If you have read any of my other blogs, you know I love to travel.  I love the idea of spontaneity, but I am also a severe planner.  Like, one of those planner-people who put things on the calendar retroactively just to see the full picture.

I caught the travel bug in 8th grade when my grandmother, a travel agent at the time, took me on a trip to Africa. My first plane trip and here I was going overseas to a different continent.

My grandmother is a veteran traveler.  Her family traveled and instilled the importance of that in her.  She was kind enough to pass that along to me.

And, honestly, I have never been the same.

She called it “broadening my horizons” – and it was truly that in every sense of the word! How should one pack for a two-week trip abroad? What does customs and airport security look like? Is there something on the menu you haven’t tried before? Better give it a shot in case this is your last chance to try something unique and different.

One thing I picked up from watching this veteran traveler is how to maneuver through places with the greatest possible ease.  It was like she was trying to improve her time/experience from the last time she traveled.  This appealed to my competitive side.  How could I travel and experience new things while still maintaining some of the comforts of home?

Sleeping on a plane. Making sure I was prepared for a potential emergency. Packing so that I could blend in at any possible event.  And doing this out of a simple carry-on and a backpack was my challenge.

Challenge: accepted.

First things first.  Toiletries bags are the keeper of all things comfortable.

For me, while traveling, clean is comfortable. This bag is also the keeper of contingencies.  Hair ties, bobby pins, ibuprofen, all of the “just-in-case” items go here.  I actually keep my toiletries bag stocked and ready to go at all times.  That’s right – all times.  I invested in a few items to make this happen.  I know that when I throw that bag into my carry-on that I am set.

Here are a few items that keep it that way:

The bag is key, this is an investment.  It takes up some space, but it’s worth it in the long run.  My bag unzips and hangs.  The unzip feature helps when I am going to through security.  It is always packed at the top of my carryon and it’s easy to whip out and unzip.  It takes just as little time to re-pack at the end of the security line.  The clear pockets make it less likely that I will get pulled from the security line, and the dense clear plastic is harder to tear than the store-bought quart zip-top bags.  The hanging feature means I don’t have to unpack it even while I am at my destination – less chance of my forgetting something.

Now that we have that settled: consolidate.

  • This 4-in-1 travel bottle dispenser puts all my shower necessities in one place. Less real estate, maximum benefit – only one item to take (or potentially forget) in the shower.
  • I pack a pill organizer and keep it stocked with what I use regularly at home.  Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Midol, magnesium (because, travel #amiright), prescriptions, vitamins, allergy medicine.  And this little pill box seals tight so I don’t have a mess on my hands if things get jostled during travel.
  • I pack an epilator.  Yep, sure do.  Basic disposable razors are currently allowed through security, but razor burn is a very real thing for some of us.  This might be overkill, but hey #comfort.
  • I bring a manicure set as well.  Being without tweezers or clippers for an extended period of time makes me incredibly nervous.
  • I have a separate set of makeup and brushes that stay in my toiletries bag as well as a set of hair ties and bobby pins.
  • A perfume roller or atomizer is nice to take – or if you are super-cheap, like me, you can tear out those perfume sampler cards from inside magazines, or Ulta catalogs, and stuff them in your bag.
  • A straightening brush is my key to looking put together with as few tools as possible.  An electric round brush could also achieve the same effect with more volume.  Or for those of us with curly hair, bring a universal collapsible diffuser to use with a hair dryer.
  • Dry Shampoo goes with me all the time and a simple rattail comb from the dollar store.
  • My bag also has its own designated toothbrush, toothpaste and floss.  (The absolute worst is taking these out and forgetting to put them back in for the next trip – I have done this ONE time; never again.)
  • Band-Aids, super glue, safety pins, Tide pen, make up wipes, panty liners, and a day’s worth of feminine hygiene products are also a staple.

Second things, second. Upwards of two weeks in a carryon?

Thank goodness for Pinterest, it’s going to make this one much easier to explain.  It’s called a capsule wardrobe.  You pick a base color and some accents.  Black is my favorite color, so that is a fairly simple choice for me.  I choose fabrics that are less prone to wrinkle as well – I hate to iron.

  • 1 pair dark wash skinny jeans
  • 1 pair black leggings
  • 2-3 pairs shoes (usually for me, this is boots, flats, sandals depending on the season)
  • Pajamas, knickers and socks all get tossed in too.
  • 1 black dress (maybe even a black pencil skirt)
  • 1 black leather jacket (and/or a packable puffer jacket, depending on the season)
  • 1-3 tank tops or t-shirts (black, white, color of choice)
  • 1-3 patterned tops (my personal preference is to go with dark florals or snake print)
  • 3-5 accessories (scarf, belt, statement jewelry, vest, chambray shirt, cardigan, duster, etc.)
  • 1 clutch/small purse

Finally: Air plane comfort

As a tall person, I find it difficult to get comfortable or sleep on a plane.  In a random conversation with another traveler, I found this little gem.  It is an inflatable travel pillow that gives me either a soft place to lay my head or a little box of semi-privacy in a crowded area.  It might be excessive to some, but it is an absolute travel necessity for me now.

I have Audible and Kindle downloaded on my phone, as well as Movies Anywhere.  If I bring a computer, I have a Microsoft Surface that functions as a tablet and a computer and the slim style does not take up much space.

A portable charger power bank has come in handy on more than one occasion for me. I keep one that charges quickly and has enough milliamp hours to sustain my travel.  This is another investment, but way worth it.

Air pods are all the rage now, but I still prefer to bring the old-fashioned jack-style headphones.  I don’t have to worry about these running out of juice and if I lose them, they are fairly cheap. Also, in case the plane still has the jacks in the arm-rest to watch movies, I am prepared.

I do keep a small mesh pouch that carries all my technology stuff.  The headphones, power bank, extra phone charger chord (or 2, or 3), USB wall charger (multiple ports if possible), a USB car charger (also multiple ports) are what populate this bag.

Planes tend to get cold like movie theaters do. I wear slip on shoes (but never sandals) when I travel.  This makes the security line easier and keeps my feet warm on the plane.  I also bring a hoodie with me through security (instead of a jacket) so that should I need it on the plane, I have it.

An empty water bottle has become a must so that I don’t have to spend five bucks on water as soon as I get to the terminal.  The one listed is my current favorite as the lid does not leak at all and it keeps ice for hours depending on usage.  Dehydration is also a major issue in travel (remember magnesium!?) so, staying hydrated is a must!

I have an irrational fear of starving in a heavily populated area.  So I pack snacks for myself.  Chicken salad pouches (because tuna salad smells yucky), jerky, baby bell cheese, fruit snacks, cheez-its (or goldfish) and fruit (either fresh or dried) are all things that have kept the #hangry at bay during travel.  It’s cheaper for me to stock some snacks than to have to purchase an eight dollar bagel at the terminal.

Lastly, I have a small clear plastic zipper bag that holds chapstick, gum, lotion, Dramamine, ibuprofen, ear plugs, hand sanitizer (even before it was cool), and a few essential oils (Thieves, Breathe, lemon and Digize for me).  Chapstick and lotion are to combat the dehydration and dry skin that causes.  The gum will help your ears pop on take-off and landing.  Or the ears of your less-experienced neighbor.  Before I was able to perfect my carry-on method, I would also pack a toothbrush, toothpaste and wet-wipes in my bag in case in needed to freshen up on long trips.

Travel should be a relaxing and exciting time.

Preparing in advance takes some of the guess work out of out of travel and lets you focus on the journey and the experience instead of worrying that you might have left something at home.  These items and travel hacks have been accumulated over the years, but have made preparing for a small weekend get-away or a two-week vacation feel about the same.

Enjoy the journey.


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Rochelle is a desert-rat from Arizona who kept moving north until she hit Colorado Springs; good luck getting her to leave now. She wasted no time snagging her husband under the pretense of athleticism and outdoorsy-ness. Among other things, eleven years of marriage has yielded two beautiful daughters, Harper and Quinn. Momming these super-sassy littles is her biggest adventure yet, and provides for some serious writing material. Rochelle works out of the home also, and has a diverse background in public relations, social work, student advising, youth ministry and pyrotechnics. She is presently finishing up her MBA and is juggling all of it fairly well for a person with little to no hand-eye-coordination. She is a firm believer that it takes a village to raise a child and she is beyond grateful for hers.