Here’s a list of the ten travel accessories that revolutionized the way I travel. Each one saves either time, money, space, or all three, and some even enhance safety.
This past September, Kevin and I embarked on an 8-country tour through Europe across 4 months, taking only a couple backpacks with us. Looking back, I wish I had had the skills to have only packed ONE backpack, but I think if we did it again, I could make it happen. In order to travel light and smart, having the right, versatile travel gadgets can make all the difference in the world. These are the travel gadgets that I would never travel without again, learned bit by bit in my international travel.
What is travel without a Scottevest? I can’t remember. After purchasing mine this past year, I would NEVER travel without it again. With 17 pockets for specific items and most of which inside the vest itself, it’s an anti-pickpocket traveler’s dream. Not only that, but it has saved me carry-on fees on numerous occasions. At it’s peak capacity, I can fit my passport, tickets, money, ID, credit cards, phone, Kindle, camera, sunglasses, ear plugs, kleenex, books (yes, books plural), notebook, pen, water bottle, wine bottle (yes, full size), sweater, snacks, chapstick, earbuds, keys, and change, all in specific, easy-to-find pockets. It even includes a microfiber cloth inside the sunglass pocket that has a map of all of it’s pockets. Of course, when you fill it that level, you look like a lumpy balloon, but if you really needed to, you could do it. Because of the way the pockets are placed, when I’m carrying just my usual things for the day, you can barely tell I have anything in it. It is the perfect vest for flying, but also just for walking around. I never carry a purse anymore, and I always know where all of my stuff is. Get over the nerdy-ness of the it, buy one, and thank me later.
After using a top-loading travel backpack for about 5 years, it was an incredible switch to this Osprey Farpoint 55 pack. I always thought you had to trade ease of carrying with easy of loading, but not anymore. Everything about this backpack is like someone read my travel mind. With this Osprey Farpoint, I’m able to zip the backpack open completely and load my things just as I would a suitcase. No more unloading everything to get at the bottom. Also, for my double-backpack needs, it comes with a separate backpack that you can either zip to the outside or snap onto the front for that double-backpack look. This makes it a piece of cake to check and carry-on half and half, as well as to still have arm movement while carrying both through a city. On top of all that, it’s got a zipper flap that you can use to tuck it’s straps away for when you want to check it, which both makes it look smaller (in case you want to carry it on) AND makes bag-check people happy. I LOVE this backpack. Could not give it a higher recommendation for travel.
Gone are the days of plastic space-saver bags bursting mid-trip. I used to swear by plastic space-saver bags, until I discovered these. Though they don’t have the compression quality that space-saver bags have, I think that packing cubes can save close to as much space (with less headache) by organizing your things efficiently. Using these on our 4-month Europe trip, I never felt like I was living out of a suitcase. I could carry each of my 5 cubes to where I needed them in our AirBnB (they’ve even got little handles!), and always knew where my things were according to size and color of the packing cubes. Re-packing a million things into my suitcase was a piece of cake compared the nightmare it was before. I’d just replace my things into their packing cube as I used them. And if you get to the airport and realize you have to move things around? Just take out a cube and carry it on. Done. Everyone I’ve talked to that have tried them have said they would NEVER travel again without them. It doesn’t matter if you’re going for a weekend-trip or an epic, year-long backpacking trip, packing cubes will seriously change your travel life.
A must while traveling. Especially if you’re like me, and only like packing a couple pairs of pants. You’re going to need pants that dry quickly on those rainy weeks or those weeks you get behind on laundry, and especially on wet hikes.
<–I love these Praha Meme pants because they are rugged, fast-drying, and even pretty cute. I even wore them into work several times. I used to wear some quick-drying, zip-off pants, but they were so baggy I was embarrassed to see pictures of myself in them. These are alright though.
Probably the biggest conundrum when packing for a long trip is how to pack enough warm clothing without packing an entire suitcase full of winter wear. Enter the compactable, light-weight, down jacket. It’s crazy thin but also crazy warm, and it can PACK INTO ITS OWN POCKET. In our Eastern Europe trip, we were going through countries that ranged in temps from 25 degrees to 65 degrees. I wanted warm, but also something I could put away and not have to deal with when I didn’t need it. In the warm places, this bad boy compacted neatly into my packing cubes, rather than spilling out of my bag. There’s nothing worse than carrying around a warm jacket while you’re sweating, and this guy never put me through that.
Someone told me before I went to study abroad in Costa Rica that the one thing they’d recommend buying before going was Keens, and now I enthusiastically pass this advice along to anyone else going. Keens are fast-drying sandals with good support and best of all—rubber toe-guards. They’re perfect for hiking up waterfalls, across beautiful but rocky beach, and when you’re not sure what the terrain is going to be. They’re not beautiful, but they’re incredibly practical for those moments you’re going in and out of water in terrain that could give you some nasty bloody toes. If you’ve ever had to hike with bloody toes, you’ll understand why these are worth their weight and money.
If you’re still packing books for travel, using a kindle instead will blow your mind. The kindle is the perfect answer to having plenty to read without plenty to pack. My friend while studying abroad plowed through multiple books a week, purchasing and borrowing books weekly by connecting to WiFi.
Want to know the biggest travel hack with Kindle, particularly with backpacking to multiple places? Ditch your $20+ travel guides at home and subscribe to Kindle Unlimited for $9.99/month to have access to hundreds. Lonely Planet has TONS of travel guides available under Kindle Unlimited—meaning you can have access to all of them with a subscription. We saved gobs of money AND space in our luggage by paying the $9.99 and downloading travel guides for all of the cities we visited—saving money both from not having to purchase the guides at full price (many times over $20 each) and also being able to look up cheap, good places to see/eat without having access to internet. If you’re going on a trip soon, SUBSCRIBE! It pays for itself with one travel guide.
I know, it’s not quite as glamorous as a Kindle subscription or beautiful backpack. But when you’re traveling for more than a week or two, though, you’re going to need to do laundry, and you’re not always going to trust the services around you OR want to pay their prices. On this past trip, Kevin and I used the sink plug and clotheslines every week to keep keep on top of laundry,
which allowed us to pack much fewer articles of clothing. This particular sink plug fits on top of most sink drains, and the clothesline is awesomely portable, stretchable, and adjustable to whatever your travel situation is. We packed a little travel bottle of laundry detergent, and we were set.
For a weekend trip, I’d go without it. But for a longer trip when you’re liable to become sick or likely to need some fast, last-minute drying of clothes, a tiny hairdryer can be a incredibly useful thing. I bought this one on a whim right before we left for Europe for this trip, and it’s saved me many times. It’s amazing how little space it takes up. Even my husband would admit that it’s come in handy while traveling.
That’s it! If you’ve got a friend or family member you’re looking for a gift for, or you’re planning a big trip, any of these items won’t disappoint. Trust me. You’ll never want to travel the same way again, either.
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