As much as holidays and adventures should be about letting go, chilling out and switching off, when you’re a proper adult with a passport, an expensive camera and a smartphone, you have to watch out for your valuables, no matter how dazzling the scenery might be. Cue the search for a secure travel bag that doesn’t make you look like a conspicuous tourist on their ‘Gap Yah’.
Firstly, this backpack isn’t marketed as ‘pickpocket-proof’ or a ‘secure’ travel bag (unlike the super-useful pickpocket-proof tank top I tested from Clever Travel Companion). Yet there are plenty of safety features, making the Harvest Label Urban Rolltop Backpack 2.0 more secure than standard backpacks.
Ethical travel is a huge trend for 2017: in a nutshell, it means travelling in a way that consciously benefits the community or the environment as a whole (but not the thorny issue of voluntourism).
Eco hotels, local and seasonal food, independent local shops, charity initiatives, slow fashion, public transport and responsible dark tourism can all be factored into travelling more ethically.
I won’t claim to be 100% ethical when I travel, because that would be a lie. My suitcase usually contains as many pieces of fast fashion as it does charity shop finds, and I don’t turn down a meal that hasn’t been locally sourced, because life’s too short to be that fussy. Just give me a hot dog or a pastry and I’m a happy camper. That aside, I want to show that you can add some ethical accessories to your suitcase with very little effort, and on any budget.
‘Tis the season of Christmas shopping, frosty walks and winter minibreaks (at last!), but you need a winter wardrobe of reliable basics if you’re going to make the most of these colder months. Whether you’re wandering locally or heading overseas, have these winter wardrobe essentials close to hand and you’ll be travel-ready in an instant.
Your Adaptable Winter Wardrobe Ingredients
2x winter coats – one long and resilient, and one short, lightweight and fun
3x knitwear – a draped cardigan, a slim-fit jumper, and a knitted dress
1x black skinny jeans or jeggings
2x thermal tops – one long-sleeved, one tank top or vest
1x smart camisole
1x pleated or patterned skirt
1x thermal leggings and 1x 100-200 denier tights; 1x fleece insoles for shoes
Accessories: 1x blanket-style scarf or wrap, 1x gloves, 1x winter hat, 1x skinny waist belt, 1x statement necklace
1x flat knee-high boots or ankle boots
1x water-resistant trainers (e.g. leather, PU leather or waxed cotton)
The City Break
Drape the scarf over a knitted dress (I love this metallic khaki dress by JD Williams) and secure it with the skinny belt, à la Burberry circa 2014, for a stylish lunch date. Alternatively, team it with the jumper, skirt and trainers for a low-key adventure. Heels are great for evenings out, but not so useful for active breaks, so check your itinerary before you pack those stilettos. Your pair of knee-high boots or ankle boots act as a smart alternative.
It’s a sad truth of practical holiday packing that, the more efficient your clothing, the less fashionable or sophisticated it’s likely to be. I say ‘likely’ because I’ve tracked down some brilliant examples of reversible travel clothing that won’t scream ‘TOURIST ALERT’ when you just want to stick to styles you love.
One thing you’ll notice is these items are often more expensive than your average top or sweater, but remember you’re essentially getting two for the price of one, plus saving space. Spend a little more and you’ll love the results.
Even if you’re not that interested in make-up in everyday life, travelling can change that. For one thing, any combination of jet lag, rough ferry crossings, late night road trips and weird eating patterns can play havoc with your skin, and that’s before sizzling heat or bitterly cold winds come into the equation too. Suddenly a slick of colour or a soothing skin cream seems like a very good idea, and it’s the perfect time to invest in travel beauty products.
With a slew of special offers running in high street stores all year round, World Duty Free isn’t always the cheapest place to shop. Rather than pinning your hopes on airport bargains, I suggest you stock up on basics before you travel, and save some room in your suitcase to bring home new and distinctive beauty products – either for yourself or to use as souvenirs. And if you go to South Korea, expect beauty-savvy friends to be insanely jealous, as it’s a mecca for cosmetics.
Lawrence Durrell once said that “Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection.” I’m a big advocate of travelling for wellbeing, but I’ve also blogged about what it’s like to be away when you’re depressed, and how you can get through it. One big issue remains: finding travel insurance to cover depression can be a bit of a nightmare because, as the FCO says, it needs to be declared as a pre-existing medical condition. That policy will protect you from any health-related issues that may crop up during your trip, but you’ll pay a lot for the privilege.
Some people have a thing against organised tour holidays. They think there’s no adventure involved, that it’s all about strict plans and blithely following the leader, with no room for fun or independence; I’m going to prove it’s far from the truth. My three group tour experiences were very different, but they all helped me to get more from the country I was visiting, and they were anything but dull.
First I headed to Berlin, Dresden and Colditz with Riviera Travel, a British company that mainly has middle-aged and mature customers – I went with my mum and I was the only one of the entire group not to have either a husband, a pension plan or the symptoms of the menopause. However, I learned loads and had plenty of free time to explore, even making it to Sachsenhausen for the afternoon.
These days we seem to carry more valuables than ever when we’re on holiday, from cameras to laptops, so it’s not surprising that travel safety is becoming a bigger concern. Whilst we can’t stick a DSLR up a jumper or hide an iPad beneath a maxi dress, being able to squirrel away smaller items like some extra cash, a room key and a passport can be really useful.
I recently spent a few days exploring Copenhagen and Malmö and, having read that both cities are safe but carry the usual risks of urban pickpocketing, decided it was best to come prepared. An anti-theft top with two hidden pockets seemed like an easy way to store some of my belongings without sticking out like a sore thumb… enter the Tank Top with Two Pockets by Clever Travel Companion.
I’m sick of reading the flippant phrase ‘post-travel depression’ – something millennials are obsessed with, describing it on forums and websites as ‘so real’ and ‘so intense’.
‘Depression’ is an all too casually misused word, bandied about in frustrating but not earth-shattering moments, like when your football team loses or you find out Zayn is leaving One Direction. Equally, if you feel deflated after a trip to Bali, you’re not depressed and you don’t need this post. I want to draw attention to tangible clinical depression, which is about as much fun as sticking pins in your eyes, and affects one in five adults during their lifetime.
Those travel advertising dweebs have got a lot to answer for – out of all the beautifully Photoshopped pictures of snow-capped mountains, charity hill treks and celebratory Machu Picchu poses, the unglamorous reality of altitude sickness doesn’t get a look-in.
Perhaps the sight of a grumpy tourist clutching their head and begging for a darkened room isn’t much of an incentive for potential customers, but it’s something mountain visitors need to be warned about, much like yodelling or the onslaught of posh children mowing down first-time skiers for kicks.