THE CLEVER TRAVELER

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5 things to pack for every trip…

Every time we dust off the suitcase, we face the same question: what to pack? My packing essentials have changed and improved with every trip. I have removed lots of items from my routine, as well as re-added and upgraded many. I have gone through different phases: traveling with just bare essentials, as well as bringing everything but the kitchen sink. There is nothing worse than finding myself rebuying at destination what I had left behind at home or worse: compromising a journey because I couldn’t replace an item while away.  

 

Although every trip is unique and requires careful planning and packing, there is a list of core essentials that doesn’t change. These are the 5 packing must-haves you should never leave behind:

 

1.The toiletry bag

The number of toiletries I pack has increased, while volume has decreased. We have all been there: we leave our lush shampoo at home to make room for those new shoes and the hotel shampoo leaves your hair looking like you got electrocuted.  To get around leaving important toiletries at home to save space, I pour product from its original package into clever containers that occupy less volume. However,I first test container capacity at home to verify that they hold more than enough product for my trips. I do not buy the travel-sized shampoos and lotions at the store — I take my every-day products with me. Why overpay and compromise product quality when on “vacation”?

What is in my toiletry bag? Soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, deodorant, toothpaste/toothbrush + facewash, eye cream, face cream, toner, eye make-up remover (wipes save on liquid limits) and sunblock.

Tip: If you still need to free-up space, lose the body soap, unless you have a skin condition.

2. A pair of jeans

Jeans are one of the most versatile pieces of clothing ever invented. They are durable, rugged, and sport a classic look. Jeans can be dressed up or down for concerts, nightclubs, picnics, and nature outings… whether you are on long or short journeys, jeans will never look bad. If you are working with limited space in a suitcase, remember that jeans are like a white canvas: they can be combined with lots of items in your closet, as well as with clothing you pick up along the way. Also, due to their versatility you can wear jeans in almost any climate — that is why you can find them worn in almost all countries. Wearing jeans is an easy way to never look out of place.

Tip: If you want to save additional space, bring a pair you can wear in dressier settings as well.

 

3. Battery packs

We depend on our electronics, especially our phones, for everything. While exploring, I used to constantly be looking for power outlets to save my phone (and with that my camera) from dying. Looking for coffee shops just to charge my phone used to break up my day and exploration time.  Now I travel with two batteries, a heavy duty one that holds more than four full phone charges and a stylish slimmer one that charges my phone once. The second is easier to carry at nighttime and looks good in any setting. To be honest, I don’t know how I used to travel without batteries.

Tip: Check out the batteries I use in the gear/electronics section of the website.

 

4. Umbrella

Weather is very unpredictable and if you are caught unprepared, you may be forced to stay indoors. Too often you see people running for cover, forced to buy overpriced weather gear at touristic sites (been there, done that at Buckingham Palace). As a traveler, time is what I value most.  That is why I research each destination’s weather conditions before a trip, but I always pack an umbrella for unexpected rain. Many hotels provide them, but they are usually big and uncomfortable to carry. If you are staying at an Airbnb, you can ask your host if they would have an umbrella for you. However, you likely won’t know how bulky and/or flimsy it really is until you see it. It’s always best to pack a compact, high-quality umbrella that you can rely on.

Tip: Pack an umbrella that is durable and small to fit into a bag and ideally a smaller second one that fits into a purse.

 

5. Headphones

Don’t rely on airlines to be provide you with good headphones. Many airlines now charge for a pair or collect them at the end of the flight and their headphones are never good ones, even when you are flying first class. Headphones provide you with personal space even in crowded places and you can use them at all tourist sites that have audio guides: museums, hop-on-and--off busses, ferries. Some sites provide you with a pair of headphones, but those mostly have considerably bad sound quality. Also, those rented ones get used by everyone, but rarely cleaned. Also, most audio guide devices have a line-out port for headphones, enabling you to use your personal set.

Tip: Pack both, the big over-the-ear noise-cancellation headphones and the more typical compact in-ear headphones. However, if you don’t have the space, only pack the small ones. You will get much more use out of them.

Here are 5 more things to consider….

1. Pack a Tablet or Laptop

It’s easier to research something for your trip on a bigger screen than on your phone. Also, many websites still don’t have friendly mobile web version.

 

2. Pack a small, foldable canvas bag

Having a small and compact canvas bag with you makes it easier to carry new purchases and eliminates the need to stop by the hotel to drop them off. Many bags can fold so compact that they easily fit in your pocket.

 

3. Pack extra underwear

You never know if you have to extend a trip or engage in unplanned activities that will require one of a few more showers than anticipated.

 

4. Pack a pair of sneakers

Give yourself the possibility to work out when you find a free minute and have a pair of gym sneakers available as a backup to your every-day shoes. After much walking and exploring, you will want to switch into these.

 

5. Pack snacks/protein bars

If you have any food allergies, plan-ahead! Even if you don’t have any dietary restrictions, it’s always a good idea to have a snack you like within reach to hold you over until you get to a restaurant. Make sure it’s not just candy, but something that bridges you for longer periods of time, such as protein bars.

My personal fails and success…

 

Fail: I went dog sledding in Calgary. When I returned home, I was greeted by redness and bumps on my face – windburn. Since I live in a very humid climate and Calgary is terribly dry, my skin overreacted.  I had left my ’usual hydrating moisturizer at home, because I felt it was an unnecessary luxury for such a short trip. Not only did I need it, but I needed to up my dose to counteract the new climate.

Success: On a 19-day vacation across five countries, my shampoo from home lasted the whole way. Before the trip, I had bought two travel size containers and tested them at home to see if they contained enough for my whole trip. I was so happy… it’s these little things that make for a good trip.

Fail: For my trip to Russia,I packed only cute and bold pants. By day four, I wanted to throw them out of a window and get a pair of jeans.  It felt as if I was wearing the same thing every day, like a uniform. My pants were so bold that I was instantly saturated and dying for a neutral look — for myself and for the vacation photos. 

 

Success: On a flight to Europe, I was using my phone to adjust photos and my iPad to edit videos. Thankfully, I had my heavy-duty battery pack with me in the plane cabin. Not only was I able to charge both devices to full capacity, I had additional charge left.

 

Fail: One of my best friends in NYC was constantly re-charging her electronics in bars, coffee shops, and stores. She manages her business on her phone, so that added to her use of GPS, camera, messaging.  As a result, she was constantly out of battery and we had to stop multiple times throughout the day to charge her phone.

Sucess: I was walking in the rain. Because I had my rain gear with me, I was able to get ahead of many tourists stuck hiding under pedestrian bridges and store awnings. As a result, I was able to avoid what might have been a 30-minute-wait-line at the palace :)

 

Fail: I didn’t have an umbrella with me in London. Right after I visited Buckingham Palace, it started pouring. That meant my choices were to either stay at the gift shop to wait it out or to buy an extremely overpriced umbrella. £50 later, I was the proud owner of a outdated-looking, gigantic umbrella sporting the Union Jack … The umbrella was so big that it didn’t even fit in my suitcase and I had to leave it behind.

 

Success: I visited the Statue of Liberty with my brother. Thankfully, we both had our headphones with us, as the audio guides would have otherwise had to be held to your face like a phone. We were able to walk around enjoying the park comfortably and with our hands free to use our actual phones to take pictures. 

Fail: I packed the cutest shoes to walk around NYC.  I was confident that because I always wear sandals, I would be able to handle the all-day walks — I was severely wrong. My feet were killing me, and the only other shoes I had packed were heels.    

 

Success: I ended up going on a spontaneous hike in South Carolina. Thankfully, I had packed some gym sneakers. Those weren’t meant for hiking, but they at least allowed me to get out there and enjoy nature.

Fail:I stayed at a friend’s place in Dublin and she ended up being that one friend who has a hair problem and can’t use shampoo or conditioner, just something medicated. I went to the store to buy these essentials for a three-day trip. However, I couldn’t bring them back as I was travelling with only a carry-on and it surpassed the allowed liquid limits.