Hey there! I’m Tara, the founder of Conscious Travel Collective. I’ve not only worked in travel for years, but I've loved to travel since forever! Along the years I’ve picked up some simple, tried and tested items that make travel easier and more enjoyable for me. There are just a few things that I don’t ever skip in my packing list and I want to share these with YOU!
Read to the end for some Bonus tips from my 67 year old mom!
Travel Item #1 - A backpack purse
I always always have a backpack purse! It’s such a versatile item for storing all of my critical items.
Why a backpack “purse”, and not a backpack?
Fair question! I make this differentiation because of the size, and functionality. Tiny little cafes in Europe (or NYC for that matter) aren’t great for having a bulky backpack in tow. Plus, the bigger they are, the more likely you are to fill them up, and that gets heavy, leading to exhaustion, and you don’t want that on your holiday! I like the designs they are trying to be purse like for when I’m going to a nice restaurant, or dressing up, my bag still fits my overall presentation, and I don’t have a super casual bag with a nicer outfit.
*Important note – I bring more than one bag to use once I've arrived. I will also bring along another bag for my laptop (again something not too big) and a little reusable, compact bag for shopping that can live in my purse. Since I often work while I travel, I like the laptop bag as a separate item, in order to allow for my backpack purse to be small. Since my laptop and cords won’t fit in the purse, I bring a second bag that rolls up when not in use.
What do I look for in a backpack purse?
I especially love the bags that have a hidden or secure space for items I want to keep extra safe, a little pocket that’s inaccessible from the outside, so I’m not worried about my bag being exposed in crowded areas to potential pit-pockets, etc. That wearing your bag in the front is not a cute look, and doesn’t let me get up close to all the stuff I want to see, which is usually pastries! Plus, when I’m in a teeny tiny bathroom stall and there is no hook to hang a purse, at least I know I, don’t have to place my bag on the floor (gross).
For folks who aren’t looking for a bag that is “purse-like”, you can opt for a small backpack with the hidden pocket, that can be dressed up or dressed down and you’ll be in good shape! I know people who use a fanny pack, and to them I say bravo! Big kudos to y’all. I can’t manage to get my “essential items” reduced down enough for just a fanny pack on most days, but I’ll keep working on it.
Travel Item #2 - Sweatsuit/ lounge clothes
I always have a pair of sweat shorts, and a sweatshirt. If I need to run down to the hotel lobby in a hurry, pop out for a quick coffee or if I’m just lounging around my room, this is such a great item to have on hand.
It really doesn’t take up much space. I tend to travel very light and this is something I am always so glad that I have. Unlike some other things that I only wear once, this is something that I get use of almost daily.
And wouldn’t you know, I’m in my BNB in Italy right now, wearing my sweat shorts and sweatshirt, as I write this blog!
Travel Item #3 – An airtight bag
Somehow the suitcase which is very neat and tidy when I leave home, never fits quite as nicely when I’m repacking during travels. The last thing I want to do is haul around an extra bag of stuff that once fit in my luggage. This gets tiresome fast when going from town to town. Luckily, I have a tool for just this occasion!
I like to keep an airtight bag in my luggage (no, I don’t start with anything in it because that would defeat the purpose of making more space later). I’ll pull this out when things get messy and I need to gain a few inches in my bag. I can squeeze a little bit of extra room and make sure my zippers don’t bust.
When does this come in handy?
There are lots of time when you might want to buy a little extra space. Currently I am traveling during a tricky time as far as packing is concerned since it’s between the seasons of spring, and summer. I have a few items I’ve been wearing for the colder days that I probably won’t need for the next few days so it’s great to have an airtight bag I can place these items.
A few different brands make bags that can be rolled, and sealed to pull all the air from the bag, creating a lot of space. (Be careful not to get a bag that’s too big, otherwise it can get really heavy and create a new problem for you)
Another time to pull out a compression bag is at the end of trip. Toss in all your dirty laundry, zip it up, and make room for something to bring home! I’ll be coming home with local Olive oil and local sea salt that I wouldn’t have had room for if not for those extra inches.
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Travel Item #4 – A little bit of laundry soap
Here’s one all you lite packers probably already know, but that is a solid tip for everyone when away from home. One of the very best things to bring along on your travels is liquid laundry soap.
This provides the obvious benefit of packing less, since you’ll be able to wash and re-wear items. I’ve used the sink to wash my delicates, socks, tanks and tees when without a wash machine, but of course planning a stop with a wash machine is a huge help.
A little laundry soap will also come in handy for those moments when you’re too excited about your meal to keep it from landing on your shirt! Plus, I find that no matter how much planning goes into my wardrobe selections, it’s inevitable that I will want to re-wear a few items throughout the trip, that I wouldn’t have predicted prior to heading off. I can clean my favorites, and stash what isn’t being worn in my airtight bag mentioned in the tip above!
Bonus tip – Storing your liquids
I like to keep little containers (think empty spice jars or face cream containers) to reuse for my toiletries, this avoids having to buy mini containers because why spend money and / or create unnecessary waste.
Travel Item #5 - Cookies!
Food is love! That is a universal sentiment, right? When someone gives the gift of food, you immediately understand this is an exchange of their love for this thing, and they are sharing it with you!
That is why cookies are one of my favorite items to always pack! Before I leave home, I grab a couple Ziploc bags, then on the way to the airport I stop at a local bakery and get a bunch of specialty New York cookies … black and whites or rainbow cookies or my favorites. PS, If I’m running late I’ll buy these at the airport.
I leave the cookies in their sealed containers to stay fresh until I get to where I’m going. Once I’ve arrived, I divide the boxes of cookies into the Ziploc bags. When I leave the hotel, I toss a few bags of cookies in my purse, so whenever I’m meeting people or if I have a really nice encounter with someone on the street, in a restaurant or café, I’ll pull a little bag of cookies out to offer them. You can image their delight at receiving this little gift. It's fun to see their expression change from puzzled, to completely tickled.
I love that the cookies are something unique to New York which represents my home, and it become my little token of gratitude to someone who’s welcoming me in their home.
Tips from my (chronic over-packer) mom!
I was recently traveling with my mother. She is 67, and we travel very differently. I always carry on, and she packs like she is relocating for a year. I’m not kidding, I went to Germany with her and her partner once and between them they had 10 pieces of luggage! In fairness, it was winter, and I will note she has improved a lot since then, but the overpacking it still something she is working on.
Last month she met me in Italy where we’d be in 4 different cities over 10 nights. Since this would mean we’d be pulling luggage over cobblestone streets and carrying bags up flights of stairs, I strongly encouraged her to pack just what she could comfortably carry.
And she did! Sorta.
She brought only a carry-on roller suitcase and a backpack! Yay mom. But, her bag was nearly 50 pounds, and close to busting at the seams. At about day 9 I asked her to reflect on her packing so I could share her simple tips for must have travel items in a future blog. Here are her insights!
Mom tip #1 - Less makeup
“I could have gotten away with just a combo brow pencil / eye liner, a lip liner and gloss, a small foundation pen, and just a little mascara instead of my huge make-up kit.”
She has eyelash extensions, and great skin so she’s got that working for her! Rather than the bag of makeup she utilizes at home she found she had a more simple make up routine while in a nice warm climate, plus we were keeping it pretty low key, no big nights on the town.
Mom tip #2 – Hair styling products
“I’m glad I brought my curling iron and the converter but I can leave the blow dryer at home because it seems that all the apartments or hotels all have them. Some of the dryers were really nice, even better than mine.”
Mom tip #3 – A baseball hat
Let’s be honest, it was actually three.
My mom loves having a cute cap for rainy days, or when she’s just not up for dealing with hair. And I totally agree. I also like a cap for sun protection and bad hair days!
Mom tip #4 – Sturdy and stylish sneakers
Currently the fashion trends allow for white sneakers with almost everything; shorts, pants, dresses even, so this means not only less bulk in the suitcase but footwear that is sturdy for all those uneven streets and steps. She wisely invested in new sneaks before the trip and was completely smitten by her new HOKA’s which got several compliments from cute Italian boys. Go Mom!
Mom tip #5 - Rain poncho
This is one we learned on a trip to DC when I was 11 years old, and mom has never forgotten! “A rain poncho that folds up into a little square. I bring a few of them in case they tear, or someone else needs one.”
Gotta love those unattractive poncho’s, they really do come in handy. Even if its not fashionable, its super smart to have some kind of tiny and lightweight rain protector that can live in your bag for, well, a rainy day.
Do you have travel tips you’d like to share with the CTC community?
Please send them to Hello@ConsciousTravelCollective.com and we will pass your insights to our travelers! Plus, as travelers we’d love to try them out too!