round the world tips

 

 

Today, I am sat in a café overlooking the Pacific Ocean, in the small town of Kaikoura, New Zealand; it’s a beautiful place.  Reflecting the last five months of my round the world trip, it has been a thoroughly positive experience, but here are some tips that I would like to share.

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Five things I have learnt on my round the world trip

 

 

 

Last week I was kayaking towards the amazing Angthong National Marine Park in Thailand. Today, I am sat on my balcony, overlooking Lake Toba on Samosir Island. Travelling round the world comes with its own challenges and after seven weeks exploring SE Asia, I have learnt a lot of lessons that I would like to share with you.

 

Expect travel issues

 

This is the last thing you want to read when you’re planning a round the world trip, but things happen that are out of your control. You will find yourself in stressful situations, like struggling to find your hostel late at night, flight delays, and occasionally being ripped off. I’m afraid it happens. Just take a deep breath, smile and remember that your family and friends are either sat in an office working, or getting drenched cycling to work.

 

Travel light

 

Prior to starting my RTW trip I spent countless hours deciding if I should take one cabin size backpack, or, check in a large backpack. My concern was that the airline could lose my luggage, and I wouldn’t be in one place long enough to get it back. In the end I opted for a 46-litre backpack. I jump off the plane (of course, not literally!), through security, and walk straight past the baggage claim area, with a smug grin on my face.

 

For clothing, pack three of everything; so three t-shirts, three pairs of shorts etc. After you’ve packed your backpack, go through it again and remove any items that you don’t really need – be strict with yourself, you will not regret it.

 

Don’t look vulnerable

 

When you arrive at a new destination, walk through that exit with confidence – big striding steps, smile on your face, sending out the message that you know which direction you are heading in and how you are getting there. Walk around looking like a lost little sheep will send out a signal that you’re vulnerable, and the locals will pounce.

 

I walked through Kualanamu International airport in Medan, Indonesia looking stressed because my bankcard wouldn’t work in the ATM, and local tricksters pounced on me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be a responsible traveller

 

I have a problem with animals like elephants being used to entertain tourists, and cringe at the thought of them being made to do stupid acts like kick a football and do circus tricks. So, while in Thailand I went to an elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai where I learned more about the dwindling numbers of elephants in the country (approx. 3,000 left), and helped feed them. Of course, this tour was aimed at tourists, but it was much more ethical in my eyes. It is important that you are responsible about the places that you visit on your travels.

 

Have a great travel agency behind you

 

Having a reputable travel agency behind you can be the difference between a trip of a lifetime, and a trip from hell. There is no doubt that your travel plans will change, and having the support of a travel agent helps make the trip stress free. I wouldn’t have said that five years ago, but for a round the world trip they’re an essential part of it.

 

Singapore next!

 

 

by Darren Cronian

 

Disclosure: Darren is travelling on a Navigator round the world ticket which is valid for 12 months and is date changeable free of charge. His RTW consultant is Stuart, the handsome one.

Three Pieces of Travel Tech Advice You Can Happily Ignore

 

Like most other travellers, I had no idea what I was doing when starting out. I bought an enormous, badly-made 90 liter backpack, filled it with nothing useful and hauled it uncomfortably round the world for the next three years.

I had more quick-dry shirts and pants than I knew what to do with – but nothing to wear to a bar in the European cities I was spending my time. The bottom of my pack was filled with film canisters, but I had no way to keep them dry or from being fried by X-ray machines. I didn't even have a bandaid when I cut my finger on a blunt knife in a Dublin hostel, never mind antibiotics for the nasty stomach bug I picked up in Kenya.

My tech choices weren't any better. On the advice of a friend, I bought an insanely-expensive digital camera back when they'd just come out, then spent far more time deleting photos than taking them when I couldn't afford any extra memory cards.

I had an ancient Nokia phone with me for a while, but gave up on it when it didn't work anywhere I needed it to. The slightly newer version that came on my next trip stopped working properly in the first week, despite the salesman's assurances it was the best thing out there for travel.

I've worn uncomfortable shoes for months, carried an unused sleeping bag around multiple continents and thrown out far more travel laundry soap than I've ever used.

When trying to figure out why my gear choices had been so bad, I came up with one common thread: I'd listened too much to other people, especially those with no real experience doing the same things I was. Opinions are like bellybuttons – everybody has one – but useful information is rarer. I've stopped taking most generic travel advice these days, and come up with my own way of doing things based on experience rather than theories. To that end, here are three common pieces of advice I completely disagree with -- and what I choose to do instead.

“Travellers Need Macbooks”

The number of Apple logos I see in hostel common rooms grows by the month. Pretty silver Macbooks are everywhere, and if you ask their owners why they're carrying one, they'll waste no time explaining why it really is the only sensible choice. They're apparently easier to use, more reliable, more sturdy and more everything-else-good-in-the-world, and travellers totally need them.

No, they don't. Most travellers don't need a laptop at all, since a phone or tablet can do whatever's necessary in a device much smaller and cheaper. For the few who genuinely do benefit from them, the same software, performance and reliability is available in Windows laptops costing far less.

Of course, you can easily find terrible Windows machines – anything under about £500 will likely fall into that category for travellers. Spend a bit more, though, and you can get something as good as a high-end Macbook without spending anything like the same kind of money.

My old Asus laptop cost £700 and spent three years on the road, surviving everything the tropics could throw at it and more.  I bought a new model from the same company a couple of months ago that is thinner, lighter and has better specifications than a Macbook Pro costing several hundred pounds more. End result? An incredibly fast and attractive laptop – and a much healthier bank balance than if I'd gone down the Apple route.

 

 

“You Have to Have an iPhone”

For a few years, if you wanted a good smartphone for travel, you bought an iPhone. The hardware was better than anything else, sure, but more importantly, most decent apps were only available for iOS. I once travelled with an iPhone 3G for several months and it was a great little phone, doing everything I needed and even surviving being kicked down a potholed Chiang Mai street when it slipped out of my hands one rainy night.

Now, though, the market has changed. Android phones dominate the sales figures, and have driven prices down and app support up. There are very few good travel apps you can't find on the Play store – and when you can't find your personal favourite, there's always an alternative.

You can buy a perfectly decent unlocked Android device for well under £150 that'll do almost anything you need it to, or a sub-£300 match for the latest iPhone models. I've been carrying a Nexus 5 for the last year, for instance, and couldn't be happier with it.

If you want an iPhone, by all means buy one – it's still a great phone, and if you've got the spare cash, you won't be disappointed. Just remember that you've now got plenty of other, cheaper choices as well.

 

 

“Only a DSLR Can Take Good Photos”

As in every other artistic field, it's skill, not equipment, that makes for great photos. A huge camera that costs thousands of pounds won't provide a better shot if you don't know how to use it – it'll just give you a sore neck by mid-afternoon.

As technology has improved, cameras have shrunk in size to the point where a mirrorless or good point and shoot can give very good results without changing any of the default settings.

In reality, you're unlikely to notice a difference between shots from a budget DSLR kit in automatic mode, and those from a premium point and shoot like the Sony RX100M III that fits in your pocket.

If you're still considering buying a DSLR for your trip, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to learn what to buy in terms of both body and lenses, and how to use them properly if you want to get the most out of your investment.

Of course, like any other travel advice, you're welcome to ignore mine as well – that's the great thing about other people's opinions! If so, I look forward to seeing you out there on the road, Macbook under one arm and DSLR under the other, looking stylish in a pair of those gorgeous brown quick-dry pants.....

 

by Dave Dean

Photo credit under Creative Common 1 2 3

What's the Best Laptop For Your Round-The-World Trip?

 

 

Thinking of buying a laptop for your round-the-world trip? While most travellers can get by with just a smartphone or tablet, many still want a decent keyboard, larger screen and plenty of computing power on tap. Handheld gadgets are catching up fast, but especially for those who work from the road, notebooks and laptop/tablet hybrids remain firmly on the packing list. Here's what to look out for in 2015.

 

Apple Macbook Air

 

If you're an Apple fan, the decision is easy. The Macbook Air is a thin, lightweight, durable and attractive laptop, with enough speed and storage options to keep all but the most demanding users happy. While the 11” base model is very limited, spending an extra couple of hundred pounds yields major benefits. For £979 you'll get 8GB of memory for a faster, more useful machine, and a 256GB drive so you won't run out of space for photos before the end of your trip.

 

The Air is backed with good support, especially if you're travelling in one of the 16 countries with physical Apple stores where it can be dropped in for repair. If you'll be on the road after the initial twelve month warranty runs out, it's worth paying extra for Apple Care to extend it for another two years.

 

Dell XPS 13

 

Dell released an updated version of the XPS 13 in January, and it's one of the best travel laptops out there. The company has managed to squeeze a 13” screen into an 11” body, so it's easy to fit in a small daypack. It weighs 2.8lbs, and unusually for Dell, the base model is actually worth buying. For £1099 you'll pick up a machine with a speedy i7 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB drive, up to 12 hours of battery life and a super high-resolution touch screen.

 

Like the Air, the XPS 13 is extremely thin, but making the body from aluminum and carbon fibre means it's still durable enough to handle the inevitable knocks. The laptop comes with a 12 month next business day warranty, which can be upgraded up to an extra three years. For under fifty pounds you can also get accidental damage cover for liquid spills, drops and power surges – all of which are depressingly likely on the road.

 

Microsoft Surface Pro

 

Hybrid laptop/tablets are becoming increasingly popular, letting you have a full keyboard when you need it and a touch-screen entertainment device when you don't. There are dozens of hybrids out there, but one of the best is the Microsoft Surface Pro 3.

 

It comes with a high-resolution 12” touch screen (including a stylus), and has the power to run Windows 8 and almost any app without skipping a beat. It's a remarkably light 1.8lbs, although the fancy clip-on cover that includes an integrated keyboard for doing real work does add a bit of extra weight.

 

The Surface Pro doesn't come cheap, unfortunately – for a comparable specification to the Air or XPS 13, including the Smart Cover, you're looking at £1219. Still, if you can bag a special offer, this is a great device to travel with.

 

Asus Chi T100 

If you like the idea of a hybrid Windows laptop/tablet, but can't justify spending £1000+ on it, check out the Asus Transformer Book range instead. While they aren't really designed for handling high-end tasks, writing documents, editing photos and browsing the web aren't a problem, and you'll pay a lot less for them.

 

Asus has just announced updates across the range, and although the release date hasn't been announced yet, the T100 Chi looks like the one to beat for travellers. It will come with 2GB of RAM, a 1920x1200 screen and up to 128GB of storage, is just over 7mm thick and includes a  detachable keyboard. By itself it weighs less than 1.3lbs – the keyboard adds an extra pound or so.

 

The best part? If the US pricing is anything to go by, the starting price should only be around £300 when it hits UK shelves.

Did I miss any? What's your choice of travel laptop?

 

by Dave Dean

Choosing the Best Tablet for Your Travels

 

 

 

 

If you're going to take a tablet computer along on your travels, it has to do several things well. It needs to be light while also remaining durable. Battery life needs to be good enough to get you through a long-haul flight, and it needs to have plenty of storage for your apps, photos and entertainment.

 

Whether you need cellular data or not will depend on how connected you really want to be, and what other devices you travel with. You'll pay quite a bit extra for 4G tablets, so if you're happy with using Wi-Fi instead or can use your phone as a hotspot, this is a good place to save some money.

 

Here are my recommendations for both small/medium tablets and their full-size cousins.

 

Best small to medium sized tablet

 

If your priority is to keep luggage size and weight down, go for a small to medium-sized tablet with a screen size of 8.5 inches or less. That's about the limit for being able to comfortably hold it in one hand, and it will fit easily into a jacket pocket or small bag.

 

Samsung makes (far too) many different tablet models, but it's the Tab S 8.4 that shines for travellers. While the 16GB of onboard storage isn't great, a microSD slot lets you add extra space cheaply when you need it. It also includes 50GB of Dropbox cloud storage free for two years, which is handy for keeping those holiday snaps backed up.

 

It's slim and light, with a fast processor, bright, high resolution screen and battery that should see you through a day of moderate use. The Wi-Fi version is around £265 on Amazon.

 

For a cheap yet surprisingly decent option, consider the Asus MeMo Pad 7. For £99 you'll get a thin 7” tablet with good battery life, 16GB of storage plus a microSD slot for extra space, and a nippy processor.

 

I can't recommend Apple's iPad Mini 3. At £319 for the base model and £90+ more for one with reasonable storage, it's just too expensive compared to the competition. You'd be better off looking elsewhere or waiting for a new version later this year, but if you must have a small Apple tablet right now, the older Mini 2 has similar specifications and costs £80 less.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best large tablet

 

If you're not travelling with a laptop, consider a full-size tablet instead – the extra screen size makes watching video and reading books and web pages easier, although you'll likely need a stand or both hands for extended use.

 

When cost isn't a concern, the iPad Air 2 is the best large tablet out there. The bright, high-resolution 9.7” screen and blazingly fast processor is coupled with a sleek, lightweight design. The battery will last a full day under all but the heaviest loads, and if you're one of those people who insists on taking video with their tablet, you can do it in full HD.

 

You'll need to shell out £399 for the base model with 16GB of storage, or £479 for a more useful 64GB.

 

The Samsung Tab S 10.5 (the bigger version of my earlier pick) is also a compelling choice. It has a super-high resolution 10.5” screen, will last a remarkable 14 hours when watching video and has the same microSD slot for storage upgrades. You'll pay around £345 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version.

 

For those who don't know whether they'd prefer a laptop or tablet, many hybrid devices aim to provide the best of both. Most don't even get close, but one that does is the £349 Asus Transformer T200. It performs well as a Windows-based tablet, with a sharp 11.6” screen and 32GB of inbuilt storage, but it's the included keyboard dock that makes it shine. You'll get extra battery life, a 500GB hard drive and, obviously, a real keyboard when needing to type anything longer than a few sentences.

 

So those are my picks for the best travel tablets in early 2015. Do you have any others to add?

by Dave Dean