Six things which must be in your travel case

While traveling can be exhilarating, packing can be quite challenging. It is undoubtedly critical to pack wisely without missing critical things, not making the bag too heavy, bearing the flight norms in mind (traveling by train can be a bliss) and having those not-so-important but good-to-have kind of things too.

I have packed, unpacked and traveled so many times that I think I can write a book on this topic. But have I become an expert at it? Can’t say that. Although we have always traveled without many hiccups. Collar- up moment for me because I do the packing. But jokes apart, whether anybody gives you brownie points for this or not, packing is a crucial aspect of traveling. God bless you if you have forgotten to pack your umbrella when you travel to Kerala! Of course, you can be a backpacker and stand under the rain to enjoy God’s own country! But that’s another kind of vacationing which I’m not venturing into right now.

“Backpacking” is often a misnomer for “unplanned vacationing” and hence the need to “throw your stuff into a backpack” to get set go. But let me clarify that this is completely wrong. Backpackers are extremely well aware of the terrain they are visiting and their adventurous spirit drives them to explore more. This “exploring” they can’t do by trying “touristy” things and hence the need to mingle with the locale. They, however, know perfectly well, what to pack when they trek on the deserts vis a vis on marshy swamps, mountains or in the wilderness. So there’s no pride in shrugging and saying, “I’m no good at packing-wacking, I am more of a backpacker!” Sorry to say, you are not! And it’s so not cool to assign your carelessness to backpackers.

Whether I’m traveling on a long vacation or on a short trip over an extended weekend, on a budgeted vacation or a luxury one, there are certain items I like to have in my bag and on my bag (I will explain later). Here’s a list of six such items which I find very handy to have in/on my bag. I can’t say that on every vacation I need them but this saves me from hand in mouth situations.

Torch

This one is a lifesaver. Power cuts are common in India and even a high-end hotel may have it’s power backup issues. In an unknown hotel room, it’s better to have a torch with you. What about mobile flashlights? Keep them as a backup option because mobiles tend to lose a lot of charges while the flashlight is in use. In a power crisis situation, the last thing you want is to be disconnected from the world in the darkness. Buy a good quality dynamo torch. It is not dependent on power for charging or batteries.

Liquid mosquito repellent

Please believe me when I say this – there can be mosquito even inside a five-star hotel room. You can always request the staff to provide you with one, but why take a chance? Maybe the one provided by the hotel needs a refill or there’s an issue with the socket? Remember, these are worse case scenarios but your safety should be in your hands always.

Umbrella 

If you are visiting the hills or the seaside, it is best to carry an umbrella with you. When we were visiting Himachal, our very sagacious driver had said, “Mumbai ka fashion, aur paahaariyon ka mausam, kabhi bhi badal sakta hai!” It means fashion in Mumbai is as unpredictable as the weather in the hills. I have never forgotten his advice till date and it always proves to be right. You may consider carrying a raincoat which gives better protection than an umbrella and keeps your hands free.

Bottle

A bottle comes in very handy during a trip. Even if it means that you retain your mineral water bottle instead of crushing it. Dispose of it after the trip but keep an empty bottle with you. There are many hotels where they provide one mineral water bottle complimentary per day. And you can request as many refills. My father drinks 2 liters of water in the morning all by himself, after waking up. So one bottle was never sufficient. Buying so many bottles of mineral water was not an economical option back then. So we used the empty bottles to refill water from the Water purifier in the lobby. Outside India, in most of the places, people drink water from the tap. And they have a glass mug placed next to the room sink. No matter how lavish the hotel, I always used my empty bottle to fill water from the tap and drank it, instead of using the mug. I have also used an empty bottle to carry tender coconut water from the vendor on the beach to the hotel room.

Mini kettle 

I can safely say that an electric kettle is one of the best inventions of man. It makes life simple and convenient and independent. Got a sore throat? Drink warm water without bothering hotel stuff. No eateries nearby and the hotel’s restaurant is closed? Pour hot water into your mug of Maggi, empty the masala sachet, close the lid of the mug, stir and slurp! Just ensure that your hotel allows the usage of kettles. Some plug points can blow off if you use a high wattage kettle in it. So be careful.

Bag identifiers

Do you know that your bags that arrives on the luggage belt post your flight are actually at the mercy and goodness of your fellow passengers? Has it not ever happened to you that by the time you arrive at the belt the place is already full of other passengers? To me, it happens always. What if your bag is picked up by another passenger and he/she leaves the airport before you arrive? Let me tell you, it is very much possible. The possibility could depend on two factors – a) genuine mistake in identifying the bag by the taker b) deliberate intent to get hold of the bag with its possession. About the second option, nothing can be done. But the first can be taken care of. Considering the huge sales of the trollies from renowned brands, the probability of two or more passengers carrying the same model is very high. To avoid this, you can use bag identifiers such as bag tags. But I have a sad story to tell you here. I had bought two very fancy bag tags with witty one liners on them. Although my bags made it safely to the belt, the bag tags did not! Since then, I do not invest in bag tags. Instead, I tie satin ribbons on my bags. The more the merrier!

Needless to say, that you need to be mindful of the weather condition in the place you are visiting and your clothes and accessories must be in accordance with that. There is no harm in keeping some munchies and ready to eat items such as cup noodles or energy bars with you. These can keep you going in situations like train delay, flight diversion, late check-in to the hotel, no restaurants-nearby. Always carry your medicines. Keep tab of time (especially when you are traveling across time zones) and also retain your prescription because some drugs are allowed onboard only on doctor’s advice.

Packing could be a delight if done in a logical manner rather than in a hurried way. What to keep where? What is to be placed in the check-in bag and what not to be kept in the carry on baggage? What is the final weight of your baggage and what are its dimensions? Traveling by train is easier that way, at least you don’t have to worry about the bag’s dimensions and weight (As long as it fits under the seat. Once you are set, who can stop you from having a hassle-free holiday? Enjoy to the fullest if you plan your packing in advance.

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