Lengths Kenyan travellers go to ensure their comfortable stays

Travel essentials for Kenyan travellers.

Photo credit: Photo | Shutterstock

On a trip to Bali, Karen Johnson visited the Ubud Monkey Forest, a 25-acre conservancy renowned for its three temples, lush forests and hundreds of monkeys.

Karen had hoped to create good memories from the conservancy interacting, feeding and capturing photos of the over 1,000 long-tailed macaques that dwell there.

Of course memories were made but not all good ones, as Karen was attacked by a macaque. Such attacks are common in the conservancy.

From then, Karen has never traveled without Neosporin-an antibiotic-to whatever destination.

“I never leave home without it. I got bit by a monkey in Bali, not a deep bite but it broke my skin,” Karen remarks on Quora.

Since the memorable bite, the antibiotic packs alongside other items that some would consider unusual on every of her carry-ons. It packs tight together with dental floss and industrial ear plugs for any trip.

“Besides the obvious use of dental floss, it can also be used as a makeshift shoe lace and any place you would use string or a zip tie. I also buy industrial earplugs with a noise reduction of 34 decibels or better. These are great for blocking out that screaming child on the aeroplane and noisy hotel rooms,” Karen adds.

For pretty seasoned travellers, Karen’s accounts of ferrying what many would consider unconventional items in their carry-ons doesn’t come as a shocker.

“I would understand why. I never travel without my set of bedsheets and pillow slips,” Macy Wambui, a Nairobi-based entrepreneur, tells the BD Life.

An avid traveller since 2014, having worked with a touring and travel agency before quitting, Macy says she started carrying her own beddings to vacation destinations and trips in 2018.

“It all began in 2018 while I was on a vacation in Diani. As you may know, the first thing you do once you get to the Coastal region is take a shower because of the heat. After my bath I always immediately take a nap, it doesn’t matter the time of the day,” Macy narrates.

When she woke up to have dinner nothing seemed unusual until the following day.

Bad itch

“At the bottom of my cheeks, along my jaw line, I had developed some reddish rashes that oozed clear fluids with some very bad itching. I never knew what that was until I had a chat with a dermatologist and learned that it was eczema. She explained the rashes must have been caused by the hotel beddings, or if I had used dirty make-up paraphernalia and not something I had eaten as I had earlier thought,” she recalls.

Macy says after assessing her situation, she came to a decision that the eczema must have been caused by the 5-star hotel's beddings she had laid on and not any of her makeup/facial or body cleansing items.

“Ever since I pack my bedsheets and pillow slips depending on the number of days I will be away. If it’s a week, I will carry three to four bedsheets. I already know am not going to wash them, they will be cleaned back home once I return. For the pillowcase, I carry two or three. So once I get to my hotel room, I replace its beddings with mine. I will not use the hotel’s at all cost. I also ensure I carry a Masaai shuka just in case I will need to replace the duvet. I carry my own soaps too, four to five face towels and two body towels as well,” Macy explains.

Size matters

As for Fatuma Ramadhan, a crochet designer from Kilifi, she will always carry her own pair of sandals.

“I never travel without my pair of sandals and my own soaps. A pair of sandals is key because I am always in them, so I want to ensure I have the right size for my comfort. Sometimes I get to an accommodation and flip-flops that aren’t my size, they could be smaller or bigger, it's a confusion I prefer to avert. My size is 41 and I know most women wear sizes 36-38, meaning chances are high that those are the sizes they will provide me. I would rather just carry mine, I don’t need big ones that would trip me when walking or small ones that will have part of my feet kissing the earth, ” she says.

Until last year, Fatuma never bothered to pack her own bedsheets as part of her carry-on.

Crochet designer Fatuma Ramadhan during her trip to Zanzibar in May 2023.

Photo credit: Photo | Pool

“I am an anal-retentive and because I prefer staying in Airbnb’s, I am never sure if those beddings are ever cleaned properly. Sometimes the caretakers avoid cleaning those beddings if the previous visitor didn’t leave much dirt on them and that to me is always a course of concern,” Fatuma says.

She then adds: “Another reason is an occurrence that happened to me in 2023. I had travelled to Zanzibar and after my stay, the Airbnb sent me a bill of 80 US dollars (Sh10,500) claiming their sheets had been damaged during my stay. I disputed the charge but thought to avoid such a situation in my future travels, why not just carry mine.”

Since then Fatuma always carries one set of bedsheets for a five-day gate-away.

During a conference trip to India, well-travelled youthful environmental activist Anita Soina recalls an event that forced her to do some adjustments on her luggage load whenever travelling.

Ironing nuisance

“The hotel that I was booked in was fancy, I can’t recall if it was a 4-star or a 5-star. However, what I didn’t understand is why we had to share iron boxes. I mean, an iron box is placed at a designated area outside the hotel rooms in every floor. And then it happened that most of the occupants booked in the hotel at this particular time were attending the same conference. So you can imagine the kind of nuisance the scenario created whenever people needed to get ready for the meetings,” Anita poses.

To avoid such nuisance, she never forgets to pack her own iron box when on a voyage.

“I don’t carry the normal iron boxes because they are kind of large and heavy, so I carry those small portable ones. Well, they don’t do a good job because they are of low quality but they help. It's better having one than lacking having to wait to line up for your time,” she says.

A taste of Kenya abroad

Besides the iron box, Anita carries her own tea bags enough to last her the entire trip.

“I find tea bags from other countries to be weird tasting and I am never ashamed of pulling my tea bags from the bag in whatever hotel I am booked in during breakfast. I have also seen Nigerians friends who carry their own snacks during trips,” Anita adds.

Currently, in New York attending the Ecosoc Youth Forum, Doreen Moraa Moracha says she never travels without her own bottles of water.

Social media influencer Doreen Moraa during her visit to London, United Kingdom.

Photo credit: Photo | Pool

“I carry at least two bottles of water, each a litre after some bad experience in Botswana. Before the trip, I was informed that packaged water in Botswana is quite expensive but out of ignorance, I ignored the caution wondering how more expensive could it be than in Kenya where one litre of bottled water goes for between Sh70 and Sh80. Well, I ended up buying a litre of bottled water in Botswana for Sh300 and that country is super-hot you will always be dehydrated, meaning you will always be in need of water,” she points out.

Health condition

The situation was made worse by the fact that Moraa who has lived with HIV since birth, requires to drink at least three litres of water every day.

“Since that ordeal, I always buy and pack water in my carry-on before a take-off. It doesn’t matter if the weather in the country I am travelling to is cold or not, I will always have my bottles. The other day I was in Australia, it was extremely cold but I had my water with me,” Doreen adds.

Doreen who is also a HIV activist, maintains that another reason to carry her own water is to ensure accessibility.

“Once I get to my destination I don’t need to be troubled looking for water. Having my own ensures that I am sorted until I figure out the city,” says Doreen.

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