It was midnight, the 3rd of July and the only light left in the living room was that from my favorite lamp. The bulb I put in this specific lamp are the ones that can’t easily be found these days, as every bulb seems to either be one of those long-lasting ones that look like a coil, or want to replicate natural light, which we all know is impossible, because all bulbs emanate artificial light.
I found this antiquated bulb in an old hardware store around the corner from my apartment. I had bought the last dozen they had, and the one that existed in the lamp was the last of that bunch. Down to the final bulb. It’s as if the lifespan of my old-self had run its shelf life with it, and I needed to get going onto something new.
Table of Contents
- 1 Luggage:
- 2 Clothing and Accessories:
- 3 Footwear for the whole family:
- 4 Outerwear:
- 5 Gadgets:
- 6 Coffee:
- 7 Formalities:
- 8 A Talented People:
- 9 Transportation:
- 10 Apps:
- 11 Fast Food:
Family of world travelers
I was in the living room, realizing that I needn’t worry about the bulbs anymore because as of tomorrow I would be gone. I stood there in the center of the room surrounded by what looked like years’ worth of clothing and gadgets. Moreover, I was pondering what my … let me correct that, what our new life as a family of world travelers would be like and what I needed to pack for it.
UPDATE: WE HAVE NOW COME BACK HOME TO NYC Since July, 2016. THESE TIPS HAVE BEEN UPDATED AS WELL, TO FIT YOUR TRAVEL TO THE PHILIPPINES TODAY.
Deuter and Delsey
I looked over at the three Deuter backpacks and the one small pink Delsey trolley I had in the corner, wondering how the hell I was going to get all that crap in the space I had limited ourselves to have. Under the burnt yellow hued light, I started to pack as my wife and daughter slept.
Fast forward two and a half months later, I’m happy to announce that I packed way too much shit. At least for the Philippines. Take it from a man that has some hindsight on his side and consider these options when traveling to and in the Philippines:
Most flight deals to the beautiful islands in the Philippines limit each passenger to 10 kilos (22 lbs). It is imperative to pack light as there are exorbitant fees for excess weight. Consider travel backpacks, as in most cases, they weigh less than most trolleys and traditional luggage. We use backpacks made by the German manufacturer, Deuter, which has served us well. The large travel backpacks come with smaller detachable backpacks that can be removed and be brought on board as carry-ons.
We pack some of the heavier items in the smaller backpacks along with our computers and books. This has drastically lessened the weight of our checked-in bags. My backpack is the Deuter Transit 65 Travel Backpack, Brenda’s backpack is the Deuter Quantum 70 + 10 Travel Pack and Bailey’s backpack is the Deuter 60 + 10 SL Travel Pack. Brenda and Bailey’s packs are slimmer and made specifically for women while mine is for men and wider.
If you need a hard-case in order to protect items that may otherwise be damaged in a soft pack, give a company called, Delsey a try. They have a line of 4 spinner wheel trolleys that are made of light polycarbonate, and this too has served us well. If you must go over the limitations, look into buying extra kilos before the day of your flight. This will be considerably less in the way of costs rather than being charged at the check-in counter.
We’ve had our Delsey luggage (shown below) for 4 years now, so these are discontinued, but there are a few collections in Delsey.com in Macy’s (where we purchased this one) that are very similar to these, like the Helium, Flaneur and Embleme collections. We like the hard cases in bright colors. Delsey luggage have a 10-year warranty, just make sure to keep your receipt.
Clothing and Accessories:
Let me just say, right off the top, that unless you have a personal connection to your clothing, just pack enough to get you through the first few days and consider buying everything else when you arrive in the Philippines. Most everything you will need on a day to day basis is much cheaper here. So much so, that you can basically wear something to death and then either donate it or dispose of it.
More often than not, your first stop, internationally, at least, will be Manila. This capital city is filled with Malls that have offerings in every price points. I like a shop named, Kultura, which have locations in some of the better malls. You can find traditional garb that the Filipinos like to wear and everyday clothing made with natural, breathable fabrics. But if you must have designer, don’t worry it’s here in Manila as well. Try Greenbelt Mall where you can find Gucci, Prada and of the ilk.
As for what to purchase and pack before and during the trip, let’s just say, pack simply. I am however going to share a tried and true packing rule I have used for years, which is, to limit your color palette. Limiting color combinations, usually lead to less packing. Consider the following colors: Navy (not all blues), Gray (all shades), White and Black. Any combination of these colors is a fail-proof way of always looking crisp and good.
Jeans are as much an essential here as it is most everywhere. If you must pack a jean, pack your favorite blue pair, Basta!
If you must have a splash of color, bring colorful scarves. They take little to no room and can dress up just about anything for dressier occasions. Also, Filipino establishments love their air-conditioning, so you just may need one indoors every so often.
Lastly, buy fabrics that can easily be washed either by machine or hand.
Footwear for the whole family:
Do not, and I repeat, do not buy flip flops until you get here. There is a Philippine-based brand named, Islander, which can easily be found in any department store. They have a classic look and feel comfortable, and go for less than $4 USD a pair. When looking to purchase them, pronounce it as if you are saying “eyeliner”. This will expedite the process. It’s an accent thing.
Keens for kids and adults
For a more active choice, consider Keen sandals, they are light and performance driven. We have had ours for 2 seasons now and with the exception of Bailey’s, as her feet are still growing, they look like they have a few more seasons in them.
For travel and everyday footwear, I found a good-looking, comfortable, lightweight brand named, Oxy. They are currently testing the market in the Philippines and exclusive here, but available online soon. I am obsessed with this brand. My feet have never felt so comfortable and my bags never so light.
Because they are made of microfiber, they are easy to take care of and easy to put on and take off, which comes in handy when feet bloat from flying. They have literally taken the place of my loafers and driving mocs because they are also quite fashionable.
Juvenate from Nike
The Philippines is an eating culture, so with all this eating we do our best to fit in a workout. Nike has a lightweight line called, Juvenate. It crunches really well into the backpack and takes up little space.
Ladies, I have been in the fashion industry for two decades and nobody likes a girl in heels more than I do. But to say that they are worth packing, would be a lie. You will find little use for them in the Philippines. Instead, opt for really nice open toe or strappy flat sandals. Believe me, you’ll be happy to have saved space in your bag.
It’s hot out here, but you’re going to need at least one outerwear piece. Especially during typhoon season, which we are in currently. Brenda and Bailey prefer the lightweight waterproof hooded jackets from The North Face Venture Rain Jacket line. I prefer a lightweight product made by Kuhl.
We are Apple Device users and because they can cost a pretty penny, we like to protect them. Upon visiting Stockholm last summer, I grew an even deeper affinity for the Swedish aesthetic, so our protective sleeves of choice for our laptops are from a Swedish company named, Thule.
They are sleek in design and aligns very well with Apple products. They weigh little to nothing. We carry our computers with us almost everywhere, and often they are in the overhead compartment during travel, so it’s fair to say that they take a bit of a beating. A splurge on a product by which you can be confident is worth every penny for protection.
If you are planning to document your trip through video, consider GoPro if you haven’t already. We were late to the game but glad we didn’t miss it. There were moments captured that we could not have otherwise without this tiny, wonderful device.
As for cameras, Brenda loves her Nikon 1, J4. It’s mirrorless and takes great photos and videos. It’s also a hybrid of a point and shoot and a professional camera for those who, like my wife, are apt enough to play with settings, lenses, lighting, etc… They look really cool too.
Our computers and phones are all Apple products, which have all been great for travel. Brenda has a 13″ MackBook Pro and I have an 11″ inch MacBook Air. We both love our Apple iPhone 6 (we both have 64GBs I have a white one and Brenda the Black) and Bailey loves doing homeschool assignments on her iPad. When we are out all day, we love our Mophie Juice Packs for our iphones.
Eton hand-crank Radio/flashlight
Under the emergency category, everyone should look to pack a hand-crank radio and flashlight. No need to worry about batteries. This comes in handy in some of the islands. It’s not uncommon for the electric to be shut down for a few hours to conserve. We often used the flashlight on our phones, but Lord forbid if you are low on batteries and need to find your way around to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night. We were gifted a small, very light from a company named, Eton
Hands down, our favorite gadget purchase, and the one that makes us feel a little safer on a daily basis is the SteriPEN. With this device, which one can easily bring around in a bag while being out for the day, drinking water is always made safe. It’s like having a magic wand with you. Literally swirl this lightsaber in your drinking water and it’s sterilized!
SteriPEN Adventurer Opti Water Purifier
Freshette – one for the ladies!
Now, this last entry of must haves is not so much a gadget as it is a facilitator. I’ve been told by my wife and endless female friends of mine, how lucky men are when it comes to having to relieve themselves on the road. Men can pull over on the road, find the back of a building and just go… No squatting in unsanitary places, no need to worry about windy conditions or being near poison ivy, etc., etc… I know, I appreciate that; I am after all a husband and father of a girl, so I feel the pains through them.
Traveling to Southeast Asia was a daunting proposition when it came to restrooms, as we knew we would be in areas in which we would experience less than agreeable comfort rooms. Ladies, we found the perfect accessory for such events,
the Freshette. Let’s just say, it evens out the biological divide.
It would be early in the morning, the kettle would be over a low flame on the burner and the cap on the spout left open as to avoid the whistling sound when the water comes to a boil. As she waits for the hot water, she would bring out her favorite cup, along with three glass jars. One filled with a granular brown grind, another with a white finer grind, and the last a powder white substance. She would take a teaspoon of all three, put it her cup and pour the hot water onto the mixture. My grandmother would start her day like this, and until I was at the age of 16, I thought that all coffee was made this way.
Thirty-plus years later, I’ve become quite the aficionado of coffee and realized that real coffee, well good coffee, wasn’t made that way. Being a New Yorker, there was no shortage of good coffee, but upon my return to the Philippines, I realized that my grandmother’s way of preparation was not only, not antiquated, but ubiquitous and still widely accepted and sometimes the only option. Yes, big towns like Manila have their coffee houses, but if you go to a quaint eatery or someone’s house, chances are, you’ll be served the instant stuff. Two months in, I have grown an appreciation for instant coffee. There are some good brands out there, but Nescafe is still king.
Also, by Filipino standards, brewed coffee is quite expensive in comparison. Put it this way, our Starbucks coffee usually costs more than our lunch. But my new found fondness for the instant stuff isn’t so much influenced by savings as it is a memory of a much simpler time.
Sir Andrew I am often called around here. No, I haven’t been knighted nor do I have any royal lineage. Yet, I am still called this. The Filipinos are very formal when addressing people and no matter how many times you try to have them address you a little more informally, they simply won’t. This is distressing to me as I love talking to staff members just about anywhere I go.
I often find the support staff to be authentic, have great stories to share, and actually have a better sense of what’s really worth eating or doing, more than any concierge. So, if you’re like me, just address them back the same way, as they do you. In doing so, I find their backs straightening and their shoulders arching a little more.
In the words of Papa Hemingway, “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man. True nobility is being superior to your former self”.
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A Talented People:
You may not get the swiftest service in most establishments here in the Philippines, but you will definitely get service with a smile. You’ll also often find that being served may need to come after they are finished singing. Yes, singing. They love their karaoke here. Widely accepted even at the workplace. Brenda and Bailey once hung out at the lobby of the apartment we were staying and were entertained by two staff members to their renditions of classic love songs. I mean, just belting it out. Once in a large department store, I had to wait for a dynamic duo to finish their version of “Endless Love” before I was able to ask my question. Now, I would probably be annoyed if they weren’t so good. My advice, never be in a rush and be prepared to enjoy a free show.
Whether you are in a car with friends and family or taking public transport such as a trike or jeepney, in the Philippines there is always room for one more. It’s not out of the ordinary to squeeze into a vehicle. In some cases, it’s akin to those circus acts where clowns seem to endlessly come out of a small vehicle.
When here, I found certain apps very useful. Upon arrival be sure to download a converter app. It always helps to know what you are actually spending.
In Manila, taxis aren’t the most trustworthy. You’ll need a car to get to most places as the lack of actual sidewalks make it hard to walk. Download the Uber app immediately. We found Uber to be efficient and no hassle. Often, taking an Uber car cost less than a taxi and there is no need to take cash out as it automatically comes out of the card you have on file. Note, that when calling for a car, try to be picked up at a popular spot to facilitate the process for the driver. Uber has only been around since April here, and some of the drivers are still a bit green. Most everywhere can be reached within 120 pesos, which is less than $3 USD. Here’s a gift for you: use our code andrewt4821ue and receive up to 200 pesos for your first ride.
Spaghetti with hotdogs?!
I love going to fast food establishments when traveling. It’s often fun to see how well-known establishments such as McDonalds and Starbucks assimilate in new territories. Many years ago, I was left dumbfounded when I saw beer offered in a McDonalds in Rome, and wine in France. Since then, I never go anywhere without making one visit to an American bred establishment, abroad. Here in the Philippines, you’ll find some amazing offerings.
In Starbucks, you can pick up a corned beef pan de sal. This is a warm, “sweetish” roll filled with the kind of corned beef you’ll find in cans. It makes for a good breakfast. Just about everywhere, you’ll find Spaghetti (usually a beef ragu) and rice offered as side dishes. This is a departure from your standard fries or onion rings.
Every single establishment, from McDonalds to Wendy’s, etc., will have their version of a fried chicken. Fried Chicken is king here, Filipinos love fried chicken. Don’t limit yourself to well-known American brands, try some of the Filipino-based ones as well, the most famous being, Jollibee.
I know, we are a food and travel site and often cover authentic and well-made cuisines, but I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about this fun little fact. The kid loves it too!
We are nearing our 90-day point of being away from home, it seems very far away now figuratively and literally. Ironically here in the Philippines, it seems an easy proposition to find those old fashioned bulbs I thought I’d never see again. They’re everywhere. This makes me feel at home.
Are you planning a trip to the Philippines now or in the future? Let us know.
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