Always take a toothbrush and toothpaste, as tooth decay doesn't vacation just because you do, and always pack clean underwear in perfect condition.
“What would foreigners think of Americans,” she would tell me, “if you got in an accident, were unconscious, and some strange nurse would undress you, only to see your underwear was full of holes?”
If my mom were alive today she might add, for those using digital cameras while traveling, to not leave home without extra memory cards, a spare battery and a way to recharge it.
Here's my list of ten digital photography gear items, in my mom's tradition of, “Never leaving home without them!”
- Extra Battery(s) — Digital photography equipment (cameras, flash, etc.) runs on batteries. You should always have at least one extra set of batteries for all your equipment, so when each photographic opportunity presents itself, you'll have the necessary power to take advantage of them.
- Battery Charger — If you take more than a few photos each day while traveling, your batteries will eventually need recharging. Make sure you pack a charger for each kind of rechargeable battery your equipment uses.
- Plug Adapters — If you're traveling internationally, be aware that not only may the voltages vary, from country to country which you're visiting, but the electrical outlets in each country may be considerably different as well. Ensure you have the proper plug adapters for your chargers, and other electrical and electronic equipment, to fit any electrical outlet you'll encounter on your trip, regardless of the country.
- Memory Cards — As we all know, memory cards are the digital equivalent of film. It's where our digital images are stored for later processing, display and printing. You need to decide in advance if you're storing your images on your memory cards for the duration of your trip, or if you're going to store them in other storage devices, such as a laptop computer or a portable hard drive. Once you've made your decisions, then you need to estimate the number of photos you'll take each day, so you'll have enough memory cards to store the images. I'd suggest multiplying that amount by 110%, “just in case.”
- Shot Itinerary — Travel photographers know that destination research results in a superior trip and better photographs. When we travel, we are often under considerable time constraints. Regardless, there is never enough time in any destination. To maximize your photographic opportunities, create a daily shot itinerary, listing where you want to visit, and what shots you definitely want to capture, in a planned order. You might not be able to follow the itinerary precisely, but having it as your basic guide will help you immensely to get the most out of your visit.
- Polarizing Filter — This filter is a great addition to any travel kit. With a polarizing filter you can cut down the glare of ocean waves, remove annoying reflections on buildings, and increase contrast and saturation in many situations.
- Lens Cloth, Optical Cleaner, LensPen — Cameras and lenses get dirty during travel and need to be cleaned. To clean your camera and lenses you need to have optically safe cleaning materials. If you're going on a cruise, you need to pay special attention to sea conditions. Salt spray and salty moisture in the air will deposit themselves on your photographic equipment. That deposit is very sticky. To clean it, you'll need a liquid optical cleaner which is safe for your equipment, but able to cut through the salty deposit.
- Weather Protection — While you may be fortunate enough to have beautiful sunny weather for your travels, you can't count on it. Everyone normally takes rain-gear for themselves, but you should also have rain-gear for you photographic equipment. Photographs made in the rain can be wonderful additions to your travel gallery, but you'll need camera/lens protection to make those photos.
- Flashlight — Cities and other areas to which we travel can completely change their persona at night. Las Vegas, Paris and Tokyo are prime examples of this. It's very difficult to take night photos if you can't see your camera's controls, but a small flashlight will solve that dilemma.
- PacSafe or other bag protector — Often travelers leave some photographic equipment in their hotel rooms or cruise ship staterooms, while out touring during the day. As they often won't fit in the room safe, they are ripe for theft. One way to keep your equipment safe is to leave it in your “in-transit” camera equipment bag or another bag, in a PacSafe steel mesh bag protector, which is locked to something immovable in the room. I even use this product on my bag while in a plane's overhead bin to prevent theft.