When you travel to another country, there are some common-sense things you need to pack such as your passport and a toiletry bag for grooming. However, depending on the purpose of your trip there can be a lot of flexibility regarding other items on the packing list. Below are five things that I believe a recreational or adventure traveler should have prior to embarking on their journey;
A Quality Backpack- Unless you are taking a two-week family vacation to a 5-star resort in Puerto Vallarta there is no reason you should ever have to check luggage when traveling. For most budget travelers, a traditional suitcase has become a liability. First, most international airlines charge $40-80 extra per checked bag. Having a good backpack allows you to keep your valuables within arms’ reach and avoid paying those hefty airline fees. A good backpack will allow you carry 4 sets of clothes (shirts and shorts) along with an extra pair of shoes and have room to spare. You also want to make sure your backpack is made out of durable material. Nothing accelerates the wear and tear on a backpack like 3 weeks of traveling across a country using public transportation. I speak from experience as I have had to buy three different backpacks for my last three trips.
Smart Phone/Laptop- Some people will argue that having a smart phone or a laptop while traveling defeats the purpose of getting away from the chaos of everyday life. While certainly a valid argument, I never travel without at least my Android and two chargers. My smartphone allows me to take pictures and make videos during my trip without the risk of losing my $400 GoPro Camera. In addition, a smartphone is incredibly useful in looking up information whether it is hotels, exchange rates, maps. My specific model of phone even has a feature for “Wi-Fi calling” so anytime I connect to Wi-Fi I can make phone calls to where ever I want and for as long as I want without exhausting my data. As far as bringing my laptop on a trip, I do so if I plan on being gone longer than 3 weeks. Believe it or not, there can be a lot of downtime during traveling whether on long bus rides or in smaller towns with limited entertainment options. Having my laptop, allows me to do things like write a blog or watch Netflix in those instances. If you don’t have something to entertain yourself during a long trip, you are more likely to spend money on entertainment whether it is at the bar or a costly excursion.
Day Bag- While a backpack is the most important item, it can be argued that a day bag is a close second. The day bag is a bag where you can carry small things whether you decided to go on a hike or to a museum. Despite getting slashed by thieves in Cambodia, I still have the day bag that I paid $50 for almost 5 years ago. My day bag can easily hold a water bottle, my wireless headphones, and an extra shirt. There is also a nifty section on the top where I keep my cash. Coincidentally, because my cash was in that section, the thieves that slashed my bag were unable to steal it.
Lanyard- I didn’t realize the importance of a lanyard until I went to Costa Rica. Even upscale hotels still use traditional keys as opposed to key cards. Having a good lanyard, allows you to have your padlock key and/or hotel key all in one place. Having it around your neck eliminates the possible of your key falling out of your pocket or bag while out and about. The best thing is that you can easily find a lanyard for $3-5 USD even in tourist towns.
Travel Insurance- Unless you travel a lot, you probably haven’t thought about getting travel insurance for your trip. Not many people expect to break a leg during a hike or get salmonella from that beef kabab that they bought for $1 on the street. There is very little that your domestic health insurance provider can do for you if you get sent to the hospital abroad. Travel insurance is incredibly cheap (I paid $42 for mid-level coverage during my 30-day trip to the Dominican Republic) and will absolutely help you in a tight spot (i.e. missed flight, lost luggage, serious injury). Be sure to read the policy on how a specific company handles insurance claims and whether it is through direct payment or reimbursement.