So your trip is organised, your countdown is into single digits and your excitement levels are at an all-time high, but there’s just one (pretty major) hurdle you’ve got to get over… packing. And when you’re travelling overseas, this can be super stressful. The planning, running around getting random ‘just-in-case’ things, and general panicking that you’ll forget something important is enough to make you, well, need a holiday.
The first thing you need to remember is that as long as you’ve got your passport and the necessary visas, you will be ok!
Because I’m a bit of a stresser and tend to exhibit some dramatic tendencies from time to time (apparently!), I’ve managed to get this packing thing down. Now, it probably doesn’t really look like it to other people, but I never said that I pack light; I just know what to pack. My philosophy: The size of luggage you’re taking is the size of luggage you’re taking, and no one ever won any prizes for only half filling their bag. So unless you are specifically saving space for shopping, as long as you are within the luggage weight allowance – I say fill that bag up, or use a smaller one. If you can’t choose between 2 T-shirts and they both fit, pack them both in! Who’s it gonna hurt? Exactly. And, you’re welcome.
Having said all that, there are a few items I simply cannot travel without when I’m going on an international holiday, so I thought it only fair that I share that info…
Disclaimer: I assume that you know you need a passport, visa, phone chargers etc,
so this list isn’t about that…
My top 10 international travel essentials (you can thank me later!)
1. Five Roses tea
Do not be fooled: no other tea, no matter what they tell you, tastes like Five Roses. As a South African and a massive tea lover, it’s become very apparent that no other tea quite matches up to the quality and taste of our delicious home-grown brand. After making the rookie error of being Five Roses-less on a few trips, I swore that it would never happen again, and a pack of Five Roses teabags is at the top of my packing list for every single trip. The same advice goes for Rooibos lovers – take the stuff with you!
2. My pillow
Yes, I’m that person hugging onto her pillow like a 5-year-old holding on to their teddy on a long-haul trip. It might not seem necessary to you if you’re going to be staying in hotels, but if, like me, you suffer from a bad back and neck, you’ll know that one night on a bad pillow is the worst. Because of this, I use a memory foam pillow at home (if you’ve got one, you’ll know it’s more like an investment than a pillow!), and I managed to find a travel version that’s smaller, slightly thinner and can be rolled up to fit into your bag… Winning! It’s a win having this guy on the flight, at those hotels when you question why they even bothered giving you a pillow and on public transport if you’re doing some long travelling between countries. Trust me, physios are expensive, so bring a pillow – even if it’s just one of those blow-up thingies!
3. A medicine kit
I like to be prepared for those “what if” moments, and having a small bag with some midecine helps with that. Yes, you could just pop into a pharmacy on your holiday, but with our exchange rate, that can be really expensive. These are my medicine kit staples: plasters (make sure you have blister-sized ones if you’re doing a lot of walking), tissues, pain meds (which ever ones work for you – I always have Nurofen and Myprodol – especially if there are going to be some party nights; in which case pack some Essential, too!), Corenza C, ACC 2000 and Berocca (you often start getting little flu-like niggles after flying and being up late; plus, you’re quite stressed before travelling which compromises your immune system), and then possibly something for upset tummies. If you’re going on a boat or are prone to motion sickness, get some nausea meds, too, and be sure to pack any prescription meds you need.
4. My trusty denim jacket
It may not seem like it, but this is one of my ultimate international travel essentials. Truth be told, I virtually go nowhere without this guy. Good old DJ (I’ve never actually given my denim jacket a name until now, and I think it’s kind of awesome) and I are pretty inseparable, and for good reason. He goes with everything, is perfect for all kinds of weather, is super stylish, he’s light and easy to lug around and he doesn’t crease. What a gem!
5. Some hand-washing powder
There’s no denying the fact that I always pack more clothes than I need (no regrets there), so I generally don’t need washing done. But depending on how long your trip is and what facilities you have available, some hand-washing powder has always come in handy to wash underwear and socks. I fill a little Tupperware with the stuff (you won’t need much), and it saves me the money of having to send laundry away at hotels or having to buy a whole box of the washing powder – and also saves you from having to buy pairs and pairs of panties just for your trip.
6. A good book or magazine (or both!)
Yes, when you’re in a foreign land you’re in full tourist mode, taking to the streets and maximising your time seeing the sites, not lying in your hotel room reading a book (unless, of course, your foreign land is more of the resort/island type – then I recommend taking a few more books!). But you’ve got a long flight, possibly quite a bit of airport time, and maybe even more time travelling between destinations on busses and trains. This could be a great time to catch up on much-needed sleep (in fact, it was the only thing that got me through my Contiki tour!), but nothing kills the time like a good book. Also, books and mags are great tools to hide behind when what you’re really doing is people watching!
I’ll admit it loud and proud right here – I’m get hangry. Like, seriously hangry. So I find it best to always be prepared, and travelling is no different. It doesn’t matter that I’m surrounded by foreign beauty – when those pangs strike, I can’t take responsibility for my actions. You don’t always know where you’re going to be in and around meal times, and sometimes the snacks on offer to keep you going aren’t all that great… and there’s also the fact that they aren’t always that healthy. So I like to add a few bags of nuts and some cereal or fruit bars, and maybe even a pack or 2 of dried fruit – just in case. Just saying: they’ve never made it back home…
8. Dry shampoo
I wish I had found out about this ultimate beauty trick ages ago, but am making up for lost time pretty quickly. Dry shampoo is great to have when travelling, especially when you’ve got loads of early mornings – which you generally do when trying to maximise your time. You can easily give yourself an extra day (or 2) before you need to watch your hair, and while this may seem frivolous, you’ll thank me when you’ve got a 6:30am flight to catch after a long night out sampling the local beverages.
9. My camera
So, this one is an obvious one, but I added it in ‘cos I think you need something other than just your camera phone – regardless of how good it is. While no picture can ever quite match up to the reality, there’s nothing like looking back at the pictures after your holiday… and showing them off! I make a photo book after each trip, and highly recommend it; these days, we don’t print out our pictures, so they tend to sit on your computer or on Facebook, and having an actual album is pretty special. The type of camera depends on you and where you’re going… these days there are so many great quality small cameras that fit nicely into your handbag, so those are always a win. Just remember you have to lug around whatever you take with you. On a side note – I always pack my selfie stick. I know, I know… and yes, apparently there are a few tourist spots that have banned them, but I do like the fact that, since it’s mostly just me and Hubby, we can actually get a few decent shots of both of us with the whole awesome *insert tourist site* in the picture. Let’s be honest, while you can always ask someone to take a photo for you, how often do they actually come back the way you’d hoped? Exactly!
10. A South African flag
Anyone who knows me knows that I am fiercely patriotic. On my first international trip with my now hubby, I was trying to think of something cool we could do in each country to commemorate us being there (we were going on Contiki in Europe, so were visiting a few countries). Some people buy shot glasses or magnets from each place, but I wanted something different; and then it hit me! A photo of us at an iconic place in the country holding our South African place has now become “our thing”, and we have an amazing wall of photos to show for it. We actually get a fab reaction from the locals whenever we whip out the flag and ask someone to take a pic, so while you might not want to use the flag, I seriously suggest finding your own thing – you’ll be glad you did.