Let me tell you guys something a little personal about myself—I am a fearful flyer. Whenever I board an aircraft I get clammy hands and become short of breath, and by the time the engine starts and the plane is about to take off, I am clutching the arm rests in a deathgrip and all my knuckles have turned white. I shriek when there is turbulence and have had to hold hands with whomever I am travelling with to feel a little more secure. Needless to say it is sheer torture, every single time, and it is not something rational nor controllable.
But do I allow this fear to keep me from traveling? Never. For one, my job takes me to different places around the country, and occasionally even abroad for learning opportunities. Also, ironically, I hate flying but traveling is one of my deepest passions. I live for experiences, and there is nothing quite like the experience of being in a completely different land, seeing the world with brand new eyes. It is a wonderful feeling to surprise yourself by doing things you never thought you could- like eating frog legs in China, camping in a Sri Lankan forest, or getting on a zipline up in the mountains. You learn to get over your prejudices and witness first hand the kindness of others- like the courteous Japanese folks who not only help you with directions but accompany you there just to make sure you don’t get lost, or the dashing French who carry the luggage you are struggling with at the train station, or the kind Spanish who laughingly buy you an ice cream sundae because the waiter cannot understand your gibberish and gestures. You also appreciate the snippets of a country’s culture that they are known for and proudest of, like watching a flamenco dance in Spain, having an authentic Balinese massage, seeing the Collosseum in Rome or climbing up Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. All of these moments are priceless and you carry the experience in your heart forevermore.
So now that I’ve hopefully convinced all of you to pack your bags and travel the world, not only for the OOTDs and the Instagram posts but for the actual experience, here are some travel essentials you must collect to be a savvy jetsetter:
- Cabin friendly luggage, locks and packing cubes– The first rule is to travel light, or at least as light as possible. So edit your trip wardrobe and pack versatile items that can be mixed and matched, played up or dressed down. You must own one cabin-friendly piece of luggage that can hold essentials like one change of clothes, toiletries and other items you cannot entrust to be checked in. Pack using packing cubes which help you categorize items and save you lots of space. Lastly, be sure all your suitcases have padlocks or dial locks that cannot be easily broken. If you have the means to invest in really good luggage, especially one that has a built in GPS so that you can locate the bag’s whereabouts anywhere in the world, do it.
- Luggage scale– Biggest pet peeve in the airport, especially when it’s some unholy hour and everyone is frazzled and cranky: people who realize they have gone over the luggage weight limit and therefore proceed to re-pack all their things right there at the counter to avoid paying the required fees. I mean—que horror!!! Please invest in a digital luggage scale, it is not very expensive and can go a long way in ensuring your peace of mind and cost savings too. It’s usually 7 kilos for carry-on luggage, and either 10 or 15 kilos for checked-in luggage.
- Travel size kits and containers– I’ve made the big mistake of trying to carry big bottles of lotion, shampoo, tubes of toothpaste, and perfume—all to disastrous results. You surely do not want to open your suitcase to find that the lotion or face cream has exploded all over your clothes, ruining all your planned outfits for the trip. Yes it can be annoying to have to transfer cosmetics into smaller containers but it is well worth the effort. If you want to go the extra mile, seal everything with masking tape and put all toiletries in a separate kit so that they cannot have direct contact with your clothes, bags or shoes. Also, buy a ‘travel size’ makeup kit like the ones of Bobbi Brown, Clinique or Estee Lauder which have a palette for the eyes, blush and lipstick all in one so you don’t need to carry an entire arsenal of makeup.
- Universal adaptors and power bank– It is very difficult to make do with only one provided adaptor in a hotel room when you are travelling with friends and everyone has more than one phone/iPad/hair dryer/some sort of gadget. Make sure you bring a universal adaptor that can work with different outlets all over the world, and get more than one if you have a lot of devices you think you can’t live without. Also, it is most annoying to have your phone die right in the middle of a packed itinerary so a power bank is definitely essential. Get one that can go for 3 rounds of charging so you are worry free the whole day and can keep communicating for work updates, be able to make emergency calls, or capture a picture perfect moment.
- Foldable shopping tote– If you intend to do any shopping on the trip (and I’m guessing you are), bring a foldable bag that can serve as an additional piece of luggage later on. It can be tucked in one of your suitcases and the unfolded, filled up with loot, zipped and locked on your way home. The best one for this purpose of course are the large size Longchamp Le Pliage bags– such a classic, and nothing ever happens to them despite rain, beverage spillage, and other such potential mishaps.
- Sling bag– It is very tiring to be carrying a big tote bag all over town, not to mention damaging to your posture too. You can bring a big shoulder bag on the flight, but make sure you have a small sling bag for sightseeing. All you really need are your passport, cash, a face powder compact or oil blotter sheet, lipstick and a small bottle of alcohol or a small pack of wet wipes. The rest of your stuff you can leave at the vault in your hotel room or safely padlocked in your suitcase. That way your hands are free to move around and you won’t feel so loaded all day. Please make sure though that you watch your bag closely in case pick pockets attempt to take your things!
- Travel apps– Oh the endless wonders of apps and the internet! There’s Trip Advisor that can give you all the information you need on places to visit, hotels, restaurants and other activities. There are language apps that can translate and even speak so you can ask basic questions and important words, currency converters that can do all your calculating, and maps that can help you find places of interest. Plus all of these at the tip of your fingers, for as long as there is working Wifi or a cellular data connection! I love living in 2015, don’t you?
- First aid kit– You definitely do not want to be sick on a trip not knowing where to find the nearest pharmacy and what the local medicine names are. Therefore never forget to bring a small first aid kit that has medicine for fever, cough and colds, hyperacidity, stomach problems, vitamins, painkillers, band aids, antiseptic, and any other maintenance medicine you need to carry. If you have high blood sugar or hypertension, make sure you have a blood pressure indicator or a blood sugar lancet in case there are emergencies.
- Extra copies of travel documents– Ok worst case scenario: your sling bag gets stolen containing your passport , hotel vouchers and flight information. This is my biggest fear and as such, I never travel without making several copies of all these travel documents and placing them in different places: one inside my shoulder bag, one inside the luggage, one with my companion/s, and screenshots on my phone. Memorize your passport number, date and place of issue, and other supporting IDs like your SSS number. Also, make sure you know where the Philippine embassy is or the nearest tourist assistance center.
- Dual timepieces and wallets– Though phones now have this feature, you have to admit it’s pretty neat to own a timepiece that can display the time in your country and the country you are visiting…that way you’ll always know when to call up your loved ones. As for wallets, it also helps to have one that has dual compartments so you don’t mix bills and coins from different countries.
- Flipflops or foldable flats– It is fabulous to wear your knee high boots or sexy heels on a trip but let’s face it, after a few hours it feels like the ninth gate of hell. Always pack a pair of flip flops or foldable ballet flats in your bag, you will be extremely grateful for them. So you can switch footwear when you need to do some walking, then switch again when the weather or a photo op strikes. As much as possible, wear comfy shoes all the way! There are plenty of choices from Aerosole, Geox, etc or the hip athletic brands like Onitsuka Tiger, the new Nikes and the neon Adidas ones.
- An open mind– The most important travel essential of all. When you’re on a trip, listen well, observe, experience, savor. Leave your worries at home and don’t make taking photographs the whole point of every stop. Talk to locals, make new friends, try their street food, check out their art and music, watch their shows, take strolls, smile a lot, and be a good representative of the Philippines, because that’s what we all truly are whenever we step out of local soil—we carry our flag with us, we are the face of our country. Remember that, and do your job well.