I don’t really enjoy travelling all that much.
Don’t get me wrong, I like being in different places just fine. It’s just the process of getting from A to B that has become less exciting over time.
I’ve really appreciated a few recommendations, like noise-cancelling headphones, that have made the whole process far easier to bear.
I thought I’d write this up in the hope that a few of you also get a few ideas. Also, some of these links are to affiliate partners like Amazon, so I’ll get a commission if you make a purchase… that was an excellent rationale too :).
Anyway, without further ado, my favourite travel thingies!
Main bag: Osprey Shuttle 130l
I like big bags and I cannot lie.
The Shuttle model is huge, 130L, although to me it just seems normal-sized now. I’m pretty good at filling it up. Usually, if I pack reasonably carefully, I can get all of my dive and snorkel gear, including free-diving fins, in here, with plenty of extra room for clothes, photographic equipment, and whatever else I need to take with me. It wheels around nicely, and it’s relatively lightweight.
Osprey bags are well-designed, and they have a lifetime guarantee. That’s for realsies, too: a few years ago, I accidentally killed an Osprey daypack by dropping it into the ocean. It was still okay for about 18 months but, eventually, the zips corroded. I took it into a local distributor (not where I bought the bag, and I didn’t have a receipt), they had a look, declared it DOA, and I walked out with a brand new replacement bag.
Nice when a company really stands behind their products.
I usually bring a generic large duffle bag along with me too, stuffed into my Shuttle, so I can use that as a dive gear bag or general overflow storage as necessary.
Camera bag: Think Tank Airport Accelerator
This bag fits almost all of my camera equipment, along with my laptop and other fragile items.
Importantly, it doesn’t look too conspicuous, so I’m never asked to weigh it. That would be awkward for both of us.
Stuff bag: Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Daypack
This folds away to nothing, but it’s great as a light bag for wandering around, stuffing under the seat in a plane, whatever. I use it all the time.
Laptop: MacBook Pro 13′ (2015)
My travel (and office) computer is a 2015 MacBook Pro with a 13′ screen. I’ve got the 512 gb hard drive, 8 gb RAM configuration.
It’s a couple of years old now, but still going strong. Apple put out an updated version in 2016, but I’m not in any hurry to upgrade.
When I’m in New Zealand, I have the laptop plugged into a Dell UltraSharp UP2716D 27 inch colour-calibrated monitor (perfect for photographers – full Adobe RGB colour spectrum!), and use an Apple trackpad and Apple keyboard.
External hard drive: Seagate Backup Plus 5TB
I’ve got a couple of these. I could cull the many terrible photos in my Lightroom catalogue but, meh, I just keep buying bigger hard drives.
Phone: Google Nexus 6 (with Project Fi):
My ‘global roaming’ phone. It has a large 6′ screen, so it’s good for reading ebooks and watching movies on planes etc.
Google’s Project Fi sim may be new to many of you, but it’s great. It’s only available to US subscribers, and it only works with a small number of Google-approved phones (see current compatibility here), but it has been a total game-changer for me.
Project Fi can connect to local phone networks in almost every country (135 as I’m writing this; here’s the list), without me having to do anything, and gives me a permanent global (US) phone number. Most importantly, it’s the same price for data anywhere in the world: $10 per gb. If you use 1oo mb, you pay $1. If you use 1.2 gb, it’s $12. No worries.
Of course, it’s usually cheaper to switch to a local sim card if I’m in the country for a while, and that’s easy – these phones are all unlocked – but an immediate connection on arrival just makes life so much easier. One of my most useful travel essentials. You can read more about the service here.
Highly recommended, obviously.
As an aside, obviously I’m not from the US, but I was still able to get a Project Fi sim. I just used a US postal address (NZ Post’s YouShop service) and initially registered using a US credit card, then immediately switched the billing to my NZ card.
My Nexus 6 is pretty old now, so eventually I’ll buy a new phone. I’ll probably get a Google Pixel 2, as they’re supposed to have a fantastic camera (for a phone, at least). I like the big screen on the Nexus, as it was my primary reading device for a long time, but as I’ve got the iPad Mini 4 now I’ll get a smaller phone in future.
Reading device: iPad Mini 4
I got this partly because iOS devices seem to work better with my DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone, but mainly because I wanted a good device for reading. I love reading, but I’m too distractable when I’m on the phone. To avoid interruptions, I don’t have email on this, Facebook, anything like that. It’s wonderful.
I picked mine up refurbished on the Apple website for a good price, worth checking for a good deal.
External battery: Anker 16000mAh Portable Charger
Great for charging all my shiny things when I’m out and about.
Noise-cancelling headphones: Bose QC-20’s:
My PhD student Clare had been telling me for years that her noise-cancelling headphones were amongst her most treasured possessions, possibly because we often sit next to one another on long flights. After reading lots of reviews, I got this (expensive) set at the end of 2015.
Have they been worth it? Absolutely. I use them every day. They’re fantastic for travel, but I also use them for phone calls, listening to music and podcasts, shutting out distractions if I’m working in a cafe… they’re one of my favourite things. My philosophy is, if I’m going to spend a lot of time using an item of gear, I get the best that I can reasonably afford.
Note that there are different models for Apple and Android devices.
Water bottle: Camelback eddy:
Magic. Doesn’t spill. Love it.
Lounge membership: Priority Pass
Another wonderful recommendation. Priority Pass provides access to A LOT of airport lounges. That allows me to sit somewhere quiet and get work done, chat with my travel buddies in comfort, or grab a shower and a meal during a stopover. Really reasonable price too (I bought it during a deal, membership + 10 lounge visits). Makes waiting around for the next flight almost pleasant.
Travel insurance: World Nomads
After a fair bit of research, I’ve found that World Nomads is the best travel insurance option for me. They cover normal travel stuff, health things, diving and other activities, and at least partially cover my gear.
Now you just have to pick a destination!
OH, THE HUMANATEE
I made an ebook! It's free.
Contains such wonders as the irrelephant, the majestic sea flap-flap, and a certain ginger pop star.