Most days on tour start the same. The alarm goes off early. Everybody takes turns showering and getting ready. People start heading down for breakfast. After some morning conversation and food, everybody returns to their rooms. With a few minutes to spare before the bus departs, students and chaperones alike pack their backpacks for a day filled with activities before returning to the hotel in the evening for dinner. Some of the first things people grab is their music devices, cameras, and money. But what are some other essentials that you should be sure to bring along?
1) Water: People don’t always realize how important it is to stay hydrated even under normal conditions. When you are on tour, your conditions are definitely different than what most people are used to in a normal, everyday routine. You spend a lot of time waking outdoors under a warm sun (that is if you’ve picked a nice destination with weather that cooperates!). Several days under these conditions can take a serious toll on your body. It is important to drink enough water to stay fresh and hydrated. You never know when and where the next opportunity will arrive for you to be able to purchase water. Don’t take a chance. Always have some with you and keep an extra bottle on the bus.
2) Food: The exact same case can be made for food. You are likely to be walking, climbing, hiking, standing, and waiting at various points throughout the day. That doesn’t include other physical activities that you might partake such as swimming, zip lining, or even playing soccer. Your body may be experiencing more physical activity than what you are used to and might need more nourishment to keep you going. You might also be experiencing less sleep and a time change that may have your system out of whack. Pack a few snacks such as crackers, granola bars, or even some fruit to give you a little boost to hold you over. You never know what circumstances might arise that will delay your next scheduled meal.
3) T.P.: I don’t want to go into a lot of detail here, but seriously, if your body is a little off schedule and you are trying new foods and drinks, you never are really sure when, and just how suddenly, nature will call. And unfortunately, sometimes it calls when you aren’t quite expecting it. Do you really want to risk being in this situation with no restroom in sight? Been there, done that, but never again. Always travel with some toilet paper or a package of baby wipes.
4) Basic first aid materials: Most people aren’t used to so much travel, activity, and excitement over the course of several days. With such a sensory overload, who knows what might initiate a headache or stomachache? Don’t let one of these unfortunate circumstances wreck your day. You’ve worked too hard, come too far, and have waited too long to miss out on even a single experience. Having aspirin, Tums, Pepto-Bismol, or even sinus medication readily available can be a lifesaver. Be sure to pack Band-Aids to cover up blisters caused from the amount of walking, antiseptic wipes to clean cuts when there may not be soap and water available, and hand sanitizer to steer clear from excessive germs.
5) Emergency contact information: Even though it’s not fun to think about, you should always plan for the worst. What if somehow you were separated from your group? What would you do? Could you speak the language well enough to find your way around? Always carry the cellphone number to your tour guide. In an emergency, you might be able to purchase a phone card from a local store and call your guide for help. You might even be able to find somebody that would be willing to make the call for you from his or her own phone. Secondly, carry your hotel information. Pick up a business card from the front desk or bring along a piece of paper with the addresses and phone numbers of the places in which your group will be staying. Even if you can’t speak the language, at least you will have something that you can point at and use gestures to help you get back to your group.
There are a lot of things that I like to carry with me in my backpack. These previous 5 things, however, are things that I never leave the hotel without.
Scott is a high school Spanish teacher and basketball coach. He began traveling with EF Tours in 2001 and has led 8 student tours to various Spanish-speaking countries. Scott strongly believes that student travel builds self-confidence and inspires students to develop and work towards long-term goals.