I’ve become a seasoned enough traveller over the years that I’ve mostly figured out exactly what works for me. I’m constantly streamlining and trying to make things easier for myself, but there are some absolute essentials. I’ve divided it out into the things that keep me well, things I wear, technology related items, and the practical things that keep me sane. (Click to jump to a section.)
The things that keep me healthy and happy:
Travel Yoga Mat – You knew this was going to be the first thing on my list. My yoga practice is a really important part of my day but I don’t always want to be lugging around a bulkier mat. Here are some great travel mat options (all foldable to fit in your carry-on!) that I use or that have been recommended to me:
- B MAT Traveller (2mm) – ($56 CAD) This is my current travel mat (pictured above) and I love it. It folds up nicely in my suitcase and it irons itself out within half an hour of my taking it out after a flight. It also feels quite cushy despite being only 2mm thick. It has more than paid for itself in the last two years.
- Halfmoon Yoga Travel Mat ($38 CAD) – I’ve heard so many good things about this one, and it’s a great price point. Also, it’s a Vancouver based company! 🙌🏻
- Manduka® eKO® SuperLite Travel Yoga Mat – ($42 USD) My Kundalini teacher uses this as her travel mat, and she travels A LOT. Available online in the USA here and in Canada here.
If you are wanting something a thicker, check out this very thorough and well-researched list from Reviews.com of the best mats out there. You might also want a mat bag or strap and you can find some good options here. My current home mat is a Gaiam Premium print option (available in Canada at Indigo.ca and Amazon.ca and in the US on Gaiam’s website), and I love Halfmoon Yoga’s studio mats.
Online Yoga – I am much better with my own practice when I’m guided, so I really, really love Gaia.com** (formerly the Vancouver created MyYogaOnline.com) for their online videos; some of which feature my yoga teachers from here in Vancouver. So I can shake it off with Gloria (Kundalini), chill out with Cam (Hatha), or slay the dragon with Bernie (Vinyasa) from anywhere in the world. Gaia.com has really good three-month trial packages, and the monthly cost after that is $10.00 USD. It’s also easy to cancel or pause your subscription, if needed. Aside from blogging, Netflix and research, this site is the reason I carry my laptop when I travel. There are similar sites available, but this one is my favourite.
**Subscribers are able to gift classes, so the first person to comment below with your favourite kind of yoga, I’ll gift you an online class so you can check it out!**
Neck Pillow – After resisting for a long time, I finally broke down a few years ago because I was going to be flying a fair amount. The flat plane pillows weren’t going to cut it. I got over how silly I felt with it around my neck when I had the best travel sleep on my flight across the Atlantic. I have a blow up one from MEC because I find it more supportive for my neck and it deflates and rolls into its little pouch and that I can toss in my purse. Samsonite also has a good one that you can get here. But there some are nice (and not expensive) memory foam style options available, like this one on Amazon.
Snacks – The Brit teases me that I have a parasite because I have what seems to be a lighting-fast metabolism. I eat well, but I tend to get peck-ish when out and about. So, I always carry snacks with me when I travel. Why? a) No one likes to be hangry, and b) travel hub and in-transit food is expensive. My airport security friendly go-to’s are:
- Almonds or a healthy trail mix
- Kind bars (my favourite is the almond, sea salt, and dark chocolate flavour), Greens Superfood bars, and Sunrype fruit bars
- Veggie sticks and hummus (in a sealed container)
Bog bonus is that these foods don’t have strong smells – no one wants to smell your tuna sandwich, no matter how tasty it is.
Travel Size Toiletries – Of all the essentials, this is the absolute must of the pack. My very first big trip on my own was when I was 15. I was coming home from Montreal on a standby ticket and my luggage got on the flight, but not me… I only had my purse and a book, so my aunt took me shopping for the two days I had to wait before being able to fly home… I vowed to never again be caught short, particularly with blemish-prone skin that needed and still uses moderately expensive products. This was the day I became a fan of travel-sized toiletries. Here are some of my favourites:
- Philosophy Clear Days Ahead Trial Kit – I use a different brand for my at-home face routine, but when I travel, I like the convenience of this 30-day trial kit from Philosophy. I was so happy when Sephora started selling it in Canada again. The full sized products are a bit dear in price but this little four-piece is great value for money. (#GetThrifty!) Available here (US) and here (Canada).
- The Honest Company Discovery Set – Currently sold out on their website but can be found here. I love this little bundle of products. They are travel sized, free of any chemicals, and their healing balm is fabulous for the inevitable dry hands and neck scenario that comes with plane air. The lotion is also sensitive skin-friendly and absorbs quickly on your face. It now comes with a mini bottle of their multi-surface spray instead of their laundry detergent.
- Hand Sanitizer – I always carry this, even at home. I’m a bit of a germophobe… But do you really want to touch your face, partner, or travel food after being on any form of transport that requires holding onto a pole or handle? Exactly. Your local drugstore will have travel size options of their own or other name brands. My current favourite is the lavender scented Dr. Bronner’s Organic Hand Sanitizer(they are the brand that makes castile soap). It smells really lovely and has the bonus of temporarily drowning out the smells that big cities and public transportation can throw at you. I consider this brand one of my little indulgences, but I find these bottles last longer because of their spray nozzles.
Water Bottle – Because I hate carrying around a plastic bottle (they are noisy and I end up with a collection of them…), I use a stainless steel Klean Kanteen 27oz bottle, which is the mid-size of their range. They are sold at MEC, Whole Foods, and here on Amazon. It easily holds 750ml of water with a bit of room. A lot of airports now have filtered water stations or you can just get a bottle from a shop and empty it in Klean Kanteen. Another good, but pricier option is a S’well bottle. Just remember to empty your bottle before you go through security!
Vitamin Holder – I think I’m better at taking my vitamins when I’m away than when I’m home! The number one reason for that is that I have them in a daily pill organizer. You can get them in different sizes and they are very handy. Your local pharmacy or drugstore will have good options for you to choose from. I usually set myself up with a two week’s worth of vitamins. (Multi, omega-3, and cranberry/probiotic combo.
This is mostly accessory based, but clothing wise, I pack dresses galore for the summer and jeans and sweaters for autumn/winter.
Flip-Flops – The most versatile and #GetThrifty footwear you will ever own. Dress them up, dress them down. Beach, city, or home. The barrier between you and a sketchy hotel shower floor. (I told you, I’m a bit of a germophobe…) I have more pairs than I care to admit and they are mostly from Old Navy, who have a variety of colours and usually have them on sale (even though they are already a #GetThrifty bargain!)
FitFlop also has some good options that are a bit more ergonomic (this is good!) but still cute. They also give 15% off your first order, so that’s a bonus!
Hat – I never used to be a hat person, but I’ve become even more skin conscious in the last few years. It’s now SPF and a hat. I’ve become my mother. Ha. May to September, 90% of any picture that has me in it will have me wearing my Tilley Raffia Hat. I take it everywhere. The brim is wide enough, it’s certified UPF 50+, and the dome accommodates my mass of curly hair. They no longer make that specific hat, but a similar Tilley hat can be found here. They are a bit expensive but absolutely worth the money for the quality the fact that they are made in Canada.
If I’m hiking or in a more outdoorsy situation, I always wear a baseball cap or my Outdoor Research Solaris bucket hat (washable, certified UPF 50+, packable, and currently on sale here (Canada) and here (USA), and available here in the UK).
Blanket Scarf – I’m always cold in any mode of transportation, no matter what season. So I always travel with at least one pashmina type wrap/scarf (I have so many, it’s a sickness…) in the spring/summer. It’s all about being long and wide enough to wrap around you in a cozy, stylish fashion. Banana Republic currently has some on sale here. I have an amazing Alice Hannah scarf that I picked up in an Edinburgh shop years ago that I wish I could provide a link for but they only do online sales for wholesale buyers.
With autumn rolling in, I’m adding my Aritzia Haus Party wool blanket scarf back in the packing rotation. I got it on sale last December, but I love it enough that I probably would have paid full price ($85 CAD) for it. I brought it to Scotland with me on this last trip and it was fabulous for on the plane and in the car. Scotland was chilly this spring.
Aside from my Macbook Pro and my iPhone 6s (yes, I’m at least a model behind, but I love my 6s – it takes really nice photos and it’s a perfect size phone), these are my tech related go-to’s:
eReader – I love my Kobo Aura eReader. It has made my carry-on significantly lighter and I like that it has a backlight switch for when the lights dim on the plane. I have some friends who have Amazon Kindles, but it comes down to user preference. I still travel with or buy a book while I’m away – because I really love to actually turn pages! – but having an eReader makes for a plentiful, yet lightweight, bookshelf. (#GetThrifty: Kobo offers $5 off your first ebook and always has great deals (Canada / USA / UK), and you can also borrow and download ebooks from your local libraries.)
Travel Adapter – This is one of those items that I chose to invest some money in. There are cheaper options that have the separate pieces, but I chose the SKROSS Classic USB Travel Adapter because all the plugs are retractable in one piece, and I can plug a USB cord into charge my phone or other electronics. It was $30 CAD at MEC, and the version that has a grounding plug is a bit more expensive.
Fitbit – I’ll start this blurb by saying that most smartphones have a health app that can track your steps. But a Fitbit or similar tech wearable is more accurate for daily step-count. I love knowing how many steps I’ve taken when I’ve been out exploring. I have a Fitbit Alta and I really like the overall Fitbit app. Fitbits don’t tend to be on sale, but if they are, BestBuy is always a good option.
At the end of the day, it’s all about making things easy:
Passport Holder – My passport holder is one of the best gifts my mother has ever given to me. I love it. It’s red leather, has card slots, passport slot, and an insert pocket for boarding passes. But, for the life of me, I cannot find it online. Anywhere. So here is what I would be buying if I wanted to ever replace it. A couple of the colours are sold out (it’s Nordstrom Rack after all!) but there are a lot of colour options.
Umbrella – Always. I’m paranoid. There are some very compact umbrellas out there (check out the options available at Amazon), but my umbrella of choice is the two-fold wood handle option ($30 CAD) from The Umbrella Shop in Vancouver. They last forever and are wind-resistant. The perfect Vancouver, and anywhere else that is rainy (like Scotland), umbrella. And it fits in my purse. Very important.
Clear Folders – These folders have made travelling an organized affair, at least in terms of paperwork. I put all my itineraries, important printouts, etc in one of these to put in my carry-on. I also carry a few extra, so I can sort postcards and brochures and stuff that ends up being collected. You can find them at stationery supply shops (like Staples) or at your local dollar store. I like the ones from Wilson Jones or Pendaflex because they are what I’m used to from years of organizing my executives for travel.
Makeup Bags / Pencil Cases – These are a great way to keep everything organized both with cosmetic and for all the paraphernalia that we choose to carry around for all the stuff we have. The one I use for pens, cords, camera battery charger, etc has durable mesh on the sides so I can see where everything is. These make everything easier to find with it all being in one spot.
Slash-Proof Purse – If you’re going to major cities in Europe or anywhere that pickpockets are a concern, this is my high recommendation to you. They are a bit expensive, but will pay for themselves tenfold. Your peace of mind is worth it. I have my eye on one of their laptop backpacks right now, but my Pacsafe Citysafe CS200 purse has been EVERYWHERE with me the last six years and is only now at the point that I need/want to replace it with a new one. It’s very roomy without being too large; and it fits my aforementioned umbrella in the main compartment and my water bottle in one of the side pockets. I also have a hobo bag from Pacsafe that they no longer sell; but it is currently my favourite carry-on bag. Amazon has a great selection of the Pacsafe collection and their bags are obviously also available at their website.
Suitcase Help – Two things that will make your packing life so much better!
- Compression Bags – These are amazing. One of my friends had a set of these on this past trip, and I was so jealous! I’m buying a set for my next big trip. They are vacuum bags minus the need for the vacuum hose. You seal them up and use your hands or knees to roll and get the air out. Here are compression bag options.
- Packing Cubes – These were an amazing find for me when I was going away a few years ago. They keep everything organized. I used to use Ziploc bags, but these are way better. They are also handy for when you’re just packing for a weekend. Roll and fold with strategy and you’re good to go! Here are some packing cube options.
Bottle Padding – If you’re like me, you like to come home with a couple bottles of whatever local loveliness you spent your holiday sipping. And you want them intact when you get home. I have these great padded, bottle-shaped wine cooler/carrier bags from Mission Hill Winery that came with a prize basket I won a few years ago. They have proved invaluable for bringing liquid gifts abroad and back home. I wrap the bottles in a plastic bag and insert it into the pouch. Wrap that in a sweater (there’s nothing wrong with extra padding) and I’m good to go! Mission Hill doesn’t sell the bags, but Amazon has some sturdy, thick bubble wrap options like this reusable set from Wine Skin. It’s worth the $$ to keep your probably pricey liquid safe for enjoyment at home!
The things I’m saving up for that I know, deep down in my bones, will be amazing!
Luggage – I’ve been sourcing lightweight hard-side luggage and after much googling and review reading, this set from Away is my dream set. (It will be my Christmas present to myself – I’m pretty excited!) They come in pretty colours, and they were pretty much designed like they had sat down with me and asked what I wanted a suitcase to be. AND the carryon options have a USB plug so you can charge your phone. (Right?! Mind blown.)
Camera – I have a cute Canon Powershot Elph camera, and it has gone everywhere with me for ten years. But my iPhone takes better and more convenient pictures. So it’s time to update. I have my eye on an updated version of the Powershot Elph that has a more powerful lens and has wi-fi capabilities.
What are your travel essentials and/or wishlist items?
I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.
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