Lesser Known Backpacking Travel Tips

By: leelefever on January 3, 2007 - 1:38pm

Throughout the trip, when the inspiration struck, we would type a few travel tips into our phone. The majority of the tips below came from spur-of-the-moment revelations on the road, now in more organized and long form. 


  • To save battery power turn off mobile phones - being connected to or looking for the network drains the battery.  The same is true for laptops and wi-fi signals.  Turn em off.
  • When you get to a hotel room, open your computer and look for an unsecured wi-fi signal.  You’ll be surprised often.
  • Carry two batteries for all gadgets.  Though, a computer battery may be an exception.
  • If you are using a mobile phone for more than a few weeks in a country, buy a SIM card for a local network when you arrive.  It's what the locals use and you would have a local phone number with free incoming calls from home
  • If you want to be able to charge more than one gadget at once, get a travel splitter or multiple outlet adapters for each format. 
  • Always think redundancy - back up often and send home DVDs of your pictures.
  •  DVDs hold a lot more pictures than CDs for back-up purposes - 3 times the amount.  Most internet cafes offer DVD burning services.
  • Invest in lots of camera memory (lSD cards, memory sticks).  You do not want to consistently be hamstrung by a camera that is full of pictures.  A 1GB card with 5megapixel photos was enough for us.
  • If you have a laptop, move photos from the camera to the laptop daily.  Always leave the room with 2 charged batteries and an empty memory card.
  • Take your computer to the Internet cafe and plug it into their network with the Ethernet cable.  They will know how.  Europe doesn’t allow this, Asia does.
  • Wrap your computer in some sort of sealable plastic bag before packing it away.  Wetness happens.
  • Keep your valuable electronics on your person when in transit.  Don't  put your computer in a bag under a bus.  
  • People can’t steal what they don’t see.  Limit gadgetry use in public.

Hotel Living:

  •  When leaving a hotel, take the complimentaries with you, like coffee, cream, tea, toilet tissue, etc.  Towels, bedspreads and hangers are not complimentary.
  • Never, ever miss an included breakfast.
  • Many cheap hotels require that you insert the key into a slot in order for the power to come on. While it saves energy, it means you can’t charge electronics while you’re out of the room.  Often you can use a business card in the slot instead of a key.
  • Don't leave the room for the day without a map, local currency, identification and the room key.
  • Try to resist giving the front desk your key when you leave – this is very insecure.  Notice that when you return, they will give you any key you request. 
  • If your hotel does not serve breakfast, remember to go to a store on the way home at night to get something for the morning.
  • Unless the city gets full consistently, don't make reservations in advance.  Get there; find your favorite neighborhood and then a place to stay. 
  • If you are going to be in one city for more than a week or so, consider renting an apartment.  A kitchen and washer /dryer are so nice sometimes.
  • If you know the part of the city where you want to stay, make a reservation in advance for a single night at a hotel in that area, even if it is more expensive. Then, when you arrive, walk around to hotels and find a better deal for the rest of your stay.
  • For most major cities, two nights is not enough as it leaves only one full day for exploration.  Three nights is usually a good amount if you're on the move. More is better.
  • The combination of your padlock is a risk.  You may be asked for it if your bags are lost on international flights (they may need to open the bag).  Make it unique - not associated with bank accounts, etc.
  • When unlocking your padlock for your bag, remember to spin the numbers once so your combination is not displayed for others, like the housekeeper, to see.


  • Tear unused pages out if your guidebook.
  • In inexpensive countries like India remember to carry small bills and change - go to a bank to get the change you need. Making change is a pain.
  • When wandering a new city at night, adopt the moth strategy and go toward the light.
  • Buy clothes made of synthetic fiber - they are lighter, stay cleaner and are easier to wash and dry quickly.
  • Days of the week can start to blend together.  The biggest problems happen on Sundays when a lot of businesses are closed and Mondays when museums often close.
  • In packing your backpack, make sure you pack it the same each time, giving each item a specific place.  When something is missing you'll know.
  • Buy a backpack that is built for travel and not camping.  The best ones open from the side, allowing access to everything quickly instead of bags that open from the top only - requiring an unpacking to reach the bottom.
  • A clean and free bathroom is only as far as the closest McDonalds.
  • Take a flashlight.
  • In public, you will never be judged or create a spectacle for being too quiet.  This is made more difficult with alcohol.
  • Look for English language weeklies in cities to find out about events.
  • Check local pharmacies for prescriptions that are expensive from home.  Beware of fakes in China.
  • Do like the Spanish and have a siesta.  Explore for a few hours in the morning, nap in the heat of the afternoon and go back out for the evening.  This is sustainable for long periods.
  • Only rookies get sunburned.  Be liberal with strong sunscreen. Wear a hat.
  • When getting up from a park bench, airplane seat or any place where you sat, turn around and look back at the area to ensure you didn't leave anything.
  • Use the local mail service to send home items you are not using.  Most useful when changing climates.
  • Remember that you can’t do everything. Relax, take a deep breath and enjoy what you *can* do.

Our Packing List for World Travel

By: leelefever on January 2, 2006 - 12:30pm

One of the most popular questions people ask is "How do you pack for such a trip?"  The answer is "very carefully", but that doesn't help much.  So, we're providing this list for curious people and people who may be planning a similar trip.  Keep in mind that we haven't left yet, so this is what we *think* we'll need.

Sachi's Bag

Shorts 2
Zip-off Capri pants 1
Long Pants 1
Tank Tops 2
Long Sleeve (light and heavy) 2
Swim Shorts 1
Swimsuit 1
Rain Jacket 1
Pack Towel (3X2) 1
Underwear  4
Socks 3
Sleep Sac 1
Money Belt 1
Small Satchel 1
Misc. small pouch 1
packs of pocket kleenex 8
Elastic Head Band  1
Plastic Comb 1
Hair Barrett 1
Pack elastic hair bands 1
Foot Scrubber 1
Toothbrush 2
Deodorant 2
Lotion with spf 15 1
Daily Vitamins 1btl
Inflatable airplane pillow 1
Motion Bands (pair) (wrist) 1
Waterproof pouch 2
Pack-It Cubes (Full Cube) 1
Pack-It Cubes (Half Cube) 1
Earphones 1
Backpack (w/ zip-off day pack) 1
Compression Sac 2
LongSleeve Fleece  1
Padlock 1
Hiking shoes 1
Sandals 1
Pack Towel (3X2) 1
Scarf 1
Bandana` 1
Passport 1
Copy of passport 1
Copy of Birth Certificate 1
Pairs of Eyeglasses 2

Lee's Bag

Raincoat 1
Padded gadget pouch 1
Earphones 1
Sunglasses 1
Moneybelt 1
Zip-off long pants 1
Short sleeve button down 2
Shorts 2
Long sleeve pullover 1
T-shirts 3
Underwear - boxers 3
Socks (pairs) 3
Hooded Pullover   1
Pack-It Cubes (Full Cube) 1
Pack-It Cubes (Half Cube) 1
Waterproof zip-lock 1
Padlock 1
Wirelock 1
Laptop ac adapter 1
Palm treo adapter 1
Palm treo sync cord 1
Earphone plug adapter 1
Extra styli for Treo 2
Headphone splitter 1
Pentax camera charger 1
USB SD card reader 1
Camera Pentax Optio WP 1
Extra Camera Battery 1
PalmOne Treo 650 1
Extra Treo Battery 1
Protective pouch (laptop) 1
Sony Vaio T350 series laptop 1
Extra Laptop Battery 1
256MB SD card 1
1GB SD card 1
2GB SD card 1
Small stuff sack 1
Sandals 1
Hiking shoes 1
Backpack w/ zip-off daypack 1
Wristwatch 2
Sleep sac 1
Electrical adapters universal 1 set
Compression sac 1
Hat 1
Sunglasses 1

Shared (both bags)

Dental floss 1
Toothpaste 1
Bar of soap 1
Shampoo (4 oz.) 1
Conditioner (4 oz.) 1
Sunblock SPF 23 (4 oz.) 1
Medical Kit 1
Spare Zip Locks bags 5
Doxycycline (Malaial)  1btl
Zithromax (Travelers Diarrhea)  1btl
Trans-derm motion patches  1
Immodium 1btl
Benadryl Tablets 1btl
Advil Cold and Sinus 1btl
Prilosec OTC 1btl
Ex-Lax 1btl
Pepto-Bismol Tablets 1btl
Aloe 1btl
Tylenol 1btl
Ibuprofen 1btl
Duct Tape (3 yds) 1
Zoomkit photo album 2
Q-tips 30
Benedryl cream 1
Purell 2
Chapstick 2
Mini mag flashlight 1
Sawyer insect repellent 2
TwinF Cards 200
Various Guidebooks 1-2
Deck of Cards 1
Caribiners 4
Passport Pictures (extra) 40
Rubber bands 20
Safety Pins 20
Gift Cards 2
Traveler's Checks 5


The Last Moments of Home

By: leelefever on December 11, 2005 - 12:09am
With over a year of planning leading up to this very night, you'd think things would be 100% in order and we could relax and take in home for the waning moments of our normal lives.  Not so.  Tonight has been a surreal fire drill, with mutiple lists going, things getting lost, champagne getting drank, and emotions running high. We could use just 1 or 2 more hours.
The clock reads 12:1O am and today is December 11th, a date that has been top-of-mind for a very long time.  We can't really believe it's here. Tomorrow we will wake up at 5:30 am and soon after, board a plane to New York City, leaving all normalcy behind for a year. It all starts in about 5 hours.
I just asked Sachi and the only words she uses to describe the feeling right at this moment is "free".  By the way, her words came as the walks around the house with her backpack on.  When, I asked "how does it feel" she said "heavier than I thought".  I had to say, "not that - I mean how does it feel to be living this moment?"  I guess "free" is a good way to put it, though it's a pretty damn heavy feeling too.

Remember: Pack More Floss

By: leelefever on December 5, 2005 - 4:53pm

As I mentioned before, this trip to Banff is a bit of practice, both for the blogging and living in a hotel room, etc.

Apparently, we have some things to learn.  We dutifully packed our toiletries, including a small dispenser of floss (one of many from home given out by the dentist).  This morning I awoke to learn a lesson about what to pack.

First Item:  A floss dispenser that actually contains floss.  The one we brought contained approximately one inch of floss.  

Second Item: More than one toothbrush.  Apparently, I forgot mine and had to resort to rather rudimentary methods.

Luckily this is all pretty small in the whole scheme of things, but it goes to show how all the little things can start to get lost in the madness of the final days.



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Like Christmas

By: leelefever on October 15, 2005 - 5:34pm
We're trying really hard not to spend money in everyday situations, something we call the monetorium.  Sometimes though, we get to go out and get a bunch of things for the trip, which is really fun, like Christmas.  Today was one of those days.
REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) has it's flagship store in Seattle and has been our #1 spot for all the things that will fit in the backpack. Today we got things like stuff sacks, a digital watch, non-cotton clothes, sleep sacks, waterproof pouch, etc.
The store itself is pretty impressive.  It's in the middle of the city, but has an outdoor mountainbike trail and waterfalls and an indoor climbing wall. And, it's freaking HUGE.


REI is a co-op and it's a good idea to be a member.  Like LL Bean, everything has a lifetime guarantee.  Just today I took a look at the hiking shoes and found that the model I have now comes waterproof, so I exchanged them on the spot.  Plus, you accrue "dividend" money as you buy and once a year, you get a check.
Oh and get this.  A few weeks ago, I got new Chacos sandals.  Last week they went on sale, so we just went back today with the receipt and they credited our account for the difference- $32!  That was good for the monetorium! 
Anyway, today I think we put an end to most of the buying we'll do before the trip. There will no-doubt be some small things, but most of it's covered.  Before we leave, I'm planning to post a list of everything that is going into the backpacks.

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