As a travel editor, I’m always looking to improve my time in transit to make the trip more enjoyable and stress-free. I love asking people what they’re packing (see what the Design Milk team packs here) and what they consider essentials (our tech editor Gregory shares his here). I’m more on the petite side too so I’m willing to listen to any tips that help lighten my load. Over the past three years, I’ve traveled to France, Belgium, Thailand, Vietnam, Canada, Japan, China and a number of domestic trips and through a lot of trial and error, I’ve refined my packing list to the necessities that make my travel life easier. It’s a continuing work in progress but here are my current 10 essentials when I’m on the go:
1. Away Carry-On
I’ve mentioned it before here and no, I’m not affiliated with the brand in any way but I love my Away luggages. I own three of them now and I can’t recommend them enough. Aside from what you probably already know (that awesome built-in charger, direct-to-consumer pricing, quality hardshell design), you might not know that Away doesn’t consider itself a luggage brand; it’s more of a travel brand. It recently launched a podcast called Airplane Mode showcasing travel stories and focusing on various travel-related themes (like food, expat living, and wellness) and they’ll soon be launching Here, a magazine written by experts, expats, and people who see the world differently.
2. Lo & Sons OG Bag
I’m definitely that person who takes full advantage of the 1 carry-on, 1 personal item policy. My personal item of choice is this Lo & Sons bag which has a ton of pockets, fits my 15” Macbook Pro, and slips perfectly over my suitcase so I can wheel around fuss-free.
3. Quip Toothbrush
My regular toothbrush was just kind of too bulky (esp. when I put it in its case) and I never felt like those cheap, $1 plastic options did the job. Then I discovered Quip. I would have never said this about a toothbrush before but this slim device feels so nice to use! It has a mountable cover that lets me stick it onto hotel mirror since there never seems to be enough counter space, and the timer and vibrations make me feel like I’m getting a deeper clean.
4. Bose QuietComfort 35 Headphones
I’ll admit, it hurt my soul a little bit when I purchased these because they’re not cheap (they’re $349.99 + tax) but looking back, I would definitely do it again. These headphones are a game-changer for blocking out noise and I think the acoustics would satisfy even the pickiest audiophiles.
5. ADAY Turn It Up Pants
For my past three trips to Japan, NYC, and Portland, I purposely wore these pants on the flights and I don’t think that’s a habit that’s going away. They look like trousers but they feel like pajamas! They’re comfortable, silky-soft, and breathable – aka perfect for travel. That’s because ADAY designed all their clothes using innovative, technical fabrics typically reserved for athletic wear to create modern, everyday wear instead. You can dress these up or down, for the office or for the weekend, but for me, these pants have found a permanent spot in my suitcase. They’re online-only but they just announced the launch of their Simplicity Tour where they will travel across the country and internationally so you can try these pants on in person!
6. Soma Glass Bottle
I got my bottle after Melissa recommended it here but then my mom stole it the last time she visited me. I can’t blame her. They’re beautifully minimalistic and are a steal for the price and the positive environmental impact you make by ditching plastic bottles. I got a new one in a very fitting millennial pink Blush shade and keep it extra close by…
7. RMS Beauty and Glossier
I’m always amazed at how fast a 1-quart bag can fill up, even when I pack minimally, so now I only pack solid make-up that I can put away in a separate pouch that doesn’t need to be checked by TSA. They’re packaged in glass pots and they’re made with natural, organic ingredients like coconut oil, bees wax, and olive leaf extract. I keep them in Glossier’s 1-quart pouch which seems to hold up better than regular zip-lock bags.
8. Ursa Major Face Wipes
Right before I’m about to land, I grab one of these packets to rid my face of that layer of airplane grime (a much better alternative to splashing your face with water from that questionable airplane restroom sink). These natural wipes are made without parabens, sulfates, synthetic fragrances, colors and petrochemicals and don’t leave a film after it dries. Pro tip: I take these with me camping too when showering isn’t an option.
9. RAVPower Portable Charger
Admittedly I only purchased this option because it came highly rated on Amazon but I did the math and ~10,000 people out of 12,342 gave it 5 stars, so 10,000 people can’t be wrong, right? I will say this. The RAVPower charger charges my iPhone so quickly that I sometimes use it to charge my phone even when an outlet is right in front of me, and I can usually get about 5 charges out of it. I also tend to juggle a bluetooth headphone, an iPad, and a camera when I’m traveling so this gives me the ability to charge those as well.
10. This Is Ground Cord Taco
What comes with all those electronics? Cables, lots and lots of cable. I keep them tidy with This Is Ground’s most popular item, the Cord Taco (they’ve sold over a million of these little guys!). They’re simple, functional, and free me from the annoyance of tangled up wires.
Other tips + tricks:
– I always bring sheet masks to put on mid flight because that recycled air can really zap the moisture out of your face. Nowadays, it’s become so common practice that no one really cares if you kind of look like an alien for 10 to 15 minutes.
– People usually bring granola bars but my tip is to bring clementines. Seriously! They give you a boost of hydration and that citric scent acts as a refreshing, aromatherapeutic wake-up call.
– The debate between rolling and folding your clothes is still going strong but no matter which method you choose, be sure to pack them in packing cubes. I didn’t understand what the big deal was with these mesh square bags either but they have made such a difference! They compress your clothes so you can fit more in your suitcase and act like individual drawers so that you don’t have to shuffle through everything just to get a t-shirt. They’re brilliant and they’re 10x better than those compression bags that suck the air out of your clothes (I just threw away all of mine today). I have two sets of these Eagle Creek ones recommended by The Wirecutter.
– On my flight to Paris, a nice lady told me she always changes her watch to the local time of her destination. That way she can immediately start trying to adjust to the time (i.e., being asleep and awake during the right times). I do this now too but alas, sometimes I just don’t have the willpower to stay up.
Now I’m on the quest to discover if travel pillows are really worth it or not, and the fool-proof way to combat jet-lag. Do you have the answers, or have a travel essential recommendation? Let me know below and I’ll try them out!