The following are the thought-processes and ideas that I applied in my preparation for my personal travels in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Macau, and my year-long study abroad in China.
Luggage and Packing
Great principle to keep: travel light. Trust me, you will thank yourself for doing so. I have seen family members, cohorts, and a few friends who failed to keep this principle and their travels were a drag due to unnecessary weight. Heres my advice:
Pack Old, Small and Durable, Unwanted Clothes: If you do need to bring a lot of clothes for an extended leave, such as in my case with going to China for a year, then I would advise packing clothes that you are willing to damage and toss. For me, I packed 4 long sleeve shirts, 3 long sleeve heat techs, 6 T-Shirts and 2 heat tech shirts, 3 sweat pants, 4 pairs of shorts, 2 pairs of jeans, 3 pairs of shoes, 1 set of nice clothes, a compact Uniqlo jacket and a North-face jacket that is water proof. As for socks and underwear, I packed a little over 10 of each. If you wanted to buy items in your destination, you can get rid of the old unwanted clothing to do so.
Smaller Luggage: Same principle applies here as well, if you do well to pack minimal, it will enable you to reduce the size of your check-in luggage. I was fortunate my friend’s family lent me their Samsonite duffel stroller bag. After I packed all my clothes, I still had plenty of room left over to even fit my backpack.
Backpack and Smaller Messenger Bag: Arguably, this would conflict with the principle of traveling light, however, I permitted this combination because I knew I had enough room in my check-in luggage to afford me the choice of storing it in there if needed. My reasoning behind this combination is to have spare clothes on your person in case you would lose your check-in. Essentially, excluding [C], this is what you need in order to travel light.
Bring the Smallest Laptop: In most scenarios, it is not necessary for an average traveler to carry a high end, expensive, power-house type of laptop unless they are commissioned by a tech company to do so or their purpose of travel requires such. In ordinary cases, my advice is to bring a reliable, durable, and decently fast laptop. In my case, I carried my 11-inch Macbook Air and I am extremely glad I did. Your back will thank you also by the way.
Convenient Travel Tips
If you adhere to the principles mentioned above, then your travel experience would be much smooth and enjoyable. However, its worth mentioning several helpful things that would help you during your journey to the airport, customs, and other nuances relatively easier.
1. First would be to bring a laptop backpack with an easy zipper that allows you to take out and store your device fast.
2. Secondly I think it is worthwhile to bring along a secondary bag that is smaller than your primary bag. My reasoning here is to disperse your items better in the event that your check in luggage gets lost or stolen, you will suffer less losses by packaging certain sets of clothing in your primary bag and important documents and personal items in your secondary bag. I carried a small size Timbuk2 2014 messenger bag.
3. Third would be to wear clothing that have high utility value, what I mean by this is big side pockets, secret pockets, etc, durability, and usability. For pants, I tend to wear cargo pants with at least 5 pockets or above. As for shoes, I wear slip-on Sketcher Shape Ups, as odd as it sounds, these shoes are extremely comfortable for walking long distances while carrying travel items, and they are easy to put on and off.
Research and Preparation
This is quite important. Here’s my two cents: you research and prepare for the unexpected and unplanned events that will take place. Luckily for me, my study abroad program provided me decent intel about what to expect in China, the regulations, and instructions on how to get from the airport to the next plotted destination. However, in respects to my independent travels prior to my study abroad, it required dedicated time to research flight costs, hotel accommodations, and tourist attractions pertaining to a given country. Again, I was fortunate that I am traveling with a friend who helped with the research. This is how I organized my trip:
Create a Schedule and Outline: My friend and I used google docs to create a shared word document in which we mutually contributed our research ideas into one organized and clear outline with flight itinerary information, departure and arrival dates, estimated cost, must see locations, etc.
Currency: Understand how much your USD or currency would be worth in your respective country. Having this intel will enable your to better determine the budget needed to travel to that given location. For us, we had to be more careful with our budget going to Singapore versus going to Thailand due to the difference in buying power and rate of exchange between the two countries.
Budget: This aspect of preparation is extremely crucial and you should probably handle this first before even planning the trip. First, ask yourself how much you can afford, and then, how much you are willing to spend. Once you produced a realistic budget needed to accomplish your travel goals, then you have a finance layout in which to realize your travel dreams. I would advise traveling with a few friends since this would in most cases reduce potential expenses and increase your budget limit.
This is what I got for now, I hope this helps!