Hand luggage only: how to pack for any trip
Beat the queues and the airline charges: travel writer Tim Richards shows you his carry-on bag packing secrets.
It used to be that your packing list for that big overseas trip was simple: passport, camera, changes of clothes and a wad of travellers' cheques. And you were out the door. Those days, however, are long gone.
The modern-day traveller has access to such a mind-boggling array of gadgets, apps, tools and accessories that packing for that big trip requires almost as much thought as the holiday itself. The world has been simplified, and yet complicated at the same time. There are essential tools you need to organise and enjoy your travelling life, and they will make things infinitely easier – but what are they?
There are apps out there that can organise your itineraries. There are cameras that can record your location. There are suitcases that can allow themselves to be found when lost. And there are ways to keep your family and friends informed of all of your adventures and mishaps in real time.
The modern traveller's world is a streamlined one. It's a hyper-connected world in which everything you ever need to know is available at the touch of a button, where every travel plan and booking and event is organised and facilitated by a small box in your pocket.
It's a stylish world in which form and function come together. And it's a world in which you can play Angry Birds just about anywhere. It's an exciting, convenient, and sometimes confusing world. Here's everything you need to know to navigate it safely.
The essential toys for the modern-day traveller
If there's one tool that is absolutely fundamental for the modern traveller, it's a smartphone. This nifty little device allows access to an endless world of advice and information, from maps and itineraries to booking software and reviews. It's your camera, your guidebook, and your wallet all in one. The market leaders in smartphones right now are the Apple iPhone 6s (from $1079; apple.com/au), and the Samsung Galaxy S6 (from $899; samsung.com/au).
Once you've got the phone, you need the accessories. Start with an Overboard waterproof case ($34.95; over-board.com.au), an Olloclip 4-in-1 lens to enhance your camera's capabilities ($79.99; olloclip.com), a Looq DG selfie stick ($20; looqsystem.com), and, to find your phone once you inevitably misplace it with all of these goodies attached, you'll need a Nokia Treasure Tag ($20; microsoft.com) – it's kind of like a homing device for gadgets. And while they're not smartphones, a Kindle Paperwhite to read books ($139.99; amazon.com.au, and an iPad Mini (from $569; apple.com/au) for any jobs that require something with more power, are extremely handy.
One thing is for sure: if you're taking this whole "modern traveller" thing seriously, you're going to need power. Plenty of power. And sometimes a wall socket just isn't available, which means a portable charging device for all of your gadgets is essential. There are plenty to choose from. The Moshi Ionbank 10k ($139.99; moshi.com) can charge a smartphone multiple times – as can the Ventev Powercell 6000 ($60; amazon.com.au), but at a cheaper price.
For serious power, the Aukey 20,000mAh charger ($24.99; amazon.com.au) has enough oomph to recharge a smartphone up to seven times. Other handy tools for charging on the go include the Accell Home or Away Power Station (US$25; accellcables.com), which provides surge protection, as well as two USB ports for plugging in multiple devices, and the Kingston MobileLite Wireless G2 ($79; mwave.com.au), which is a portable charger as well as an external hard drive, and even works as an ethernet port, allowing users to connect up to eight devices to a hotel Wi-Fi signal.
There's an argument that could be made for not taking a camera at all when you travel. One reason could be that it's better to see things with your own eyes than through the lens of a camera. Another reason could be that most smartphones now do a perfectly good job of taking photos, anyway.
For enthusiasts, however, nothing will ever replace a real camera, particularly one with Wi-Fi capability that can transfer photos directly to your smartphone, and onto social media. The cream of the recent crop is Sony's new Alpha range of DSLR cameras – compact mirrorless DSLRs that provide all the quality of competitors such as Canon and Nikon, only without the bulk (from $1499; sony.com.au).
For adventure travellers, a Panasonic Lumix waterproof camera ($399; panasonic.com) would make an ideal companion, although if you're planning to shoot video as well as stills, you can't go past a GoPro Hero4 ($600; gopro.com), which captures amazing footage and can be taken anywhere. If you're staying on dry land, and want all of the flexibility of a DSLR in a camera that can fit in your pocket, the Canon G7X ($709; canon.com.au) is the way to go.
LAPTOP AND ACCESSORIES
Not everyone is going to want to lug around an entire laptop on their holidays, although in an increasingly connected world, it's sometimes a necessity. If you need to do work on the go, or just really like having a laptop instead of a tablet, there are a few options. The ASUS T100 ($350; officeworks.com.au) is extremely cheap, small, lightweight, and can be recharged via USB – a very handy option.
If you have more money to spend and want something with enough power to edit photos and videos on the go, the MacBook Air (from $1399; apple.com/au) is probably the king. The 11-inch is the most portable, but the 13-inch has an SD card slot, and makes editing easier.
Once you have the hardware, there are a few fancy add-ons to make life even easer. The D-Link Wireless Range Extender ($146; officeworks.com.au) will allow you to connect to free Wi-Fi signals from a Starbucks or McDonalds while sitting at a fancy cafe about 50 metres down the road. With a Favi DLP Pico Smart Projector (US$322; amazon.com) you'll be able to project HD movies onto any blank wall to entertain your travel buddies, while Backbeat Sense wireless headphones ($270; jbhifi.com.au) are perfect on the road.
All of the clothing, luggage and cases you could possibly need.
It's not necessary to completely deck yourself out in travel-specific clothing. In most situations, just your normal gear – jeans, T-shirt, walking shoes – will do. However, there are certain items and garments that will be useful to every traveller.
To begin with, visit Muji (muji.com/au) and stock up on plastic cosmetics containers to ensure all of your toiletries can be carried on the plane. Next, essentials such as a PackTowl ultralite travel towel (packtowl.com) will lighten your load, and a North Face Venture jacket ($149; thenorthface.com.au) will protect you in all weather, plus pack down small.
For those going off the beaten track, it's also worth buying a Scrubba Wash Bag ($64.95; scrubba.com.au), a bag that lets you do laundry on the go. For the gadget obsessed, the Scottevest Quest ($203; scottevest.com) is a normal-looking garment that has 42 pockets to store all your electronics and valuables, while the Clever Travel Companion offers pickpocket-proof tank tops ($43; clevertravelcompanion.com).
Even Marco Polo carried luggage, so this is no recent invention. However, the way you cart your stuff around the world is becoming increasingly modernised. Be gone, clunky backpacks with uncomfortable straps. You've been supplanted by the Osprey Sojourn Series (from $280; ospreypacks.com), a set of hybrid packs both with wheels for smooth ground and shoulder straps for the rough stuff. It's the best of both worlds.
If you're set on travelling lighter, however, there's the Deuter AirLite 20 ($114; wildearth.com.au), a daypack-sized bag to stuff all of your goodies in. The Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 (US$280; tombihn.com), meanwhile, is the maximum carry-on size, and is perfectly designed to fit as much in as possible. Don't like lugging your things around? Try the Burlington Wheeled Business Bag by Knomo ($369; knomobags.com), a carry-on sized bag with protection for laptops and other breakables.
OK, you're almost packed. But there are still a few more accessories needed to get the most out of your gadgets and other gear. The Knomo Knomad Mini ($59; knomobags.com) is a stylish way to protect your mini tablet, while a Skooba Cable Stable (US$39.95; skoobadesign.com) will help keep track of all those chargers and cords. For a laptop, Kanken bags ($185; ilovemykanken.com) provide a great balance between style and function.
The best phone and tablet apps for travellers.
Should you pack jumpers or T-shirts? Ponchos or boardies? This weather app will tell you – it can give the lowdown on temperature, rainfall, wind and even cloud formations in more than 2 million locations around the world.
If you're the type of person who always forgets their toothbrush, then either of these could become your new best friend. Simply type in your destination, time of year you're travelling, and style of travel, and the app will generate a packing list.
Both of these apps perform a similar function: you forward on any booking confirmation emails for flights, hotels, hire cars, attractions and even restaurant bookings, and the apps will create an itinerary for you, even providing real-time alerts to any delays or cancellations.
If you're not using these apps, you're probably paying far too much for your holidays. All four will help you scan the internet for the best deals on accommodation, flights, and even attractions.
For standard maps when you have an internet connection, Google Maps is extremely hard to beat. However, Maplets has offline guides to places even Google doesn't cover – for example, the New York Subway system, or walking trails in Yosemite National Park. Maps.Me, meanwhile, offers detailed offline road maps, great for when you need to navigate without a Wi-Fi signal.
It's a Herculean task to manage your money while travelling, given all of the exchange rates and the number of transactions. However, apps to the rescue. Expensify helps business travellers keep track of expenses – just take a photo of the receipt and the app does the rest. Tipulator will help you calculate the right gratuity, Trip Splitter helps travel buddies decide who owes what to whom, and XE provides currency conversions.
The saviour of many a confused traveller, Google Translate allows you to enter any foreign text and bang, there's the translation. With Word Lens you can even take a photo of a foreign word, even one written in a different alphabet, and it will be translated in real time.
These three free messaging services provide the ultimate ways to keep in touch with people back home – whether that's via text, or video, or voice calls, or monkey emojis.
THE CLASSICS THAT NEVER GO OUT OF FASHION
This multi-tool can do just about anything, from opening a bottle of wine to helping you reassemble an engine. About the only thing it can't do is travel in your hand luggage.
As Schapelle Corby should have known, a lock on your luggage can save you plenty of trouble. Make sure you buy one that's TSA-approved to prevent it being cut off by US customs.
UNIVERSAL PLUG ADAPTOR
The more gadgets you have, the more power you'll require, and the more often you'll need to access a power socket. A universal plug adaptor will make sure you're connected in any country.
Never leave home without them. They're good for the plane, good for the hotel room, and especially handy if your accommodation is at the lower end of the budget scale.
It's not a gadget, and it's not an accessory. But without this little booklet in your pocket, you won't be going anywhere.