Go stingy but be efficient.
I get people asking me “where would you buy clothes from” and my response is “a clothes shop”.
It might sound obvious but many people think that only the Western world has shops that sell stuff. In actual fact I genuinely can’t think of anything you can’t buy and that isn’t readily available in most countries we’ve been to.
Of course not everyone wants to take an empty bag and then go shopping in situ, and so we always take everything we need, topping up or replacing items as we go.
I should also point out that you can get laundry done at most budget hotels/hostels and independently all over the world and the general cost is around $1 per kg.
What you pack you carry, it’s that simple.
Generally we pack for about a week, with enough underwear to last a week, but with my daughter I have learned she finds it almost impossible to keep her dress/t shirt clean for more than one day and so I take her a few more things so she is clean every day.
An obvious point to note is that when a dress is dirty the whole thing needs washing, but with shorts and a t-Shirt only one would require the laundry.
My raincoat is Gor-Tex and so is 100% waterproof (believe me it has been put to the test many times) so that when we are caught in the rain, all the important items are protected.
Additionally many religious sites require females to have their heads/shoulders/legs covered and for men to wear trousers. Requirements for children tend to be relaxed. For women a sarong is very versatile and so it’s worth picking one up.
Additionally my son and I always get bitten by mosquitoes on our ankles and so now I tend to wear trousers. I wear thin Nozi Life Craghopper trousers.
I won’t patronise you by listing the clothes you should take, but generally I take 3 bottoms, 2 shorts and 6 T shirts. Climate should be kept in mind and whether to bring cold weather clothing.
First Aid Kit
There isn’t a time I have gone away and not needed the first aid kit. I carry quite a comprehensive kit suited to our needs and my capabilities. I am first aid trained and so have confidence in my abilities and know that there are times when medical aid in situ carried out by myself will be safer than taking the kids to a local hospital. I would urge any family traveling to have at least basic first aid training, schools and St John Ambulance run half day courses which are often free. We all hope to never need the skills, but it is better than wishing you had them if something does go wrong.
The First Aid Kit is kept in a well marked and easily accessible bag.
Bandages assorted sizes
Plasters Assorted sizes
Eye Wash & Ear Buds
Anti Malarials (if required)
Safety Pins & Scissors
Antiseptic Cream & Sudocrem
Documents & Money
As a single dad traveling with kids there are some requirements that I am told you need to adhere to. In practice though I have never been questioned at immigration, other than when returning to the UK. I have never needed to provide any proof of custody or needed letters of consent. That said, my children have my surname and so I expect this is the likely reason. Still, I carry documents with me just in case.
On the issue of money, what I have in the list bellow is the minimum I have with me at any one time. I ensure that I have enough to get out of wherever I am whenever I should need to. I carry my day to day cash in a wallet, but my emergency credit card in a safe, well hidden place – And not an obvious money belt!
Passports Debit Card
Letters of Consent
Fair Fx (currency card)
Proof of custody
$200 USD Cash (mixture of denominations)
Equipment & Miscellaneous
I take various pieces of equipment with us when traveling. Some I would consider essential, such as a mobile phone, but others are things that can make life easier for kids. We aren’t by any means a techy family, but I ask a lot from my kids and sometimes, for my sanity and theirs a good movie watched on their tablet is enough to keep everyone happy on the long journeys.
In terms of the miscellaneous items we take, these are usually to keep us going for the first couple of weeks. I know you might read and wonder about hair conditioner, but the heat absolutely hammers Abi’s hair, it really dries it out and leaves it looking like straw. Conditioner helps keep her looking and feeling female!
Additionally I pack a laundry bag so we can put our dirty clothes together and then get them laundered easily.
Bathroom bag with all needed amenities
Ipad/Charger/Sleeve/USB Connector Shampoo & Conditioner
2 x Universal adapters
Wrist bands (with my mobile number on)
A good quality bag is essential. I take an Osprey Aether 70, whilst the kids carry a bag suitable for them. For example the teens have 35L bags, the others have 20L and just so my 4 year doesn’t feel left out, he has a little 10L. bag./
We each take a pair of good quality, waterproof boots. You don’t need these if you don’t plan on going trekking, but believe me trekking in sandals is tough and carries obvious risks.
Also, when it is raining feet tend to slip about in sandals and you run the risk of infection if your feet are cut and then submerged in the dirty water.
Putting your boots on for the first time at the foot of a volcano and heading off for a 2 day trek is not the time to find out if your boots fit. As with sandals, ensure all footwear fits properly and is suitably worn in.
A final note:
Obviously this is what we take, it must be adapted to suit the individual or family. Remember, there is unlikely to be many things that you want that you cannot buy once abroad.
Always ensure you have waterproofing available for your most important contents. I take a few plastic bags, but the reason for this isn’t in case we get caught in the rain, because there will almost always be some kind of shelter available. My reason is that sometimes you bail to shelter and then realise the rain might continue for hours. At this point I spend five minutes waterproofing our stuff, donning rain coats and then heading out into the rain knowing our things are protected.
For info on what to pack for young children and babies click here.