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Four Easy Travel Essentials for Food and Drink Lovers

Poulet Braise Cote d'Ivoire

For anyone who travels because of food or gets excited about the meals awaiting in the destination, preparedness is essential. You want to be able to enjoy the meal and whatever drink accompanies it as much as possible, especially given the limited amount of time in a certain place. These four everyday items will ensure that you have the right tools to do so.


A Good Corkscrew
A nice corkscrew serves a few purposes. Feel like having a quiet night in the room with a bottle of wine from the supermarket? The corkscrew avoids the awkwardness of having to request one from the hotel’s restaurant or front desk. Want to hit the beach with a couple of beers for a sundowner? The bottle opener on the corkscrew will save a chipped tooth. Most importantly, the corkscrew is what makes a good picnic possible. The serrated knife on the back of the corkscrew can cut through bread, cheese, meat and produce, so you’re ready to make sandwiches or a snack once you’ve thrown a few items from the market in your bag.

A Vintage Chart
When traveling in a country renowned for its wines, knowing the ratings for each region by year can make a big difference in your wine-dish pairing. If you’ve narrowed the selection down to a Rioja and a Ribera del Duero from 2009, do you know which one should be better? A vintage chart, which can be found online quickly and printed out, will remind you that the 2009 Ribera vintage rated higher and would be the (marginally) better choice. By the end of your trip you may have the ratings down, but a pocket vintage chart is very useful for those first few dinners.


Pen & Paper
The simplest of implements can be the most effective. Dining with a pen and paper means that you can note the names of dishes you’ve enjoyed or disliked, as well as your take on the drinks. This will be of assistance when you encounter something new that you want to try again, especially where the menus are in a foreign language. Additionally, the other side of the paper can be a cheat sheet of emblematic regional or national dishes that you researched prior to your trip.


A Photographic Device
I realize that the title is a bit lawyer-ly, but a camera itself is not necessary. Any gadget that snaps photos ranging from the camera on your smartphone to a fancy DSLR will suffice. Having a camera handy will allow you to photograph dishes you like. Having these photos is very useful when you do not speak the local language and are trying to order a dish you loved a couple of dinners ago. The food shots are also colorful memories of the dining experience. If you feel a little shy about taking pictures of your plate in a restaurant (I have long since lost this apprehension and am used to the looks), just act like you’re photographing your dining partner and then shift down to the food.

Do you have any easy essentials not on this list?

{ 55 comments… add one }
  • Nathan Anderson May 28, 2014, 4:09 pm

    I like to travel with a few empty zip-lock bags handy. Not only are they a cheap way to keep valuables dry, but they work great for bagging up some leftover food and saving it for later!

    • Dave May 28, 2014, 4:39 pm

      Excellent addition to the list, Nathan! I wish I had thought of that the last time I was in Valencia so I could have enjoyed some leftover paella for breakfast – close second to cold pizza.

  • Lauren May 28, 2014, 5:07 pm

    These are great suggestions! I am obsessed with taking pictures of food :)

    • Dave June 2, 2014, 8:58 am

      Yeah, I find it hard to eat before I’ve memorialized a beautiful dish :)

  • Pola (Jetting Around) May 28, 2014, 8:39 pm

    I don’t go anywhere without pen & paper and camera! And I’m glad to see someone mention the corkscrew – can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to markets to search for one… I should always pack it in checked luggage. :)

    • Dave May 30, 2014, 9:07 am

      Yes, always one of my biggest regrets when I leave it at home! At the same time, I do enjoy exploring local markets to find one once I arrive.

  • Tamara May 28, 2014, 11:37 pm

    Good ones! I second the Ziploc bag idea…handy for so many things. We were saved this evening by a screwtop on the wine bottle as we are embarrassingly without our trusted corkscrew. Must put our hands on that…

    • Dave June 2, 2014, 9:04 am

      Thankfully there are more decent wines that started using screwtops in the past few years. Let’s hope that trend continues!

  • Corinne May 30, 2014, 7:39 am

    Dave, We like to take photos of the menu as well. Then we can keep notes on it very easily.

    • Dave June 2, 2014, 9:06 am

      Good one, Corinne! I’ve found those photos helpful on review sites, too – can make the difference in selecting a restaurant.

  • Michael Huxley May 30, 2014, 10:28 am

    I also never leave home without a camera, pen and paper. I don’t travel specifically for food, but I love eating and I do like mementos of great meals.

    • Dave June 2, 2014, 9:07 am

      Same here – the laptop doesn’t make all the trips with me, but those three are my constant travel companions.

  • Brad Frankel May 30, 2014, 11:56 am

    so frustrating when you cant find a corkscrew…there’s a trick with a spoon and a towel but be careful, it doesn’t always work well 😉

    • Dave June 2, 2014, 9:07 am

      Thanks, Brad – will have to look that up and will be wearing appropriate attire when I attempt it.

  • Laura May 30, 2014, 4:20 pm

    What great tips! Good corkscrew is definitely a must, we always have to limit ourselves to screw top wine :( not good !

    • Dave June 2, 2014, 9:11 am

      I’ve had to resort to juice-box wine in Portugal…not sure what kind of message those containers convey to kids.

  • Calli May 30, 2014, 5:13 pm

    Great list Dave! The corkscrew is a must for us when traveling – luckily Travis’ memory is reliable when we forget a pen and paper. We like to bring a couple spoons and forks with us when traveling as well, great for eating leftovers when our accommodations don’t provide them.

    • Dave June 2, 2014, 9:13 am

      Hi Calli – The utensils are a great addition to this list. The next time I’m checking a bag, they’ll be going in!

  • Emily May 31, 2014, 12:58 am

    You’re so right about the corkscrew! We forgot to bring one on our trip, so many times in hostels we’ve been unable to open our wine. Recently resorted to the ‘shoe’ method – not something I’ve seen before, and definitely didn’t work! Need to get one before we reach Argentina I think!!

    • Dave June 2, 2014, 9:17 am

      You don’t want to miss out on any of those lovely Argentine reds, so make sure you track one down.! What is the “shoe method”?

  • Simone May 31, 2014, 7:04 am

    Cant believe I am just learning of your blog! Cook, Sip and Go are our favorite things as well! Love the list and agree with the addition of Zip Lock bags for the leftovers. Great pictures. Cant wait to explore your blog a little more

    • Dave June 2, 2014, 9:20 am

      Thanks, Simone! Glad to get to know your site, as well. Nathan’s recommendation has been a popular one.

  • I´m not a wine expert but other drinks could be highly appreciated (good rum, pisco, tequila, beer) so you list still works for me

    • Dave June 2, 2014, 9:23 am

      If beer cans are not available, the corkscrew ensures that the bottle is opened without involving some of the more interesting (and perilous) methods I’ve seen.

  • Teresa May 31, 2014, 11:05 am

    I like to have a damp flannel with me so I can be tempted by any food I fancy and know I can clean my fingers afterwards!

    • Dave June 2, 2014, 9:26 am

      Love it! Having the option to dig in with reckless abandon is key :)

  • Christina May 31, 2014, 12:57 pm

    I never think about the corkscrew but it´s really a good idea to take one with you. It´s awful having a picknick somewhere and a great wine but having problems to open it. I once had to push the cork into the bottle. :/

    • Dave June 2, 2014, 9:29 am

      Ah, so many corks have gotten a bath as a result. Just be sure to throw the corkscrew in any packed bags, as you risk losing it to security otherwise.

  • Karen Warren May 31, 2014, 7:02 pm

    We (almost) always travel hand luggage only so can’t carry a corkscrew. Very frustrating – we often end up buying one and leaving it behind – so screw tops are a great invention! I’ve never used a vintage chart but absolutely agree about the notebook and camera. And I often use Foursquare on my iPhone to find nearby restaurants.

    • Dave June 2, 2014, 9:30 am

      Foursquare is a useful resource – thanks for the tip, Karen! Who knows how many corkscrews are orphaned in hotel rooms every day.

  • Rashad Pharaon May 31, 2014, 11:14 pm

    Hmm, never thought about #1.. how did I miss that?! lol. I like your list, my only problem is #4… I lug around a big DSLR and I really should go for something more compact. I feel it takes away from the experience of enjoying the food… maybe I’ll get something smaller like the camera you have pictured there :)

    • Dave June 2, 2014, 9:33 am

      I alternate between my DSLR and the one above. It’s one of the nicer point-and-click models, fits in a jacket pocket and doesn’t embarrass my wife.

  • Samantha June 1, 2014, 10:24 pm

    I only wish I had stuck to your advice when I was in Myanmar. I took only a handful of pictures of my food (mainly because I was so busy enjoying it I forgot to take pictures before I had eaten it all!) but I wish I had taken more. I have recently invested in another smaller camera to carry with me in the evenings when taking a DSLR isn’t suitable so I can take more pictures easily rather than pulling out my big camera. (Now I guess I’ll stumble across a post that advises to pack light when travelling…two cameras is not packing light I guess!) :)

    • Dave June 2, 2014, 9:35 am

      I definitely prefer bringing the DSLR to lunch, when there’s usually less of a crowd and much better natural light. The point-and-click is pretty compact and takes nice shots, so thankfully does not add too much to the packing load.

  • antonette - we12travel June 2, 2014, 5:15 am

    We also travel with a pocketknife in case we need to prepare our own food. Oh and hand cleaning gel for sure, to clean, clean and clean more. We have the same camera, or did have, it recently died and we bought a newer version. Cheers!

    • Dave June 2, 2014, 9:37 am

      I’ve had that camera for a couple years now, but use it less as a fancy DSLR has taken priority. I like its compactness and am not surprised that you guys stuck with the same line. Thanks for stopping by, Antonette!

  • Bianca @itsallbee June 2, 2014, 6:31 am

    With phones getting better and better camera these days there is no excuse for now having a camera to document these kind of experiences is there? Thats if you actually have battery charged up!(That comes from my camera experience this weeks) I have a phone and two camera this weekend all of which were unusable due to dead batteries :(

    • Dave June 2, 2014, 9:40 am

      Remembering to gas up those devices is so important…and it gets even tougher when there are not a lot of power outlets. If I have my laptop with me, I charge the phone through it to save an outlet for a camera battery.

  • Bob R June 2, 2014, 10:05 am

    Vintage chart – a man after my own heart. I always have a camera, pen & notebook within easy reach and used to always have a corkscrew in my backpack —which I kept forgetting I had when they were confiscated at airport security. :)

    • Dave June 2, 2014, 12:14 pm

      I forgot that I still had a corkscrew in my bag when I walked into a courthouse back in New York after a trip. I had to check the corkscrew at the security desk, which was slightly embarrassing.

  • SJ @ Chasing the Donkey June 2, 2014, 9:12 pm

    What a super cool post!! I agree on all, and there was a new one. I had never given thought to print the chart – so thanks a bunch for that!!! And thanks for linking up with us for #SundayTraveler once again.

    • Dave June 3, 2014, 10:37 am

      Thanks, SJ! The vintage chart has been very useful throughout the years.

  • Ashley and Alex June 2, 2014, 9:50 pm

    A vintage chart is such a good suggestion; it is something I never even thought about carrying but since we base so much of our travels and just life in general around food and wine, it makes so much sense! We also try to carry a corkscrew around with us all the time. I hate when you buy a bottle and realize you don’t have a corkscrew. Such an inconvience!

    • Dave June 3, 2014, 10:39 am

      When I forget the corkscrew, I inevitably end up googling “opening wine bottle without corkscrew” and am pretty amused by the range of results.

  • Adelina | PackMeTo June 2, 2014, 10:24 pm

    I’m not a big wine drinking so I’ve never even heard of a vintage chart, but my boyfriend loves his wine so I’ll have to track down one of these. I agree with everything else. You never know when you’ll need a bottle opener.

    • Dave June 3, 2014, 10:41 am

      Thankfully the vintage charts are pretty easy to locate online. They’ve been of great assistance, as my wife and I like to try out the local wines wherever we travel.

  • Marissa Sutera June 3, 2014, 1:57 am

    I just love that you have essentials for preparing to eat. Fantastic ideas! I am a food lover myself as I think many of us are, and I love the exotic foods that await me when traveling to new places. I am that person taking pictures of their food, but I never regret it later on! Great post!

    • Dave June 3, 2014, 10:43 am

      Thanks, Marissa! Always best to be prepared. Some of my best travel memories are connected to food, and I’m sure the same is true for you.

  • Christine June 4, 2014, 7:09 am

    Great post Dave! I think we’ll definitely be taking a corkscrew/bottle opener on our next trip. We’ve had to think of some pretty Macgyver ways to open beer bottles. And good tip to have a pen & paper with you. I’m going to start taking notes on especially good meals so I can remember them. Also, what’s in that 3rd photo?? Looks delicious!

    • Dave June 4, 2014, 3:14 pm

      Thanks, Christine! The third photo is of bayaynetu, an Ethiopian veggie sampler. The lentils and spinach in bayaynetu are really tasty.

  • Margherita @The Crowded Planet June 5, 2014, 12:01 am

    So true Dave! Pen and paper are best for taking notes (I will never be able to master the tiny little buttons on phones) and a camera is essential. I have not taken as many pictures of food as I should have in the past, and from now on I’ll make sure no delicious dish escapes my lens. I usually take a Swiss Knife with corkscrew attached, I find the little screwdriver extensions very handy. My husband likes taking a roll of string, but I haven’t yet figured out why!

    • Dave June 5, 2014, 2:23 pm

      Thanks, Marghe! I have the same problem with taking notes on my phone, but it’s been great for enhancing food pics. The Swiss army knife is the ultimate food traveler’s tool – it even has a toothpick! Cheers to you and Nick.

  • christine June 5, 2014, 3:59 am

    good ideas!!!

  • frankaboutcroatia June 6, 2014, 8:19 am

    Great list, Dave! And great idea for a blog post. I also always carry a pocket knife (Opinel are my favs). They are super handy to have for quick bites when on the road.

  • Michele June 7, 2014, 2:44 pm

    We have really slacked off in taking photos of food and now are regretting it and trying to remember to do so again. I love looking at them and remembering where we were and the experience we had.

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