You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a plane ticket which is basically the same thing”
Personally, I don’t believe buying material things can buy you happiness, but I do find the following products make traveling a more enjoyable experience. I recommend investing in a fewer high quality products that will last you longer and work better too! These items may not apply to everyone, but I hope you are inspired to pack more minimally and intentionally:
1. A Carry On Suitcase
After traveling almost every week for work in only a carry on for 2+ years, traveling with only a carry on and a purse/backpack is how I travel almost all of the time! I highly recommend everyone invest in a solid carry on. Personally, my entire family travels with a carry on and I didn’t own a checked size luggage until early 2020. I highly recommend the following brands and specific carry on suitcases from personal experience and friends and family recommendations:
- Briggs and Riley: I’ve used mine for over 3 years now, literally living out of it for more than 2 of those years from travelling almost every week for work, and it has incredibly held up so well! Mine is expandable, extremely durable, and fits on almost every plane as a carry on!
- Travel Pro: Another expandable, more affordable option that you’ll spot many pilots and flight attendants with in the airport
- Away: The millennial suitcase that comes in a variety of colors, is trendy, and even comes with a have battery packs
2. Packing Cubes
Let’s talk packing cubes (eek my fav). So I’ve used packing cubes for several years now and they basically transformed how I pack. Packing cubes help you pack efficiently (aka pack more cute outfits) and you stay organized throughout your trip. I’ve personally used and loved my Eagle Creek packing cubes for years now and they have held up very well. These packing cubes are the reason I’m able to fit everything in my carry on for trips over two weeks and how I was able to get everything home after my study abroad. I recommend ordering the Original Cube Set and an additional Large packing cube. This is honestly all you will need, since two large packing cubes fill up the bottom layer of a carry on just perfectly! I personally have these in my favorite color blue, but they have many color options for you to pick from!
3. Camera Gear
Photography is one of my favorite hobbies so you’ll find me with my camera on me 99% of the time. I love travel photography because I get to capture goofy moments, yummy food, distinctive architecture, and anything that looks interesting or different that I want to remember. I previously had the original Canon Rebel for years (here’s a link to the current Canon Rebel) until a few years ago when I updated to the Canon 6D.
My favorite lens include the following:
- Sigma Art 35mm; for more affordable options I recommend the Nifty 50 instead of the 35mm
- Canon 16-35mm f/2.8
- Canon 24-105mm f/4
- My phone (a very popular option used by many!)
For a more affordable option, look into used lenses as they are made with quality and SAVE YOU MONEY! I’ve personally had successful purchases with used lenses and recommend this option to everyone looking to purchase an investment lens. Don’t forget to pack a few extra batteries and an SD card! I like to purchase SD Cards with at least 64GB in memory (about $20). Overall, I recommend investing in a few versatile lenses to help you pack light, avoid carrying a bunch of heavy gear around, and even save you some money! I often times only travel with one lens and pack the one that is most suited for the trip and type of photos I hope to take during my travels. Remember to keep it simple and invest in gear that work best for YOU!
4. Reusable Water Bottle
This one is simple because you need to stay HYDRATED! I’ve tried a handful of water bottles, and I’m currently obsessed with my blue 32oz Hydro Flask for water and my Swell wide mouth bottle for tea. Both water bottles keep my beverages hot or cold for hours, they never spill which is very important when you are on the go, and the Hydroflask has a convenient straw so you find yourself drinking more water and both bottles have a large open top for plenty of ice :). Plus, having a refillable water bottle will save you money throughout your trip by those pricey water bottles at the airport while positively impacting the planet.
My favorite hidden gem are carabiners. I keep a few on my car keys and on my backpack or whatever bag I’m using that trip. These little guys come in handle more often than you would think. You can clip your hat or water bottle to your backpack, clip your camera strap to a random tree to get a picture of you and your friend, the list goes on. These little guys are very handy and hella affordable on Amazon or REI. 6. Headphones Noise-cancelling headphones. Enough said for all the crazy kiddos on the plane or loud people snoring next to you. Bose creates some incredible headphones and thankfully I was gifted my favorite headphones thus far. Some people prefer the wireless headphone option, but I’m still old school and like having one less thing to charge on the go.
6. A Scarf or Bandana
An accessory, a skirt, a blanket or small pillow on the plane, a shoulder cover, a scarf can come in many forms on your trip. This versatile accessory will come definitely come in handy on your next trip! A scarf is great to have on hand when you go to more conservative destinations to easily cover your shoulders or turn into a skirt and cover your legs. I wore a dress to a temple in Malaysia and thankfully had a scarf in my bag to cover my legs better. I walked up and a woman kindly helped me transform my scarf into a skirt or you can wear your scarf to keep you warm!
7. Your Phone!
Instagram inspiration, google maps (available to download offline), boarding pass, communication device, camera, etc. There are endless reasons to bring your phone. Our phones are can definitely come in handy, but remember to put them in airplane mode, disconnect and enjoy being in the moment!
8. Healthy Snacks
I recently shared my top 10 favorite healthy travel friendly snacks in this blog! Snacks at the airport can be a little pricey and road trips can be long, which is why it’s important to pack your favorite (hopefully healthy) snacks to avoid being hangry ;). I personally love having a bag of veggies (carrots, cucumbers, etc.), Larabars because I can actually read every ingredient on the package, Chewy Chocolate Chip Kind Bars, apples, fruit leathers (adult fruit roll ups) or whatever your favorite healthy snack might be. I’ve added helpful links so you can order many of these on amazon in bulk or many are available in store as well. Make sure to stock up prior to your next trip so you always have some when you are on the go.
9. A Good Book or Kindle
You are going on vacation (yay!) which means lots of downtime (hopefully) to relax and kick back aka read that book that has been sitting on your nightstand for months (I’m very guilty about this, oops). I always bring a book with me that I’ve been “reading” for a while in hopes of finally finishing it! Books are great to bring with you for lots of reasons: they don’t require a charger, the battery won’t die on you mid flight, they are full of knowledge and new perspectives AND they don’t have to be put in airplane mode for take off. You sold on this whole book idea yet? Here are some of my favorite reads: Wild, Education, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*** and Yes Please! to give a mix of adventure, self help and humor.
10. Hand Sanitizer or Wet Wipes
You are on the go, on planes or in cars, in various public places that aren’t the most sanitary. That’s why it’s important to keep a travel sized hand sanitizer or some wet wipes on hands at all times. It’s even more important to have this travel essential to make sure your hands are clean prior to meal time! Pack this gem and kill those germs while you are on the go!
11. Reusable Bags
One of my favorite hidden gems on the road are Stasher Bags. I purchased a few Stasher bags in effort to reduce my plastic use and they are perfect for snacks, can be washed out, and used hundreds of times over. These are great for packing snacks on your hike or going to the beach, storing your liquids on the plane so they don’t spill in your carry on, keeping things organized in you bag, the list is endless.
You gotta protect to eyes on your hopefully sunny vacation, especially if your eyes are sensitive to sunlight and very squinty like mine! Make sure to pack your favorite sunnies so you can enjoy your hike, day on the beach or tour around town. I recommend either polarized sunnies from Warby Parker for about $95 or if you are wiling to spend more, I love my RayBan sunnies as well.
13. Lipstick or a Lip Balm Stain
You’re going on vacation and you probably don’t want to get glammed up every day. I always bring lipstick with me because its a quick and easy way to look put together and it takes only seconds! If lip stick is not your thing, I recommend a simple lip balm or stain to make you look great in all your pictures with minimal effort!
Headphones are an absolute must for me! From listening to podcasts, watching movies on the plane or in the car, taking phone calls, or working out, don’t forget to pack your headphones! I like to travel with two pairs of headphones, a wireless option (Airpods old version or new version) and a wired option to avoid my headphone dying on the plan or on a long road trip (Bose Headphones – noise cancelling). I recommend smaller and portable headphones if you are trying to save space!
15. A Travel Lock
I always have a lock on my backpack or suitcase to try to keep my items a little more secure while on the plane or when I’m running around exploring. If you go anywhere like an amusement park or gym that requires a lock, you are ready to go. Don’t forget to pack this little gem with you on all your trips!
I hope these items positively impact your next travel adventure by making various elements of the experience even just a little bit better! While this is not a complete packing list, I challenge you to pack more minimally and intentionally on your next trip and you’ll surprise yourself how much you really need in your suitcase. Below is a checklist of the 15 items to help you on your next getaway, happy and safe travels!
With wanderlust, Haley