As a food lover I have learned, through experience, the importance of being well equipped for every meal whilst travelling; whether it’s street food in Bangkok, a DIY breakfast in an outback motel room, sophisticated dining in cosmopolitan Singapore or an outdoor picnic of market goodies in Provence.
To help you pack for your next foodie adventure here are my suitcase essentials for food lovers!
So wine is not technically food, but I’m a wine lover too. In all seriousness though, there have been several occasions while travelling when he and I have procured a local bottle of vino and taken it back to our accommodation only to realise that it’s not a screw top. As a consequence, we now have an extensive collection of cheap corkscrews purchased from corner stores across the globe! Beware France in particular where ‘cork is king’ when it comes to wine. But France does sell single serves of takeaway wine in the refrigerated sections of supermarkets just up from the fromage. The wine is pre-poured into a plastic wine glass with a foil lid just like a yoghurt tub ready to rip open at a moment’s notice. Sacré bleu! And if that fails, just drink Champagne!
2. Hand Sanitiser
If I am preparing food on the go or about to eat food with my fingers while abroad I always use hand sanitiser. As anyone who has travelled anywhere knows, you will never find a restroom to wash your hands right when you need one and, if you do, don’t assume there will be soap. This especially applies to remote areas and poorer countries where the standard of hygiene might not be what you are used to. Pass the sanitiser please!
3. Wet Wipes
A big part of travelling for me is tasting local specialties and street food wherever I go. Who can resist the charcoal flamed satay sticks in Bali, a ripe mango at a roadside stall in north Queensland or a fruity gelato in Positano during Summer? When you are eating like a local there won’t always be a paper napkin available to clean yourself up afterwards and, even if the street vendor does have a handy supply, they are rarely a match for satay sauce. Fried Chicken restaurants been giving away those refresher towelettes with their boxes of greasy chicken since I can remember for good reason.
If you’re on a road trip through southern France (oh yes please!) and you come across a produce market, like me, you won’t be able to resist the cheese, tomatoes, peaches, roast chicken and terrines on offer. Did someone say picnic? But how are you going to take a slice from that round of Saint Marcellin cheese or that heirloom tomato for your baguette? I suggest packing a good all round knife in your suitcase – not in your carry-on – because you might get arrested for that. If you don’t like the idea of carrying a kitchen knife in your luggage you can buy one when you get to you destination otherwise a pocketknife can get you out of a tricky situation – and they usually have a corkscrew attachment too!
5. Plastic Container
You can pack your foodie travel essentials in a small plastic container inside your suitcase. Then when you are out and about the container can double as a plate (lid) or bowl (base) and is perfect for storing your picnic leftovers for a few hours – if there are any!
6. Immodium / Gastrolyte
Traveller’s diarrhoea is an unfortunate but common predicament – especially if you are more adventurous with your eating or if you are eating in countries where you aren’t match fit for the local water born maladies. To get you out of trouble when you come down with a delicate belly some Immodium will help you keep on keeping on, although it is not a remedy, and Gastrolyte will replace lost fluids and electrolytes.
7. Restaurant Reservations
I always do a load of research about the food culture of my travel destination. What are the dishes to try? Where are the cool cafés? Where is the best coffee served? Where will I find cheap eats? What are the recommended places to eat? Back in the days before review sites like Tripadvisor, Broadsheet and The Fork, we used Lonely Planet and tips from friends. Where possible, I also make restaurant bookings before I depart so I don’t miss out – sometimes months ahead – it all depends on the booking policy of the establishment. Make sure you allow time for discovering new places too!
8. A Dressy Outfit
There’s no excuse for wearing Merrells wth a quick dry t-shirt and cargo pants to any fine dining restaurant especially Guy Savoy’s Les Bouquinistes – a divinely romantic setting overlooking the Seine and Notre Dame where he and I were celebrating in style. They did – the four of them. Never heard of ‘dressing for dinner?’ It’s lazy and disrespectful. When travelling I like to dress like a local so I don’t look like a tourist – save the Merrells for hiking – and I always pack heels, a handbag and an evening dress for a special night out. Respect people!
Digital SLR or Phone Camera – whatever your weapon – any self professed food lover worth their weight in gold will want to photograph their food adventure and upload their photos to social media. I do have a strict self-regulating rule though – I only upload quality food photos – no one wants to see your out of focus Fritto Misto de Mare, even if it was the best version you have tasted, nor the dim dining room in Croatia where you needed to use the torch on your mobile phone to make out what you were eating.
10. Gym Gear
All that food has got to go somewhere. I think the saying goes: “Energy In – Energy Out”? It’s all about balance. Make sure you fit in some exercise time while travelling so you can still fit into your skinny jeans at the end of your adventure!