You do not want to be the person who flies halfway around the world only to realize your travel gear is subpar. Not only is it frustrating, but you’ll waste valuable time looking for replacements while traveling instead of spending your time sightDOING. Skip all the inferior products and go straight to the good stuff with my recommendations for the best travel gear.
This post was originally written in 2015, but it was hard to read and I’ve changed a few recommendations (but most of them have stayed the same). Many of the products are affiliate links, but to gear that I actually use and love. Thanks for your support of my website if you choose to make a purchase.
|Delsey Helium Sky Carry-On
The bag I use on almost all my trips. Sturdy, spacious, and easy to roll. If you buy black like I did, make it easy to find with these tips by guest writer Jane.
|eBags Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Junior
Mike says…”the way you pack, I’m amazed your backpack is still holding up.” This bag is MADE TO LAST. Just the right size for long weekends and lots of pockets to keep it organized. I don’t recommend the full size (only the junior!) because it will get heavy fast.
|Osprey Ariel 65L Backpack
Easy to carry if you’re camping (and I use it all the time in Virginia), but realistically, it’s not built for travelers. If you’re heading to an Amazon lodge and need a backpack but not a tent or other gear, I’d still lean toward the eBags above.
|Matador Daylight Day Bag
This brilliant bag is a great size to carry your daytime essentials — and it’s waterproof!
The first time I bought packing cubes, I was curious if I was just wasting money. But being able to find things easily has saved me so much time over years of traveling. Worth it.
Clothing & Shoes
Most of the clothing I pack is based on my personal style and fit, so it’s hard to make specific recommendations. A few brands to think about though:
- Betabrand – for designs like “dressy yoga pants” and reversible dresses. Save $15 off $75 with my link.
- Look Human – for graphic t-shirts, tanks, and my favorite pullovers with cute travel quotes.
|North Face Fleece Jacket
Great as outerwear in mild climates or as layers in the cold. Get a neutral color to match everything.
|Cabela’s Polartech Tights
Ladies, if you need long underwear for winter travel, this is what you want. Looks lightweight but remarkably warm.
My first raincoat lasted 6 years of heavy wear and I liked it so much I replaced it with the same one. I’ve done of a lot of hiking in the rain, so trust me when I say a good raincoat is necessary!
|Panties with pockets
I always pack (or wear!) a pair of pickpocket-proof panties, which have pockets to store cash, credit cards, and passports. If you don’t like the idea of hiding stuff in your underwear, grab a tank, tee, or scarf….just not the leggings, which were really weird.
Read the full review –> Pickpocket Proof Panties: A Travel Security Solution!
| Smartwool Socks
Smartwool socks protect your feet from blisters and sweat — and magically, they never smell. I wear them exclusively.
Who would’ve thought the best travel shoes would be on Etsy? I’m obsessed – these are great shoes at a fraction of the cost of Tieks.
|Merrell Water Shoes
Awesome multi-purpose shoes for beaches, hiking, and general outdoor sightDOING. Plus, they’re light to pack!
Some people like to disconnect while traveling. I don’t.
|ASUS Chromebook Flip C302CA
I traded in my Macbook a few months ago for this Chromebook and couldn’t be happier. Nearly 10 hours of battery life (and recharges quickly!), 12.5″ HD screen, about 2.5 pounds, and flips to a tablet. A travel workhorse.
|Olympus PEN Series
Easy to shoot so you can get a photo while you’re focused on sightDOING instead of photography.
|WASPCam Action Camera
I have a WASPCam instead of a GoPro because it has all the features I wanted at about a third of the price. Read my full review to learn more.
|VINSIC Power Bank
Over the years, I’ve tried a few different external batteries and this is my favorite since it holds a lot of power and has quick charging capabilities — something I need when on the go.
Now that I have an adaptor with two USB outlets built in, I’ll never go back to a standard one again. I can charge 3 devices at once (2 USB + 1 normal plug) and leave the multi-plug outlet at home. Works almost everywhere worldwide.
Sometimes it’s the little things.
I love my GoTubb containers to pack my accessories. Use one for hair ties/pins and another for earrings.
Sunglasses are a MUST if you’ll be strolling city sights or spending time outdoors. Pay up for a pair that fits you well; I wear Kate Spade but this is one purchase I think you need to try on in person.
|Fake Wedding Ring
When I’m traveling solo, I seem to attract unwanted attention but yet I don’t want to wear my wedding ring since it’s a family heirloom and I’d be heartbroken if it was stolen. While it’s not a scientific study, my $10 decoy ring seems to solve both problems.
|Timex Ironman Watch
Watches are really handy (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun) and this one has dual time zones, an alarm, backlight, and water resistance.
Hint: use a real ziploc for your liquid toiletries, not a slider bag…which always seem to break. If you’re packing your own toiletries instead of using hotel freebies, I recommend GoToobs to avoid spilling.
I was skeptical at first, but this works amazing at keeping your brushhead clean (and not smelling like mildew if you have to brush and immediately run).
A razor with built-in shaving “cream” is so much easier for packing and working in sometimes tiny shower stalls.
|Human+Kind Family Remedy Cream
Not just lotion, it’s great for anti-itch, sunburns, insect bites, and razorburn (not that you’ll have any if you use the razor above).
|Downy Wrinkle Releaser
Believe the hype: this actually works at smoothing out the creases in your clothing without ironing (and it smells good, too!).
|Tide to Go Stain Remover
At home, it’s no big deal to soak and launder your clothing, but on the road, stain treatment is the best I can do. Tide to Go has saved several of my outfits!
I’m not much of a beauty person, which is all the more reason I’ve simplified my routine to something quick to apply and easy to pack.
This multipurpose cosmetic works as a brightener, concealer, primer, eye shadow, and more. Worth the price.
|Wow 1-Minute Transformation Cream
The reviews on Amazon are mixed, but with the right expectations it is a travel MIRACLE. Don’t expect it to replace a good blowout, but it tames unruly, frizzy hair with 10 seconds of effort.
|Marc Jacobs Lip Creme
Easy to apply, never melts in my bag, and doesn’t smudge. In short, a travel lifesaver. Like most makeup at Sephora, it’s pricey but I haven’t found a drugstore equivalent.
Every time I travel, my first aid kit gets more condensed. It’s easy to find what you need in other places, so keep it simple.
Find a divided container at the dollar store and use each slot for a different over-the-counter medication that you think you’ll need while traveling. You may only have space for a dose or two, but that’ll bridge you enough time to hit a pharmacy at your destination.
|Sawyer Water Filter
I ditched my Steripen and now I use this water filter when traveling to places where the tap water isn’t safe to drink. Just like a Lifestraw but cheaper and higher performance.
Don’t mess around in malaria zones. This insect repellent is easy to pack and easy to apply…and no chance of accidentally spilling chemicals all over your suitcase.
Use it for traveler’s diarrhea or food poisoning — or safe to use for normal travel activities like sports or hiking (more electrolytes and less sugar than Gatorade). I’ll be packing some for Oktoberfest hangovers, too.
|“Green Goo” First Aid Salve
The remedy cream I listed above is pretty good, but this takes it a step further to relieve rashes, chafing, poison ivy, minor cuts and scrapes, fungal infections, and a whole slew of travel discomforts.
Travel Comfort (My In-Flight Personal Item)
Want more details? Read my full guide on how to make long flights suck less.
I look ridiculous every time I wear it, but these ugly eye masks have cutouts built in so your eyelids can flutter (normal sleeping behavior) and memory foam padding. I need all the help I can get for better rest.
Finally, an earplug designed for smaller ears so that you can fully block sound without hurting your ears.
|Sockwell Compression Socks
I’m no medical expert, but in theory compression socks make it safer to fly long distances by preventing swelling, increasing circulation, and somehow the pressure prevents fatigue. I figure I have nothing to lose by wearing them.
|Neutrogena Revitalizing Lip Balm
I love Neutrogena Revitalizing Lip Balm because it doubles as practical during the trip with SPF and a hint of color.
Nothing refreshes me better than brushing my teeth after a long flight. There’s no need for water/rinsing with these and they slip easily into your bag.
I’m an outdoor girl at heart, as you probably know by now.
These pack down tiny and work like a shammy, wringing out so you can dry your entire body off easily. I use a small, but these microfiber towels come in full size, too.
As a wildlife junkie, these are a must-have. These are perfect for whale watches, national parks, and more — plus I can’t tell the difference between these and my husband’s $400 version.
|BAFX Trekking Poles
I don’t use trekking poles often, but when I do, they make a world of difference. These are lightweight, sturdy, and fully adjustable.
|Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Bags
I cried a little when Mike splurged on these bags, but now I can’t live without them. Great for protecting electronics when kayaking, backcountry camping, or general adventure travel.
|Athletic Body Wipes
This is the second brand I’ve tried and I like this better because there’s no residue. Perfect for those days when you’re hiking and want to go straight to a brewery (or if you want a “shower” after a long flight).
Things That Keep Me Happy
Not everyone will want to pack these, but I travel with them every single time.
|Contigo Autoseal Travel Mug
For coffee on the go (such a rarity outside the USA!) or for hot tea to relax me when travel gets stressful. Why I love it: I can toss it in my bag upside-down and not worry about a spill. Seriously!
I rave about my Kindle every chance I get. I download e-books from my local library and it’s obviously easier to pack than a dozen paperbacks. Bonus: you can load PDFs (like your trip plans or emergency phone numbers) to reference on your Kindle.
* * *