Travel is the defining hobby of the 21st century; even one of the defining lifestyle paradigms. In a time where we’re shifting our thinking to experiences over things, escaping and broadening our horizons and learning tolerance and acceptance of the fantastical that defines our world, travel has gone from being a luxurious aside to something that defines us.
I tend to have a compulsive urge to dispense unsolicited advice. So I’ve compiled a series of posts setting out my travel necessities – for entertainment, your sanity, staying sanitised, organised and generally surviving time as a nomad (whether for a weekend or a year).
This first instalment addresses my favourite part of planning a trip: organisation. Everyone has their own travel style – some like to have every minute planned before they arrive, and others prefer to turn up and soak up each moment as it arrives. I have tried both, love both and both have amazing benefits. But no matter your approach, you do need to have the most basic of organisation in order to actually get yourself from home to destination, and back again, preferably with all limbs and at least your credit card, if not with a particularly healthy balance.
If you are travelling outside of your country, you absolutely must at all times have your passport. I’ve been using the same passport holder since I first went on exchange in July 2010. It is small, compact, and silver, so that I can take it everywhere, and find it very easily. While actually on the move (on the way to the airport, leaving the aeroplane, leaving the airport), I check at the start and end of each journey to make sure I have it. When I arrive at my destination, I have one spot where I keep it: in a side secret pocket of my suitcase. I never ever keep my passport in the hotel safe, primarily because I’m extremely likely to forget it (out of sight, out of mind, you know?). At least if it is packed in the suitcase, it’s guaranteed to come with me, even unintentionally.
I highly recommend getting a good quality passport holder that can easily be identified amongst your belongings.
Kikki.K stocks some of my favourite passport holders. But if you are looking for something cheaper and less likely to get dirty (if you’re anything like me, my passport holder has been through the wars), there is this cheaper and really fun option from Asos:
Knowing where you’re going is kind of a prerequisite to leaving your home – even if it is just knowing the first stop. Having all your booking details is necessary for checking into flights, and generally necessary for being on time to actually get on a flight. Cue, itinerary organisation.
There’s a few ways you can do this. If you use a travel agent, they usually provide you all the info (although I’m morally opposed to travel agents). My dad still subscribes to the old-school method of printing out all of his email confirmations and having them in a document wallet. That’s fine, although it can get bulky carrying that paperwork around, and stressful if you lose it.
If you’re more like me and can’t function without your iPhone in your hand at all times, I recommend a more high-tech method. For a long time, I swore by TripIt, an app that links up with your gmail to incorporate all bookings into a trip. It’s slick, has a great user interface and is relatively hassle-free. It’s accompanied me through many trips abroad, and is generally reliable. The customer service when you had any hiccups syncing your trips was also great. However, on my most recent month-long soiree across the oceans, I found that TripIt had some trouble integrating certain information. For example, when I received an email about minor flight time changes, instead of just updating the flight details, it incorporated the email as a whole new flight path in my trip, so I ended up with three sets of flight details for every flight I took – all of which differed slightly, and I couldn’t readily tell which flight time was the correct one. It cluttered up the screen, and complicated using the app.
Now I prefer using the Google app. It also integrates with your phone, but your trip appears as ‘cards’ on the home screen, and I find the user interface so much simpler, smoother, and you don’t need a whole separate app on your phone for the same details. It also provides useful updates like what time to leave to arrive at the airport for check in, and whether there are any traffic problems. This app works best if you have a gmail account you use for all of your travel bookings- and honestly, even if you don’t, I highly recommend making the change as it makes your whole travel experience so much more enjoyable.
The best thing about apps is if you’re one of those pick up and go as you please kind of people, if you do your bookings online, it is all automatically integrated for you.
Knowledge of how to get from the airport to your hotel/hostel/beach
Landing at your destination is an amazing feeling. There’s nothing like walking out of the metal tube that was your home for the past while to find yourself soaking up a whole new place: new accents, new people, new landscape, new scent, new sounds. However, I have found along with that is a whirlwind of activity that can distract you from cheaply and safely getting from the airport to your first accommodation location. I cannot stress enough what a relief it can be if yu have pre-planned and pre-researched the transport options and, if possible, pre-booked. Taxis can be tricky with rates, trains may only run at certain hours and to certain places, and when language is a barrier, everything is that much trickier. If you can pre-book a door-to-door shuttle, or organise a driver, or understand the taxi system before arriving, your sanity remains, you arrive safely and you don’t lose a scary amount of money on surprise fares.
Tune in next time for packing tips