When I start thinking about taking a trip somewhere, the first thing that comes to mind is, “Will I be able to fit it all?” With more people traveling every year, the marketplace has become flooded with miniatures of the items you know and love so that you can still keep them by your side when away from home. Personally, I’ve been away from the U.S. for over three years now, but still stock up when I make a trip back with things I can’t find in the country I’m living in. So here we go…I’ll divide these up into sections to make it easier.
Toothpaste As I started my journey outside of the U.S., I became aware that using natural products corrected underlying problems that not-so-natural products did not. Toothpaste, for example…I used to use Aim and Colgate but after going to a dentist one year and finding out that I may need a ‘deep cleaning’ (this translates to a lot of pain and money), I looked into a toothpaste that naturally kills germs. I was brought back to a familiar oil which I had used in Costa Rica to combat mold growing on my clothes during the rainy season: Tea Tree Oil. This stuff works wonders in so many regards. I now only use toothpaste with tea tree oil as it keeps bacteria from multiplying under the gum line, hence keeping my mouth healthy and saves me from parting with my money at the dentist.
Sunscreen/Daily Lotion I remember seeing Oil of Olay in my grandmother’s bathroom as I was growing up. I always figured it was for old ladies and swore I’d never use it. HA! Those days are long gone and I’ve been an Olay user for more years than I can remember. Thinking back to my grandmother’s skin, she was always radiant and hardly had any wrinkles so she must’ve been doing something right! I religiously use Oil of Olay daily which has a sunscreen built into it. Never greasy or heavy and with my acne prone skin, never makes me break out. When I find a product like that, I stick to it no matter what!
Travel Bottles If you are just taking a short trip somewhere, then no need to carry that entire bottle of Olay or your favorite bit of shampoo or conditioner with you. That’s why they invented travel bottles! These babies are great to keep around and save space in your suitcase or carry on. You never know if the place you’re staying will even PROVIDE shampoo or conditioner anymore so it never hurts to take some with you. These cuties even come with a funnel and a spatula so you can easily pour or slather your stuff into them.
Dish Wipes Ok, I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a germaphobe. Sponges give me nightmares and the ick factor is off the scale for me. Back in the day, Dawn and Palmolive came out with disposable dish wipes that were pre-treated with dish washing liquid. GENIUS. What happened? Of course they were discontinued. I searched Ebay religiously and bought as many as I could (and still have some!). On a trip back to the U.S. earlier this year, I saw an ad on TV for these Clorox disposable wipes that were more heavy duty than the previous brands. I was elated and ran to the store to find them. I bought two boxes and when the ick factor starts to get to me, I throw it in the dishwasher, as they are heavy duty enough to handle quite a few washes before tossing them. I should probably send some to my mom in the states in case these too go the way of the dinosaurs.
Space Bags I’m often asked how I can travel so light, yet I have all of my worldly possessions with me at all times. The answer, my friend, are space bags. I would never be able to fit my clothes into the two small bags I own without them. The most important part of space bags is the pump you have with you at all times! Living in Central America, you won’t find many people with carpet which means no vacuum cleaner! When space bags came out, that’s what you needed to suck the air out of them. Then thankfully, someone invented a hand pump so you didn’t need to rely on a vacuum cleaner. My advice to you is that you carry it with your carry on bag. If there’s a mishap along the way and your bag somehow didn’t get zipped up correctly or looses pressure, you have your pump to make things right again. PLUS, you don’t EVER want to lose it!
One word of caution though is that not all pumps are created equally. Rather, not all bags will fit the same pump. I’ve often had to take my pump with me when buying new bags in a store to make sure it will fit. So if you do buy online with a pump that comes with your bags and you like those bags, buy multiples of them (having a spare pump is a good thing too).
Duct Tape Which brings me to Part 2 of space bags…duct tape! Here’s something you don’t want to leave home without, and I bet you never even thought about packing it before, right? Well the unfortunate reality about space bags is that sometimes they get punctured or your zipper catches on them when you’re smooshing your suitcase with all your might. Duct tape to the rescue! Sometimes finding the leak is easy, sometimes it’s not. If you’re fortunate enough to have some time and there’s a swimming pool or bathtub nearby, submerge the zipped space bag in the water to see where the leak is coming from. It’s helpful to have a Sharpie pen with you and a towel to mark the area so you can find it again. Sound like I’ve been through this a few times? Now, duct tape can be a little cumbersome, especially in the large roll it comes in. I’ve been known to take an empty toilet paper roll or paper towel roll and cut it to the width of the duct tape. I wrap some tape around the cardboard a few times and viola…hardly any room taken up and it’s there for emergencies. They’re even getting creative with designs on them so why not get funky??
Suitcase As I mentioned, I went back to the states recently and found myself going on a shopping frenzy. My old carry on suitcase had seen better days and I was itching for a hard shell that was a bit larger than the current one. The one thing I hate about waiting for your bag is wondering if someone else is going to grab it because 90% of them all look the same. Black…some wheels and a tag. Not an issue for me anymore! I did some searching and found this Nautica blue hard shell 24″ suitcase that I no longer need to worry about getting mixed up with someone else’s. I can also see it from a mile away which is a huge bonus. Sure, it’s basic on the inside but that just maximizes the room I have. It does expand slightly when zipped and so far, it’s handled very well. Oh, and my favorite thing is that it has 4 wheels instead of the 2 I was dealing with before which honestly, was getting really tiresome.
Fire TV Stick I used to drag around an Apple TV 2 with me for on the fly entertainment which was loaded with XBMC (now known as KODI). The times they are advancing! I sold that and moved on to an Amazon Fire TV Stick sideloaded with KODI so that I can stream my entertainment from wherever I am in the world! It’s a small USB sized device that fits into the HDMI port of your TV and plugs into A/C power or powered USB socket from another device you may have under your set. If the place I was living for a few months didn’t have a TV or one with an HDMI port, I’d go out and buy a cheap one then resell it when it came time for me to leave (for about the same price!). If you are a Prime member, you can stream movies from there as well. It’s a great device to have around, especially if you’re not into mainstream TV and hate commercials like I do!
Memory Cards Still have an old school camera like I do? Memory cards are so cheap these days, you can’t afford to be without spares. If you have some great shots that you can’t back up to the cloud right away just throw in another card and fuhgitaboutit! Same goes for your micro SD card on your phone! I’ve found that it’s also a great little gift to give people in developing countries who otherwise couldn’t afford them. NOBODY is going to turn one of these babies down!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Items That Make Traveling Easier. Have some favorite items you never leave home without? Have you gotten creative when packing? Leave a comment below and tell us what you did!