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How to pack lightly and keep your stuff safe on the road


From our friends at Rough Guides comes the best tips for easy traveling. The ticket? Pack lightly! These smart ideas about what to bring, what to ditch and how to keep your belongings safe on the road come from the amazing travel book, First-Time Africa, but no matter where in the world your savvy travels take you, these nuggets of wisdom will help you along the way.


Minimize your wardrobe: Choose durable, layerable clothes that go together, are easy to wash and look good without ironing. To stave off the boredom of wearing the same clothes day after day on a long trip, accessorize, or revamp your wardrobe periodically at local shops, markets and tailors.

Buy travel sizes: Many hotels provide shampoo, soap and other essentials, so you may need less of these items than you think. Extra supplies are easy to obtain.

Share with your travel companions: This can apply to many items, from books and clothes to medicines and toiletries.

Shed packaging and cut up your guidebooks: Books are surprisingly heavy, so consider chucking away chapters covering places you won’t be visiting. You may want to chop out street plans and listings pages at the same time, to carry in a pocket when you’re out and about.

Limit yourself to a few small reminders of home: Just one or two small items such as a mascot or some family photos can make even the most nondescript hotel room feel welcoming, and help you miss all your other stuff a lot less.

Reduce your baggage as you go: Specialist equipment such as scuba, camping or hiking gear that you no longer need can be sold, bartered or posted home. Books and maps can be exchanged with other travelers. Clothing can be given away and replaced with local finds. You may want to pass some items on to people who need them more.


Copy your documents: Before you leave home, take photocopies of the ID page and relevant visas in your passport, your driving licence, insurance documents, flight tickets and itineraries. Leave one set with a friend or relative and pack another separately from the documents themselves. It’s worth uploading scans to an online storage facility, too, for extra peace of mind.

Wear a money belt: Your money belt should be invisible under your clothing, and should be used to stash cash, credit cards, your passport and other documents you’re unlikely to need while you’re out and about — start fishing about in it and you immediately broadcast its location to any nearby thieves. The most comfortable money belts to wear in hot weather are made of plain cotton. To make sure the contents don’t dissolve when things get really sweaty, wrap your stuff in the kind of plastic bag issued by forex bureaus. Carry ready cash in a separate wallet, and don’t flash this about.

Dispense with inessential gadgets and luxuries: People had thoroughly enjoyable travel experiences in the days before MP3 players, laptops, electronic games and GPS devices were invented. These, along with conspicuous jewellery and watches, may make you a target for muggers, so think hard before deciding which, if any, are likely to make or break your trip. It’s also worth bearing in mind that gadgets can suffer in extreme heat and dust, and that electricity supplies in Africa can be unreliable. If all you want to do is check your email and social networking accounts every so often, it may be best to leave your laptop at home and make do with Internet centres. A GPS device can be a life-saver if you’re visiting uninhabited regions — elsewhere, asking directions can work just as well, and may lead to an interesting conversation.

Aim to fit everything into one bag: The fewer objects you need to keep track of, the better. Don’t encumber yourself with separate camera bags, flight bags and purses if a single day bag, small enough to fit in the top of your main bag, will suffice. Make sure your day bag is big enough to hold a decent-sized water bottle.

Use plastic bags and boxes to protect and organize your gear: Invest in some strong, transparent plastic bags and boxes and use them to separate rolled-up clothes, books, gadgets and other items within your main bag. Not only will this keep rain and dust at bay, it will also make packing and unpacking a speedy and methodical process. Small zip-lock plastic bags provide an efficient, lightweight alternative to make-up and medicine bags. If you’re traveling to Zanzibar, Rwanda or Eritrea, which have banned plastic bags because of their effect on the environment, choose bags that don’t look disposable. If you’re planning to go canoeing or sailing, you may want a dry bag to protect any items you’d like to take with you.

Hide your most treasured possessions: Any items that might appeal to thieves are best buried in the middle of your suitcase, rucksack or day bag, and never placed in outside pockets.

Lock up: A small, light luggage lock won’t protect your bag from determined thieves, but it’s a useful deterrent. A light, flexible bicycle lock may prove useful too, for attaching a bag to the seat of a minibus, for example.

Protect your backpack: If you’ll be traveling by public transport in regions where crime is a grave problem, it’s worth considering armouring your pack against bag-slashers by lining it with wire mesh.

Excerpted from The Rough Guide First-Time Africa
Copyright @ 2011 Rough Guides

Date Added: March 27, 2012 | Comments (0)

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