What to pack, and what not to pack…that is the question. Didn’t Shakespeare once deliberate these exact words?
Whether it’s an exact translation or not—don’t quote me, my Elizabethan is a bit rusty—the dilemma remains the same; everyone always worries about what they will forget and what they will bring and not actually need.
And I’m here to solve it.
Stick to bringing into mind the A-Z’s of travelling—and even if all of them don’t fit your style or your suitcase, stick to this checklist for a great place to start and before you know it, you’ll be laced up and on your way!
A is for Apps: I rely on all manner of apps to get me through my day. Hotels.com is one of my favorites for booking night stays (I love the rewards program) and I trust TripAdvisor to give me a range of experiences and tell-all’s about the places I want to visit. And for a bonus app that I here comes in handy, even abroad: Tinder. You just never know!
B is for Books: People always remember to update their medical history before booking a flight, but no one gets up to date on their reading anymore. Don’t just get a vaccine, get a book! If you’re going to Paris, read Hemingway. Prague? Buy a compilation of Mucha prints. And if you’re lucky enough to go to London and haven’t read them yet, pick up Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes—a student of the world is always prepared!
C is for Credit Cards: For travelling abroad, I like credit cards. Not only do I get updates to my phone whenever it’s used, it’s easier to stash in my jacket and keep away from pickpockets. My favorites are MasterCard and Visa—they’re accepted almost anywhere and you can use them at the ATM to draw out in emergencies.
D is for Diary: Or journal, whatever you prefer. Just remember to write down your days, sketch out the scenes before your eyes, and document every moment that made you laugh. One day, a week or a year later, you’ll be reading through these days and it will be as though it were yesterday—and that will mean a lot.
E is for Express: Take advantage of the fast-moving bullet trains all over Europe and Asia—it turns a 9-hour ride into a 2 hour trip tease. It’s exactly what any experienced traveller needs; a faster way to get where they’re going.
F is for Faith: Trust your instincts, it’s the faith you’re going to need to make it through an expedition on your own (or even one with your friends, so you don’t kill them by Day 2). Go with your gut, it will not very often lead you wrong.
G is for Getting Lost: Allow yourself to step off the path, venture down an unknown street, take your mind off the map and just wander. It’s why we call this insatiable need to travel wanderlust—there’s just something about that untraveled road.
H is for Healing: Being sick, or otherwise hindered, while abroad is bad, so take Advil, Aleve, and Tylenol with you—just in case. Do you get blisters often? Take a couple of packs of your favorite bandages, it’s worth the space. Always sick if you get caught in the rain? Take your rain jacket and a pocket poncho. And if you’re one for vitamins, grab some B12 (for good vibes), Vitamin C (for healthy immune system) and acidophilus (for a healthy tummy), it’s just a good barrier to a world of colds you could meet along your travels.
I is for Instagram: Share your views with the world—it’s good for your mom to be able to know you’re having a good time without having to send a text and it’s great for you to inspire others searching around for your #hashtag. Don’t forget to do the same when you’re looking for places to stay, play or eat—you can get an idea for a place based on the pictures of fellow travellers and locals alike.
J is for Junk: Not the stuff gathering dust in your room, but the Japanese ship—and not just that one. Take all the alternative routes you can while abroad; a donkey into the Grand Canyon, a camel across the Arabian desert, a pedicab in China. It’ll teach you to see your new destination with new eyes.
K is for Knick-Knacks: I’m a major fan of knick-knacks; from small hand-sculpted wooden doodads to painted porcelain baubles, they make great little trinkets to take back to friends and family, and there’s no need to personalize or take up too much space in the backpack! Opt for local handmade over some keychain; it’s better to support the community you’re in.
L is for Love: Fall in love with the baguettes, the lager, the flan. Sing the praises of the Dancing House, St. Peter’s and the Sydney Opera House. Become one with Hyde Park, Stonehenge, and the crystal clear beaches Malta. Don’t let anything get in your way of that.
M is for Maps: You may think maps are a thing of the past, but because of the emergence of apps that can do that, maps are coming back in style. Look around for one with all the local haunts marked out—it’s a great way to enjoy a new city.
N is for Necessities: I always keep what’s most important to me on me at (almost) all times. I don’t take my passport into the shower, it’s true, or even out at night for a drink, but I do keep it in the inner pocket of my jacket any other time, and I’ve always got a spare pair of undies, toothbrush and sock in my purse. Does it seem over prepared? Maybe. But wet socks are the worst.
O is for Opportunities: Sometimes these are disguised as upset plans—don’t look at them that way! Every missed train, date, or rainy day is an opportunity to discover something new, so treat it that way.
P is for Personalize: Put your name in everything. Tag it with your home address. If it’s worth reporting lost to any kind of receptionist, you need to have your digits on it.
Q is for Quiet: Don’t be the loud one on the tram at 5 in the afternoon on a Wednesday—no one wants to hear it! Ditto for after lights out at a hostel, it’s just not worth the fight you’ll cook up by bursting in with a lot of noise.
R is for Regulations: It may be a no-brainer, but don’t wear shorts and tube tops to the Middle East (you even need to have your shoulders covered in your passport photo to visit some countries so don’t think it’s a joke and show their culture some respect). Make sure your suitcase is to size, it will save you a couple of hundred dollars when you have to check your carry-on as a second bag. And for the love of all that is holy, no jaywalking right in front of traffic—it pisses people off in any country.
S is for SIM card: Get the local SIM card, if you’re going to be travelling for even 5 days. It will save you a lot of money, I can’t stress this enough!
T is for Tastebuds: Take out your adventurous spirit and taste all of the chargrilled bugs, snail delicacies, and frog legs. I mean it!
U is for Uber: It’s not just popular at home—it’s got an international following. If you’ve missed the metro and you’re not up to paying a taxi, this is the way to go. You also get a chance to meet a local, and that can come in handy if you want to grab a late night snack.
V is for Visas: Make sure your trips are well within your appointed visa stay, and you’re up on the guidelines and borders. For example, the EU is really strict about their tourist visa 3-month rule, so don’t go over or you’ll get penalized and not be allowed back in or charged a very expensive fine.
W is for Watch: No one wears these anymore but I think a wristwatch is important to take when travelling because relying solely on your phone is always dangerous. It’s one thing to go without an app until you can get to a charger, but to not know what time it is? It’s a sure way to miss the last train.
X is for Xerox: Make colored copies of your driver’s license, your passport, any visa pages, and the like. It’s worth the extra price for more pages if it means a little more security.
Y is for Yakking: Talk to your airplane seat buddy, talk to the locals. Just yakk it up all around—it’s the best way to meet new people!
Z is for Zippers: With pickpockets, zippers just make sense. They’re harder to open quickly, and therefore easier for you to keep track of your things!
Think you’ve got a tip or two to add? Leave it in the comments and I’ll remember it next time I’m packing up!