Travel Gear & Tips

Image from the Singel Hotel in Amsterdam.

Lace curtain.
Singel Hotel, Amsterdam.
(c) D. A. Levy

FIRST . . .

Think about your absolute basic needs to make you comfortable.

During a summer at Oxford in England, an elegantly dressed classmate travelled impressively minimally. Her method was layering . . . cashmere sweaters. She had about four of them with her, along with a rain jacket, Levis, dress slacks, couple of T-shirts, water-proof boots and well-made sandals. If I saw her packing, I would have thought her, uh, impractical. However, it worked so well, that we've adopted some of her ideas and that now pretty much how we now travel. Additions include a Mandarin silk jacket for evenings; it packs flat. Oh, and a bathing suit.

We learned from the classmate and while we travel exceptionally light, there are a few things necessary for comfort and for safety. Being flexible also opens up last-minute opportunities because you will not be carting lots of unneeded stuff around. The historic Singel Hotel in Amsterdam has a store room for those who decide to hop trains for a few days or weeks without having to lug around their stuff.

STUFF

This section features stuff that is important to bring along. These are items considered long-time necessities after traveling around the world to 30 countries including Japan, Thailand, French Polynesia, Australia, France, Greece, Italy, England, Ireland, Turkey, Costa Rica, Mexico, kayaking through the San Juan Islands and the Sea of Cortez, and floating on cruise ships throughout the Carribbean and in the Mediterranean, . . . mustn’t forget the Channel Islands — both of them — off the coast of California and in the English Channel.
Most Important: Your Feet
Find and test the most comfortable shoes you can find before leaving home. Be POSITIVE that they suit your foot shape. If you have not walked a lot, you may not realize the type of support you need for your arches. Mine happen to be really high; without the correct footwear, i.e. excellent arch support such as that of Teva Women's Zirra SandalMerrell Shoes., or just about anything by MerrillMerrill Sandals and Shoes., I'm in trouble.

Teva Woman's Sandal.Teva.

Merrill Sandal.Merrill Sandal.

My daughter, on the other hand, has much lower arches and needs to find a more moderate solution. She generally travels with shoes of varying heel heights and changes according to immediate need(s).

Whatever you are most comfortable in around your own city will probably be what will work best on the road . . . unless you are covering terrain new to you, walking more than usual, and/or unless you're like ladies who wander around in 4" heels. (Although I did tour much of Europe in stacked heels during the '70s 'cause that is what I was used to. No problems!).


On the Road Again
Just can't wait to get on the road again.
The life I love is making music with my friends
And I can't wait to get on the road again.

On the road again
Goin' places that I've never been.
Seein' things that I may never see again
And I can't wait to get on the road again.

On the road again -
Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway
We're the best of friends.
Insisting that the world keep turning our way

And I can't wait to get on the road again.
And I can't wait to get on the road again.
On The Road Again ~ Willie Nelson

ACCESSORIES

Compass, food and water containers, storm shelter such as the Kelty Salida 2 Person TentKelty Salida Tent. (winner of Backpacker Magazine Editor's Choice Awards), Kelty's Grand Mesa (a free-standing design) or Acadia, REI's Half-Dome 2-person tent, or The North Face Talus 4 TentNorth Face Tent.. All important, especially if you are hiking into any region new to you or if it's an area known for its dramatic climate changes, i.e. anywhere in England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Oregon or Washington in the U.S. . . .

BASE LAYERS: Jackets

Always have a waterproof jacket with you. Our outer layers are lightweight and waterproof; everything else can be layered. I'm still wandering around with a 30-year-old Banana Republic jacket (made by the Ziegler's, the original owners). The jacket is light weight, has sufficient pockets, IS waterproof, and folds inside itself so it can be used as a travel bag. Closest to it is Columbia's Men's HydroTech Packable Rain JacketPackable rain jacket., which looks good and has it's own stuff sack. Other possibilities: Outdoor Research Men's Horizon JacketWaterproof outdoor jacket.Kathmandu., Columbia Sportswear Men's Evapouration JacketColumbia Sportswear., Puma Track Jacket from The North Face.

BACKPACKS, DAY PACKS

There are enough versions to pretty much get a one-size that works for everything. Well worth checking out: Black Diamond Anthem BackpackBackpack. which weighs about 2.5 pounds. Suggestion: If you have friends who offer to loan you their 30-year-old favorite backpack, politely decline. Newer designs are lighter and mold better on your upper body, which makes wandering around much easier.

WATERPROOF: EVERYTHING

BOOTS, SHOES, HIKING SANDALS

The Right Shoes.

Hiking Boots.Hi Tec Hiking Boot.Think about where you are going, your plans, and expected the unexpected: You might come across a mountain you want to climb.

Buy new gear, especially foot wear, 30-60 days before you leave home, spend lots of time wandering on terrain similar to where you will be going if possible. Our favorites include Hi-Tec Men's Altitude IV Hiking BootHi Tec Boots., TevaTeva., and just about anything by Merrill.

Be sure any shoes, boots or sandals are REALLY comfortable and fit well. If you don't have a favorite for casual walking around try TevaTeva. with selections to cover just about any terrain. They are among the world's leading sport-lifestyle companies. Something like the Teva Women's Zirra SandalTeva Sandals. will take you just about anywhere in the world. Be sure they are REALLY comfortable and fit well.

Travel Light.

To make your trip enjoyable, unless you are going on a cruise ship where you do not have to pack/unpack/pack, or unless you have your own personal sherpa, travel light.

We spent two months on the road starting in Tahiti and ending in Japan (with Roratonga, New Zealand, Australia and Thailand in between) with this type of set up and did not feel inconvenienced at all.

If you are on a long trip, do what Europeans do: Ship home any items you no longer need or that you purchased enroute and don't want to carry around.

If you travel where the dollar is still strong, consider purchasing needed items as you travel and follow the examples of European travellers: Ship it home. Don't lug around things you don't need.

Luggage

If it doesn't wheel, don't travel with it. Wheeling your stuff around is MUCH easier on you, your friends and family. Make sure it can be picked up if need be, but roll it the rest of the time.

Eagle Creek Wheeled Duffel.Nested or stack-on luggageBest Travel Luggage. with wheels is particularly practical if you're wandering through countries by hopping trains and using local transportation to get around.

If you are using various modes of transportation Eagle Creek Luggage Load Warrior Wheeled Duffel 22Eagle Creek Luggage. is particularly useful. Airplane aisles are getting narrower by the year, they are the width of food/beverage carts, which is narrower than lots of carry-on bags, i.e. less than 17 inches. I just returned from a trip where in order to fit down the aisle, two little side pockets had to be emptied. Luggage smaller than L14" x W9" x H22" is typically referred to as a carry-on bag and will meet most domestic airlines’ carry-on size standards, but know that "puddle jumper" flights anywhere in the world might be on smaller aircraft; USAir between Arizona and Texas is so small that some carry-on won't make it. We were a 14-passenger flight from Ochos Rios to Kingston, Jamaica some years ago. That plane did everything but roll.

Be sure to measure and count your camera bag and/or laptop bag and/or purse/briefcase as separate carry-on items. Airplanes are getting stricter.

Clippers Race to San Francisco 1800s.

Our family includes sea captains, which is how the world wandering started. We tend to stay close to seaports. (That's Monte Carlo below; the second mega-yacht is named "The Tooth Fairy.")

Sailing into Monte Carlo.

Want to travel light but still get excellent images that stand the test of time and can be enlarged and framed to grace your living room or den?

Small high-end cameras have been avasilable for the past few years that shoot RAW images for those who want excellent quality without having to work with a huge camera. If you travel by plane, space is a huge consideration.

Leafy Sea Dragon.

Great subjects are often close to home. The leafy sea dragon above (an all-time favorite creature) is swimming in a tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California . . . a few miles down the road.

Protect your camera gear: Kata Camera Bags come in a variety of sizes and shapes for short trips or around-the-world jaunts.

If you're moving around a lot, consider Eagle Creek luggage; we covered six countries in 60 days and have been travelling with Eagle Creek bags for about 10 years; they show no sign of wear and tear.