Travel Tips Tuesday: What to Bring When Traveling?

Over the last few years I’ve traveled all over the world for different projects, meetings, events and just for fun. No matter where I go—from a three day conference in Barcelona to a month traveling between different cities in India—I am sure to bring my man bag, filled with exactly what I might need for any situation that might arise. When I lead Atlas Workshops groups, I will often save the day with some essential item in the trusty man bag.

The challenge is to stay lightweight while still being prepared for anything. So here is my list of the 10 items you need with you while traveling the world with your man bag (or large purse, or travel bag, or backpack…).

What’s In My Man Bag?

  • A Sim Card Holder. On one trip last year, I visited more than 10 different countries. I covered a lot of ground, moving from the Electric City conference in London to the Christmas Market in Slovenia to an overnight at the Helsinki airport. For any country I was in for more than a couple of days, I invested in a sim card so I could make local calls. I repurposed a small pill case in my man bag to hold all of the sim cards I might need on my trip.

  • A Pill Container. I keep a second pill container in my bag full of just a few over-the-counter medications I might need. I carry everything from ibuprofen to Pepto-Bismol so that I’m prepared for whatever the world might throw at my immune system and able to make a quick rebound.

  • My Kindle/Tablet. I have been travelling with a Kindle (and now a new mini-tablet) for the last few years. It’s like having all of my books and more hidden inside the man bag. It’s low key to pull it out in lots of areas, and I love that I can highlight quotes to save for later.

  • A USB Flash Drive. Time and again I’ve found a basic flash drive comes in handy. For situations like an emergency Kinko’s run, or when I want to share photographs with friends in a cybercafe in a slum I’ve been working in, when I am on the road the flash drive is often quicker, cheaper, and more reliable than e-mail.

  • A Headlamp. Small and lighter than a flashlight, my LED headlamp is my emergency flashlight. And I use it more often than you might think. Helpful for everything from simply reading in bed when a roommate is sleeping to packing when the power goes out, a headlamp is a great thing to have on hand. Or at your side in the man bag.

  • My Back-Up Wallet. I want to travel light and prepared. I will almost always carry a back-up wallet with me. When I dropped my wallet in an Indian train station and it vanished before I could pick it up, I was very glad I had an extra credit card and ID on hand. I also keep all of my travel cards (foreign subway cards, frequent flyer card, etc.) in the back up wallet, to keep my normal wallet thin and light (Thanks Bellroy!).

  • A Mobile/Cell Phone Battery Pack. As we become increasingly dependent on our smart phones, it is a huge help to have some back up power (I like Anker), especially while in transit. When my phone ran out of battery after a long trip to Haiti, the battery pack gave me the recharge I needed to call my friend and get going in a pinch.

  • Chargers For Everything! The only messy thing in my bag is the tangle of electrical wires. But I always want to be sure to have my charger with me, rather than in my luggage, so I can keep the batteries topped up on all of my gadgets. I’m selective about the gadgets I buy so that they all use the same charging cable if possible. My international power adapter with USB ports, keeps me equipped for the different outlets around the world.
  • My Notebook. My notebook (and I mean the pen-and-paper kind, not a laptop) is a must have. We give every student on our programs their own notebook, which is useful for taking notes during meetings, jotting down ideas while traveling, keeping a journal or even noting down itinerary details. I never go anywhere without it. Atlas-Notebook-Blue

  • And Last But Not Least, A Good Pen! Actually, I’ll bring a few–you never know when you might leave one behind (on purpose or by mistake). I use them for everything from the crossword/sudoku to immigration/arrival forms. Having a pen on the plane keeps me entertained and on time. On the ground, I often take notes, jot down some observations, or sketch an idea in my notebook. And of course with a pen you can personalize a business card, write a postcard, or sign a deal (or an autograph!)

And The Newest Addition To My Man Bag? Atlas Workshops brochures! We just had them delivered and now I won’t go anywhere without a few of them. You never know who might want to join us (and my handy, and ever-so-fashionable man bag), on a global research adventure next summer.