If you're following me over on Instagram, you know that I'm in Lisbon recuperating from a nasty bout of food poisoning. (In case any of you were wondering, food poisoning is THE WORST. I can't recommend it at all.) So I'm not exactly feeling up to adventuring all over town. Which is great news for you, because it means I finally have time to get this post up!
Whether or not I am actually a travel "pro" is up for debate. I'm not a flight attendant or anything hardcore like that. But I do spend 3-4 months a year living out of a suitcase in some near- or far-flung location on the globe.
In my opinion, the tricky thing about packing is finding the right balance between economy of things (I mean, you're going to be the one lugging that overstuffed suitcase around) and comfort. I always aim to bring the minimum amount of stuff that will allow me to function relatively well and keep me from feeling too homesick/out of sorts on my travels. It also helps to remind myself that most things can be purchased wherever I'm going, so it's not the end of the world if I don't get it exactly right.
I hope this list of my favorite packing tricks and gear will make your next trip a bit more stress-free. Let me know in the comments below if you found it helpful. And if you've got any brilliant packing tips of your own, please share!
I am a BIG fans of packing light. One carry-on rolling bag and one tote can be totally sufficient if your trip isn't too long. And it makes you a lot more mobile, especially if you want to use public transportation. (Also, it's a real bummer if your checked bags get lost.) I have The Away Bigger Cary-On and I love it! I sometimes use this smaller carry-on when I know I'm going to be on a European airline. (Use this link for $20 off your Away purchase.) I use this larger bag for longer trips and this case when I need to bring a lot of camera gear. I always toss this ultra-light collapsible duffle in my suitcase to allow for the inevitable purchase (or ten) I might make while traveling.
- Layers are your friend! Since you won't have your full wardrobe at your disposal, choose lighter weight items that you can layer in case it gets cold. Bulky sweaters are the ultimate space stealer.
- Remember that in most parts of the world, it is completely acceptable to wear the same clothes two or more days in a row. Let your comfort level be your guide. I usually never bring more than 1 pair of pants, 1 pair of jeans, a skirt and a dress.
- If you're having trouble fitting your clothes into your suitcase, I highly recommend these Travel Space Bags. They are basically a large, very sturdy Ziploc bag with a one-way valve at one end. You put your clothes in, seal, and then press out all the excess air. Your clothes magically take up half the space! (Be sure to order the medium size if you're getting them for your carry-on.)
- Woolite packets and a sink stopper (many foreign sinks don't have stoppers) are great to have for emergency laundry and washing personal items. Adding a travel clothesline ensures you'll have somewhere to hang your laundry up.
- I try to bring mostly items that don't wrinkle. But for pieces that need to be freshened up, this wrinkle spray is AMAZING (no joke--it has changed my life travel-wise) and the bottle is small enough to put in your carry-on luggage.
- I always tell people coming on my workshops and retreats to please, please, please bring comfortable shoes and to BREAK THEM IN before they come. I can't stress this enough. You will inevitably walk a ton on your travels and blisters can ruin a trip. I pack plenty of these extra-sticky Band-Aids for emergencies.
- I discovered Au de Raisin from Caudalie on a recent trip to France. Now I never travel without it. I use it as part of my daily beauty routine and spritz it on my face during long flights to improve hydration.
- I always toss a couple of these Koruna masks in my bag to use while I'm traveling. They're loaded with hyaluronic acid and other skin-plumping goodness that help offset the stress of travel and keep my skin looking bright and fresh.
- Lip Medex Balm always and forever.
- In my book, La Roche-Posay makes the best sunscreen. Bonus points for the TSA-approved 1.7 oz bottle.
- These are hands-down the best nail polish remover pads on earth. They somehow magically thoroughly remove polish and moisturize your nails at the same time. And the container they come in is tiny.
- I light an incense match or two when I arrive at my AirBnB or hotel room to make it feel a little bit homier. Goddess of Egypt and Patchouli are my favorite.
- Don't forget the hand sanitizer.
- I use this Mighty Bright book light for reading on the plane or when I'm up in the middle of the night with jet lag. It's super bright, has a dimmer switch and holds its charge for a long time.
- A travel umbrella is a great thing to have; I have this one and it's small, light and super tough.
- Sleeping: It's never a bad idea to have an eye mask and some earplugs. Lewis & Clark masks are the only ones that I've found that truly block out all light without cutting off circulation to your brain. And I swear by these Hearos earplugs for their ability to block sound and still be comfortable. If you are in need of a neck pillow for the plane, I recommend this one and this one. I have both and they are firm enough to actually hold up your head but you can roll them down pretty small in their travel cases.
- For special occasions, I bring one of these Carry-On Cocktail Kits to kick off my trip in style!
- Speaking of beverages, my friend Megan over at Cream & Honey turned me on to her super-effective sleepy tea blend and now I can't be without it. For any other tea lovers out there, check out the brilliant Gourmia collapsible travel kettle! It folds down super-small and has dual voltage. Now you can always have your morning cup of joe or your nighttime herbal tea no matter where you are. (Well, almost no matter where. If you're trekking in the Outback, that's another story.) I also love this Simple Modern insulated water bottle/thermos and this awesome tea strainer.
- When I'm checking a bag, I also pack a pocket knife and a small cutting board for impromptu picnics or dinners of cheese, bread and wine.
- This is my favorite travel-size notebook for journaling and recording details of my trip I don't want to forget.
- I also HIGHLY recommend a power bank for your phone. Using online maps and taking tons of photos drains your phone’s battery pretty quickly. I use the one that came with my Away suitcase, but this one is small, light and has great reviews.
SAFETY, MONEY, ETC.
- I like to bring one larger tote and something smaller and only take the large tote when I have my camera. You'll want your bag to have a zip or other secure closure if possible--just an extra bit of security. I don't recommend backpacks as they are a target for pickpockets. I also use this leather key strap and wallet combo from Madewell to make sure my cash and cards are attached to my bag and not easy to snatch.
- Should your passport be lost or stolen, it's much easier to replace if you have a copy. I recommend emailing yourself a copy, making a photocopy to carry with you, and leaving the original at the hotel. Ditto for your driver's license.
- Money: There are lots of approaches to this, but I recommend bringing around $300 dollars (or equivalent local currency) in cash in case of emergencies and leaving it somewhere secure in your hotel room or AirBnB. Money belts are just too awkward for me, but I've used this Bra Stash for large amounts of cash and cards.
- In the unlikely event anything should go wrong (natural disaster, lost luggage, theft, etc.), you will be very happy to have travel insurance. I never used to purchase travel insurance, but now that I travel a lot, I find it a small price to pay for piece of mind. I use AIG Travel Guard, but there are many reputable companies offering travel insurance.
- Here is a link to my personal packing spreadsheet that I customize to each trip. Please feel free to copy and adapt to your own needs! 😘
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