What to take with you on a Round the World (RTW) Trip is often the least exciting bit – you dream of far-off places and just want to go! But the practicalities can make or break a good trip, so it is worth spending some time considering what to take.
Bag / Suitcase
First, figure out what bag to take. Think of the terrain you’ll be going over, and the places you are going to. Maybe if you’re going to be walking through remote towns in undeveloped countries, a backpack might be more discreet, as a wheely suitcase would just create noise and might attract unwanted attention. However, if you’re travelling exclusively to large cities like New York, then a wheely suitcase might be easier to manoeuvre. I took a 65 Litre backpack, and felt like a bit of a pillock in New York, but was glad of it in Peru. Overall I think it was the right choice, but it depends on what trip you’ve got planned.
We also took a smaller “day bag” which we wore on our fronts to make ourselves look as trendy as possible 😉 This held all valuables, paperwork, medication etc while on the plane, whereas our large bag was checked in.
Next, what to put in the bag…
I read one of these “how to go around the world” type books which obviously thought I was related to Indiana Jones as it advised me to take khaki clothes and only take 1 outfit as I can wash it each night and hang it to dry and by morning it will be dry. Now I don’t know what type of holiday they’re envisaging, but I ain’t doing washing every night… I’m on holiday! And even if I wasn’t on holiday… I’m very lazy! It’s a balance between not wanting to carry a ton of clothes, and not wanting to wash clothes every other day. It’s probably a balance you’d have to find yourself, but if it helps, I took around 7 tops, 8 knickers, 8 socks, 1 trousers, 2 skirts. However, you also need to think about the climate of the countries you will visit, and adjust the number of heavy trousers / little shorts accordingly.
One of the biggest challenges we found was if the RTW trip comprises hot and cold places. On our first trip, we had the swealtering Panama, and then the freezing cold Japan. On our second trip, we had snow-covered Utah, and sun-drenched Dubai. Packing for this is tricky. We decided that dragging full ski gear around the world was simply not an option. So we used layering to full effect. I packed a couple of thin strappy tops, around 6 thin long sleeved tops, a couple of thin zippy hoodys, and a thin rain coat. Along with woolly hat, scarf and gloves. In cold climates I wore most of these layers at once, and was just about OK. In hot climates I wore the strappy top or thin long sleeved top, depending on whether there was a threat from malarial mosquitos. This system worked well for us. I can’t lie – sometimes in the cold climates I was cold. I would much rather have had a big cosy puffa jacket or ski coat on, but you have to think of the trip as a whole, and in a boiling hot climate I couldn’t have worn or carried such a massive coat, so I think we played it just right. You can of course avoid this predicament by ensuring that all of the places you visit will have the same sort of climate at the time of your visit.
Also, you will need to consider the type of clothes… if you’re going to a region with malarial mosquitoes then you may wish to wear long sleeves and long trousers, in a thin material owing to the heat. There may also be religious considerations, for example if you are going to countries in the Middle East where women are expected to cover up. In most churches and cathedrals, you need to have your shoulders covered, so a Pashmina or scarf for women could be handy.
I won’t go over the obvious stuff to pack which would be necessary for a package holiday to Tenerife, eg sunscreen, sunglasses, etc, or we’ll be here all day.
If you’re going somewhere malarial, a mosquito net could be handy. If you’re staying in cheap hostels, you may wish to take your own bed sheet, treated with a bed-bug resistant substance such as Permethrin, and lots of DEET to spray on your body and clothes to protect from mosquitos (although anyone with sensitive skin should be careful with this).
Another tricky topic is medication. If you have a regular prescription then you will need to consider whether you are going to take a stockpile of it for the whole trip – in which case I would advice taking the prescription document itself, as well as a letter from your doctor explaining why you have so many drugs on you 😉 You could even look up some basic words like “Medicine” and “Doctor” in the local language beforehand in case of any problems, as it’s not easy trying to explain it in Japanese or similar 😉 If you can buy your medication from a chemist then you should consider if you can buy it from the countries you’re visiting. I decided to buy an ezcema creme in Australia, and they did stock it, but it was around 4 times as expensive as it was at home.
Similarly, contraception should be considered, and either a stockpile taken or consider how you will get it abroad, should you need it. There are also cultural sensitivities to take into account – for example, sex outside marriage is illegal in Dubai. So rocking up with a load of condoms will probably not impress customs officials as to your intentions in the country, particularly if you are travelling as an unmarried couple. Ahem!
Embarrassingly, something I now won’t leave home without is Immodium (on a RTW trip, not on a daily basis, so you can stop giggling 🙂 ). We got food poisoning a lot, and I think it’s almost inevitable in countries without clean water. And there’s nothing like having sickness and diarrhea when you’re due to travel on a plane, train or bus for 3 hours with shocking toilet facilities…. Immodium was invaluable to us.
As to the paperwork, obviously passport, a photocopy of your passport, EHIC (for EU citizens), travel insurance documents, and a print out of every flight and hotel reservation. That might sound a bit heavy, and I’m not sure what other people do, but I took a lightweight plastic file containing all this stuff, so that if we had any problems we could whip out a copy of our reservation. The print-outs also had the address of the hotel on, which was helpful if we were lost!
Recording your Trip
Obviously a camera and a spare memory card are necessary. My boyfriend and I had a camera each, and tried to ensure that both of us took a photo of anything amazing, so that if one of our cameras was stolen or broken, we would still have photos to take home. We also used the internet at our hotel / hostel, or stopped at internet cafes, to upload a few photos and email them home, so that again, if we lost our cameras we’d still have some photos.
I took a lightweight journal to write in, and we wrote it every day. If we were tired it was just bullet-points as to what we did. It was inconceivable to me that I could ever forget a moment of our trip, however sadly I already have – all the airports jumble up in my mind after I’ve been to so many, and some restaurants have disappeared completely. So I would definitely recommend keeping a record. However we decided against writing a travel blog while we went around the world. I felt that if I wrote one there, I’d have been tempted to ensure that I did a blog entry for every place, and tried to make each one funny or entertaining. For me personally that would have been time-consuming, as I’m not very funny or entertaining, and I would have wasted the precious little time I had in each place around the world. I did email home every so often, but it was very sporadic and mainly to reassure my Mum that I was still alive, or to reach out when I was homesick.
I hope this has helped you if you’re navigating the minefield that is packing for an RTW trip. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments section below and I will help if I can. Happy Travels!
As for us, we managed to get our stuff together for a second RTW trip. It was easier this time as we already had a bag, etc. This time our parents weren’t as concerned, as they knew we had survived once. So we left Heathrow at some ungodly hour, destined once more for the USA – Florida, here we come! 🙂
Next blog: Miami, Florida