6 Tools to Keep You Safe, Comfortable and Rested on Any Trip
You’ve packed your passport, toothbrush and comfy shoes, so you’re good to go…right? Well, you’ll likely get by, but you may need a few more items to stay happy, comfortable and entertained. Hindsight is always 20/20, but it can be really tricky to think ahead about what you might need in an area you’ve never been. Instead of learning the hard way, take a tip from those who have gone before: adding these simple things to your bag can save you a good deal of frustration, free up more space, and keep you traveling like a pro.
Tourists are divided on the value of a money belt, but there’s no doubt that it will bring some comfort, especially to the novice traveler. Stick with a small version, something just big enough to hold your passport, money, credit cards and any super important documents you may be carrying. Pickpockets are all over the place, and if you get caught by the beauty of your surroundings, you may not even notice someone rummaging through your pockets. If it turns out that you feel more comfortable without the belt, that’s no big loss: it’s easy to pack it away once you feel you’re seasoned enough to keep your things safely on the surface, and then it can transform into a little organizer for smaller objects or jewelry in your bigger case.
Invest in a jacket that’s lightweight, cleverly designed and insanely waterproof: go to an outdoor outfitter’s to find something that can take on the elements when you need shelter, and fold up nice and climates (outside of the frigid snowy months), and even if you get a long sunny stretch, maritime weather has a reputation for coming on suddenly and with a vengeance. In the end, a thin hooded jacket will always travel (and perform) better than an umbrella.
Clearly, your need for fine mesh will depend on the season and region, but if you’re traveling anywhere in the warmer months, chances are you’ll meet a few bloodthirsty bugs. Although most decent hotel rooms have working windows, take note that most places in Europe do not outfit them with screens. Combined with their distaste for air conditioning, you’re left with little choice but to open the windows and bare your flesh to the tiny predators. If you’ve brought along a mosquito net, you could fasten it over the open window or hang it over your bed, and you can bet that it will save you a few sleepless nights. And speaking of sleep quality…
From the airplane to the hotel room, ear plugs can mean the difference between calm comfort and sleep-deprived drudgery. They’re cheap, portable, and, although you might be lucky enough not to need them, they will be your most precious tool when you really have to recharge in order to catch that morning flight, make that day hike, or just maintain your sanity. Don’t bother with the fancy expensive kind – the cheap, malleable foam version will work just fine, and you won’t have to worry about losing or reusing them for too long.
Douglas Adams had it right – don’t forget your towel, and you can go pretty much anywhere in the galaxy. Even if you’ll be staying at hotels that provide linens and the like, it’s a good idea to tuck a small towel into your day pack in case you get caught in a flash rainstorm and need to dry off away from your lodgings, or use it as a pillow if you fancy a nap on a long train ride. Hit by a heat wave? Dip the towel in cold water and wrap it around your neck for quick relief. And if you find yourself trekking off the beaten track for a day or two on an impromptu excursion, you’ll be prepared when you wind up in humble accommodation with little in the way of extra linen.
In the age of electronic everything, it may seem like an old fashioned move to pack an old fashioned book, but consider the advantages: paper never needs charging, it’s very durable, and you can even write on the pages if you suddenly need some scrap paper. No matter how many exciting excursions you have planned, there’s bound to be some down time, and the right book will keep you entertained and engaged. A journal also makes an excellent traveling companion, and any notebook will do the job; if you find one the same size as your book, you can fashion a loop of elastic to hold them both together, so you always have the choice to read or write as the moods arise.
It’s common to bring along a bunch of unnecessary things – duplicates, gadgets and enough clothing to dress a village – so get in the habit of making two or three sweeps over your suitcase before you zip it up for good. Rather than ask yourself if you’ll use something, ask yourself if you’ll use it enough to justify lugging it around. The goal is to pack less but stay comfy, and self-restraint is an important part of the recipe.