Travel Tips to Africa January 29 2010

Packing for your first trip to South Africa may seem overwhelming. You do not want to pack too much or too little and you may even become confused about what to bring. Here are five key tips to get yourself ready for your first trip to Africa.

How to Carry Your Items One backpack is recommended; two if you absolutely need it. A great lightweight bag, such as a rucksack, leaves your hands free to take photos and point out exciting sights while keeping everything you need in one handy place. Look for a waterproof pack in case of sudden rain or other weather changes. My personal favorite is a sling style backpack that can easily be slid from your back to your front to access your pockets, and valuables, without taking it off. Sometimes, for safety, it's best to carry your items in front of you rather than on your back where you have no control over them. The number and type of backpacks you bring can depend on the type of trip you take, such as a mission trip or an exploratory journey of South Africa. When you travel with people who have been to Africa before, do not be shy about asking them for packing tips. They may be able to help you pair down what you plan to bring or remind you to pack something you considered leaving at home. Once you purchased your backpack and put everything you think you need in it, try lifting the pack. If it is too heavy, you have too much stuff. Remember, do not over pack ‚ just bring the basics. What to Wear Rainy DayJust like the place you live, you will experience different weather depending on the time of year your trip occurs. South African seasons are almost the mirror opposite of those in North America, African summers begin in November, while winters start in May. This is important to keep in mind when you are planning and packing for your trip. Pack lightweight summer clothes if you plant to visit during the hottest months. An assortment of skirts, t-shirts and socks will keep you cool and comfortable during your journey. Also, pack a light jacket, long-sleeved shirt and rain coat for cool evenings or unexpected showers. Make sure you have comfortable walking shoes as well as a few hats and sunglasses to keep some sun off your face. Consider bringing a few clothing items that you are willing to give away at the end of the trip. The best tip on packing clothes is to pack layers. The temperature between the daytime and night can vary as much as 40 degrees so often you need an extra layer in the evening. Keep Your Documents Safe Make several copies of your important documents, such as your passport, travel itinerary and other identification papers. Put a few copies in your luggage and leave one at home with a trusted friend or family member. Try to memorize all your important numbers such as credit cards, your social security number and phone numbers for emergency contacts. It is unlikely your cell phone will work in South Africa; in fact you may just want to leave it at home! Keep Yourself Well School KidsPacking a small first aid kit is a necessity. Bring pain relievers, band aids, insect bite cream, antiseptic cream, sunscreen and any other medicines you may need. Bring basic toiletries, such as toothpaste, a toothbrush, a bar of soap, shampoo and conditioner, washcloths and anything else you use on a daily basis. But remember, bring only bring the essentials as you will have to transport the items in your backpack or suitcase during the entire trip. Pack small travel size items. Visit your local travel health clinic and make sure that you're up to date on all immunizations that you need for travel. It's also a good idea to fill a prescription for an antibiotic just in case you need it while you are away from home. A small flashlight with extra batteries can come in handy. Bring extra bags for the many interesting souvenirs, such as beaded handmade jewelry, you are sure to find along the way. One more thing that I always bring on my trips too‚ snacks! When you're working in the township there aren't any restaurants and often you're so busy that you forget all about lunch. So, Cliff bars, nuts and bottle water are my staples. I always fill my bag with a few of each when I leave for the day. Remember Your Journey Bring a notebook you've got a lot to pack and need to conserve space and a few pens or pencils; you will be seeing amazing things and having once-in-a-lifetime experiences that you do not want to forget. At the end of the day, take a few minutes throughout the day to document inspiring stories of people living with HIV, women who are overcoming adversity and anything else you see and hear. Your friends will appreciate the detailed stories when you return and your family will love to read the journal entries. Of course, a camera is essential to document your experience and share them with loved ones when you return home.