Travel 101: Always Have a Plan B

Stephen F. Dennstedt

When travelling internationally (especially for long periods of time) it’s always good to have a Plan B (redundancy is prudent). When I say long periods I mean years, not days, weeks or months. The first leg of my global adventure lasted five years (trekking Cuba, Mexico, Central America and South America).

I have been back in the USA since March refreshing my travel kit, both photographic and personal. Five years put a lot of wear & tear on my travel gear: jungles, beaches, mountains and deserts have all taken their toll. You can certainly replenish many things while you’re on the road (and I have) but sometimes American sizes (and quality) are problematic.

An essential piece of kit for me is a reliable watch. I am no longer a slave to time (having been retired since 2011) but there are still buses and planes to catch, people to meet and appointments to be kept. A quartz movement (battery operated) watch is not my first choice. Although you can find batteries abroad (they usually last a year or two) it takes a technician to replace it and once they break the factory waterproof seal the watch is no longer submersible (no oceans, lakes, rivers or even long showers). What choices are left?

Casio ProTrek Analog Dial

I’ve opted for two watches: a multifunction Casio ProTrek solar-powered analog watch (my solar-powered Casio Pathfinder lasted over 8 years before the battery started failing) and a Marathon Milspec mechanical (no battery) watch (it can be manually wound and sports an auto-wind feature). Neither watch is inexpensive at about $350 usd but I value reliability, durability and functionality above all else when travelling (you typically get what you pay for). And with expensive gear you will often find that when you prorate its price over its lifetime it is more economical in the long run.

Marathon Milspec Mechanical Watch

Another piece of travel gear I backup religiously are my prescription glasses, both regular (bifocals) and sunglasses. It’s possible to get replacement glasses while travelling but the quality varies greatly from country to country, and do you really want to wait around (blind) for a week or two while they’re being made? I pack three pair of regular glasses and two pair of sunglasses (all prescription) in my luggage. Make sure you keep them all in hard shock-proof cases and spread them out in various pieces of luggage (main pack, day pack and photography case). Also, keep a current prescription with your other medical information on your computer, iPhone or with your passport.

I buy my prescription eyeglasses online at and they do a great job. In a pinch you can order replacement glasses from them while travelling, but you’re still going to wait a week or two for production and shipping. Better to have backup glasses with you because you never know when you’re going to break a pair accidentally. It happens. If you’re as blind as I am you really don’t want to be stumbling around, and if (like me) you’re a photographer you can forget taking any pictures until you replace your broken glasses. Just a word to the wise.


3 responses to “Travel 101: Always Have a Plan B

    • I bought two pair in Mexico before leaving Yucatan, but they both broke within a year. My backup pair was an old prescription (probably 10 years old) and it played hell with my vision . . . thank God for autofocus. Since coming back to San Diego I took the opportunity to update my prescription and order multiple pairs of glasses. It cost a lot, but I don’t want to go through that experience again. 🙂

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