Below is a list of the things I’ve compiled that have been very helpful throughout my journeys.
iPhone 6! – This tops the list! I use it a lot from taking photos to navigating around. Some of the useful apps (Note: they are also available for Android devices) I have installed range:
- Google maps – I use it a lot to create and plan my trips. More info here. I use it a lot for navigation if I manage to get a SIM card at the country I’m visiting.
- Maps.me – Useful for offline navigation. Google maps is awesome, but the offline function only has driving directions. Unlike Maps.me, it does have walking directions. Note, you will need to download the map of countries or specific places you will be visiting.
- Citymapper – Great for urban transportation.
- Rio2rome – Another useful app to plan my trips. I use it a lot when I’m planning to travel outside the cities. It finds routes/transportation that not even Google maps knows about.
- Uber – When there’s no way to get to a certain place via transportation, I just uber it.
- Google translate – Very handy when trying to communicate with others in foreign countries.
SIM Card – If possible, I tend to purchase a prepaid SIM card at the airport or at a local cell phone store near my Hotel. Very handy for navigation, google translate, ubering, tinder etc. Please note, some countries like Russia and Spain require you to present them with your passport in order for you to purchase a prepaid SIM card.
SwissGear Carbon II Black – I like that it has very easy to access compartments, VERY durable and its big enough to pack all the things I need for my trips.
Anker portable charger – Very useful to charge your devices when you can’t find any outlets or in the middle of nowhere.
Moko battery case – Another handy charger for my iPhone. I use it a lot to charge the phone on the fly.
Eagle Creek Compression cube – I wasn’t a believer of compression cubes till I bought it. It truly compresses 5 days worth of t-shirts, underwear and if I manage to shove it well, my socks as well. In the end, it creates more room in my backpack for other stuff. Very handy.
Airport liquid bag – If you’re traveling around Europe and you have some liquids that will need to go through security, transparent plastic bag is a must. I didn’t have one when I was in Germany and was told that I need buy one from a machine near by. Thank god I had some change! Majority of airports offer these plastic bags for free, so keep an eye out.
GoPro Head Strap Mount – If some reason you want to be hands free and want to record the moment, this does the job!!
GoPro Hero 4 Black and Nikon D3000 – This is what I use for photography (and my iPhone 6). Majority of the time I use my GoPro to capture the moments since its very portable.
GoPro Battery BacPac – Very handy when your GoPro battery life is about to die, just plug this bad boy in the back of your GoPro and your off to capturing your moments.
Irish USB power port with a EU plug adapter – Since majority of my devices require a USB port to charge, this USB power port does the job! I had a EU power port but forgot it in Paris :'(. Nonetheless, a EU plug adapter I bought at the airport does the job. Very convenient and its a plug away from charging your devices.
The North Face Bardu Bag – Carrying my backpack for long periods of time sometimes causes back problems so I do my best to travel light as much as possible. Great for day trips, very light and avoids being profiled by security thinking you might have a bomb in your backback. Fits my GoPro, Anker portable charger, GoPro Battery pack, GoPro head strap, chap stick and any other small items.
Planning your trip
A few things that have helped me plan my trips are google, other travel blogs, the locals and reddit. When I decide to go to a country/place, I do some research and gather the ones of interest. Then go to reddit and/or coachsurfing and reach out to the locals and see if they recommend it or have a better suggestion. Sometimes they give a better suggestion and I end up going to a better place not mentioned elsewhere (or rarely). Good example, I went to Dubrovnik, Croatia and I reached out to the locals to see what they recommend to see nearby, they all suggested to take a bus ride to other countries nearby. Sure enough, I took day trips to Bosnia and Montenegro. Or sometimes you meet awesome people and they invite your for a full day hike to the Carpathian Mountains.
Visa – Before you travel, make sure you are aware of the visa requirements of the place(s) you will be visiting. The US passport has visa free access for 157 countries. Countries that require visa range from a visit to the embassy or just filling out a simple online application and paying a fee.
Accommodation – When it comes to booking a room, I try to book near the places I will be seeing and/or transportation (in case I will be traveling by train). As for prices, I use different sites to compare and find the right one with the right deal. Here are the sites:
- Booking.com – Personal favorite, I find very great deals here. It’s basically the first site I go to before going down the list.
- Airbnb.com – Rarely use it, but I do manage sometimes to find that one great deal in a good location. I was in Lisbon and I manage to book a room in Alfama which is one of Portugal’s oldest neighborhoods, dating back the 5th century.
Flights – I do my best to book flights 1-2 months in advance to get the cheaper deals. Or as many airlines have now these days, look for promotional deals. I manage to find deals ranging to $20-$80 bucks (round trip). Don’t forget to register to there rewards programs!! Who knows, maybe you will rank up some points and travel free somewhere!
- Skiplagged.com – This site finds the best deals for flights. It not only looks at your destination, but other airports near by. I was trying to book a flight to Paris using other sites, average price (direct to the city) was $240 round trip. In Skiplagged, I manage to book a flight near Paris (Beauvais airport) and took a 50+ min shuttle bus for a total of $90+ bucks.
- Momondo.com – Another site like Skiplagged, great deals as well.
- Ryanair – If you’re traveling in Europe, RyanAir totally has the best fares. I’ve seen from $20 bucks and up.
Credit/Debit Card – One of the first things I always do before heading out to a different country is call my bank and put in a travel notification. I basically let them know I will be going to X for this amount of time. This avoids them from blocking your card to avoid fraud. Also, its always good to take some emergency cash (AKA liquor money) just in case you’re in a situation they don’t take plastic.
Meds – This is new to me, I had a cousin recently visit and we took a trip to Sweden. She was coughing her lungs out to the point we had to swing by various pharmacies to find the appropriate medicine. After this, I started packing my own meds if this situation ever arises again. For example, nyquil, tylenol, hot whisky, alka seltzer etc.
Research – As I mentioned before, I heavily use Google for researching the places I want to visit. A few main sites that have been very useful to me are:
- TripAdvistor – I use this site to hash down the museums/tours/sightseeing I want to see. I was heading to Milan, Italy and I wanted to see what museums/tours would be of great interest. Sure enough I found tickets for Leonardo’s Last Supper. I highly recommend it, very spiritual and just brilliant art.
- LonelyPlanet – I like this site but it doesn’t give you the real heads up about the places your about to visit. When I went to Venice, I expected the ‘oh wow, omg, this awesome’ reaction, instead the moment I stepped out from train station, it smelled like urine/shit, WAY overcrowded, condoms floating in the river and freaky people following you around the narrow streets.
- Couchsurfing and Reddit– I have never couched surfed before, I just reach out to the locals and ask for recommendations from bars, restaurants to places/sights I might of missed.
- WikiTravel – Amazing site when it comes to finding everything about the city/country. From the no go zones, list of cheap places to eat, attractions, to attending the local festivals.