I'm doing the travel thing again this week, to sunny Zagreb, Croatia, where I'll be appearing at Kontakt, the 2012 Eurocon. Blogging will be patchy; for one thing I expect to be busy, and for another, international roaming data on my phone and iPad costs £10/Mb in Croatia (if I can't find a local SIM or free wifi).
It occurs to me that I haven't blogged about travel much recently. So here's a run-down of how and what I pack for a 6 day overseas trip ...
Luggage: you want to carry as little as possible without inconveniencing yourself. So for any trip longer than overnight I take (at least) two bags: a checked bag (rolling semi-rigid, expanding gusset, with extending handle) to go in the aircraft hold, and a carry-on. Actually, as much stuff as possible goes in the carry-on, but thanks to security regs a bunch of stuff I need simply has to be checked.
Note about luggage: the checked bag has wheels, and the main carry-on straps to it, so I can tow them along behind me. They have to be as light as possible, and as strong as possible, and ideally able to expand to contain extra stuff accumulated in transit. This is because airports are big. Use of a fitbit pedometer suggests to me that at each airport I hit, I can expect to walk a minimum of 2Km. So a two-sector journey (Edinburgh-Paris, Paris-Zagreb) will involve about 6Km of walking. (Maybe more, if I get bored and need the exercise.) Thus, it's necessary to have a load-out that I can tow comfortably, and hand luggage I'm happy to tote on my shoulders or back for a couple of kilometres in the middle.
What goes in the checked bag?
* Sharps (scissors, swiss army knife, nail clippers)
* "wet" toilet bag (including liquids, tooth paste, hand cream, and the like)
* most of my clothes:
- Clothes are colour-coordinated in black—makes it much easier to assemble an outfit if they're all monochrome.
- Clothes are selected to layer depending on weather.
* Being British, I also sling in a travel electric kettle and enough tea making supplies to keep me from going batshit insane from caffeine withdrawl.
* Folding umbrella (for deployment on arrival).
* On cold-weather trips, heavy outdoor gear also goes in the checked bag: you won't need it around the airport, but it's useful to have on arrival.
What doesn't go in the checked bag?
* Anything I can't live without or that I need in-flight. Which breaks down into:
- Amusements and diversions
- Essential medication
- Expensive or fragile items
- Anything irreplaceable
On this trip, I'm taking two carry-ons.
Carry-on (a) is a small shoulder bag—one of these, along with a world adapter for its power supply. This is a shoulder bag sized for an iPad in a Zaggfolio keyboard case, with built-in USB charging wires and a battery. It also has a side-pocket for my iPhone, another external side-pocket for travel documents, and room for some small extras (pill case, flashlight, Kindle 3G, headphones). Carry-on (a) lives on my shoulder around the airport, or under the seat in front of me while in-flight. It's my on-the-road IT kit for short journeys.
Why take a Kindle 3G as well an iPad? Well, the K3G comes with a web browser and free internet access in a whole bunch of countries where international roaming is expensive. You don't want to overuse it, but it's better than nothing. (Also, it'll keep running long after the iPad and Powerbag batteries are flat, in extremis.) If travelling within the UK, I'd probably carry a MiFi instead.
Carry-on (b) is a much larger expanding shoulder bag. It has a laptop pouch big enough to hold bag (a) at a pinch, and a much larger compartment which holds camera kit, all medication required for a month away from home, and a bag of chargers and cables and mains adapters. It also contains a change of underwear and a spare tee shirt. It goes up top in the overhead luggage bin: I don't expect to need any of its contents while in transit. Its job is to transport valuable items, and ensure that if my checked bag goes missing I will be comfortable for my first night at my destination (after which I will have to go clothing/toiletry shopping).
Medication includes not only prescription items, but other stuff: anti-diarrhoea, pain killers, rehydration sachets, anti-histamines, blister plasters. It's very hard to predict what is or is not available in pharmacies in foreign countries. For example: in the USA, you can't buy ibuprofen/codeine combination tablets over the counter. Nor can you buy ibuprofen or diclofenac anti-inflammatory gel for sprains. All of which are available in the UK. On the other hand, you can't buy Neosporin or other antibiotic ointments in the UK that are readily available in the USA. And in other countries restrictions on what you can and cannot buy get weirder. My general rule of thumb is: take everything you might need, but don't ever carry opiate pain killers (codeine, dihydrocodeine, whatever) unless you have a prescription and/or have pre-cleared it with your destination's customs agency, because some nations (e.g. Japan) have mandatory prison time for possession of stuff that's legal to buy over the counter in other countries.
Finally, what goes on my person?
* Clothes and shoes (ha ha, funny)
* House keys, mobile phone, wallet with driving license and credit cards
* Boarding pass
* Documents describing my itinerary (hotel reservation, flight booking)
* Travel insurance paperwork
* Two or more wallets
- One wallet/coin purse per currency zone: home, destination, and any intermediate stops. (For example, on this trip I'll be carrying Sterling (UK), Kuna (Croatia), and Euros (we're flying via Paris and will spend over 8 hours in the transit area waiting for connecting flights). It helps not to get them mixed up!
What happens on longer trips?
* If a trip is over a week long, I may upgrade my IT kit to include a laptop. It depends how much work I expect to have to do. (On my last one month trip, I ended up tackling the copy edits to a novel in my hotel room.)
* If I expect to have to hire a car, I'll take my own satnav (renting them is expensive, and I prefer one with a user interface I know how to use)
* More clothing, up to ten days' maximum, plus additional types of clothing. Travel wash for hotel bathroom sinkside sessions. On long journeys, I expect to have to use a launderette once a week. It may also be necessary to haul wear-once items (e.g. formalwear for receptions, award ceremonies, and the like). With ten days' clothing you can launder a week's kit at a time and still have an emergency reserve.
* A collapsible bag-in-bag —usually a folding duffle bag—that can travel as a separate checked bag on the way home, in event of too much shopping. I try to avoid needing this, but on longer trips with my wife it tends to get used: dirty clothes go in the (lightweight, unstructured) duffle bag for the flight home, while purchases go in the (hard shell) checked bag.
Again: pack on the assumption that (a) a team of gorillas will play football with your checked bags, (b) they will then be inspected, both by Customs officials and by officers of the Ankh-Morpork Thieves Guild, and (c) they may go astray (10% probability of arriving 1-2 days late) or be completely and irrevocably lost (2-5% probability unless travelling via Heathrow, in which case 20-50%).
What are your international packing/travel tips?