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 seven 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!
7 travel tools that, no, seriously, just go get them already
Non-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.
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.
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!
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!
Non-negotiable travel tool #5: An Airbnb (or some other vacation rental)
Now, vacation rentals are not a ‘travel tool’ per se, be hear me out.
If you’re going to be in a city for more than one or two nights, staying in a homey space, in a real neighborhood, with access to a kitchen will dramatically improve your trip.
You’ll get way more space for your travel dollar. You’ll spend less money eating out. You’ll see what your host city really looks like – not just the chain restaurants and other hotels around the airport. Your hosts will give you insights into the city you wouldn’t otherwise know.
If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s a $55 credit towards your first booking!
Non-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!
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. How to live out of a suitcase – glamorously
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.
I KNOW. I’ve seriously tried to force friends to borrow mine.
Travel cubes- absolutely the best! Standard gift for anyone that does any sort of travel. Everyone loves them on nice they have tried them. Organizes underwear, tops, etc. The ones with two sides are great to pack one side and store souled in the other. Also love the flat packing board for pants. Have two sizes.
And they are the perfect size for using as file holders. Travel with paperwork a lot, and the medium size holds a ton of file folders and keeps them together and organized, and has a handle! The smallest size is also good for chargers, cords, etc.
Also good for travel first aid kits in the car!
I second The Chaco flip flops. I’ve worn the same pair for 9 years and when they broke I panicked and purchased 5 more pairs and keep them in a closet ready for 9 years from now when this pair breaks.z between my husband an I we wear them ever single day. I will look into the other tips too. I already have packing cubes.
Love the looks of that face mist, but not able to find the one you picture. Where can it be found?
It’s here! I didn’t link to it because it’s $32 which strikes me as ridiculous 😉
There are lots of brands for different prices-
Evian, Mario Badescu, Garnier, Ulta, ELF, etc.
The one in the picture is at Marshalls. It’s about $5.
AMAZING list! Thank you for sharing!
Thanks for reading, Sarah! Glad to see you spell your name the ‘right’ way 😉
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.
wait, I only saw the $32 one
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!!
THEY ARE SO IMPORTANT I WILL SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOF TOPS!
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!
Love that tip about bringing the gift!
Face mist is a godsend for road trips!
I’d add a car charger for your phone, the Waze app, and a great playlist.
Yes! What’s your playlist app/platform of choice?
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.
Whoa! Fascinating! I didn’t even know that existed!
We’d happily send you a sample if you’d like to try it out!
Hannah @ The pStyle
I would love to try it….
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.
You do still have to get them wet – you just don’t need soap!
I love my chaco flip flops! I bought them in 2012 and, other than the old tennis shoes I mow my lawn in, they are literally the only shoes I wear during non freezing weather. They are awesome. I went on a month long back packing trip to Vietnam where we did everything and went everywhere and the only shoes I took were my chances. So smart. So versatile. So easy.
I also love cetaphil normal face cleanser. You do not need water and all dermatologists i have known prefer it. So nice for planes, trains and automobiles. Camping, etc.
Aren’t Chacos AMAZING?! Whenever I see people wearing anything else, I want to shake them!
I have 5 of the zipthongs! I’ve glued my black pair several times, including for my trip to Costa Rica in 2 weeks! They give me the support that other flops don’t! ❤️?
My favorite travel must have is my travel scarf from Barefoot dreams. It’s fluffy, long, with big pockets. Wear it on the plane to snuggle up, soft blanket at night. Very light, fits in backpack. Keep an extension cord and small fold up fan from Vornado. White noise and cool breeze for easy sleep.
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!
Wait, I forgot to say where I got the scarf — Bed Bath & Beyond!
Ooooh! Thanks for the tip, Jess!
I love that scarf, especially for plane rides! I play music from my phone on the plane, and it’s always falling out of my lap. The scarf is a perfect solution!
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. 🙂
I like the hippie Seventh Generation dryer sheets 🙂
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!
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!
Yes! I love bar shampoo – doesn’t spill on anything!
Bar shampoo?? That’s intriguing!
They have conditioner bars too
Packing cubes are essential!
What style of Chacos are those?
OK. You are officially a genius. Dryer sheets!! Chaco flip flops! I’m a former flight attendant. I know what I’m talking about.
Essentials: clear TSA-approved makeup case, and pretty travel bottles that don’t make me feel like I’m living out of a recycling bin.
Found all of this at http://www.muji.eu/pages/online.asp?Sec=18&Sub=78 after very long searches (they also have travel cubes) and am totally obsessed.
Ooooh! I’ll have to check those out!
It can be worn a million different ways AND is a great pillow or blanket for a flight. It works amazing as a scarf and I also wrap it around me when I get cold. Now I just need to Macgyver a way for it to have a pocket.
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! ?
I love my travel cubes!! I have two sets and have bought others as gifts. I bought them on Ebags.com but you can find them on Amazon now.
Eagle Creek have a great selection of packing cubes and even recommends sets to fit into their cases.
‘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.
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!
RIGHT?!! They’re *always* great but they’re particularly great for backpackers!
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
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.
I hadn’t thought about using dryer sheets! Thanks for the great post!
the nose can get missprogrammed by the marked vs nature, “dryer sheets to smell nice” dryer sheets are toxic cancerigenous unwanted chemicals.
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.
I always bring a Travel Towel like this one:
It takes up almost no space in your suitcase and dries super fast! Great if you’re staying at a hostel or going to the beach! 🙂
By the way, I just started to use packing cubes and love them already! 🙂
Aren’t they amaaaazing?!
I always bring a travel towel, and I always use it! I bought mine from REI ages ago.
I always bring a large, soft, regular scarf. It works as a blanket on cold planes, a pillow on a train or bus, an appropriate cover for shoulders or legs when visiting religious buildings in summer and a cushion for my camera in the bottom of my day pack. Its second only to my packing cubes. 🙂
I don’t leave home without cordless earbuds-Jaybirds have been great. Guaranteed for life if stop working. Also an audible books-audible.com is great or local libraries have on-line systems to download books. Also take a wall plug extender that takes more than one USB plug in. Never enough electrical outlets in hotels to recharge.
Oh, thanks for the head’s up on those headphones!
Thanks for the tips, love the travel scarf, looks and functionality at its best. I always take a pair of Smart Wool socks and a beanie with me on long flights (8+ hours) to keep my feet and head warm.
I absolutely adore my Flight 001 packing cubes (spendy but with a way cool double-sided feature for dirties) but my favorite is their seatpak. It is small but has many pockets and holds my phone, charger, cords, chaptstick, eyemask, earplugs, pens for customs forms, lotion, face wipes, etc. I just take it out of my carry on, toss it in the seatback pocket of the plane and I never have to jostle my neighbor to get my carry on out from under our feet. It’s a bright color, so no danger of leaving it behind and I don’t have to reach into the icky seatback pocket to get things that fall down in there. Ugh. I love it! http://www.flight001.com/in-flight-comfort/seat-pak.html
Thanks for the tips, one thing that drives me crazy at the (UK) airport security is that I need my inhalers that count as liquids, on me all the time on the flight plus ear plugs, travel sickness bands etc. But having to take them in and out of the ‘liquids bag’ which then has to be stuffed back into the case and then sometimes I have to put my handbag also into the case because there’s no more luggage room on the plane means I am lumbered with all that in my hands which makes life difficult and stressful- any tips for a better plan?
I wasn’t convinced about the packing cubes until I got a set. They can hold SO much. This is one purchase that I do not regret.
Right?! I will never stop spread the gospel!!!
Thanks for the tips, I agree about the packing cubes. I have always been a great packer but they help in ways I didn’t think possible.
One of my NOT TO FORGET is a 6 way power strip. You never have enough outlets!
Also, remember that motel TVs usually have a couple of USB ports you can use to recharge.
I always bring microfiber face cloth for my kids and husband who sweats a lot. I love the scarf, it’s fashionable and useful that I don’t have to carry my wallet.
Before heading to Cuba, I watched all kinds of minimalist packing videos extolling the virtues of packing cubes. Since I’m a chronic overpacker I figured that was the perfect tool to keep me from over packing. I had a cheap set, but I figured it was good for once around the block until I was sold on the idea. However, it wasn’t until I was actually packing for my trip that I noticed the critical piece that was not factored in. All of the vloggers were thin, and I… well I’m just not. My clothes take up twice the space of their clothes because I’m twice the size they are. So in order to take the same minimalist amount of mix & match clothing, I need double the space. Still doable, but not without a little extra work. To be fair my carryon looked like that one pregnant woman you see at the store and you’re sure she’s going to go in labor back in housewares.
I too am plus sized but have successfully used packing cubes for years. From three month trips to South America living out of my backpack, to using them as upright “drawers” in our campervan. Love them! Hope you are no longer an over packer, keeps life simpler.
Tried using packing cubes for the first time and I loved the ability of not having to unpack. Everything was visible. However, my light weight tee shirts were totally wrinkled.any tips?
Dryer sheets are good deterrent for bed bugs
TY! Much more informative list than putting my necklaces in straws; jewelry in a pill case; makeup in contact case, etc!( the tips we’ve all seen ad nauseum
Once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout. I never go anywhere without a bandana. Use as headband/hair tie, wash cloth, handkerchief, signaling flag, bandage, shopping pouch, etc.
Also, I put a safety pin in the lining of all my suitcases. Great for popping blisters, holding curtains shut, repairing ripped clothes, etc.
Noisecancelling headphones are my best friends, especially on long haul flights!
And of course those fantastic packing cubes which I started using in 2015 and never stopped. Never fly without them.
I like Regina’s idea of the satety pin. That’ll be something I’ll use on my next trip to Mexico in January.
Compression socks, Releaf neck support travel pillow, multiplug extension cord, Grayl water purifier bottle and I love packing cubes, hidden pocket scarf and dryer sheets.
Packing cubes ahh
Even better: for several stop trips, pack up what you need for each stop in a different cube and then only open up what you need at each stop. What a game changer,
For winter travel, my coat of choice is my 6-pocket Columbia ski coat and an unlined boiled wool blazer if I need to had warmth without bulk. March-October travel–it’s always a denim jacket that is a little dressier than a Levi’s style. Always Birkenstocks & Naot shoes. The Naot (Paris style sandal) is the most comfortable shoe on the face of the earth. It’s got a 2″ heel, but under the foot the cushioned platform is about 3/4″ thick so the elevation isn’t that high, but it looks dressy if needed. The footbeds cradle your feet & provide a lot of support & can be replaced after a few yrs. I’ve taken them to places that might be warm in late February or early March, like Sicily and been able to wear them. I could walk longer in them than sneakers.