What to pack and not pack

Sree Sen
Wednesday, 27 March 2019

The third part in the series on solo women travellers, talks about the essential and non-essential items in your bag

Packing your travel bag is an art, and it comes with experience. For many, it is the most worrisome part of the travel experience, ticking items off a list, checking and rechecking items packed. So, here are a few pointers to help you choose what to pack and what you can do without.
 
There are two types of luggage — the essentials and the non-essentials. Now, the items may differ with regards to personal preferences of each traveller, but most of the utilitarian goods remain the same.

Among the essentials, there are a few items that a solo woman traveller must always make space for in her bags. As mentioned in the last column, torch is an essential tool for finding your way in the dark, scare away animals and also to be easily spotted by searchers, if you are lost. Carry extra batteries in your pocket whenever you step out of the room, because what you imagined to be a short walk may continue well into the evening. 

A strong sunscreen — for the beach and the mountains — is a woman’s best friend along with a tube of a mosquito repellent cream. This way, you can deal with the scorching sun and evening mosquitoes. Keep generously applying both every few hours for better results because we Indians tend to skimp which is a bad idea in this case. 

Sunglasses make it to the list as well, not only to shade your eyes from the sun but also to prevent dust from bothering you.

Keep information handy because you may not have access to internet — whether it is printouts or diary notes. Travel plans, contact numbers and booking details must be jotted down. Also carry some basic information about yourself — name, emergency number, blood group, etc — in case you are not able to communicate to others. These papers you can also use otherwise — as a cleaning sheet to wrapping discards. 

Also important to carry are water purification tablets and medicines which have been prescribed. These you won’t find easily in little known pharmacies at remote places. Also carry basic medical supplies — band-aids, fever and dysentery tablets, ointments to apply on cuts and bruises, period cups/tampons/pads. This medical kit may not be used most of the times, but you don’t want to be without it on those rare occasions when you need it.

Carry sensible clothing — check on the weather forecasts before you pack. Roll your clothes rather than laying them flat for better usage of space. Pack only two extra sets, wash your used clothes so that you don’t have to carry too many. Most importantly, choose the right pair of shoes or else you will have a really bad time. Trekking or travelling by train, it’s the correct footwear that can make your life easier or that much harder. Remember to take along one set of nice evening wear, it’ll come in use when you least expect it. 

Among the non-essentials are books and card games for long journeys and quiet indoor evenings, extra clothing and make-up, excess food, knick-knacks like soap, shampoo or oil. These travel bottles you can easily find at most travel destinations, but brand choices may be limited. Sleeping bags should be carted along only if you expect to use them, otherwise it would seem rather out-of-place in a hotel room with twin-beds.

One will often see most new travellers carrying multiple luggage — this is quite unnecessary. Carry one major bag or preferably a backpack that holds all essentials, and one small travel sling in which you can keep your money, passports, tickets etc. This sling bag you must carry all the time. Such a get-up keeps one of your hands free to carry a bottle of water or even that precious camera. A slightly unsteady traveller is also free to grab a railing on missing a step while carting that big bag.
 
While packing, remember one thing — anything extra is dead weight and you will end up being tired carting it around instead of being carefree and happy. Carry as little as you can, wash your clothes, use space intelligently and do it yourself because others, even your trusted mom, won’t know what you need. And every time you travel solo, you will realise how less is more. With every new journey, you will need fewer things to pack.

So pick up that bag, and plan your next destination.

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