7 Travel Tools I Will Not Shut Up About Till You Buy Them

travel tools
If we ever meet in real life and you make the mistake of telling me that you’re about to travel, you should know what’s going to happen.

I’m going to pull you aside and start speaking very intensely while counting things off on my fingers. I’m probably going to send you a follow-up email in which I reiterate everything I told you in that conversation.

I JUST REALLY WANT YOU TO HAVE A GOOD TRIP AND THAT’S A LOT EASIER IF YOU HAVE THE RIGHT STUFF.

These are 7 items that I sweaaaaar by. They’ll greatly improve your trip and I’m not going to shut up till you get them – and they’re helpful no matter how long the trip or your destination! Also: none of them cost more than $50 and two are free.

7 travel tools that, no, seriously, just go get them already

7 travel tools that will make your trip so much betterNon-negotiable travel tool #1: Packing cubes

If I find out that you’re about to take a long trip and don’t have packing cubes, I’m going to try to lend you mine. I AM 100% SERIOUS. More than anything else on this list, these little buddies will change your travel life.

You know how everything just barely fits in your suitcase? And then you pull your jeans out from the bottom and now you need to spend 20 minutes re-rolling and stuffing everything? That doesn’t happen when you use travel cubes. They’re particularly great if you’re backpacking, staying in shared hostel rooms, and trying to dig things out of your bag very quietly because everyone is sleeping.

face mist for travel

Non-negotiable travel tool #2: Face mist

Travel is 80% awesome, 20% dirty/sweaty/exhausting (percentages may vary, depending on your destination/type of transport). No matter where you’re going or how you’re getting there, you probably won’t feel quite as fresh as you’d like upon arrival.

This is why face mist is The Actual Best. I swore by it on my 9,000-mile road trip and I swear by it for long flights. If you’re traveling by land and don’t need to worry about the three-ounce rule, this $7 face mist is lovely. If you’re flying (or prefer to DIY) add a few drops of essential oil to a tiny, empty spray bottle and fill it with distilled water once you get through security.

scarf that with a hidden pocket

Non-negotiable travel tool #3: This scarf/wallet thing

One of the biggest bummers about travel is worrying about thieves and pickpockets, followed closely by the bummer that is hauling a purse or bag everywhere. Which is why this scarf thing is so awesome! No annoying bag! (Probably) no pickpockets!

If you don’t feel like shelling out $39 for this scarf, here’s a video to DIY your own!
black chaco flip flops

Non-negotiable travel tool #4: Black Chaco flip flops

Now, I’m sure my glamour puss travel friends would disagree, but if you are even vaguely laid back in your approach to travel style, these flip flops are for you. They have high arches so you can wear them forever without getting that sore, squashed flip flop foot feeling. They have decent grip so you can wear them on wet surfaces; they’ll dry nicely without getting smelly or weird. They last forever. They’re sporty without looking too … river raft guide-esque.

I’m on my second pair in 10 years and I’ve worn them through 15+ countries!

data free gps

Non-negotiable travel tool #5: Navmii: data-free GPS

Crossing into Canada and discovering that your GPS doesn’t work is a non-awesome way to start a trip. YOU MIGHT HAVE TO — USE A MAP AND TALK TO PEOPLE UGH. (I did it and lived!) If you’d like to avoid this fate worse than death, you should download Navmii. It’s free, it works just as well as any other GPS app and it doesn’t require data so you don’t have to worry about incurring huge overage charges.

travel tool suggestionsNon-negotiable travel tool #6: Microfiber face cloth

If you’d like a bit more luxury in your travel, this face wash bar is lovely (and you won’t have to worry about the three-ounce rule) and these face wipes are classic. But no matter how easy those are, they’re not as easy a microfiber face cloth. It removes all dirt, oil, and makeup without any soap! One less thing to pack!

dryer sheet as a travel tool

Non-negotiable travel tool #7: a few dryer sheets

I like to tuck a few dryer sheets into the mesh pocket of my suitcase, to keep everything smelling nice. You can also use them to de-static your hair and clothes or wipe yourself down after the beach. They’re weirdly good at getting rid of sand!

Edited to add: dryer sheets are typically full of crazy, creepy chemicals, so consider getting a hippie brand like Seventh Generation

But I want to know which travel tools you swear by! Leave links in the comments!

P.S. I’m in Mexico for the next 2.5 weeks. You can follow along on Instagram if you want to see me stuffing my face with sikil pak and hibiscus tea!

better trips opt in
photo by Gregory Bourolias // cc

47 Comments

Zelde

Oh my gosh, yes on the packing cubes! Those things are the best thing ever and I have oddly enough ended up using mine on a very regular basis in my daily life:

Going to the gym after work? => toss things in a couple of packing cubes
Need to change after work to get more dressed up => Packing cube in work bag it is
Need to take a towel to shower => fits right in the packing cube, and then into the gym bag
Staying at my boyfriends for a couple of nights => Things fit perfectly in a packing cube and my favourite handbag

And, you know, when I go travelling. Sorts the clean from the dirty, the underwear from the tops and the stuff at the bottom from the stuff at the top. You won’t find me going anywhere without any time soon.

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Sarah Von Bargen

Thanks for reading, Sarah! Glad to see you spell your name the ‘right’ way 😉

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Becky

YES to the Mario Badescu facial mist you linked to! I love that stuff, and it doubles as a makeup setting spray, which is awesome.

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Chris

YES. I am a freak about the packing cubes too. I will not shut up about them because I think they are the best things ever for travel. High five for putting that at number 1!!

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Megan

Those Norwex reusable/washable cloths also work AWESOME for electronic screens! I’m going to buy a second set to use for face cloths!

Also clear compression sacks that you can roll the air out of. Rolling things helps quite a bit but just in case you need a little more room.

Also bring a gift with to for someone you may be visiting that room left in your back will be enough for souvenirs when you come back!

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Jess

Face mist is a godsend for road trips!
I’d add a car charger for your phone, the Waze app, and a great playlist.

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Emily

I absolutely love my PStyle (http://www.thepstyle.com/). I’ve used it while living in a van in Australia (hesitant to squat with all the creepy-crawlies about). I’ve used it with sketchy squat toilets in Thailand (no more swatting away mosquitoes while trying not to pee on my foot!) I’ve used it in the back country in West Virginia and with the weird seatless toilets at the camps on a trek in the Colombian jungle. It’s the best.

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Dressler

WHAT this is so great!!! I’ve been seriously considering doing a WWOOF-style post-college thing, and if that happens, I’m bookmarking, printing, and laminating this list.

Also, the tip about the microfiber face cloths blew my mind. I hadn’t even considered you could clean your face without water–even though I knew that oil blotting paper was a thing.

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Jess

HOT TIP – I just picked up a black travel scarf/wallet for $14.99. I don’t even think it was on sale. Can’t wait to use it!

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Tsipa

Ugh, I hate to be that lady, but be aware that dryer sheets have like a million VOCs in them, which are terrible for you. Anyway, packing cubes are the actual best, and I love the ones you showed! I’ll have to consider an upgrade. 🙂

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Kandi

Those that use essential oils can take a small washcloth or even cut a piece of washcloth and place a few drops on it. Let dry for 10 minutes before placing in your bag as a freshener!

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Ashley

Bar shampoo from Lush. Fels-naphtha for laundry soap. Merino wool shirts. Anything from Arc’teryx urban line. Their clothing is really well designed, doesn’t wrinkle, is versatile, and dries fast! I can’t shut up about it. 🙂 I want to test out that face soap you recommended!

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Connie

OK. You are officially a genius. Dryer sheets!! Chaco flip flops! I’m a former flight attendant. I know what I’m talking about.

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Nisie Wertenberger

We agree on the packing cubes! They are getting easier to find (and at better prices) since they are becoming so popular. One thing I would add to this list: Laundry Detergent sheets. They are found in the laundry aisle of most supermarkets, are practically weightless, and won’t spill. I use them for hand laundry or if I am desperate and need to run a washer load somewhere. Happy Travels! 😊

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Kristy

‘No Jet Lag Pills’ – they are all natural and they really work. I’m like you, I try to make my friends take mine if they are going to be traveling.

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Lizzie

Sarah! I bought the packing cubes on your advice and just got back from a trip to Vietnam where I tried them for the first time…they’re BRILLIANT. No more having to reach shoulder-deep into my backpack to dig around for something and then going nuts because I can’t find it until I get home. Consider my life improved. Thanks for the recommendation!

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Sarah Von Bargen

RIGHT?!! They’re *always* great but they’re particularly great for backpackers!

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alexa

I have recently started using packing cubes after 2 years of not believing they would make a difference. They are the BEST idea and keep everything so much more organized. I recently started using a half gallon baggie that has an expandable bottom instead of my quart sized baggie. TSA didn’t seem to notice on the last 5 flights I took. Also can’t travel without my rechargeable backup battery for iphone/ipad

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Sarah Von Bargen

Yessss! I’m on a personal mission to make every traveler in the world use packing cubes. E-V-E-R-Y-B-O-D-Y.

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Andres Rozo

the nose can get missprogrammed by the marked vs nature, “dryer sheets to smell nice” dryer sheets are toxic cancerigenous unwanted chemicals.

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Viki

I used vaccum sealed bags on a recent trip which were fantastic. Customs opened my bag all my smalls in a clear bag making checking bags a lot more painless.
Packing cubes will be my new go to packing essential.

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