I’ve been in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia again. My timing is best described as interesting as there was much strife in Iran and Iraq around the time I traveled here. The news reported on volcanos and wild fires. It all got me thinking about how I am traveling and contingencies.
Minimal is sexy
My trip was rather last minute due to some travel agency nonsense. As a result I had to travel with more stuff than I wanted, both left in the States in the trunk of my long term parked car and in what I carried. I’m still doing all carry-on with two bags. With some time and a place to safely stow my stuff I could drop 6-7 lbs.
While weight is a factor, the bigger part is being portable and quick. I don’t want to lug 46KG (about 100lbs) of luggage (the typical checked baggage allowance) when trying to evacuate on foot.
Also, I find the more stuff I bring the higher the percentage of stuff I never touch on the trip. Anyway, if there’s something I don’t have but need most places I visit will have a means for me to acquire it.
Make packing cubes work when at rest
There’s one school of thought about packing cubes: that one should keep their clothes in the cubes when in the hotel. I do not think that is a good idea. I empty my cubes (and compression sack) and put things away properly. This is particulrly important for nicer clothes. They should be hung or folded with air around them.
One thing I started doing several years ago was using my Patagonia day bag as a large packing cube, turning it into a multitasker. It works really well for my clothes bundle – a specific method of folding button down shirts and trousers and suits and skirts and blouses and … The bundle can get big, bigger than a typical packing cube. The day bag, however, can take it with room to spare.
I’m taking that idea further soon. Tom Bihn sells two packing cube bags. One is a backpack and the other a shoulder bag. They also sell a backpack called the DayLight, which one can also turn into a packing cube. These aren’t crazy expensive but are not cheap. The fact that I can get dual purpose out of them while providing me with a lot of bag flexibility on trips is attractive.
Tidy is as tidy does
Once a number of years ago I had to evacuate my hotel room in the middle of the night due to a water problem. My room was something of a mess. The chaos and sleepiness lead to me leaving several items behind and damaging some others. It took me way too long to get packed and out of the room.
I keep my room picked up at all times. No dirty clothes on the floor. Shirts, trousers, and jackets are on hangers. Most of my toiletries stay in my Dopp kit. Papers and cables are kept as neat as possible and returned to their home in my bag when not in use.
On this trip, even with my extra kit, I was able to pack in 30 minutes. That was a lazy pack. I could do it in under 20 minutes. That is key.
Registration has its privileges
Any time I head to a foreign country I register with the U.S. State Department’s STEP system. I also look up the embassy and consulate contact information and put them in my contact list. The hotel’s information goes in there, too.
I keep up on the local news. iOS and Android make it easy with their respective news apps. And I keep my weather app aware of my location to notify me of weather events. For example, last trip to Riyadh it rained most of the time I was there. It never occurred to me there might be a flood risk, but my app pinged be about flash flood warnings.
If I’m somewhere with active volcanos and earthquakes I will fire up the local government agency’s app for notifications as well.
Cash is King
I always carry local currency as well as American dollars. ATMs and credit card processors might not work in an emergency. Plus, it’s hard to tip with plastic.
I’m a cool frood who knows where his towel, and passport, is.
Yes, I travel with a towel. More importantly I travel with a passport. I’ve gotten in the habit of carrying the passport with me at all times.
A colleague of mine traveled to China last year and left his passport in his room when he went to work out in the hotel gym. When he returned he was unable to get back in his room for a few hours without explanation. It ended up being nothing, but had it been something he would have had a time getting help without it.
And so it goes …
There are other things that I can’t think of as I am sleepy. What things do you do when traveling to keep yourself safe?