Whether I’m traveling for 2 weeks or 2 months – what you see is what you get!
Protect yourself from opportunistic crime by carrying a slashproof bag. I love the Travelon line because they are also tamperproof (little zipper clasp prevent anyone from sneakily sliding a hand inside) and lockable, making them the perfect choice for any journey or crowded space. I have the Anti-Theft Classic Light Slim Waist Pack, which I’ve converted into a cross-body bag! It’s just big enough for my mirrorless camera. I’ve recently converted to a slightly bigger bag though, this cross-body bucket bag, which is the perfect size for wandering around town and as my “personal item” purse on flights.
I was originally introduced to these amazing bags from a friend in Bangkok. It compresses your clothes down to a tight, compact package. I get even more space by rolling my clothes before putting them into the bag, and also use the space saving bag to keep my clean clothes separate from dirty clothes. All you have to do is press down on the bag to push out unneeded air! One other bonus, the bag protects the clothes inside from any potential spills (sunscreen, I’m looking at you!)
This handy device is perfect if you’re traveling alone and worried about someone illicitly entering your room at night – not every room will have a slide lock or deadbolt. Whenever I travel alone, I worry about this, sometimes even jumping up in the middle of the night due to a creepy sensation that someone is in my room. I use the model pictured, and I bought it for just $10. My husband is a security expert by profession, and he recommends this for any solo traveler.
Water bottle (reusable)
I don’t know the solution to fixing our planet’s problems, but I know what isn’t helping: more plastic throwaway bottles. It’s easier, cheaper, and better for the environment to just carry a water bottle. Even better if it purifies at the same time like this one!
If you pick a water bottle that doesn’t have a purifier, no worries! This is my favorite purifier (I got it as a wedding gift), and it can charge via USB.
Essential for the beach and any watersports! You can also put any water-damageable items inside, and then inside your backpack, in case of rain. I like this version below from EarthPak (in multiple colors), because it also comes with a waterproof phone case.
Of course, my husband bought this next-gen travel pillow for me (I would never spend $40 on a travel pillow, I lose the damn things every other trip). I have to admit: it is SO worth it.
Update: I left my pillow at a Houston lounge. I love this thing SO MUCH I actually bought another. Yeah, $40 well-freaking-spent. This is the best travel pillow on the market, and I can’t go back.
Whether you’re locking up your cash and camera in your room (I don’t always trust the provided safe, and sometimes one isn’t even provided), or removing the combo lock to use on your backpack zippers to prevent pickpocketing, this handy device will be SO useful and provide priceless peace of mind. I use the pictured version of the Travelsafe, which is big enough for my camera and money and passport (and could also fit a small ipad). You’ll want a bigger one (like this) or an entire backpack/bag protector (like this) if you plan to put your laptop inside.
I usually travel with cash, as I find I get the best exchange rate (as compared to using a debit card’s bank rate and all those withdrawal fees), and truly the most bang for my buck. Because of this, I need a safe place to stash my cash while I’m in between destinations. If I’m traveling with a LOT of cash, I’ll wear two money belt with one on my waist and one doubled over on my upper thigh OR my new favorite option: the bra money clip.
With the bra clip (pictured to the right), you simply put the money inside the clip, and attach it to the “bridge” spot on your bra in the center of your chest.
I like to travel with as few clothes as possible because, well, lighter bag and more room! Carrying a backpack really makes you think twice about what you pack. At the same time, I don’t like doing laundry abroad because it costs money (duh) and in my experience, it’s not always great results. You can’t specify “cold water, with like colors, tumble dry” to the grandmother who might even be doing your loads by hand. I have found my laundry saver in the Scrubba, a super efficient, green, amazing alternative to laundry on the road.
In the past, I was always traveling with a backpack versus a roller suitcase (and unless hell is freezing over, I’m traveling carry-on only). I LOVE my Kelty backpack which is similar to this one, though they come in an assortment of sizes, colors, and shapes. The 40L is carry-on-able with every airline I’ve ever traveled with (including low-cost).
Now, I’ve opted for a smaller-than-necessary roller carry-on. I got my Ricardo 22″ spinner from Costco, after borrowing my husband’s and loving it.
This camera is my BFF. It is shockproof, waterproof (up to 15 meters), small, and super light. It’s a mirrorless, which means that quality isn’t being compromised and you can also upgrade to any Nikkor lens.
I am absolutely obsessed with this thing! My husband got it for me for my 27th birthday, and I am still so in love with it. Perfect for selfies (ugh, I know, but they’re a must when traveling alone, I want to preserve my adventures for posterity so my future kids believe me when I say I used to do cool shit) water shots, and adventure photography. I love the wide angle lens, and I take a TON of photos so I have extras to choose from later. I always make sure to carry an extra battery and an extra memory card.
I recently bought some red filters for my GoPro (in anticipation of my Galapagos trip, yay!), to improve my underwater photography. There are a wide range of prices, and I went with the midrange option.
If you’re solo traveling and you still want an awesome selfie (without that awkward bit of arm a-la-GoPro in the photo), you’ll need a tripod. I love the Joby GorillaPod line, but I have other friends who swear by Manfretto. Both brands are lightweight and easily packable, even for carry-on only travelers like myself.
Kindle and USB charger
The scoop: For the cost of less than 4 printed travel books, I purchased a Kindle Paperwhite and a month of Kindle Unlimited – where most Lonely Planet books are free. My favorite feature is highlight, you can go back through and read all the excerpted sections that you had highlighted, without rereading the whole book or needing to flip through pages. Super easy and convenient for travel planning!
Somehow even cheaper than the Kindle Paperwhite, I recently bought the Kindle Fire, a color tablet-style ereader, to use with the textbooks I need for my master’s program. Another bonus of the Kindle Fire is that it works just like an iPad (you can download videos, surf the web, etc), but for a fraction of the price.
Especially if ear plugs aren’t your thing (I actually don’t really enjoy them, and use them only in crazy noisy circumstances), try using soothing music to squelch the exterior noises instead. I’ve heard these Bose noise-canceling headphones are the bomb, but I haven’t been able to justify the expense yet (they’re like the cost of a domestic flight ticket!!). These bluetooth ones are especially good for sleeping with – no wires yanking out of your phone.
iPhone and USB charger
Asia especially is super iPhone friendly and most medium cities will have guys who can fix the broken screen or sell you a charger for cheap (or even buy a used and unlocked phone for under 200USD!) Aside from cruising the internet, I also use my iPhone to listen to audiobooks, which have REVOLUTIONIZED walks and plane rides for me.
For a limited time, readers of JoyAndJourney can try Audible (the largest purveyor of audiobooks) for FREE, by downloading any 2 audiobooks at no charge using the link below.
If you work while traveling (like me!) you need to stay connected. It’s a downside of being a remote worker, but it’s one I’m willing to deal with. Having a little portable power bank has saved my butt on so many occassions when the bus took longer than expected and I need to check in with a client or the hotel had a power outage! You can go super cheap (around $10) all the way up to the sky’s the limit.
I’m a BIG fan of this natural, organic version, as I’m trying to reduce or eliminate the amount of potentially harmful chemicals I put on my skin – the largest organ in my body. Sunscreen is necessary (especially if you’re pale), because even when the weather is cool, the sun can get intense. I get a sunburn if I’m walking around unprotected, even for an hour or two.
I ONLY travel with carry-on luggage as a serious rule. It saves money, it saves a ton of time (no waiting at the baggage carousel, so you can hightail it to immigration and beat the pack by a long shot), and it keeps me from overpacking. If I travel with any liquid toiletries, though, I always make sure to put them in a carry-on sized tube. These ones are leak proof and cute.
At home, I always use I Love Juicy by Lush (I used to swear by Daddy-O but my husband is convinced it smells like dog shampoo). Conveniently, the 100ml bottles are TSA travel approved, so I also bring them for trips. If I’m packing super light or super tight (and I’m worried about a spill), I’ll throw in a solid shampoo bar instead. I also like Lush for this, especially the Godiva bar. If you haven’t tried solid shampoo, you need to. Life changing.
I’ve switched back and forth between Veganese and American Cream. When I travel, I usually bring a solid conditioner bar (I like the Big Solid Conditioner from Lush), because I used to go through so much conditioner (before I chopped my hair for Locks of Love), and it tends to leak more than shampoo. Don’t know why.
I could never justify the expense of shaving cream. You’ll know I’ve hit it big and am straight up balling out when you find a can of shaving cream in my shower (it’ll never happen). I’m a regular ol’ bar soap kinda girl, especially when I’m traveling, but I go Lush all the way.
After living over a year without air conditioning (thank you, Weather Gods, for blessing central Mexico with ridiculously amazing weather, all year long), any time I am in AC, I find my lips getting really dried out and flaky. I always choose Lush balms, and carry around a few with me.
My hands and cuticles crack in air conditioning, and my face dries up and even peels, if I don’t regularly apply a good quality moisturizer (I choose Lush Celestial for the face, and Lush Charity – which supports awesome causes – for the body).
A godsend for feeling fresh after an overnight flight/bus/boat/train. Wet wipes are awesome for getting the accumulated sweat off while walking out and about. Can also be used for toilet paper in a pinch!
UPDATE: I’m phasing out my use of wet wipes (so much unneccessary waste, from the packaging to the wipes themselves) and instead using reusable Bambooee “paper” towels soaked in water and a few drops of lemongrass essential oil.
This can be hard to find abroad, especially in Asia where most contain whiteners. Full disclosure: I haven’t made the full leap to totally chemical-free deodorant yet.
UPDATE: I’m still working on making the switch to all-natural deodorant. The best I’ve found thus far is Kiss My Face. Any advice?
The smaller the better, especially considering I only brush my hair every few days (and wash it once a week. at best. I’m lazy AF).
Toothpaste and toothbrush
Dr. Bronners does double duty as soap too! This is necessary if you bring few clothes and pack light (like me). Decant a large container of laundry detergent into travel size containers for easier use and lighter traveling.
My husband got me a fast-drying travel towel for a gift, and I absolutely love it. If you can’t find (or don’t want) a travel towel for any reason, I’d recommend a Turkish Towel. Turkish towels are also quick drying, but a bit more stylish than a travel towel, and can be re-purposed as a scarf or a beach blanket. I received a few monogrammed Turkish Towels as wedding presents and adore them.
I don’t have much of an opinion on this, but I tend to bring a cheapie disposable. That’s all. Oh, and you’d be surprised how many people are touching your legs during adventure activities.
I used to think that people who wore eye masks on planes were spoiled princesses. I was SO wrong. Popping on an eye mask does SO MANY THING: blocks out light to make it easier to relax, signals to your seat mate to shut the F up, tells the flight attendant you don’t want that disgusting penne with chicken. I swear, I sleep a lot better on planes with this. Plus you can roll it up super small (practically the size of a chapstick) and just keep it in your carryon.
As I’ve complained about more times than you probably want to remember on this blog, I’m a super light sleeper and I have problems with noise (basically: a total disaster and the opposite of how you want to be while traveling). I was really resistant to the idea of ear plugs, trying a few and not loving them until I finally caved and bought a big ol’ jar of Mack’s. These are the BEST.
Travel-sized notebook and pen
Essential for taking travel notes, writing the directions to your hotel (in the local language), and jotting down restaurant recommendations from other travelers. The Rite in the Rain all-weather notepads in the photo are even water-proof (but still recyclable) and surprisingly affordable… so whether you’re taking notes in the rainforest, or you get caught in an unpredicted thunderstorm, your writing is safe and sound.
While I don’t know my exact risk of identity theft or card info stealing (all my cards have chips now?), I would rather be safe than sorry. The vegan leather case pictured comes in a variety of colors and prints. Even more than getting my info stolen, I think a passport holder is crucial for keeping your passport from getting all effed up. Nearly 10 years in (the first 4 of which I didn’t travel, at all) and I wish I would have used a passport protector from the beginning, because mine is beat to hell.
2 color passport copies
One should be kept on you at all times, and the other should be hidden somewhere in your backpack or luggage, just in case you lose your passport (or your luggage!)
Credit cards and money
I always bring a stash of emergency cash, and at least one spare credit card. This is useful not only if you get your money stolen or lost, but also in case your main credit card isn’t working or isn’t accepted.
Spanish-English Dictionary (or whatever the language is of the location I’m traveling to)
Unless you’re entirely fluent in Spanish, you’ll want a dictionary (preferably a Mexico-specific version if you’re in my adopted home country, to include local slang). Most service workers (bus station attendants, Uber drivers, grocery store checkout clerks) do NOT speak any English. Brushing up on your Spanish will improve your experience.
This is also great to buy at your first destination as a memorable and useful souvenir. You can use it loosely over your shoulders when it is SO effing hot out but modesty is required. It is also great to dress up a black tank top or simple dress, adding a bit of elegance by draping around your neck. I use mine a lot for plane/bus/train rides, to cover my eyes or as a light blanket, or over my knees if I’m wearing a skirt/dress. (while this is a really light item, if you’re tight on space, skip it and just take a canga)
When traveling, less is more with jewelry for me, and lighter is better. I don’t even wear my engagement ring while traveling as I worry about it getting stolen. If I’m going on a super adventure-focused, wildernessy trip, I might skip all the jewelry entirely (except for MAYBE a pair of stud earrings)
Easy to dress up and pack nicely. I’ll always be partial to NUDE flats (buy in a color similar to your skin tone). They’re a game changer, just try ’em. If I’m not going the nude flats route, I’ll either be wearing a pair of simple TOM’s or Mexican huaraches. Because I now wear custom insoles for my problematic arches (who knew turning 30 would spell such a disaster for pretty much every inch of my bod?)
I love my Vibrams!!!! (is that enough explanation points?) They are so light and fit in even the tightest pack, dry ridiculously quickly, are slip-proof, and mean you don’t have to wear (or pack) socks! Plus, they come in super fun colors. I’m partial to teal and bright blue, of course. If you want to learn more, check out my post all about my love for my Vibram five fingers here, or shoot me an email for a 40% and free shipping code.
Before I started having foot problems, I would always bring at least one pair of sandals with me, and tended to go with these, though they are a bit dressy.
I could use your help! Do you have a favorite sandal for traveling? I’d love one that dresses up but is comfortable and great to walk in at the same time. Arch support necessary. Please help 🙂
When in doubt, bring less. You can always buy more, but if you bring too much, you will probably not want to trash anything.
I pack pretty much exactly the same amount of stuff regardless of the length of trip. I use my Scrubba to wash clothes on longer trips to get in more wears with less junk in my pack.
I am slowly but surely making my way through my wardrobe and replacing fast fashion with more ethical, sustainable choices as the old pieces wear out. In the same way, I will be updating this list to reflect how I’m moving away from fast fashion and moving towards more moral brands.
Beach destinations are my jam! I try to fit in at least one beach (or at the very least: a pool or hot tub) on every trip. I always bring at least 2 bikinis, so that one can dry out while I’m wearing the other. Victoria Secret used to be my go-to bikini store, so now I’m struggling since they’ve canceled their line (luckily I stocked up on 5 new suits in anticipation of this dreaded day) since I have a hard time finding bikinis for chesty girls.
Who needs Victoria Secret when you got Roy Swim? The (no-seam, reversable) suits are handmade using solar-powered sewing machines by a female entrepreneur. YES PLEASE!
If I’m going to an all-inclusive, a beach resort, or just feel like being a bit fancier than wrapping myself in a Turkish towel or canga, I opt to pack a cute coverup. My sister is the best at choosing these, and I’m trying to copy her more, putting a bit of a boho/hippie vibe on my picks.
I always pack at least one dress that is black and versatile (for dressing up or dressing down). Make sure they are NOT polyester if you’re going somewhere steamy. If I’m planning on attending a nice occasion, I’ll be sure that one of the dresses is easily dressup-able.
Lately, I’ve been really obsessed my Encircled multiway dress (in a variety of colors, including black), because you can take it from more casual to more dressy, a bit sexy to more modest, and you only need to pack ONE dress that’s able to do a variety of looks (so you don’t look like you’re wearing the same thing over and over).
So simple, so cheap, so versatile! This can be dressed up with some dangly earrings or a statement necklace, or dressed down with shorts and even trainers. If it tears or gets unrepairably well worn, it is easy enough to replace it anywhere in the world for cheap. I prefer strappy (“spaghetti strap”) tank tops, a bit fitted and a bit long. This pictured tank comes in about a million different colors.
2 or 3 sweat-wicking tank tops
Necessary for hikes and even just walking around town in the super hot weather (and also fast drying in the rain). I try to get nice-looking, juicy-colored tanks that don’t look like they’re meant for workouts so you can pop on some shorts or a skirt and some jewelry and they look cute. I especially like these Exofficio Tank Tops (shown in the photo), because they have a bit of lace and don’t look like you just came from the gym, with all of the benefits of a gym tank (sweat wicking, quick dry, comfortable fabric, and anti-microbial to fight against stink).
1 slouchy open front sweater
Even if you’re thinking “But its so hot!?!” in your destination of choice … Trust me, when you are on that plane/ferry/bus/train that is blessedly blasting the AC while you try to sleep or just not turn into a popsicle, you will be glad you brought it! I like something like this flowy sweater, which is easy to roll up and stash in your bag if it gets hot (pictured comes in a bunch of colors)
1 pair of “workout” shorts AND/OR really bright and fun leggings
For shorts, I like the kind that aren’t too restrictive on the waistband and have a fitted “underwear” or underlayer (like this New Balance pair), to avoid flashing anyone while rappelling down a waterfall or hiking up a hill. But lately, I’ve been obsessed with Bia Brazil leggings in the craziest, brightest colors I can find. If you’re going to be working out (or doing yoga, or just wearing activewear to the grocery store), you might as well be having fun.
1 pair of jean or linen shorts
Try to get a pair that you can dress up or dress down (no rips, tears, etc). I always go for a pair that is a little loose, to avoid butt cleavage, and in case I pack on more than few pounds chowing down at my destination. I’ve been leaning towards linen shorts over jeans lately as well, as I find they are lighter, roll easier, and dress up nicer… and wet denim, yuck.
1 pair black leggings (plus a pair of skinny jeans, jeggings, or dressy sweatpants if it’s a cold destination)
Bonus points if these are “workout” material (sweat wicking and fast drying) but look nice (not like they are workout pants), then they can do double duty as “going out” leggings, in addition to going under longer t-shirts and tunics/blouses. I also like skinny jeans with a bit of stretch, and black jeggings.
My new favorite item in my minimalist wardrobe is definitely my dressy sweatpants. I wear them ALL THE TIME. I’m wearing them now.
Make sure that it is lightweight and cotton or similar natural material. You will NEED this (unless you want to wear the leggings) if your itinerary includes temples or sacred places where knees must be covered. I like long skirts because they transition nicely with weather changes, especially in more conservative locations. If its cold out, you can add a pair of leggings underneath, but if it is warm you can still get a nice breeze in your legs while remaining covered. I just bought a couple new flowy skirts to try out before my trip to Cuba through ThredUp.
I end up wearing these more than anything else. Like shirts, fast-drying, breathable fabric is important. Also – comfort! I tend to go for one nude or black bra (I wear a lot of dark clothing) and one “fun” sports bra that has a cute back. Sports bras are also nice because you can quickly and easily wash them out in the sink or shower if needed (or in your Scrubba if you have more clothes to do) and they dry way faster than regular bras.
1 or 2 regular bras
Especially for travel days (long hours on a bus, boat, or plane), I always go with a supportive yet underwire free bra like in this photo.
5 pairs assorted undies
A mix of thong, boyshort, and cheeky panties (my favorite) is generally what I choose, so no matter what I’m wearing, I’ve got something suitable. I only buy seamless panties because undie lines are not my thing. I also like the kind that has lace for the waistband – how is it SO much more comfortable?
Because, Vibrams. No socks needed, baby! One less thing to pack. Or buy. Or wash. Or fold.
One caveat: If I’m going somewhere really fricken cold (looking at you, Cusco, without heat in your hotels), I will pack a pair of thick woolen socks just to wear at night.
Before I invested in an actual raincoat, I would buy a cheap disposable plastic poncho for one or two dollars every time I visited a rainy destination. Even though it was convenient and not too pricey, I don’t enjoy contributing to the buildup of plastic waste in our world. I also figured out, retrospectively, that buying a bunch of cheap plastic ponchos (which rip by the end of a trip, and sometimes in the midst of one) really isn’t that inexpensive, and that you can buy a quality one for just a bit more. I still prefer a poncho style to a rainjacket, though, because it is more breathable in warm destinations.
**I use NYX brand for everything makeup related because it is cruelty-free, and all of the below cosmetic links are to my favorite NYX items**
Waterproof mascara is a must, especially when in hot and humid climates. Sweat is the ultimate
mascara remover, and you need an intense blend to survive it. If you already have a fave mascara but it’s not waterproof, NYX also sells a waterproofing top coat.
The same as for the waterproof mascara, sweat kills even the most killer eyeliner application. Make sure you choose a waterproof eyeliner if you don’t want raccoon eyes in intense heat. I always buy retractable, automatic eyeliner because I think it gives me a better line, and I don’t need to travel with (cough cough and lose) a sharpener.
I always travel with 3 or 4 eyeshadow colors, or less, depending on the trip and a small applicator. I love this Love in Rio palette (pictured) partially because of the name, of course, but also because the colors are perfect. Add in an amazing price point, and of course a cruelty free commitment, and this is THE travel palette for me.
Makeup remover (in less than 100ML) or makeup remover wipes
While the makeup remover wipes are the ultimate in ease and convenience, I do feel really bad about using such a disposable item. If I’m not going to have access to running water and some washcloths, though, I do opt for the makeup remover wipes (better than using up toilet paper and bottled water). In an attempt to be more environmentally friendly (and cheap), I tear the makeup wipes in halves or thirds, and use less each time. If I’m going to be staying in a hotel and I have water and some cloths, I’ll bring along some Lush makeup remover, either in a small size or transfer it to a carryon size bottle.
The only makeup product I’ve added to my repertoire since I was 15, and one of my favorites! I only just started contouring my face this year, and am the furthest thing from a makeup expert. I usually just contour my cheekbones for fancy events or when my hair is up and there’s a huge difference, especially in photos. This stick travels well and comes in a few different skin tones.
My face tends towards oiliness, so if I’m going to a hot destination and plan on looking nice (ie I’m not just hiking and adventuring the whole time), I NEED powder. The “telescoping” kabuki brushes make for better application and get really small.
At least 5 “ouchless” metal free hair ties and a big handful of blonde bobby pins
I seem to lose hair ties a lot and have a hard time finding ones I like abroad. I can usually only find ties with the metal on them, which is awful for your hair and hurts too. These Scunci bobby pins come in several different hair colors, including blonde!
I used Tailwind to schedule my Instagram and Pinterest, and to optimize my posting times. It saves me SO much time, is much more efficient than pinning manual, and now I’d recommend it as an absolute must for any brand using Pinterest and/or Instagram to drive and increase traffic. You can try Tailwaind for FREE for 30 days with this link.
Siteground is the winner above every other webhost I’ve ever worked with. They are perfect for people who panic with tech terms like me – they even did my site transfer and setup for me! Plus they have unbeatable prices. Perhaps best of all, they have online problem tickets available – OUTSTANDING for anyone working remotely. You simply submit a ticket with the issue that you’re having, and they respond with how you can fix it AND an offer to fix it for you. On average, response time is under an hour. It’s incredible. Above and beyond HostGator and GoDaddy, both whom I’ve worked with in the past.
WTF is this doing on a packing list? I try to eat vegan as much as possible, and having a bit of nutritional yeast with me really ups the tastiness of sometimes otherwise bland vegetable dishes. Every destination isn’t super vegan friendly, but I haven’t come across one yet that couldn’t at least prepare a plate of rice or other grains with steamed veggies.
This powdered peanut butter is something I discovered when I was super diet crazy in my early 20s in the US. It is all the peanut butter flavor, with almost none of the fat. You simply add a bit of water, stir, and you’ve got PB. Because it is powdered, you can take it on flights with you, and just add a bit of water to the amount that you need for each meal. Game changer for vegan travelers.
**all of these products have been found, used, and loved firsthand by me. some of the Amazon links above are affiliates, meaning that I will earn a tiny percentage from the provider/retailer for your purchase. this costs you nothing and helps support Joy and Journey and excellent content creation. any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.**
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