Safari Packing Tips

Safari Packing Tips

Light luggage, light heart

The rule “less is more” definitely applies when packing for an African safari.  Unburdening yourself from the usual travel trappings is liberating.   On our recent family trip to South Africa we journeyed from city to safari and back again hopping from lodge to lodge by bush plane (click here to read my recent posts).  Not worrying about our “stuff” added to the spirit of adventure.  Need advice on what (or what NOT) to pack for your safari?  Here are my top tips:

Thank you Micato Safaris for the great duffle bags

WEATHER:
Weather can vary based on the country and the time of year (seasons may be opposite of your home country). Wintertime in the southern hemisphere (June through September) means as you travel north (towards the equator) temps go up, with the reverse being true in their summer (December — March).  Kenya and Tanzania, located in East Africa, have milder, spring-like weather year-round verses South Africa, which has much greater temperature swings.  No matter the destination, early morning and late evening game drives can be cooler than when the sun is high in the sky.

LUGGAGE SIZE:
Luggage requirements (weights and measurements) vary by airline carrier, so check these in advance, especially the baggage allowed on small bush planes. For our safari, a medium sized rolling duffle bag with exterior zippered pockets to store non-valuables worked perfectly.

SHOES:
Shoes take up lots of room, so choose carefully. Hiking boots are only necessary if you plan on trekking or mountain climbing. On safari, you are traveling mostly by vehicle, but hard soled, comfortable shoes are a must for bush walks.  Over the ankle hiking boots are bulky, so a better option are walking or hiking shoes (preferably with waterproof Gortex, like North Face or Merrells).  Flip flops come in handy for the lodge pool or Jacuzzi.  And, slip-on style leather sneakers are convenient for airport security and work well for “in between” weather patterns. Touring Johannesburg and Cape Town during their winter?  Pack a pair of light weight leather ankle booties with rubber soles for cool or rainy days.

CLOTHING:
Layers, layers, layers.  Simple and neat, casual clothing, whether you are in the city or on safari, always works best.  Even in warmer weather, long pants and long sleeve shirts made from quick-dry or dri-FIT material will protect you from strong sun and mosquitoes. Wear a short sleeve shirt or tank top underneath for quick changes en route when the mercury rises.  Leggings or jeans are okay, but leave the trendy, ripped ones at home.  Ventilated trousers (like REI, prAna, or KUHL) are a great option and will keep you cool and dry.

Sabi Sabi Safari

As the sun sets, long sleeves and trousers work best

Pack clothing that can be washed (not dry cleaned) since many lodges provide complimentary same-day laundry service).  Pick neutral colors and leave the brights at home.  No camouflage patterns – it is simply not acceptable.  And, keep away from brash, logo t-shirts – it’s best to blend in.

When temps drop, most lodges will provide warm blankets or hot water bottles in the open-air vehicles, but come prepared with scarf, wool beanie, glove liners, fleece jacket, and light-weight quilted vest, because when the sun sets it gets cold!  Heavy winter boots and coats are not necessary — but I definitely appreciated my flannel pajamas during our visit in July!  In the cooler evenings in Cape Town and Johannesburg, I made good use of light weight merino wool cardigans that were easily layered (and didn’t take up much room in the luggage).

Sabi Sabi Safari

Dress in neutral attire that will not “attract” animals, especially when spending time outside the vehicle during a “Sundowners” break

Outdoor dining at the lodges is very popular, but dressing up for dinner is generally unnecessary; it’s more relaxed than you think, even at the luxury tented camps.  Usually, we went right from our evening drive to our al fresco dinner.

Other important items?  A brimmed hat and bathing suit for warm, sunny days and rain shell and collapsible umbrella for rainy days.  And, if you have read my previous packing article (click here) you will know I never travel without a wrap or Pashmina!

Mini surge protector

ELECTRONICS:
Bring extra batteries, memory cards, and lens cloths for your camera (dust gets everywhere) plus power packs for your phone. Converters and adapters will be required for most electronics, and a mini surge protector always is useful in any hotel room where outlets may be few and hard to reach. During game drives, my boys also made good use of binoculars — great for children who may not be using a camera or spotting wildlife through a zoom lens.

This adapter kit works with all Apple devices

Many lodges provide flashlights, but pack one of those mini mag lights just in case — lodges can be pitch-dark at night (although for safety reasons, you are usually escorted back to your tent by a guide). Most lodges include a hairdryer so skip packing this heavy item (and wear that hat you packed!)    Make sure to download books to your e-reader in advance because wifi and cell service can be unpredictable, or better yet, bring an actual book or travel-sized board game – since being “off the grid” is really the point.

SAFARI DAY-PACK:
Take a tote bag or a light weight backpack to use in the safari vehicle to store your camera and the extra layers of clothing you may shed (it can double as your carry on).  Make sure it has a zipper to keep your items dust-free (the bag usually winds up on the floor during all that off-road driving).

MEDICINE & FIRST AID:
Assemble a well-stocked first aid kit in a Ziploc bag. Include extra prescription medications (an antibiotic script, just in case) plus over-the-counter meds like ibuprofen, allergy and diarrhea tablets, cortisone cream, motion sickness pills, dry-eye drops, hand sanitizer, bug spray, sunscreen, and adhesive bandages.

Packing cubes

PRE-PACKING:
Before placing items in your bag, lay out your things by item type and then remove one item from each category – you will not miss them!  If traveling between several lodges, I recommend those flat, zippered, nylon pouches to arrange your stuff.   You can lift them from suitcase to dresser drawer and back again without having to repack each individual item.

DONATIONS:
Handing out toys, pens, and candies to local children you meet along the way is strongly discouraged because it creates an endless cycle of begging. Instead, search out a “Social Enterprise,” an organization that runs as a business with profits going to support a community project or social need — buy locally made handicrafts or stop at a community-run store or café. Upon your return home, make a donation to a cause that has pulled at your heartstrings be it animal conservation, children’s charity, or land preservation.  Your dollars, euros, or pounds will go a long way to helping our planet and all who dwell on it.

Sabi Sabi Safari

During our stay in Sabi Sabi, we visited a local community and the “Swa Vana Center,” which cares for orphaned and vulnerable children by offering physical, emotional, social, and educational support.

Sabi Sabi Safari

We stopped in a local market and met the proprietor.

Sabi Sabi Safari

After shopping at a local crafts market, we were treated to a performance of music and dancing.

Sabi Sabi Safari

The local children loved “hamming it up” for the camera

Our visit to the local communities in the Mpumalanga Province was an enriching and educational experience

PAPERWORK:
Check your travel documents — having the proper paperwork is crucial.  LOOK AT YOUR PASSPORT EXPIRATION DATE: it cannot expire prior to six months from the dates of your trip. If you have LESS thank six months left on the expiration you will NOT be allowed to checkin at the airport or board your departure flight! Make sure you secured the appropriate visas to enter a country. South Africa requires all children under the age of 18 to possess a valid birth certificate with a raised seal, in addition to a valid passport (even if traveling with both parents).  Many countries may require proof of inoculations so check the cdc.gov website (or visit a doctor that specializes in travel related immunizations) to learn about recommended shots.

For more packing advice, check out my recent articles: “Twelve Packing Tips Every Traveler Should Know” and  “A Few of my Favorite Travel Things.”

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A Few of my Favorite Travel Things

A Few of my Favorite Travel Things

My recent article, Twelve Packing Tips Every Traveler Should Know, included some indispensable items no traveler should be without.  Here are a few more favorite things that will keep your travels stress-free:

Mini power strip:  Most hotel rooms have a woefully inadequate number of outlets.  Even if you travel with a minimum of electronics, there’s just never enough places to “plug in.”  This mini Power Strip takes one outlet and turns it into three, plus spots for USB chargers.

solar charger

Goal Zero Solar Charger

External battery:  I bought my Mophie external battery at the Apple store, but these can easily be found online. This compact power reserve comes in multiple capacities, it’s lightweight, and can be used to power smart phones and tablets.   My son, on the other hand, swears by his solar charger, Goal Zero Venture 30 Solar Kit, which he purchased for his upcoming sailing trip. I made good use of it on our last family vacation in Antigua — it occupied a sunny spot on my lounge chair for most of the week!

Packing cubes

Packing cubes

Packing Cubes:  I know I mentioned this in my last article, but I just can’t say enough about using these packing cubes for multi-destination trips. Versions can be found at the Container Store, Tumi, and LandsEnd.  Pack similar items together in a cube and easily transfer them from suitcase to hotel dresser drawer and back again.

Noise canceling earphones: Yes, those earbuds are super convenient, but they don’t always block out all that annoying ambient noise on the plane.  Over-the-ear headphones (like Bose) can become VERY pricey, but a basic model like this SONY brand, definitely does the trick at the right price – under $50. (Make sure to throw an extra AAA battery into your carry-on).

Belkin headphone splitter

Belkin headphone splitter

Headphone splitter: This little cable can eliminate many family arguments.  Just insert into tablet, phone, or laptop and two prickly siblings can watch one movie at the same time.  My favorite, the Belkin Rockstar, links up to five headphones to one device.

Wireless keyboard: On second thought, leave that heavy laptop at home and purchase a wireless keyboard if you really need to do some extensive typing while away. These Bluetooth enabled devices can even be hooked up to your smartphone.

Cross-body bag

Cross-body bag

Messenger bag: A lightweight nylon cross-body bag will come in handy on any trip, whether trekking through Costa Rican jungles or pounding the pavement of your favorite European city.

Digital luggage scale:  This device will help you make sure your bags stay within airline luggage requirements. Take it with you on your trip to check your suitcases once they are filled to the brim with all those gifts and souvenirs.

cosmetic bag

Travel cosmetic bag

Travel cosmetic bag: I recently came across this clever “Lay and Go” cosmetic bag — its specially designed “lip” around the perimeter keeps makeup from rolling off the counter (especially beneficial on a cruise ship).  Pull on the drawstring and it converts into a sealed soft clutch. (Traveling with kids? Buy the solid color version — it makes a great tote for tiny toys like LEGO’s.)

shoe bag

Nylon shoe bag

Shoe bags: Made from cotton or nylon, these are perfect for keeping shoes from soiling your clothing in your suitcase. I picked up these adorable Cath Kidson shoe bags on my last trip to London, but you can order them from the website, or check out Tumi or LLBean for other options.

Mini first-aid kit:  I keep a mini first-aid kit stored in my son’s luggage at all times. You can even make your own by using a zippered baggie and filling with bandages, gauze pads, cleansing wipes, medical tape, and antibiotic cream.  I also added a small sewing kit and some packets of laundry soap for those equally distressing wardrobe emergencies.

travel wallet

Travel wallet

Ticket organizer/passport wallet: My boys made good use of this wallet when they traveled on their own to the British Virgin Islands for a student SCUBA diving program. It helped them keep track of passports, boarding passes, Global Entry cards, cash, and transfer instructions.  The wrist strap helps keep the wallet close at hand when checking in or presenting documents to customs officials.  Place your cellphone number in a visible location inside just in case you and the wallet get separated.

apple plugs

Apple adapter kit

Adapters and Converters: Electrical systems and outlets vary throughout the world. Check what is required before leaving home and make sure to pack a convertor (which will change the voltage of local electricity to match your device) and adapters (which will reconfigure your plug to match the outlet of the foreign country).  Traveling with Apple products? I highly recommend the World Travel Adapter Kit  — this indispensable and compact kit includes seven interchangeable AC plugs with prongs that fit most outlets around the globe.

For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

Herricks Travel American ExpressSUBSCRIBERS: to view this complete article online and read my previous articles, use this link: uniquefamilytraveler.com.

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Twelve Packing Tips Every Traveler Should Know

Twelve Packing Tips Every Traveler Should Know

There is a reason they call it the “Art of Packing.” For some, packing is just second nature – a “right-brained” talent that is done on the fly. But for others, it is a skill that must be practiced over and over again, and regrettably never mastered.  In travel, first comes dreaming, next comes planning, and then comes packing.

To help make your packing travails a little less laborious, here are twelve quick tips:

CARRY-ON LUGGAGE:  The first rule for carry-on luggage is to check with your airline’s website to find out specific dimensions for carry-on sizes, so you are not caught off-guard at the last minute and forced to gate-check your luggage.

– Passports and travel documents should go in your carry on, not checked luggage, and make copies just in case. Bring your driver’s license even if you aren’t taking a driving trip – it’s a good backup form of identification to have on hand.

– A large scarf or pashmina can do triple duty as pillow, blanket and fashion statement.

– Always keep an airline-friendly one-quart zipper baggie packed with your essentials ready to go: hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes (to tidy up tray tables and arm rests), lip balm & moisturizer (for those extremely dry cabins), nasal spray, and air sickness pills for turbulence or those dreaded circling, holding patterns.  Make sure all liquids are less than 3.4 ounces.

– Request extra prescription medication to bring with you in case of travel delays.

luggageCHECKED LUGGAGE: Make sure all luggage is clearly tagged with your contact information, and add a colorful ribbon to the handle to help separate your bags from the sea of suitcases.

– Create a packing list and begin the packing process early. The week before your trip, start collecting items and place in a spare room or in an empty, plastic laundry basket.

– Think in terms of the “layered look” when planning your wardrobe.

– Never pack valuable items in checked luggage (money, electronics, jewelry, travel documents, and prescriptions).

– Making several stops on your itinerary? Purchase zippered pouches or “packing cubes” to separate clothing items by type. (See tumi.com or thecontainerstore.com). The pouches can easily be lifted from the suitcase and placed in hotel drawers and then back again.

– Always pack one or two clothing items for the opposite weather of where you are traveling because you never know how the temperature can change.  Heading to Miami? Bring a sweater or warm wrap. Leaving for London? Take a few tank tops or camisoles to wear under a blazer.

– Do not lock bags unless using a TSA-approved lock that can be opened by an agent, or risk your locks being broken if bags are selected for screening. Concerned about your zipper accidently coming undone without the lock? Thread a baggie twist tie through the two side-by-side zipper pulls and mate them together.

– Place all liquids in plastic bags before packing in luggage. And, pack a few extra bags, especially large white garbage bags, to use for wet bathing suits, sandy shoes, laundry, or liquid souvenirs like wine or olive oil.

– Make sure not to over-pack —  always leave room for gifts and souvenirs!

Herricks Travel American ExpressFor more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

SUBSCRIBERS: to view this complete article online and read my previous articles, use this link: uniquefamilytraveler.com.

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The Art of Packing

The Art of Packing

The Art of Packing, Herricks Travel American Express & St. JohnPlease join me at my travel-themed customer event at the St. John boutique in the Americana, Manhasset, Long Island, New York on January 28th.

Join Herricks Travel American Express and St. John for the “Art of Packing” on Thursday, January 28th, between 12Noon and 4pm. Hear up-to-the-minute destination advice and packing tips with key styles from the latest collection, and enter to win a weekend stay in Manhattan and a St. John gift certificate.  For more information and to RSVP, you can email me, mollie@herrickstravel.com. Hope to see you there!

Herricks Travel American ExpressFor more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

SUBSCRIBERS: to view this complete article online and read my previous articles, use this link: uniquefamilytraveler.com.

To become a SUBSCRIBER, look for the “subscribe to this blog by email” box, and then respond to the follow-up email.

Twelve Top Travel Apps

Twelve Top Travel Apps

So, you’ve contacted your travel agent, booked a trip, and packed your bags, but are you really ready to go? Before you leave, take a moment to download these useful travel apps that will help make your vacation a smooth and stress free adventure. Load them up (and sign into your personal accounts when required) while you’re at home where the Wi-Fi is much faster and safer.

delta appAirline apps: There’s one for just about every airline: American, Delta, JetBlue, United, etc. Enter your frequent flyer numbers and flight information. Many allow you to check in, pay for bags, change your seat, check for upgrades, and display your boarding pass.

Flight Board: You know those digital arrival and departure boards you see at the airport? You can actually see them on this app. This comes in handy, especially when traveling during bad weather. Stay on top of delays and cancellations, or check out the boards at your connecting or arrival city to get a glimpse of potential problems that might lie ahead.

seat guruSeatGuru: This is THE source for seat reviews, information, and aircraft configuration that separates the good from the bad seats on virtually any flight and airline. Want to avoid those pesky seats that don’t recline, don’t have a window, have minimal legroom, or are too close to the bathroom or galley? Check out this app.

FlightTrack: This app give you 24/7 timely push notifications of departure, arrival or gate changes to your flights or those of friends and family. It even provides aircraft speed and altitude and colorful, zoomable live maps with satellite and weather radar imagery, and flight paths when available. Airport terminal maps are included (handy when you are trying to catch a connecting flight). You can also link to SeatGuru and FlightBoard.

gate guruGateGuru: Trying to decide if the airport dining (and coffee) selection is better before or after security is always a challenge. This handy app (my kids’ favorite) offers a guide to eateries, shops, and services at the terminal and at the gates where you will be departing and arriving, making the decision much easier!

LoungeBuddy: Not all airport lounges are exclusively for first class flyers. This app allows you to check out more than 2,000 lounges in 600 airports, and determines which you can access. Enter the details of your trip, airline status and membership, or premium credit card info (like Amex Platinum) and it will let you know which lounges you can visit for free or for a one-time fee. Includes lounge hours and locations.

TripCase: This is THE place to keep ALL the details of your trip in one place — an itinerary management tool that also delivers real-time information, delays, and cancellations, and consolidates reservation numbers and hotel and car rental addresses and phone numbers.  Just sign up and then start forwarding all of those confirmation emails – hotel, car, flights, tours to TripCase, and it will merge the information into trips for you and trips to follow (for family and friends).

whats appWhatsApp: This international calling and messaging app allows you to call someone around the world for free as long as that person also installs the app – no hidden costs or international fees.  It even saves incoming messages when your phone is off.  Easy to use, your contacts are transferred from your phone’s address book.

Currency Convertor: There are plenty of them out there — pick one that’s free and you are ready to go from pounds to pesos, and dollars to dinars.

Sky Guide: This is not specifically a travel app, but we use this whenever we are out of the New York area and visiting a place with less light pollution. Satisfy your inner amateur astronomer and identify all those heavenly bodies you can only see in a truly dark sky. The app uses your device’s own GPS to know which direction you are pointing your phone to immediately reveal a map of the stars, constellations, galaxies, and planets, above and below the horizon.

OpenTable: This online, real-time restaurant reservation app is available in many cities around the globe, and includes reviews and a frequent dining program. Search by location, date, time, cuisine, or price range.

amex appAmex App: This one is for the American Express card, but most credit cards will have an app to help you keep track of spending, pay your bill, check your reward benefits, and most importantly, provide you with immediate fraud alerts if your card has been stolen or compromised while traveling.

 

 

Herricks Travel American ExpressReady to plan a unique trip for you or your family? Contact me at mollie@herrickstravel.com. For more information on my trip planning services, please click here.

SUBSCRIBERS: to view this complete article online and read my previous articles, use this link: uniquefamilytraveler.com.

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Header image courtesy of m.vank