Whether I'm traveling for fun or on a press trip for work, there are several items I don't travel without — some items are purely creature comforts, while others help me stay organized and prepared from the moment I hop on the first plane until I'm back home. (Don't worry gentlemen, not everything on the list is a beauty item. For those that are interested in the girly stuff, I'm currently working on that article.)
I make it a point to never check a bag — the last time I did it was 10 years ago when I was going to study abroad in Europe for an extended amount of time. I just don't trust that my luggage will get where I am going and I also want to avoid all the hassle of checking luggage at the airport in general — unless I can check it at the gate for free and know it's getting put on my plane immediately. Everything I pack fits into a carry on and a personal item, which is a big laptop bag.
1. North Face Rain Jacket
You never know when bad weather will hit, but you can be prepared just in case, and packing a rain jacket has saved more than a trip or two. While the price may seem a little steep, I've had my North Face rain jacket for over 10 years and it's gotten lots of use.
2. Aruba Aloe
On a recent trip to the island I discovered Aruba Aloe after suffering from a terrible sunburn (even though I used SPF 50 throughout the day). I couldn't even sit down or stand to have clothing touch my skin — it was REALLY bad. Then, I stumbled into an Aruba Aloe store and discovered the magic of their skincare products and have been completely obsessed ever since, taking it absolutely everywhere. Their Alcholada and Burn Aid Gel do wonders for extreme sunburn and the stinging pain that goes along with it, while the After Sun Skin Repair lotion and Vitamin E Skin Care Gel help with the healing process. I take it on every trip now, just in case I get another serious burn and a lot of the products work on other ailments like bug bites.
Planes are always either ridiculously hot or freezing cold — there is no in-between. To combat the cold I always carry small travel blanket that fits perfectly in my laptop bag.
4. Canon Rebel Digital SLR
When I decided to get serious about taking better pictures, I knew that I needed to step up my game and use something other than my iPhone. With that in mind, I went to a dear friend and fabulous photographer, Micki Martin, to get her suggestions on what would be the best starter-camera. I didn't want to break the bank buying something ridiculously expensive. Micki recommended getting a Canon Rebel and she didn't steer me wrong. It's light weight (which is important when you're carrying it around all day), takes crisp pictures and is easy for beginners to use. I hope to eventually upgrade, but the Rebel hasn't let me down yet. Here's a more affordable option.
While credit cards are accepted almost everywhere these days, I try to always carry some cash when I'm traveling. It's extremely convenient to have when you're hopping on a bus or trolley or want to purchase something at a local market.
6. doTERRA DigestZen
If someone had told me that I would ever own or use any sort of "essential oil" I would have called her a liar — but I am eating my own words after a friend introduced me to doTERRA's DigestZen — an oil designed to help with an upset stomach and even headaches. I don't know what kind of magic witchcraft went into creating this stuff, but it seriously works, and works FAST! It's also said to help with motion sickness. I've used it on multiple occasions when a meal didn't sit well on my stomach, which is the absolute worst when you're not at home. The rollerball version is perfect to keep in a carry-on bag — you never know when the grumbles might hit. (I'm not a doTERRA rep, I just like the product.)
7. Dry Pak
If I plan to get anywhere near water my Dry Pak is coming with. I've lost waaaaay too many phones to pools, the ocean, rain —basically any sort of H20. A fellow journalist brought a Dry Pak on a recent media trip that involved kayaking and I was so impressed with how well it worked that I had to get one too — it's thin, light and has saved my phone quite a few times already. I suggest getting one for sailing, kayaking or basically anything if you're clumsy like me. Most Dry Paks are less than $10, which is small price to pay to avoid having to buy a new phone.
8. Ear Plugs
I can't tell you how many times ear plugs have come in handy while traveling — whether there is a crying infant on a plane or noisy neighbors, I always rely on my Quies earplugs. They're made out of natural wax that forms to your ear canal, helping block out most sounds without discomfort — they're seriously the holy grail of ear plugs.
9. Eucerin Intensive Repair Hand Cream
I use this daily — so when I found that it comes in a travel size I was thrilled. Plus, I wash my hands about a million times when I'm traveling to avoid catching anything, which can cause my hands to get super dry. This cream keeps my hands in good-shape without being greasy.
I live in contacts, but learned a hard lesson after losing one while swimming in the ocean and didn't have a pair of prescription glasses as backup — not fun — won't do that again. I recently bought some Warby Parker glasses that only cost $95 including lenses and frames, so if I accidentally lose them on a trip or break them somehow, I won't be completely devastated. I also love their prescription sun glasses.
11. Hardshell Luggage
On a trip to the Bahamas I literally had my luggage come down to baggage claim completely covered in duct-tape — it had busted wide-open during transit and the baggage handlers had to tape it shut — I wish I could say that was the one and only time that's happened, sadly I can't. Now, I stick to hardshell luggage, it's waaaaay more durable and waterproof. I've owned both this Samsonite roller (comes in several colors) and this Kenneth Cole expandable suitcase and loved them both. My dream luggage (I'm talking to you Santa) is the Quarter Master by Ebby Rane in white and the Valise tweed laptop bag — but don't even look at either of them unless you're ready to spend a fortune, I know I'm not. This two piece set is a great option to have both a carry-on bag and larger piece of luggage for those times you do need to check a bag.
12. Hunter Rain Boots
Over the years I've learned you can't let rain get in the way of getting a story — or in the way of a good time, so you can't let bad weather keep you from enjoying a trip. Thank goodness the Hunter company came out with PACKABLE rain boots. They're so much lighter and thinner than your typical rain boots and they fold easily, making it possible to pack them up for anything.
13. Madewell Transport Tote
By far my favorite bag to use as a carry-on — it holds my laptop, travel blanket, neck pillow, purse, camera and whatever else I can stuff in there. Recently Madewell came out with an even better option for traveling, the Zipper Transport Tote — the zippered top keeps everything secure and the adjustable padded shoulder strap will help keep you from tossing it to the ground because it's too heavy. I also have the matching zippered pouch to hold any personal items I want to keep hidden — like money, confirmation papers, hotel keys, etc. Sole Society has a great weekender that's another great carry-on option at a lower price point. I also have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to carry-ons that I either own or dream of owning, here.
As a journalist, you'll usually find me with multiple notebooks and at least one pen on-hand — and Moleskine created the ultimate notebook that's thin, easy to pack, has an elastic closure and expandable pocket on the inside, making it easy for me to take notes and keep important papers together while I'm on the go. Plus, they're extremely durable — believe me — mine has been through the wringer. The journals come in all sorts of sizes and colors and you can choose between lined paper, graph paper or blank pages. (For something a little thinner, you can get a set of three StudioSarah notebooks and stash them in your purse, luggage or carry-on — and the designs are really eye-catching.
15. Nivea Chapstick
This may seem like a trivial item — until you don't have any chapstick on hand and your lips are dry — it will drive you crazy. Flying and all sorts of different temperature changes can cause extra dry lips, so I always have chapstick on hand.
16. No. 7 Beautiful Skin Wipes
These are great for a quick refresh and come in handy after a long flight, especially when you're taking the redeye and can't wash off the day's makeup beforehand. I've used different types of travel wipes, but the No. 7 Beautiful Skin Wipes not only clean my face well, but they leave my skin super soft and glowing. They're also useful if you need to clean up any spills or messes.
17. Passport Holder
For trips abroad you have to have your passport and having a bright passport holder makes it a lot easier to find your passport in a pinch — the last thing you want to do is hold up the line through Customs or security. I love this green holder with gold embossed letters — it's similar to the J. Crew one I own, that's sold out.
18. Peter Thomas Roth Sunscreen
Brush-on sunscreen is absolutely the best way to always have sunscreen on-hand. My PTR brush goes everywhere with me and fits perfectly into even the smallest clutch. Colorescience also makes a great brush-on sunscreen that comes in different shades. Sun Bum SPF 50 Clear Zinc Oxide is another sun product I love, because unfortunately my face burns very easily — so I have to be extra cautious to avoid causing serious sun damage. I recently discovered Sun Bum products and could not be happier, they smell great, are easy to throw in a beach bag without worrying about spills and I've yet to get even the slightest sunburn on my face when I use their SPF 50 Clear Zinc Oxide. I buy the jar, because it goes on easily, but if you prefer a stick, they've got that too. I also love their lip balm— it's got SPF 30 and comes in banana and coconut flavors. I keep one in my beach bag at all times, burnt lips are NO fun, believe me.
19. S'well Bottle
Staying hydrated is really important when traveling — and while I absolutely love my Yeti tumbler, it doesn't have a lid that closes, making it impossible to travel with. Luckily a friend of mine gave me a S'well Bottle as a gift on a recent trip and it's phenomenal. I always go for bright colors, because this marble bottle is a personal I lose things easily, but favorite. (If you prefer a glass bottle, this one is incredible — and really pretty, with a lot of color options. Kate Spade also has a glass bottle that's even more affordable.)
20. The Laundress Wash & Stain Bar
I'm messy and clumsy, which is a bad combination when it comes to keeping clothes clean and stain free — and when I'm traveling washers and dryers aren't always readily available, but with a $6 Laundress Wash & Stain Bar I never have to worry about ruining any of my clothes. The small bar is easy to pack and all I need is a sink (or even a bottle of water) to quickly spot treat or wash out even the worst stains. It also smells heavenly — unlike a lot of other stain removers. The Laundress has an entire travel set that's absolutely fantastic with four of their best products including a wrinkle release spray, fabric freshener and stain remover.
21. Travel Pillow
I used to look at people like they were crazy when I saw them carrying a travel pillow around the airport. The whole concept was lost on me, until I was on a really long flight and I couldn't get comfortable and found out those people were on to something! Now I take my neck pillow on every flight, even if it's a short one.
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