Military guys are always on the move. They’re tough, they’re light packers (except for all that weaponry), and have refined the art of travel to a science.
I’ve never been in the military, but judging by the way I travel, people think I have been. I owe that to my father.
Let’s take a look at some of the best tough and light weight travel advice that I swear by, some learned from military family and friends. I explain why I love each point so much.
- Wear shoes. Why? If you crash, have to run, or your tootsies get cold, you’d better not be wearing flip flops. On the same note, don’t wear super complicated lace-up boots or high-heels – obviously that’s not going to help you if you’ve got to swim. Most important, take care of your feet when you travel.
- Bring a headlamp and wear it around your neck on the plane. Why? When the lights go off for sleepy time, you’ll be prepared to keep reading without having to dig through all your stuff. Also, for the survivalists out there, if the plane goes down in the dark, you’ll be the lucky one with a bright light around your neck.
- Remind yourself occasionally of how many bags you have with you. Say, “My name is Gabby and I have 2 bags.” Why? This might sound strange, but it’s kept me from ever forgetting a bag.
- Close your bag’s zipper in the center. Why? You’ll never have to take those extra seconds to open the bag if you know exactly where the zipper opening is. Those 2 seconds count when you’re under fire… or you just need your water bottle in a jiffy.
- Bring a pen or pencil wrapped in a half-inch of masking tape. Why? Obviously a writing utensil comes in handy, and so does masking tape. Put them together and leave the roll of tape at home.
- Do not have more bags than you can comfortably carry and run with. Why? If you’re about to miss a flight, or you’re under enemy fire, you’d better book it. Don’t tell me you’re going to carefully tug your big old wheelie suitcase behind you as you saunter up to the gate… as your plane takes off. Also, I recommend using army issue bags, or bags that are made of water-resistant black material with a drawstring (not zipper – because zippers break, and drawstrings can be easily replaced).
- Only 3 toiletries = baby powder, baking soda, vaseline. Why? You can do everything you absolutely need with these items. Trust me. And then if you desperately need other toiletries, you can buy or borrow them. Baby powder is great as facial powder for oily skin, for humid climates and your sweaty feet, for your oily roots when you can’t wash your hair… Baking soda can be used as deodorant, toothpaste, body cleanser and shampoo, also nice for washing anything… Vaseline is for moisturizing cracked skin, burns, is a makeup remover (if you’re even wearing makeup), great for your lips, and also nice for a stuck zipper.
- And dental floss. This is an additional toiletry, but also doubles as thread, string, a tie, etc. Take some off of the bobble before you leave, so you’re just packing the floss and not the container.
- Make copies of your ID and bank cards. Why? Obviously, if you lose this important information, you’re going to want a backup. Make copies of both sides because the customer help hotline phone numbers will be on the back of your cards. If you have a smart phone, take pictures and email them to yourself. On this topic, don’t forget to call your bank to tell them you are traveling out of the country. Also, if you can bring an expired ID it could be helpful. Like, for instance, if you need to show ID and don’t think you’ll get your ID back.
- Pack your clothes using the ranger roll and skivvy roll methods.Why? It will save you a ton of space and you won’t have to carry so much luggage! Yes, it will be heavier, but so much more efficient in terms of space. Also, the skivvy roll method is brilliant for organizing your essentials that you need to change each day. This is particularly helpful if you are staying in a group room like in a hostel and you want to grab your clothes without shuffling through your bags, and thereby waking up everything else in the room. By the way, pack more skivvy rolls (socks, t-shirts, underwear) than you think you’ll need.
- Keep your travel info in 4 places. Why? If you lose your travel info, you’ll be sad. Before you leave home, memorize where you’re going and how to get there, print this information out, have it in your email, and leave the info with a trusted friend or family member back home.
- Bring a mini bottle of liquor. Why? On a long flight it will help you get some sleep. On a short flight, it may help you make friends. Also, it will lower your changes of an H. Pylori infection — no Montezuma’s revenge for this traveler!
- Spread your money out. Why? I don’t mean your budget, although that’s helpful too. If you “lose” your money, you don’t want to lose all of it. Keep cash in your shoe, in your bag, in your bra, wherever, just spread it out. Instead of keeping your wallet in a back pocket, keep it in the front, or better yet use a modern money belt. My favorite money belt / fanny pack / everyday everything awesome purse and pocket replacement is the SPIBELT. I seriously wear this thing all the time because it keeps my hands free and it’s the perfect size for my cellphone, wallet and keys. I also really like the FLIPBELT.
- Make your own travel pillow. Why? For heaven’s sake, please, please, please don’t waste your space and money on a travel pillow. They’re absolutely ridiculous. If you need something to rest your head on, do this: stuff the sleeves of a long-sleeve shirt full of other shirts, wrap the shirt over on itself so nothing falls out, and voila — you have a “travel pillow.”
- Have a backup plan and learn to let go. Why? When you travel, plans can change. Flights get delayed, the weather changes for the worse, military coups ban you from entering countries, you know, the usual. So, did you pack a snack? Do you have a water bottle? Is your cellphone charged? Do you have cash on hand? Do you have all of your valuables on your person or in your carry on bag? Are you OK with letting go of your perfect, planned down-to-the-minute spreadsheet plan? Good, because you’re going to have to get used to it.
Thanks for taking a look at these military-inspired tips. I love travel for adventure, and it’s easy to have more of it if you think like a GI.