Posts Tagged ‘travel gear’

Picking a Pack is the Least of Your Worries

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

One of the most common questions that comes up when you’re planning a RTW trip is the right pack to bring. There isn’t really one best backpack for an RTW trip, so choosing the one that’s right for you is a matter of learning what the main features are on the various packs and figuring out which of those features are most important to you, followed by a rigorous testing period in a store.

But really, the pack you pick isn’t as important as some other things that some people forget to think about at all.

Carrying one pack or another doesn’t automatically make you a better packer, for one thing. You can bring the most highly-recommended backpack with you and still bring way too much stuff or all the wrong things for your trip. This is another area where research pays off, practice really does make perfect, and learning to do without some creature comforts is a good idea. You can find packing lists online from people who have gone before you, and that can be a good place to start, but you need to make your packing list work for you. Also keep in mind that everything you pack adds weight and bulk, so anything that serves a dual purpose – like the items on this multi-purpose packing list – is especially helpful.

Staying healthy while traveling is something many people don’t think too much about before they can’t avoid it, either because they don’t want to jinx themselves or because they just can’t believe they’ll get sick. Even those with the strongest constitutions can get injured, however, and if you’re someone who’s planning to go bungee-jumping or rock climbing or even hiking while you’re traveling you’d be smart to get some travel insurance before you leave home. It’s not a sign of weakness to get insurance, and thankfully it’s an affordable safety net.

We all hear about the travel wisdom that’s gained by long-term trips, and there’s much to be admired about an education earned on the road. But there are lots of travel smarts you can pick up before you leave home that will serve you well throughout your trip and well beyond.

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Investing in the Right Tech RTW Gear

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

techgearWe talked recently about when it’s important to buy high quality RTW gear for your trip instead of solely hunting for whatever’s on sale, and this time we’re going to talk about another gear-related topic that might involve forking over more cash than you would otherwise like. But even if you’re not what others might call a “flashpacker,” you might still want to bring along a little tech gadget or two – and those don’t typically come cheap.

Bringing an iPod on a trip has been de rigeur for years now (although some of us are old enough to remember toting a Walkman overseas many moons ago), but these days more RTW travelers are utilizing the multi-tool aspect of the iPhone on their trips, turning it into a phone that also navigates, translates, organizes, blogs, and – who knows – maybe by the time you read this it makes coffee and packs your bags for you, too. There are more travel iPhone apps than it’s possible to keep track of, and as the iPhone continues to evolve into a more and more useful travel tool it won’t be surprising to see it on every must-have RTW gear list.

If your RTW plans involve lots of blogging or at least computer work that you’d prefer not to do on a little touchscreen, then you essentially have three alternatives. Either you plan to bring an iPad, you plan to bring a netbook, or you plan to spend a lot of time in internet cafes. Assuming you’re not in the latter category (because that’s not really gear-related, after all), then the main decision will be whether to go iPad or netbook.

With the iPad, you have one decision to make, so if that’s your choice then get thee to an Apple store and hope they’re in stock. With netbooks, there’s so much variety nowadays that you’ll need to do a bit more research on the best netbooks for traveling before you make a purchase. There are different factors to take into consideration, so read about the benefits and drawbacks of the various models to see which one suits your needs best.

And after you’re done with that research, go on to some other aspect of trip planning that’s a little more fun for a break. Look up the best beaches in Spain, figure out when it’s shoulder season around the world, hunt for flights to Nepal, plan road trips through France, learn where to surf in Bali, or what those Italian gelato flavors mean.

Just remember that if you’re properly equipped with tech gadgetry when you leave home, you can look up all that stuff while you’re on the road, too.

photo by scriptingnews

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Investing in High Quality RTW Trip Gear

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

backpackAfter questions about what RTW itinerary is best, the next most frequently-asked questions on most message boards about long-term travel have to do with gear. If you’re on a round-the-world trip, chances are good that you’re trying to travel as minimally as possible, so bringing lots of cool gadgets isn’t practical. As great as they might be, they’ll just add to the amount of stuff you’re carrying. It makes sense, then, to be concerned about whether you’ve got the right round the world trip gear.

Perhaps the most important gear decision you can make – whether you’re on a RTW trip or any length of backpacking adventure – involves the pack you get. It’s not uncommon to feel a little bit of sticker shock when you start looking at the best travel packs out there – they’re definitely an investment. You know that saying about how you get what you pay for? In some cases it’s not true, and a bargain find can be an excellent option. But when it comes to what you’re going to carry all your belongings around in for a long period of time, the investment is worth it. Absolutely hunt down deals on the best packs if you can find a sale or have an REI dividend burning a hole in your pocket, but don’t skimp on a lesser-quality pack.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a “flashpacker” or plan on bringing lots of tech gadgets with you, you’re probably going to bring along a camera of some kind to record your trip, right? Camera gear isn’t completely at the opposite end of the spectrum from backpacks, in that you do still need to invest a little bit of money to get something that’s good quality, but you don’t have to buy huge professional-grade DSLRs to take amazing travel photos. So many of the compact point-and-shoot digital cameras are of high enough quality that they’ll take exceptional shots – so long as the photographer has a good eye!

What do you think is the most important piece of RTW travel gear you can invest in before a trip?

photo by obscure allusion

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Best iPhone Apps for RTW Travel

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

iphone2Once upon a time, long-term travelers were the people who abandoned the trappings of everyday life to see the world. These days, you’ll just as often find round-the-world travelers who prefer to bring some conveniences of everyday life with them on the road. They’re not opposed to letting technology assist them in their travels, which is why the iPhone has become so popular with travelers.

All of the “there’s an app for that” commercials might drive you bonkers, but the premise of those ads is kind of true – and getting more true every day. There are apps for just about every purpose you could imagine (along with thousands you couldn’t and wouldn’t want to), including plenty that are really handy for travelers. Some of them are location-dependent, but there are also loads of great iPhone apps for round-the-world travel – apps that are flexible enough to grow with your itinerary.

This list of iPhone apps for RTW travel isn’t exhaustive, so if your favorite travel app that’s ideal for long-term travelers isn’t listed please let me know in the comments!

Best iPhone Apps for RTW Travel

Frommers Travel Tools
One app to rule them all… Okay, not quite, but it does combine several different handy travel apps into one, which saves memory space on your iPhone and helps keep your screen uncluttered. You’ll get a currency/measurement/distance/etc. converter, time translator, tip calculator, customizable packing list, fun travel trivia, links to Frommer’s city guide apps you can buy, and even a flashlight – all in one app.

on sale for $4.99
With this app you aren’t stuck sifting through a long list of recommendations for places to eat, places to see, etc. – you put in only the places you know you want to check out or remember, and that’s all that shows up on the list and map. It’s deceptively clever, and especially handy for RTW travelers because you can add locations to as many cities as you want. When you’re hooked up to WiFi, add restaurants, museums, and where you’re staying. Then you can access the information with the iPhone or iPod Touch completely offline, without using data or internet.

Trip Journal
on sale for $0.99 (normally $2.99)
This app includes all kinds of tools to easily record and share elements of your trip with whoever you like – geo-tagging photos, video, and trip notes and then allowing you to share things via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and more. Plus, the app looks all old-school journal-y, too.

City Maps 2 Go
There are a zillion map apps (say that without thinking “grape ape” and you’re a stronger – or younger – person than I am), but rather than downloading a new one every time you move on to a different city, this app lets you constantly download new cities within one app – and the additional map downloads are free. Plus, while you can the GPS capability of the iPhone for these maps, you’re not incurring roaming charges because the maps are downloaded onto your phone.

Translation apps are great, but if you’re going to lots of different countries it might be better to get one app that has a few common phrases in lots of languages instead of downloading an app for every single language you’ll encounter. Babelingo has 11 languages with 300 words and phrases. If you’ll be immersed in one language for awhile, then you can augment your app library with a translator or dictionary for that language specifically.

ICOON Global Picture Dictionary
Is the language you need not included in Babelingo? Maybe the words you’re looking for aren’t common enough phrases? Then be sure you’ve got this picture dictionary on hand as well. There are several categories covered in this app, and the most useful ones might be “health,” “hygiene,” and “authorities.” You don’t want to count on your command of the local language in an emergency.

World Customs & Cultures
Don’t get caught nodding for yes when nodding actually means no. Don’t reach out to shake someone’s hand when touching is considered rude. This app covers all kinds of cultural tips and social norms for 165 countries around the world. It’s a must-have app for anyone who wants to leave a good impression in their wake (which is a good plan).

The World Factbook
This app includes some basic information about 250+ countries, including major industries, type of government, geography, religion, languages, etc. The database is updated regularly for free, so you’ll always have the most recent information at your fingertips.

HearPlanet: Audio Guide to the World
This does require a cell data or network connection to work, but if you’re in a place where you’re connected then it’s handy. Using the phone’s GPS locator, this app knows what attractions you’re close to and pulls up the Wikipedia entry for that place. Even better? It then reads the entry to you.

For anyone who set up a round the world blog for the sole purpose of letting your mother know where you are and that you got there safely, there’s IAmHere. Push one button and it’ll send an email to someone with your exact location (accurate to within 150 meters) on a Google map.

Super Twiddler
Spin the wheels on this app to tell it much time you have to spend and what mood you’re in, and it’ll come up with activities near you that fit your parameters. Unfortunately it’s only available for 27 US cities, although they’re apparently working on more.

Restroom locator with almost a million restrooms around the world in its database; it includes information on bathroom amenities, too, like whether they’re free to the public, open 24 hours, have baby changing stations, or have a place to buy feminine products.

Traveling shoppers may want to download this app in addition to the Frommer’s app, even though the latter has a good all-purpose converter in it. What Frommer’s doesn’t have is a clothing size converter – but Traverter does (along with a few other conversions). This app also includes a directory of international area codes.

Skype is the international traveler’s best friend, and you can take it with you on your iPhone. Call anyone on Skype via a WiFi connection on your phone without incurring huge roaming fees. You can also call non-Skype numbers (land lines and cell phones) for pennies per minute if you’ve got money in your Skype account.

It’s everything you love about Kayak’s site – in an iPhone app. Search for airfare, hotels, and other travel necessities right from your iPhone. There’s a paid version ($1.99) that includes First Class & Business Class fares in its searches (the free app doesn’t).

Forward all your trip emails to TripIt, and it tracks everything – flights, hotels, car rentals, everything. It’s one way to keep from going insane when your travel plans alone start to take on novel-length proportions.

Weather Channel
If you’re on a long trip and you only brought what you can carry, you might not care as much what the weather will be like where you’re headed – you packed what you packed, and your clothing has to suffice in whatever weather you encounter. But having this app will at least let you know how many layers you’ll need to pull out of your pack that day, or whether you might be springing for an umbrella in your next destination.

And since the iPhone’s camera isn’t exactly the best in the world, this list of great iPhone apps for travel photography on World Hum is worth perusing before you set off.

photos, top to bottom: CarbonNYC, cloneofsnake

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