After traveling all over the world and experiencing numerous cultures, climates, and activities, it’s safe to say that I’ve found what works well for me. Still, I’ve always been one to experiment and along the way, I’ve realized what a headache it can be to travel without the right travel gear.
You can skip all the inferior products and go straight to the good stuff with all my recommendations for the best travel gear (and a few side notes on what is not worth the money). Check out my favorite travel gear and share your favorites in the comments so I can add it to my experimentation list!
The Girl and Globe Travel Gear Recommendations
Travel Bags and Packing
The Best Carry On Luggage: eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Junior
One of the biggest debates in the travel industry is deciding between a rolling suitcase or backpack. I’ve used both, but lately I’ve depended more and more on my backpack. Backpacks keep you agile when crossing the street in hectic countries, won’t get covered in mud when you show up at an eco lodge, and force you to pack light since you have to carry everything! I’ve squished this backpack on chicken buses, under the seat in front of me on flights where overhead storage was full, and still managed to fit in everything I needed for a 7-week trip. It unzips flat (like a suitcase) and has tons of pockets to find things quickly. For under $100, you can’t beat this backpack.
Side note: I also have a larger Osprey Ariel backpack, which is perfect for backcountry camping but terrible for travel. Since it’s too big to be a carry on backpack, I worried constantly about damaging the internal frame when checking it with airlines. The top-loading design means you have to dig everything out in order to get to the bottom. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to discover one bag that suits all needs.
Staying Organized: eBags Packing Cubes
I’m slightly obsessed with staying organized, and think it’s essential for not losing things on the road. I’ve got packing cubes in a whole bunch of sizes. At the very least, I’d recommend picking up some slim packing cubes to hold your underwear so the TSA isn’t rummaging through your unmentionables while searching your bag. Read my full review of packing cubes here.
Daypack of Choice: ChicoBag TravelPack15 RePETe
I absolutely love my ChicoBag because it packs flat in my luggage, taking up almost no room whatsoever. It’s got a built-in pocket to fit a 2 liter camelbak bladder if you’re hiking or two side water bottle pockets if you’re just out exploring the city. It also has a small zipped section in the front perfect for things you want to grab quickly, like lip balm or sunscreen.
Travel Gadgets and Electronics
#1 Lifesaver: External Battery Pack
If you use your cell phone as much as I do, a portable charger is worth its weight in gold. My phone is my all-in-one GPS, connection to email and social media, mp3 player, and often camera. About the size of a tube of lipstick, basic portable chargers will basically carry 1-2 extra charges. Serious users should choose something with multiple charges, like the Aukey device I carry, which has enough juice to recharge my phone and Kindle and iPad…twice.
#2 Lifesaver: Belkin Power Strip
Even if you carry an external battery pack, you’ll probably want more standard power at other times. The Belkin power strip is the best of its kind because it’s compact, surge protected, and has 3 electrical outlets + 2 USB outlets to charge everything at once. It’s perfect for hotel rooms, airports (share an outlet and make new friends), and coffee shops.
HINT: Pair your power strip with a travel adaptor so you can plug in easily in more than 150 countries.
Laptop of Choice: Macbook Pro
I debated for a long time on which laptop to pick when I upgraded a few months ago. I personally hate the fingerprints that accompany touchscreens, so forgive me for staying traditional with this choice. The 13″ Macbook Pro with Retina Display is perfect for travelers, since it’s fast, lightweight, and the battery lasts up to 9 hours (6 is more standard based on how I use it). Compared to the Macbook Air, the Pro gives you more storage space and a faster processor.
Best Online Security: Tunnel Bear VPN
If you tend to use public wi-fi, like that at hotels and coffeeshops, protect your information securely by signing into a VPN and then browsing the internet. There are tons of VPNs to choose from, but TunnelBear is fast, easy, and free! Learn more about what a VPN is and why you need one.
Best Entertainment: Kindle Paperwhite
My Kindle love is no secret. I’ve professed my love several times before and don’t think of traveling without it. Even if you don’t want to give up the feel of real books completely, you should get one for travel. This lightweight device will hold hundreds of books, so there’s no reason to take up space and weight in your suitcase with guidebooks, beach reads, and in-flight entertainment. I’d recommend the Kindle Paperwhite but for occasional users, the $79 Kindle (often on sale) will be fine.
Happy Feet Are Essential: Smartwool Socks Are Best
Whether you’re walking for miles on cobblestone streets in Europe or hiking through America’s national parks, blisters and sore feet can ruin your vacation. You want good walking shoes, which I won’t even try to recommend here since everyone’s feet are different. However, good socks that protect against friction and moisture are essential. Smartwool socks are expensive but worth every penny. I own several styles, but my favorite for everyday wear are an ultra light low-cut sock.
Pickpocket Proof Underwear: Clever Travel Companion
I think money belts are terribly uncomfortable, but I still want my passport to be protected at all times. My solution is to literally store my passport in anti-theft underwear (along with emergency cash and a backup credit card). From crowded chicken buses in Central America to hectic streets in Asia, this strategy has worked like a charm. Not convinced? Check out my full review of underwear with pockets.
Another Secret Stash: A Different Type of Money Belt
Although I love my pocketed panties, it’s not always practical to be reaching into your pants to get something out. This Eagle Creek Money Belt keeps things easily (and appropriately) accessible by providing a zippered compartment on the inside of an actual belt. If you fold your dollar bills up small, you can line the belt with spare cash for maximum security. Note: it won’t fit credit cards or passports.
Attention Stopper: 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. I started wearing a decoy ring about a year and a half ago, and while it’s not a scientific study, it seems to set the tone from the start if I’m chatting with fellow male travelers, thus making me more comfortable. For $10, it’s worth it’s weight in (fake) gold.
For Adventurers: Merrell Water Shoes
I do enough sporting activities that the right footwear pays for itself. Water shoes have become an essential for whitewater rafting, canyoning, some snorkeling (rocky entries), surfing (watch for stingrays!), and even some hikes. Merrell makes a durable water shoe that’s comfortable to wear, has a sole with good tread, and drains water quickly.
“Old-Fashioned Timekeeping”: Timex Ironman Watch
No one seems to wear watches anymore, instead relying on their smartphones. Well, what happens when your battery runs out or when you have your hands full and don’t want to fumble through your bag to find it? Watches are still really handy (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun) and this one has dual time zones, an alarm, backlight, and water resistance.
For the Basics: GoToobs
I’m pretty low-maintenance while I travel and rely on hotel-provided toiletries as much as possible. However, some items aren’t consistently carried (I’m looking at you, conditioner!) and others definitely require planning ahead (sunscreen, for starters). GoToobs let me bring TSA-friendly amounts at budget-friendly prices since I can refill as necessary…and they’ve never, ever leaked in my luggage.
Drying Off in a Pinch: DryLite Towel
Towels are big and bulky, so I can never fit a true towel in my luggage despite how useful they are. Planning a trip to the beach? Rafting, water parks, or even a night at a hostel? Sea to Summit DryLite Towels 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.
Feel Human Again: Wisps
After a long flight, brushing your teeth can be the first step to refreshing your entire body. Colgate Wisps are small, disposable, individually wrapped, and work without water so they are perfect to pack in your carry-on luggage for long flights or to keep in your pocket to use after a restaurant meal.
Look Your Best: Downy Wrinkle Releaser
Believe the hype, folks…Downy Wrinkle Releaser actually works at smoothing out the creases in your clothing without ironing (and it smells good, too!). If you’re like me and your clothes end up folded or crushed in your bag, this stuff works wonders and making you more presentable in mere moments.
Life Happens: Tide To Go Stain Remover
I spill all the time, usually because I’m trying to do too many things at once. You’ll find spaghetti sauce on my shirts and coffee drips on my pants. 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!
When You’re on the Go: Contigo Autoseal Travel Mugs
You can avoid a lot of the stains I’ve mentioned simply by using a Contigo travel mug instead of relying on disposable options with ill-fitting lids. I go pretty much everywhere with a hot beverage and these travel mugs keep my coffee and tea hot at least two hours (warm for about four) and they are so effective at preventive spills that I can literally toss it upside down in my purse without worrying.
Always Stay Hydrated: Reusable Water Bottle
Staying hydrated while you’re traveling is one of the best ways to stay healthy, fight jetlag, and have the energy to enjoy long, busy days. Pack a BPA-free empty water bottle to fill up at the airport post-security and use it the rest of your trip whether you’re touring cities or trying strenuous activities!
When Tap Water Isn’t Safe Enough: SteriPEN
Before my trip to Morocco, I got the greatest gift ever: a SteriPEN, which is a tool that uses ultraviolet light to sterilize water. Ever since, I’ve relied on it to provide safe drinking water in Morocco, Central America, Asia, and even on camping trips. It’s worked every time…and is more convenient and better for the environment than always buying bottled water.
Not Just For Camping: Tikka Headlamp
Traveling with a flashlight is a smart move; you never know when the power will go out (especially in developing countries!) and it’s nice to have to root through your bags in the middle of the night if you need something and don’t want to wake up your companion(s). Headlamps are even better since they can be a handy accessory for adventures like caving or night hikes.
The Heaviest Thing I Pack: Nikon Binoculars
I am a wildlife junkie, so binoculars are a must-have for me whenever I’ve got wildlife spottings on the agenda. I have a pair of Nikons that balance great performance at a reasonable cost; they are perfect for whale watches, national parks, and more — and I can’t even tell the difference between these and my husband’s $400 version.
My Secret Weapon: Yoga Socks
When you feel good, you travel happy. Everyone will have their own version of how to feel good, but for me, quiet time makes a big difference. Travel can be stressful since so many circumstances are out of your control. I like to throw on my non-skid yoga socks, do a few sun salutations, and spend some time reflecting. If yoga’s not for you, try journaling, going for a run, or adding some essential oils to a warm bath.
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This post contains affiliate links, which provide support to The Girl and Globe if you choose to purchase anything. I genuinely own, use, and recommend all these products. Thanks for your support!
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What are your favorite picks for travel gear? Do you have a backpack recommendation for me? I’ve been looking for a good one for ages!