Update 18 November 2015: In this post I originally wrote about a company called RelayRides. They have since rebranded and are now called Turo. All links below have been updated.
I woke up this morning and there was snow on the ground. Not much. Nothing compared to what my family in the US is dealing with. But it was there. And for me, that was it. I’m done with winter. I’m officially dreaming of warm weather and spring vacations to sunny climates. However, my next big trip isn’t a tropical escape, but I am really excited about it. In March I’m heading to Washington, DC (for the first time since moving to London) for my best friend Mala’s wedding! I absolutely can’t wait. I’ve been planning who I’m going to see and where I’m going to eat.
Then, I heard about the RelayRides travel-must haves challenge, and I thought, “yeah, maybe I should think about what to pack.” Because what you bring can help ease travel stress and help start the vacation off right. So I decided to participate in the challenge and make my own travel essential list.
If you haven’t heard of RelayRides, they are a pretty cool company that I’m excited to check out further when I’m in DC. RelayRides is a peer-to-peer car rental company. So basically, you can rent cars directly from the car owner. No more being confused about fees and rules and gas (like I was when we rented a car over Christmas). This system seems so much easier. And as an owner, you can list your car, approve who uses it, and choose where and when you rent it. There’s even airport rentals! It seems pretty cool and more accessible than regular car rental. Also, if you’re a city person who doesn’t use you car everyday (like I totally used to be), it seems like a genius idea to make a little money with a car that would otherwise just be sitting there.
But let’s get back to the list. The actual traveling part of traveling can be a challenge. I hope this list will help you get comfortable, combat travel funk, and help you stay relaxed. I haven’t included the obvious things like travel documents, your computer, your phone, or your phone charger. Those are beyond essential, they are common sense. Overall, I think this list can work for short weekend trips or long overseas adventures. Hope it helps and inspires you to take a trip soon too! Now without any further ado here’s my list in two parts. Part one is the basics, part two is what you pack in your carry on.
1. A Backpack with lots of pockets – I don’t like having everything dumped into one black pit of a bag. Lots of little pockets helps keeps me organized, which means I can find what I want and keep my travel stress to a minimum. Ryan and I have this North Face backpack, which works wells. It’s unisex design means on day trips we can share carrying it with no embarrassment. It’s also perfect for an airplane carry on.
2. Fuzzy socks – It’s awful to be stuck on a long ride and be cold. I always bring socks so I can feel cozy, which helps me sleep better if I’m on a long bus or plane ride. I pack socks in my bag even in the summer because you never know how high the AC will be.
3. Toothbrush and Toothpaste – This is so important when you’re taking long flights, trains, or bus rides. There is something about long bursts of travel that makes your mouth taste awful. Bring this little kit and you have everything you need to feel a little fresher. The small plastic pouch is also great because you can stick in a lip balm, some bobby pins, or a few other tiny things you may need. If you’re only doing a day trip, then substitute the toothbrush and paste for mints. You never regret having nice breath.
4. Comfortable underwear – You might think this is a ridiculous one, but I stand by it. There are so many ways that traveling can be uncomfortable. You don’t want your underwear falling down while lifting a heavy bag. And you don’t want it creeping up while you’re stuck in a tiny airplane seat. Wear comfy undies! I like Under Armour underwear the best for travel. They are soft, breathable, and stay in place.
5. Light layers – This particular jacket is on my wishlist, it’s the LL Bean Discovery Rain Jacket, which folds down into a tiny bag. Again, it can be cold or hot while in transit – and then when you get where you’re going you want to be ready for anything. A light jacket is perfect. I’m lusting after the LL Bean one largely because it’s waterproof and a space saver.
6. Headphones – This should be intuitive and go along with my phone and computer, but somehow I always forget headphones. For me they are a must so I can list to my podcasts, movies, and music while I’m waiting to board or riding the bus. I used to be against the kind that sticks in your ears like this, but now I like how they block out noise. My favorites are Skullcandy Headphones.
7. Lip balm – This is a hugely girl thing to say but here it is: I get complainy when I have dry lips so lip balm is a must. My favorite right now is eos Blueberry Acai lip balm. It doesn’t really fit in a pocket, which means it has to live in the backpack, and that means I don’t forget it. Also in a real pinch, you can use a bit of lip balm to tame some frizz. It’s weird but true.
8. Baby wipes – This is the thing I never remember and always want. Perfect for removing travel stink after a long flight, and also good for cleaning your hands after you have a picnic of greasy street food.
9. Snacks – You never know when hungry is going to turn into hangry (hungry+angry). Always keep snacks! I like to keep something for both me and Ryan. I like something with a little protein, like the KIND Cranberry Almond Bars to keep us full. I also like something sweet, like Sour Patch Kids, to keep us happy.
10. Water Bottle – Cheaper and more earth friendly than buying water when you’re out in the world. This Vapur 0.5 Litres Anti-Bottle doesn’t hold a ton, but it folds down so it’s easy to carry and not heavy at all.
11. Inflatable Neck Pillow – I used to be anti-neck pillow, but now I love them. Keeps you from getting a cramp in your neck on a long flight. And, if you have the middle seat it keeps your head up so you don’t slump onto strangers. Inflatable is great too because it flattens down so it’s not in the way when you don’t need it.
12. Camera – I have a Nikon COOLPIX, it’s a fancy-ish point and shoot camera and I love it. For so long I was just using my camera phone thinking everything was ok, but it wasn’t. A real camera gives you better clarity, more zoom, and overall nicer photos. Yeah, the camera takes up a ton of space, but it’s worth it for capturing your memories.
Ok, that’s my must have of things. But, here’s a bonus, three tips for things to do before your trip so you can stay relaxed after.
- Take out the trash.
- Clean out the fridge.
- Tidy up a bit. (As in empty the dishwasher, put away the laundry or scrub the toilet… whatever needs doing)
Do these three things and you won’t come home to smells, things growing, or chores. You will be so happy that past you was such a smartie! When you return home you’ll get to sit on the couch and simply bask in the glow of your holiday.