Travel essentials – Food Lover’s Escape

I’ve got quite good at the quick pack to go away. So has The Hungry One. And beyond that, I bow to the expert; a friend who’s been out in the world for just shy of a year now.

We all met up together recently in Istanbul and sat and shared lists of our travel essentials. This is the first of three posts, essentials for a Food Lover’s escape, The Hungry One aka, Mr Technical’s weekend away, and from the friend aka The Adventurer.

This Food Lover’s Escape Essentials

Most of the time when we travel we’re out the door on Friday night and back Sunday night. We travel on trains or low cost airlines, which usually means we only take one bag. I’ve had good training with this- three years ago The Hungry One and I travelled across the US and Mexico  for five weeks with just carry on luggage.

Here are some of the things which make life a lot easier for me.

1) Tripit online

Any time we go anywhere, all the details are filed in Tripit. Skip this if you know it, but if you don’t, it might change your life. No more rifling through pieces of paper, sketching together itineraries on scraps. By forwarding your flight and hotel details to ‘’ Tripit will help shuffle them into a neat and organised itinerary, which you can sync with your phone and calendar.  There’s then an app which can live on your phone. It will automatically together directions from one place to another. It’s got room to put notes of research (for us, a short list of restaurants, street stalls and coffee spots) and it keeps track of your reservation numbers. It makes sense out of chaos.

2) Tripit printed

For anyone working in technology, redundancy is an important term- The Hungry One has taught me this. So before we leave the flat I always make sure I’ve got the Tripit printed out as well. You never know when a pesky immigration official is going to demand to see written evidence of where you’re staying, or of your return flights,  or when your phone battery on your phone is going to whimper and fail you. A printed version as a back up is a must keep. So much so, it’s included in the post it on the back of the door, which I make us stand like Scouts and check before we leave the house.

And yes, that does, quite passive aggressively enumerate ‘passport; Tori and Andy’ at the top. The note on the back of the door came early on in our endeavours after we turned up to the airport to fly to Iceland, only to discover that the Australian passport we’d brought was mine (leaving two passports for me, none for him). The fact that The Hungry One made it from Heathrow- home, found his passport and back to gate 23 Heathrow in an hour and 17 minutes still amazes me.

3) iPhone stocked with apps

The iPhone seems almost too ubiquotous to include, but here’s what mine is stocked with for travel; Kindle for reading , talking books from and podcasts (excellent for early morning flights when your eyelids are heavy) and Tom Tom. Delegating navigation to a being outside of a marriage does wonders in the happiness stakes. Beyond that, Tom Tom has settings for walking- which can help you quickly navigate your way to even the hardest to find kebab stalls and patisseries.

4) iPhone battery extender

This was purchased on a whim by The Hungry One, from the in flight magazine on a RyanAir flight and has become the most useful thing. Batteries on iPhones can be fickle. Knowing that you’ve got another 25% stored on a back up small playing card in your bag is an excellent piece of insurance (particularly if you’re driving around, lost in the dark, in a foreign country).

Go here for a collection of five of the battery extenders.

5) Chowhound

Less of something I take with me and more of a resource before I go. Beyond local blogs, Chowhound is a fantastic source of information on good places to eat in cities that you visit.

6) Earplugs and sleeping pills

If you’re spending most of your time and money on eating, then you won’t always be staying in quiet areas and plush rooms. I’m a light sleeper, so I never go away without ear plugs- and when things get really dire- I turn to my old friend Temazepam (emergencies and in moderation, of course).

7) A good capsule wardrobe

I’m talking about four or five staple pieces which go together and can be dressed up or down.  I’m not saying by any stretch that what I have is fabulous. But what it does mean is that I don’t have to think or fret too much before we go away about what to pack. For me it’s a pair of jeans (or black linen pants in summer),a couple of black or grey tops, a black cardigan and  a coat if it’s cold or threatening rain (trench in summer, black coat in winter). It”s also why I look virtually the same in every single set of travel photos.

Capsule wardrobe in Cape Town

8 ) A Uniqlo Heat-Tech black scoop neck top

I always put one of these in. They scrunch up small, but are excellent if the weather suddenly plummets. They’re warm, easily layer under other things and are smart enough to wear out with a scarf and big earrings. And best of all, they’ve got some stretch in them, so they also double well as a noise blocker/ eye mask if you roll it up and tie the sleeves around your head while you sleep (for desperate situations only- potentially when being woken up all through the night by traffic and the call to prayer in Istanbul….).

9) A good black dress

This is the kind of garment that can be easily washed out, that doesn’t need ironing, that can be worn with flat shoes and still be presentable enough to get you into a good restaurant.

I’ve got one with long sleeves that I wore with flat boots and big earrings to Pierre Gagnaire. I’ve got a summer version that got me into Per Se with my good walk able ballet slippers. No, it’s not ideal, but if you’re in a city for a short time and want to get out, explore and eat well packing light will do you more good than cramming in a pair of heels (and really, at a restaurant for 90% of the time you’re going to be seen only from the waist up).

For summer, Metalicus normally do a good one (see here) . The best bit of all, lots of them are slightly empire waisted (which is perfect when you’re staring down 15 courses).

The magical black dress after dinner at Matbaren, Stockholm

10 A not-too-hideous shoe you can walk all day in

The holy grail. I’ve finally cracked it; sturdy ballet slippers for summer and a black flat, calf length boot for winter. Whenever I think about how I travelled for  five weeks with carry on, one great pair of shoes is the answer (nb, it does mean that when it comes to exercising while I’m constrained to swimming, running barefoot on a beach, or yoga in a hotel room).

11) A camera

These days I travel with my Panasonic Lumix 5. It’s not too big, but has enough grunt to work well in low light (which so many restaurants are). I love it.

12) A notebook

Preferably a moleskin- I’m a sucker for the elastic band and the sturdy spines. At the moment it’s a Star Wars one. It makes me smile. It’s also great for scrawling things in and getting others to scrawl things in. The subsidiary tip here, is ask for help. Most notably, from locals who know their mustard. If we’ve got somewhere good booked for dinner, I’ll always ask the floorstaff for recommendations in the city- where they go for espresso, late night drinks and streetfood tips. It’s how we’ve found some of our favourite spots across the world.

13) A pashmina

Capsule wardrobe in Prague- note the pashmina

This refugee from 2001 still has a place when I travel. I use it as a pillow case if the place we’re staying is a little suspect. I use it to keep warm on planes and while walking around blustery cities. And sometimes, like last Monday when we were flying home from Istanbul and the two year old behind us started being sick , and two grown men next to us started sympathetic vomiting down their business shirts and we were stuck next to them for 25 minutes sitting on the tarmac, it proved  most useful for wrapping around my face.

14) Hand sanitiser

Enough said. Though I did read once that people who get sick when they get on planes don’t just get sick from germs circulated in the air conditioning- it’s from touching surfaces in the airport, where thousands of people pass through every day. It’s no fun going away if every time you come home you get sick.

15) An appetite (for food and for seeing things that are new)

It’s really the root of it all, isn’t it?


Any other suggestions for essential travel items gratefully received….

  1. Great list, and particularly well-timed as I’m beginning to plot a Mexico-USA-UK-Africa adventure. I’ve decided that I’m done carrying my big travel pack and am downsizing to a much smaller pack (it has been known to squeeze into carry-on but I intend to check it). Pretty much the only thing you’ve missed that I always pack is a pair of thongs (flip-flops for you non-Australians!) to wear in the shower at dodgy hotels. I don’t know whether it’s just phsychological, but it seems to help and at least you can wear them during the day if need be, too!

  2. I love this series, Tori! Great tips- I can’t wait to check out Tripit and the battery extender. I like to travel light as well- makes it easy to maneuver quickly without a lot of stuff weighing you down. My biggest tip for the traveling food lover is to do your research before you go. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed in an unfamiliar city and instead of being spontaneous, you end up at a crappy chain restaurant. Research restaurants before you go, then consult the locals once there. Also, I always travel with an umbrella. 🙂

  3. Just took note of tripit. Thanks

  4. Darling Tori,
    I’m attempting carry-on at Christmas for the family of four!
    we can generally do it…… But wish me luck!
    xx Tori

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