation enables you to be spontaneous and flexible.
So if you and your loved one are planning to undertake more spontaneous weekend escapes…
Or you just want to explore more of the world and reduce all the redundant preparation…
Then maybe this post is useful to you.
On picking and checking your bags…
I wouldn’t bring a normal rucksack (too small) and for sure [don’t] bring a hard case cabin trolley. This might be okay for the business traveler or the “all-inclusive working class” tourist, as both just move in a cab from home to airport to hotel to airport to home and otherwise get entertained by the animators, never leaving the hotel/resort. But it is not practical for a real traveler who wants to see the world.
[Don’t] check luggage unless you really have to (e.g. for diving gear). Because:
- You will wait ages for your stuff at the airport
- You have to get to the airport much earlier and wait in line
- Theft ratio is much higher than you think
- Damage ratio even higher than that
- You are not allowed to check a lot of stuff. incl. Li-Ion batteries and much more. Also this differs by country and in many places like the U.S. they will open it and go through your stuff…
There are quite a few options now for cabin-size backpacks. Ryanair, Easyjet, Eurowings and the other low-cost airlines are horrible with cabin-size regulations, weight checks or forcing you to give up the case just before boarding. This will not happen with a backpack. Just pick one you like that matches the sizes. I use this one (Cabin Max):
These have the size and capacity already optimized. Many other 60l backpacks work as well, but you might get discussion with the shittier airlines…
And trust me – going one week with just this backpack is absolutely no problem.
Plastic Bag Perplexities…
If you want to board any plane, this little zip bag is a must. No liquids above 100ml (strict) and no total above 1l (no one cares) and all needs to fit in a zippable (Meaning: closeable – more and more important), transparent(!) bag. So here is mine:
Remember – I wrote this as a standard all-scenario type of guide. So I am bringing:
- Mosquito Repellent (Take one with a high dose of DEET). I recommend antibrumm forte. (You might need to refill this if you cannot get a 100ml bottle)
- Toothpaste and Toothbrush. The Theramed is ideally sized.
- Deodorant: I would recommend a roller instead of spray, due to the pressure differences and quicker loss
- Sunscreen: Clear winner: 50 or above. No sense in lower.
- Hairgel (If you have hair 😉 )
- One pack of shower gel and shampoo. Most hotels have, but I always bring one set.
- Small contactlense liquid container. You can buy small ones, but better get a reusable one and refill from the big and cheaper ones. For the trips, a one-fits-all solution (cleaning and storage) is fine. The one you see above lasts me 7 days.
- One spare contact lense storage (recommended from experience) Also [don’t] fly longhaul with contacts – take glasses for the long flights.
- Facial cream (as you see I use a small refillable container, again cheaper and I have the brand I like)
Get yourself a second bag for medical supplies. Any small bag will do – just take one of the ones the airlines give you on overnights. Here are the contents of mine:
- Sleeping Mask
- Painkillers (The ones you like, I’d recommend against Asipirin.)
- Cold medicine (Tylenol, Grippostad)
- Diarrhea medicine (strong stuff like Immodium)
- Throat drops (same as the cold medicine – because the aircon might get you)
- Sleeping Pills (Lendormin, Zolpidem – to sleep on the flight)
- Mini-Sewing kit (trust me ;))
- If you use monthly contacts, at least bring one spare set of dailies – for example for a diving or snorkling trip
- Band-aids: Bring large and small and bring anti-blister patches
- I usually bring 2-3 alcohol wipes. Comes in handy to disinfect sometimes
- And then of course whatever personal hygiene products you need. 😉
My camera set is actually quite simple and any-hardcore photographer will laugh. In addition to the camera of choice (Nikon) this is the stuff I will bring:
- One all-purpose lens (e.g. 18-105mm or 18-140mm)
- One tele lens (e.g 70-300mm)
- A tripod. I am using Joby but if you get a *really* lightweight tripod it might also be ok. Needs to fit into the bag though… I like the gorilla pad.
- Camera wipes, because otherwise you *will* use your T-shirt…
- Grey Filter (ND3.0 is usually best for all purposes)
- Comfortable bag. This is my all-purpose bag and I carry everything around in it, all day. So better get a bag you really like and that carries well.
- Spare Battery
Electronics & Electricity
We live in the wonderful world of technology and have become symbiotic in our relationship to our phones… All requires power, cables etc. Here is my electronics bag:
- Multipurpose adapter and charger. This is the most important recommendation I can give: Get yourself something like this. It is a multi-purpose travel adapter, which has all the standard connectors for 90% of the countries. It has 4 USB ports, so enough for overnight charging of both of your phones, the camera and the mobile power supply. You avoid bringing the individual phone chargers and a separate travel adapter.
- USB cables – one for each device that you will charge overnight
- Headphones (small in-ear obviously)
- A headphone split cinch – So you can both watch the movie on the tablet / smartphone together with earplugs. Romantic 😉
- A car mobile charger if you want to drive (I explain later why). Go for dual-USB charging.
- A car cellphone holder. Because you can use your phone for navigation. I use a magnetic holder, as you can see above. Because it is the smallest by far.
- A mobile power supply. Pay attention to the max. load – in some countries (e.g. China) there are limitations to the max. capacity (10.000 I believe)
- A battery charger for your camera that uses the same cable / plug that your phones are using. (saves yet another cable)
- A USB stick encrypted with Veracrypt that contains: Passport copies, Visa card copies, flight bookings, hotel bookings, other reservations. You should have a second set of those files encrypted on your phone.
- Put it all in (yet another) bag and it will save you lots of time searching
I have all these three bags – my travel kit – pre-packed and stowed away in the rucksack already. This way I can get ready in 5minutes if another last minute error fare opens up.
These are the apps that I use to prepare for my trips or during my travels. Focus is on stuff that works offline, because you will not have 3G or 4G. I strongly encourage you to get global roaming or ideally a 2nd sim card. I am working with a free roaming in the EU, which is okay. But we have a second global SIM as well. You will need that occasionally.
- Google Maps – Download all offline maps for your area of travel in advance. I used to recommend HereMaps as backup, but that is no longer needed. You can avoid the reserving a car with Navi. This saves you a lot of money. There is no reason to reserve a car with navi nowadays. Zero!
- Google Trips – the data kraken strikes again… but the recommendations and linkage to maps is very good
- Foursquare: Restaurant/Café recommendations. You will get the standard tourist recommendations mostly, but there are good places in between those. Just check carefully.
- Check24: Or any other multi provider for your car reservation. Price differences are massiv. [Don’t] book directly with SIXT, Europcar etc. Always get full insurance via the multiprovider and [don’t] accept any additional insurance locally.
- Kayak / Skyscanner: To check and book cheap flights. Always check single separate booking of to and fro – you might save a lot.
- Booking.com / Airbnb: One might have the lead over the other, depending on location. Still it will get you the cheapest price between the two.
- Triposo: Very good background and overview of your destinations. Great activity recommendations and self-guided tours. Works offline and you can download everything in advance.
- Splid: Great for cost tracking and splitting the bill after the trip. Especially in a group. I am always our travel accountant and this thing makes my life so much easier.
- Parkopedia: Useful to get cheap parking in the big cities if you use a rental car.
- Viator… I am not sure about this anymore. It is almost as bad as Tripadvisor and the recommendations are often shitty and commercial. I might throw it out eventually, but at least you get some ideas about activities and prices at a location.
- XE Currency: Exchange rate tracking. Convenient
- Pocket: Bring your favorite travel blog articles or websites and read offline on the plane
- ReadEra: Very powerful ebook reader. [Don’t] bring paperbacks. Get your great novels or nonfiction on your phone. Works just as well.
- Google Translate: Duh!
- Snapseed: To make those beautiful snapshots even more beautiful before they go on Instagram or Eyeem. 😉
After all these lists and ‘baginations’, we conclude with the other essentials:
- Global Free Credit Card. Best one for Germany: The DKB Visa It needs to be free in three aspects: a) charges per month b) charges at ATMs c) charges when paying, e.g. in a restaurant. There is almost no reason to bring cash anymore to any country unless it is really remote. But if you can avoid, do not get money on the travel ATMs in the airports (like Travelex) because the fees are high. Get a local bank, the rates / fees are better. Still, airport is always cheaper than exchanging in advance.
- Sunglasses. [Don’t] wear a tourist cappy on vacation. That’s today’s equivalent of the white socks & sandals…
- Passport. Don’t forget registration for countries like the U.S., Myanmar, Canada or visa application in case you need it. I would also bring a copy of the passport and carry that around with me instead of the original (which goes into the hotel safe)
- Second backup card for payment – [don’t] rely on an EC card for this
- Global travel insurance. You might get one for free via your credit card provider or other sources. Otherwise I can recommend HUK24
- In case you want to go for Watersports / Diving: Bring a GoPro (or one of the Chinese rip-off brands, doesn’t matter much)
- For high risk destinations, read travel.state.gov and Auswärtiges Amt and get on their crisis lists if recommended
And of course: Don’t forget to pack clothes 😉
Have a great time exploring the world!