Should I pack regular or prescription sunglasses for travel?

If you wear glasses or contact lenses, should you pack regular or prescription sunglasses for travel? Andrew and I compare. This post includes a 50% discount on your next glasses/sunglasses frames.

Andrew is an avid glasses wearer.

I’m a contact lens aficionado.

We have quite different approaches to our eyewear when we’re travelling. Here we compare pros, cons and packing tips to help you choose the right sunglasses for your next trip.

Andrew: prescription glasses and prescription sunglasses for travel

Andrew’s a long-standing glasses wearer, with a pretty full-on prescription for short-sightedness. He needs his glasses.

Prescription sunglasses for travel are an absolute must for him, and he simply carries both his glasses and his prescription sunglasses around with him wherever we go.

Pro of Andrew’s approach: Guaranteed good eyesight

Con: Having to carry around two lots of eyewear all the time

prescription sunglasses for travel York Cliffords Tower

Never miss an opportunity to try and take an arty photo; that’s what I say … check out the reflection in Andrew’s new prescription sunglasses!

Andrew’s latest pair of prescription sunglasses are from Glassesshop.com. We were impressed with their range and Andrew was pleasantly surprised to be able to find a pair of trendy sunglasses in his high prescription.

Prices are fair, and certainly a lot less than we’d pay on the high street here in the UK! They ship to the UK and US, and sell regular glasses and sunglasses too.

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Julie: the contact lens and regular sunglasses option

I’ve been wearing contact lenses since the age of 17, so for my travels I simply team them with a pair of regular sunglasses. I’m long-sighted and can manage for a while without my lenses, though close work such as reading or using a computer is a no-no.

I don’t spend too much money on sunglasses, as I have a tendency to either leave them somewhere or break them! Travelling with a hard case to keep them Julie-proof has become an absolute must.

I had fun last week using the Glassesshop.com “try them on” facility to check out some new and good value styles!

Julie prescription sunglasses for travel

Trying on sunglasses online – loads of fun!

Pros of Julie’s approach: No steaming up of glasses when changing temperatures, I can peel an onion without crying

Con: Swimming can be a pain – either less than optimal eyesight without lenses; or trying not to get my lenses full of chlorine/salt water (which can irritate my eyes).

Our eyewear travel packing tips

Blimey, this pic shows how much eyewear we pack for our travels!

eyewear for travel

our eyewear collection for travel

We pack:

  • A protective case for glasses and sunglasses (I’ve learnt this one the hard way!)
  • A cleaning cloth for glasses and sunglasses
  • Contact lenses and at least one spare pair
  • Contact lens solution, in travel size if the trip is hand luggage only
  • A copy of our prescriptions, in case we need to get any replacements

Although I hate being without my contact lenses, I always take my glasses away with me too – in case I get an eye irritation or lose/damage my contact lenses.

Swimming for contact lens and glasses wearers

Andrew gets round the whole swimming-with-contact-lenses-is-a-pain thing: he has prescription goggles and also a prescription mask for those undersea snorkelling adventures.

underwater prescription eyewear

ready for underwater adventures!

I rent a regular mask if I need one; and look at the fish from further away so I can see them clearly!

What are your eyewear travel tips? Do you pack regular or prescription sunglasses for travel? Tell all in the comments below.

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How to pack for backpacking Central America

From T-shirts to travel towels, torches to trousers, read on to find out how to pack for backpacking Central America and other tropical destinations.  We’ve got it covered …

Tips on how to pack for backpacking

  • Save space – and the hassle of trying to find an iron – by rolling your clothes instead of folding them
  • Remember you can launder. For a two-week trip you don’t need to take 14 T-shirts. Take a small travel hand wash or send clothes to the laundry for (the equivalent of) only a few dollars
  • Skip the white / best clothes if you’re going to a developing country – you can’t guarantee hot water will be on-tap to get your whites sparkly
  • A lightweight sarong can be used as a pretty scarf, a beach cover-up, or an improvised towel. Take one!
  • In some countries it’s best to save shorts for the beach; knee-length skirts or trousers work well elsewhere. Check your guidebook on clothing etiquette.

My trip backpacking in Nicaragua, Central America

Two months backpacking in Nicaragua, including two weeks in language school. Overall, this was a reasonably active trip.

I needed clothing suitable for hiking volcanoes and other outdoor activities, experiencing the rainforest in the south-east of the country, exploring the scorching hot cities, visiting the cooler highlands, and relaxing by the beach.

How to pack for backpacking Central America

lightweight clothing works well for those jungle endeavours!

My flights

Luggage limits are a consideration when considering how to pack for backpacking.

My flights were with Virgin Atlantic from London to Miami; then onward from Fort Lauderdale with budget airline Spirit to Nicaragua. I returned from Nicaragua to Miami with American Airlines.

Spirit is the strictest on luggage limits both in the cabin and in the hold (15kg is the cheapest hold luggage option and the one I opted for, you pay more if you want more). Details of the exact dimensions and weights of permitted luggage can be found on the airlines’ websites.

My packing list for backpacking Central America

How to pack for backpacking Central America

packing Armageddon!

After packing Armageddon had hit my bedroom floor, here’s what I packed for my trip to the tropics.

Clothes  bottoms

  • 1 pair jeans
  • 1 pair light long casual trousers for hiking that could be rolled up to 3/4 length
  • 1 pair cotton/linen light three-quarter length trousers – ideal for cities or hiking
  • 1 pair shorts (for the beach only)

Clothes – tops

  • 1 kagool – good for those tropical showers!
  • 2 light sweaters (serious error, 1 would’ve been enough)
  • 1 x long-sleeved T-shirt (ideal for the highlands, or for avoiding sunburn or mosquitoes)
  • 5 x short-sleeved T-shirts (1 of which got so engrained with dust I had to banish it)
How to pack for backpacking Central America

Lightweight trousers – check. Super versatile handbag – check. Top that hides the dirt – onto a winner!

Clothes – underwear

  • 3 bras
  • 8 pairs quick-dry underwear
  • 3 pairs hiking socks

Shoes and accessories

  • 1 pair hiking boots (closed-toed footwear is pretty much essential for hiking in countries that have tropical wildlife as well as tropical temperatures)
  • 1 pair flat sandals
  • 1 lightweight scarf
  • 1 sarong – you can also use sarongs as a cover-up/substitute beach towel
  • 1 woolly hat and 1 pair gloves – handy for the top of a blustery volcano!
  • 1 bikini
  • Microfibre travel towel

Books / guides

Electronics

  • 2 x UK/World adaptors
  • Apple Mac laptop and sleeve – for my writing, hopefully most readers won’t need to take a laptop!
  • Mobile phone
  • E-reader
  • Chargers for laptop, phone, E-reader
  • Camera with small tripod and spare battery

Toiletries and other girlie essentials

  • Toiletries – all in small bottles apart from the following:
    • Sun screen (available in Nicaragua, but it’s fairly expensive)
    • Contact lens solution (only available from opticians in Nicaragua, not pharmacies; and at a price)
    • Shower gel (not readily available in Nicaragua, though the choice of available soap will astound you when you run out!)
  • Tampons (not readily available in Nicaragua)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Razor
  • First aid kit which included: antihistamines, plasters, antiseptic wipes, imodium, rehydration sachets, ibuprofen, tweezers, insect repellant with DEET
  • Make-up (SPF foundation, lipstick, eye liner, blush)
  • 2 beaded necklaces – a girl’s gotta accessorise!

Miscellaneous

  • Swiss army knife with essentials such as a corkscrew and miniature scissors
  • Head torch – developing countries don’t always have reliable electricity supplies. Plus there are caves to explore!
  • Small umbrella
  • Glasses
  • Sunglasses
  • Watch (my 8-year-old £50/$75 watch was VERY up-market by local standards and I wish I’d taken a $10 market cheapie)
  • Earplugs – essential for developing countries to avoid being woken up by chickens/pomping horns at 5am (or earlier!)
  • Paperwork – US ESTA, copy of travel insurance, spare copy of passport photo page and flight details

and not forgetting …

Postcards to show people where I live

How to pack for backpacking – luggage

How to pack for backpacking Central America

My rucksack just before returning home – there was room for a hammock 🙂

One 65l rucksack backpack, packed two-thirds full. If you’re anything like me you’ll need space to bring back a hammock 🙂

Day pack rucksack

Waterproof versatile handbag big enough to fit in my camera, guidebook, sun screen and money

Small purse/wallet with dollars in small bills (or relevant exchangeable currency), credit card, passport, travel insurance details and phone number, drivers licence

Dirty laundry bag

What else do I wish I’d packed in my backpack?

A zoom lens for my camera, and binoculars. I’d have loved to have viewed and captured Nicaragua’s prolific wildlife in more depth and scale. Next time … next time …

What are your best tips on how to pack for backpacking Central America? What do you wish you’d taken, or left behind?

How to pack hand luggage only for a one-week trip: the carry-on challenge

Here I help you avoid expensive baggage fees by sharing some tips and a hand luggage only packing list for a one-week trip in varying climates.

Hand luggage only packing tips

  • Find clothes and accessories that mix and match. If a T-shirt only goes with one pair of trousers, it’s a no-no
  • Multipurpose “dress up, dress down” clothes are a godsend
  • Roll your clothes rather than fold them. It really does take up less space
  • Laundry is not a dirty word. You can wash your undies and the odd T-shirt when you’re away
  • Layers are genius, and help you prepare for temperature changes when you land back home
  • Wear layers, your coat, and your clumpiest pair of shoes to the airport

The case study: one week hiking and exploring in Gran Canaria

Four days hiking in the mountainous interior of the island, and three days exploring the capital, Las Palmas. I wanted to be warm when hiking and – in the capital – not dress TOO much like a tourist.

I flew with Ryanair and Monarch from/to the UK. In both cases their carry-on hand luggage allowance was 10kg, and I was allowed a small handbag too. Info about exact dimensions of allowed luggage, weights etc, are on the airlines’ websites.

Hand luggage only packing list

Clothes – bottoms

hand luggage only for one week trip

3/4 trousers: genius

1 pair not-too-smart, not-too-casual jeans

1 pair casual long casual trousers for hiking

1 pair three-quarter length cotton/linen trousers that work for either hiking or the city

1 pair shorts (remained unworn)

Clothes – tops

hand luggage only for one week trip

versatile dress-up/dress-down T-shirts like this one are a godsend

1 biker-style jacket for blending in in the city

1 long-sleeved fleece top for hiking

1 x thin wool jumper/sweater for hiking or the city

1 x thin cotton jumper/sweater

1 x long-sleeved T-shirt

4 x short-sleeved T-shirts (I only wore 3 of them)

Clothes – underwear

2 bras

6 pairs underwear

3 pairs socks

Shoes and accessories

hand luggage only for one week trip

yup, I did wear my hat!

1 pair hiking boots (you can substitute for other closed-toe shoes/trainers as needed)

1 pair sandals

2 scarves for accessorizing and/or warmth, 1 of which could double for a sarong/beach towel

2 costume jewellery necklaces

1 pair gloves and 1 woolly hat. I always need ‘em!

1 bikini (unworn)

Guides / books

Assorted novels, chapter of the Lonely Planet Canary Islands guide (all on e-reader)

Pocket Spanish dictionary

Map of Gran Canaria

Small walking guide book

Electronics

2 x UK/EU adaptors

Apple Mac laptop and sleeve – hopefully you won’t need to take a laptop on your holiday!

E-reader

Mobile phone

Chargers for phone, E-reader, laptop

Small digital camera with fully charged spare battery

Toiletries and other – sometimes girlie – essentials

hand luggage only one week trip

your plastic bag for your toiletries needs to be smaller than this one

Toiletries, including small sunscreen, all in small bottles and in sealed plastic bag. Apparently the bag needs to be around 20 x 20cm (this was news to me – I’ve been flying with a bigger bag for years without anyone saying a word). However, if it’s a slow day in the airport some security folks can insist yours measures up (yup, I discovered this the hard-way. Jenga-style re-packing of my toiletries followed).

Basic first aid kit of plasters, antiseptic wipes, antihistamines, imodium, rehydration sachets

Small bottle of liquid laundry detergent (to wash underwear and socks)

Make-up (foundation, eye liner, lipstick, blush)

Small umbrella

Hand luggage only bags

hand luggage only for one week trip

ta dah!!

One small carry-on suitcase. Mine was similar to this one, by Antler.

Day pack rucksack for hiking purposes (you can swap for a larger bag or handbag for non-active holidays) and which needed to fit in the carry-on suitcase

1 large bin liner (good to sit on for impromptu hiking picnics, can be a makeshift kagool in case of a downpour)

Small handbag for evenings and for travel

Small purse/wallet with Euros and credit card, passport, European health card, travel insurance policy number and phone number, drivers licence

Bag for dirty laundry

What to leave at home – but which you could take when not travelling hand luggage only

Swiss army knife, razor – these aren’t allowed by security when travelling hand luggage only

Camera battery charger, microfibre travel towel, light waterproof kagool – to save space

Hair straighteners – I figured no-one up a mountain in Gran Canaria was really going to care if I was having a bad hair day

Extra copies of paperwork – eg a full copy of my travel insurance policy document, spare paper copies of passport photo page. I took a photo on my e-reader instead.

When not to attempt travelling hand luggage only

  • A girls’ holiday. You’re gonna want a wider choice of shoes. And hair straighteners. And probably a variety of outfits for every casual / smart / glammed-up scenario. In all these cases, it’s waaaaaaaay simpler for a couple of you to pay for and share one check-in bag, and then each have a small carry-on case too. This also gives leeway for a girlie shopping extravaganza.
  • Your first holiday with a new boyfriend / girlfriend. Ditto. You probably don’t want him/her to see you wash your underwear in the sink just yet. Or have a hissy fit at security because they want to confiscate your best make-up / favourite aftershave.
  • A business trip of more than 4 days if your day job requires smart clothes. Trying to fit smart clothes, evening clothes, casual clothes, laptop and work files all in one carry-on is nigh on impossible. I’ve ended up taking more stuff on a 4-day business trip than I have on a 7-month round the world adventure.

What are your hand luggage only packing tips? Have you tried it, or does the thought fill you with horror? Share your experiences below.

Greek, long division, packing, and my mum’s email needs: Budapest to Athens here I come!

Budapest to Athens: It’s only five days and counting until I shake off my Eastern Europe /Balkans virginity on my month-long solo trip.

Several practical questions – beyond the emotional ones around the excitement of it all – are whizzing around my head as I count down the days to my departure.

Why hadn’t a trip through Eastern Europe and the Balkans occurred to me before?

Bosnia and other parts of the Balkans have long staved off their mid 90s no-go status. I heard tales of majestic cities, captivating coastlines and historical fascination. “Right,” I thought, “it’s time to put a temporary pause on my long-haul obsession.” Duly decided, I booked myself a short hop flight of a mere 2hrs 20 minutes from Manchester to Budapest.

How do I choose which places to go to en-route from Budapest to Athens?

My next thought, after a brief sojourn through a couple of travel guide books and more than a couple of websites: How the hell am I going to try and see everywhere I want to see?

Simple answer to this one, I can’t. Boo! I’m going to have to pick and choose. For example: I’ve reluctantly decided Dubrovnik and Split can wait, as I can easily fly there direct from my local airport (Leeds/Bradford) in the future.

My route is still only a vague plan, but I do know I’ll be catching up with an old school friend in Budapest, and a former work colleague in Zagreb, Croatia.

Beyond that, I’m torn. Ljubljana? A little detour to my wish-list destination of Bologna? Lake Ohrid? Mostar? Meteora? Delphi? Sarajevo? The Bay of Kotor?

Hmmm, maybe I need to book another trip!

How will I manage with the Greek alphabet? And getting by in Albanian?

As I continue to struggle with improving my Spanish, is there any chance whatsoever I’ll remember the bits of Greek alphabet I learnt in A Level Maths (aged 17), and from preparing a book design layout for Homer’s The Iliad (aged 19) in my first desk-top publishing job? Alpha, beta, kappa, delta, epsilon err … err … *googles frantically*

And what about all those other languages I’m going to need – pretty much a different one for every country from Budapest to Athens. Albanian, anyone?

Money matters: Will I be able to divide by 368 in Budapest?

Budapest to Athens

5000 Forints = £13.59 or about $20. Apparently.

Apparently there are 368 Hungarian Forints to the British Pound. Who knew? Best get practicing my times tables. And long division.

Which countries are even in the Euro? (Yup, showing my “we love the pound” British-ness there!) I’ll be learning to love Lek, Kuna and Forints on my trip.

I’m going to try out a Travel Worldwide Debit Card – one of those cards you pre-load before your trip. I’ve not used one before, but so far the company I’ve used have been super-efficient. I’ll report back after my trip, but I’m hoping it will save big-style on those pesky ATM charges and foreign transaction fees.

Packing

I’m planning on staying mostly in AirBnB places, so I should be able to get clothes washing done pretty easily. Needless to say, that means my major concern is shoes. Obviously. Can I narrow my packing choices down to two pairs? Tricky.

Keeping in touch

Will I be able to meet my mum’s strict instructions of sending her and dad an email ready for her to read every Tuesday morning? “Tuesday, Julie, Tuesday. That’s when I’m going to go to the library to read my email”. OK, Tuesday is it then!

Mum and dad won’t get internet at home, in case it gives them a virus. There are no words.

I’d love to hear your tips and experiences about travel in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Places to go from Budapest to Athens, those I should give a miss, getting from A to B, and more. The comments box below is ready and waiting … ☺