We are CHILLIN for 3 weeks along a remote section of Bali’s east coast at the rather special and unique Villa Seraya. It is a large, 2 story artsy home perched above a secluded black sand beach with views to the neighboring island of Lombok. Being out in the boonies has given me time to appreciate a few things we have brought along with us, not only here but on our big trip as a whole. I am a practical person, so I like to think about these details. My list intends to go beyond the obvious items one would take on an extended trip of this nature. Good goggles, mineral-based sunscreen, Betadine, match box cars, and liquid Tylenol are definitely go to items we would miss, but we knew that. Below are things I brought or bought along the way that have proven to be the most surprisingly useful, most frequently utilized items in our luggage.
1) Super glue to fix all those cheap, made-in-China toys we get roped into buying at the market. We are often guests in rented homes. Kids break stuff. We try to remove breakable items, but Mathilda, our destroyer, still finds stuff to wreck. Today, it seemed fun help out the peeling paint on the bed by peeling it some more. Glue it!
2) Scotch tape. We eat muesli, bread, ham, cheese, and granola almost everyday, including cashews and almonds, and they all come in bags. Tape is a must have to reseal an unfinished bag to keep it from the ubiquitous tropical ant invaders. Tape has also been a quick fix for a mosquito net with holes, books that became torn, and making a temporary house/room more homey by taping up the kids artwork.
3) Travel pillows. Pillows in SE Asia suck. They are filled with synthetic fiber, never goose down, and are always way too fat and stiff. Before we left, I divided two of my standard size down pillows at a tailor and made four easy to pack, cheap travel pillows.
4) Clorox bleach wipes. Things can be a little gross here. Clorox wipes are useful for picking up those big gecko poops, was integral in cleaning some of the bat guano from Whitney bungalow’s bathroom wall, and great for touching a bathroom up when it needs that extra sparkle which can wane quickly over here. At six, Merle’s target range is still a little wide. 😉 Also, when family members are sick and sharing close quarters, these can really be handy on door knobs, toilet handles and counters.
5) Hand wipes. We always have these on hand at restaurants, in cars and the thus far 18 plane rides we have been on. They are exceptionally useful to clean dirty feet after walking barefoot through a filthy temple (especially Burma) or a shoes-off play space. Even these tropical, half-outside homes have constantly dirty floors, so it is nice to have them to clean bare feet before bed. We are so often meeting new people, so a quick swipe across a dirty face before introductions gives some parental relief.
6) Electronic Ear thermometer. We are nearing our seventh month of travel, and Merle has had four fevers and Mathilda two. All were under 48 hours and never too high, but still disconcerting when you are in a foreign place. An ear thermometer gives a quick, easy reading that is reliable and battery powered. We have used it a lot without any guess work.
7) Scissors. Kids like to cut things up, but besides that, they are good for a quick bang trim, snipping tags and threads from worn clothes, and opening aforementioned food that comes in tightly sealed bags.
8) iPad screen cleaning cloth. I think ours is called Monster cloth. This thing is amazing because it cleans so well and so quickly. We have 6 devices among us, including the camera and the screens need to be wiped constantly. With the 90% humidity, we seem to have oiler fingers and a smudge on a camera lens can mess up a whole day of pictures.
9) Umbrella Stroller. For parents with kids under 4, this is a must, even in SE Asia, where the sidewalks and roads are substandard and crowded. I cannot tell you how many miles we have rumbled through with our little $18.99 Target job, over gravel, cobble stones, bricks, cinder blocks, mud, potholes, and puddles. In the most unlikely places, we have used this stroller. It folds up in an instant, which is great when a strollerable walkway suddenly becomes unstrollerable (common here), or when you are in and out of airport security. Don’t kid yourself, a child under four does not want to walk more than 10 minutes, especially in 90 degree heat, with crazy humidity. Since we are with the kids 24/7, anything that can minimize whining is our friend.
10) Alien II Bike Tool. This is Chris’ favorite. He has used this in Hawaii, Vietnam, Burma, Thailand and Indonesia to adjust and fix bikes of all different sizes for the whole family. In exchange for a free bike rental at Bicycling Chiang Mai, Chris used it to fix flats and to adjust derailleurs and brakes. In a pinch, it has been used as a screwdriver and as scissors.
It is worth noting that SE Asia in general is a shopper’s paradise, where one can find handmade crafts galore beside mundane yet necessary items for everyday life. No need to overload your bags like I did with extra kids toothbrushes, Advil, band aids, and hand sanitizer– it is all here.