Content creator Annette Lee on her 7 must-have travel items
Travel can be fumbly. This is something content creator Annette Lee and I agree on.
You are pared down to your most essential items, living out of a suitcase for a stretch, navigating airports, transits and overland crossings – all the while in a foreign environment. And with baggage going missing and getting delayed at airports across Europe and the United States – a result of staff shortages following the pandemic – it is even more important to have a well-stocked hand-carry.
Frequent flier Annette Lee, 30, has honed her packing skills through the years. She has been to Germany, Sri Lanka, the United States and the Maldives for work and play since travel picked up last year – often with her husband Raphael Foo, a 32-year-old hedge fund manager. For this instalment of Streetwise, Ms Lee and I pack a bag of travel essentials and find that, without planning, we have many items in common. Here are seven items we would not leave the country without.
1. Flying kit
Put together a flying kit in a small pouch or sling bag, which keeps your passport and wallet close at hand. Slip in items you regularly reach for, such as lip balm, hand cream and hand sanitiser. And include a pen for arrival cards and hotel check-in forms.
Throw in comfort items such as earplugs, an eye mask and a toothbrush, especially if you are taking budget airlines that do not issue these. Round off with Covid-19 essentials such as a throat spray and spare mask.
On the plane, the pouch fits tidily in a seat pocket, ensuring that your valuables are always close by.
Small bites are good for long drives, delayed meals or keeping kids occupied on a flight.
Ms Lee’s snack of choice is a child-size pack of Japanese instant noodles, which can be eaten dry. My pick is a small bag of granola, which is sweet enough for a quick energy boost, and contains oats and nuts for nourishment.
3. Spare eye care
A spare pair of contact lenses is one item Ms Lee cannot leave behind.
“I wear monthly lenses, and if I ever lose or damage one of them, they are hard to replace while overseas,” she says, adding that it is not always convenient to wear glasses, such as when doing sports.
Eye drops are another important yet often-overlooked item, says Ms Lee, who recalls being in Nashville, Tennessee, in the US during summer, when the air was so dry, her eyes hurt.
4. Long black dress
Conventional wisdom suggests that you should always have a change of clothes in your carry-on – even more important in the face of the global lost baggage crisis.
It is hard to go wrong with a long black dress, or a plain black tee and jeans for men. Throw on a blazer and scarf, and it is formal enough for dinner; pair it with shades and a sun hat, and it works as a beach cover-up. Or layer it with a long-sleeved thermal top and high socks in the cold. It is comfortable enough for long flights and looks more presentable than lounge pants.
Phone cameras are powerful, but sometimes, you want sharper and more vivid visuals.
Ms Lee owns a Canon EOS M50 Mark II, a mirrorless point-and-shoot camera. “I don’t use it every single day of my travels, but it takes good pictures and helps me record memories of my trips,” she says.
6. Jacket or scarf
These are useful for chilly flights and when the temperature dips unexpectedly after dark. Get a jacket with ultraviolet protection if you are planning to hike and spend time outdoors. Fold it into a small drawstring pouch for compact packing and to prevent it from getting tangled up with other items in your bag.
A scarf does double duty as a neck warmer and chic accessory. It also comes in handy as a cover-up when you visit places of worship.
7. Reusable tote
Many countries charge for single-use plastic bags these days and some, such as Rwanda and Thailand, have banned them altogether.
Take along a light reusable tote for your groceries or shopping. Ms Lee prefers a canvas one, while I like a water-resistant tote from Loqi, which folds tidily into a small square pouch.
♦ For more travel stories, go to str.sg/travel