Long train journeys are bad for this, planes are worse. And with flying there's always the lurking fear that the airline will lose your bag. Well sometimes, not very often, they do, and they usually turn up but that doesn't help solve the immediate problem that you're stuck in a an alien city with no clean undies. Everyone has suggestions as to how to plan ahead, but here's mine:
- Buy yourself a flight bag - most airlines let you take around a 10 litre bag as cabin baggage, even the really mean screw-you discounters
- In this bag put a small backpack and put the following in the backpack:
- Travel computer in travel sleeve - make sure the battery is fully charged
- Two pens (at some point you'll have to fill out an immigration form)
- Hardback notebook
- Spectacles and sunglasses
- Something to read
- Passports, copies of any documents required for the journey
- Ziploc bag containing spare change (both local and overseas)
Besides the little back pack also put the following in the bag - clean underwear, socks, a clean t-shirt. You can simply put them in a plastic bag to keep them clean, or else Kathmandu and other outdoor shops sell packing bags that do the job. If you can face the paranoia at airports also pack your three 100ml bottles of shampoo, after shave and anything else in a clear plastic bag separately to the rest as you'll need to get them out to be inspected.
Also put in the obvious extras, a jumper, a lightweight waterproof, and if you want to risk the security geeks a travel umbrella - some places are happy if they can x-ray it, some aren't. And most importantly a travel portfolio containing printed copies of all your travel documents, both outgoing and incoming. Make sure this can fit inside the small backpack.
Why the separate small backpack?
Well security always want to check your computer and it makes sense to make the business of going through security as easy as possible. It also means you've (a) got all your essentials grouped together, a separate small bag in case you need to check other stuff in, as happened to us in Singapore last year when we had an unscheduled day in the city, and came back sweaty. We'd bought extra t-shirts and toileteries in the city so we bundled all the nonessential stuff into the bigger bag and asked nicely if we could check it in as an extra (b) a spare bag for the extra stuff you need to check in coming back - everything from books to t-shirts. (If the airline does lose your bags and you have to buy some extra things, having a spare bag is doubly useful)
The travel portfolio is really useful if you need to prove to immigration somewhere along the line that you really are going to X then Y as in I'm going to a conference at Harvard and then going on to Canada by train before flying back by a different route.
If you're really paranoid a thumb drive with pdf copies of the essentials is useful too - you can always find someone to print them for you.