I've learned that I should never check bags if I can avoid it. When our travel was severely disrupted* because of a winter blizzard this January, we were so relieved to have our bags with us. We didn't even fly into the airport we were originally supposed to. That would have meant our bags would have made it to NYC several days after our trip put us in Boston; a drastic change in plans but one we had to make if we weren't going to sit in Beijing for a week or LA for days. Basically, things got crazy, and we had all of our stuff with us and could make plans on the fly. How affirming.
*Check out photos documenting the travel disruption on my husband's blog - HogarthFerguson.com
And when I say 'our bags' I mean my husband uses a backpack, and I have a medium-sized messenger style bag.
I've written about packing light, and it's never failed me. You learn too that in most other parts of the world, even poverty stricken, undeveloped countries, there will be stores, markets or street vendors selling most things you might need. I've purchased stuff like a memory card - one that still works today - in the Nubia region of Egypt near Sudan, a poncho in Cambodia, and bug spray in Cuzco.
I like to use a compression bag for my clothes, and I generally keep it casual. If I'm going somewhere for more than 3 or 4 days, I'll bring the same (small) amount of clothing and wash some clothes in a sink. I've learned to go with cotton jersey clothing for comfort and low wrinkling and wool socks.
On board a plane or train, I like to have my bag near me. On planes, that meant giving up legroom to stow it under the seat in front of me most of the time. Over the years, my body grew older and more appreciative of that legroom and I started putting my bag in the overhead bins. But there's a few things I like to have with me at all times, which means having a jacket with a lot of pockets.
For long haul flights
- Benadryl - this stuff puts me right to sleep, and on long haul flights, it's nice for my sinuses too
- Melatonin - it really helps me with jetlag - a proven effect, and this stuff is over the counter. The Mayo Clinic has some tips for when to take it based on your direction of travel.
- Disposable toothbrush and/or Listerine PocketPacks - when you overnight on a plane
For all flights
- Headphones and/or earplugs
- Snack/Protein Bar/Candy and Gum
- Water Bottle
- Passport - never be without it
- Pen & Pad
Pretty much all of this stuff is available in an airport - for 4 times the price of what you'll get it for anywhere else. I like to have this stuff before I arrive.
I have a skinny Moleskin I use to jot down essential information like flight information or embassy contact info. It can be good to have it somewhere if your phone runs out of charge, or you lose it ... and you need that info. I carry that with me all the time on trips. It can also really come in handy to write down your hotel address in the pad in the local language. You might find yourself needing to get there by taxi and having no way to communicate with the local taxi drivers. There are always taxis, but they don't always speak your language.
It might seem useless to bring water or a snack, especially if you're expecting one. But planes have issues. Sometimes you get stuck at the gate or the tarmac; sometimes that can turn into quite a long ordeal (Yes, I've spent hours in that situation on more than one occasion.) Maybe you fell asleep during drink service and don't have a chance to get another one. Maybe there's too much turbulence for a service. It can be really nice to have a stash of your own. Bring an empty water bottle or 'pouch' through security and fill it up on the other side.
Another essential is a scarf. I like to cover my head when I'm trying to sleep, and it's nice to have when the cabin gets cold. Don't forget to wash it when you get home.
I've had a lot of fun checking out how locals shop in other countries.
A local open market in Cairo
Shopping choices were abundant in Aswan, Egypt's night market.
The Khan-el-Khalili Market is far more vast than this photo shows.
One can often get a sense for whether bargaining is something to be done by inquiring about the price of an item, and simply smiling and saying thank you and walking away. If the proprietor wants to bargain with you, this is an easy way to see if they will then simply offer a lower price, or ask what price you are willing to pay. Taken another way, if you ask about the price of something, be prepared for the seller to think you are interested in buying. They can become persistent.
In Marrkech, Morocco, many objects from lovely art to practical items, are for sale in a vast market. There are plenty of little stores around the city, too.
Below, a much smaller town in Morocco has its own little market. Food was for sale here. In another part of town nearby, a row of shops sold everything a tourist might need.
A convenience store, above, near the Southernmost point of Africa.
Above, the outside of a little market hall on the waterfront of South Africa.
Above, a gas station in Solitaire, Namibia, a town of only a few people. A convenience store was next to it and had plenty of stuff on offer.
Below, a sharp contrast in Dubai, where there are several massive shopping malls.
Istanbul's Grand Bazaar is huge. Every thing is for sale here.
I love markets. Budapest's Central Market Hall, above and below, is lovely inside.
Little cafes are great, too. One in Paris is pictured above and below. It's easy to learn how to say "How much is it" in any language. Just point to what you want.
Athens, Greece, seen above, has tons of shopping streets for walking only.
Santorini, Greece has plenty of shopping for tourists (above) and locals (below) alike.
A market in Madrid for foodstuffs, seen above and below.
Cambodia had plenty to offer in the night market of Siem Reap, above, as well as the central part of Battambang, a much smaller town, and seen below.
Men relax on the Cambodia/Thailand border, where all manner of goods are sold.
Bangkok takes shopping very seriously. Not only can you sample all kinds of cuisines in various food courts, there seems to be a mall around every corner.
There are lots of little shopping alleys in Bangkok as well, seen below.
Hong Kong has an amazing array of vending machines. Some are practical and sell stuff like umbrellas. Others are much more whimsical.
The shopping in Hong Kong is endless. Streets are lined with shops and there are malls, too.
Asia might be the shoppers paradise. The series below was taken in Japan.
There are some huge department stores in Tokyo, seen above and below. Some have master craftsmen working on site.
The Ginza is another place that seems to have everything on offer.
Convenience stores in Japan, like FamilyMart, are everywhere.
Japan is another place with tons of vending machines, and lots of food sold on the street.
Above, a shopping street in Tokyo. Below, a toy shop.
For scenes of shopping in China, you don't have to look very far; start below.
In Xi'an, above, a McDonald's kiosk sits in front of a huge mall.
This is one of plenty of shopping streets in Beijing.
Above, a shop on the streets of Shanghai.
Pedestrian shopping streets in Shanghai
Above, a mall in Taiwan. The warning on the glass reads "No High Rise Littering."
Above and below, Taiwan shopping streets.
The world has a lot of 7-11s.
Shopping at night in Taiwan
Above, a Taiwan FamilyMart convenience store and other shops. Below, a mall in Taipei.
Above, a vendor relaxes in her stall in Cuzco, Peru. Below, a tourist market is shown at night. Stores like that had postcards and souvenirs, and also lots of supplies hikers might need.
Kiosks in the Buenos Aires metro stations sell all the typical convenience store goods.
There are an endless amount of places to shop at in Buenos Aires. This is another city where pedestrian walking streets are very popular. There are malls as well.
Below is the famous Ricoleta book store in Buenos Aires.
Above is a long line at a Starbucks in a Sao Paulo mall. Starbucks worldwide apparently make a point to hire people that speak English.
Above and below, a grocery store in Brazil.
A shop on a street for upscale shopping, above, and the street, below.
Some more of the items on offer, below.
Above, some of the beer available in a supermarket in the town of Iguazu Falls, Brazil.
Some Medellin shops, above
Above, a Sunday market at Parque Arvi in Medellin. Below, streets in town are lined with shops.
So. it's probably been established that you can shop for pretty much anything, anywhere. We'll take a final look at Oceania below.
Above, the outside of a large mall in Sydney Australia. Below is the food court inside.
More streets lined with shops, this time in Australia, above. Below, an outdoor market in Brisbane.
More of the Brisbane weekday market, above, and a shopping street, below.
Are you shopped out yet? I am. We'll make the final stop in New Zealand, below. There is a lot more to this beautiful country than shopping, so here's a few below from a shopping street in Christchurch.
There was a market in the town square when I was there (below).
Queensland, above and below, has shops on the downtown streets but no large complexes, which is very refreshing.