I made a mistake. Before my first big trip overseas I went to an adventure store and bought a heap of gear that I thought I’d need, proudly packing it into my backpack.
I didn’t use half of it. Worse still, I traded in my new backpack for a suitcase as soon as I landed in San Francisco, my first stop on the trip.
After learning from my rookie error, I’ve made sure to only pack quality gear from brands I know and love.
Over the past six years, these items have become my favourite travel gear. I wanted to share what worked for me. These are the cream of the crop, the items I won’t leave home without. Hopefully, some will work for you too.
I always considered myself a good packer, but by adding two – or more! – packing cubes to my travel routine make me an efficient and organised packer.
I have four packing cubes in two sizes. One small one for underwear, a second small one for accessories (belts, scarves, bathers, etc.), and two large packing cubes – one each for pants and tops. I’ve bought multiple colours (one in each size in red and blue) so I easily know that my large blue packing cube holds my shirts, meaning easy access and not worrying about messing up neatly folded clothes.
Tough and durable, my Eagle Creek Packing Cubes have lasted me four years. They’re so good I even got some for my family last Christmas!
Originally, I didn’t think I’d use a dry bag a lot. Turns out I was wrong.
Dry bags aren’t just for the water babies among us. While they are perfect for those going kayaking, beaching or heading out onto the water for a boat ride (even the calmest boat rides can spray water everywhere, and water has a habit of finding technology); I’ve also found them really useful for hiking (make sure you get a bag with the attachable straps) and for keeping my wet bathers and clothes separated from the rest of my suitcase.
Oh, and if your laundry bag isn’t doing the job or you’ve been sweating a lot, dry bags keep the smell contained so it’s always nice to have two in case your laundry bag needs back up!
Clear Makeup Bag
This is a time saver. Instead of worrying about liquids loose in my handbag, I bundle them all together in a small clear makeup bag. When I’m ready to travel, this bag, filled with little essentials, gets taken straight out of my handbag and put into my onboard carry-on.
While you are at it, add a few Glad Sandwich bags for when you’re going through countries like the UK that require all liquids to be presented in a separate bag, or in case something begins to leak. Sandwich bags are one of the handiest items to take on your travels!
Victorinox Flapover Drawstring Laptop Backpack
Stylish enough to take to work, durable enough to survive your next camping holiday; Victorinox backpacks are all-around champions!
I bought my Victorinox Curbtrade backpack six-years ago but soon after went through an “I’m too cool to wear a backpack”-phase. My back hated me. Bringing it out of retirement, I realised that it’s one of the best damn bags I have, and provided a lot more back support than my hip Sandqvist Hans backpack.
While the Victorinox Curbtrade is now discontinued, I did spot the Victorinox Flapover Drawstring Laptop Backpack at the airport recently. Not only does it fit my 17″ laptop in its own padded pocket, it also has a padded space for a tablet.
The winning feature? An expandable main compartment which would be perfect to use for work or even as an overnight bag, or just lots of space for souvenirs!
The Victorinox Flapover Drawstring Laptop Backpack come across as one of the more secure backpacks on the market with two hidden pockets, including one in the top flap, perfect for your passport or items you need to reach quickly.
I’ve also tested out the PacSafe Citysafe which is a perfect for those who want lots of security. It’s made with a slash protection Exomesh woven through the bag, comes with zipper clips to make it harder for people to pickpocket you and open your bag, and a detachable shoulder strap so you can fasten it to a fixed object. It also comes with a RFID pocket to protect your passport and credit card information from being stolen.
PacSafe Portable Safe
Has anyone else noticed the trend for teeny tiny hotel safes? These safes are so small your laptop or camera doesn’t always fit. Give yourself an option and come prepared with a PacSafe Portable Safe.
This black, sturdy, slashproof bag comes with a metal cable that you can close, lock and secure to a fixed object, like a pipe or the bed frame. Now your most valuable items won’t be going anywhere without causing significant damage to the property and noise to alert you!
Tenba BYOB Travel Insert
This is a new addition to my photography gear but has been an invaluable tool to protect my camera.
As any girl knows, we love a good bag; but not all bags were designed to fit your camera in or offering the support it needs. That’s where the Tenba BYOB Insert comes in. Designed to carry and protect a camera or lenses inside a larger backpack or handbag, the soft exterior provides support and padding to your delicate camera gear.
What I like most is that it has a zip-top cover, meaning you can use it as a small carry bag in its own right. There’s also stretchy pockets on the side to hold camera gear (lens filters, lens caps, spare batteries, or even your mobile phone!) and a carabiner to attach keys or other little items. Oh, and it’s water-repellant – perfect!
Witchery Shortsleeve Split Hem Tee
I’ll wear these Witchery Tee’s in summer and even in winter (under a jumper, of course!) These comfortable viscose blend t-shirts can be dressed up or down and best of all, girls, they cover your butt! Need I say more?
Available in black, white, grey and navy, I bought a few of these four years ago and they’ve survived everything I’ve thrown at them.
North Face Triclimate
I bought my North Face Triclimate during my visit to the adventure store six-years ago and it is one of the only items I continue to use, and the only clothing item still going strong despite having been tested to its limits!
Together, it forms a warm wind- and water-resistant jacket. Separate the lining from the waterproof exterior and you have either a warm fleece jacket or waterproof jacket.
Lightweight, easy to pack or squish into a corner of your bag, this is one of the hardest working pieces in my suitcase.
North Face Nuptse Jacket
This is a recent purchase, having finally braved my first full Melbourne winter, and it has been by far one of the best.
My North Face Nuptse kept me toasty warm, even on the chilliest of days, and is light enough to not interfere with whatever activity I am doing. Best of all, I can fold it down into next to nothing to put it in my carry-on suitcase.
Made of water-repellent material that’s filled with goose down, it has a secure internal pocket in the chest and two cozy fleece handwarmer pockets.
For a slightly cheaper version, check out Kathmandu’s Epiq down jacket which also has a hood. I would have picked up this one had North Face not had a fantastic deal on them during the mid-year sale.
Canada Goose Trillium Parka
While the other jackets I’ve mentioned are good at any time of year, the Canada Goose Trillium Parka is definitely best if you live or travel regularly to really cold places.
It’s the jacket I wished I had during my winter visit to Russia and Finland, and the jacket that kept me toasty warm during the blizzard that covered New York and New Jersey in 2015, even when I was sent out to walk my friend’s dog!
With a removable hood, water-resistant exterior, plenty of pockets, including an interior pocket with a headphone port, this will keep you going even when it’s -20C outside.
This style of parka goes to your mid-thigh. This means it will keep you warm while still giving you a nice shape, just pull the waist drawstring. No more looking like a marshmallow!
It is a little bulky to travel with. That said, if you are wearing it, it has backpack-style straps so you can wear it, not carry it, comfortably while indoors. For travel, it’s definitely a jacket to bring as carry-on or worn on and hung up by the cabin crew.
For the price, it is an investment piece. If you head to the snow a lot or live in cold climates for much of the year, it is well worth the money. If you can wait till it’s on sale. I bought mine from Nordstrom during a post-Christmas sale. Heading across to New Jersey from New York saved me more money because of state taxes!
The only test I needed to confirm the Trillium’s warmth was while my local friends were feeling the bite of the cold as we walked around New York or we were out walking the dog, I was a toasty and warm in my parka.
North Face Etip Gloves
How can a pair of gloves so thin be so warm? That’s the question I ask myself every time I slip these on.
During the USA Blizzard of 2015, I picked up a pair of these North Face Etip gloves in the hope I could Tweet and be warm. While I’ll say that the e-touch is a little clunky at times in very cold weather, they do work 80%+ of the time with my iPhone.
Bringing them back to Oz, they’re still in my rotation come time for Melbourne winter and they still do the job. While I wouldn’t recommend them for typing long messages (that’s when they get a little clunky) they’re good for basic functions like answering calls and checking social media.
You can buy these North Face ETip Gloves here.
I come from the land Down Under, where you wear thongs a minimum of 9 months a year, even more in some parts; so it’s important to have a good pair.
As long as you don’t bust a plugger (that is, don’t manage to separate the foot strap from the sole) a pair of Havaianas will protect your feet from hot pavement or sand for many years to come.
I tend to pack these into my carry-on to wear mid-flight if I need to make a trip to the bathroom, or for the airport showers if I’m going to freshen up while in transit.
Sure, Havaianas are a little more expensive than other brands but I’ve not found any that last as long. Even Roxy’s don’t seem to last more than a season. What’s with that?!
Minnetonka Kilty Moccasins
I’ve been raving about these Minnetonka Kilty Moccasins for 6+ years and I still think they’re a great shoe for travel. Lightweight, comfortable suede moccasins which are perfect for transiting through airports or exploring temples. You can slip them into your hand carry or fold them nearly flat in your suitcase.
While I have done some serious walking in them, save them for shorter strolls as I find the sole does wear quite quickly.
Belkin Surge Plus Travel Adaptor
I’ve had this Belkin Surge Plus Travel Adaptor since college and I’ve had no issues with it. No matter whether I’m at home or abroad I know I can charge multiple gadgets with a single socket and they’ll be surge protected. Best of all, I can charge items with the USB ports too! Sharing is caring, right?
Cygnett ChargeUp Digital 10,000mAh Portable Power Bank
Another semi-new addition to my travel gear, and something I use almost every day at home as well. Not only do I like the small, soft-touch exterior which makes gripping it easy; the Cygnett ChargeUp Digital 10,000mAH Portable Power Bank charges my iPhone 5 times without breaking a sweat.
With the dual USB ports on top, I can also charge my GoPro, computer mouse or any other bits and pieces on the go. Now that’s what I call power!
Flight 001 4-in-1 Universal Adaptor
I love bright and colourful, and this Flight 001 adaptor brings the colour in spades!
Compact in size, easy to find in your bag, and with 150 countries power combinations colour coded for ease makes this one handy little item to keep in your travel kit.
I have always been a fan of around-the-ear style headphones until I got these. I’ve had a pair of Bose QC25‘s (the corded version of the QC35’s) since the Android version came out and I adore them.
Light in weight and luxurious to the touch, I use them when I run, when I’m at the gym, when I’m travelling, when I’m working and when I’m commuting. They are fantastic and the sound has always been crystal clear. Even on airplanes, you’ll find these cancel out so much of the general rumbling of the plane, and definitely, help silence the person sitting next to you who is talking loudly.
Do yourself a favour and buy some rechargeable AAA batteries to go with them. While the batteries which activate the noise-cancelling feature do last quite a while, save the money in the future and go rechargeable now.
My QC25’s have been running strong since early 2015, despite heavy, sweaty use (please clean your headphones if you are using them at the gym!); but when I am ready for an upgrade I will be considering the Bose QC35 wireless headphones.
Joby GorillaPod Focus + Ballhead-X
After being a fan of the much smaller GorillaPod Original for 6-years, I decided to pick up the DSLR version to take with me on my travels earlier this year.
Unlike the smaller models, the GorillaPod Focus allows users to attach the flexible tripod to professional cameras, including DSLRs using zoom lenses.
Each of the ‘balls’ on the tripod legs moves and can contort to fit whatever situation you are shooting it. Whether you want to wrap it around a pole or adjust the height of the tripod.
My one complaint is that it is a little difficult to level the tripod in the beginning, but once you work out all the kinks and rigidness, it’s a flexible, easy-to-use piece of kit; and you’ll be surprised by how often you use it!
Note: I recommend buying the Ballhead-X mount as well so that it will easily attach to your DSLR or mirrorless camera.
Handy little tidbits
If there’s one thing you will rarely see me without in winter, it’s a scarf. I love them and think there’s no better way to add a touch of colour to an otherwise basic outfit.
Most of my wardrobe is monochrome, so adding a bold animal print scarf or bright (usually red) scarf into the rotation not only keeps me warm but really brightens my whole outfit.
I try to be prepared for everything when I travel. That’s why I don’t buy a cheap umbrella when I travel but bring my own quality umbrella with me.
My current go-to is this small, stylish handbag size Oroton Signature umbrella. What I like most, aside from its small size, is that I can press the button in the handle and it will half-close but still able to try while I’m inside.
For something practical and heavy duty, check out the LifeTek Umbrella range. They’re wind-resistant and have a two-year replacement guarantee.
Keep those dirty clothes separate from your nice clean clothes – and never lose a sock! – by using a fun travel-themed laundry bag!
At home or abroad, you’ll always find a lip balm in my handbag to protect and nourish my pout! I love NIVEA Essential Care range that has simple nourishing balms at a price that won’t break the bank.
Vapur Reusable Water Bottle
Wherever you go, it’s always nice to keep your thirst quenched with a bit of H2O.
These Vapur Water Bottles roll down to almost nothing, saving heaps of space in your backpack or handbag but can hold up to a litre of water!
It’s tough, reusable, dishwasher safe, and freezable. It even comes with a built-in carabiner so you can clip it to the outside of your bag or onto your belt loop. Best of all, they come in a dozen colours so you can get one for each of your family and they will know which is theirs!
I need to bring a notebook with me when I travel. Not just for notes and stories, but to create lists and plans or swap contacts with new friends. By far, my favourite is Moleskine Notebooks!