Traveling With Eyeglasses

Me in Indonesia sporting the sunglasses I had made in Hong Kong

Me in Indonesia sporting the sunglasses I had made in Hong Kong

Recently, for the fourth time in the last five years since I started traveling, I had to get new glasses. My most recent glasses disaster was last January when I broke my glasses the very first morning onboard the ship to Antarctica. The ship was tossing so much that they flew off the nightstand on to the floor. My first step out of bed in the morning broke the frame. Great way to start a trip.

Many people wear glasses, but it isn’t something which is given a lot of thought or consideration when getting ready to travel. Yet if you should lose or break your glasses, it can ruin your trip.

Here are several tips I’ve learned from my five years of traveling around the world with glasses.

1) Carry an extra pair.

Before I started traveling I got a new pair of glasses. I took my old pair, put them in a hard sided case and put them at the bottom of my bag. On several occasions I’ve had to revert to the old pair. Having the extra pair means that losing or damaging your glasses isn’t going to make everything grind to a halt. If I didn’t have my spare glasses when I went to Antarctia, the entire trip would have been ruined. I’ve been using those spare glasses for the last 5 months. If you don’t have a spare pair that work with your current prescription, consider getting a second pair made. It is that important.

2) Have access to your prescription

In the event of an emergency, you might have to get new glasses made on the road. If you have access to your prescription, this process will be much easier. In addition to carrying a physical copy of your prescription in your wallet, you should consider keeping a copy online. I sent a copy of the prescription data to myself in the form of an email. Anywhere in the world I can log on to Gmail, I can get access to the data.

Some places (particularly in the US) require a recent prescription to make new glasses. In addition to your prescription information, have a phone number for the eye doctor who performed the exam. Many places which sell glasses require a recent prescription (something which is usually used just to make more money).

3) Consider buying glasses overseas

The process of making glasses has become highly automated. If you are in a country with a lower cost of living, looking into getting glasses made there. I have found great deals on glasses in Bangkok and Hong Kong. They usually just put your current glasses in a machine to get your current prescription and then create a new pair from that. The cost of frames can be dramatically cheaper. Even if you don’t need a new pair immediately, if your prescription is relatively stable, consider getting a pair just to save money when you do need them.

4) Get prescription sunglasses

There is a good chance that when you travel you will be going some where sunny, near water, in the mountains or in snow. All of those locations are good candiates for wearing sunglasses. I lost my prescription sunglasses last October and I’ve been going without ever since. My recent photo tour through the Southwestern United States had me squinting for two weeks. I would have enjoyed being out in the sun much more if I had some protection for my eyes. While not ideal, prescription sunglasses can even be used as a backup pair in a pinch.

5) Bring along a tiny screwdriver and lens cloth

Somewhere in your bag you should consider carrying a tiny screwdriver you can use on your glasses. The screwdriver can be used to tighten your glasses and make basic repairs. Likewise, if you carry a lens cloth you can not only use it to clean your glasses, you can use it to clean your camera lenses as well. (Tip: most current models of Scottevest jackets and vests have a special pocket for glasses with a built in lens cloth attached via an alligator clip.) The added weight of a small screwdriver and lens cloth is minimal and are well worth having it in your bag.

  • 14 Comments... What's your take?

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Comments

  1. john says:

    I’ve just come back from a year long trip, took 3 pairs with me. Two sunglasses and one normal glasses.

    One pair of the sunglasses were “sport” e.g. plastic frames, wrap around. Great for snow sports, cycling, etc etc, the other for general use.

    Also to suggest that if you break your pair repairs tend to be cheap in asia, so don’t fret if you break your glasses.

  2. nice share…
    i like traveling. but till today still around bali island. :D it’s my lovely island. i have used glasses when doctor said that i had a bit minus oh.. my god

  3. I think tip number one is the most recommended. if I have an extra pair, I would definitely bring it along. Although the best tip is take extra special care of your glasses.

  4. Kristina says:

    Oh yes the glasses are very important for travel in summer ! :)

  5. Jaimin Yoon says:

    I concur with the fans of contact lenses above: 2 pairs of contacts and a pair of glasses ensure that unless you store them all in one bag, you’re unlikely to be left blind in the middle of a trip!

    An added advantage of the backup contacts over the backup glasses is that they are more portable and less susceptible to damage.

  6. anjieya says:

    I don’t wear glasses but I like to wear sunscreen glasses when I go for traveling because it will protect my eyes from sun shine. Yap.. for who wear glasses it is very recommended to bring extra glasses when go to travelling because sometime it is hard to find a glasses that fit for you. nice tips

  7. This reminds me of a time when I was staying in the Bay Islands off of Honduras. Before I went to bed I put my eyeglasses on the windowsill near the open window over the head of the bed and went to sleep. In the middle of the night there was a huge bang.

    Seems that my glasses had been crushed by the impact of the window that slammed down on its own. Lesson learned. Carry extras! Luckily I did and didn’t have to resort to duct tape to hold them together.

  8. Anila says:

    Ahh this takes me back. I really struggled with wearing contact lenses (putting a foreign object in your eye what’s that about?) but about 10 years ago now I visited Africa and took some with me and forced myself to learn how to do it. I probably wasted 40 pairs of dailies before I did but at least I could swim, snorkel wear sunglasses at whim. I have also had glasses made up abroad. Since I wear them a lot less I didn’t want to spend hundreds of pounds on a pair so I had some made for about $20!

  9. I would also prefer to wear contacts, but even with those, I have to take glasses as well as a back up and to just let my eyes breathe some. But good advice! Traveling with glasses is sort of a pain.

  10. ChinaMatt says:

    I almost lost my glasses in Bali. The damn monkey at Uluwatu grabbed them off my face. Had to pay a bribe to the monkey handler to get them back.

  11. Lindsay says:

    The tiny screwdriver is such a good recommendation! I’ve had to use hairpins, fingernails, etc. to tighten my glasses!

  12. Katie says:

    CONTACT LENSES!!!!!!! This would eliminate many of the above issues; no need for an additional pair of prescription sunglasses, you can go swimming, snorkelling/ diving, underwater photography and still SEE! No frames to get in the way whilst doing photography, inexpensive if you lose one, no steaming up when switching from cold to hot temperatures, as well as being aesthetically pleasing. I travelled for 8 months with them last year with no problems. Have been wearing contacts for 8 years now, having previously worn glasses for 15 years and I would never switch back! I appreciate they’re not for everyone though.

  13. Solid advice as usual!

    I have two titanium frames, both with my current prescription. It took me a few times of stuffing my glasses in the tent stuff sack to learn that I needed to carry an extra pair and that I needed frames that does not bend or break.

    Spend the extra money, and have frames that lasts forever… well so far ;)

  14. All good advice that I follow … was once in an accident and was withut my glasses for 24 hrs in a strange place … i was so vunerable .. will pass this on!

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About Gary Arndt

My name is Gary Arndt. In March 2007 I set out to travel around the world...
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