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Are You A Defensive Traveler? If Not, Here’s How To Be One


Photo courtesy of Paxon Woelber.

I first heard the term “defensive traveler” from my friend Ed. We were traveling together in Trinidad and Tobago and waiting for a flight. We hadn’t eaten dinner and nothing near the airport was open, so I pulled out a ziplock of walnuts, pretzels and cereal. “You really are a defensive traveler,” he laughed. I liked it. While calling someone defensive usually has a negative connotation, a defensive traveler is someone who is prepared for any situation. Here are some travel tips so you can be a more defensive traveler:

Bring A Light Jacket, Even If It’s Hot Out

You will never find me without a sweater. Even if I’m in the Caribbean on a hot summer day, I know that as soon as I step into a bus or restaurant the air conditioner will be on -50 degrees Fahrenheit. Shivering through a meal can make a potential fun night out feel like torture, so do yourself a favor and pack something with long sleeves. I especially love thin long-sleeved shirts — like the ones you find at Cotton On — that can easily roll-up into your purse or pocket.

Remember Your Purse/Pocket Essentials

No matter where I’m going, there are a few things that I always carry in my purse: A mini sunscreen, mini bug repellent, lip balm, tissues and hand sanitizer. These are all travel essentials that have come in handy for me time and time again, and I never regret packing them.

Always Pack A Day Backpack

While it’s almost impossible to forget your luggage (if you get all the way to the airport and realize you haven’t brought your suitcase that is kind of crazy), many people forget about the many day excursions they’ll be taking. A small backpack, even a thin nylon gym bag that takes up almost no space, will come in handy each day as you go kayaking, hiking, beach bumming, cycling and exploring.

Crackers. Photo courtesy of dewetster.

Always Carry Food

Life doesn’t always go according to plan, and this is especially true when you’re traveling. If your tour is supposed to get lunch at 12pm but a delay changes the time to 2pm, you don’t want to be distracted by a rumbling stomach and headache as your guide is showing you the sites. Or maybe your bus said it would get in at 5pm but traffic leaves you stuck without food until 9pm. Instead of assuming these things won’t happen — because they inevitably will at some point — have a snack on you at all times. My favorite portable munchies include apples, trail mix, granola bars, peanut butter crackers and sandwiches.

Don’t Ever Be Without Water

Especially if you’re going to be in an area without many stores, bring a water with you wherever you’re going. If I’m in a place where it’s okay to drink the tap water I will usually re-fill a water bottle over and over to save money. When traveling, it’s easy to forget about the importance of being hydrated, despite the fact being dehydrated can ruin your entire trip. Do yourself a favor and always have a water on you in case you end up being thirsty in a place where water isn’t readily available.

Plastic Bags Are Your Friend

When traveling, I guarantee there will be a time you will wish you had a plastic bag, whether it’s for dirty underwear, a wet bathing suit, to carry your lunch or a powder compact that exploded. Even if you already pack your toilettries in ziplocks and plastic bags bring extras for the unexpected times you’ll need them.

Sneakers. Photo courtesy of Mattox.

Choose Sneakers Over Heels

If you can only bring one pair of shoes on your trip, make it sneakers. Better yet, make it hiking sneakers so they can double up for adventure sports and sightseeing. While your heels may be cute, you’ll get much more use out of the sneakers. Plus, your travel companions will be thankful to not hear you complain about how much your feet hurt. I also usually travel with a pair of flip-flops and sometimes a pair of Toms — they become almost completely flat when you pack them, taking up virtually no space — and sometimes a pair of ballet slipper flats if there will be some important dinners or more dressy nights out.

Learn How To Travel With Just A Carry On

Lost luggage and broken belongings is not a fun way to start a trip. Moreover, having to wait at the carousel as the bags slowly get unloaded from the plane (and you know yours will be last) can make you grumpy. I feel better having all of my belongings with me at all times. It’s honestly really simple to travel with just a carry-on. The trick is opting for one sturdy and spacious small rolling suitcase (make sure it has inside netting and outside pockets for extra storage) as well as a roomy laptop tote (I use Drake Laptop Tote by Hex) and you’ll be good to go.

Earplugs And Eye Masks Can Be Life Savers

Even if you’re not staying in a hostel, earplugs and eye masks are always smart to carry with you. How many times have you stayed in a hotel where you could hear the music from the bar, the traffic from the street or the young lovers next store, err, having fun. And you know the person sitting next to you on the plane is going to want to look out the window the whole time, despite the fact the sun is beaming right into your face. Be prepared and pack earplugs and an eye mask. You won’t regret it.

Make Copies Of Important Documents

While you most likely won’t lose your passport, credit cards, debit cards and/or license, why take the chance? Before leaving home make copies of these items as well as any important travel documents that you don’t have a virtual copy of. Leave one copy at home with a trusted family member or friend and carry one set with you somewhere hidden. This way, if an unfortunate situation does arise you’ll have a much easier time sorting it out.

About Jessie Festa

Jessie Festa is an New York-based travel content creator who is passionate about empowering her audience to experience new places and live a life of adventure. She is the founder of the solo female travel blog, Jessie on a Journey, and is editor-in-chief of Epicure & Culture, an online conscious tourism magazine. Along with writing, Jessie is a professional photographer and is the owner of NYC Photo Journeys, which offers New York photo tours, photo shoots, and wedding photography. Her work has appeared in publications like USA Today, CNN, Business Insider, Thrillist, and WestJet Magazine.

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  1. Lance on at 6:26 pm

    Common sense advice that somehow many of us tend to forget. Water, day pack, food and baggies are big ones to me. Now that we travel with our son more instead of always leaving him with grandparents I’ve learned that food is a must. We carried a jar of peanut butter around France and Scotland that turned out to be a life saver, especially when mom and dad can handle 9 p.m. dinners but a 5-year-old can’t.

  2. Val-Travel Scamming on at 2:11 am

    Great advice!! It’s too easy to forget the simple things…

  3. Jessie Festa on at 3:22 am

    @Lance- Peanut butter is my life when I’m traveling. I love mixing it with oatmeal. Super fixing and really easy to make.

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