Ladies – Packing for a Two Week Cruise: a Capsule Wardrobe for the Caribbean and Central America

What do you bring on a two week cruise? Photograph, Peter Hansen, Unsplash.

There are some times we must pack light. European trips involving frequent train travel — it’s the only way to go. But ladies, when we talk road trips and cruises, we have a lot more latitude. You can bring the BIG suitcase!

This is a Travelpro 25″ spinner. I never travel with suitcases larger than this — because you will definitely exceed bag weight limits on the airlines. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

As I prepare to launch of for a month of travel, starting with two weeks of road-tripping through Florida, then culminating in a two week Celebrity cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale, I’ve ditched my carry-on spinner for a full-sized (25 inch) suitcase.

I’ve just replaced my full-sized suitcase with a new Travelpro. I loved my smaller carry-on size Travelpro spinner that I took to Italy in September, so I thought I’d try another bag from this luggage company.

If you’re interested in looking at the Travelpro 25″ Spinner, you’ll find it here on eBags, or here on AmazonTravelpro Platinum Magna 2 25” Expandable Spinner Suiter (Olive,25-inch)

Travel wardrobes still require thought, even when you do have more space. Capsule wardrobes help you get more outfits from of fewer pieces of clothing. Regardless of whether you’re traveling, or simply improving your home wardrobe, they’re a smart way to think.

What is a capsule wardrobe?

The concept originated with Susie Faux in 1973, at her shop Wardrobe in London’s West End.

The idea is to choose neutral, well-made pieces of clothing with the maximum ability to coordinate with one another, giving you as many outfits as possible. Capsule wardrobing is a great concept for anyone paring down their closet at home, but it is also perfectly suited to traveling.

Due to spending time on the beach, in the Caribbean, and in hot climates in Central and South America, I’m certainly going with lighter colors than I would if I were traveling in Europe.

A classic 4 x 4 Capsule wardrobe should have 16 pieces of clothing, not counting accessories, and can broken down as follows:

  • First Core of Four: Four pieces of clothing in a darker neutral (2 bottoms, 1 top, and 2nd top – preferably one cardigan or jacket)
  • Second Core of Four: Four pieces of clothing in a lighter neutral (2 bottoms, 1 top, 2nd top — preferably a cardigan or jacket)
  • Bridge/Expansion Four: Four tops that go with ALL of the Core pieces of clothing. Think either tops with patterns that have both of the core colors in them, or tops in colors that simply complement both of the core colors well.
  • Mileage Four: This might be 4 additional tops, or instead — perhaps 2 tops, an additional bottom, and a dress. For my trip, I added one extra piece here, so it turned out to be the Mileage Five :-).
  • Additional: Accent Accessories: scarves, jewelry, shoes, purses that work with the core pieces. I like scarves that bring pops of color to the basic neutral pieces of the wardrobe.

In addition, I am taking 2 swimsuits, one cover-up, and a pair of flip flops, which are not shown in the image below.

Capsule Travel Wardrobe showing what to pack for a two week cruise Caribbean
A Capsule Travel Wardrobe for a Two-Week Cruise in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.

Within the two Core sets of neutrals, I’m taking  one light-weight cardigan in white, and one beige jacket. The white ruffled-front cardigan can hang open or be knotted at the waist. Purses: a soft blue Fossil hobo, as well as a Cole Haan black cross-body bag and a small silver clutch for evenings — giving me some variety and the ability to carry reading glasses, a Sea Pass card, and my iPhone.

What women choose to wear on “formal” nights varies dramatically, and you’ll see everything: cocktail dresses, more elegant maxi-style dresses, cropped pants with glittery tops, and some who have inexplicably chosen dresses that look like high school prom night. Note: on smaller, boutique cruise lines, like Windstar and Star Clippers, there are no formal nights. Every night is smart-casual.

For the dressier evenings on the ship, I have chosen NOT to bring a cocktail dress. I often bring a cocktail dress, but this on this trip I’m giving that a big miss. Since I have a two week road trip before the cruise, I need more versatile pieces of clothing.

Once onboard, my “dress night” garb will my black dress, and the cropped black pants with blue camisole or black tank top with more formal pieces of jewelry. I’ve done this on many cruises, and it’s worked well for me. Ladies, this is one place that we all vary. For my readers wanting dressier options, I’d switch out a couple of pieces within the Mileage category, and simply replace them with more formal options.

For my full four week trip, I’ll certainly be doing laundry — on the Florida road trip, the condo in Miami has a washing machine and dryer, so I’ll board the Celebrity Reflection with everything clean. Once onboard, I plan to send laundry out once. One thing to keep in mind: the industrial laundry on ships isn’t gentle. Hand washing knits or other delicate items in your room may be the smart way to go.

Here are images to give you an idea of just a few of the many combinations you can get from the Travel Capsule Wardrobe shown above.

Set of possible day time wardrobe combinations from the 2 Week Cruise Capsule Wardrobe
Possible combinations, Set 1.
Set 2 of possible wardrobe combinations from the 2 Week Cruise Capsule Wardrobe
Possible Combinations, Set 2.
Set of possible wardrobe combinations from the 2 Week Cruise Capsule Wardrobe
Possible combinations, Set 3.
Set of possible evening wardrobe combinations from the 2 Week Cruise Capsule Wardrobe
Possible evening combinations, Set 4.

 

 Packing List
    • 5 bottoms, either pants, sorts, skirts, or capris
    • 9 tops
    • 1 dress
    • 2 cardigans
    • 3-5 silk scarves
    • 2 pairs of flat sandals
    • 1 pair strappy evening sandals
    • 7 pairs underwear — you’ll either being sink washing, or sending wash out while onboard
    • 2 bras
    • 2 bathing suits and 1 cover-up *not included in the Capsule wardrobe. I consider these to be a separate category
    • flip-flops
    • tennis shoes
    • water shoes for coral or rocky beaches
    • Hat(s)
    • Sleepwear
    • workout clothes
    • toiletries & makeup
      • Be sure to bring sunscreen & possibly mosquito repellent.
    • medicine
    • 1 tall kitchen garbage bag + 2 large ziploc bags (good for dirty clothes, wet bathing suits, etc.)
    • Beach tote: one that zips up and folds down into nothing!

Packing Folder and Cube System

Packing efficiently: I am a BIG believer in packing folders and packing cubes. Honestly, I’m not sure how I packed before getting the folders and cubes. In the nineties, I had a folding “suiter” case that had a central section for hanging close, then multiple zipping sections and pockets — and back then, that was as good is you could get.

In 2003, when that case wore out, I bought a new 25″ Samsonite case — you know, a standard suitcase with one central black hole of a big space. I bought my first packing folder and a couple of cubes, and I was sold. SO much better than the older suiter case that I’d had. If you haven’t used the folders and cubes, the Pack It video from Eagle Creek demonstrates how the system works.

For this packing list, I used two medium Eagle Creek Pack-It folders: one for bottoms + dress, and the other for tops, cardigan, and jacket. Then I put the undies, bras, sleepwear, and scarves in one cube, and swimsuits and cover-up in a second cube. Toiletries and makeup have separate bags. Everything fit in my 25″ Travelpro Spinner, no problem.

I love the folders, because while no packing method is wrinkle free, they decrease wrinkling better than any other method I’ve tried. I also love that I can pull the folders and cubes out of my suitcase, pop them into drawers, and I’m unpacked in a couple of minutes.

Eagle Creek Medium Pack-It Folder on eBags 
 Eagle Creek Pack It Medium Pack-It Folder on Amazon
 

Things People often FORGET to Pack for a Cruise

 Things you’ll probably need Things that might come in handy
  • Sunscreen
  • Mosquito Repellent – whether you’re in Costa Rica or Alaska, mosquitos get around!
  • Calamine or other bug bite itch cream
  • Spare pair of glasses (sun and/or reading)
  • Dramamine, Bonine, or other medication for being sea sick. Even if you don’t need them on the big ship, you may for an excursion in a smaller boat.
  • Good walking shoes. Many tours require close-toed shoes.
  • OTC meds — yes, you can buy ibuprofen, Tums, etc. on the ship, but they are expensive!
  • Razor
  • Stain wipes
  • Travel magnifying mirror. If you use one at home, you’ll need one here as well.
  • Dry pak case for phone or camera — or at least a Ziploc bag as protection from the unexpected afternoon thunderstorm.
  • Highlighter for daily news letter
  • Power strip for our power hungry life styles
  • Water shoes
  • Beach bag/shopping bag
  • Lanyard – for your Sea Pass card. Or you can pay 3 times more for one on the ship 🙂
  • Sticky notes — for leaving notes for your steward or group members
  • Towel clips – keeps your towel from blowing off pool loungers
  • Suction cup hooks — great for things like hats
  • Shoe bag for bathroom: can hang on the door hook to hold things you don’t want to give shelf space to
  • Traveling with a group? Consider a magnetic door sign — message board. State room doors all look the same – and can be handy for leaving messages.

Bon Voyage!

Wake behind cruise ship.
Happy packing and have a wonderful cruise! Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Notes: clothing shown comes from Chico’s and Eddie Bauer — but you can obviously build wardrobes like this with any brand of clothing. Scarves: Gucci and Missoni from Nordstrom, Tiffany scarf from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Packing lighter for a European trip where you’re hopping on trains?

Fall 2017 Drawing for Email Subscribers

Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 21 Inch Express Spinner Suiter
Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 21 Inch Express Spinner Suiter

I’m pleased to announce a third quarter give-away for my email subscribers in the USA and Canada. Thank you for following my travels and my writing! 

My Fall 2017 drawing will be for a Travelpro Platinum Magna 21 inch Spinner suitcase. Travelpro has a great reputation for making quality luggage, and I’ve chosen it because, hey, I bought this bag myself, and I’ve loved using it!

What do you need to do to enter?

Simply be an email subscriber to my blog: either via the bright green button below, or by clicking Follow Ann Via Email in the sidebar to the right.

WordPress Reader followers will not be included in this drawing. Why not? As I move towards earning money from my life and travel blog, the email following is an important metric for me.

Already an email subscriber? Great — then you don’t need to do anything :-), you’re entered.

I typically publish posts four times a month, so don’t worry, you won’t get over-emailed. Also, I will never sell or give away my email list, and of course, you may unsubscribe at any time.

When is the drawing?

Promotion ends Saturday, November 25, 2017 at 12:00 a.m. (Central Time (US & Canada)). I’ll conduct a random drawing and notify the winner via email within two weeks of the end of the drawing. Once I’ve heard back from the winner, have a mailing address, and have shipped the Travelpro spinner via Amazon, I’ll publish a blog post announcing the winner. If I do not hear back from the winner within a few days of my email, I will re-draw. See official contest rules for full information. Travelpro contest rules.

 

Click image to connect to the full set of rules .pdf

John Drew won the summer 2017 luggage drawing for email subscribers.
Terri Schrandt holding a Hartmann Herringbone Duffle
Terri won the spring 2017 luggage drawing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ann in Castolon in Big Bend National Park. Photograph, Jim Stevens

Thank you for visiting! 

I’m writing and traveling full-time now, and if you like my work, please subscribe to my blog via email.

Ladies: How to Pack for Two Weeks in Europe

We all face the same dilemma. We want to bring more stuff than we want to carry. Short of a magical bag, we need a plan: How to use a capsule travel wardrobe to pack two weeks of clothes in a carry on.

Photograph, Pglam on iStock Photos.

We all face the same dilemma. We want to bring more stuff than we want to carry. I mean, NO ONE wants to be the idiot schlepping through the airport burdened like a pack mule. It’s not cool. It’s not sexy. Okay, I’m not really going for sexy these days — but I am going for competent.

What we want: a Harry Potter bag that magically holds everything we could possibly want to wear in our wildest fantasies on this upcoming trip.

Well, here’s the reality check: you’re a muggle, and you don’t have that magical bag. Oh, and for you witches and wizards reading this, you may smirk quietly amongst yourselves.

Can You Get  2 – 3 Weeks of Clothes in a Carry-on?

Yes. If you’re willing to do some planning, make your selections and prepare, you most certainly can. You will, of course, be doing laundry. I give the laundry to the hotel, or do it myself when I have an apartment.

Packing List

 Early Fall  Late Fall
  • 4-5 bottoms, either pants, skirts, or capris (wear 1 on plane)
  • 6 tops (wear 1 on plane)
  • 1 dress (optional — if you choose this, eliminate 1 bottom and 1 top from items above)
  • 1 cardigan (wear 1 on plane)
  • 1 vest (optional)
  • 2-3 silk scarves
  • 2-3 pairs of shoes (wear 1 on plane). **** if these are bulky shoes, then 2 pair only.
  • Sleepwear
  • 4-5 bottoms, either pants or skirts (wear 1 on plane)
  • 5 tops (wear 1 on plane)
  • 1-2 pullover sweaters (may need to delete 1 bottom or top)
  • 1 dress (optional — if you choose this, eliminate 1 bottom and 1 top from items above)
  • 1 jacket or coat (wear on plane)
  • 1 vest (optional)
  • 2 scarves (1 light, 1 heavy)
  • 2-3 pairs of shoes (wear 1 on plane). **** if these are bulky shoes, then 2 pair only.
  • Sleepwear
  • 1 swimsuit (optional, depending on trip)
  • 1 extra bra
  • 7 undies
  • makeup, toiletries, medicines
  • brush/comb
  • Bath scrubby (European hotels often do not have wash cloths)
  • jewelry — keep it light
  • soap for clothes, clothesline
  • sanitary products
  • Converter — Bestek, with multiple plug spots
  • Power supplies (laptop, phone, iPad, camera)
  • 1 extra bra
  • 7 undies
  • makeup, toiletries, medicines
  • brush/comb
  • Bath scrubby
  • jewelry — keep it light
  • soap for clothes, clothesline
  • sanitary products
  • Converter
  • Power supplies (laptop, phone, iPad, camera)
Toiletries

  • This can make or break you in weight and bulk. Needs to be all in small bottles, and eliminate anything not absolutely necessary.
Makeup 

  • This is NOT the time to bring your train case. Pare it down! You may want to choose one color palette and stick with it.

A Capsule Wardrobe

I believe in planning, and I’m an advocate of what is called a capsule wardrobe.

The idea is to choose pieces with the maximum ability to coordinate with one another, giving you as many outfits as possible.

  • First Core of Four: Pick one dark neutral (I chose black in the example)
  • Second Core of Four: Pick a lighter neutral (I chose a stone-taupe)
  • Bridge Four: Choose pieces of clothing that work with the two Core sets of clothing. These may be blouses or shirts that have both colors in them, or they may simply be colors that complement both of the core colors well.
  • Accent Four: If you were building a stay-at-home wardrobe, these might be more tops. For travel, I use scarves as accents — they’re light, and they add a pop of color.

For my shoes and handbag, I chose black and a soft blue. I’m sticking with black for shoes because I own these already, but you might want one pair in a neutral taupe if you were buying.

I’ll be gone for nearly three weeks, in New York City, London, Rome, and Florence. London is the coldest, but since I’ll be there at the end of August, I don’t need to worry about a heavy jacket. Have a close look at the time in the fall you are traveling, and look at average temps wherever you plan to be. On my trip, these are the temperature ranges I expect. (Holiday Weather is a handy site for looking up average monthly temperature ranges).

Cities Temperatures
London, late August  57 – 70° F (14-21° C)
Rome, September  61-81° F (16-27°  C)
Florence, September  61-81° F (16-27°  C)

Black and Taupe Capsule Travel Wardrobe

Two week Europe packing list
A travel capsule wardrobe in black and taupe. By being disciplined in selecting pieces in two neutrals, one dark and one lighter, it’s easy to get multiple outfits out of a few pieces.

Different outfit ideas from the capsule wardrobe:

Capsule wardrobe for travel in black and taupe
Here are just a selection of combinations possible with this capsule wardrobe.

So — there are SO many ways to go at the capsule wardrobe work, and it can be a lot of fun. On my last two cruises, my core colors were navy and white.

Best Bags for a Trip to Europe

Well, the answer to that question is different for each of us, isn’t it? I am often living out of a suitcase for three to four weeks these days, so here is my solution to the problem.

How we pack, the luggage we pick, and what we decide to bring are all highly personal choices. I do not suggest this is the answer for everyone out there, but it works for me — and I think travelers learn something from looking at one another’s packing systems.

The packing list above WILL fit into a 21″ roll-aboard, as long as you aren’t crazy with toiletries, makeup, and medicine. What I find, though, is that it’s tight, and my preference follows.

Picking the best bag for Europe travel. Spinner and tote.
My new luggage duo: a Travelpro Platinum Magna 21″ Expandable Spinner, and a Briggs & Riley Transcend Clamshell Cabin Bag. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

I take two bags for clothes and toiletries. One is almost empty when I go:

When I am in transit, my purse is packed because I carry my camera bag instead. This way I’m only handling three objects.

I keep my passport, money, and credit cards in a wristlet in my camera bag or tote, which is easy for me to take to the restroom on a plane or a train for safekeeping.

I am just not a backpack kind of woman, so the Rick Steves “put it all in one backpack” system is not my thing. I easily navigate the airport and the train stations with my luggage, but I always take either a taxi or a car to the hotel. I’m not ever going to take the subway, metro rail, or buses to move my luggage around — and I won’t be rolling any distance on sidewalks.

That said, I can always pick up and carry my own luggage when it’s necessary. It’s the reason I won’t take a larger suitcase.

Luggage ad
Can you imagine? A luggage ad for trunks and train cases.

Why not just carry one big suitcase?

I carry the spinner with the tote because it’s much easier for me to get those two lighter pieces of luggage on and off of trains, or up staircases than it is for me to carry a large pullman case.

I have just replaced my wheeled carry-on suitcase.

I went from a Hartmann roll-aboard with two wheels — that always tumped forward if I’d packed it fully with it fully extended (– what a pain in the ass!) to a Travelpro 21″ Spinner.  [Please note, the case itself is 21″ — but total length with wheels is H: 23.75in W: 14.75in D: 9.5in — ALWAYS note the difference. I always check these bags, because my camera bag is what I choose to take onboard — but if you plan to take the suitcase with you on the plane, you MUST know the total dimensions with the wheels to be sure the case will fit.]

Also, as most of you are aware, the carry-on size restrictions in Europe are often smaller that they are in the United States. Since I check my suitcase, this isn’t a concern for me; if you are planning to carry yours on, go for an “international” carry-on size.

The Amazon Carry On Guide is a handy page where you select the airline you’re going to fly with, and then Amazon gives you a list of carry-ons from various companies that will fit those overhead bins.

There is definitely a debate among travelers as to whether it’s better to have a roll-aboard with two wheels, or a spinner suitcase with four wheels.

This is a personal choice. The benefit to the two-wheeled varieties is that they generally have more interior packing space, although this is not always true.

If you are going to be dragging your suitcase over cobble stone streets from the train station to the hotel, the two-wheeled versions work better; the spinner wheels catch in indentations more. I would continue to choose a two-wheeled roll-aboard over a spinner if I weren’t having problems with my elbow.

Which bag for travel would you choose? Spinner and roll aboard side by side.
Here is my new spinner on the left, and my roll-aboard on the right. The spinner is definitely smaller — not by much, but when you’re packing, you feel the difference. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

Make a decision based on how you travel and what you plan to do with the case. When you are choosing a new suitcase, make notes on both the interior and exterior dimensions, and look for a interior capacity measurement, as you compare possible candidates.

I am changing from a roll-aboard to the spinner because in 2005, I was in a motorcycle accident, and I have some arthritis in my right elbow. Spinners work better for me because they don’t put weight on that elbow the way two wheeled cases do.

What goes in the spinner, and what do I put in the tote? My 21 inch spinner gets EVERYTHING except: One TSA sized liquids bag with: deodorant, toothbrush/toothpaste, essential makeup, makeup wipes. Hairbrush. Small cube with clean undies, one top, and a sleep shirt. Cardigan. Converter, chargers, power supplies. Travel documents. Medicine. Jewelry. Spiral notebook. This way, if the airline loses the spinner for a day, I can manage.

Blow by blow series of photographs on packing below. Click to enlarge to read captions that explain how I pack.

If you looked at the blow-by-blow above, you’ll see the capsule wardrobe easily fit in the Travelpro 21″ Spinner — and I didn’t even put anything in the top part of the suitcase at all. And — it can still expand in width another two inches if I need it.

So is my Briggs and Riley tote full? Of course not! No, it’s very light. And it should be starting out . . . on most trips you return with more than you brought. In fact, I say, if you plan to do a little clothes shopping, whack that packing list up there down by at least one top and one bottom!

Briggs and Riley Transcend clamshell tote
I chose the Briggs and Riley Clamshell style tote because I like the fact it lays completely flat when unzipped. It makes packing so much easier.

*** For those of you wanting to know about specific products, the clothing is from Chico’s, the scarves are from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Hermès — a design called Bateau Fleuri, ballet flats and booties are Sam Edelman, and the driving shoes are from Cole Haan.


Fossil Maya Small Hobo, Steel Blue


Safe and happy travels!

 

Downton Abbey car packed with suitcases
Ah, well. Where’s Carson when you need him?

John Drew Wins Summer Luggage Drawing

John’s Travelpro suitcase arrived at his home last week. Thank you for subscribing to my blog!

Congratulations to John Drew, winner of my Summer Giveaway!

As a thank-you to my followers, in April I announced a second quarter drawing for a Travelpro Platinum Magna 21 inch Spinner suitcase, and I conducted the drawing on July 9, using a random number generator, and notified John Drew that he had won. Amazon delivered his Travelpro spinner last week.

John is a voice actor, and you’ll find his website, JohnDrew.com, an interesting look the kinds of projects he’s worked on — like playing Edward Abbey in the animated film, Line in the Sand.

I’ll do another giveaway in the fall — a piece of luggage again, since it’s a gift that works well for anyone who travels.

What do you need to do to be included in the next luggage drawing?

Simply be an email subscriber to my blog.

WordPress Reader followers will not be included in this drawing. Why not? As I move towards earning money from my life and travel blog, the email following is an important metric for me. I typically publish posts four times a month, so you won’t get over-emailed. Also, I will never sell or give away my email list, and of course, you may unsubscribe at any time.

Already an email subscriber? Great — then you don’t need to do anything :-), you’re entered.

When I emailed John, he wrote back saying — “I didn’t know I was entered in anything. What a nice surprise!”

 

A big thank you to all of my email subscribers!

 

 

Preparing for an African Safari

It’s such a huge bucket list trip for me that I don’t know how to express what a big deal this is. I’m still pinching myself. Getting ready for a safari: insurance, health concerns, and what to bring: luggage options, and packing list

Cub with full grown male lion
Lions. Cub checks out dad. Photograph, Krylov1991 – iStock Photos.

We’re going to Zambia on safari! 

It’s such a huge bucket list trip for me that I don’t know how to express what a big deal this is. I’m still pinching myself.

Ten years ago, a dear colleague who taught at my college talked about his trips to Africa with his wife. They’ve been so many times now, they’ve lost count. Bob told me — when you’re able to go on safari, we’d say, take Robin Pope.

Zebra sighting. Walking in the bush in Zambia.
Zebra sighting. Walking in the bush in Zambia. Photograph courtesy of Robin Pope Safaris.

Robin Pope grew up in Zambia in the 1960’s. He began doing safari work in 1975, and ten years later, launched his own business, Robin Pope Safaris with his first camp at Tena Tena. In 1991 Robin Pope began offering walking safaris — the very first of their kind in Africa. Today, the company has ten different camps and lodges they either own or use to put together a variety of safari options tailored to their guests’ interests.

I signed up for the Robin Pope Safari (RPS) newsletter, never thinking we could really be able to do a trip to Africa. Every week, the “It’s Monday” newsletter came in. Some weeks I had the time to read it, and I would daydream about what they were doing. It’s one of the happiest things that arrives in my email inbox each week.

Last fall, my sister Carolyn and I started talking about doing a safari trip in Africa. We both did research, looking at many companies, and finally decided we liked Robin Pope best for us. Deciding factors for choosing Robin Pope Safaris: very small safari groups, great reviews, beautiful camps and lodges, variety of itineraries offered, and of course, the advice from my friends Bob and Andrea.

Overview video of Robin Pope Safaris:

I was very interested in Robin Pope’s walking safaris, but since my daughter Catherine is only eighteen, we could not do a complete mobile walking safari (must be 21 years old). We could, however, do a three day bush camping experience in the Luangwa area as part of our trip. Catherine is a girlie girl– I look forward to seeing how this goes! 🙂

Room at the Tena Tena camp of Robin Pope Safaris.
Room at the Tena Tena camp of Robin Pope Safaris. Photograph courtesy of Robin Pope.
Luangwa River Bush Camp with Robin Pope Safaris.
Bush camping with Robin Pope along the Luangwa River. Photograph courtesy of Robin Pope.

We’ll be on safari for 12 days in Zambia, with three nights each at the RPS permanent camps: Tena Tena, Luwangwa River Camp, and Nsefu — all very luxurious and comfortable. I am perhaps most excited about the three nights we’ll out doing mobile bush camping. I can hardly wait!

Videos from Robin Pope Safaris on their camp at Tena Tena and mobile bush camping:


Health Concerns, Travel Insurance, and Medical Evacuation Insurance for Africa

Health and safety while traveling abroad need to be, must be, high our priority list.

Before choosing our African safari, we visited the U.S. Department of State to review current information on the countries we were considering. Look up the country you are considering on the government website, and the State Department lists all requirements for entry (visas) and exit, current health information and suggested vaccinations, and any security concerns. Visit the State Department website for information on any country you might visit.

To get vaccinations, consult your own physician first –It’s imperative to know whether you have other health issues you need to discuss before getting vaccinations. If your doctor does not do this kind of vaccination work, he or she may recommend where you should go.

Live oral Typhoid vaccine. Photograph, Ann Fisher.
Live oral Typhoid vaccine. Photograph, Ann Fisher.

I used Passport Health that has locations around the United States. Downside to using Passport Health: to use your health insurance, you will have to put in the claim yourself afterwards —  Passport Health will not do this. You will pay them upfront, and vaccinations are expensive. My sister, who lives in Austin Texas, found that Austin Regional Clinic has a travel medical RN on staff, and they do take insurance. It’s worth doing some internet homework to see what your local options are.

Catherine gets a shot
Catherine takes her medicine :). While shots aren’t fun, vaccinations for travel in Africa are crucial.

Update: My daughter Catherine and I visited Passport Health yesterday. With her vaccination records, the only shot she needed was Tetanus. Medication for Malaria is oral; I pick that up at the pharmacy tomorrow. We opted for the oral version of the Typhoid vaccine because it will remain effective for up to five years, while the shot only lasts two years.

I was the unlucky one 😦 — I needed three shots: Tetanus, an update for measles/mumps/rubella, and Hepatitis A. Today, I feel like a mule kicked my left arm!

Other questions to consider: Do you have medication that has to be kept cool?

My sister does — an injectable medicine. Although it can be unrefrigerated for several days, we couldn’t go two weeks. We contacted Robin Pope Safaris on this question, and they have refrigeration and ice everywhere we will stay. Talk to your safari company ahead if this is a concern for you.  *** Update: Robin Pope Safaris were great about providing space in the refrigerator in the permanent camps, and an ice chest when we were doing full-on bush camping. Very easy, and Carolyn had no problems. One note: if you use syringes, either bring a sharps container to dispose of the needles with the camp staff before you fly home, or bring the needles back out with you.

The next question: what if you become ill just before or during your safari?

Perhaps the single most important purchase you’ll make prior to any trip is your insurance purchase. I think reading through the page from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) may be one of the most important three minutes of time you can take before traveling abroad anywhere: Travel Insurance, Travel Health Insurance, & Medical Evacuation Insurance.

Travel insurance is ALWAYS an important consideration when you’re taking a trip, particularly an expensive one. You just don’t know whether something beyond your control will occur that will prevent you from taking the trip.

I’ve purchased trip insurance directly from both Allianz Global Assistance and Berkshire Hathaway in years past. Both have great reputations, and each company’s website makes it super-easy to get an immediate quote.  Like always, do your homework, read reviews, but these are two good companies as a starting point. When you’re doing research for your safari, be sure to get insurance quotes from a couple of companies because this is definitely part of your trip cost, and you want to be aware of it upfront.

We also bought air medical transport insurance through MedJet Assist. If something happens while you’re abroad and you are hospitalized, they will arrange medical transport for you to get you to your home hospital. There are different purchase options — you can buy it for a single trip, or enroll in an annual membership program, which is what I did since I travel often. There are many medical evacuation insurance options out there to review and consider. Others possibilities to review: Allianz Medevac, IMG Sky Rescue, Frontier MedEx, and American Express.

Because American insurance companies rarely cover treatment in hospitals outside the US, patients may have to pay thousands of dollars upfront before getting treatment. Medical travel insurance isn’t that expensive, and it’s such a risk to travel without it.

From the CDC:

“Although travel health insurance will cover some health care costs abroad, the quality of care may be inadequate, and medical evacuation from a resource-poor area to a hospital where definitive care can be obtained may be necessary. The cost of evacuation can exceed $100,000. In such cases, medical evacuation insurance would cover the cost of transportation to a facility where adequate care can be provided. Medical evacuation companies may have better resources and experience in some parts of the world than others; travelers may want to ask about a company’s resources in a given area, especially if planning a trip to remote destinations. The traveler should scrutinize all policies before purchase, looking for those that provide the following:

  • Arrangements with hospitals to guarantee payments directly
  • Assistance via a 24-hour physician-backed support center (critical for medical evacuation insurance)
  • Emergency medical transport to facilities that are equivalent to those in the home country or to the home country itself (repatriation)
  • Any specific medical services that may apply to their circumstances, such as coverage of high-risk activities

Even if an insurance provider is selected carefully, travelers should be aware that unexpected delays in care may still arise, especially in remote destinations. In special circumstances, travelers may be advised to postpone or cancel international trips if the health risks are too high.” — From the CDC website, article by Rhett Stoney

If you have pre-existing conditions will you be covered by trip insurance? This information from Allianz on this question is typical, but you want to read and understand this issue with each insurance company you consider.

Elephant sighting in the Luangwa River preserve.
Elephant sighting in the Luangwa River preserve. Photograph courtesy of Robin Pope Safaris.

Packing for an African Safari

Now the trip is imminent and we’re working on packing.

Packing for a safari in Africa brings a whole new meaning to concept of traveling light. How heavy I pack varies widely depending on the trip. When I camp, things are pretty simple. When I go to Europe, I never manage to pack quite as light as Rick Steves recommends — I mean, I’m a woman. I like clothes and shoes.

My family is launching off on the biggest trip, in terms of distance to travel, that we’ve ever made. And we will carry less clothing and stuff than we ever have in the past.

Pelican hard case 1560LFC for camera and laptop. I considered this — great case, but simply won’t work on the safari I’m going on. Pelican 1560LFC Laptop Case With Foam

To complicate things further, the US has banned laptops, tablets, and camera equipment in carry-on luggage coming from Turkey and some middle eastern countries. This happened months after we booked our air. We are flying Emirates business class through Dubai, something we are very excited about doing, but it means that  I’ll have to check my camera gear and laptop on the flight home.

Pelican cases for laptops, cameras and video equipment have a great reputation (Pelican 1560LFC Laptop Case With Foam), but won’t meet the requirements for the Proflight Zambia flight we’ll take from Lusaka to Mfuwe. I may invest in a Pelican case soon though, because I expect to see similar bans on laptops and camera gear coming for all overseas flights in the near future.

Luggage must be soft sided. Duffel type bags recommended.

  • Checked luggage limit: 15kgs (33 lbs.)
    • Total dimensions of luggage may not exceed 157 cms. (61 inches) Add the length, width and height of your luggage to obtain its total dimensions.
  • Carryon 5 kgs (11 lbs)
  • Proflight Zambia will allow passengers to share weight allowances (which means between my sister, myself, and my daughter, we’ll share 45kgs for checked bags and 15 kgs of hand luggage. This will help with our camera gear. Check to see whether your flight company allows this).

Camera crews that come into Africa often buy extra seats on the airline to accommodate additional heavy luggage.

Tenba Shootout 24L backpack. Capacity: 1-2 DSLRs with 4-6 lenses, plus flash and accessories.

I’ve opted for a Tenba 24L backpack for my DSLR. It will come with me on the airline on the way there, and travel back as checked baggage. I’ve owned a Tenba messenger bag for my camera for over two years now. It’s rock solid and looks as good as it did when I bought it. You’ve gotta love bags like that. ** — I’ll report back after the trip on whether is was successful. Update: This worked perfectly! I checked it on Emirates for the flight back to the United States, and all of my camera gear arrived home with no problems.

My daughter and I are each bringing a Patagonia 60L Black Hole Duffel. I’ve had the smaller 45L version for awhile, and love how tough and protective it is, while being very lightweight. Here are a variety of duffels to consider, some with wheels, from Patagonia, The North Face, High Sierra, and Eagle Creek, that might work on your African safari.

Patagonia Black Hole Duffel bags in the 60L size.
Patagonia Black Hole Duffel bags in the 60L size. 15-oz 900-denier 100% polyester ripstop (50% solution-dyed) with a TPU-film laminate and a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. Bluesign approved.
Original packing list, per person: Updated July 11, 2017: Revised packing list, post-trip
  • 3 sets bush colored safari outfits: shirt + pants (or shorts)
  • 2 sets evening camp clothes: long sleeved shirt + pants (1 set worn on plane)
  • 7 pair undies
  • 2 bras (1 worn) — we did sports bras
  • 4 pair socks
  • 2 sleep shirts
  • 2 pairs shoes (one worn)
  • small flashlight
  • sunscreen
  • bug repellent
  • extra pair of vision glasses
  • broad brimmed hat
  • sunglasses
  • Jacket (carried on flight)
  • toiletries and makeup
  • medications
  • copy of passport
  • copies of travel insurance
  • binoculars
  • Small daypack (we used REI Flashpacks 18L and 22 L that squash down to nothing)
  • 4 sets bush colored safari outfits: shirt + pants (or shorts)
  • 1 sets evening camp clothes: long sleeved shirt + pants (1 set worn on plane) *** No one “dressed up” for dinner in our camps, they simply donned clean clothes post shower. Review your itinerary. If you are going to Livingstone, you might want something dressier. Check with your safari company.
  • 7 pair undies — you will need to wash your own underwear
  • 3 sports bras (1 worn) — you will need to wash your bras, which take longer than undies to dry.
  • 5 pair socks
  • 2 sleep shirts
  • 2 pairs shoes – hiking boots and tennis shoes (one worn)
  • small flashlight
  • sunscreen
  • bug repellent
  • extra pair of vision glasses
  • broad brimmed hat
  • 2 pair sunglasses
  • Jacket (carried on flight)
  • toiletries and makeup
  • medications
  • copy of passport
  • copies of travel insurance
  • binoculars
  • pair of sandals or flip-flops
  • Small daypack (we used REI Flashpacks 18L and 22 L that squash down to nothing — these were perfect, both on our walking safari days, and for game drives)

Colors to avoid: black and blue colors attract Tse Tse flies. Do not wear any camouflage — only the military wears this. White — not a great idea; it gets dirty easily, stands out in the bush, and may attract mosquitoes. No bright colors OR light colors for bush walking — it’s best not to stand out if you’re looking for animals. White and cream stick out like sore thumbs in the bush, and should be avoided. Stay with khakis, natural greens like olive, and sand colors. Bring flat, comfortable walking shoes. Hiking boots are not necessary on drive-only safaris, but if you are doing ANY walking, you should have hiking boots that protect your ankles from often severely uneven terrain. Additionally, if you are in parts of Africa with thorn trees, those thorns can easily puncture the sole of regular tennis shoes. Seek advice from your tour operator for specific guidelines.

Most safari companies will not wash underwear, so be prepared to wash it yourself.

Never used packing cubes? This video on eBags Ultralight cubes shows why this packing strategy works so well.
Never used packing cubes? This video on eBags Ultralight cubes shows why this packing strategy works so well.

I have used packing cubes to organize my luggage for years. It makes SO much difference whenever I’m looking for something — particularly in a duffel, where otherwise your clothes and toiletries quickly become a jumbled mess. Since weight is a major consideration, a bought a set of the ultra lightweight eBags cubes — that way I am still organized, but I know the cubes haven’t taken much of my weight allotment. Update: These Ultralight cubes were perfect! During our bush camping, they moved camp every night, which meant we had to be packed every morning VERY early. The cubes made it a snap to put things back together quickly.

Obviously, it is extremely important that you really know how much your luggage weighs. This is not something you want to guess at — the “gee, it seems light enough” gage is not good enough. If you do not own a luggage scale, get one. They aren’t expensive, and it just makes so much sense. Luggage scales by eBags, Travelon, Lewis N. Clark, Victorinox, and others.

We’ve practiced packing, and we are as prepared as we can be. I’ll update this article upon return from Zambia with lessons learned.

Silhouette of giraffe on the savannah at sunset
Photograph, Kanoke_46, iStock Photos.

*** I have affiliate marketing relationships with eBags, Amazon, and Allianz but this will never affect my reviews of products. If it’s a mediocre or shabby product, I’m going to tell it like it is. If you buy a product or service by clicking on an affiliate link, I will get a small commission, at no extra cost to you, my reader. This helps support the writing and photography work I do. Many thanks!

 


Luggage Drawing for Email Subscribers

Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 21 Inch Express Spinner Suiter
Travelpro Platinum Magna 2 21 Inch Express Spinner Suiter

I’m pleased to announce a second quarter give-away for my email subscribers in the USA and Canada. Thank you for following my travels and my writing! 

My July 2017 drawing will be for a Travelpro Platinum Magna 21 inch Spinner suitcase. Travelpro has a great reputation for making quality luggage, and I’ve chosen it because, hey, I’d enjoy having it this bag.

What do you need to do to enter?

Simply be an email subscriber to my blog: either via the bright green button below, or by clicking Follow Ann Via Email in the sidebar to the right. What’s the difference between the two? The green “subscribe” button will put you on Mail Chimp list, which I’ll email once a month. Follow Ann Via Email is a WordPress email list which automatically gets an email whenever I post a new article.

WordPress Reader followers will not be included in this drawing. Why not? As I move towards earning money from my life and travel blog, the email following is an important metric for me.

Already an email subscriber? Great — then you don’t need to do anything :-), you’re entered.

I typically publish posts four times a month, so don’t worry, you won’t get over-emailed. Also, I will never sell or give away my email list, and of course, you may unsubscribe at any time.

When is the drawing?

Promotion ends Saturday, July 8, 2017 at 12:00 a.m. (Central Time (US & Canada)). I’ll conduct a random drawing and notify the winner via email within two weeks of the end of the drawing. Once I’ve heard back from the winner, have a mailing address, and have shipped the Travelpro spinner via Amazon, I’ll publish a blog post announcing the winner. If I do not hear back from the winner within a few days of my email, I will re-draw. See official contest rules for full information. Travelpro contest rules.

Click image to connect to the full rule .pdf

 


Ann in Castolon in Big Bend National Park. Photograph, Jim Stevens

Thank you for visiting! 

I’m writing and traveling full-time now, and if you like my work, please subscribe to my blog via email.

Winter Drawing Winner: Terri Webster Schrandt

Terri Schrandt holding a Hartmann Herringbone Duffle
Terri, with her new Hartmann carry-on.

Congratulations to Terri Webster Schrandt of Second Wind Leisure Perspectives, winner of my Winter Giveaway.

As a thank-you to my followers, I announced a winter drawing in January for a Hartmann Herringbone Carry On, and I conducted the drawing on February 28, using a random number generator. We exchanged emails, and Amazon shipped the Hartmann bag to Terri last week.

Thank you, Terri, for sending the pictures — and I hope your husband doesn’t steal the carry-on :-).

I encourage you to head over and look at Terri’s blog — I’ve enjoyed reading her posts on multiple topics, from advice for bloggers, to one of her new posts on Ten Ways to Beat the Winter Blues.

I will do another Giveaway in the spring; my aim is to conduct four drawings this year, most likely luggage because it works well for everyone.

There will be one important change for future giveaways. In the Winter, I included both WordPress Followers and Email subscribers in the drawing.

Going forward, only Email Subscribers will be part of the drawings.

There are two reasons for this: one of my goals is to grow my email followers, and secondly, it is much easier to conduct the drawings with email list data that can be downloaded to a spreadsheet. I do not sell or share my subscriber list, and of course, followers can unsubscribe at any time.

I encourage my WordPress followers to add an email subscription to be included in future drawings.

20" Hartmann Herringbone Weekend Duffle
20″ Hartmann Herringbone Weekend Duffle — Winter Giveaway