Travel gear

We’re heading out to Paris tomorrow and I’m spending the afternoon getting stuff together and trying not to forget any of the moving parts required for trips overseas.

Travel stuff

Here are some of our standard accessories:

Books

A travel book, of course, for help finding vegetarian restaurants and interesting stuff outside of the obvious, and a notebook for addresses, directions, things we want to do, and so on. I like Time Out books as guides, they seem more useful to me than some of the others. I usually carry a regular Moleskine for writing but I’m trying to pare down the stuff I’m carrying to a bare minimum, so I considered just using 3×5 index cards for this, but notebooks are far more useful so I’m sticking with it. My usual travel notebook is 5×8 inches; that isn’t big by any means but I thought about picking up something smaller when I remembered about Moleskine City Notebooks. These are just over 3×5 inches and also contain street and metro maps and all sorts of other useful stuff. Not available for all cities, but they do have a Paris edition, so we’re trying these out this time.

I had initially planned to buy a Garmin nüvi GPS unit before my next trip overseas, but this trip came pretty unexpectedly and I didn’t want to drop another couple hundred dollars on top of our airfare and accommodations on such short notice.

Time and communication

I don’t normally wear a watch, preferring to just use the clock on my mobile phone, but it’s a little silly to carry a phone around if I won’t be needing it. In the past I’ve carried my mobile phone overseas just for the clock, despite having no service, and had to deal with keeping it charged and converting the time on the fly. Dumb. A watch is a fraction of the size, can easily be set to local time, requires no maintenance, and also tells 24 hour time by way of a second series of digits around the face. I still don’t like wearing a watch so I’ll probably just keep it in my bag or pocket.

I probably won’t need a mobile phone, but I like to have one just in case. Our iPhones are useless overseas so I’ve kept around my unlocked GSM RAZR for this purpose. It’s small, light, and I can buy a local SIM card if I decide I need it.

Power

The big black thing in the photo is a universal power plug adapter. It’s got a great design — It’s extremely light and compact, and accepts plugs from all over the world and has a series of prongs that slide out the other end to fit the wall sockets anywhere we go. It doesn’t do voltage conversion but the type of things we need to plug in while traveling — camera, phone, and iPod chargers — all have DC converters that can handle up to 240 volts, so we don’t need it. The one thing this doesn’t do is accept grounded US plugs, like the one on my laptop. For this I picked up an Apple adapter kit that supplies all the plugs I’ll need, anywhere I go.

I’m struggling with how much to pack. The apartment we rented in Paris has a washer and dryer, so I could conceivably just bring a weekend bag and wash my clothes every couple days. We’ll be doing this to some extent, probably packing for four days, but I keep feeling like that’s still too much when I could get it down to three, which would allow me to bring a smaller bag. I’m a little obsessed with traveling light.

While browsing the shelves at Flight 001 in Berkeley, Sarai suggested that the reason people love travel accessories so much is that they help make an otherwise unbearably dehumanizing experience — ie, flying coach anywhere — a little more fun. If only we could get bumped to business class across the Atlantic again, like we did once a couple years ago. That’s what flying should be like.