Episode #7 of the course A practical guide for budget travel by Damon Dominique, Joanna Franco, and Alyssa Perrott
Today we’re—ahem—unpacking everything you should know about equipment. Just because you have no money doesn’t mean you should turn up in Cambodia with nothing but a bag full of air and a hope-for-the-best attitude. Packing essential items is going to save you lots of money, stress, and time—perhaps the most valuable currency of all!
The Traveler’s Toolkit
The bare necessities should set you up for ease and quick problem-solving when traveling. Think power adapters, a portable phone charger, earplugs, an eye mask, and a reusable, filtered water bottle to save you hundreds of dollars (while giving back to humanity!) And of course, a utensils kit for all those picnics you’re going to have. Include flip-flops to stop yourself from stepping on loose hairs and dirty run-off in communal hostel bathrooms (altogether now: “Ew!”), a combination lock for storing luggage and evading pickpockets, and a first aid kit.
Budget travel means you’ll often have limited baggage allowances across all modes of transport. Considering this, we’ve always found portable luggage scales essential. You won’t have to wait till the airport to know if the difference in weight is small enough to negotiate around or if you should put in extra rearranging minutes.
Also handy in this category are packing cubes and/or space bags. Both of these items allow you to create more space in your suitcase, the former by engaging you in a game of traveler’s tetris and the latter by literally sucking the air out.
Then we come to the bag itself. This is an important choice because budget travel means you won’t find yourself enjoying luxuries like bell-hops and Ubers; you’re most likely going to be walking up countless flights of metro stairs to get around. So, you need a bag that’s big, sturdy but not too heavy, comfortable, and reasonably price. Sound impossible? We’ve become fans of eight-wheel bags that stand up on their own and ease the load on your body (even the most budget of budget stores sell these nowadays, but consider investing a little more for quality and longevity). If you’re looking for a good backpack (aka your new apartment) we’re here to save the day: This guide is all you need.
This category of essentials includes everything to keep you comfy, both physically and mentally. A high-quality, memory-foam neck pillow may not be as cheap as a bean bag one from a supermarket, but it’s a game-changer of an investment: for those long bus rides, those fully-booked flights, that 4 am train. You’ll be dozing off before take-off, and everyone will be jealous of you.
Other essentials here include baby wipes for keeping everything fresh, a Kindle or magazine or other form of entertainment, a passport case for peace of mind and ease of carry, and a notebook for recounting memories, writing the addresses of your accommodation, helpful numbers, locations of stations, etc.
Rounding off the list is spare socks. Never underestimate the power of spare socks. Spare socks are the holy grail. They’re saviors in the face of sweat, rain, dirt, fabric tears … it’s a shame they can’t solve all the world’s problems.
“Essential equipment” also includes the multi-tasking kind. One such item that has saved our souls many a time is the carabiner clip. We like to attach these to our day bags and then hang water bottles, hats, sneakers, tote bags, etc. off them. Do we sometimes end up sounding like walking wind-chimes clinking down the street? Yes. Do we give a damn? NOPE.
Sweaters can double as blankets, neck pillows, and even towels when things get desperate, and beanies can be used as eye masks or protective pouches for valuables at risk of getting crushed in your suitcase. Shoes make great storage spaces for socks, jewelry, and undies.
Tote bags and empty plastic bags are always great ideas too: to do your grocery shopping abroad, to use for distinguishing your dirty laundry from the clean stuff, to hold wet swimmers when you go straight from the beach to the train station.
Even travel mugs and old, empty lotion bottles can be used to hide valuables.
Invest, too, in small travel containers, which are much cheaper to pour your existing shampoos into those than to buy the mini versions directly from the store.
Now you’re all packed, with room to spare for souvenirs along the way! Come back tomorrow to find out how to meet locals in your travel destinations.
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