Sunday, 17 May 2015

Travel Essentials

When I go on holiday or on a trip abroad, there are a few essentials that I have to take with me.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to talk about underwear, toiletries and a passport. That goes without saying unless you think I am the kind of person who only takes one pair of underpants, one pair of socks and sneaks into countries, spending a week or two there with a progressively stronger hum emanating from him.

Rest assured that I do take lots of underwear. Nor am I some kind of ghostly spy from a Robert Ludlum novel.

When I say "essentials" I really mean luxuries that keep me sane when I am on a totally tedious long haul flight, or stuck in a remote hotel on a business trip in a room with only a TV for company, which has three very poor channels all in a foreign language.

On a return business trip from China a few years ago, I found myself flying from Beijing to Amsterdam on China Southern airlines and while the service and environment were no better or worse than any European airlines, the entertainment left a lot to be desired. We had a small personal TV screen in the back of the seat ahead but the entertainment package consisted of three terrible English films and hundreds of Chinese movies. The Chinese passengers loved watching the latest national movies but for me they were terrible. I tried to watch one and gave up because it so awful.

I had nothing to entertain me, other than trying to compose a tune out of the close harmony snoring that was going on around me.

This is exactly why I need something to keep my brain from seizing up in disgust.

Here is my list:

iPod Classic

Regular readers will know that I am a huge fan of music . My iPod Classic can accommodate my entire CD collection. At the moment it contains almost 7000 songs which if played altogether would provide almost 22 days of continuous music.

It’s great for relaxing on a dreary long haul flight and even on holiday when sitting on a sun kissed beach watching the sun’s rays reflecting off the still blue water. 


I am an avid reader and consume books. When travelling, I read so many books, especially if the trip is a solitary business trip or we are chilling out on a sunny beach somewhere. In the past I have had to sacrifice clothes (not underpants and socks you’ll be pleased to know) in order to cram another paperback into my luggage; either that or fill my hand luggage with books. Worse, I do have a tendency to hoard books so I end up having to bring them back with me too.

Not now though. My Kindle has saved me. I can download as many books as I like because Kindle storage weighs zero grams. It makes no difference whether I download one book or one hundred books. Gone are the days of taking an entire library onto an aircraft.

I know that purists mourn the dawn of the Kindle and other eReaders but when travelling, it makes life so much easier.


"We need a new manager!"

I am a sad old fool who still plays the odd computer game. As rare as that is nowadays, I do dabble, particularly on a long haul flight where the only entertainment is a library of bizarre martial arts films.

My particular favourites are football games, in which I either play football matches against the computer, and lose horribly, or as a football manager when I have arguments with computer sprites who play crap and end up getting the sack for precipitating the relegation of my chosen club.

It’s fun though – at least until the swearing starts.

Nexus 7 Tablet

I didn’t think I needed a tablet but now I am converted. The Nexus 7 is a smaller, cheaper version of an iPad but is just as versatile. I have converted my old collection of DVD’s into Nexus 7 friendly files and loaded them onto the device so that I can watch movies at my leisure. I also have an app called Sky Go which allows me to download movies from Sky’s library of films and watch them offline. Add to that a few other useful apps, like puzzle games, offline dictionaries and I  have a very versatile device that allows me to access the internet via hotel wifi to keep me in touch with what’s happening in the world and send/receive emails etc.

I can barely survive a trip without it.


I know what you’re thinking. Making phone calls, sending texts and surfing the internet on a mobile network while in a foreign land can be very expensive.

That’s true, but when abroad, a smartphone is absolutely essential. This device is smaller even than my Nexus 7 tablet which means I can fit it into my pocket when I am out and about. The great thing about my phone is that I can download maps of my destination and use GPS to find my way around foreign cities without the need for paying stupid money to download maps on the fly. I can also download offline dictionaries in a variety of languages which stops me looking like a fool when sitting in a restaurant which has no menus in English. There are so many useful apps available that my smartphone is almost like having a travel guide with me all the time.

And it takes decent pictures too.


"I''m still not sure I have anough cameras!"
As good as a smartphone camera is, it simply doesn’t meet the standard of a proper digital camera. We have two cameras, the first is a small one that fits snugly into my pocket and takes amazing pictures, particularly in the dark. The other is a digital SLR which Mrs PM uses to take incredible photos. Of course, it is much bulkier but the photos it produces more than compensate from the stigma of standing out like a tourist. At the start of this year I was too scared to use it, but I have spent 30 days trying to master a little bit of theory with a view to actually trying to take some half decent photographs with it when we go to Brazil later this year.

And finally …

I’m sure more sensible readers will roll their eyes and say “What about sun protection, health protection, guide books and all of the other essentials to keep you safe?”

Yes – they are essentials (particularly sun cream which prevents me devolving into a lobster) but I need simply pleasures to keep me sane on long tedious flights and when stuck on my own in a strange hotel room in deepest darkest China.

Sadly, I have to endure another business trip to China in June and I will have nobody to play with. The devices above will make the trip far more enjoyable.

So there!

Over to you, dear reader.

What do you regard as essential travel items?


Pandora Behr said...

I can't travel without most of those things either. LOVE my kindle, but my iPod is on my iPhone.
Good post.

joeh said...

My wife. Without her I would never get where I am going.

Mind Of Mine said...

Last year, I went on my first Holiday and there was a lot of down time in the day. I thought 7 books would be more than enough.
I got to day 4 before I finished all 7. I was so desperate I bugged other guests for books they weren't reading.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

I would use my phone as an iPod too if it could accommodate more music. Sadly 7000 songs is beyond it's capacity and the battery is a lot worse.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Joeh,

Ha ha! Of course. Mrs PM comes with me on holiday too - but sadly not business trips.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi MoM,

Been there - done that! I've ended up looking for English books in Spanish bookshops in the past.

A Kindle will help.




River said...

When I was much younger travel essentials were a toothbrush and underpants, stuffed into a jacket pocket, book in the other jacket pocket. And money for the bus/train ticket. I only ever travelled between mum's place in Murray Bridge and dad's place in Port Pirie.
Now I'm older and don't travel, but I use the bus to get across town and my kindle comes in handy for that. I used it on the plane to and from Perth as well. I find I don't use my Ipod as much as I used to.

mm said...

"its capacity" not "it's capacity"

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

These things are essential no matter how small the journey.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi mm,

You are absolutely right. Thanks for pointing that out.



Big D said...

Essential travel items...Hmmm...
Aide from clothes and all that stuff, here's what I need for anything longer than an hour.

Reading material
More reading material in case I finish the first one or I get bored with it.
MP3 player
Soft drink (2litres for preference)
headache pills
Maybe I need some more reading material - let's get a paper and a couple of magazines. And more chocolate.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Big D,

Yes to everything except the chocolate. Don't get me wrong - I like chocolate but prefer savoury stuff.




River said...

@Big D; get a kindle and load it with 1000 books?

H2B said...

My travelling essentials are passport and credit cards. I don't read or listen to music while travelling - too much to see, taste, do. Plenty of time to read at home. On the plane, I would rather watch free movies - savings on movie tickets which cost an arm and leg back home. On land transport, will sock in all the scenery, plus will get sick if I read. In the hotel, will watch local TV just to see what strange programs are on.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi H2B,

I think you might need some reading material if you were stuck in a hotel in the middle of nowhere, in Russia, in the middle of winter (temperatures outside of -20 degrees) for three weeks, with nothing on TV except Russian soap operas and Russian MTV (yes it does exist).