This isn’t a list of the most essential accessories for overseas travel. You’re going to need a passport, money, a toothbrush, a suitable bag and a towel, but you already knew that, right? The accessories that we explore in detail below are all essential in that they will save you time, money and effort and will generally make your overseas trip a far more pleasurable experience.
1. Travel Journal
As any seasoned traveller will no doubt tell you, a notebook is as essential as a clean pair of undies when you’re abroad. Any old jotter will do, but if you’re willing to splash the cash, you can’t do much better than a leather journal.
Italian and oilcloth covered, Moleskine were the favoured notebooks of Picasso, Matisse, Kurakin and Hemingway, and you can’t argue with the weight of that collective opinion. Oh yeah, don’t forget to bring a pen too!
A netbook is a small, lightweight, portable laptop that can do almost anything a larger notebook can. Cheaper than their larger cousins, netbooks are particularly suited to web browsing and emailing.
The MSI WIND U100 is among the best on the market. Weighing in at just 4.4lb and measuring 12.3 x 8.7 x 3.4, it has an ample 120GB of memory, an Intel Atom N270 processor, Windows XP Home and an in-built high-resolution web cam, all for just $330. Perfect for staying in contact with friends and family via email, IM and Skype while you’re on the road.
3. 3G Mobile Internet Dongle
A small, inconspicuous 3G mobile internet dongle can be a lifesaver when there’s no wifi signal or internet cafe within range, and let’s face it, that’s usually the case. Although the connection speed might not be up to your usual standard, 3G coverage is very good across huge swathes of the globe.
Most cell phone operators sell 3G dongles these days, and they’re all very reasonably priced. Some are sold on a pay-as-you-go basis, while others are tied to a monthly charge and a download limit (typically 15GB per month).
You’ll just need to be wary about using data roaming on a frequent basis (especially if you are on a monthly contract) as the minutes and megabytes quickly stack up and many people have come home to staggeringly large bills.
4. Digital Camera
Every great trip deserves to be documented for posterity, gloating and/or boring your friends at home. Digital cameras are cheaper than ever and you can buy a very decent one online for under $200. Choose a camera that’s lightweight, pocket-sized and able to take a bit of a battering.
Any of the smaller cameras from the Panasonic Lumix range will be ideal: they all come with a top-quality Leica lens and an Intelligent Auto function to guarantee great pics.
5. USB Flash Drive
A USB flash drive is essential for backing-up and storing the hundreds of photographs that you’ll no doubt be taking on your travels. You can also store music, videos, maps, documents and any other files which might be of use. With a flash drive you can easily share files with the people that you meet abroad and, more importantly, steal music from them.
6. International Cell Phone
For social and emergency reasons, a cell phone is an essential item to pack, but do not make the mistake of taking your phone away without first checking with your network operator that it can be used overseas. Your phone itself must be capable of operating on various radio frequencies (most modern phones are) and your network operator must have established a roaming agreement with an operator abroad.
Some network operators insist that you contact them before travelling to ‘set up’ roaming capability. This is an ideal time to enquire about roaming charges, which can often be extortionate. If you’re going to be away for a while, it might make economic sense to buy a local pay-as-you-go handset or switch operator completely.
In the UK, Vodafone, for example, has abolished roaming charges in over 35 countries. If that’s not an option then you might want to try out an international cell phone rental whereby you get reduced international rates on calls and data.
7. Voltaic Solar Charger Bag
Handheld solar chargers are widely available for as little as $20. They generate free and renewable electricity from sunlight, which can then be used to charge any electronic device that you’ve brought with you. They contain in-built batteries, which store generated power for use whenever you want – perfect when you’re miles away from a plug socket.
The ultimate portable solar charger is the Voltaic Solar Bag, a rucksack covered in lightweight, waterproof solar panels. Larger bags can fully charge a laptop from one full day of sunlight, while smaller bags can power an MP3 player for three hours from just one hour of sun.
8. Hammacher Schlemmer Auto-Detecting Travel Adaptor And Converter
Assuming you can’t power everything with your solar charger alone, you’re going to need a travel adaptor for all your lovely electronic devices to work. Look no further than the 150-Country Auto-Detecting Travel Adaptor and Converter, the definitive travel adaptor by Hammacher Schlemmer. This beast of a gadget can charge two devices at once and can be used in over 150 countries. It even has an in-built USB port for charging small iPods and other USB-only devices.
9. LED Torch
Whether you’re camping out in the Amazon basin, backpacking ’round Thailand or five-starring it in San Tropez, an LED torch is an absolutely essential item to take with you. Modern LED torches are not only small and lightweight, they are super-bright and go on shining for hundreds of thousands of hours. They are really cheap, too: a good one will cost you under $10.
10. Swiss Army Knife
The Swiss Army knife has been an essential travel tool ever since the first one was made in 1897. There’s nothing quite as handy for chopping food, mending a broken suitcase and opening an ice-cold bottle of beer. The Wenger Giant Swiss Army knife has 87 implements and 141 functions, but at $1,400 and 2 pounds in weight, it might not be the most suitable for road warriors. The most basic of Swiss Army knives will do, but remember not to pack it in your hand luggage if you are flying anywhere.