Feeling: TOP TIP
I was yarning to a girl on her first solo travel and giving her some little tit tips I’ve discovered during my roaming aways; she said I should write them down, so here we go.
1. Whenever I arrive in what may be seen as a slightly unsafe place, I make sure to have a transfer booked. And when I reach said transfer, I always fake a phone call to my “very, very protective dad” (lots of Indians encountered on my travels are scared of Hank) and openly take a photo of the number plate of the car and “send” it to him so he has it documented where I am. Sometimes I casually say he GPSes where I am, always (he doesn’t). I feel a little bad for the person for thinking they could hurt me, but always it’s safety first – and it makes me feel more secure.
2. I’m a bit of a trinketer (who would’ve guessed?) and while I’m good at packing light, when it comes to the end of a trip I find I’ve always accumulated a fair bit. I’ve never, never been overweight in luggage (apart from the couple of times I have been and had a wink and a wave through for the few kegs it is – pays to be polite and friendly at the counter) but this is through very strategic packing.
I’m going to let you in on my absolute (as far) foolproof way of that little bit of extra weight in. I have a little Kathmandu case bag that I use when compartmentalising all my stuff – when it comes to the end, I use this as my “pillow”; I either roll up clothes and push them down the sides to give an even appearance, or (first time this trip but definitely the way to go next) I take away a light weight blanket and fold it in a way that it leaves a little well in the middle. In this well, I put trinkets; key rings, in this instance soap stone animals – all the “bitty” stuff that together, weighs a touch. Then when I check in I overplay this as my “pillow” – in line resting my head on it, carrying it as though it’s lightweight, even sitting on it sometimes. I’ve never, ever been caught (touch that wood; lucky I have plenty of wooden animals coming home to do so with). And if it happens that I get to the check in counter and my bags are under the restriction, I sneakily mine the well and add some of its insides to my actual luggage. You see, the security scanners don’t care about weight – it’s only at the counter and gate they do.
Note: this will not work if you are travelling with Ryan Air.
(Using a Shakti Mat bag this haul as the Kathmandu is housing a whole load of laundry that is going to go straight to Mummy Deb. 27-years-old, but still can’t clean clothes like my mother). (And as it happened, had heaps of space in my carry-on to put the “pillow” in its entirety this time so all is ideal).
(Update: check in, um, checked in at 31kg. Luckily I’d been waiting in line for 45minutes and meeting eyes with all the staff with big beaming smiles. I got a wink-and-wave-through when I questioned if my kg over was ok).
3. And the packing: packing compression cells are LIFE. I have five I got from Kathmandu (store, not place) a few years ago, and they are the most brilliant things ever invented. (I just wish they were all different colours, but next time I get some I’ll hustle a rainbow of them). (Dammit just checked online; they online come in azure and magenta – so blue and maroony, the two I have). And they also keep you from overpacking.
When I left for this trip it was broken into three parts: safari, Kilimanjaro, Egypt&Jordan. I allocated one-and-a-half for safari (some stuff crossed over with Kili), two-and-a-half for Kili and two for Egypt&Jordan. While in these spots, I stuck to each of the cells. This meant by the time I got to Cairo, it was deliciously fresh and clean clothes!
Aaaaand to extend, I have a further two compact cell things that I start putting laundry into, so by the time I get to my last leg I have all packing cells free and instead split the items into tops, bottoms, bras and undies, warmer wear and accessories (togs, headbands, hats). Ideal!
4. On a budget or just don’t want to stop for lunch? When at a hotel that includes breakfast, I’ll often take the sanitary bag (clean and unused, just to clarify) from my bathroom and take a few snacks for the day. An apple, a bit of bread, such stuff. In my case it was more on my Egypt tour, when lunch cost 130 pounds (Egyptian, not British – I wasn’t culinarising at The Dorchester) and I didn’t eat a whole hell of a lot, it made sense to get a few bits and pieces rather than pay and not get my money’s worth from it. Savvy and saving! Without the need for an actual lunchbox.
5. If on a four-week or so trip, rather than buy all full bottles of stuff (conditioner, deodorant, etc) and take it over, use half bottles; estimating how much you’ll need and taking so, either in the OG bottle or in smaller ones you can get from travelling shops. I literally used the last of my facial sunblock and my perfume this morning, my body sunblock two days ago and my toothpaste has a teeny bit to go. Ultimate degree of guess! It just makes things so much lighter and you can always get them overseas if need be too.
6. This one I can’t claim; the lady at the bank filled me in when I went in to inform them of my travel destinations and dates (yes, do this so you don’t find yourself with a case of blocked card). When you are heading off, put your card in for a balance at an ATM so the bank know you’re there; when you return, same thing so same thing (but back, rather than going).
7. To avoid any accidental charges for receiving txt messages or calls when overseas, always have your phone on flight mode; to further this, pull your SIM card out and sellotape it to the back of your phone for safe keeping. (Also handy if you get a SIM in your place of stay so you know where your home one is).
8. Have a copy of your passport in each and every one of your bags just in case – much easier to replace if things go awry. Also, travel insurance documentation alongside those PP copies (and I also have a hard copy of all my flight details too).
9. Take photos of your check in – if it gets lost in transit anywhere, it makes it a hell of a lot easier to track down (doing so for the first time this flight if I’m honest; hadn’t thought to do so before). (Addition later: fuck, forgot).
10. As always don’t keep all your cash in one place; second or third lot, stash in a tampon box or something equally unlikely to be doven into by an opportunist.
11. As of my trip to Nepal last year, I have become an absolutely stand up fan of the fanny pack. When I first left for this trip and was at Auckland Airport FaceTiming The Pedaller, he asked me something that necessitated getting my boarding pass out of it; his disgust rang through when he saw me reach to get it – “Are you wearing a fanny pack?!” was his verbal response.
Well he can absolutely rack off. My pink fanny pack is one of my travelling gems; strap it round your hips and your passport, a pen, boarding passes, phone and wallet are in the easiest of easiest reach. And they are actually starting to get “cool” – many people rock them at festivals at the fanny area or across the chest. I highly, highly recommend one for long haul – everything is literally right there. And it means all the important bits are always on you when you go to the bathroom at the airport or on the plane.
12. First trip to Europe, I massively overextended myself on the shoes front. I learnt the hard way (trying to fit multiple pairs of platform sandals in after you’ve bought a lot of stuff for the then-upcoming nephew was a great challenge to excel at) that there really is no need. A pair of Birkenstocks (dress down during day and up at night) and a pair of New Balance or the like (can wear cute casually and also to the gym or for long walking days) are absolutely all you need. This trip I bought with me Birks, Chucks and my hiking boots and it was absolutely ideal for what I was doing.
If I do bring Nikes/NBs/the like, I make sure it is a pair I have savaged over the past few months so that I can go hard away in them and then leave them behind. Great because room if you want to buy a new pair of shoes or need extra extra space for all those key rings.
Also the Birks; this trip and the one to India/Nepal in 2017 I took worn in Birks and used them for everything – even my slippers with big wool socks on when up the mountain. They got wet and discoloured so when it was time to come home, I was more than ok to leave them be behind (even though this afternoon when I said goodbye to my lilac pink metallics I had a heart wrenching moment of sorry). In 2017, my cousin Sarah actually took them on board and claimed them as her own (she still wears them) and a girl enquired as to if she could possibly have my pinks this trip (ended up not having enough room).
Clothing wise, I do this too: each time I repacked I look long and hard and my clothes and decide if they need to come with. I said goodbye to two tops in Nairobi, another couple in Arusha and I dithered over one in Jordan (consensus ended up being to keep). When in more basic places (as in elementary, not “bitch”) I leave a pile on my bed or actually give it to a staff member for a daughter or themselves – I remember in Rishikesh one time gifting a big bag of dresses to some sisters, and walking back past later to see them dancing around wearing them all. It’s heartening, and it’s stuff you really don’t need.
13. Photos; photos, photos, photos. Take them!! Not just to share and show people, but for your own memories. Often when I snap a pic it’s not for anything but for when I scroll through them in two years time and I remember that moment, the feeling I felt, and the memory of it. It captures the essence of a moment in time for you. Take it.
14. And last but definitely one of the most important: be respectful. Of culture, of laws, of the way people live. In a Muslim country don’t go out in shorts baring your buttocks; don’t wear a stringy top down the main street for your tan lines at the disregard for their dress. You’re in their space – remember that and abide by it.
(By the way, Amman Airport – Queen Alia International Airport – is incredible. Only six years old it is absolutely state of the art – the seating, the design, the gates showing pictures of the destination next to the name and details too. I wasn’t expecting such flashity – I was ready for some Cairo, Nairobi-esque sort of spec. I think I have a new contender for my favourite airport over Singapore – the view to the runway to watch the planes is UNREAL).
(Apologies for all the airport pics – get very excited in aviation areas).