The Perfect Carryon

Surviving your 15 (or sometimes more) hour flight can be daunting. It’s not fun no matter which way you do it. Unless your in First Class which good for you; you can survive anything. If you are not so lucky to be upgraded, make the best of your center seat.

(For my tips for upgrading to First click here)

My general rule for my carry on is that if my big bag were to get lost for some reason I should be able to survive with my carry on. Keep that in mind. You can replace clothes; it’s a lot harder to replace electronics and documents.

Here is exactly what you will find in my carry on and how to use it.

I grabbed this rolling briefcase on Amazon for about $30. I am usually carrying my laptop and numerous files for my volunteer trips so this bag is great for me. Another option would be a tote bag or back pack.

91-eovmEQYL._SL1500_

Starting with the basics. Put your passport in there. Do that first so you don’t forget it.

IMG_8752

Yeaaasss kween I have a very pretty passport cover. It was a very nice gift.

IMG_8751

Cords, battery packs, and 3 USB port plug. They all fit conveniently  in this Tumi bag Delta gave me on a flight once.

IMG_8753

Guide book to read on the way over since airplane wifi internationally is outrageously $$

IMG_8754

Hand sanitizer, Emergence-C (I like the Nuun brand) migraine meds and lotion

IMG_8755

Compression socks. My ankles are the size of New Jersey by the time I get off that plane.

IMG_8756

Ipad and headphones. SWA prob wouldn’t be thrilled if they knew I solely travel with my work ipad, but it’s insured and has all my files on it I need.

IMG_8757

This is my favorite bag! It’s my sleepy bag! Eye mask, toothbrush, ear plugs, lavender spray and small bag of lavender and rose buds and in the small black bag is tissues, chap stick, lotion and sani-wipes. The pill case has ambien and other sleep drugs. (more on that in a min)

IMG_8758

Dont sleep on planes? You sure as shit will after and ambo or Excedrin PM. Sleep. Its 16 hours. You will be fucked if you stay up that whole flight, not to mention really bored.

IMG_8759

All of my travel adaptors and a spare headset are in a small bag. Carry those with you. When you land you will want to be able to charge your phone in the airport if you need to.

IMG_8760

Face wipes, butt wipes, and more sani-wipes.

IMG_8761

The best purchase I have ever made. Its a travel pillow with a hood. Flawless. Try and wake my ass up when I am nested in this after an ambo.

IMG_8763

Sunglasses. I keep mine in my carryon so they don’t break.

OK Thats it. Yes it all fits in there and with my wallet.

So lets break down my flight beginning to end (Like what I did there SWA stews lol)

Boarding and Take Off:

I get settled and wait. During boarding is when if you are going to get upgraded they will come grab you. I dont take ANYTHING out of my bag until we are off the ground incase I need to move quickly and quietly to another (hopefully better) seat.

1 Hour Into Flight:

If it looks like Im not going to be moved I will start to settle in. I lay that briefcase flat and move it under my feet. You will sleep better eventually with your feet elevated.

Roughly 2 Hours Into Flight:

This is usually when meals will be served. I eat, have a glass or 3 of wine. The wine is important. I usually watch a few episodes of a TV show I like for eating.

3 Hours Into Flight:

I get ready for bed! I head to the lav, get my socks on, take off all my makeup, take my contacts out and brush my teeth. Now remember I am about 3 glasses of wine deep now.

4 Hours Into Flight:

Once everything is plugged in and I am ready to call it a night, I put my eye mask on and pop an ambien. (You do you, I do not suggest you take any pills you do not have a RX for especially with booze.) I get my blanket out. Wrap up in my neck pillow and throw on a movie. I will be OUT COLD in about 30 min.

9 Hours Later:

I will usually sleep decently well for about 8-9 hours. Breakfast is served roughly an hour before landing. That also gives me enough time to “sober up” if you will and get some coffee to shake off the ambo.

1 Hour Prior to Landing:

I start packing everything up. If you get packed up before the last minute you wont leave anything. I have lost so many neck pillows over the years that I now have a mental checklist of everything I have taken out during the flight. Don’t be THAT passenger. Make sure you have your passport out and customs and entry cards ready to go.

THAT’S IT! You can do it! It’s not so bad when you do it right. Find the balance that works for you. I have now flown to Asia so many times I applied for a HKG frequent visitor card. So this works for me and it might work for you. My carryon is flawless!

 

Packing List Nepal Discovery Week and Everest Base Camp Trek 2018

Let’s talk about packing. I get more request for packing tips then anything else. This list is pretty standard, but was made specifically for the upcoming Airline Vigilantes trip to Nepal. It is a good reference point for things not to forget.

BASICS and MUST HAVES

I’m going to highly, highly suggest you use a backpack instead of your roller. When Im volunteering I personally prefer to take my big backpack, not my roller bag. Rollers can be a pain in the ass if your trying to move quickly and stairs always seem to be a problem. I got this one off Amazon and she’s been good to me. Holds everything I need, comes with rain gear, sleeping bag harness and lots of straps to attach everything.

choosingbackpack1

It’s going to be chilly, but remember you will be staying in guesthouses that will have beds. I usually still bring a light sleeping bag. This one from Amazon is more like a zippered sheet.  However, if you run cold, bring a bigger sleeping bag. If you don’t already own one, you can rent one from REI etc.

Fleece-Sleeping-Bag-Blanket-L12753033

A micro fiber fast-drying towel. “Always travel with a towel.” – Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and solid advice.

Toilet paper and butt wipes. Those should be pretty self-expianatory. Most other countries will not have TP in public bathroom so come prepared. Also many people don’t know that you typically don’t flush the TP. It goes in the trash can next to the toilet. The rest of the world does this, its kinda gross to our Western standards but just roll with it. Its better than flushing it and clogging a toilet on the side of the road in Kathmandu after you’ve unloaded 5 weeks of travelers diarrhea. 

First Aid Kit – This one is probably the most important. You never really understand the worth of a good first-aid kit until you need it. So heres a quick story for ya, and ill go into more detail about it in the Philippines post.

Gross ‘eh?


While living in the Philippines a few years ago, we were working on a construction project after Hurricane Hyaine hit them pretty hard. Construction safety in the Philippines consists of flip flops and a tank top. I had my Toms on, and was moving a saw horse from one site to another. I slid my foot to the left and a giant piece of termite infested wood went through my foot. Through it. We were about 24 hours away by boat from the nearest hospital so first-aid was up to me. I pulled the wood out, sprayed it with what ever anti-septic spray we had and wrapped it up. Fast forward 4 weeks, it’s stupid infected with gangrene and possibly MERSA. I ended up on about 6 months worth of antibiotics and coming extremely close to losing my foot. Heres what your kit should include:

Band aids in all sizes

Anti-Biotic spray

Gauze

Neosporne ointment

Hydrogen peroxide

Q-tips

Tweezers

Anti-septic spray

Benadryl

Motrin

Aspirin

Diamode

Hand sanitizer

Aloe or burn relief

Ibuprofen or some from of a pain killer

ACE wrap

Cipro if you have it

Muscle relax cream

DayQuil

Sleep Aid

Rubbing Alcohol

Salt and re-hydration tablets.

Seems like a lot but its really not, and small amounts of each, for like $20 at Target you can get a small standard one. I highly recommend investing. Even if someone else in your group has one bring some basics of your own. Bags get lost.

A bandana, headband, and/or hanker-chief. I prefer my hanker-chief, it can hold my hair back, become a sweat rag, all kinds of uses, not to mention I look really cool.

You can’t sit with us

Sunglasses. Don’t bring expensive sunglasses, They will get lost/stolen/broken. Polarized is a good option for what we will be doing.

A durable watch. Its not always practical or convenient to pull out your cell phone.

Water bottle or Camel-pack

Sunscreen and bug-spray. I buy these things in the states, they tend to be expensive abroad. 

Chargers for all your devices and power converters. I got my pack of converters at target and I believe I spent $20 on them. Amazon has some good deals too.

A guide book. I live by my Lonely Planet books.

 

 

A Kindle or IPad. Bring IPads, computers, and kindles at your own risk. I don’t usually bring anything besides my phone which doubles as my camera.

Meds. Duh.

  

The only RX I need

 

Gatorade powder is always good to have on hand. If you are doing the trek this could be a life saver.

Zip-lock bags always come in handy. ****Pro tip: I put my non-rev clothes in one that way they still smell fresh when its time to come home.

Flash light and/or headlamp. Late night potty runs

Camera and/or GoPro

Deck of cards, or games. Drinking at night in a large group. This can be fun. Im bringing my Cards Against Humanity.

Wet wipes and body wipes.

Game on.

CLOTHES

OK, so Nepal is the poorest country in the world. I want to you donate literally anything you can spare. That includes any clothes you don’t want to bring home. I will probably end up leaving almost everything I bring there. Heres what I am going to suggest then you decide when you get there what you want to leave.

This list of clothing is primarily for those doing the hike. It will work for both trips, however those doing just the week you will obviously not need as much clothing.

  • Underwear. Bring more pairs than you think you need. Usually however many days + 4 extra pairs. Incase of any accidents. Wicking boxers aren’t a bad idea.
  • 2 Sports bras. Gotta strap those bad boys down. And who wants to wear a normal bra if you don’t have to?
  • Heavyweight long underwear bottoms
  • Heavyweight long underwear top
  • Underamor t-shirts (2-3)
  • Underamor long sleeve (2-3)
  • Mid-weight fleece or soft-shell jacket
  • Mid-weight jacket with hood
  • Convertible hiking pants (zip or break away)
  • Fleece pants or wool leggings
  • Light weight breathable waterproof jacket (honestly I love my old SWA blue shell jacket, it’s the perfect weight for this)
  • Waterproof rain pants
  • Mid-weight gloves and/or wool gloves
  • Waterproof gloves
  • Liner gloves
  • A warm hat or beanie
  • Sun hat
  • Mid-weight socks (7-8 pairs)
  • Liner socks
  • Glacier sunglasses

A fleece or pullover.

Leggings. There $3 at Forever21 and can be donated or thrown out at the end of your trip and make great layering.

1 or two pairs of pants that can get dirty. I don’t like to wear jeans, but you do you.

A pair of hiking pants that can zip or break away.

Long sleeve shirts and Underarmor for layering. Anything that has wicking material.

A pair of shorts isn’t a bad idea.

6+ t-shirts. Usually ones I can donate. Again Forever21 and H&M sell basic t-shirts for about $5 and they can be donated or thrown out. 

A LOT of socks. 2 pairs per day is usually a good rule to follow. Bring some ski socks and some wool socks. Especially if you are doing the trek. Your tootsies are going to be chilly.

 

A beanie or hat of some warmth.

Non-rev clothes. This is something that I still struggle with every time. You want to look nice, if not business casual since were non-revving on other carriers, however you still want to be comfortable and practical. Then theres always the hope of getting upgraded or moved to a better seat. So what I’ve worn recently is either a maxi-skirt or leggings with flats and a nice top. Then I put the top and/or skirt in that handy zip-lock we talked about so its fresh when I have to travel home. Its amazing how quickly some jewelry can dress up just some leggings and a t-shirt. Wear a light sweater too. Its a 16 hour flight to HKG, your gonna get cold.

Just landed in HKG, leggings, nice top and scarf

 

Gloves, a light pair and a heavy pair. 

Bring some gallon sized zip-lock bags for your wet clothes.

An infinity scarf. My doubles as a scarf, headband, sweat rag, face mask, dust mask, skirt, sweater. They are such a versatile item.

Scarves also work as face mask when your in a dust storm

A backpack and small travel lock.

 SHOES

Hiking boots. (For both trips) We will be doing A LOT of walking. If you don’t already own a pair, do your research and find something that fits your budget and lifestyle. Here are some we recommend:

1 pair tennis shoe or running shoe (preferably that you don’t mind if they get wrecked)

TOMS – I live in my TOMS

Crocs or flip flops are a good option for showering, and we don’t know what bathrooms will look like, so if you have room they wont hurt. You can always leave them there.

Really you need to pack what your comfortable wearing. Research the weather, and well be walking and spending a lot of time outdoors. 

HIKING GEAR

This hike is difficult, but remember you are NOT summiting Everest. You will need boots, clothes, and some extra items but nothing extreme.

Some collapsable hiking polls

Headlamp

Good boots

Small backpack

Sleeping bag

Most of what is already mentioned above with clothing stays the same. If we get any other items we will let you know.

TRAVELING NECESSITIES

When Im taking a really long flight I have my standard carry-on items in a backpack or small tote. ****Going out you shouldn’t have an issue carrying on your bag. However coming back you MOST LIKELY WILL HAVE TO CHECK IT. Asia in particular is picky about bags. They will go as far as weighing your bag at security or simply not letting you thru security with a normal crew-sized roller. So plan on checking it and hoping for the best. Have everything important in your carry on.

Travel pillow – I got a really cool one with a hood on it from amazon for $10. You can even crash in a middle seat with this thing!

Eye mask

Ear plugs

Reading material

That sleeping bag doubles as a blanket, but most airlines will give you a blanket and a pillow.

I splurged and got some really nice noise canceling headphones. They don’t always fit the jack to watch movies from the plane, but they will cancel out the screaming child behind me when I want to sleep.

Ambien, What the hell else am I going to do for 16 hours.

Don’t forget big planes have personal TV’s in the seats. Ive never gotten too bored.

PERSONAL ITEMS

For makeup I minimize as much as possible. PLEASE REMEMBER THESE ARE JUST SUGGESTIONS. I had a girl on one of my last trips rip me a new one when I told her I personally don’t pack makeup, so she didn’t. When we got there all the other women her age brought all their makeup and she was mad that I apparently forced her not to. So heres EXACTLY what I pack.

My Body Shop face regime. (I switched from R+F, I loved them too, but stopped selling and like Body Shop better) I love these products. I don’t sell it anymore but we have a million FA’s that do. I have all but stopped wearing face makeup everyday because my skin looks AMAZING. I wouldn’t promote it if it didn’t work.  When you travel like I do the last thing you want is to be worried about how you look in those travel photos when you’ve been working and sweating all day. This will change your life. 

You can thank me in 6 months when your skin looks 20 years younger

Sephora’s waterproof mascara and eyeliner. 

Bronzer.

Thats it. 

The Body Shop moisturizer has SPF 60 in it, then waterproof mascara. Thats my everyday routine when I’m volunteering. You do you. 

Body Shop makeup removing cleansing cloths. For at night when I need to get sweat and what little makeup I have on, off. 

LUSH brand dry shampoo. This is a miracle product. 

LUSH brand “Sandstone Exfoliating Soap” I have them cut me a piece that fits in a soap container and its super refreshing for removing all that dirt at the end of the day. Smells like lemon and sage too.

LUSH “Toothy Tabs” so your tooth paste doesn’t get thrown away at security and they take up way less space than a tube.

 

No Drought Dry Shampoo, Sandstone soap, Toothy Tabs

I have silicon travel size containers for shampoo and conditioner. Honestly don’t bet on showering everyday. Maybe a wet-wipe bath. Shower time every night was a bit of a scramble who could get there first.

Contact solution, glasses, and extra contacts.

I really like leave in conditioner. Sometimes after a day of sweating theres no way I’m getting a brush through my hair. I throw this in for the night then rinse it out. Does wonders.

Don’t forget your toothbrush and a hairbrush. A pocket mirror comes in handy too.

Tampons and/or girls things if you need them. Finding tampons abroad can be a pain and they are expensive.

SOME IMPORTANT THINGS

Copies of the following:

2 copies of your passport, just in case.

Insurance cards

Drivers license

Crew badge

Reservation and confirmation ( I will provide this for you)

Flight Itinerary, sometimes you need to show proof of return to the states, so if your non revving just book anything even if you don’t end up using it.

People ask a lot about shots and medications. All I recommend is being up to date on your Tetanus shot (one every 10 years unless told by your doctor) You can check the CDC and state.gov website for the country you are going to. I personally just stay up to date on that one, but do what your doctor thinks is best. Most travel vaccines ARE NOT covered by our insurance. So thats completely up to you. Also things like Malaria pills and Cipro are good to have on hand. I have found in my travels that the malaria pills make me sicker and I won’t take them. Remember this is just me. Talk to your doctor about what your plan should be.

ONE MORE TIME

This is my personal list of what I pack and recommend. Do whats best for you. 

Elephant Nature Park 2019 Initial Guide and Timeline

ENP Non-Revving Guide and Timeline

You will need to arrive in Chiang Mai, Thailand NO LATER than October 13th. If your schedule allows it, I highly suggest you arrive a few days early in Thailand.

You have many options for getting over to Asia. www.passrider.com will show you every flight, on every airline, with connections. Simply put in your originating city and final destination. Make sure to check the box “Interline” to see all connections.

To check loads and price your non-rev fare:

  1. swalife.com
  2. Click the “Travel” tab at the top of the page.
  3. Click “Launch MyIDTravel”
  4. Select airline and city pairing
  5. Select flights
  6. Price will be on the third page after hitting “Next” on your selected flights.

I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend you purchase a ticket from HKG or BKK to CNX. AirAsia was only $130.00 one-way. There are very limited options for getting to CNX, only a few flights a day with our partners. We CANNOT non-rev as of now on AirAsia and many other Asian carriers because we do not have reciprocal agreements with them For a full list of our cabin seat agreements please see http://www.swalife.com>travel>MyIDTravel>See agreements.

Decide what traveling and sightseeing you would like to do before and after the trip. Southeast Asia has so much to offer I can’t even begin to tell you.

Most will arrive via Hong Kong. Hong Kong is one of my favorite cities on the planet. A cultural melting pot of ex-pats and global citizens, not to mention the culinary scene is unparalleled. Shopping, hiking, dining, sightseeing, and the arts can all be found here.

Here is a link to my favorite spots in Hong Kong.

https://talesfromtheflyingcircus.wordpress.com/2016/09/24/my-favorite-hong-kong/

Another routing option is via Tokyo. An amazing city unlike anywhere else in the world, Tokyo is a bit pricier than the rest of Asia, but so unique. A must-see for anyone headed to Asia.

Some on the last trip came in from Bangkok, Thailand. A fun place to spend a few days, it’s a big city with a lot to offer. See the link below for my time spent in Bangkok.

https://talesfromtheflyingcircus.wordpress.com/2015/08/27/bangkok-not-mexico/

The Facebook page was set up so you could all bounce ideas off each other and make plans and room sharing with one another and traveling before and after.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2185716084880439/

AIRPORT CODES

CNX – Chiang Mai, Thailand

HKG – Hong Kong

BKK – Bangkok, Thailand

NRT – Tokyo (Narita), Japan

PEK – Shanghai, China

Upon arrival in Thailand they will issue you a tourist visa. You DO NOT need to obtain one before. Please see the Packing List for a full detail of what you will need before and during the trip.

https://talesfromtheflyingcircus.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/packing-list-thailand-enp-2015/

You have the option to travel as well after the week at ENP. It is fairly easy to get around from country to country. Airfare on AirAsia is a good option. Or there is a railway from Thailand to Cambodia. Also the bus is a long but affordable option as well. Communicate with each other and with a group this size there will be lots of options.

A few people have purchased a confirmed ticket already. They can range anywhere from $700-1400USD. That choice is yours. Non-rev, round trip is about $400.00 depending on the airline. So if you want to spend the extra money and just buy a ticket it does take the stress off. That is completely up to you.

For those who do not non-rev often, please see the link below for dress code and behavior expectations and some tips and tricks I use.

https://talesfromtheflyingcircus.wordpress.com/2015/09/07/upgrading-and-first-class-etiquette-101/

TIMELINE BREAKDOWN

8 months out –

Register and pay deposit

Make sure all information on registration is correct

Decide if you are going to non-rev or buy a confirmed ticket

Trade vacation weeks if possible

6 months out –

Have a basic idea of what your itinerary will be for traveling before or                                           after.

Any big tourist destinations, like spa packages or all-inclusive resorts                                         can be booked ahead of time.

Purchase ticket to/from CNX.

2 months out –  

Have a set plan for your travel plans before and after, know what you                                           would like to see and do in each destination.

Make sure your program fee is paid in full.

4 weeks out –  

BID!

Make arrangements for moving trips and obtaining time off.

Have a back up plan if you are non-revving incase flights fill up

Make sure you are up to date on your HEP shots as well as Tetanus and                                         schedule a doctor appointment if necessary.

Make sure finances are in order for the trip.

3 weeks out –

Arrange for things like pet care and house sitting.

Purchase any items you will need for the trip. (See packing list)

2 weeks out –

Schedule appointments for things like hair, waxing, or whatever you do.

1 week out –

Start packing.

Gather all items and make a pile. Usually bringing everything together                                       ahead of time will keep you from over packing.

Confirm non-rev airfare and book any non-rev tickets.

Purchase any last minute items and personal care items.

3 days out –

Check loads if non-revving. Have a back up plan.

Make sure house and personal matters are attended to.

Call your banks and give them a travel advisory of where you will be                                             going and for how long.

Check with your phone provider of what international plans they offer.                                       Many like Verizon and AT&T will give you a flat rate for international                                           data. This is the easiest way to stay in touch with friends and family                                             while abroad. You can also purchase a SIM card in Thailand that offers                                         data and text. Make sure your phone is “unlocked” if you are going to                                           purchase a SIM card.

Day before –

Confirm flight times and loads.

Check your packing list.

https://talesfromtheflyingcircus.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/packing-list-thailand-enp-2015/

When it comes closer to the trip, you will receive a welcome packet from Airline Vigilantes with the expectations of you as a volunteer and what to do (and not do) during your stay at the park. Again if you have any questions feel free to email me at airlinevigilantes@gmail.com

Here is the link, again, to the breakdown of the day-to-day time at the Elephant Nature Park. Happy Planning!

https://talesfromtheflyingcircus.wordpress.com/2015/10/15/elephant-nature-park-swavig-trip-2015-lek-the-elephant-whisperer/

Alexandria Jeffers

President and Founder

Airline Vigilantes

DEN FA

 

Revised Packing List Thailand ENP 2019

Let’s talk about packing. I get more request for packing tips then anything else. This list is pretty standard, but was made specifically for the upcoming Airline Vigilantes trip to Thailand. It really can be applied to most trips and is a good reference point for things not to forget.

BASICS and MUST HAVES

When Im volunteering I personally prefer to take my big backpack, not my roller bag. Rollers can be a pain in the ass if your trying to move quickly and stairs always seem to be a problem. I got this one off Amazon and she’s been good to me. Holds everything I need, comes with rain gear, sleeping bag harness and lots of straps to attach everything.

choosingbackpack1

For warmer climates, like Thailand, I usually carry a light sleeping bag. Its more like a blanket with a zipper. This doubles as a travel blanket and is good for the far too many times I’ve had to crash in the airport. 

Fleece-Sleeping-Bag-Blanket-L12753033

A micro fiber fast-drying towel. “Always travel with a towel.” – Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, and solid advice.

Toilet paper and butt wipes. Those should be pretty self-expianatory. Most other countries will not have TP in public bathroom so come prepared. Also many people don’t know that you typically don’t flush the TP. It goes in the trash can next to the toilet. The rest of the world does this, its kinda gross to our American standards but just roll with it. Its better than flushing it and clogging a toilet on the side of the road in Cambodia after you’ve unloaded 5 weeks of travelers diarrhea. 

First Aid Kit – This one is probably the most important. You never really understand the worth of a good first-aid kit until you need it. So heres a quick story for ya, and ill go into more detail about it in the Philippines post.

Gross ‘eh?

 

 While living in the Philippines last year, we were working on a construction project after Hurricane Hyaine hit them pretty hard. Construction safety in the Philippines consists of flip flops and a tank top. I had my Toms on, and was moving a saw horse from one site to another. I slid my foot to the left and a giant piece of termite infested wood went through my foot. Through it. We were about 24 hours away by boat from the nearest hospital so first-aid was up to me. I pulled the wood out, sprayed it with what ever anti-septic spray we had and wrapped it up. Fast forward 4 weeks, it’s stupid infected with gangrene and possibly MERSA. I ended up on about 6 months worth of antibiotics and coming extremely close to losing my foot. Heres what your kit should include:

Band aids in all sizes

Anti-Biotic spray

Gauze

Neosporne ointment

Hydrogen peroxide

Q-tips

Tweezers

Anti-septic spray

Benadryl

Motrin

Aspirin

Diamode

Hand sanitizer

Aloe or burn relief

Ibuprofen or some from of a pain killer

ACE wrap

Cipro if you have it

Muscle relax cream

DayQuil

Sleep Aid

Rubbing Alcohol

Salt and re-hydration tablets.

Seems like a lot but its really not, and small amounts of each, for like $20 at Target you can get a small standard one. I highly recommend investing. Even if someone else in your group has one bring some basics of your own. Bags get lost.

A ball-cap, or hat of some kind.

A bandana, headband, and/or hanker-chief. I prefer my hanker-chief, it can hold my hair back, become a sweat rag, all kinds of uses, not to mention I look really cool.

You can’t sit with us

 

Sunglasses. Don’t bring expensive sunglasses, They will get lost/stolen/broken. Also in Thailand in particular you can by a good pair of knock-offs for about $3. 

A durable watch. Its not always practical or convenient to pull out your cell phone.

Water bottle or Camel-pack

Sunscreen and bug-spray. I buy these things in the states, they tend to be expensive abroad. 

Chargers for all your devices and power converters. I got my pack of converters at target and I believe I spent $20 on them. Amazon has some good deals too.

A guide book. I live by my Lonely Planet books.

 

A Kindle or IPad. Bring IPads, computers, and kindles at your own risk. I don’t usually bring anything besides my phone which doubles as my camera.

Meds. Duh.

  

The only RX I need

The only RX I need

 

Gatorade powder is always good to have on hand. Its going to be hot and your going to be tired.

Zip-lock bags always come in handy. ****Pro tip: I put my non-rev clothes in one that way they still smell fresh when its time to come home.

Flash light and/or headlamp. Late night potty runs

Camera and/or GoPro

Deck of cards, or games. Drinking at night in a large group. This can be fun. Im bringing my Cards Against Humanity.

Wet wipes and body wipes.

Game on.

Game on.

CLOTHES

Heres what I pack, then I usually end up donating most of it and buying new pieces while I’m there.

Light rain jacket. It will probably rain at some point.

Work gloves! Yes you will be shoveling poop.

Leggings. There $3 at Forever21 and can be donated or thrown out at the end of your trip.

1 or two pairs of pants that can get dirty

Long sleeve shirt that will get dirty

3 pairs of shorts. 2 gym-type shorts, and one pair of jean shorts. I like my Soffee shorts from my cheerleading days.

3 t-shirts. Usually ones I can donate. Again Forever21 and H&M sell basic t-shirts for about $5 and they can be donated or thrown out. T-shirts in Thailand are like $2 a piece and have a cool story when you come home.

Standard volunteer uniform

 

2 Sports bras. Gotta strap those bad boys down. And who wants to wear a normal bra if you don’t have to?

Non-rev clothes. This is something that I still struggle with every time. You want to look nice, if not business casual since were non-revving on other carriers, however you still want to be comfortable and practical. Then theres always the hope of getting upgraded or moved to a better seat. So what I’ve worn recently is either a maxi-skirt or leggings with flats and a nice top. Then I put the top and/or skirt in that handy zip-lock we talked about so its fresh when I have to travel home. Its amazing how quickly some jewelry can dress up just some leggings and a t-shirt. Wear a light sweater too. Its a 16 hour flight to HKG, your gonna get cold.

Just landed in HKG, leggings, nice top and scarf

 

Swim suit. Something that you won’t mind if you loose it. 

Bring some gallon sized zip-lock bags for your wet clothes.

Socks, underware. Bring more pairs than you think you need. Usually however many days + 4 extra pairs. Incase of any accidents.

An infinity scarf. My doubles as a scarf, headband, sweat rag, face mask, dust mask, skirt, sweater. They are such a versatile item.

Scarves also work as face mask when your in a dust storm

 

An over-the-shoulder purse. Something deep that can’t be grabbed away. Or if you prefer a backpack a small travel lock.

The purse. Not how fierce I look

 

SHOES

2 pair flip-flops

1 pair tennis shoe or running shoe (preferably that you don’t mind if they get wrecked)

Work boots will make your life so much easier or rain boots! Make room for them!

TOMS – I live in my TOMS

Crocs are a good option too, and you’ll look really cool.

Really you need to pack what your comfortable wearing. Research the weather, and well be working outdoors. 

TRAVELING NECESSITIES

When Im taking a really long flight I have my standard carry-on items in a backpack or small tote. ****Going out you shouldn’t have an issue carrying on your bag. However coming back you MOST LIKELY WILL HAVE TO CHECK IT. Asia in particular is picky about bags. They will go as far as weighing your bag at security or simply not letting you thru security with a normal crew-sized roller. So plan on checking it and hoping for the best. Have everything important in your carry on.

Travel pillow – I got a really cool one with a hood on it from amazon for $10. You can even crash in a middle seat with this thing!

Eye mask

Ear plugs

Reading material

That sleeping bag doubles as a blanket, but most airlines will give you a blanket and a pillow.

I splurged and got some really nice noise canceling headphones. They don’t always fit the jack to watch movies from the plane, but they will cancel out the screaming child behind me when I want to sleep.

Ambien, What the hell else am I going to do for 16 hours.

Don’t forget big planes have personal TV’s in the seats. Ive never gotten too bored.

PERSONAL ITEMS

For makeup I minimize as much as possible. PLEASE REMEMBER THESE ARE JUST SUGGESTIONS. I had a girl on one of my last trips rip me a new one when I told her I personally don’t pack makeup, so she didn’t. When we got there all the other women her age brought all their makeup and she was mad that I apparently forced her not to. So heres EXACTLY what I pack.

My R+F Redefine regime. I love these products. I don’t sell it anymore but we have a million FA’s that do. I have all but stopped wearing face makeup everyday because my skin looks AMAZING. I wouldn’t promote it if it didn’t work.  When you travel like I do the last thing you want is to be worried about how you look in those travel photos when you’ve been working and sweating all day. This will change your life. 

You can thank me in 6 months when your skin looks 20 years younger

 

Sephora’s waterproof mascara and eyeliner. 

Bronzer.

Thats it. 

The R+F has my moisturizer and SPF 60 in it, then waterproof mascara. Thats my everyday routine when I’m volunteering. You do you. 

R+F makeup removing cleansing cloths. For at night when I need to get sweat and what little makeup I have on, off. 

LUSH brand dry shampoo. This is a miracle product. 

LUSH brand “Sandstone Exfoliating Soap” I have them cut me a piece that fits in a soap container and its super refreshing for removing all that dirt at the end of the day. Smells like lemon and sage too.

LUSH “Toothy Tabs” so your tooth paste doesn’t get thrown away at security and they take up way less space than a tube.

 

No Drought Dry Shampoo, Sandstone soap, Toothy Tabs

I have silicon travel size containers for shampoo and conditioner. Honestly don’t bet on showering everyday. Maybe a wet-wipe bath. Shower time every night was a bit of a scramble who could get there first.

Contact solution, glasses, and extra contacts.

I really like leave in conditioner. Sometimes after a day of sweating theres no way I’m getting a brush through my hair. I throw this in for the night then rinse it out. Does wonders.

Don’t forget your toothbrush and a hairbrush. A pocket mirror comes in handy too.

Tampons and/or girls things if you need them. Finding tampons abroad can be a pain and they are expensive.

SOME IMPORTANT THINGS

Copies of the following:

2 copies of your passport, just in case.

Insurance cards

Drivers license

Crew badge

ENP reservation and confirmation ( I will provide this for you)

Flight Itinerary, sometimes you need to show proof of return to the states, so if your non revving just book anything even if you don’t end up using it.

People ask a lot about shots and medications. All I recommend is being up to date on your Tetanus shot (one every 10 years unless told by your doctor) You can check the CDC and state.gov website for the country you are going to. I personally just stay up to date on that one, but do what your doctor thinks is best. Most travel vaccines ARE NOT covered by our insurance. So thats completely up to you. Also things like Malaria pills and Cipro are good to have on hand. I have found in my travels that the malaria pills make me sicker and I won’t take them. Remember this is just me. Talk to your doctor about what your plan should be.

ONE MORE TIME

This is my personal list of what I pack and recommend. Do whats best for you. 

Elephant Nature Park SWAVIG Trip 2015, “Lek, the elephant whisperer.”

This post was originally written in 2015 when we took our first group to the park. There have been a lot of positive changes! There is now an ATM at the park as well as a coffee shop! YAY! The work and trip itself has stayed the same for the most part and updates are in parenthesis in respective paragraphs.  – April 2019

This was the first big trip we took as an organization! Very exciting! 33 passionate employees, their friends and family joined us on a journey to Chiang Mai, Thailand for a week at the Elephant Nature Park. An elephant sanctuary for abused and exploited elephants.

We are planning on making this an annual trip and this is a good recount of what we did and what to expect. There are two follow up articles coming soon for further reading. Sorry there isn’t much of an intro. I will talk about the traveling to/from in the next article

Enjoy!

12109832_10153530135061760_1426611656998601106_o

Arriving in Chiang Mai

We were all required to be in Chaing Mai by Sunday and the project started on Monday. Included in the program fee is transportation from their offices in the city up to the park, which is about an hour and a half north of Chiang Mai. ENP as of 11/1/17, raised their price, and we as an organization to continue to partner with ENP, have had to raise the price to $525.00USD for the total program fee. That includes food, lodging and transportation at the park.

Most of us stayed at Hotel M, a mid range price hotel in the heart of town for about $40-80 booked ahead of time online, comfy beds and moderate rooms. Others, myself included, stayed at the Sathu Boutique Guesthouse a few blocks away and I would NOT recommend it. The rooms were extremely small and the beds were sub-par. It was $28 a night and even by Thai standards was not worth it. The staff was extremely rude as well and wouldn’t let anyone, including myself on the property if we weren’t staying there which became troublesome with a group our size. We dealt with it being it was just for the night and we all knew we were heading for an amazing project.

The Sathu Boutique Guesthouse - beautiful property but rude staff

The Sathu Boutique Guesthouse – beautiful property but rude staff

Make sure to have extra Baht about 2500THB ($80USD) upon arriving at the park as they have a small concession stand with fresh coconuts, sodas, snacks and Chang beer, wine and liquor. They also have Thai massages in the evening for 150THB ($5USD). Yes, you are reading that right, $5 for an hour massage. There is now an ATM at the park (4/10/19) so if you need to pull out more cash you can.

The accommodations are a bit rustic. There are rooms with 2, 3, 4 and 5 beds to them. Each bed has mosquito netting over the whole thing. The walls are thin and you can hear people talking so make sure to bring earplugs from work and an eye mask as well. Bathrooms are dorm style and can be a little rough if you’re scared of bugs. There is WIFI in public areas but works intermittently, and doesn’t work at all if the day trips are here too. I recommend getting a data plan or a SIM card with unlimited data if you would like to Face Time or chat with your family and friends at home.

Standard room with mosquito net over bed

Standard room with mosquito net over bed

Day 1&2

We woke up at 545am and met for yoga in the morning. A nice peaceful way to start our morning with good energy and watching the sunrise over the mountains with elephant sounds in the background.

12106757_10153523244766760_4295659482295632777_n

Photo property of Talesfromtheflyingcircus

Breakfast is at 7am and is a buffet style; all vegan. There is a selection of toast and jams, fresh fruit, beans, egg substitute cooked in different ways, steamed veggies, coffee and tea. One of our favorite items was toast covered in almond butter with sliced bananas on top.

Work starts at 8am.

Everyone is split into groups of about 10-14, we had 33 in our AV group and then there were about 20 other people here from all over the world. So 5 different work groups. Each work group is given a different job depending on the day, and they rotate daily.

The first day our group was combined with 2 other groups to clean up poop and clean out the elephant shelters. For this job and since it was our first day we showed up in flip-flops and shorts. It wasn’t really a problem and wasn’t too uncomfortable, we weren’t overly dirty. Its not easy work, its hot and you are shoveling heavy mounds of dirt and bamboo into the back of trucks. With the 3 groups combined we had all the shelters and poop scooped up in about 2 hours. Water breaks are a must and sunscreen. There is quite a bit of downtime in between finishing work and meals and it’s a great time to grab a snack or a drink from the snack stand and observe the elephants.

Kristen scooping poop!

Kristen scooping poop!

Lunch is between 1115 and 1145 and is another amazing colorful selection of rice, noodles, tofu, veggies and a salad bar in every style you can imagine. All the food comes from local farms and is vegan organic. Did not have a bad meal there and every thing was amazing. (And healthy.)

Work starts again at 1p most days, but day one we had a welcome talk about rules and expectations and how to act around the elephants. Very educational. I wasn’t really sure what to expect while we were here. I had no idea that riding, and touching the elephants are actually a harmful tourist attraction and ENP is in the process of trying to change that. I will get back to that a little later.

Digging holes to plant trees

Digging holes to plant trees

We had free time after that and spent some time bonding as a group then every week with each group of volunteers, the local village shaman comes up to bless the week and volunteers. It was beautiful. He chants and blesses the groups with holy water and gives each a wish bracelet and when it falls off you are supposed to hang it on a tree branch for good intention. The entire ceremony was about 45 minutes and a very nice way to end the evening. We grabbed some beers as a group then headed to bed early.

Welcome blessing ceremony

Welcome blessing ceremony

Day 3

CORN DAY!

Mo hauling corn

Mo hauling corn

So the morning started with breakfast again with a divine assortment of fruits and veggies and the norm. Then we broke off into work groups again. Some were doing poo again and some were cleaning the park. We headed an hour north in an open work trunk while sitting in the bed, to a field owned by a local farmer. ENP outsources their crops and brings jobs and money into the local economy into surrounding villages. Once we arrived at the cornfield, we were each given a scythe to cut the corn by hand and harvest it. It was hard, long, sweaty work (sexual innuendo intended) but it was fun. We would cut down 20 stalks and pile them for loading into truck. (Update as of April 2019, we haven’t had a corn day at the park since 2015, it’s just based on need and projects. We have also done a few other off site special projects in the past.)

Riding home on the beer truck, Chang included

Riding home on the beer truck, Chang included

Keep a positive attitude and everything will be ok! They provided a yummy lunch for us at the field.  We had to ride back on top of the corn for an hour drive back. According to our VC (volunteer coordinator) no one has been hurt yet! Our group did an amazing job and got to go tubing down the river upon our return. For this project, we needed pants, a long sleeve shirt, a hat, gloves, close toe shoes, sunscreen and water.

After the tubing we came back to shower. Showering here can be a bit of an adventure. There are about 7 showers and everyone, especially in a group our size, is fighting for first dibs. The water tends to be cold and water pressure doesn’t really exist. The showers are outside and open to the bugs, I had to keep one eye on the spider on the wall that was the size of a small cat.

This picture doesn't do this spider justice

This picture doesn’t do this spider justice

Peter and I found that the “community shower” in the main area has hot water and water pressure, the only catch is that you then have to walk back through the entire park in your towel if you forgot to bring clean clothes with you, like I did.

Looks like another SWA over-night. (photo courtesy of Wayne Tipton)

Looks like another SWA over-night. (photo courtesy of Wayne Tipton)

We spent the rest of the night mingling with other volunteer and having a few beers outside. We had brought some card games to pass the downtime that were a great icebreaker. Notice the trend of beers in the evening.

Day 4

Wednesday we were assigned park clean up which meant walking around the different areas of the park and collecting bamboo piles and elephant poo that’s out in the field. Each project takes about 3 hours and then breaks for lunch. By this day people are starting to fall into the routine of how our days will be.

Afternoon activities included an “elephant walk”.  It was about a two-hour walk around the whole park meeting the different elephants. It was extremely hot so don’t forget to fill your water with ice before you leave.

She had purple medicine on her feet

She had purple medicine on her feet

The sanctuary is also home to a dog and cat rescue. ENP is home to more than 400 dogs that are looking for their forever home. Volunteers can work specifically in just the dog volunteer program or swap out a day at the Elephant park for a day walking the dogs and playing with them. Many volunteers go up to the dog park after lunch in between activities to walk the dogs as well. ENP is always looking for people to escort dogs all around the world on their flights. Something to consider for next years group. Or you can always adopt if you fall in love with one of them!

Memphis was a good dog. He slept outside our rooms at night and would follow us to our job sites.

Memphis was a good dog. He slept outside our rooms at night and would follow us to our job sites.

That night there was an hour video detailing the elephant tourist industry and the atrocities that face the elephants in South East Asia. It was graphic, but something I feel we all needed to see to truly understand what is happening with the elephants you see carrying tourist and begging for food in the street. I will get more into that later.

Day 5

Breakfast was the norm and we were on elephant food duty, where we unloaded trucks of watermelon and pumpkin.  This might sound easy but it was a lot of work.  The trucks come in with hundreds of melons and it was easiest, and fun to make a production line.  You toss the melons down the line until they are in their respective places. A blast! We had music going, team cheers, and whenever someone would drop a melon the whole camp would shout! Got some serious bruises from being pegged in different places on my body with 3+ pound watermelons. After the trucks are unloaded, we needed to clean the melons by scrubbing them in a trough of water.  Once they are cleaned they are ready to be fed to the elephant.

Washing pumpkins

Washing pumpkins

We then got to make the elephant treats! Nasty work. For me at least. I would rather scoop poop everyday than be covered in sticky honey textured tamarind. Anxiety much? There’s not a whole lot i’ll actually say, “no.” to but I wasn’t going to do this. I was on DJ duty. The group sat in a circle around a tub of tamarind and formed sticky sweet elephant treats. Guess they really go nuts over tamarind, salt and sugar balls. The treats are then given to the elephant mahouts (the people who watch over the elephants) who give to elephants for positive reinforcement. It’s also a great way for staff to hide medicine for the elephants, kind of like giving your dog a treat with a pill inside.

Nasty sticky balls

Nasty sticky balls

That afternoon, it was time to plant grass. We went out to one of the main fields and starting pulling up the roots of some of the Bermuda grass that has taken over that field. After we collected 5-6 baskets full of roots they bussed us up to another area of the park to start planting. Let’s be honest, we just weeded a field for them to play soccer on. JK. Planting consisted of hoeing a small hole about 2-5 inches deep and burying 2-3 lines of the Bermuda grass root. It started pouring rain, but the scenery was quite spectacular with the green glistening around us. This took about 2 hours, but there were about 20 volunteers helping so it went by pretty quick when everyone was working. In between the root pulling and truck up to the planting site, I had to take care of some administrative work. I ended up getting separated from my group. I ran into Teri and Jay who were just getting back from their corn day. Teri bought me a beer and insisted I go tubing with them. As much as I would have Luved to do that, as a group leader I knew I needed to show up to my planting site. So why not with a beer in hand? Way easier to plant grass with a beer.

Yea we weeded this field, then replanted the roots.

Yea we weeded this field, then replanted the roots.

In the evening we headed up to the conference room to have a Q&A with a park trainer about positive reinforcement training. Chrissy, a former orca trainer at Busch Gardens in Florida, discussed how the elephants, although not in a captive environment anymore, still need some form of training to receive medical attention and care from their mahout and staff at ENP. Instead of violent training methods, ENP hired on Chrissy to bring “Positive Reinforcement Training” to the park. She will reward the elephant, and discipline in a non-violent manner to get the elephant the proper care needed. She was very transparent and real about her approach to training and the park in general. Some examples she included were about an elephant that would get extremely food aggressive when at the platform. Instead of the “normal” Thai way of using force and a bull-hook, she used a squirt gun with water to let the elephant know when they needed to calm down. Also she uses her training for medical assistance. Other elephants she would reward with a tamarind ball if they didn’t lash out during routine checkups and vaccinations. Her goals for the park were very straightforward and positive. Ideally she would like to see the park not have the feeding platform at all (Where day trip tourist feed the elephants) and also see the park not have an “elephant bathing” session everyday. (Where park guest can throw buckets of water on the elephants and help bathe them) She continued that both these activities aren’t necessary for the park to continue to be profitable, but it is a bit of a vicious circle. Bottom line, tourists like doing these things. It’s not really harming the elephants, however it’s also a bit contradictory to the entire goal of a completely free-range park. An extremely interesting conversation and good insight to what park goals are. (Update from April 2019, Chrissy is no longer at the park)

"Bathing" the elephants

“Bathing” the elephants

Take advantage of the massages offered every night between 3-9pm. Also, there are laundry services provided.  The services arrives at the park about 3pm every day and leave at 5:30pm.  You can drop off any clothes you want washed and they return them back to the park the next day between the same times. It is very cheap and super efficient to use so all your clothes are clean for you to head home. ENP will take any and all donations you have. I left over half my bag with them. Clothes, shoes, work boots, gloves, these are all things the park really needs and you don’t want to haul home with you anyway, It also cleared up my bag for shopping back in Chiang Mai.

Day 6

Melon stacking

Melon stacking

Today is the last day of work!!!!! Almost done. We scooped poop again in the morning and then went to help unload all the food trucks.  The afternoon is a rest day before leaving in the morning. Lek, The founder of ENP, spoke to us about where she started, how she got involved and what we can do to help. This woman is a true inspiration.

From Save Elephant Foundation

Sangduen “Lek” Chailert was born in 1962 in the small hill tribe village of Baan Lao, two hours north of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Her love for elephants began when her grandfather, a traditional healer, received a baby elephant as payment for saving a mans life. Lek would spend many hours with her newfound friend, named Tongkum (Golden One), resulting in a passion that would shape the rest of her life, as well as the lives of others.

With a love and respect for her country’s national symbol, and the knowledge that they were becoming endangered, Lek began advocating for the rights and welfare of the Asian elephants in Thailand. In an industry steeped in tradition, advocating for positive change in the ways domestic and wild Asian elephants are treated has not been an easy battle. However, with hard work and determination her voice is now internationally recognized. In addition to several documentaries produced by National Geographic, Discovery, Animal Planet and the BBC, Lek has also won many honorary awards.

Lek’s mission continues to affect others as her voice is heard throughout the world. Her story and voice have made an impact in the minds of all who give their lives to animal welfare and conservation. Lek’s mission to save the Asian elephants continues to expand. She has formed the Save Elephant Foundation and a dedicated team works tirelessly by her side to protect the Asian elephant.

Today, Lek continues to be at the forefront of elephant (and other animal rights causes), raising international awareness and encouraging other countries in the region to follow her lead, as well as helping provide sustainable alternatives to local villages. At the same time, she maintains special relationships with the animals she rescues. Most days, she can be found at Elephant Nature Park spending time with the rescued herd.

After her speech, all of us were visibly moved, and many including myself in tears. You can hear her passion and determination in her voice. She spoke about every elephant as if the elephant was a close friend. I gave her a hug and introduced myself and my goals for my non-profit and how we would like to continue working hand in hand with this incredible foundation.

12096511_10153523239371760_9007075804061596090_n

Day 7

By the end of the week, let’s be honest, everyone has checked out.

To my group’s credit, they all headed to the food truck to help unload and scrub pumpkins and watermelons after breakfast. Awesome job guys! After about 2 hours of work everyone went back to their rooms to pack up and make a pile of donations. We said goodbye to the friends we had made at the park as well as the friends we had made in our group. Many of us continued traveling on after and the others headed back to the states. We arrived back in Chiang Mai at about 1p Sunday. Every Sunday in Chiang Mai they hold the Sunday Night Market. Amazing and super cheap shopping. I managed to finish all my Christmas shopping for about $100. I have 7 siblings so to get all my shopping done before Halloween and for $100?! Yea I’m impressed too. Art, jewelry, crafts, decor, you name it and you can find something unique at the market. We learned the hard way this is NOT the market for counterfeit goods. I was a little disappointed. I had a long list from my parents wanting fake bags and electronics. Every other market I have ever been to in SE Asia has these things but after talking to a few locals the government cracked down on this in this particular market. If you want these things, get them in Hong Kong or Cambodia.

The Chiang Mai Boutique Hotel, best bang for your buck at $28/night for a double room

The Chiang Mai Boutique Hotel, best bang for your buck at $28/night for a double room

In closing this trip was life changing. It was a beautiful experience and so educational. I got so much out of this physically and emotionally I’m having a hard time putting it into words. I can only hope that everyone who visits falls in love the way I did. With the park, the people, the land, and the animals. Can’t wait to take you all there next year!

12107005_10153530183606760_5683222975204706372_n

Cheers!