Now that summer is heating up, it's time to grab the best gear for your next Contiki! Our guest blogger, Kelley Last, shares her list of favorite travel gear to give you some inspiration on what you should pack.
While you don’t need to run out and spend hundreds of dollars on top of the line travel gear, it is important that you pick up a few essential items before your big trip. Getting the accessories that are right for you will help you stay organized and enjoy a hassle-free vacation. Here’s my list of some of my favorite travel gear.
1.) The Right Suitcase
On my first Contiki tour, I showed up with a ginormous red suitcase that was almost as tall as me. I learned the hard way that huge bags are NOT a good idea. Traveling light is always the way to go. I had a tough time dragging my huge bag over cobblestone streets and up flights of stairs in hotels. Also, with airplane weight restrictions now, there is no benefit to a big bag since you can’t really fill up too much anyways. I also recommend one with wheels and a soft casing (easier to stack them on the bus). Trust me, heavy suitcases and long walks do NOT go well together. Don’t forget tiny locks too.
2.) A Day Pack
Having a day pack is essential. Chances are, you’ll need it at one point or another. Often times you’re gone for 14-16 hours at a time, and you need to carry things like water bottles, snacks, camera, light jacket, etc. My husband usually carries our jackets, the big camera and the tour books in his bag. And I carry smaller items and our passports in mine.
For overnight train or boat rides, a small tote like this is perfect for a change of clothes and some toiletries.
I can’t tell you how many times we have been SO glad we packed UNO. Whether you’re waiting for flights, hanging out in the hotel or on the bus, it’s a fun way to start conversations, meet new people and pass the time.
4.) Camera Gear
Bringing a camera is a no-brainer, but make sure you also pack extra memory cards! I’ve seen a lot of people have to spend a fortune in foreign countries because they forgot to pack extra gigs of space. It’s inconvenient and time consuming to dash into internet cafes to transfer your photos and it’s expensive to purchase new cards in high tourist areas. When in doubt, bring more cards than you think you’ll need. We usually travel with about 20 gigs when we go for two weeks, so I’d recommend bringing at least 10gigs if you can. I prefer to carry multiple 2gig cards instead of one 8 or 10gig card just in case it gets broken or corrupt, at least you won’t loose everything.
While we’re on camera gear, make sure you bring extra batteries or battery charger too. There’s nothing worse than having your battery die right before you snap a picture of the leaning tower of Pisa. And do a little research before you go to find out what kind of wall adapters you need as well.
It doesn’t matter what kind of camera you have, as long as you’re comfortable with it. My husband carries the DSLR and shoots really pretty landscape photos, while I have a small point and shoot to snap people and landmarks.
One more tip: make sure you set your camera to the local time when your plane lands for easy reference later.
5.) Other Electronics
Lately, it seems that everyone is traveling with cell phones. If you do, make sure you have a data plan that lets you use it overseas. Find out ahead of time what phone calls, text messages and internet costs so there are no surprises when you get back.
We’ve recently started traveling with a laptop too. It’s probably unnecessary, but it’s nice to back up photos, write blog posts and watch movies on long flights. And if there’s wifi, you can also avoid long computer lines to stay connected with friends and family on the go.
6.) One Tour Book
You’ll get most of your information from your tour manager and local guides, but if you’re like me, you want to know what there is to see before you get there. I suggest bringing ONE really good tour book (We love the Eyewitness Travel series). You don’t want to lug a bag of books around, but I throw one in my purse and use it throughout the trip. It rounds out our tour and brings historical significance to the places we visit.
Layering is key when traveling. Be prepared to be away from the hotel from breakfast til after dinner. Depending on the location and time of year, you’ll want to dress light, but have a jacket or sweater to throw on when the sun goes down. Make sure what you pack is versatile enough to be comfortable by day, and stylish at night. And definitely wear comfortable shoes. I had one tour mate in Italy who wore stilettos everyday… not a smart move when you’re walking around Rome.
8.) A Travel Alarm Clock
It’s a tour. There are early wake up calls. I know you’re on vacation, but an alarm clock is a must. We love this Eagle Creek one that also has a thermometer, world clock and currency converter built in. It’s easy to throw in your pocket to use throughout the day.
9.) Student ID
A lot of tourist attractions and museums abroad offer steep discounts to college students. You can sometimes score half-priced tickets just by flashing your student ID. Even if you’ve graduated, definitely bring it along.
10.) Miscellaneous Items
Here’s a short list of other items that we always travel with: Cold medicine, bandaids, earplugs, inflatable pillow, antibacterial gel, toilet paper, a watch, energy bars and powdered drink mixes.
Kelley is a self-proclaimed world traveler and has taken three Contiki tours (and counting)! She is originally from Boston, but now calls Los Angeles her home. When she's not traveling, she's running marathons, watching soccer games, eating cupcakes or planning her next trip. You can follow her adventures (both big and small) on her blog: www.kelocity.com or on twitter: @kelocity.