When spending extended time away from home, sometimes it is the little things that can make a difference in your comfort. I often travel for 3-4 weeks at a time. These are a few things that I have learned make life on the road just a little easier.
- Bandana- I won’t leave home without it. I wear it as a head band, or tie it onto my day pack. On the plane, I pull it down over my eyes when I want to sleep. It’s like hanging a “do not disturb” sign. After an overnight flight, I can then use it as a wash cloth. Washing my face and brushing my teeth after an overnight flight, makes it much easier to face a new day in a new country. It also serves as a napkin, or “table cloth” for a quick picnic.
- Waterbottle– one that will fit in your daypack, so that you will take it with you everywhere. It is so important to stay hydrated when traveling and little bottles of water are expensive. If tap water is not safe, then I go to a grocery store and buy the biggest bottles of water available and use those to refill my small bottle. Make sure it is empty before going through security.
- Earplugs- great for sleeping on an airplane and in a noisy hotel. A good nights sleep makes all travel much more pleasant. Earplugs are especially helpful if sharing a room or sleeping with an open window.
- White noise – I’m addicted to white noise because I sleep with an airfilter in my room at home. It does wonders for drowning out the little exterior noises that wake you up, especially if you are in an unfamiliar environment. I used to travel with a radio, alarm, white noise combo, but now I just have a white noise app on my iPhone that does the trick. I guess you’ve figured out that I value my sleep. It helps keep me healthy, both physically and mentally!
- Flashlight– I keep a little one clipped to my camera bag. I also love headlamps, because they free my hands. They work great for reading in bed, if your hotel doesn’t have a small lamp by the bed, or if you’re sharing a room. It’s also helpful for getting things out of your suitcase at night, without disturbing your roommates.
- Multi-tool and/or Swiss Army Knife– You never know when you’ll need to fix a piece of gear, or open a bottle of wine! If you pack one, be sure to pack it in your checked luggage, so it doesn’t get confiscated by security.
- Duct Tape- You can repair all sorts of things with duct tape: rips, tears, shoe soles… you name it, it’s been “fixed” with duct tape. I wrap a few feet of it around a pen, and keep it in my camera bag. If you need any more ideas for the possibilities for duct tape, check out this blog.
- First-Aid Kit– stuff for blisters, indigestion, diarrhea, motion sickness, pain, cuts, bites, etc. I don’t take an entire pharmacy, just enough of these item to prevent an inconvenient emergency trip to a drugstore. You can get little sample packs at most pharmacies that have 2 pills of each, just enough to get you through until you can go to a pharmacy. Make sure you are aware of any restrictions that may be in place. Japan, has some pretty strict guidelines for what they allow in to the country. Always pack prescriptions in their original container, and bring a copy of your prescription.
Remember, pack light. Carefully consider each item in your suitcase. Is it necessary? How much does it improve your quality of travel? Can I buy it in country? I’ve decided that for me, each of these items are worth the little bit of space they take up, even if it means I have to take one less book, or one less pair of shoes. The good news is that for this year’s trip, Japan is known for being the land of convenience, with 7-11 stores on just about every block, and even vending machines filled with an assortment of items. So don’t feel like you have to pack everything but the kitchen sink. Going to the store and figuring out which bottle is shampoo, and which is laundry detergent is an adventure in itself. Allow yourself that experience!
I’d love more suggestions for the “little things” that makes a big difference when traveling.
Updated and reposted from 5/15/12