An insight into the world of travel

Day Pack Essentials and Dodging Excess Baggage Fines December 9, 2009

Filed under: Rio,Travel — backpackerbird @ 4:55 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I thought this day would never come. 6 long months I have been waiting patiently ’till the day when I can start packing. ‘You still have 3 weeks left until you hit the road’ I hear you say… 3 weeks of  trying to fit all my friends around the last few days of work. Many a boozy night is ahead of me now, I simply haven’t got time to wait any longer. Of cause I will probably pack, unpack, re pack and pack again. Im that kind of organised freak.

So I thought I would compile a detailed list of what I would call Day Pack Essentials. I will follow this blog up with Backpack Essentials. But for now here is all you will need in your day pack, all the things you will need to hand, a fool-proof guide to getting it right when travelling.

I must add, the day pack is an extension to your backpack. If you are anything like me you will be struggling to fit all you want to take in one rucksack. Things tend to overspill into the daypack particularly when you have been on the beaten track for a while. No matter how hard you try not to buy useless tack that at the time you thought would be a perfect gift for your mum, you inevitably end up carting around more than you set out with. Curbing spending money on such things is a skill I am yet to acquire.

I had been in South America for 3 months when I was due to fly from Rio to Lima. I had the mistake buy, my Roxy soft surf bag (mentioned in Getting the right backpack. (a follow up on what to take)), my day pack, additional hold all I had purchased in Argentina and a stiff cardboard tube containing a large (100cm x 30cm) panoramic photo of  Rio. Arriving at the check in desk I was asked the usual… ‘Has anyone helped you pack your bags to day?’ No… ‘Has anyone offered to carry your bags today?’ No… and ‘How many bags will you be checking in today?’ Ummm. Well I did try my hardest to check in just the one bag and sneek the rest on as hand luggage but of cause there is a weight restriction on this. And yes you guessed it, my bags were over that limit, even over the check in bag weight limit. I was carrying 45kg, 23kg over the limit.  Oooppps.

A moment later and a receipt was presented to me, the charge of my 3 month long over spend in South America… $200. £200? I can’t have had $50 to my name at this point of my travels, how was I going to pay for that. Jesus I’m in trouble. Panic set in, I had to battle with the tears that wanted so badly to steam down my embarrassed red cheeks. I took a huge gulp and asked to speak to someone about this matter. I quickly composed myself and put on my ‘I can talk myself out of anything’ head and walked towards the smartly dressed official who was coming my way, he had a look of purpose across his face. this wasnt going to be easy.

My Spanish wasnt the best let alone my Portuguese, I didnt have a hope of understanding this guy. I tested my charm on him, it didnt work. He soon got fed up of me begging in a language he didn’t understand and sent me to an office behind the check in desks. Here I was pleasantly greeted by a good looking petite girl, I’d say a reject air hostess who didn’t meet the hight restrictions to be a fully fledged hostess so had been shoved in an office. I sat in front of her and tried my very hardest to explain my situation. After a good old grovel and an animated shaking out of my purse to reveal only a $20 note and a few coins. we came to an agreement. I would slip her the $20 and she would work her magic. I couldnt believe it, I had got away with a $200 fine for a backhand $20. I went on my way. Result. Lets hope I don’t acquire too much excess baggage this time round!

So, a good place to start when deciding what to pack in your day pack would be to look in the bag you use on a day to day basis in your normal life. If you usually carry medication pack that, if you chew gum, throw that in. There are the additional seasonal indispensable, sun cream and mosquito repellant. This is what I plan to have in my day pack and why.

Camera – any one who knows me knows that I cannot leave home without my camera, capture every moment forever.

Sun cream – avoid looking like a lobster.

Passport – you wont be going anywhere without this.

Vaccination record – some countries can be funny about you entering without proof of vaccines.

i pod – helps ease the 17hr flights and 24hr bus journeys. (although mine has just decided to die, typical)

Phone – not only can you communicate but doubles up as a clock. I never wear a watch when travelling, the only time you really need to know the time is if you are catching a flight.

Purse/wallet – goes without saying or you’ll get nowhere.

Insect repellent (deet) – avoid being eaten alive in the tropics.

Lip balm spf 20 – to soften lips on the air conditioned planes and to avoid burning lips in scorching heat.

Condom – you never know when you might need one,always protect yourself.

Sunglasses – or you will be blinded by the lights

Lighter – dont get caught out when you fancy a little recreational drug use.

Antibacterial hand gel – get those hands clean before eating.

Deodorant – freshen up on a  long journey.

Toothbrush and paste – get rid of that travel breath after being asleep on the bus for hours.

Chewing gum – freshen your breath before liaising with the opposite sex.

Spare memory card – you dont want to run out of photo space before you have chance to download them.

Padlock – lock your bag when you are in crowded places or if you are leaving it to persue an activity like sky diving.

Penknife – Always useful, make sure the blades are less than 6” or you will run the risk of being interrogated for carrying an offencive weapon.

Medication – paracetamol, antihistamines etc

Guide book – always good to read up on where you are heading.

Journal – you never know when you might be inspired to write. Good for scrawling down contact details of people you meet.

Mac-in-a-sac – A good a place as any to keep your rain coat, at hand to whip out in a flash tropical storm.

As you become more comfortable with travel you will tailor your day pack to your individual needs. You will realise what you need regularly and can’t face digging deep down into the depths of your backpack for every time you require it. You may leave your backpack on the roof of an Asian mini bus or in the hold of a Boeing 747 but your day pack will by always by your side.


Getting the right backpack. (a follow up on what to take) December 1, 2009

Filed under: Travel — backpackerbird @ 11:21 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

So you have a rough idea as to what to take with you on your epic trip around the world, but what do you put it all in? From experience it is vitally important that you are totally comfortable with your choice of rucksack. Don’t rush into buying the 1st one you see just because it looks pretty or it has an appealing price tag. Do your research.

Wise words: I ditched my 1st backpack in Australia because I fancied an updated model. I decided I was going to be a surf bum and sack off the backpack I had bought back home and opted for an all singing, all dancing Roxy soft surf bag on wheels. Ideal for the streets of Byron bay and Airlie Beach, all I needed to do is lug it on and off  busses. Simple. It wasnt untill I reached the rough terrain of South America that my mistake was realised. Wheels don’t fair well on dusty dirt tracks and the size of my new  (100 l, as a posed to my previous 65 l) bag only tempted me to fill it and it got almost too heavey to hurl onto a taxi roof. Not very practical.

So a few things to consider…

Size does matter: In the past I have used a 65 l top loading bag. This I found was a little too big for my frame. (I am only 5ft 3.5”, dont forget the .5!) The bag was almost as big as me and with my sleeping bag stung to the bottom and the roll mat tied to the top from behind I looked like a backpack on legs. This time I have chosen to only take a 55l backpack. 10 l doesnt sound like much but it most definitely makes a whole world of difference. Firstly weight. Less of a strain on your back. dont forget you will be hauling your bag around with you everywhere you go. You can edit what you take, less is quite often more. You dont really need to take all those shoes do you? Top Tip: if you have a top loading bag you often dont see the things you have lurking at the bottom for months. You tend to wear the same things over and over until they have so many holes in you have to get rid!

Comfort control: Think about the quality of the straps on the backpack. look at the material they are made from. You want to go for a breathable fabric, you will be sweating quite a lot. Go for adjustable back, great for a unique fit. The hip strap is essential. you will carry the bulk of the weight on your hips do as not to pull on your shoulders. We dont all want to look like hunchbacks now do we?

Pocket it: You want to be looking for a rucksack with plenty of pockets. Pockets mean organisation, a well oiled traveller is always organised. It is imperative that you know exactly where everything is at all times. I have a pocket for toiletries, separate from everything else for ease of reach and to minimise mess in the event of leakages (trust me it happens often). A pocket for documents, usually down the back of the main compartment hidden away. Pockets for easy to reach things that you will use daily like guide book, sarong, sunglasses, suncream etc. And a compartment for all things dirty, I use the bit at the bottom to separate the grime from the clean. You want to minimise contamination of sweaty smells as much as possible.

Brand and look: The rest us up to personal preference. Some find top loading bags a hassle and opt for fold out larger bags rather like a suitcase on your back. A benefit of this style is that they usually come with a day pack attached. But purchasing a smaller everyday pack isnt a bother.

Backpacks on the market:

Vango Deluxe 70 Litre Rucksack

a a a
Vango Deluxe 70 Litre Rucksack
Vango Deluxe 70 Litre Rucksack Adjustable Back System


Vango Deluxe 70 Litre Rucksack endorsed by Duke of Edinburgh Awards
lightweight and abrasion resistant
advanced multi-adjust back system
ergonomic & reinforced padded hip belt

This rucksack from Vango has been built to last and is officially recommended by the Duke of Edinburgh awards. The construction is a combination of 600D textured dense weave polyester and lightweight 200D diamond ripstop polyester. This gives strength and abrasion resistance as well as keeping the bag lightweight.

Karrimor 65L Rucksack

Karrimor 65L Rucksack


Weight: 1750g
Karrimor 65L RucksackThis 65 litre capacity rucksack from Karrimor is a great value bag for those on a budget but who still want something that is built to last. It has a size tolerant back system that will comfortably fit the majority of people and the padded shoulder and waist straps will keep it in place! It has 2 main compartments with a top loading main section and a zip access bottom compartment. These can be combined by opening the drawstring divider.

The rucksack is constructed from 600D ripstop polyester which is both robust and lightweight. It uses bartacks and rotproof thread to ensure it will last! It has 2 large fixed side pockets and a pocket in the hood. Also has a front zipped pocket for documents and bungee cords on the lid for attaching additional items such as a sleeping mat.

Gelert 55 Litre Rucksack

Gelert 55 Litre Rucksack


Gelert 55 Litre Rucksack fully adjustable back system
expandable side pockets
 built in rain cover
reinforced & adjustable waist belt
multiple attachment points

This pack is perfect for people who aren’t thinking of taking too much stuff or for smaller folk who would be flattened by a bigger pack! Part of Gelert’s core range, this is a high quality rucksack that would be as home in Australia as it would on the hillside.

Vango 70+20L Travel Backpack

a a a
Vango 70+20L Travel Backpack
Vango 70+20L Travel Backpack Back System 3 way rucksack cover


Weight: 3.25kg

Vango 70+20L Travel Backpack

  • advanced adjustable back system
  • 3 in 1 rucksack cover
  • extremely durable design
  • lifetime guarantee
  • air mesh on body contact points
  • internal organiser pockets
  • side opening like suitcase
  • removable 20 litre daysack

This backpack from Vango is at the top of their travel range. If you are looking for a bag that you will hand down to your kids then this is the one for you! Fully featured travel backpack with unique features such as an advanced anatomical adjustable back system and 3 way backpack cover.

Gelert 60+15L Travel Backpack

a a a a
Gelert 60+15L Travel Backpack
Gelert 60+15L Travel Backpack Back view unzipped Back view zipped


Material: 600D Ripstop Polyester Size: W30 x D23 x H65 cm Weight: 2.5kg Daysack Size: W27 x D12 x H37 cm

Gelert 60+15L Travel Backpack Padded adjustable back system
Zip out expanding section
Inter locking security zips
High visibility rain cover
 15L Removable Daysack

This 2009 bestselling backpack from Gelert is loaded with features and are ideal for backpacking and gap years. Best of all they come with a lifetime guarantee! 60 litre main pack with 15 litre daysack. Very limited stocks from Gelert so don’t miss out!

Gelert Ladies 55 Litre Rucksack

Gelert Ladies 55 Litre Rucksack
Gelert Ladies 55 Litre Rucksack  


Gelert Ladies 55 Litre Rucksack front and top loading
integral dry bag
security pocket on waist strap
dual section padded waist strap
fully adjustable back system

This top quality rucksack has been designed especially for a womens fit. The shorter torso back system is fully adjustable and the padded waist belt is made in two sections which can be adjusted and then locked down for the optimum fit around the hip. There is also extra padding at the lower back for increased lumbar support. You can even move the chest strap so it doesn’t get in the way of you know what!


Backpackerbirds guide to, What to take. November 29, 2009

Filed under: Travel — backpackerbird @ 1:09 pm
Tags: , , ,

Ok, so you’ve got your e- tickets, you’ve sorted out the all important travel insurance, and you are just waiting on your final visa to be approved. (heres hoping my passport makes its way back to me from the Vietnamese Consulate on time!) What next?… what to pack…

Here is the backpackerbird’s checklist. All you need to know about what you definitely do need to take and what you can afford to leave out… non of this sales pitch at Millets or over cautious travel guide talk. This is the stripped bare version. The real guide…

Ok there are a few things you categoricaly must take.

Travel documents: You dont want to get to Heathrow airport check in desk and realise you have left you tickets or passport behind. This however is a minor issue provided you have a willing parent or friend to dash back and get them. This is what the 3hr checkin time is for… isnt it!!! However it is a very different story if you find yourself rifling through your bag at the Brazilian border trying desperately to find the all important Yellow Fever certificate you were sure you packed. No documents, no entry. Remember to pack: Tickets, insurance documents, passport, vaccination certificates, visa documents, and always have a few spare passport photos for the visas you will get on entry to some countries. They usually ask for 2 photos with your application. Consider taking your references, if you are wanting to find work along the way it is always useful to have these to hand.

Medication: You mustn’t leave home without your pills. You dont want to be visiting the local Balinese backstreet doctor for your medication. Take it from me you would rather go without. Although if you do manage to forget anything there is a Boots on Ko San Road, Bangkok (assuming you are flying to Thailand 1st, most do)

Padlocks: All guide books like The Rough Guides 1st Time Around The World (a very enjoyable and informative read for those of you who have not travelled before) will advise you to take a lot useful and some unnecessary items, padlocks however are an essential. You have your life in your backpack, everything you need to survive. You dont want anything to go missing. From experience I have found that the majority of the backpacking community are extremely honest and are more interested in getting stoned and having a good time than stealing their fellow travellers belongings. It is not here you need to be too worried about, it is when you are passing across borders and flying to new lands that you need to be more vidulent. Always lock your bag at the zips and use a wire to attach your bag to the leg of your bed on any sleeper trains you go on. You will relax more if you know your belongings are safe. You dont want to be sleeping with one eye open.

Lighter: Always useful be it for lighting the fire on a Thai beach,getting the BBQ started in Australia or for use in recreational past times!

Penknife: If it’s not the knife you need it’s the scissors or the bottle opener. a very useful tool. Dont leave without it.

Sleeping bag and sleep sheet: If you are only visiting hotter climes a sleeping bag will not be needed. Take a good all round sleeping bag if you are going to be experiencing cooler weather e.g. Australian winter (yes it does get nippy). A sleep sheet however is a must have travellers essential. I have a silk one but cotton sleep sheets can be easier on the purse. Benefits to silk are, it will roll up much smaller and it will keep you cool in hot weather and warmer in cold. Not a night went by where i didnt use my sheet. If you find yourself in a grubby hostel with not so clean beds (it happens often) you can sleep easy knowing you are in your clean sheet. You can also line your sleeping bag with your sheet for extra warmth in those cold Andean Mountain passes.

Deet: By far the best insect repellant ever. You can find it in all good camping stores. Opt for 50+%, the higher the % the better. Mozzies hate the stuff. dont get caught out, bites are itchy and not too attractive!

Sun cream: Protect your skin. The sun is more damaging than you think, even if its cloudy. A burnt nose is a real turn off! go for high SPF. I always use 30 when Im travelling. Your not on holiday, you dont have to sun worship and get wrinkled skin, you are going to be in the sun for months, build up a good tan safely.

Travel towel: There is no room for a fluffy white towel. Go for a small anti-bacterial travel towel (available in all good camping stores). They are small, granted, but  you only need it to dry the nooks and crannies, most of the time you will drip dry. Think about buying a sarong in Asia for all those trips to the beach. A brilliant cover up (even for you guys) and doubles up as a towel to lay on on the beach. I have discovered, the sarong dressed, very useful ( if you are a girl).

Ear plugs: Staying in dorms in hostels is such good fun, I think the best way to meet people, but you will always get a snorer. Equipt yourself with a set of good plugs and you will sleep easy.

Torch: Vital for midnight pee’s on camping trips in the outback where light is hard to come by once they have turned the generator off. You dont want to be peeing on the a neighbours tent. Also useful on over night bus trips in Asia when you can’t sleep and fancy reading a book.

Mac-in-a-sac: (other brands are available) It is a given that you will, at some point experience torrential rain, be it in Asia, in the north of Australia and most likely in Europe. Keep your mac handy rolled up in the bottom of your day bag ready to whip out in a second for those equally as quick showers.

Washing line: What? I hear you ask… I have always taken a Lifevendure washing line. There are usually washing lines available in communal areas of most hostels but I like to hang my underwear in the private of my room. Dont fancy everyone seeing my smalls thanks. It works on a twisted elastic basis. You simply hook the line up and trap your knickers in ech twist of the elastic, no need for pegs. Genius. Try good for all the travel essentials I have mentioned.

Electricals: Dont forget your iPod and phone and more importantly dont forget the chargers. Those 12 hr bus journeys will seem like 24hrs with no music to listen to and a phone is always useful. I tend to get a new sim card for each country I go to that I’m staying in for a while. Excellent for keeping in touch with fellow travellers. Vodafone have fantastic sim only deals in Australia and New Zealand. Consider taking a Mini laptop (notebook) I didn’t take one last time but I have head times have changed. WiFi is readily available in most places. Using your own laptop is far better than the computers you can come across is some backstreet internet cafes, trust me they are old and very slow.

Travel guides: A good tool to refer to to double check border opening times, hostel phone numbers and train times. Most information you need you will get from other travellers who have been there, done that but a guide book is always useful for planning ahead.

Aside all the above dont forget your clothes and wash kit will you. You will not get too far without these!

A more detailed kit list will follow. I will write as I pack.


Sacrifices. November 25, 2009

Filed under: Travel — backpackerbird @ 7:26 pm
Tags: , ,

If you can count the times you have been overdrawn on one hand there is definitely something wrong with your spending habits. We’re all as bad as each other. There is rarely a month goes by that I’m within budget. I can’t help myself, it’s those must have shoe-boots that Pixie Lott is rocking or that Benefit product that looks good enough to eat, it’s packaged so beautifully. I would go as far as to say I’m a marketing executives dream. Im drawn in by all the big lights, the all singing, all dancing gimmick, the BOGOF’s. It’s all one big scam to draw the credulous consumer (AKA me) in. I know what you’re game is. I know how these things work, so why can’t I stop myself? 

1 st it was the backpack. I just had to have the last model, the most appealing colour, the one with the most gadgets. Of cause non of which is really necessary and when I’m away. The colour of my bag is of  little importance, it’s more the amount of pockets it has and the comfort of it that really matters. Thankfully I know a man who can and I managed to wangle a rather large discount off my fabulous bag. It is certainly who you know not what you know. 

So, backpack aside I realised I am going to have to curb my spending habits or I would end up with more products than I could possibly want or even need to take away with me. After all there is limited space in my 55l monsoon. I will have to eliminate the un-necessary and only pack the essentials I require for my trip. Afterall if I am going to want to squeeze my  hair straighteners in, the 5 bikinis, 4 pairs of flip-flops, 3 hoodies, 2 pairs of leggings, 5 boobtubes, 4 skirts and a mac-in-a-sac might just have to be reduced. The straighteners are staying! 

I am trying to combat my addiction by staying away from shops, which is near impossible when I work in a shopping center. It’s a case of straight in and out of work, blinkers on so no shop window has chance to lure me in. I have even decided to leave my bank cards at home so I’m not tempted by all the beautiful new stock we have in our shop daily.  I keep telling myself  it will all be worth it. Its killing me.

I didn’t even cave in when Kasabian tickets were dangled in front of me like a carrot in front of a donkey. A few weeks back I would have snapped them up. I love them. All my friends were going to the gig. There was so much hype. But rationality took over and I did not buckle. I didn’t need to go, so I simply said no. I bloody wish I hadn’t, it sounded like an amazing night. However: I am now not in my overdraft for the 1st time in forever and I havent had to eat into my travel funds. I am only half way through the month though. Well here’s to making do with the 15 different types of lip gloss I own and digging out those shoe-boots I already had.


I have a dream. November 19, 2009

Filed under: Travel — backpackerbird @ 7:56 pm
Tags: , , , ,

You know when you wake up in the middle of the night with an idea so great that you can’t get back to sleep for love nor money? (not that there was any one there to love me or to pay me). Well it happened to me last night. Erika. Ive got it… I am going to document my forthcoming travels to enable others to travel with more ease. I will provide a service to my fellow trekkers. I will tell you of the amazing places I’ve been and the places to avoid like the plague. You will come flocking to my site for the latest news and best places to go. You will love it. That is if i can get my non technical mind round how to blog in the first place!!! Im a bit of a technophobe, but:  I have equiped myself with the latest gadgets (thanks Dave from my local Comet store, he really did live electricals!) and I will be taking them away with me. I have plenty of time to learn the basics before I go, 6 weeks to be exact. Ooo not that long come to think of it. I will have to enlist the help of my friend Adam the techno king and my brother  Josh the ‘I’ll try anything’ dude who is back from living it up in London town any day soon. Here’s hoping they have the patience of angels because I really do have  limited knowledge of this whole demain. Wish me luck.