I just read a blog post about tips for traveling to Europe, and it reminded me that I haven’t ever posted anything about how I packed for our trip to Australia last summer! We went to Australia for five weeks during their winter, and we stayed in hotels, hostels, and a retreat center. After Australia, we spent three nights in New Zealand, where we stayed in b&bs. Our situation was unique because we were traveling with a group on a mission trip, so our main priority wasn’t touring, and we also had some perks from knowing people within the country. That said, I thought I would share because I always find it helpful to read tips for traveling, even if the situation isn’t exactly the same. Maybe someone else will find this helpful.
1. Pack lightly
You’re probably thinking, well duh! It seems so obvious, but it really is true. I started packing weeks before we left because I need a lot of time to pack (if I’m going to pack well!) to make sure I didn’t forget anything, and to give myself plenty of time to add things and take things out. It was easier for me to take things out after I knew what all I was bringing, and could let that sit in my brain for a little while. Every now and then I would think, I don’t really need that extra sweater! In the end I managed to pack in just one large suitcase (checked bag) and one backpack. Yep, everything I brought fit in those two things!!The only thing that didn’t fit was a small travel pillow that hooked to a loop on my backpack so I didn’t have to carry it.
It was difficult and took a lot of time, but it was SO worth it. Every other girl that came with us had at least one extra bag (usually a purse), and it make it a lot trickier for them with all the walking and traveling and moving around we did in the country.
I bought a new backpack from L.L. Bean that I knew would be reliable because I had a similar smaller backpack just like it that I knew would hold up and fit lots of things and be comfortable to wear. My luggage from American Tourister was fairly new and definitely sturdy as well, so I trusted it too. Whit also brought one suitcase (slightly smaller than mine) and one carry-on bag (an over-the-shoulder duffel). I chose a bright blue backpack in my favorite color that would stand out easily, and would make me happy. Since my suitcase is black, I added a bright blue ribbon to it so I could quickly find it on the luggage carousel. We did share some space in our suitcases, but for the most part I carried my things and he carried his.
I had all of my “purse” items and my camera and lenses in my backpack for safe keeping and easy access, and Whit put his laptop and tablet in his duffel. I didn’t bring my laptop. It would have been nice to have a purse at times, so if I did it again I might try to find a lightweight, foldable option, like from Baggu, but most of the time I wanted to carry a lot of things with me, so having the backpack was perfect.
2. Be Cautious with Valuables
No matter where you’re going, you want to be extra cautious with your valuables. I didn’t bring a laptop because I could use Whit’s tablet or my phone. I did bring my Sony NEX with two lenses, but I didn’t bring a lot of other things that I would have minded if something happened to them. I had several pockets on my backpack, and I would wedge things into the back pocket closest to my back, or the smaller pocket – not the very outside one, so that thieves would have a harder time getting to my wallet, camera, or phone.
I always carried my camera with me in my backpack with both lenses unless Whit was going to be in the hostel in our room, and I would hide the extra lens or camera well in my suitcase where maids shouldn’t be touching. I did leave my ipod out, but not in open sight. I put it in the drawer next to my bed. Don’t tempt the people attending your room! Always, always err on the side of caution, especially if you’re going to a big city. You don’t want some dirty kanga grabbing your belongings!
3. Bring Reminders from Home
Whit and I had to leave our precious kitty baby at home while we were gone for almost two months. We missed her so much!! I loaded my phone with pictures and videos of her so we could check in and remember her soft fur and little quirks. We joked that we would have a “video conference” with her because of how she looked in a close-up video we had where we could listen to her purr.
Out of all things, my dog-bone-shaped chiropractic pillow was stolen! Well, I don’t have evidence that it was stolen, but it was in my room one day and the next it was gone. After I lost it, I had an excuse to buy a stuffed animal to squeeze when my anxiety would kick in. Patty, my stuffed Platypus, was perfect to be a cozy comfort item at night and on the plane. Okay, and sometimes in team meetings, where she would play with the pig and whale that my teammates brought. 🙂
4. Bring Fewer Lenses and Plenty of Memory Space
One of the reasons I bought my Sony NEX-3 instead of a bulkier DSLR was because it travels lightly. About half the size and weight of a DSLR, I don’t mind carrying it on a hike, exploring a new part of town, or when I travel. I didn’t want to bring all of my lenses though, because they wouldn’t all fit in my tiny over-the-shoulder camera bag, and because less is more when you’re traveling. I traded my 18-55mm kit lens for a 1.8 50mm, which was a great decision! I had been debating purchasing a telephoto zoom lens, with a longer reach, but getting the fixed lens was a decision I’ve been very happy with. Eventually I may want to get a zoom, but I realized that the only time I would really want the longer zoom would be at a zoo, sporting event/concert, or a few other rare cases. The 50mm fixed, however, is far enough to get some reach, but close enough to get a nice crop without leaving everything else out of the picture.
I have a 35mm fixed, too, but I didn’t bring it because it has a bulky adapter. Instead I brought my 16mm pancake lens, which provided a wider angle for landscape and group shots. I didn’t end up using the 16 very frequently in Australia on Summer Project, but I am so glad I had it for our trip to New Zealand, where I was mostly photographing scenery. It’s also perfect for a good extended-arm couple shot without having to use a tripod.
My other tip for cameras and devices is to erase as much as you can off of your memory cards to free up space for taking lots of pictures and videos. I left a few pictures of our cat and my family on my phone for when I was feeling homesick, but I deleted everything off of my camera memory card, and left only a hand-picked selection of songs and apps on my iphone. I’m so glad I did, because I never had to worry about running out of room on either device. I mostly took photos using my interchangeable lens camera, because I almost always had it with me, but I took some iphone shots here and there for the occasional instagram post, or because I wanted a quick video or panorama.