As I said in my last post, I travel a lot, mostly because of work. Over the past year, I think I was away from home an average of 10-12 days each month. I’ve already started planning next year’s business trips and it looks like that average might even increase. Because I’m away so often, I’ve taken to packing certain items on each and every trip — what I consider travel essentials. Some of you might consider some of these items frivolous or self-indulgent, but when you’re on the road a lot, you start to develop certain needs.
I’ve decided to share a few of my favourite travel essentials with you. Of course, just because they’re things that I feel the need to tote doesn’t mean they’re right for you. In fact, I’d be extremely keen to know what some of your own must-bring-on-a-trip items are. I’d like to invite all of you to leave a comment and tell the world what your own travel essentials are. And, when you do, you’ll qualify for a little lucky draw I’ve decided to run. Because I’m actually very interested in what you feel the need to pack on each trip, I’m giving away two (one red and one black) X-Mini speakers to one of you. Just leave a somewhat articulate comment by 12 November 2007 to qualify. I’ll pick a name at random and email you if you win.
So, here’s a list of just a few of my favourite essentials, as pictured and numbered above:
1. A great shoulder bag. I have a small weakness for slightly old-fashioned bags. One of my favourites is an old camera case that my sister-in-law picked up for me at a flea market in Australia. I don’t like carrying my computer around when I’m out (I’d rather lock it up in my hotel room), so I don’t need or like my bags too big. If it can fit a camera, a notebook, a map and maybe my guidebook, then I’m thrilled. I picked up this very cool Japanese case from Actually on Seah Street in Singapore.
2. Snacks that you can bring on-board. In the good old days, you could take any kind of food on your flight. But today, travel and safety regulations require us to find foods packaged in quantities of less than 3 ounces, or roughly 90 ml/grams. I recently discovered Kojima Mentai Sakiika, sold in 20g packets. I’ve always liked dried cuttlefish; it has a wonderful umaminess that makes it quite addictive. This version is spiked with mentaiko, spicy cod roe, which makes it even more delicious. Amazingly, I found this at OG, a rather large and ghastly department store that is inexplicably always crowded. And while I once shunned the place, I now make regular visits in order to stock up on this savoury snack.
3. Canned goose meat. Okay, the name sounds a lot better in French. I love rillettes d’oie. And before those previously-mentioned pesky airline rules came into being, this was my preferred in-flight snack. I would never board a plane without a can of this delicious, rich pate made with slow cooked and shredded goose meat. With a hunk of bread (or a few standard-issue bread rolls), it makes a wonderful substitute for the crap most airlines pass off as food. Now, I pack it along in my check-in luggage. You never know when you might get peckish and, to me at least, there’s nothing more satisfying than a can of rillettes d’oie.
4. Good quality tea. My darling and finicky wife S loves tea. More specifically, she loves really good tea. I have to agree with her that there’s something really soothing about ending one’s day, especially a hectic day abroad, with a cup of your favourite brew. S’s current favourite is an amazing blend called Polo Club Tea, created by a relatively new (and soon to be huge) tea company called TWG Tea. The man behind TWG Tea was previously responsible for making some of Mariage Freres’ best known and most interesting teas. Polo Club is a green tea with vanilla, fruits, flowers and, amazingly, little chunks of caramel. TWG Tea is just starting up, and their website isn’t ready, but if you want to know more about them and their many fantastic blends, you can email Ada at Ada.Zee@TheWellnessGroup.com.
5. A small but really (REALLY) good camera. When I went searching for a good, small camera to throw in my carry-on, I drew up a list of must-have functions. It had to had manual aperture controls. It had to be able to open to as wide an aperture setting as possible. It had to have a great lens. It needed to have a custom white balance setting. I had to be able to shoot at a pretty high ISO without too much noise. And it had to look great. At the time of purchasing, the camera that I felt best fit the bill was the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2. The camera is almost identical to the Leica D-Lux 3 but with a more reasonable price tag. I’ve been using the LX2 for months with some pretty fantastic results. And while it will never replace my DSLRs, it’s a great option when I don’t want to lug heavy gear around. Another camera you might want to consider and that I’ve been hearing great things about is the Canon G9. I fully intend to go play with one soon!
6. Wireless stereo headphones. My Capdase HSDG01 headphones are totally an indulgence but I love them anyway. I can plug the dongle into any audio output, including airline seats (using an adapter, which I also always carry), sync the headphones and I’ve got great sound without being tethered to anything, which I really can’t stand.
7. X-Mini speaker. I just wrote about these last week. Click here if you missed it.
8. A good guidebook that suits your needs. I own a lot of travel guides. And I help, on occasion, write them. When I’m actually on the road, I hate carrying anything that adds extra weight to my luggage. So, I really value short, compact but informative guides that are tailored to specific tastes. These days, I tend to be less driven by culture and more by what great shops and restaurants are in any given destination. My favourite guides that specialize in this kind of information are the Louis Vuitton European City Guides and the Luxe Guides. The Wallpaper City Guides aren’t bad, depending on the city you’re interested in visiting (i.e. some are pretty good, while others are awful). My best advice is to do all your research before you go anywhere. Take down any and all info that you think you’ll need. Then pack just one guide to bring along; pack the lightest and/or the one you feel will be the most useful for you.
9. The ultimate white balance tool. My ExpoDisc is one of my most valuable and important photographic tools, whether on the road or shooting at home. Setting a proper white balance is vital when shooting. But setting it properly can also be an annoying and inconsistent process. The ExpoDisc makes this process ultra-simple and amazingly accurate. While I was at first a little hesitant about picking one of these up (especially given the costs) and a little skeptical, after a few uses, I’ve become a believer and huge advocate. With this tool, shooting in any location becomes easy. And for anyone out there who has ever tried to set their white balance discretely in a crowded restaurant, this tool will change your life. Any and every photographer out there should carry one of these around with her.
10. A portable DVD player. This really gorgeous DVD player has been a life saver. Not every airline is like Singapore Airlines, with video-on-demand, and not every hotel has a TV. And some that do, don’t have any channels worth watching. My Philips PET830 has kept me from going crazy from boredom on planes, ferries, in hotels, and in airport waiting rooms. It’s small, easy to carry, has amazing clarity, and a nice, long battery life — I can easily watch 2-3 movies when fully charged.