Every traveller has a mental list of their travelling essentials – those things they just can’t live without. When I first started travelling, I didn’t have a clue, I always used to take too much and find halfway that what I took was useless for a trip. Now I know the things I simply can’t survive a trip without. WeSwap asked me to write about my travelling essentials – the things I always carry in my handbag just in case. As you can see from the picture, I travel light and I stay focused on what is going to get me through boredom and what will make my travel as efficient as possible. Of course my carry on varies with  every trip – but these are the items I never go anywhere without. I never go anywhere without my music and my camera  I particularly love my Bob Marley earphones which are the best quality ones I’ve had for such a low price – they’re great at cancelling out other noise without being bulky in your bag. I always take my iPad wherever I go, it’s great when I don’t want to take my laptop but still want to get work done wherever I go, or to store/edit photos. I’m gutted my main camera broke so I’m waiting to replace it, but in the meantime I love my GoPro Hero 3+ and my iPhone for photos. And my biggest lifesaver is my Juice Power Station which is fantastic for travelling and will recharge my phone 6x from one charge, it will even recharge my iPad – I never leave home without it. And finally, while I try to travel without liquids in my carry on, I will always make sure I have a few essentials like lip balm, tiger balm and hand cream or moisturiser depending on how long the flight is, and of course a pashmina to keep the air con at bay. What are your travel essentials?

As you guys know, I’m always looking for ways to make travel cheaper, easier and more efficient, I’ll always be a backpacker at heart and I know that there are so many ways to really save money on trips so you can spend it on the things you really want. Like wine and good food. So when I heard about WeSwap’s currency exchange card, I was eager to try it out and to see if it might join the ranks of my travelling essentials. Perhaps it could really improve the way I spend money abroad, perhaps saving me money in the process. Before heading to Hamburg last weekend, I teamed up with WeSwap to try out the card while I was away. My first time using anything like this, I was curious to see whether it might be something I look to use long-term and whether it could really make a difference to the way I spent money abroad. As usual, I’m doing the research so you don’t have to guys, so read on to find out about my experiences.

A bit about WeSwap

WeSwap was founded in 2011 and fully launched in 2015, but despite being just a few years old, they already have members in 10 countries and support swaps into 18 currencies. The company lets travellers around the world swap currency with each other with no hidden costs, so that everyone gets the fairest rate and has more to spend on the important things on holiday – having fun! Their mission is:

To help travellers everywhere swap and manage currency in the cheapest, fairest and most transparent way possible.

Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty good to me! For anyone who has travelled over the years and who has felt the sting of exchange rates, or has struggled to retrieve money from their debit cards in other countries, this could be a lifesaver for protecting your money from hidden charges. Instead of the more traditional method of “buying” currency, WeSwap allows users to actually “swap” travel money with other travellers with no unclear rates or shocks when you get home. Each WeSwapper gets a card of their own, which they can load with money from a debit card or online account, then they are ready to spend worldwide in any currency, or swap before they go to get the best rates. The WeSwap Mastercard is contactless and so easy to use, on everything from sun cream and cocktails, to bike hire and hotels.

My experience

I was heading to Hamburg last weekend so it was a perfect opportunity to try out using the card abroad. Normally as it’s just a long weekend I’m more likely to use my debit card abroad rather than arranging for travel money as my costs are low when I’m over there, but I do know this will sometimes mean I’m getting charged for paying in different currencies. My card loaded up with £50 to spend, I was excited to try it out and see how easy it was to use during the weekend. I headed to the WeSwap website where I could change the currency of my money, I swapped it for Euros so that when I arrived in Hamburg I would be dealing in the local currency. Because I did this a few days ahead, I was able to exchange my money at a better rate which meant I was getting 1.1346 euros to the pound instead of just 1.1300. It doesn’t sound like much but if you were exchanging large amounts of money to pay for things like accommodation or for a longer trip, this would really make a big difference.

While I was over in Hamburg, I tried out my card in various places for smaller amounts on things like public transport and in coffee shops with absolutely no problems. Then, on the Saturday night, we decided to take a stroll down to the Portuguese district to one of my boyfriend’s favourite restaurants for a bit of a feast. We had the most amazing meal of the best lamb I have ever eaten, with wine and tiramisu – a wonderful end to a pretty epic day exploring the city. When it came to the end of the meal, our fantastic hosts were very accommodating when we decided to split the bill between what was left on the WeSwap card and another debit card – again, I was impressed at how straightforward it was to use, just like any other card. But the difference was in this case, we weren’t getting any extra charges for paying with an English card.

So, what did I think?

The WeSwap card was really great, it was so easy to use and definitely saves you money and time in dealing with currency exchange. I love that it takes out the middle man and lets you take control of your travel finances. While I didn’t really get an opportunity to really see the benefits of using it over a weekend, I think it will be a very helpful way of exchanging my money with ease when I move over to Hamburg in a few weeks. Until I get a German bank account organised, it will help me cut back on unnecessary charges through using my English card. I do think the WeSwap card would be a fantastic resource for a long-term trip, especially if you were going off backpacking to several countries as I did when I first went travelling. I wish I had used it when I was first travelling across Asia as I encountered several problems with withdrawing money, extra charges and wrong currencies along the way. I think it is has definitely become one of my travelling essentials and when I head to South America next year it will be coming with me for the ride.

One other bonus of the card, if you are travelling as a couple or with a friend, it also seems a great way to create a shared account by both loading a set amount on to the card and spending it on the both of you. I would definitely think of using it in future for both the boyfriend and I when we eat out or are on a trip somewhere, it would really help keep an eye on how much of our budget we are spending and it would make life easier when it comes to paying for dinner or activities when we travel. On the whole, it seems a pretty good card to have i your wallet when you travel and it’s definitely staying in my purse ready for my next trip. Planning a holiday? Why not see what WeSwap can do for you when it comes to saving money and making the most of your travels. Read on below to see how you can get £10 free when you sign up to WeSwap with a special promo code:

The best thing about WeSwap? They’ve given me a special promo code for you guys – if you load up £50 on to your card using the code “UNPACK10” you’ll get an extra £10 free! Not a bad deal if you ask me! It’s really simple to sign up and just takes a minute by following this link.

Have you used WeSwap – what did you think? What form of currency exchange do you usually use when travelling?