Travelling the world: Top 10 packing cannot-do-withouts.

We have spent the last 10 months backpacking as a family across New Zealand, Australia and South East Asia. We haven’t particularly travelled in style, mostly staying in Hostels, local homestay accommodation and the occasional motel. So we’ve had to be fairly self-sufficient – no 5-star butler service for us!

We are often asked by people who are about to embark on a similar trip: What have been the best things you packed? If you travelled again in the future, what items could you not travel without?

Here are our top 10 items:

  1. 5-socket multiplug. This has been brilliant! We can charge up to 5 UK multiple with travel adaptedelectronic devices (kindles, camera, iPad, phones…) at once, using just 1 travel adapter. Genius!
  2. Travel washing-line and sink plugs. It’s so convenient being able to emergency wash a few sets of underwear and hang up over a balcony, or even over the bath if we’re lucky enough to have an en-suite! Also good for drying swim wear out the window. We have 2 sorts – 1 without pegs that you string up and it hangs the clothes using tension; and 1 with built-in pegs, which is good, but you can’t hang as much from this one.
  3. Good luggage! Our Osprey backpacks and wheel-along have been brilliant. You would never guess from looking at themEverything packed that they have been loaded onto an awful lot of hot, dusty buses, boats and aeroplanes, dragged across the ground in a hundred places and stuffed so full, they almost shouldn’t close. But they always do!
  4. Mosquito zapper. Unfortunately, we are mosquito magnets. We use all the preventative lotions and potions, but still seem to get bitten. And once bitten, no after-bite cream ever seems to relieve the itching. This little device however does and it’s absolutely brilliant! You need to use it as soon as you can feel the itch or see the bite, but once you administer 10-20 ‘clicks’, within 5 minutes we find we are completely itch-free! I think I have tried most different bite-relief treatments and for me, this is the only one that actually works. We have met quite a few travellers on our trip – no-one has seen nor heard of this little miracle and once they try it, many also want one too!
  5. Packing cubes. Every traveller’s must-have item – whether you enjoy luxury getaways, city-breaks or are in backpacker heaven. These little fabric pouches come in all shapes and sizes, basically helping you keep your luggage organised and managing all those little items that can so easily get lost in a big bag: underwear, toys, technology items, toiletries…. It’s not until you need to find a charging cable in the dark or a lost pair of pants that these really come into their own!
  6. Caribener clips. Stops things from getting separated and lost on days out. We have these attached to our day bags and secure things like our sun hats, water bottles, travel pillows, a torch. Also a good additional security measure – we loop the camera through one of these before putting it into our pocket or bag, so at least if someone tries to swipe it, it’s still attached to us.
  7. Antibacterial wipes. Useful for all the usual things like sticky fingers, skanky toilet seats, grubby tables in restaurants or trains. We have used a lot of these!
  8. Headphone splitter. Great for long journeys – 2 people can wear headphones and watch a movie together on the iPad or Kindle-Fire or listen to music without bothering anyone else in the family. The kids have used this little piece of equipment lots to quietly share films and watching YouTube videos!
  9. Travel hangers. I ordered these for our kit, long before we left the UK, but the ones I ordered were being shipped from China and didn’t arrive in time. Luckily our folks sent them out to us in Australia (so the hangers are well travelled!) and I’m so glad they did! These are great for hanging wet washing on and wet towels. Plus we have stayed in so many places that include a wardrobe for hanging your clothes, but no hangers inside! Good if you want the opportunity to unpack, even if just for a few days and your budget accommodation doesn’t appreciate this!
  10. Travel towels. Light, quick drying and sand-repellant, these towels are great! They come in a million different sizes and we use them all the time- they weigh literally just a few grams each and after a day at the beach or a quick wash, they are dry usually within 15 minutes or so.

Here are 3 things we haven’t used as much as we thought we would:

  1. Pro-lite travel mattresses. We bought these because we thought it would save us lots of money on accommodation, travelling with the kids. The plan was to book double rooms and use these as extra beds. They are super-light and have not been difficult to carry. However we have found it very easy to make do with a triple room, which is never much more expensive than a double room in most places. Asia is a very affordable place to travel with kids.
  2. She-wee. To be honest, if the toilet is grim enough to need a she-wee, I don’t want to use it. Problem solved. End-of.
  3. PacSafe anti-theft backpack protector. This is a great idea and was pretty expensive. The idea is that you can wrap your backpack in this lightweight steel mesh to avoid having your backpack opened either on long journeys when you might be separated from your luggage (e.g. on coach journeys, when your luggage is kept in the hold of the bus); or in your room, to keep valuables such as laptops etc safe. The reality for us is that we didn’t stay anywhere where we felt this was necessary, our rooms have always seemed secure. I think if we had stayed in shared dorm accommodation, this would have come in useful. On long journeys, we have padlocked the bags closed and for us, this seemed secure enough. Therefore the PacSafe is still in its unopened packaging and will be sold at a later date on eBay!

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