I'm lucky enough to have been traveling pretty regularly for the past five or six years, from city breaks in Belgium to exploring the Antarctic peninsula and thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. Traveling is a part of everybody's life in one way or another, whether on a daily commute or further afield on a multi-month adventure. My experiences have enabled me to dial in the gear I bring with me and to have a few tips to share that can help you make the most of any trip.
1. Bring less than you think you need
I've never been on a trip and thought, hmm, I wish I'd brought more stuff. It's usually the opposite—I've brought a piece of gear that sat in the bottom of my bag and was used only once or twice on the entire trip.
There are some key items you should always bring with you, but we humans need very little stuff to survive and be happy. Having less stuff enables you to be more mobile, to immerse yourself in your surroundings, and focus on the experiences, not the things.
2. Think quality, not quantity
The things that you do bring with you should be tried and tested. You don't want your equipment to fail—like when you're running to catch the last train to your destination and you reach for the ticket inside your bag and the zipper jams and you can't get it open and you rip the ticket and the furuntlun mmmprh grr! ... You get the idea. Living and traveling with less stuff is something we can all aspire to do but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy functional, quality items.
3. Bring a pack of cards or a travel board game
Boredom is boring. Traveling usually involves a lot of waiting around even without the inevitable delays, and having a game with you is a great way to pass some time and stimulate your brain. One of the reasons I prefer hostels to hotels is because you can get a bunch of strangers together over a fun game and maybe some adult sodas; then, within a really short space of time you can have a whole new group of friends to explore with.
4. If you spend the time and money to travel, then get out there and see the place!
If you spend your vacation to the Bahamas sitting at the hotel pool and eating in the hotel restaurant, then can you really say you've been to the Bahamas? Often, we see vacation and travel as a chance to relax and do nothing and there's definitely a time and place for that, but it's also okay to get off the beaten track sometimes, and even get a little lost.
I've been guilty of not getting out there and have regretted it, so I make a real conscious effort to get out and see the place for what it really is. One of my favorite ways of doing this is to find a coffee shop or restaurant that has zero tourists and sit and watch the world go by, listening to the conversations even if I don't understand the language. That to me is travel.
5. Bring a foldable tote or backpack
I picked this packable tote up as a souvenir on our Antartica adventure back in 2013. Ever since I've had it, I've used it on a weekly basis and brought it on almost every trip. I try to keep my packing minimal, but having a secondary smaller bag that you can bring inside your day bag or handbag is so useful. Inevitably, you pick up some souvenirs or want to buy some food for an impromptu picnic—and voilà! You have your packable tote!
6. Bring snacks
Too many times, I've been stuck waiting around unexpectedly at 2 a.m. when everything around has closed and then hunger strikes. Now, whether I'm heading to the gym for a workout or catching a flight to Asia, I always try to bring some shelf stable snacks. I like mixed nuts and seeds and protein bars because they last a long time, are high in calories, and keep you full for longer. I've also learned that pulling out some snacks is a good way to make friends.
7. External batteries are extra convenient
My first experience using external batteries came on the Appalachian Trail last year. I needed a way to keep my devices charged between towns so I invested in a small 6700mah Anker battery pack. It charged my iPhone 6 two and half times, and I never ran of battery life the entire trip. I found it so useful I now carry one with me in my Everyday Carry and whenever I travel.
The ability to plug in devices and charge on the move rather than fight for a wall socket at a bus station or airport is huge. With the smaller versions, you can have your phone plugged in and charging inside your pocket.
8. Roll your clothes
I've experimented with different packing methods for clothes and I always come back to rolling my clothes and using a few different sized packing cubes. It helps me to keep my stuff organized, minimizes wrinkles, and saves space inside my bag.
9. Use a security wallet
I was told to pick up a travel wallet back in 2009 when I set out on my first solo trip and I'm still using it today. Yes, a travel wallet seems like one of those cringe-worthy, camera-around-the-neck, socks-and-sandals tourist gadgets, but I can't say enough good things about mine.
Whenever I'm on the move, in the airport, moving from the hostel to the bus, or in any situation when I feel a little exposed, I have this bad boy on. It holds my passport, emergency credit card, vaccination certificate, the bulk of my cash, and all the sensitive stuff. I have a small coin purse style wallet that I use on a daily basis that holds enough cash for the day, a bank card, and ID, but if someone wants to rob me I can give that up and not lose everything. When the wallet is around my waist, I cover it with my shirt and it's hardly noticeable. I personally prefer the belt style wallet, but many different styles are available so see what works for you.
10. Bring a smile and an open mind
Nothing you can bring with you on a trip can have a bigger impact than a positive attitude and a desire to push your comfort zones and see new things. On shorter trips, I find it difficult to leave home behind and really stay in the moment, but when I am away for a couple of weeks or more I begin to accept and love where I am. It doesn't matter if the food sucks or it's one hundred degrees in the shade—I am alive, I am here, and I am grateful.
I hope you found this post interesting and helpful; now get out there and have some adventures!
Pie is the author of pieonthetrail.com, which was originally conceived as a space to share his adventure thru-hiking the 2189 mile (3523km) Appalachian Trail. It’s since grown into a travel, adventure, and gear blog; see Pie's reviews of the Aeronaut and Packing Cube Backpack here.