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Packing For Your Food Filled Trip

As I am dreaming of my next international trip, I got to thinking - what are my packing essentials for my food-themed adventures? I revolve a lot of my trip planning around cuisine: what to eat, where to eat it, how to get there.

But with adventure comes some planning, unexpected mishaps, and replanning. Here are my top ten must-pack essentials for any itinerary, to make sure your trip runs smoothly, no matter the hang-up...

1. Comfy Walking Shoes

The reason I love taking food-themed trips is because I truly love to learn about various cultures and lifestyles through cuisine. However, that does not mean sitting at your hotel bar or only hitting up the touristy sections of a city. What it does mean is a lot of exploring, getting lost, stumbling across some gems, and enjoying the spontaneity and realness of a place. Safety pending, this is one of my favorite aspects of travel.

"Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonald's? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria's mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head?"

Anthony Bourdain

So, what does that really mean? Comfortable walking shoes. I cannot stress this enough. I don't care if they are high heels or hiking boots, pack what makes you comfortable, because you will discover your best food while getting lost around the city.

2. Maps (TIP: How to Find Your Way Home Without Wifi)

That being said, it is important to not get TOO lost. In the past when I have traveled, I have realized my hesitancy in this “go-getter” exploration. Why is that? Well, as a woman (and human) I aim to maintain my safety, and ultimately I found myself anxious about not finding my way back to familiar territory after a day of exploring. You guys, technology is amazing. Obviously, you can purchase any paper map, but my key to unlocking the best afternoons is making sure I download the entire city I am exploring on Google Maps.

Yes, you can pull up any city in the world on your phone by:

1. Opening up the Google Maps app while on WIFI

2. Search and pull up the city/area you would like to download

3. In the top corner within the search bar, you can press your profile picture, which will pull down a list of different options/operations within the app (including “Your profile,” “Location Sharing,” etc.)

4. Select “Offline maps”

5. Then press “SELECT YOUR OWN MAP”

6. From there, you can select a rectangle space of any size (depending on your phone MB space) to download to your phone and store on the app in the same section. Press "DOWNLOAD" located in the bottom right corner and viola!

In addition, you will also find “Your places” located within the bottom banner. Here, you can save any address, and a pinpoint will show up on your downloaded map. I pinpoint every restaurant, museum, cafe, and site (including my hotel or home base) that I may be interested in visiting throughout my trip. By doing this, I can pull up this map no matter where I am in the world (without WIFI), and be able to find my way back home (or to a nearby cafe I have saved!). This relieved any anxiety I had about not being able to find my way when exploring, and leaves me free to spend the day getting some steps in!

3. Some Local Cash

What do I love more than almost anything in the world? Local markets. Local markets are the key way to learn about any location. Whether you are in Myeongdong, South Korea trying the craziest combination of street foods you can think of, or a local plaza in Barcelona grabbing some fresh vegetables, markets are always the way to go. I suggest you do research on the location you are visiting, as this will give you good insight on what streets and foods to try.

No matter where you travel, there is always a high chance that these excellent spots will be cash-only, and dear god do not expect them to convert and accept the American dollar. That means your best bet is always bringing some local cash around with you when you travel. Some people swear by converting money before they leave, some believe in withdrawing from an ATM while there (if you have low/zero international charges, although this is especially difficult in some countries, hello China and rural areas) but I definitely suggest avoiding Exchange Booths/Shops. They will always hit you with more crazy exchange charges than you deserve.

4. Your Favorite Camera

You may have heard the phrase, “doing it for the ‘gram” a few times in your life. And it is true, we take a lot of pictures of a lot of things, because we like to post them and show them to people. I, personally, have always thought a lot about this and struggled with it. How many meals do I have to take a picture of? When is it rude? When is it acceptable?

What I have landed on in my life is this: would you take this picture, even if you weren’t posting it anywhere? I have always been self-conscious of taking a photo to show off, but what if this picture makes you happy to look back at and remember this excellent meal and moment? Then do it! Do what makes you happy. If documenting food is a fun aspect of your trip for you, then do it and enjoy it. Because it’s your fun. So don't forget your camera! Whether it's on your phone or something of higher resolution. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: That being said, be conscious of other people. Will it disturb other eaters? Will it ruin the mood of the dinner? If so, it is better to be respectful and aware than taking the shot - especially if you’re eating with individuals of another culture, who might have different cultural expectations around mealtimes and photo-taking. The experience is always more important than the picture, in my opinion.

5. An Expandable Water Bottle

Almost everyone can think of one thing they can't leave behind when they are on the move. Gum, Chapstick, their watch. For me, it’s water. In many countries around the world, fresh water is less accessible than it is in the United States. You can’t just turn on the tap water and drink a glass. In addition, many Americans are surprised to find that water isn’t typically served with meals outside of the US. At restaurants, you should expect to have to pay for water at your meal. Sometimes, more than you pay for your wine (hello, Spain). So if you're anything like me, it is important to bring some water with you when you are on the move. This helps when tasting new dishes, especially if it turns out something is not up your alley.

I have tried a couple different ways to make sure I have water on me at all times. For a while I relied on buying plastic water bottles at grocery stores throughout the day, but personally struggled with it being bad for the environment. But carrying a huge Nalgene around all day? No, thank you. It doesn’t even fit in my bag and adds ten pounds. My tried and true solution? Expandable water bottles. This is my current one: HydraPak Stow Water Bottle - 17 fl. Oz. I love it because without water, it basically folds into the size of a highlighter. In addition, it will always be the size of the amount of water I feel like carrying. A lot of expandable water bottles still have a maintained structure no matter how much water is inside, but this one truly only takes up the amount of space you want it to. Don’t feel like carrying a full 17 oz? Carry 8, instead. It is the perfect way to conveniently stay hydrated when exploring and tasting a variety of foods.

6. Face Cleanser, Lotion, & Sunscreen

A common aspect of travel that no one speaks about is how much traveling takes a toll on your skin. More sun, dry flights, and new, rich foods that are high in sugar. Make sure you pack some hydrating lotions and sunscreens, no matter where you are traveling.

I live and die by this rule.

7. Medicine (& Hand Sanitizer)

I am going to take an honest second here to share a secret no one speaks about: new countries + new foods = high possibility of upset stomachs. No matter the quality of cuisine, it's the truth of life. No vacation should be uncomfortable. So always, ALWAYS, bring some medicine with you. Why risk it? Pepto, Tums, whatever you prefer. Another great item: hand sanitizer.

8. Packable Rain Gear

There’s no avoiding the weather, but there are plenty of ways to make sure it doesn’t "rain on your parade." From experience, I will say some countries prefer rain jackets, some prefer umbrellas. I never once saw a person wearing a rain jacket in Korea. On the flip side, I would never walk through the forest with an umbrella. Or anywhere outside of Disney with a poncho. Regardless, make sure you pick whatever rain gear works for you. Even if you pack one thing "just in case," it is worth it.

Don’t let the weather stop the food adventure!

Plus, it gives you a reason to stay at that restaurant for a couple more dishes.

9. A Portable Charger

If you are going to rely on your phone for maps, recommendations, and photos, you have to make sure you have a full battery. Which, nowadays, can honestly be a lot to ask for - especially if you have a phone that is a few years old. I would hate to be caught traveling around to restaurants and cafes trying to find an outlet (because there is a high likelihood you won't be able to, especially internationally). I highly suggest packing a portable charger and keeping it charged in case of emergencies. I have this one: Mophie Portable Charger, and like to keep it on me just in case.

10. Extra Snacks

Finally, it may sound redundant, but snacks. It is hard to imagine -- on a trip where you have planned a lot of eating -- wasting any stomach space on a granola bar. BUT, I cannot tell you how many times a trip to an exciting new spot has taken longer than expected, and then I am hangrily trying to find it on an empty stomach. Pack something that you can maybe reseal, like a bag of almonds that you can eat a few of if you are feeling like you need to recharge as you are touring. You won't catch me dead without a snack in my purse. For everyone's sake.

PS. another great thing to do is to visit local grocery stores during your trip, to find some local snacks you can't try at home. That way, even your snacks are a fun food addition.

There are plenty of other things I pack as I travel, but these top ten come to mind as “essentials.” What are your travel essentials? Let me know!

Travel well and happy eating!


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