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Bum Bags, Phrasebooks And 8 Other Things You Don’t Travel With Anymore

10 things that used to be essential for any trip but now seem totally redundant.

Brought to you by Qantas Money

Proudly presented by Qantas Money, the prepaid multi-currency card for Qantas Frequent Flyers. It\'s the rewarding way to pay while travelling overseas.

It’s trite but true that technology has dramatically changed our lives, and thanks to the recently launched Qantas Card with Qantas Cash in NZ, we’re highlighting how much easier travel is for Kiwis today.

One of the things it’s irrevocably changed is the way we prepare for travel. That knapsack full of vital equipment – from a VHS camcorder to a library’s worth of books – is a lot lighter these days, and it’s not the only thing we now do without.


#1 Phone cards

Photo by Bart Anestin on Unsplash

There was a strange window before the point when mobile phones were ubiquitous but after we realised having to keep your pockets full of precisely the right coinage in case you needed a payphone in an emergency was a rubbish idea. In that brief window phone cards flourished. You’d buy your $10 card with a picture of the cast of Friends or Spongebob Squarepants on it and that would let you call home from wherever you could find a payphone. Though they still exist phone cards have now become collector’s items for a subculture who call themselves “fusilatelists” and are very serious about it on the internet.


#2 Fanny Packs

The tragic loss of fanny packs means we can no longer have those conversations where we explain to Americans that we call them bum bags because “fanny” means something different here. Whatever you call the ugly things, they’ve become outmoded both because travellers have less stuff to lug around and because everyone realised they make you look like a muppet. Once “Weird Al” Yankovic namechecked them in  White & Nerdy it was all over for fanny packs.


#3 Cameras and Film

I used to work in a photolab and people would bring in 13 rolls of film they’d shot in Paris and come back the next day to pick them up, only to realise that photo of the amazing cathedral was out of focus because someone on a bicycle rode into shot. Digital photography changed that, and now you can endlessly re-shoot all your photos on the spot until you get them right. Plus, your phone is probably taking higher-res photos than the digital camera you got in 2004 so that’s something else you can leave at home.


#4 Video cameras

Photo by Thomas William on Unsplash

Everything I just said about cameras goes double for video cameras. Can you upload from VHS direct to Vine? No? IN THE BIN.


#5 Airport novels

Novels keep getting longer. If you want to bring a physical copy of the latest George R. R. Martin with you don’t bother putting anything else in that bag. If you’re a proper reader you want more than one book to choose from, of course. I took The Bourne Identity on holidays once, realised on the plane it was over-written nonsense, grabbed a copy of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo to read on arrival, and then had to lug both the heavy bastards around for the entire rest of the trip like an idiot. Tablets fixed all that, and now you can have an entire library of glorious escapist trash on-hand in one slim device.


#6 Maps

Maps have a romantic “here be monsters” mystique that vanishes the instant you get lost and realise how hard they are to read. I use Google Maps to find my friend’s houses even when I know where they live, because it feels like being in a video game. Of course there are a few places left in the world where Google and Apple Maps don’t work, including – surprisingly – South Korea. They have the fastest internet in the world but government restrictions mean the maps are low-resolution and have to be processed by servers within their borders, making one of the globe’s most high-tech nations one of the few where physical maps come in handy. (Unless you can read Korean in which case you can use alternatives from local search engines Daum and Naver.)


#7 Cash

Your passport is getting pretty lonely in that travel wallet, and your money belt’s going to get dusty thanks to interbank networks like Cirrus and MasterCard. No need to carry heaps of cash in your wallet when you use Qantas Cash, the travel money card now built into the back of the Qantas Frequent Flyer membership card. Load up to nine different currencies on the one card and use it to pay for things at millions of MasterCard locations worldwide. Plus, you’ll rack up Qantas Points at the same time. Walk into any 7-11 in Japan and pay for a bottle of Pocari Sweat with Qantas Cash like it ain’t no thing. This is what living in the future looks like.


#8 Tear-stained handkerchiefs

In the age of video calls a sobbing extended farewell to all your loved ones seems anachronistic. You don’t need to be waving a tear-stained handkerchief at your partner from the window of a departing train when you’ll be sending them a sext before you even arrive. Still, “Until I see you again!” has a ring to it that’s lacking in, “Until I Skype you from a hostel somewhere.”


#9 Phrasebooks

Another thing apps have made redundant: Flipping through a phrasebook to find where you’ve bookmarked “Entschuldigung, wo ist der Autobahn, bitte?” That’s a shame because terrible phrasebooks can be works of art. The high-water mark is English As She Is Spoke, an infamously terrible Portugese-English phrasebook that advises readers to warn they feel sick by saying “I have mind to vomit”, and claims that a common English proverb is “to craunch the marmoset.”


#10 Antiscorbutics

Even if you resist the march of technology and insist on hauling your fancy SLR and well-thumbed guidebooks around with you, thank God you don’t live in the 16th century and need antiscorbutics for long voyages. Back before scurvy was understood to be the result of a deficiency of Vitamin C, a whole variety of weird antiscorbutics were tried to cure it. Drinking oil or taking laxatives was thought to work, and even after they realised something in citric acid was what you needed sometimes other, stronger, acids would be substituted instead. Maybe you’re one of the people who still wear a fanny pack everywhere, but at least you don’t carry actual acid in it to stop your teeth falling out.

Qantas Cash NZ makes travelling a lot easier while rewarding you with Qantas Points along the way. Get started at qantascash.co.nz.

(Lead image: Ksenia Varapaeva on Unsplash)