Whether you are a constant girl-on-the-go or an occasional traveler, we all run into the same hangups and headaches when it comes to getting ourselves to a destination and back. I've been especially focused on smart traveling ideas lately since my husband and I are planning on taking our first trip to Paris this year (a total dream come true for me!). Since he's a traveling musician, I have to be a bit of a traveler myself to visit him on the road during tours, so I've certainly got an opinion or two on what I think are the most helpful things to keep a trip as smooth and comfortable as possible. Here are my top 20 must-haves for the traveling gal:
1. Mini emergency kit: If you are like me and have a purse that weighs more than your carry-on luggage (because you need everything possible with you "just in case"), then this mini-emergency kit will be right up your ally. My sister-in-law bought one for me a few years ago, and I keep it in my car or my purse at all times. It's got great mini versions of really helpful items like stain remover, hair spray, nail polish, pain reliever, mini sewing kit, breath drops, and tons more. A must-have for anyone that likes to feel prepared.
2. Earplugs, eye mask blow-up pillow (with cover): I am a big proponent of having all three of these when I fly and travel. I'm a bit of a light sleeper, so trying to sleep on planes and in strange hotels isn't always easy for me. It's pretty quick to DIY your own eye mask, but if you feel like flat eye masks crush your eyelashes, you can get a molded eye mask instead. These pink earplugs are brightly colored and always easy for me to find (and they come with a carrying case too), and I really don't know how people travel without blow up pillows. They take up almost no space when deflated and they make travel cat naps much more enjoyable (make sure to get one with a soft cover though).
3. Scarf/Blanket for plane: When traveling by plane, I usually wear things that I think will be the warmest once the captain turns on the "I'm going to freakin' blast you with the AC for the next 3 hours" sign. Just kidding, I don't think they have a sign for that. But if they did, I imagine it would be sort of a frowny face with icicles for hair…anyway, I dress in layers to keep warm, bring socks during the summer months if I'm wearing sandals, and especially wear a large scarf or pashmina to act as a blanket during the flight. If you get lucky and the plane temperature is great, well now you have extra cushioning for your seat, back, or pillow. You can't lose.
4. Travel perfume: These refillable travel perfume sprays are perfect for your carry on or purse (I always carry mine with me). Just remove the top knob to your perfume and you can pump the travel spray full of your favorite scent.
5. Headphone splitter: Because who wants to watch "Baby Mama" on your iPad by yourself? Share that laughter with a friend through this headphone splitter and rock on, dude…
6. Travel map app: Take advantage of technology in your destination city by using map apps on your phone/tablet to find your way around the city. Citymapper is a great choice for finding your way around, and City Maps 2Go is another helpful option because you can still use the maps offline if you are in a wifi dead zone (both are on Google Play as well as for Android).
7. Phone battery extender: Since the modern traveler uses their phone so much on the go (as a camera, as a map, sometimes even as a phone!), it's a good idea to have either a portable solar charger or battery extender with you on the road. Depending on your particular phone and price range, there are a lot of options to choose from (like this one). So do a bit of research online for the best options for your phone model. Hey, you never know when you're going to need that extra battery time, so make sure you're prepared!
8. Notebook or journal to write down your favorite spots: This is a great idea that was given to us by our friends that went to Paris for the first time a few years ago. Keep a paper journal of your daily activities and the names of stores or towns you went to so that you can revisit those spots again or give recommendations when other people visit there (or for when you want to blog about your trip later). They actually gave us our own journal to fill out when we told them we were planning on going to Paris this year—so sweet!
9. Laundry/Lingerie bag: Keep your clean and dirty laundry separated (and out of sight from the dude in airport security) with cute laundry bags. You can have bags for your "unmentionables" only, or you can take a larger bag for all dirty clothes and separate bags for your shoes and purses as well. I've definitely had the black heel of a boot rub off on a neon yellow leather purse during travel. Ugh!
10. Travel umbrella: Depending on where you're going and when, you may be really glad that you brought along your travel umbrella. Especially if you are doing more of a sightseeing trip with a lot of walking, getting caught in the rain will be no big thing if you've brought your mini umbrella-ella-ella with you. Go with a more budget-friendly option if the possible rain conditions should be light, but invest in a more heavy-duty option if the location can get pretty windy as well.
11. Unique luggage tags: For the longest time I didn't have an official luggage tag. I would just fill out those paper ones at the ticket counter while I was trying to check in, and it was always a bit of a balancing act to write out separate tags for each bag and attach them without knocking over something (or someone nearby) in the process. Cute luggage tags (like this one!) let you skip that hassle and give you another way to identify your bag at baggage claim as well.
12. Passport holder: Passport holders make you feel a little more luxurious while you travel—it's like a leather jacket for your information to wear! You can get ones with pockets so you can keep your credit card or other information with it, or you can make your own DIY version like I did!
13. Travel steamer: I really hate ironing items at home, so I'm a big fan of the clothes steamer option instead. It's faster, easier, and handles delicate fabric like a dream. With this adorable travel steamer, you can pack all those items that you were afraid would get too wrinkled in transit and just steam out any creases once you land. It heats up really fast and quickly gets the job done—and look at all the cute colors it comes in!
14. Adaptor/Converter: OK, this one only counts if you are traveling overseas and want to plug in anything while you're there (different countries use different plugs for electronics), but still, it always seems like a big deal when it comes time to pick one out. Get yourself a handy-dandy 4 in 1 adapter to cover all your adaptor bases. It's even color coded by country so you can easily see which one to use and they all fit compactly together for travel—nice! Keep in mind that you may also need a voltage converter/transformer as well as adaptor if your electronic item has a different voltage than the one they use in your destination country (read more about that here).
15. Digital luggage scale: Every time we travel I spend about 10 minutes trying to guess if my suitcase is over the weight limit or not. If I'm at home, I can do the whole "weigh myself holding the bag and subtract my weight" trick, but I usually don't have a scale at my destination, and hello, that's where I buy stuff that I want to bring home. So it's a bit of a guessing game at that point. The answer to the problem? A travel luggage scale! No more guessing, just attach to the luggage handle and lift the luggage off the ground to get an accurate weight.
16. Dual voltage mini curling iron/straightener/hair dryer: Especially if you are going overseas, it's nice to have a travel version of your favorite hair tools that is dual voltage so you don't have to use a voltage converter at your destination (you will still need an adaptor for the plug though). You can get a mini straightener, curling iron, and travel dryer that will save you suitcase space and still achieve your desired look. By the way, that tiny curler feels hilarious to use, but I was actually able to get my usual waves with it, although it took a little longer. It's probably too small if you have really thick long hair, but it worked for me! If you either straighten or curl your hair everyday, I would suggest taking a full-size version of whichever you use most and a mini of the other so you still have options, but don't have to bring a full size of both.
17. A toiletries bag you love: A lady's toiletries bag is like her traveling secret weapon since it contains all the necessities that she'd be lost without (hair care items, makeup products, shaving cream…you know the drill). So make sure that your bag is something that works best for your particular travel items. Some people like to have their toiletries bag compartmentalized into small areas with a hook so you can hang it up once you get to the hotel (that's me!), while others like to have one main compartment where they can keep everything together in the same spot (that's my husband's style). Either way, there are so many choices to choose from like this hanging toiletry bag to this single compartment bag that's shaped like a vintage VW bus! So cute, can I just take both?!?
18. Luggage tracker: Now this is an awesome gadget for both you tech girls and you big worrywarts. Just charge this locater disk before you fly, place it in your suitcase, and if your bag gets lost, you can track exactly where it is with an app on your phone. The locater's battery stays charged for 15 days and uses GSM tracking which can be located in places where GPS can't be. Goodbye lost luggage!
19. Travel sleep machine: I also take a travel size sound machine with me every time I travel (similar to this one). Blocking out all the hotel noise and foreign sounds you aren't used to is a must for anyone that wants a good night's sleep on the road. You can also download white noise machine apps for your phone or tablet—light sleepers unite!! Although if you can't sleep without the city noise, there's also a sound option for that on the app as well…
20. WiFi hot spot: Cause a girl's gotta blog all this travel stuff! If you aren't sure about the wifi at your location or know you'll be in a more remote spot, you may want to look into a few pay-as-you-go wifi hot spots like Karma or Datajack. Some phones can also be a hot spot just by themselves if you add that feature to your data plan, or your phone carrier may also have their own brand of hot spot you can purchase.
Well, now that I know what to bring, I should be all ready for my next trip and that dream visit to Paris, right? Oh wait, I forgot about picking out the clothes I'll want to wear when I actually get there…OK, I do have some more work to do, but at least I feel great about the rest of my trip packing! Hope you found some good ideas for your next excursion! xo. Laura
Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.