Favorite Stuff to Travel With

I’m not the lightest packer in the world, but I do OK. I have several gadgets I like to travel with, so I compensate by taking fewer clothes and shoes (and then usually buy something on the road, which is a baaaaad habit I should overcome!) to make room for the things that really matter. There are a few smaller items that I usually tuck in my suitcase or backpack because they almost always get used somewhere along the way, but some of these are the bulky bits that I rarely leave behind.

Morning reflection on the lake at Khao Sok, Thailand

Morning reflection on the lake at Khao Sok, Thailand

1. Canon Rebel T1i: For years we kept saying we were going to get a good camera and for years we kept putting it off. Around the fall of 2010 we started saving up Amazon giftcards to put toward the new camera, and by Christmas we had nearly 80% of the cost covered. This is the first dSLR we’ve owned, and it’s been a learning experience. But from the beginning I’ve been able to take some fairly decent photos, so it goes along on every trip, despite its bulk and heft. I’ve added a 50mm lens to the kit, as well.

2. iPad: A little secret? Somewhere along the way I transitioned from being a Mac girl to being a PC/Android girl. It happened after I poured coffee into my iBook at 5 a.m., but that’s another story. This summer I bought an iPad2 and I admit I’m still on a learning curve. I do hate that many sites don’t work too well on the iPad, and that I have frequent wifi connectivity problems, but the loads of free and low-cost apps that make travel easier make it worthwhile. I also use it as my primary reading device, having downloaded the nook and Kindle apps. And we’ve always got a few sitcoms loaded on it for downtime viewing.

3. Longchamp Le Pliage bag: These nylon bags fold up into little packets so you can tuck them into your bigger bag. They are also water-resistant, even on the bottom, so they are great on drizzly days. The medium-sized one is like a magic bag of holding–it seems much bigger on the inside than on the outside! I can get a camera, mini umbrella, wallet, iPad, and other bits and bobs in there. It’s a bit of a black hole sometimes, but overall a great bag. The drawback is that the corners fray after several months of use, which is frustrating because they aren’t exactly inexpensive.

4. Noise-cancelling headphones: I’ve had mine for going on 10 years, I think, and they are a bit worse for wear. They are also enormous and clunky and take up a ton of space. But they are invaluable on long flights, making music listening and movie watching far more enjoyable. Paired with some earplugs they also seriously cancel out the noise if you want to sleep. But they are bulky. Did I say they are bulky?

5. Unlocked cell phone: One of the great things about buying my cell phone overseas (a little Samsung Galaxy Gio) is that it’s already unlocked. When we travel I can just buy a new sim card with calling credit and data, and usually it’s activated right away. Easier to manage and smaller than the iPad, it’s just incredibly helpful when you’re in a new place. And it can help with translation when you’re stuck and need help expressing your needs with more than sign language.

I realize that this adds up to a hefty pricetag–all together it’s a couple thousand dollars worth of stuff. Bear in mind, I’ve acquired these items over the years and I’m a big fan of thinking in terms of cost-per-use. Apart from the headphones, I use everything on the list almost everyday. Which is probably why they are must-go essentials when I travel!

I travel with a few other “essentials,” so I’ll share more faves in the future. What are your go-to can’t-leave-the-house-without travel necessities?

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