My approach to packing is far from ideal! Most of the times I am in denial about it! I delay it as much as I can. I subconsciously think that if I would not look at it, somehow packing would get done on its own. Unfortunately it never happens. But as I end up taking a few foreign trips every year, I have developed a method to the madness, at least for essentials to pack on a foreign trip. This is how I go about it.
Visa, Passport, Tickets and Other Essential Documents
For me the first to tick off the list are what I call the essential documents. A valid passport is obvious, so are the flight tickets. Most of the overseas trips require advance hotel reservations. If the country has visa it needs to be done beforehand.
If it is visa on arrival (VOA) I generally jump around with joy on that trip. However, VOA requires its own list of documents- photos, hotel reservations, proof of funds etc. For me getting the essential documents right is the first step of packing for an international trip.
Travel Insurance could be mandatory to enter some countries around the world. Getting travel insurance is in any case, an extremely wise thing to do! I carry it on all my trips abroad. I have been lucky till date because I’ve never had any need to use it but I can’t think of going abroad without travel insurance. The cost of medical facilities could be prohibitive in some countries and it makes sense to buy travel insurance.
I was browsing through the Royal Sundaram Travel Insurance webpage recently. It is an extremely detailed page listing various provisions of its policies. Their multi trip insurance particularly caught my eye. It is something I need to dig in more detail! The best bit about travel insurance is that we can apply online, and the cost no longer is too high!
Deciding on the foreign currency is also a major task. I do not have a forex card yet but with every passing day it looks attractive. I often end up changing money and for that I carry either dollars or pounds if the local currency is not easily available. I also like to withdraw money from an ATM these days. Whatever you prefer, forex requires some thought and planning.
For me happiness on a trip depends on carrying the right gadgets. For me I need to check three things. I basically wish to have three chargers with me- for the cell phone, camera and the laptop. After that I make sure I have packed the three gadgets as well. I sometimes carry an e-book reader, a Nook, but it has not yet moved to my essentials. On some trips I am happy with a paper book too! But if I miss out on any of the other three, it affects my capability to enjoy the trip. I can sometimes afford to leave the laptop behind; but as mine is a lightweight, I often lug it around too. I also always carry an adapter on my trips abroad.
For clothes, the first thing I look at is the weather forecast. I need to know how cold it would be. I am someone who doesn’t like to get cold. Once I know how the weather is going to be, I can decide what clothes to pack! I almost always carry a swimsuit.
For me, the size of the suitcase depends on the number of days I am traveling for. Thailand is one exception though. I always carry a big suitcase there because I know I will fill it with shopping!
Luckily I do not take any prescription medicines at this stage of my life. So I carry a few general medicines for fever, cold etc. Sorting this out almost completes my essential packing.
I hardly wear any accessories; just a few earrings are more than enough. Walking shoes are a must for me! If I need to attend formal functions I put in formal footwear too.
Essentials to pack for a foreign trip are not that complicated. Now if only I could start packing a little ahead of my trip and not leave it all to the last minute!
I love to travel but I hate to pack. Packing gives me anxiety; packing is akin to nightmare for me. For international trips there are visas to worry about. I have got them on the last possible day on so many occasions, which meant last minute packing! That is why I so love visa on arrival destinations. But over the years I have develop a method for the madness called packing. But you follow it at your own risk!
For any trip documents are important and this is usually my starting point. For me this phase also means making sure I have enough money and a few cards for the trip. If it is a domestic trip life is a little simpler as it usually means having the travel ticket, money/cards and if I have done it in advance, hotel reservation proof. An Id proof is always to be carried.
If it is an international trip life gets a bit more complicated as that means passport, travel insurance and photographs in case of visa on arrival. I do bother about forex too but more often than not, I end up buying it from the airport. For visa on arrival I do thoroughly check all the documents required and make sure that I have it.
As soon as I have crossed this stage I relax a bit. The next bit is easy but very important to me.
I cannot imagine traveling without my SLR, my cell phone- XperiaZ3 and my laptop. That used to be my complete list of gadgets. But now I have switched to an eBook reader so I need to pack that too. The SLR goes with about 3 additional lenses and a tripod. There was a time when I used to carry a point and shoot camera as well. But now with cell phones like XperiaZ3 having amazing feature rich cameras I do not carry a point and shoot any more.
As important as the gadgets are their chargers! I regularly ensure that I have 4 chargers with me. On the international trip the adapter for different type of plug points is a must. Without the chargers and the adapter, my gadgets soon become dead weight!
By the time I cross stage 3 I am certainly euphoric. I feel my packing is done. And you know who is coming down the slide head first, on my phone screen saver. No points for guessing that it is Chhavi!
Clothes and the Like
I approach packing clothes with mixed emotions. If it is hot weather I will ensure that I have my swim suit. After that I wish they could somehow get packed on their own! A few decent clothes which will cover ‘formal’ occasions and ‘smart casuals’ I manage to get ironed and packed. If it is winter I make sure I have woolens so that I would not freeze to death, I do not take cold well!
Footwear means comfort to me. I have never worm high heels in my life and I don’t have any plans to change. This category also means making sure I have a toothbrush and a comb. And I am all sorted. If I fear dry skin I will pack a Vaseline and moisturizer as well.
In the end, I just tell myself, “you have the documents, you have money, anything else that is really important and you forgot, you can buy.” And then I run out yelling, “yippee I am all done” and go out on that trip!
The bags are not yet fully packed but I am off to Andaman soon. I used to have this Lighthouse Lands’ End Luggage before but it got spoiled, it was a gift to me by the company. They had assured me that if it ever got spoiled they would replace it. And good to their words they did. I have unpacked the bag now. I like it quite a lot. It is the first journey of this bag and it goes to Andaman with me. But I had another one like it before and it traveled with me to a lot of places!
If traveling in India I am not worried about the documents so I pack pretty last minute. If I am traveling abroad I usually pack a night before because I am scared about not packing an important document and then facing hassle at immigration!
When do you start packing if you have to travel?
I started my India travel blog, Travel Tales from India in 2005. In 2016 I realized Travel Tales from India and Abroad better reflected my writings. I love to walk and ride in metros around the world. I have not been everywhere, I am not even close, but it is on my list. I also quit my job as a professor in 2015, it was a happening year! I did a Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur ages ago!
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