An Amateur’s Guide to Travel Essentials

So I had a real talk with myself about whether or not I was going to make this post.

After starting my Amateur Guide series, I had often thought about what other travel related posts I could write. I still feel a bit too amateur to really go into specifics about things, and only feel comfortable telling you what I have learned from travel rather than being the ~travel guru~. That being said, I’ve already learnt so much from the little travelling I’ve done. And so I wanted to share with you my travel essentials; things I’ve realised I need, things that have been so helpful, and things I’ve forgotten in the past and seriously regretted!

When I think about packing for a trip, I just want to have a little cry. It is honestly the most boring thing you can do when it comes to planning a trip. I love figuring out where I’m going, where I’m staying, learning the basic phrases in a new language. But packing? It’s not my cup of tea. I’m bad at it, and I’m very forgetful and often have to buy things while I’m already there. It costs to forget stuff, so before I even think about putting something in a suitcase, I start a list.

First off, I start with the big (and perhaps obvious) things:

  • Clothes. Appropriate clothes that I will wear more than once. I might take another pair of shoes but usually I stick with a pair of Doc Martens or other thick and sturdy shoes. I do a lot of walking on my travels, but this is obviously different depending wear you’re going. If you’re going somewhere with a beach, take flip flops!
  • Towels. This could be just the one, but I like to have a big’un and a littl’un. Sometimes the hostels I stay in only provide towels if you’ve paid extra. For a broke amateur traveller, that doesn’t sit well with me. However, if you’re staying in a hotel or Air BnB, they usually provide them!
  • Travel documents, money, passport. If I didn’t take these I think I would be too amateur to travel!
  • Straighteners. Probably not an obvious thing and not too essential. But I just like to have them with me since hostels don’t usually provide, yet they sometimes provide a hairdryer. Plus, you’ll be everyone in that girls’ dorm’s best friend!

These are the things that fill up most of my suitcase. Everything else? Small, but essential bits that make the trip easier, nicer, and stress free!

I realised whilst packing for Copenhagen that carrying a lot of stuff was really going to bother me. I wanted to keep it to a small suitcase and my backpack and was a bit nervous that I wouldn’t fit everything in, especially since I have make-up and hair care and skin care products. I didn’t want to over pack; I liked the idea that I can just get-up and go with things that may not be needed in every day life, but a necessity whilst travelling.

One of the things that helps you with that is the 100ml limit of each liquid you carry on board a plane. This doesn’t count when you have luggage in the hold, but remember! A broke amateur never pays for space in the hold! And so I’m forced to really downsize my makeup and my whole wash bag kit. However, this does NOT mean buying ‘travel size’ items. They’re always more expensive than the larger size, even if it doesn’t seem it at first, you’re not getting enough for your money because they know you have to buy it if you want to take it with you. Yes, everyone has that one product that you just have to have with you and can only buy a travel size version of such as aerosol cans (for me it’s dry shampoo), but for everything else, there’s small, empty travel containers!

I use them for:

  • Moisturiser
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Shower gel

There’s so many different shapes and types of containers that can fit your needs. You can use them for much more than I do. Some have spray handles or pumps. I’m thinking of getting a small one for toothpaste. I have a super small toothpaste at the moment, but after I use it all, I don’t really want to buy another one!

But it also means that I don’t have to spend loads of money on little shampoos and little creams when I can just put my own in these reusable containers!

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I’ve also gotten a little obsessed with foldable things. This includes foldable hairbrushes. You know, the ones that you used to receive in a gift bag after a birthday when you were a kid, or you won out of a Christmas cracker? It folds and pushes out into the shape of a normal hairbrush, but takes up much less room. Also pictured is my foldable toothbrush, which I haven’t used for travelling yet and I’m kind of nervous because when it’s completely folded it looks like a switchblade. Oh well, I’ll let you know if I get stopped at security because they think I’m carrying a weapon!

Now that your wash bag is nice and light, it’s time to pack the things that make your travels that little bit more pleasant and smooth. As I like to take as little as I can with me, I do find it hard not to accumulate things like this. You know, little things that you might not need and could potentially get lost in your many, many bags. But I find that having these brings me a little more comfort. And hey, they’re also things that if you find you don’t have them, you can pick them up at a pharmacy, convenience store, or petrol station!

  • Earplugs. These are great for when you’re staying in a hostel, but they’re also good for overnight trains, and long plane journeys. I tend to lose mine, so it’s best to get the ones with a little snap shut box included, rather than ones that come in plastic packaging.
  • Sleep mask. For all the same reasons as the earplugs, but I would only wear it if I was going to sleep on a plane or in a hostel. I hate sleeping on public transport because I always worry that I’m going to miss my stop. Wearing a sleep mask will make it more likely! Great for when someone still has a lamp on in your hostel dorm, or if you’re on a plane and feel sick and the lights are too bright and you wanna die.
  • Headphones. But the small kind. I’ve taken my large over ear ones before and it was a big mistake. They take up too much space. Little ones that you can wrap in a loop and store in a bag’s pocket are perfect enough.
  • Hand sanitizer. Look, things are gross ok? Train station toilets. The little ‘stop’ buttons on buses. Theme parks. Nightclubs. DIRTY.  Just a little hand gel, that’s obviously 100ml or under ,will go a long way for you. Your friends will also love you.
  • Padded plasters. I had never thought about this until my last trip to Stockholm. My travels usually involve me walking around cities (which I’m hoping to shake up soon) and my go-to shoes are my Doc Martens. Docs are great; they go with anything, are nice and sturdy, and STILL haven’t broken since I got them when I was 17. However, I do need to wear them with thick winter socks because they are just that little bit too big. Turns out, that ain’t good to my heel, and so the blisters begin. When you’re in that situation, all you want to do is elevate your feet and never walk again. But there are places to see! People to meet! Cobbled streets to walk! Get padded plasters, they are cushions for you feet. And yes I will wear better shoes thanks MUM.
  • Kindle. You’re reading a book blog right now, why wouldn’t I suggest bringing reading material? The only reason I prefer reading a Kindle is because of how much less room it takes up. You can also store more than one book on it. You can take three books on holiday and take up no less room than one very thin book.
  • Padlock. I haven’t needed to use one as of yet, but having a padlock handy is great for staying in hostels. Hostels are perfectly safe and usually, when I’m there, I don’t lock my stuff away. Anything super valuable I end up taking with me anyway and things that stay in the room are just clothes, food and toiletries. However, if you’re travelling alone or just want that little bit extra security, bring a padlock for any lockers or storage. Sometimes hostels provide them, but most of the time they cost to rent one.
  • Travel adaptors. Almost nowhere has the same plug sockets as the U.K., but depending on where you’re staying, they may be able to sell you a plug adaptor for your country at reception. However, most countries in Europe have the same type of socket or are slowly changing to use the same as the rest of Europe, which means you really only need the ‘European’ plug adaptor. You can also get ones that contain multiple plug adaptors and USB ports too, which can sometimes be pricey, but are fab!

Now, it’s time for your essential essentials. If you’re as paranoid as I am, your brain loves to tell you you’ve forgotten things. Cue you pulling everything out of your carry on to look for that one travel document at the bottom of your bag. So, for peace of mind, I bought this super dorky, yet super essential…bum bag. Amazon calls it a ‘travel money belt‘, and I guess you can say it has many differences to a bum bag. I mean, is there anything wrong with a bum bag? When I was at Reading Festival, everyone had one, from the colourful to the plain. But, I guess the largest difference between this travel money belt and a bum bag is that other people aren’t supposed to know it’s there when you’re wearing it. It’s supposed to go under your clothes where thieves and pickpockets can’t see it.

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I bought it in that sweet spot between panic that I was gonna get robbed, and more panic that I would just lose stuff myself. So, instead of using a bum bag that’s bulky and kind of just a large red arrow to all your essentials, I got the travel money belt, and it’s great. It’s quite thin, so it’s not for bulky items. It’s got two pockets however, one larger than the other, and fits passports, travel documents, tickets, and even headphones in quite comfortably. When walking through Rome after reading Wikitravel and reading about the problems with pickpocketing (hey, I’m an amateur remember?), I felt so safe knowing that no one would be able to get close enough to me to steal anything important. I also took it to places that I knew pickpocketing wasn’t a problem, and used it more like a wallet for bus tickets and money so that I didn’t have to bring my whole purse with library cards and railcards and other things I didn’t need in another country.

And that is about it! I’ve listed almost every single thing I take with me on a trip! Of course, you should tailor every piece of luggage to where you’re going, how long for, and if you’re putting luggage in the hold. For me? I keep it light, I keep it accessible, because one day, I would like the amateur in me to become a bit more of a pro. One day. Not any time soon, probably.

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When you’re travelling, what’s the one thing you have to take with you?

 

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Top 5 Wednesday // Fave Character Names

I don’t know if it’s me, or if it’s a writer thing, but I have a weird thing when it comes to names. I love them, but I’m also extremely picky. When it comes to choosing names for my characters, it’s like putting new shoes onto them. Some feel too big, others too small. They may just not fit right, and we’ll have to take some others out for a spin.

But sometimes, and this often happens a lot, there is THE name. The one that you only need to try once, and you know it’s perfect. A name is a part of a person’s identity, their personality, in real life and in fiction. One name can describe a thousand things about a character, and I use them often for symbolism and metaphors. I feel I like a simpler name as opposed to some of the ones often used in fantasies, the ones with too many symbols. I ain’t so big on those. So, without further rambling, here are my top 5 character names!

Simon Snow
(Carry On/Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell)

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So I love this book already, but when a name just works, it’s fantastic. Simon Snow sounds like a superhero name; Marvel and DC love to alliterate the first and last names of their characters and honestly, I get it. It does sound heroic, and considering Simon is the chosen on in Carry On, I don’t blame Rainbow Rowell for choosing something so simple and comic souding.

Blue Sargeant
(The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater)

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Despite it being a popular colour, Blue’s name is significantly odd. The only character I know with the same name is Bloo from Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, and that’s only because the character was a blue blob…a literal blue blob. But Blue Sargeant is nothing but ordinary, a psychic amplifier with a psychic family who goes to hunt Welsh Kings with her friends (and one in particular who likes to call her Jane).

Victor Vale & Eli Ever
(Vicious by V.E. Schwab)

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Along the same vein as Simon Snow, Victor Vale and Eli Ever are best friends turned enemies, both with supernatural powers that ultimately, make them one superhero and one supervillain. But the question is, who is who in this tale of the grey between good and evil. This wasn’t my favourite book by V.E. Schwab, but I definitely saw it’s appeal. I was very hopeful in the outcome of some things, but they just didn’t happen. I’d give it a read anyway because it’s a very interesting deconstruction of the superhero genre (and because the names are great!)

Jaxon Hall
(The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon)

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I don’t know if it’s just me, but a two syllable first name with a one syllable last name just always fits perfect for me. It sounds like someone important, with a name that’ll be spoken through microphone or on plaques. Jaxon Hall is the king of the criminal underground in The Bone Season (or, at least in my eyes). He’s mysterious, charming, and ruthless, with a name that no one forgets, especially not after what happens in The Mime Order…

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme created by gingerreadslainey.

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TTT // 10 Of My Most Recent 5 Star Reads

TTT is Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.

After having a browse of my Goodreads shelves, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am super frivolous when giving out 5 stars. While trying to upkeep the reputation of stone cold bitch, I am also super empathetic. I hate giving out middling ratings like 3 stars; what can an author do with that? How they improve on a rating that basically translates to “Eh.” And then, there’s the lower ratings, which I only really give if I have strong negative feelings about a book.

But, apparently, I’m easily impressed, so we don’t need to worry about that. Here are my 10 most recent 5 stars and why I gave them 5 stars.

The Sky Is Everywhere & I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

I read tumblr_o4p7rgh8n11tymrywo1_540The Sky Is Everywhere recently whilst in sunny Spain. I wasn’t feeling too well, so while the family went off on a full day’s trek, I stayed in the villa and read this book in one sitting on the roof. I felt like I wasn’t in Spain anymore, but in California, with the characters, feeling the things they felt (I told you I was empathetic). The writing will leave you completely enamored. Jandy Nelson is a genius with the written word.

I’ll Give You The Sun was my first dip into the wonderful world of Jandy Nelson, and it was rec’d to me from a lovely person at YALC (who I understand was just trying to sell me books, but I’m sure also love the story, so I trusted them). What I’d be opening the page to, I did NOT expect. Gosh, if I thought Rainbow Rowell was a fantastic contemporary writer, then Jandy Nelson is up there with her, battling it out for top spot in my mind. Every character is vibrant, flawed, and uuuuuugh.

 

A Darker Shade of Magic & A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schagoswab

After getting A Darker Shade of Magic purely on a whim, from the first chapter I knew I was in for a good’un. ADSOM is full to the brim with delicious descriptions of character, of setting, and even of costumes. Every character is rich in personality and flaw and you end up loving every single one, regardless of their level of evilness (which sometimes can make you love them more anyway).

I didn’t have to wait for A Gathering of Shadows for long (oh, the joys of getting into a series late), and was once again blown away from the sheer detail and imagination put into these books. Just give them a read, and you’ll become obsessed.

 

11250317The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

This was a library book pick that I had no idea about. I’m not a big fan of historical fiction, and I’m not too fussed about Greek Mythology. I picked this up on a whim and ended up crying at 10pm on a Saturday night while listening to Death of a Bachelor by Panic! At The Disco. Oh, the symbolism. Get ready for your heart to literally triple in size. I wrote the review for this not ten minutes after reading it because I could just not keep my thoughts inside.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black20958632

I’ve just been recently disappointed by Holly Black with The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, but this book was beautiful. A metaphor for growing up, along with faeries and magical creatures and cute LGBT+ love. It mixes fantasy with real life contemporary so much so that it makes it look normal to have faeries living in the forest near your house.

The Dreadreamthievesm Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys was fine. The Dream Thieves was something else. Who knew I could find interest in a book about cars when I don’t give two shits about ’em? Book 2 in The Raven Cycle is the most popular I reckon, because Ronan Lynch is a precious sinnamon roll. Kavinsky, the book’s antagonist, is also a rich and developed, fucked up character who makes everything more interesting. I read this whilst on a week off from work whilst also taking part in Nanowrimo. Honestly, just read it.

Landline and Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Here she is, the light of my life. There is not a Rainbow Rowell book I havencarryonhotchocolate‘t liked yet. Apart from Fangirl, which as 4 stars, I’ve given RR 5 stars for all her other books. Landline is the most recent one I’ve read, an adult contemporary about juggling life when it’s at it’s busiest. It was so perfect, so much so that I read on the bus; a very dangerous thing for me to do.

Carry On was one for the best books I read in 2015. When you read a passage, and you have to put the book down and stare into space and bask in it, then you know you’re on to a corker. Raimbow Rowell is fantastic at character heavy stories, and Carry On is a great example.

Six of Crogrishaandcrowsws by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo has literally become the queen of my bookish heart. Every story she writes captures my attention so easily and so quickly. I received Six Of Crows as an ARC through work, and so got to read it a few months before it was released. The Grisha Trilogy is one of my all time favourite series, and I was concerned that Six of Crows might not be of the same caliber. But it is, and so much more. It’s grittier, more feisty, and rag tag team of misfits is my jam. I bought the fancy hardcover version and went to get it signed by LB at a talk she did, where she gave thoughtful and insightful answers to each and every question. She and her writing are who and what I aspire to be.

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