Every single one of us has some bad packing habits. Yes, me too. That’s the reason why I have created some packing printables that I use and keep asking others what’s the best way to pack for travel (there’s always a better way or a different way I can learn from).
So, I’ve ended up with a very interesting list of things that most travelers never thought of and are now on top of my list for every trip. Yes, some of them make me look like an “old lady” but, who cares about that when I feel fresh and ready for exploring a new destination after 10 hours flying
These are these 15 things that you should always carry with you (you can thank me later…)
1.- Compression tights
Do you get really tired after seating for hours on a plane or sleeping on a train? Walking through cities and mountains gets you tired and swollen? It might sound like a TV shop ad, but these are some of the most common health issues frequent travelers face.
Wearing compression tights helps blood move around and reduces the risks of heart diseases when you are flying or standing for a long time (and it reduces the risk of varicose veins). With only one setback: it is a bit difficult to put them on (once on, you won’t notice the difference with any other socks).
If you have ever had a heart issue or gone through surgery, you might already have some at home (the ugly ones, white or “flesh-colored”). At many EU countries, doctors can prescribe these for free too (Spain, for example allows 1 pair free if you meet certain health conditions). But most of us have to buy them at Orthopedic shops, pharmacies or Amazon, which also provides with a wider range of colors and textures.
For the fashionista type, you can find some of them very nice looking and in different colors, like these from Mediven (but you can go to your closest shop to see the finishing touch). Also there are some sport ones that look (and work) great.
2.- Arnica cream
You arrive to Iceland with a sore neck from trying not to fall asleep over the person seating next to you on the plane, hit your “funny bone” trying to avoid a kid running and you forgot to wear your compression tights… Sounds familiar?
You could take an aspirin or buy some sports gel, OR you can learn something from the people who lives in the high mountain ranges of the world and use a more natural solution: Arnica or Edelweiss. Arnica is an orange-colored flower that grows in the mountains and has proven qualities as an anti-inflammatory (see Journal of Athletic Training and Springer for example.)
There are many creams and gels that use arnica in the market. I use the ones from TaüllOrgànics for two main reasons: they have a very interesting project bringing back traditional remedies from the high mountains of Pyrenees with a scientific approach, and they produce the creams and gels with their own plants (from their own ecological certified fields). You can find them at pharmacies across Spain and Andorra, but Amazon Spain delivers them across all the EU.
3.- Cable ties
Nope, I am not McGyver trying to escape some room with bubblegum (if you never heard of McGyver, search on Youtube, it’s something from the 80s-90s) but cable ties are amazing and only cost about 2€ (a bunch of them).
It might not be very sustainable to depend on a piece of non-reusable plastic, but you will only used them in limited occasions and they can help you sort out plenty of situations:
- they send your cabin luggage down at a Ryanair or Iberia flight? you can lock it with a cable tie
- you break your key ring? use a cable tie
- end up sleeping at a hostel that doesn’t give you a free locker with your bed? use a cable tie
They don’t look fancy, I admit, but you only need scissors to open and lockers are as easy to open if you know how to (being honest) and nobody thinks you have beautiful things to steal if you use a cheap tie.
4.- Sun-screen scarf
You can find plenty of these in Asia, but we are more into sunscreen creams, which is a great option in many cases. The scarf will provide with extra protection when the sun is really hard and when you are standing for a long time. Also, you can use it when it’s cold or windy…
All sorts of pricing at Amazon.
5.- Earplugs (reusable and hypoallergenic)
Cheap earplugs are good for a while, but you shouldn’t reuse them. If you are planning to travel more than once a year or sharing your room with others, you better find something “better”.
Top flyers have them custom-made for them at hearing centres and medical equipment shops, but you can buy silicon ones at your nearest pharmacy too.
6.- A hanging strip
You run from one place to another with a bag and a backpack and a jacket and something from the duty-free or something you bought for your nephews… too many things to carry around. But a short piece of fabric might just do the trick. You can buy something like this one at almost any luggage shop.
They are hard to find in Spain, but it might become the most useful thing you’ll ever buy for a flight transfer (and for moving around.)
7.- A pilgrim cape
I always forget my umbrellas. First at home, while packing (I’m the optimistic type), then when I travel around (we even got one delivered from Venice to Firenze because we left it at the hotel room and it was a very pretty&expensive one) and then at the airport (if they make it to the plane it’s just a miracle).
Carrying an umbrella around is not my thing, so a few years ago I started carrying ponchos that can be folded down to a small pouch. But not the cheap ones that get you wet after 10 minutes, one of those that pilgrims use for the Camino. Lighter than an umbrella, easier to carry around, faster to dry and nicer when carrying a backpack on you back.
They can be found at mountaineering and sports’ shops.
8.- A refillable water bottle with a filter
Well, you cannot bring a water bottle with you on your hand luggage. But you can bring an empty bottle and refill it with liquids at the airport. So, why not go even more eco and buy one that is made with sustainable materials, is refillable and that removes chlorine and impurities from tap water?
On the one side, you’ll save from buying water and other drinks. And on the other, you’ll cut the chemicals and minerals you are drinking if you are using one with an activated carbon filter. It won’t make non-potable water potable, but it will pay itself in just a few days of travel (a bottle of water at Madrid Airport costs 1.5€, almost 2 pounds at Stansted Airport, a good quality bottle can be found for about 12€ and each filter can be used for about 150 litres of water).
9.- A piece of soap and solid shampoo
Yes, I love the small bottles of soap and the tiny slippery soap, but they are the worst thing for your hair (hair dye just evaporates when you use them for more than two days), they often smell so generic that it doesn’ fit your own perfume and ¿why use the same soap for hair and body?
Yes, you sometimes find really good ammenities, but also many small hotels and hostels don’t have them so… Option A) you can create your own ammenities with your favorite brands and refillable bottles; or Option B) you can buy your own solid shampoo and soap, which won’t count as liquid and will barely take space from your bag.
You can buy them at Lush, but also at drug stores, hair stylists and even at some pharmacies.
10.- Deep hydration
Planes are sterile and dry, so your skin gets dry by flying, that’s a fact. You might not feel it on a 45 minute flight, but every single actress and model recommends a good hydration cream for your flight, and they are among the ones who take skin more seriously.
In Asia it is quite easy to see women using face masks on long flights, but you don’t need to buy a Korean mask that makes you look like a Halloween pumpkin, you can also bring your favorite cream (or buy it at the duty-free cheaper, which won’t count as liquids either.)
My favorite is YU-BE, a vaseline type of japanese cream that mountaineers use for extreme hydration, which also comes in a small tube and you can use in hands and face.
11.- A good extra battery
When flying to USA, if your phone or camera runs out of battery before going through migration and security clearance, they can take your equipment from you. But this is not the only reason why you need extra batteries: First, cold makes batteries run faster, looking for wifi does the same and taking pictures and video won’t help you save battery either. Plus, USB chargers on planes and trains don’t always work.
You will need the batteries to call home, check directions and connect through social media, so make sure you buy a good battery. A promotional one might not charge your phone fully and you’ll make your colleagues happy if they can charge their phone with your charger.
12.- Sanitizing Gel
Using it too much can be damaging your skin and the way your skin naturally deals with bacteria. But carrying a small one (like the ones they sold for the flu a few years ago) can be handy: eating street food, picking things from the floor…
It’s cheap and it won’t take much space from your liquids bag. Easy to find at drug stores and supermarkets (some even have hydration and nice smells.)
13.- A good sleep mask
Yes, some airlines give you free sleep masks, but run away from them as fast as you can: they are one size only, the string is too tight (or hard) and you’ll end up with wrinkles and skin irritation in many cases. So, since your goal is a good sleep, buy a good sleep mask (or create your own if you are a nice crafter).
You can buy them online, Etsy has plenty of them, but I would recommend to try them on before buying, as materials can range from memory foam to cold-hot effect, and even ones with music and earphones.
Just to take into account: if they have liquids inside (or gel), they count as hand luggage liquids.
14.- A folding bag or backpack
You sure have something like this at home, but I’m almost sure you don’t take them with you on your travels. There are uncountable times when you might need them: dirty clothes, small shopping, carrying your jacket around (or your water bottle).
If you don’t have any, you can find some at Decathlon and IKEA.
15.- A fast drying towel
A towel is not the first thing that comes to mind when you are thinking on what to pack for travel. But, many hostels charge you for the towel, you might want to go to the beach or to a swimming pool, or you may need to dry something or wash your clothes… So a towel that dries in about 20 minutes can be very handy.
They have some very fast drying ones at Decathlon (a bit heavy for me) but you will find them at many sports shops in smaller sizes.