After your first long-term travel experience (for me it was 6 weeks backpacking Europe with my sister), you realize some things are better left at home.
I’m looking at you unroll-able straw sunhat and clunky Chaco sandals.
But you also discover the useful items — the ones you couldn’t survive without.
Below are my top five:
1. Travel towel
As a formerly avid reader of Rick Steves, I discovered his range of travel products based on recommendations in his guides. Without shopping around, I bought his large travel towel.
And holy buckets is it amazing.
It dries in around 4 to 6 hours (even faster if it’s in direct sunlight), so you can use it one night, hang it up, and pack it the next morning.
Not only is it a towel, it also works as a blanket and a beach towel. Honestly, awesome.
Plus, it’s thin, so when folded, takes up almost no room in a backpack or suitcase.
2. Clutch with wrist strap
Before I studied abroad in Leeds, I went on the hunt for a clutch purse with a wrist strap. After searching for ages (seriously, they are incredibly hard to find), I found one a few days before my departure, and have used it since.
My cards, cash, phone, passport, IDs, and a few lipsticks, bobby pins, and odds and ends fit neatly inside when I go out, so I don’t have to faff around with a full purse when I’m dancing.
Because it dangles from my wrist, I also have both hands free to carry drinks, text, sign receipts, hold friends’ hair back, etc. It also means I won’t accidentally set it down in a bathroom or on the bar and forget to pick it back up.
And finally, it’s accessible.
I travel with a money belt when I’m in busier settings or traveling alone, so I keep my credit cards and passport in the belt, but have things I’ll need quickly (like cash and ID) in the wallet. With it strapped to my wrist, it feels more secure from pickpockets and thieves as well.
3. Shampoo bar
My friend spent 6 months in Africa using Lush shampoo bars, and after she introduced me to them, I haven’t looked back.
With all of the liquid restrictions in airports, it saves huge amounts of space in the tiny plastic bag to have solid shampoo that can be kept elsewhere.
Lush does several solid products (deodorant, conditioner, etc.) that could save space if you want to become a total convert. The shampoo bar lasts ages and you can buy a small tin to store it in to keep it from rubbing on your other clothes or getting smushed.
4. Money belt
Again, I bought the Rick Steves variety (I swear I don’t secretly work for him), and it’s perfect. It has a large zipper to fit things like my passport and flattened dollar (or pound or Euro) bills. Plus two smaller zippers on the front are ideally sized for credit cards.
Even with everything stuffed inside, it lays flat against your body, so it fits well under any style of jeans, dress, shorts, or skirt.
The material is relatively breathable and an adjustable strap means it works for any body size.
5. Adhesive card carrier for phone
I have a card carrier on the back of my phone that I couldn’t survive without.
While some phone cases have built in card areas protected from swipers and card readers, I like my pretty rose gold iPhone to show at least a little, so I opt for this.
My original silicone one cracked and my cards started slipping out, so I switched to fabric, which can fit up to 5 or 6 cards but adjusts when I cut it down to 1 or 2.
My ID, railcard, and residence card reside in it at the moment, but on nights out, my credit card (plus a bill or two) join if I’m just carrying my phone.
It. is. excellent.
What travel products are your favorites? I’m always up for trying new stuff that will make life easier on the road.