In the last three years, I’ve traveled to Mexico, France, Burkina Faso (Africa), Ecuador, England, and South Korea. These trips ranged anywhere from one week-three months in length. For each trip, I traveled with a different group of people, and I picked up some genius travel tips along the way. Now, I’m prepared to share with you the top five items that I absolutely will not travel without. Most of these items are for making a trip abroad less stressful, for these are convenient items that will make your trip abroad comfortable and practical.
Neck Pillow or Full-Sized Pillow
Plane rides abroad can be long and uncomfortable, so bring a pillow! Most people use a simple neck pillow available at Walmart or Amazon. This is a great choice because you can keep it around your neck as you navigate your way through the airport. However, if you’re traveling somewhere where you need to bring your own pillow, you can use a trick of mine to bring it on board the plane with you without having to take up tons of space in your carry-on. If you’re taking a small backpack with you as your personal item, you can simply slide the pillow through the straps of your backpack, carrying it between your back and your backpack. I’ve done this on mission trips to Mexico and Africa, and I went through at least four different airport securities, boarding four different planes, and no security personal ever asked me to put the pillow in a carry-on. I was worried they’d consider it too many items (considering I already had a carry-on, a personal item, and sometimes another small purse), but I never got any flack for it. Don’t get me wrong, some people may look at you a little strange, but it’s sooo worth it because you’ll have the best pillow for the flight and will now have a pillow to use at your destination with plenty of space left in your luggage!
Sleeping Mask and Earplugs
Most international flights provide sleeping masks and earplugs, but I have been on a few that don’t. If you’re traveling overseas, you’re going to need to adjust to a time change, and sometimes that means you should be sleeping on the flight. For example, when I went to South Korea, we boarded the plane at midnight our time (so I was already tired), but we were arriving 16 hours later at 5 in the morning Korean time. To properly adjust to the time, I stayed up for a few hours and then slept the rest of the flight. However, this was the flight that taught me to always bring my own sleeping mask and earplugs. They did not provide any, and they only turned off the overhead cabin lights for about 3 of the 16 hours. I improvised by tying a sweatshirt around my head (real classy, I know), but that only did so much because I was also seated near not one, but THREE crying babies. Needless to say, I searched for my own sleeping mask and earplugs immediately upon landing so that I would have them for the flight back. It turns out that sleeping masks and earplugs are important beyond just the flight. I’m the kind of person who likes to sleep in total darkness and silence, and that cannot always be guaranteed when you’re traveling abroad, especially if you are staying in the city. Bright lights and loud noises are universal to city-life! Airport prices for these items can be costly, but you can find plenty of comfy masks on Amazon here.
Dryer Sheets and Gallon-Sized Ziploc Bags
This sounds like a strange one, but let me explain. If you are going somewhere for a short amount of time and know that laundry services will not be available to you, PLEASE bring gallon-sized ziploc bags and dryer sheets. Instead of shoving dirty clothes back into your suitcase, fold them up and place them inside a ziploc bag. Add a dryer sheet. This will prevent your suitcase from stinking AND will create tons of space for souvenirs! I love this trick, especially when I visit hot places. When I went to Mexico for a week, this trick allowed me to go with just a carry-on! I had plenty of clothes for the week, and plenty of space for my souvenirs once I had pressed all of my dirty clothes into air-tight Ziploc bags. Even if you’re going to re-wear some of your clothes during your trip, I’d still suggest bringing a few bags for dirty socks and underwear. And the dryer sheets can also line the bottom of your bag to keep your clean clothes smelling great!
Sweatshirt (or small blanket)
International flights always seem to be just so COLD! Many flights provide a small blanket and pillow, but it’s always a good idea to bring something that will keep you warm just in case. Most of my international travel is done in the summer, so it is tricky to decide what to wear on the plane when it is so hot outdoors. Typically, I will wear either light fabric pants or yoga pants and a t-shirt, keeping a pair of shorts to change into right away in my bag and a sweatshirt for the plane tied around my waist. On the flight, cozy up! Then, once you’re about to land, you can either change back into your shorts in the airplane bathroom (if you’re talented), or change at the first bathroom you come upon after landing (what I usually do).
Also, don’t forget about your feet! Sandals are easier to travel in during warm weather, but they will get cold on the flight! Tuck a pair of fuzzy socks into your carry-on to keep your feet nice and snug during the trip!
You’re allowed one quart-sized Ziploc bag to store toiletries of less than 3 oz. Use it! Even if you prefer to pack full-sized toiletries in your checked bag, a few small toiletries will make your trip easier. I like to place a small container of toothpaste, deodorant, body spray, and face-wash. Pack a toothbrush along with it, and you’ve got the perfect little bag to take to the bathroom for freshening-up mid flight or after landing. Travel can make us all feel so gross, and sometimes you land hours before you can check into your hotel for a shower, so bring small toiletries with you! Also, I suggest packing this small bottle of wrinkle-release spray. No matter how I pack my clothes, they always seem to get a little wrinkled. This spray really works! You just spray the wrinkled areas, lay the clothes flat, and let them dry! All of these toiletries will make you more confident during your travel abroad.
BONUS: Depending on where you’re traveling, you may not have access to free toilet paper. Many Latin American and South American countries require a fee for using toilet paper, so you can save a few cents by packing a small bundle of tissues in your purse or backpack! Also, bring hand sanitizer. I love the kind that straps onto my bags so that I always have some with me.
Traveling abroad can be stressful, but packing these small items will help you have a more relaxed and stress-free trip! Be safe, clean, and comfortable by including these items on your trip!
Welcome to Learn-Grow-Teach-Go! I’m Rachel. Join me as I explore what it means to be a life-long learner and begin to live out a more full, balanced, and simplistic lifestyle. I am currently a high school English teacher, and I enjoy traveling the world and adventuring in my spare time. Whether you’re looking for advice on living minimally and simplistically, teaching ideas and lessons, or travel tips and trips, you’ve found the right place. Glad to have you here!