As a frequent traveler, I’ve made just about all the mistakes a traveler can make. I’ve taken too much luggage and I’ve taken too little. I’ve been bored out of my wits with nothing to do while waiting for a plane or a bus. I’ve been pick-pocketed because of my own stupidity, and I’ve even been stuck in a 3rd world country without a passport or money.
However, I’ve learned from my mistakes and now enjoy relatively smooth and hassle-free travel experiences. Spare yourself some of the traveler’s learning curve while I share with you my 3 favorite travel accessories.
1. Money and Documents – Play It Safe
Number One on my list of favorite travel accessories is actually more of a necessity than an accessory. I always take an extra credit card or other cash withdrawal card. This can be in the form of a prepaid credit card, a credit card or any other form of plastic card. The important thing is that it works at an ATM or inside a bank, anywhere in the world.
Bad stuff happens. There are pickpockets in every interesting location in the world, including St. Peter’s Basilica. ATMs eat credit cards for no particular reason. Wallets fall out of pockets when you’re trekking. Purses get left behind at nightclubs at 3am when you’ve had a few too many. The list of possible mishaps is virtually endless.
It is simply foolhardy not to have at least one extra source of cash somewhere else besides on your person when you’re traveling. I learned this the hard way a long time ago. More recently, when an ATM took my credit card and the bank manager wouldn’t give it back to me until he got the OK from my bank by mail, it was a nuisance, but not a nightmare. I simply went back to my hotel room, got my credit card out of the safe and got a cash advance to tide me over until my debit card was replaced. It’s not exactly an accessory, but while we’re on the subject, I also carry a photocopy of my passport with me and stash the original in my hotel safe.
Whatever you do, never carry your passport, credit cards and cash all together. Split them up in different locations, so that even if one is lost or stolen, you’ve got a backup. You can carry enough money for the day in your wallet, and keep more in one of those nifty money belts, or money pouches that hang around your neck, hidden under your clothes. And when you’re staying put in a city, it’s good to use the hotel safe for valuables.
2. MP3 Player
Now that we’ve got the most important stuff out of the way, we can move on to Number Two on my list of favorite travel accessories. MP3 players have to be the best invention ever. They are light and compact and hold tons of music, audio books, or videos.
Personally, I find it appalling to see people wandering around the Sistine Chapel bobbing their heads to music when they should be absorbing all the marvelous sights before them. However, there are many times when music is not only appropriate, but therapeutic – like when your flight has been delayed for 8 hours and you’re stuck in an airport, or when your bus breaks down halfway along the Amalfi coast – beautiful scenery, but stuck none the less.
You can get even more mileage out of your iPod(r) or other MP3 player if you’ve got noise reduction headphones (perfect for listening on a noisy airplane), or miniature speakers (for tunes in your hotel room).
Number Three on my list of favorite accessories is another technological wonder – the E-reader. Years ago, I would have said, “a good book.” As a book lover, I love everything about “real” books, but as a reader, I love the portability of being able to carry the equivalent of dozens of books with me, all in one pocket-sized device. I finally purchased one just to take with me on my travels and I’m glad I did. The Kindle is a well-known model, and there are others available as well.
There are plenty of other things I take with me when I travel, but without an extra credit card, an MP3 player and an E-reader, I feel somewhat bereft. If there’s one thing that’s missing from my list, it’s my digital camera, but I consider that to be practically part of my body. If it’s an accessory to you, then definitely put it on your list. Happy traveling!