Category Archives: Travel Packing

Have Kindle Will Travel

I’m excited – its coming. I think its somewhere over the Pacific actually – its left LAX but not got to Auckland yet. It’s my Kindle!  Mid 2010 was significant not just because the latest version of the Kindle was released – the Kindle 3 – but because it was made available to residents of New Zealand and other third world countries who previously hadn’t been able to buy it (Nook makers take note! )

I missed the excitement – I bought a netbook and smartphone for travelling and missed the whole Kindle thing. I spent part of my holiday browsing through second hand shops and swapping paper backs with the random collections left behind at guest houses by other travellers. The time honoured to feed a book habit without having to hire a porter to carry the dame things.  It might well have been the last time.

The Kindle weights not just less than your average Lonely Planet  guide book – but less than the slimest of thin paperbacks as well.  You can download a newspaper onto it and read the paper on the plane without needing an upgrade to Excecutive Class to have enough room to turn the pages.

But most surprising of all – apparently the photo above is for real – you really can read at the beach in bright sunlight!  Now last year I had a netbook at the beach in Ko Lipe, Thailand. The beach was lovely – but it was pretty basic – my “resort” had an open sided reception hut and lots of loungers with good palm tree coverage – but nothing more substantial. During most of the day – the only place I could read my netbook’s screen was  right at the back of reception in the shade of a wall – or inside my hut. There was just too much glare off the sea and sand to make it possible to read anywhere else. The Kindle claims you can – I intend to take it on this year’s trip to Phuket to find out!

The Kindle is a pretty exciting gadget for a the average tourist – you will be hearing more about mine!



Best Travel Pillow: Features To Look For

The best travel pillows provide just the right amount of neck and head support so that you can rest comfortably while traveling.  Most are designed specifically to allow you to sleep in an upright position without over-extending your neck muscles.  While that seems relatively straight forward, once you start to analyze what is on the market, you’ll be faced with a bewildering array of choices.

One of the first things to work out is what material you would like the pillow to be made out of.   Are you a fan of highly supportive memory foam for example, or are you a frequent traveler who prefers very lightweight inflatable designs?  Are you interested in being able to adjust the amount of filling in the pillow – something that is possible with some micro-bead and buckwheat filled designs?  What trade-offs are you willing to make?  Is a high level of support more important to you than weight?  Is portability your primary concern or the ability to adjust the fill density?

Also, don’t assume that all travel pillows have a standard horse-shoe shaped design.  Recent years have seem numerous new shapes emerge.  You’ll find comma shaped pillows, petal shaped designs as well as sash pillows.  Some will fold away in their own travel pouch while others will be designed to strap onto your carry on bag.  It’s enough to make your head spin.

To get you started on choosing the best travel pillow for your needs, here are three of our favorites:

1) The Travel Rest pillow – This is worn across the body much like one would wear a sash.  It allows for very natural sideways resting position.  A tether keeps the pillow firmly in place and, as it’s an inflatable pillow, you’ll find it very lightweight.

2) The Miracle Neck Rest – Made from a high grade memory foam the pillow will gently contour to the shape of your head and neck, without any pressure points or bounce-back.  Although memory foam pillows are generally heavier than other types of pillow, this one is smaller than your typical pillow with a very paired back design.

3) The Total Pillow – This is marketed as “five pillows in one due” to its adjustable panels.  It can be twisted and shaped in a multitude of different ways.  It’s filled with micro-beads that provide a high level of support without bottoming out.  It’s got a removable washable cover, something you should look for in whatever travel pillow you decide on.

Packing List – For Warm and Cold Weather

OK – well we’ve talked about packing for cold weather and packing for the beach so the obvious next post – is what if you are combining several distinct climates on one trip.  With some luck (or some planning) – you will have cold and then hot – or hot and then cold. This way you can ditch – or mail home the clothing you will no longer need, and/or buy the stuff you will need as you arrive in the new climate zone. You packing list doesn’t have to remain constant!

Photo: Jay Morrison via

The cold weather gear is the expensive and heavier stuff to carry particularly a good pair of a walking shoes (you’ll wear sandals in the tropics), and good waterproof jacket (in the tropics you will get wetter under it with sweat than from the rain falling – use an umbrella instead).  If you are doing cold second and transiting through the same city twice – then leave your gear in an extra bag at the hotel and collect it when you return – most places in Asia will do this for free or next to nothing – if you stay with them of course.  If you are going on to hot weather after cold – consider mailing your warm gear home to yourself.

Items I almost always buy – and give away while travelling include:

  • sun hats – almost impossible to carry, and baseball caps don’t count – you need a hat which protects the back of your neck particularly;
  • umbrellas – these appear for sale as soon as it rains in the tropics – they are much more effective protection than a rain coat – and will stop you pack getting soaked through  – these can be useful in cold weather too so long as its not windy
  • warm hat and gloves – too limited a use and too cheap to buy as required
  • light weight shirts and shorts – available in any tourist area – cheap and usually will have fallen apart after a few weeks anyway – or bring old stuff and throw it as you leave the climate zone.

Ultra lightweight travellers almost always stick to warmer climates – so the reality is if you have to carry warm weather gear its going to take  up a bit more space – on the other hand if you are wearing it then it makes little difference to the size of your pack.

One other trick if the only cold weather you will get is on the way to the airport in your home country – or on the way home  – try to get friends to drop you. Then give them the heavy winter gear at the airport and ask them to pick you up with extra jackets on the way home!

Packing List for Europe in December

Yup – really – we are flying straight out of Malaysia and into Europe in early December. I already wrote about my warm weather packing list which is frankly the easy part – so how to pack for the cold and potential snow of Europe?


Louvre, Paris - under snow Photo: mireira via


First I should probably point out that this is not a ski trip – and most of Europe doesn’t get that cold – the snow on the Louvre is pretty but hardly typical. I never managed a white Christmas in London. This list is for temperatures down to about 0C and rain – oh lots of rain!

As I mentioned before – I have stuff that is on my packing list for  every trip:

  • 3 pairs of cotton underwear, bras, swimsuit (lots of spas in Europe)
  • prescriptions and glasses (I’m blind without them so a spare too)
  • sarong – most multi-use device ever invented
  • traveller’s towel, shampoo (replaces soap and laundry powder too), travel clothes line,

For cold weather travel I obviously don’t need shorts or skirts.  I do however need a decent waterproof pair of light weight shoes or boots.  Wet cobbles, as featured on many European streets are slippery and hard – you need good shoes.

If you are going to a wet climate you need a decent waterproof coat – these are  often quite bulky – find the one that packs down the best – but is still genuinely waterproof.

The trick with packing light for a cold climate is to leave the bulk out. Sweatshirts and polar fleeces are a fail here because they are too bulky. Instead my extra outlayer is merino wool, fine warm, even when wet and expensive. Nothing else comes close though for warmth/bulk ratio.

The other half of keeping warm is thermal underwear – either the original polypro which can get a bit smelly – or newer (and more expensive) merino variations.

You will also need some warm socks – I take 2 pairs and they are usually wool or wool-blend for warmth.

I will probably need a hat and gloves and maybe a scarf –  I  tend to buy  those on the road.

Packing List – For The Beach or Warm Weather Vacation

Most people start their packing list with what clothing they want to take – to me its the least important part of my packing – I leave it to the end. Yup I’m a girl and I don’t think clothing is important – so shoot me! Frankly I don’t need to wear nice clothes to feel good about myself – I’ll settle for clean – on vacation or elsewhere.

The Author Makes a Fashion Statement, Angkor Wat, Cambodia

So what would my packing list check list look like? Something like this:

Every trip:

  • 3 pairs of panties – underwear – light weight cotton – doesn’t matter they won’t last the trip anyway. You can by super expensive, dry before you hang it up, survive for years stuff- or just use old ones and replace as required (every couple of months in my experience);
  • bras – two pairs – I hate underwired bras and this all you can get in most of the world so I sometimes take 3 if I don’t think they will last the distance;
  • sarong – can double as a sheet, towel, bag as well as be a skirt, a shawl, a dress
  • swimsuit – usually a 2-piece tankini as it can double as underwear or even as an dressy top.
  • prescription medicines, prescription glasses and a spare (because I am blind without them – or I’ll get another pair really cheap on arrival if I am flying to Asia).
  • shampoo (doubles as soap and laundry washer), toothbrush, toothpaste (small), travel clothes line, a micro fibre towel if I am travelling really, really cheap (many hotels provide them in Asia).

Warm weather trip

  • 1 pair shorts, loose, cotton not too short;
  • 1 skirt either knee length in less conservative countries or calf length for countries that are a) conservative and b) don’t provide much more than a ladies side of the bus for conveniences.
  • a lightweight pair of trousers for flying and when the mosquitoes are out in force
  • a light sweatshirt or similar for planes and if I am going up any hills – often surprisingly cool even in the tropics
  • soft light T-shirt which is mainly for sleeping but could also be a top if I need it to be., and is often sun protection over the swim suit.
  • a couple of short-sleeved shirts – silk or light weight cotton.
  • Teva or similar sports sandals.
  • suntan lotion, insect repellant (tend to be cheaper at home)

I’ll probably buy on location

  • sarong as above if I don’t already have one
  • a sunhat – the good ones are rarely packable
  • an umbrella – a great deal more useful that a waterproof coat in the tropics
  • mosquito coils and matches

So by my count that gives me 4 bottoms (including the sarong) and 4 tops (including the tankini) – if you are clever with the colours and patterns they should all go together.   Black is not ideal for warm climates so I avoid it, and white for obvious reasons. I generally go for patterns on the top – to hide the dirt and khaki or mid blues on the bottom. One of the shirts will nicely coordinate with the tankini – for the whole beach to resort fancy restaurant look – trust me it works (and you don’t need a bra that day either!). Packing light is really quite easy – if you remember that almost every location will have shops.

Should I Take A Laptop Traveling?

As I work online for a living I need a laptop when traveling – but your mileage may vary. You need to step back though and work out what you’d actually use the laptop for? The world is full of Internet cafes – so they may be a reasonable alternative if all you want to do is check your email and update Facebook once a week.

Asus EEEPC Netbook is Going On My Next Trip

Why Do You Want a Laptop When You Travel

Common answers are:

  • a bit of web surfing, update my travel blog, write some emails

I’d suggest you consider going without one, frankly for ease of writing a diary – its hard to go past pen and paper, never needs recharging, resistant to moisture (within reason), can operate out of range – of everything including power

  • heavy duty video editing and photo graphic work
  • Ouch – you are going to need a decent machine – probably a Macbook or a high end lightweight Sony Vaio or similar. Frankly you are going to be spending quite a lot of time and muscle looking after it.  You will probably want to spend a bit more on higher priced private rooms and consider taking taxis rather than buses depending on where you are travelling.

  • running a business online or remotely
  • To be this is the only real reason why you’d need to be carrying your own netbook or laptop. I need to regularly check in with contractors, update documents, manage websites and correspond with clients. Although I could all of this from public machines its more secure and easier for me to have my own machine running my own password remembering app, it also makes it easier to work in quieter areas when I can get wireless in my room rather than competing with the teenage gamers in the Internet cafes.

    Most people ask – should I take a laptop/netbook/iphone – the question is as unanswerable as “how much does it cost to travel” – it all depends.

    Deciding to travel with any gadget because everyone else does, your mother wants you too, or you think it vaguely might be a good idea without actually knowing – sounds like a good reason for leaving that item home.

    Can You Afford To Loose Your Laptop?

    Never, ever take anything with you that will upset you i you lose it, have it stolen or drop it in the sea when boarding a speedboat in Thailand. If its very valuable double check that you have insurance for it – don’t just assume you are covered. But remember too you will still be seriously out of pocket even if the company believes your story.

    Remember too – the data on your laptop is the really irreplaceable stuff – especially if it includes losing all your travel photos.  This really needs you probably need both a second drive and a cloud backup option such as SugarSync that allows you to backup as many directories as you want and is also handy for sharing files between computers.

    You Can’t Just Travel With a Laptop

    Part of the problem is that you need more than just a laptop. At a minimum you also need:

    • power cable/transformer (and some of them are heavier than the flipping laptop – check that if you are buying);
    • plug adapter assuming you are leaving your home country;
    • an external hard drive, or pen drive to backup your laptop which should NEVER be in the same bag as the laptop;
    • some decent case to protect the fairly delicate electronics (closed cell foam is best );
    • a plastic bag to keep it  all dry;

    So should a laptop or netbook be on your packing list – to be honest I don’t know – only you can form a rational answer to the question.

    Packing Lists – Sensible Ones This Time

    Its been a while since I have done a lot of reading of travel blogs – but this has now all changed and after finding some woeful examples packing lists I then discovered some pretty sensible ones. But I admit they are both packing lists that fit my style of travel – so I should maybe describe the style of travel these varies from others.

    Backpacks On the Way to Koh Phi Phi, Thailand Photo: saucy_pan via flickr
    • I’m backpacker – I intend to carry my bag, not pay porters.
    • I travel overland by public transport – I need to get  through turnstiles onto a train platform or onto a bus – without gymnastics
    • I travel long-haul on cheap airlines – and I don’t like paying overweight fees.
    • I’m old and lazy – I don’t do gym workouts for fun.
    • I’ve travelled enough to know that you can buy whatever you need, anywhere, and usually for less than at home.
    • I’m girl – traveling with a guy – this only makes a slight difference.
    • I work online so I need to stay in touch.

    So who’s lists do I like:

    AdventureRob recently did a post on What Travel Stuff. What I liked about Rob’s list :

    • he knows that no one should ever travel with denim – ever.
    • he understands that if you need stuff – you can buy it – particularly in Thailand.

    What I disagree with:

    • I wouldn’t carry an two external hard-drives. If I carry an external hard drive – I don’t – my partner does if I have the netbook and vice versa. I do backup online to the cloud though using a neat little service called SugarSync. I also have a thumb drive.
    • I can’t see much point in having a cell phone – people have my email if they need to get in contact …

    Wandering Earl has gone even lighter weight than Rob when he writes about What A Permanent Nomad Packs. He makes the excellent the point that the length of time you travel for is pretty irrelevant. What makes the difference is the climate – and although is 7.5kg list would work for me in Asia (well I’m a girl so I’d add some bras and a tankini – which would substitute for underwear and a dress up top). The big difference is climate. Now Earl admits to a warm weather guy – but he’s heading to Turkey and Syria soon – now I hit Turkey in March – and admired the snow on the minarets – and litterally froze my – well all parts of my body – at Crac de Chevalliers in Syria in April – I really think Earl might need something windproof/waterproof and a warm layer.

    So what is my packing list? – Have to wait for next time!

    World’s Stupidest Packing Lists

    I have travelled a great deal and basically – unless I am doing competitive dancing – (not a joke I do) – I take less and less. Even was I young and fit I couldn’t be arsed carrying around a 80litre pack – now I am older and less fit – I am even less inclined to. And do’t even talk to me about wheeled luggage – assuming you want to leave the airport that is – inside the airport wheels are great!

    Less is always better... Photo: Shanghai Daddy via flickr

    So before  I shared how and why I pack – I thought I would talk about some really dumb packing lists – I found them pretty easily – I Googled “travel packing list” – after all Google is the greatest search engine isn’t it – so surely it should know which are the best packking lists? Well actually it came up with a couple which weren’t bad – but here are some of the howlers I found on page 1:

    Your Caribbean Travel Check List – huh I never mentioned the Caribbean – but even if  Iwas going there I don’t think I would be taking their recommendations of travellers cheques, shower cap, nightgown, spot remover (you or the nightgown) or calling cards (I think they mean the ones we used before cellphones not visitor calling cards..)

    Travellerspoint – did a little better – though they still wanted me to carry travellers cheques (and the receipts – so you invalidate the money back guarantee on them), a sleeping bag, “walkman” speakers (do they work with iPhones?), skis and ski boots (never travel without them) hair gel.

    Rick Steves claims to be all about light weight travel to Europe – but surely not with his packing list for women which includes 2 pairs of shorts and 2 pairs of pants and 2 skirts and (thankfully optional) – couple of dresses! And don’t forget the scarf ladies (what the hell do you do with a scarf anyways?)

    Packing Lists Online at least recognised that if I was travelling with children and doing a road trip I would probably be taking different items than if I was an ultra light backpacker with an interest in golf – but my extra light, no kids, female list still told me that I needed food and snacks for the journey (these will get you severly fined if you travel to import food into Australia or New Zealand), I would also probably need a beach mat …

    So what – you might ask would I recommend in a the way of packing list – well stay tuned …