- Back from my epic/insane trip: overall thoughts
- Business vs. economy: is the mileage upcharge worth it?
- Assigning $ value to Priority Pass during our trip to South Pacific
- Our two magical nights in Bora Bora
- Hilton Moorea resort and spa: spectacular setting, not a 5-star property
- Making the most of our one night in Moorea
- InterContinental Resort Tahiti: Lovely Property with Freezing Pools and Hot Bellhops
- Hilton Auckland: a Great Choice in a Great City
- Visiting Hobbiton, Rotorua and Waitomo Caves in One Day
- Park Hyatt Sydney: a fun treat, but NOT worth 30k UR points per night
- Sick, jet lagged and Uber-less in San Francisco, plus review of InterContinental Mark Hopkins
- Los Angeles layover: my huge mistake that nearly spoiled our trip
- Packing tips, laundry hacks and other things I’ve learned during my trip to South Pacific
Last post in the series, folks! I don’t normally rant on for so long, but felt it was warranted this time. Plus, it was fun to be one of the “Joneses” for once I hope I’ve inspired a few of you to take the leap and maybe do something similar if your finances allow it.
I’m not going to say that anyone can pull off what we did. I know better. Still, if you are a miles and points afficianado with a middle-class income, this type of trip is *probably* within your grasp. It doesn’t have to be South Pacific, the principles apply to basically any region on earth. Well, except maybe Antarctica.
In this last installment I wanted to give some practical tips and mention a few products I’ve personally found useful. If you live on the road, you probably already know all of this stuff. If not, read on.
Heads up: the post includes Amazon affiliate links. Click on the image for more information. Thanks for your support if you use them!
Luggage and packing
I decided that we would travel with carry-on luggage only. In addition, both me and my husband had small backpacks for stuff we needed during flights.
This has allowed us to be more mobile and save money on checked luggage fees on US flights. It also saved us time. Of course, the downside was having to occasionally do laundry by hand, but I felt the tradeoff was more than worth it.
Everywhere we went, a taxi or shuttle driver would ask us about the rest of our luggage. This is it, man!
I was extremely happy with my carry-on from Amazon Basics collection. I got it for $45, and it held up well. Also, unlike my husband’s Travelite carry-on, it didn’t tip over every few minutes.
Definitely recommended if you prefer spinner luggage, like I do. I don’t feel compelled to drop a fortune on suitcases, no matter how nice. This IMO was an excellent buy.
Do make sure that your carry-on fits the restrictions on all airlines you plan to fly because rules tend to vary, especially on international carriers. Also, take note of the weight limits. We did have to check in the carry-ons on Qantas flights, but free bag/per person was included in our Avios award tickets.
We were traveling for several weeks and had to pack for two climates, so it was quite a challenge to decide which items should make the cut.
Overall, I did OK, but made one big mistake. I had no idea how cold the wind would be in Melbourne, Australia during winter. And I’m from Eastern Europe, so that should tell you something. I packed fleece sweater and a light jacket, but there were no match for the Great Ocean Road.
I wish I also brought a windbreaker that folds into a small pouch, something alone these lines:
Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten sick if I did…
I decided to use packing cubes on this trip. I’ve always felt there were a gimmick but let me tell you, those things are really useful. Specifically, when you need to transport dirty laundry. Also, they are great for packing socks and underwear, and any small items that tend to get lost in the suitcase.
I was happy with this $15 3-piece system by TravelWise, but there are many other options. Basically, it’s just a bag to store your junk. As long as zippers hold up, that’s all you should really care about. No need to spend a fortune.
I mostly used hotel shower gel for washing things by hand, which was sufficient. So, I don’t recommend bringing anything special for that. However, you may want to pack a few laundry detergent tablets for those times when you get access to a washing machine.
I’ve also found these folding hangers to be extremely useful for drying stuff in a pinch. They hardly take up any space in the suitcase, another plus.
A quick note on laundry. If you plan to wash stuff by hand, make sure not to pack too many items that will take a long time to dry. That includes cotton, wool and any natural materials.
Polyester/spandex blend is your friend because it takes only few hours to dry. I actually bought my husband polyester boxers just for this trip. He normally wears cotton, but agreed to compromise. We now affectionately refer to them as Bora Bora underpants.
No, I won’t show mine.
I hate doing laundry by hand, but it was preferable to searching for a local laundromat and spending hours sitting around. Plus, it wasn’t even an option in Bora Bora.
When the hotel we were staying at had a laundry room, I made sure to take advantage of it. I took note of the time of each cycle, and left to do other stuff.
I’m very much a minimalist when it comes to travel. Despite my numerous flights to Europe, I’ve never bothered to buy noise-cancelling headphones. I wish I could go back in time and change that.
Out of all the things I got for this trip, this is my number one recommendation. Get noise-cancelling headphones! You’ll thank me later. No, it doesn’t have to be Bose. I found a tip on RapidTravelChai blog, mentioning Vodoo headphones that cost around $40 Stefan travels a lot, so I trust his advice.
Absolutely 1000% worth it. I now could actually hear the dialogue in the movies during flights.
Really nice, comfortable headphones and they fold into a relatively small case. Are they as good as $280 Bose set? Probably not. Are Bose headphones seven times better? I really doubt it.
I’ve never used travel pillows because I hate the suffocating feeling around my neck. However, I decided to splurge on this $25 contraption:
It has a memory foam and a wire inside, so you can twist it any way you want. You can also clip it to your carry-on or around your neck (no thanks). The cover is soft and washable.
It did come in handy on my overnight flight to Tahiti, though no amount of comfort can make me fall asleep in an economy seat. My father-in-law used it during long drives in Australia, so I let him keep it. Overall, I give it thumbs up, but don’t expect miracles.
I didn’t pack a lot of food because space in our suitcases was already at a premium. We also didn’t bring any alcohol to Tahiti, a common advice for this expensive part of the world. We couldn’t due to liquid restrictions for carry-on luggage.
Fortunately, we were given free vouchers in every hotel due to my fake elite status. In general, my attitude towards alcohol is: “If I can’t have fun without it, I should really give it up.” So far, so good.
We did take some power bars and few packs of mixed nuts, which came in handy during 14-hour United flight from Sydney to San Francisco. Those tiny/nasty meals in economy were truly pathetic, but it is what it is.
I also brought some miso soup packets which I regularly consume (and enjoy) at home. They took almost no space and allowed us to often share one meal. For 40 cents per serving, you can’t beat this miso soup. And it’s delicious too.
As I’ve mentioned before, this trip was far from perfect. There were arguments, sickness and exhaustion. And I missed my kids.
That being said, I still had a spectacular time and would do it again in a heartbeat. Coming along and enduring ten flights in a span of two weeks (most of them in economy) was the best anniversary present my husband could have given me. Thanks, honey! Diamonds? We don’t need no stinkin’ diamonds. His anniversary present was a pack of polyester underpants.
Planning ahead and spending money on few useful items in order to make my trip easier and more enjoyable was a good investment.
To me, travel is worth it even if I have to pay cash for everything. But thanks to miles and points, I can have my cake and eat it too.
Readers, what “must have” travel items can you recommend?