I wish I can come up with a “Traveling Mom’s Travel Essentials” post but at this point, after making my own list, I realized that my current list of travel essentials is not as different as that of anybody else’s. My list was finalized through various experiences of traveling around the world and passing through different airports. I would be glad to share with you the many ridiculous stories behind each one too. I also made the effort of checking other lists out there to compare mine. Here is some of what I found:
For very specific packing lists, Her Packing List has a master list of all our female travel packing lists such as What to Pack for New York in Winter, Ultimate Female Packing List for Central America, The Ultimate Wheelchair Travel Packing List, Ultimate Female Packing List for Trekking in Kyrgyzstan, etc.; Travel Fashion Girl has 4 main categories for her wardrobe packing list such as Minimalista, Essential, Classic, and Maximista in 6, 10, 12, and 15 pieces, and both summer and winter versions; Women on the Road has The Complete Travel Packing List for Women; Refinery29 has The Lazy Girl’s Guide To Packing Like A Pro; Marie Claire has 15 Beauty Essentials to Pack in Your Travel Bag; and Lauren Conrad has Style Guide: Carry-On Travel Essentials.
It is with Travel+Leisure’s The 23 Carry-On Must-Haves This T+L Editor Always Takes With Him. Every Time. No Matter Where. that mine was the closest. Note that it says “Him”, so mine is a universal kind of list, and regardless of whatever season.
Without further ado, here is my own list:
- Comfort Kit with eye mask, foam ear plugs, foldable slippers, toothpaste, toothbrush, dental floss pick, comb, lip balm, deodorant, hand sanitizer, tissues, antibacterial wet wipes, pocket hand soap, medicines (headache, allergy, anti-diarrhea, antacid), and lens wipes.
This comfort kit is similar to the ones that non-budget airlines hand out to their passengers. I always bring my own because I do not shy away from budget airlines but I want to be comfortable as well; and I replenish my supply when I am actually handed one. When flying, I like to avoid jet lag by conditioning my body clock according to my destination. I sleep even if flight attendants are doing the rounds of their carts or playing loud games for the passengers entertainment. It is for this reason that an eye mask and ear plugs are very important for me. Also, foam ear plugs are life savers when I am seated in the middle of a group of Chinese. I carry a simple small comb instead of a brush, it takes less space but does the job. I use my optical lens wipes for wiping my ever-smudged eyeglasses, sunglasses, and my gadget screens. An optional make-up kit can be included here. Mine is always just an eyeliner and eyebrow pencils.
- Stationery Kit with at least 2 ball pens, pocket notebook, along with my passports, ID pictures in different sizes, and business cards. I keep them all together just to be organized. I bought a travel document holder once but I found it to be completely useless for me as my passports don’t fit. Now I just make sure that my carry-on bag has a separate compartment for my stationery and all the documents I need to carry like tickets, boarding passes, hotel confirmation, travel insurance, and itineraries.
- Book. Just one, a thin one with small font, since you can always replace it somewhere when you are finished. I doubt you will finish one entire book anyway. I prefer non-fiction books, either self-help or entrepreneurial because for reading materials like these, nothing is as motivating than having nothing else to do while waiting for hours at an airport.
- Snacks: chocolate bars, crackers, cookies, peanuts, and sometimes a fruit or two. They are high energy and space saving. I avoid bags of chips because they take a lot of space. If you are not into fruits, bring them anyway, because, there is nothing as motivating as eating things you don’t actually like as a painful hungry stomach. Although I know I can buy food anywhere, I am practical, so I prefer not to. Buying means I have to change money or compute conversions in my head. I always bring food and water anywhere because I can never be sure if my flight is going to be delayed and I will be forced to run across terminals on an empty stomach to not miss my connecting flight. I can always sit, while catching my breath, with my cookies without fear while I am already past the security check and right outside the boarding gate.
- Resealable plastic bags. Although some airports are not too strict with these ziploc bags, UK airports are. In fact, you will get annoyed stares from other passengers if you ever dare approach the security check without your liquids and gels in small plastic bags already placed in a separate tray. At these airports though, they have separate booths with the bags, trash bins for those bottles you need to dispose of, and tables for you to be able to conveniently segregate and repack your toiletries. As much as I love thoughtful airports, they are very few, so pack your resealable plastic bags with you. They are also handy for storing wet items.
- Weather Kit with raincoat or jacket with drawstrings and very short and lightweight foldable umbrella. It was summer and there were reports of heat waves in London, where we were headed, so I decided not to bring winter clothes. That is how we ended freezing in Edinburgh a few days after. Yes, I know, Edinburgh is not London but I thought, “heat waves”. Being the cheapskate that I am, I borrowed sweaters from my niece and bought raincoats at a bookstore for 1GBP. My daughter was walking down the streets of Glasgow and Belfast with an oversized bright yellow excuse of a raincoat, singing out loud, “I am the queen of the plastic bag!!” Sure, we and our backpacks fit comfortably inside these flimsy plastic bags, it was still embarrassing. I found us rain jackets with drawstrings that were thin, lightweight, foldable, and above all, warm, at some stores in Victoria Square in Belfast. It cost us 20 and 30 GBP each but it was perfect! The draw strings are perfect for rainy days with strong winds. Now I use my raincoat everywhere. I don’t care if they give me unusual stares in Manila. I’m dry and that’s what’s important. I did buy us these Cath Kidston tiny umbrellas recently, because they are very light and foldable, very pretty with flower designs, and most importantly, on sale.
- Universal Adapter. I have managed to amass different plugs bought in a hurry at convenience stores in the past years. I didn’t think it was so important. But if you carry a laptop, ipad, 3 phones, and a power bank, of course it is. Now I know better, so I have one that I can use no matter if I need a two-pronged, three-pronged, horizontal flat, vertical flat, rounded, or a mixture of all of the above. Gosh, can’t the people of the world just agree on one design for an electric plug at least?
- Eyeglasses/sunglasses in their own cases
- Clothing: scarf, extra underwear, and sweater. I always throw in an extra underwear and a pair of socks in there. You never know what can happen so I feel more comfortable traveling with the assurance of personal hygiene regardless of circumstances.
- Gadgets: ear phones/plugs, laptop, ipad, phones, chargers, power bank
- Empty water filtration bottle with replaceable filter. I never travel without a bottle of water because my average consumption is 2 liters of water per day. Since we know that airport security is strict with liquids, it is always best to travel with your own refillable bottle, one that they will hesitate to throw away in front of your flushed-from-running-through-the-terminals face. Some airports though do not care enough about you to provide drinking fountains with a reliable water supply. I had a long lay-over in Copenhagen on my way from Milano to Fort Lauderdale but I was too cheap to buy myself a bottle of 350 ml water at 26 kroner. First, I dislike exchanging currency. Second, I was not going to buy a bottle of water, bottle deposit not included yet, for 4 euros. When I told my brother this when I arrived in Florida, how I endured my thirst and all that poor-me-sh*t, he dutifully bought me two Brita water bottles plus extra filters. Now I can take water from anywhere. I have a selective advantage over most people though. I don’t have a sensitive stomach. Someone made a joke once that I can take water from the floor and drink it and still come out okay. It doesn’t mean I’m going to risk it though. Nothing is worse than traveling in unfamiliar places looking for a toilet every block or two. (Here is a list of the best water bottles out there.)
- Travel blanket and a convertible travel pillow. I have had my fleece travel blanket now for 6 years and I still bring it everywhere. Invest on a good one that does not unravel at the seams. My new favorite travel pillow is one that I got from a Typo store in Gold Coast. It converts from a U-shape to a rectangular one that I find very comfortable when I want to lay my head sideways against something, like when I am seated by the window.
This is my barebones carry-on. 2015 was a year of meaningful travel and I learned a lot. I traveled from Italy to the United States from Florida to Massachusetts, and back to the Philippines, with stops and lay-overs in Denmark, and Taiwan from October to December. I found myself all sweaty in 27 degree C Fort Lauderdale with heavy coats that I used in Copenhagen and will use again in New York. Lia and I also traveled all over the United Kingdom, from England to Scotland to Northern Ireland and back to England, in July. I learned there is no such thing as warm in the United Kingdom. 😛
I did all this traveling without checked-in baggage and just a convertible wheeled backpack and a shoulder bag.
All above listed, I stash in my shoulder bag that I always keep close with me, if not placed under the seat in front of me. Yes, all these items unbelievably fit. This goes without saying that this is not a small shoulder bag. What I put in my wheeled backpack are just clothes and my bathroom kit filled with supplies in 100 ml or 3.4oz containers. In case I am staying for a few months at my destination, I of course have checked in luggage of at least 15 kilos, filled with some more clothes. books, arts and crafts materials, and a 6-outlet power strip. 😛 Please note that power strips are not allowed in carry-on bags.
I don’t travel with an extra pair of shoes. I am not a shoe person. I’m also a very lazy photographer so I seldom bring my DSLR camera and its accessories. My Samsung phone does the job (S4, S6, currently have a Note 5).
This is my travel advice as well: A convertible wheeled backpack is the best travel bag there is. If you need convincing, let the The Professional Hobo do it for now. I will come up with my list of Travel Tips in a separate blog and there I will and can tell you why, according to my very own experience. My current convertible wheeled backpack is a 29.7L hot pink Everest that I got for $20 at Amazon when I was in the US last year for Thanksgiving slash Black Friday. I got hot pink because bright colors are easy to spot in airports and other crowded places.
Please feel free to make suggestions and share your own travel experiences. We can always use a tip or two.