This time of year, with it being summer holiday time in the Northern Hemisphere, and winter holiday time in the Southern Hemisphere, there are endless pieces about what to pack, how to pack and what to do and not do. I thought I might as well get in on the act and list 21 of my travel tips. So here we go!
1 There are, very broadly speaking, three types of trips (and please feel free to suggest more): the holiday, the work trip and the family visit trip. They are all different, and require different planning and packing.
2 Regardless of what type of trip, use packing cubes. Divide the types of clothes (underwear, shirts, dresses, whatever) into different cubes, and when you get to the other end and unpack, everything is easy to find. If you are just going away for a couple of days, use the packing cubes with two sides (you can get them in Muji if you have one where you live or a city you are visiting), and use one side for clean and one side for dirty items.
3 Use mini packing cubes for earbuds, chargers etc. I got these in Muji in Melbourne.
4 Still on packing, make a list. Plan out what you will need – are you going self-catering and not dining out? Do you need something dressy for a fancy dinner? This is kind of obvious, but a good idea, even if the list is just in your head. I used to have a sort of check list of things to pack, and this could be a useful thing to have to hand.
5 Count out how much underwear, and add on an extra day or two depending on the length and distance you are travelling. Travel plans are often disrupted, and it is good to be prepared.
6 Research, research, research. Why? Well, you don’t want to end up like two American tourists next to us on our flight back from Fiji last year, who wondered why all the Kiwis were pulling out sweaters and socks….because June is winter in New Zealand and it is cold. They obviously hadn’t got a clue. Find out when local holidays are, and if everything is likely to be shut (for example, Good Friday in New Zealand). Are museums always shut on Mondays? Can you buy wine in supermarkets (think Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Norway)? I am sure you get the picture. Oh and of course….check on the electric system and make sure you have a converter so you can charge up your devices.
7 Check the weather. See point 6 above. I spend the week before I go anywhere checking the weather at the destination.
8 I love going on holiday: the chance to relax, explore a new place or return to a favourite one, and go back to that restaurant you love. Of course, all holidays are different, and those ‘pack three bikinis and 4 sarongs’ type of articles just don’t apply to the majority of us. There are skiing holidays, family trips to the seaside holidays, tramping holidays….well, the list is endless. The main thing though is that you should treat it as a little adventure, a little bit of something different. Some people like detailed itineraries, some like to go with the flow, it doesn’t matter. Just enjoy. But do research where you are going!
9 Both Karl and I travel as part of our jobs. The work trip is a different kettle of fish. You may need to pack a business suit or jacket, you will need work shoes and something comfortable to wear in the evenings. You may have to attend a formal reception, or may have all the evenings free to yourself. If you have to travel regularly, you will have your own routines, but if not, just remember work travel means just that, so don’t leave behind the papers and business cards you need. I’m used to dining alone and staying in hotels, so never think about it any more, but if it is your first time, just relax and focus on the fact that you are away from the office. This might just be the time to try that restaurant you had read about at your destination. And if dining alone, take a book.
10 When you live like we do, at the other side of the world from family, the trip back to Europe is a logistical nightmare. For us it means 4 cities in 2.5 weeks, lots of talking and not much time to relax. OK – so this type of trip is personal, but if you know you it takes 36 hours to get to your destination, consider a break somewhere on the way. You know it makes sense really……remind me I said that when we next go. To survive this type of trip, make sure you plan some time away from friends and family too, and be prepared that offers of accomodation can vary from gorgeous rooms with en suite facilities, to a blow up bed in a box room.
11 Toiletries. I remember once, years ago, travelling with a colleague who insisted she had to bring full sized bottles of a very special shampoo. Going was fine as she put them in her checked in suitcase, but coming back, she stupidly put them in her hand luggage…and you know the rest. Anyway, I recently picked up this new bag from Città. Each of the compartments are velcroed on, and so, for example, if you have your makeup in one, you can just pull it off to take to the window (hotel bathrooms never have windows) to put on your mascara. I tried it out on my last trip, and found that I could instantly find what I wanted.
12 Don’t pack a) hairdryers – hotels have them, and if you are camping you wouldn’t want one anyway I imagine. Or just tie your hair back or towel dry b) lots of shoes c) travel iron – hotels have irons, and again, if you are camping…..and who wants to spend a holiday ironing? Of course, if your work shirt is creased, that is perhaps a different matter d) too many clothes (I was guilty of this of our last trip to Europe for some reason, but packed perfectly for Singapore).
13 Check what you are allowed to bring in to the country you are travelling to. New Zealand and Australia, for example, have strict biosecurity rules.
14 On our holiday to Europe this year, we used our credit and debit cards all the time. In Singapore, we got cash for taxis and the like. In Australia, we just use our New Zealand cards. I suggest you refer back to point number 6 above. Oh and if you are going to Europe for the first time, just remember the Euro is not used everywhere (eg Sweden and Denmark).
15 One of the joys of being away, is the chance to try new foods and different restaurants. I love browsing local markets and supermarkets too. Do try things, and don’t be fussy unless you have real allergies or dislikes. You never know, you might find you like something you thought you didn’t.
16 Don’t complain if things are different. Marmite is different in New Zealand to the UK, and Vegemite is different again.
17 Respect local tradition. Carry a scarf to cover your head and shoulders if necessary, take your shoes off if required, and if unsure, ask.
18 Airports. Always get there on time. If you have special requests, like the need for a seat with lots of leg room, it pays to get there early. Long haul flights take their toll, so be prepared and have hand cream and lip salve to hand. Airlines such as Singapore Airlines and Emirates give you a mini bag with socks, toothbrushes, toothpaste and eyeshades, even in economy. We all have our own coping mechanisms – I find listening to podcasts helps me sleep. If you can, get access to a lounge, as it makes even short journeys just that little bit better.
19 Trains, buses and taxis. When you get to your destination, you may be tired and dishevelled, so before you go, plan how you are going to get from the airport to town. In Stockholm, for example, you can chose between the Arlanda Express, expensive but fast, a bus (cheap but slow) or a taxi, which if there is two of you, can be cheaper than the train and more comfortable if you are exhausted. If you plan on train travel where you are going, check before you go as you may have to buy tickets before you got (UK for long distances) or there may not be any trains (New Zealand – well, if you do want to travel by train from Wellington to Auckland….read here).
20 On transport, if you are considering driving at your destination, do some research. Remember that not everywhere drives on the same side of the road, and that automatic cars may not be available.
21 Enjoy yourself! You know you are going to buy a bright coloured shirt you will only ever wear on holiday. Accept it. If you are travelling for work, take a little luxury with you like a mini bottle of a favourite shower gel, and always a good book. If you are visiting family, be prepared to answer the same questions 20 times, and take small gifts.
What are your travel tips?
You can find Thistles and Kiwis on Facebook, and also on Instagram@thistleandkiwis. As for Twitter….am totally inactive these days. If you want to get in touch, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org