Although I don’t do it nearly as often as I’d like, not checking luggage is my favourite way to travel. Travelling with only a carry-on means your bag is much less likely to be lost in transit, and it spares you the awful ritual of having to wait at the baggage carousel after a long flight. (Related: why do luggage carousels turn people into absolute animals?) It also presents a challenge, especially for longer trips. Bringing only a carry-on necessitates items that don’t weigh a lot, pack down small, and can multi-task in terms of functionality. Here are some of my tried-and-true, been-using-for-years essentials.
My beloved Samsonite suitcase has been hauled through the crowds at Buckingham Palace during a downpour, lost in the blackhole of an airport for two days at Christmas time, and was once almost peed on by a dog. Despite that, it still functions as well as it did on day one. The zippers run smoothly, the multi-directional spinner wheels make it easy to pull alongside you when it’s heavy, and the luggage itself is incredibly light for its size. I believe suitcases are an investment piece, and this one certainly holds up to the test of time.
Fact: travel-sized toiletries are a massive waste of money. Sure, the little bottles are cute, but when you look at the price per ounce, you’re paying way more for it than you are your regular-sized bottle. The solution? Decant your favourite products into smaller, carry-on-approved containers. I love silicone bottles for this; they’re lightweight, leakproof, and less prone to cracking or coming unscrewed the way regular plastic bottles are. Plus they’re so easy to clean and reuse when you’re done with them. Win-win!
There’s a reason why this product is so popular on Amazon. Sleeping on an airplane is hell, so I’m always looking for way to make the experience slightly less horrible. Enter this ingenious little guy. Unlike most travel pillows, which curve around the back of your neck and only provide support if you sleep with your head tilted way back, the BCozzy travel pillow can provide support from all angles. This is a godsend for people who like to sleep with their head tilted onto their shoulder (no more neck cramps), as well as people whose heads bob forward when they nod off. I can confirm I have not snapped my head up once after falling asleep while using this product. As an added bonus, it is machine-washable, so you can get rid of all those grimy airplane germs when your trip is done.
Okay, we all know we can’t bring a full water bottle through security when we fly. The solution is to bring an empty one which you can then fill up on the other side, and the Simple Modern water bottle is the best I’ve used. Made out of stainless steel, it is well-insulated, withstands a battering, and comes in a rainbow of colours and patterns.
I am seriously impressed by the Travex line of clothing from Eddie Bauer. Lightweight and wrinkle-resistant, Travex clothes keep you cool on hot days, dry quickly if you get caught in the rain, and are stylish enough that you can wear them in “everyday” (read: not schlepping through airports) life as well. The pieces come in coordinating colours so it’s simple to build a whole travel wardrobe around them. Wait for a good sale; Eddie Bauer is one of those stores that are always doing deals (30% off, free shipping, a coupon for an extra $10 off).
So you want a pair of boots you can hike in. That’s waterproof. But won’t give you blisters. And also looks okay with street clothes. Well, these are the boots for you. (Admittedly, I also love to toot the horn of Canadian companies.) They’re great in snow and rain, but play equally well with skinny jeans and dresses. And, key for me, they’re comfortable. I’ve had other boots in the same price bracket that have left the back of my heels rubbed raw and bloody; these barely needed breaking in and felt fine the first time I walked around in them. They’re the sort of boots that are meant to be worn; they last forever and look better with age.