How to travel light by taking the bare essentials
Travelling someplace, going on a tour will require you to carry baggage, sometimes a backpack too. I know people who would like to carry “everything but the kitchen sink”, ending up with lots of luggage making their tour cumbersome. It is always good to carry only the bare necessities while travelling and keep things as minimum as possible. People going through flights would know this well, as there are restrictions on baggage weights. However this is a good practice to follow elsewhere too.
- Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Here are some tips to Travel light with only the essential luggage. Seasoned travellers would know and follow most of these tips. However these would be helpful for people who occasionally go on tours or those who aspire to travel more in their holidays. I have listed some essentials that must be in your luggage when you travel, especially long distances. These are based on self experience and some difficulties we faced during our travels. Some of these tips we learned it the hard way.
The first thing you do when you are just about to begin your journey, planned or unplanned, is to pack your bags. Let’s begin from there.
1. Luggage or Baggage
Good quality durable bags are a must. You wouldn’t want the bag to give you trouble during your tour, as many places you visit may not be convenient cities, and can be small towns or villages even. Shopping for a new bag in such places will waste your valuable time. So make sure you have good bags, big enough to store all your essentials and at the same time make sure it doesn’t get too big and heavy. The kind of bag depends on where you are going and what kind of weather the luggage has to endure.
Essentially, take only one bag per person, either a duffel bag or a cloth bag (waterproof if heading to places with potential rainfall), plus a backpack only if you really need one. You can easily accommodate in these the bare essentials we suggest below. Keep bags and luggage as less as possible for your own good.
Now you are ready with the bags. Let us move on to the bare essentials your luggage has to include for a typical trip or tour. The more of a neat packer you are, more easily you will accommodate the essentials. Some of these will vary depending on your travel modes, duration, season and location.
2. Medical items and First Aid kits
Lot of people go touring without these. Believe me in some places you won’t find any medical store when you need one. Its better to be prepared with a first aid kit rather than suffer later on.
It is also wise to get a basic check up from your doctor especially before going on long journeys. The doctor can prescribe some essential antibiotics and medicines you may require during travel. Do not buy prescription drugs over the counter without a doctor’s prescription
For the first aid, you must carry a small bottle of antiseptic liquid (like dettol or savlon for example) to wash off wounds, antiseptic and antibacterial ointments or powders (like for example betadine, povidine-iodine based), cotton wool and bandage cloth rolls to clean and cover up any wounds or cuts you might unfortunately get, and a small scissor.
These would make your simple first aid kit. Believe me, they are a must. Ready to use first aid kits are also available in medical stores. But before purchasing, make sure the first aid kit you buy has all the good quality items you need, and that they are within the expiry date.
Excess sweating can cause dehydration as well as loss of electrolytes in your body. Hence it is advisable to take some Oral Rehydrating Salts (ORS) which are available in medical stores in the form of a powder which you can mix with your drinking water, providing the essential electrolytes to your body. These small ORS packets can easily be accommodated in your first aid essentials. This is very useful in hot, humid places where you sweat a lot and your body gets dehydrated. Take your doctor’s advice on the dosage.
You can carry some tablets as emergency backup for loose motion emergencies, and any other essential medicines you may require like antibiotics based on your doctor’s prescription. (Use these tablets and antibiotics only when absolutely required, with dosage as advised by your doctor. Overuse is bad for health.)
Visiting dry places especially those of high altitudes requires you to keep some petroleum jelly like Vaseline as in such places your skin will get dry and get cracked, even the insides of your nose.
A good mosquito repellent like Odomos to keep those pesky bloodsuckers away is essential, especially in the hot and humid tropics!
Of course, many of these medical and sanitary items are available in almost every town where there are medical stores. But in case you are travelling to smaller towns and villages, better go prepared instead of wasting time looking for a medical store along the way. Also in many small villages and isolated areas you might not find one at all. Your first aid kit needs very less space in your luggage and you can easily accommodate it in your backpacks too.
In case of air travel, you need to properly check which of these are allowed. To avoid the hassle, better get the first aid stuff after you land.
2a. Sanitary items
Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap (small travel soaps are best), and detergent soap to wash your clothes, as good laundry services won’t be available everywhere, especially in budget places of stay. You can buy these items in small towns or villages you may stay or encounter along your way, but you may not get your favourite brands. These four small things won’t eat up much space in your bag, so you may pack these along. In case of air travel, please check with your airlines for permitted and non-permitted items.
3. Clothes and gear
The number and type of clothes generally depend on the duration of your tour and also on the location and its weather or season at the time of your visit. But keeping them to a minimum is always wise. You would have fewer luggages to carry around.
Keep at least two to three towels and handkerchiefs. Even though your hotel may provide towels, it is better to carry at least one than to repent later, especially if you are getting into a budget or a mid range hotel, where the towels may not be that clean!
Two to three shirts, a couple of pants or shorts (jeans of course) should be enough, which can be easily folded and accommodated in your bag along with couple of pyjamas or shorts for the night, and a pair of clean underwear. You can just quickly wash your used shirt, towels, undergarments and dry them overnight, and obviously you need not wash the jeans too often. You can cover weeks with these. This way you can take fewer clothes making your luggage less bulky.
You can keep a pair of shoes inside your bag if you require. Just wrap it in an old newspaper or a cover. Trekking shoes would be helpful for people who would like to trek or cover more on foot.
3a. Travelling to cold places would also require you to include sweaters, thermal wear and warm clothes like jackets, which you may carry along from beginning or buy afterwards. In both cases you have to make space for them in your luggage.
3b. Visiting places of potential rainfall, and places in rainy season would require you to include good rainwear or umbrella. You can neglect good rainy shoe, but there are problems of infections in the feet due to prolonged soaking. Too much soaked and wet feet or hands might give way to paronychia (painful infections in fingernails or toenails). However their requirement depends whether you are only sightseeing or looking for adventure or trekking. If you are only sightseeing and would not wander much in rain then an umbrella should suffice.
If you are going to be in tropical forest or wet areas in the monsoon or rainy season, like along the Western Ghats for example, take some salt to keep away those leeches.
3c. In addition to these, if you wish to take some souvenirs back home or some other things you want to purchase, then make sure there will be some space for it in your luggage. This you have to ensure while you are initially packing your bags before you begin the journey. If flights are your mode of travel, make sure they are allowed on board and fit within the allowed luggage weight.
Also, in case you can buy clothes and gear once you reached the place of visit; just make sure you keep sufficient space for that in your luggage when you begin your journey.
4. Gadget essentials
Of course, almost everyone now has a cellphone, most might have a smartphone and some will obviously carry a camera. Get good quality handy chargers and power banks suitable for all your electronic gadgets, which you can easily carry around. Finding charging plugpoints will be extremely hard in many places. Keep an extra memory card in case you need more storage space.
5. Food and Water
A bottle of water is must. Take packaged drinking water bottles to keep yourself hydrated. You can keep them in the bottle pouches most backpacks usually have on their sides. In some remote places you may not find good drinking water. In hot places as well as cold and dry places you can get easily dehydrated. In such cases plan ahead accordingly to accommodate bigger water bottle in your backpack. In case you use a cab or a self driven four wheeler, you can easily keep the water bottles in it. Remember not to expose plastic water bottles to sunlight.
You can take some food parcel from eateries in case you are going to a place where you can’t find any food nearby. However make sure you don’t litter and dirty the place.
Last but not the least, we urge you to take along some cloth bags or suitable covers to put your waste and properly dispose of it. Let us not litter and help keep our planet clean and green.
So dear friends, Travel light, and travel right! Happy travelling :)
Did we miss anything? Have suggestions of your own to add? Leave your thoughts and comments below!