I tend to buy a lot of travel products and gadgets. I see them as totally necessary and frankly I’m a little obsessed, but I’ve found many travelers have never even heard of them. Here are a few of my favorites and why I think every traveler would benefit from them!
1. Solid toiletries
When traveling, I use solid shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and face wash. I had been wanting to try this out for a while after seeing ads all over social media for what looked like a bar of soap for your hair. The eco-friendly aspect was appealing, but I have to admit that my main motivation was getting around TSA liquid and gel ounce rules while traveling carry-on only. Not to mention avoiding the spilled-liquids-in-luggage disaster!
I purchased my solid toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner from Lush, everyone’s favorite bath bomb paradise. My solid face wash is from a company called Feather and Bone. The shampoo and conditioner were both just like bars of soap in metal tins that you used in the same way – rub it on your hair, scrub it in, rinse it out. The conditioner was okay, but the shampoo is my standout here.
My “Seanik” bright blue seaweed and salt infused bar not only gets my hair squeaky clean but also lathers beautifully, smells amazing and plays nicely with my coarse, wavy hair. I picked it knowing that my hair works well with sea salt spray, and there are tons of options for bars with different properties for various hair types.
My advice? Go to Lush with natural hair and talk to an employee about what works for you now to get their advice on which bar to pick. They aren’t hair experts, but they ARE Lush experts.
My Lush solid toothpaste, called toothy tabs, are pea-sized white tabs that comes in a plastic bottle about the size of a hotel shampoo. The idea is that you crush the tab between your teeth and chew it for a few seconds to get it foaming before brushing. I love this for the convenience but BE WARNED- it takes some getting used to. In my opinion, before biting down, the tablet tastes terrible. Once you start chewing, it tastes normal (minty) but feels a bit fizzy. Also, they are strong- my mouth always tingles for a while after brushing, much more so than with traditional toothpaste.
Would I recommend it? Yes, absolutely! However, it’s much easier to get by with a small tube of toothpaste than a small bottle of shampoo, so I don’t see it as being quite so necessary. Additionally, go in prepared for it to feel a little weird the first few times.
Last but not least, my Feather and Bone solid face wash is a new favorite. Similarly to Toothy Tabs, the face wash comes in larger tablets called Face Gems. Unfortunately, they’re all individually packed in plastic squares, so I don’t use these as often because of the waste they produce. However, they are perfect for lightweight travel because they really are small and convenient, along with gentle yet exfoliating on your skin. All you do to use one is crush it in your palm with a few drops of water to make a paste.
My overall favorite part about these solid toiletry products is that, while eliminating weight and space, they all really worked to make me feel actually clean, fresh and reenergized (not to mention smell nice). If you’ve ever gone backpacking and stayed in hostels, you know that after a while that accomplishing this this can be a feat!
2. Trtl travel pillow
Okay, stay with me here. I do realize that this travel pillow resembles a neck brace BUT in my opinion the quality of sleep I get with it is worth much more than looking and feeling a little silly. Basically, it’s a long and wide strip of fleece with a pocket on one side which holds a bendy but strong plastic frame. The bottom part goes on your shoulder and the top against the side of your face. It’s strong enough that you can relax into it but not so strong that it’s rigid. The rest of the fleece wraps around your neck and Velcros to keep the whole setup in place.
Thankfully, the soft fleece makes the overall effect more “scarf” and less “whiplash,” so maybe I just feel sillier than I look. But make no mistake- you can walk through an airport with a traditional travel pillow slung around your neck and nobody would look twice, but when I whip out the Trtl and put it on I mean BUSINESS. I’m probably about to pop a ZzzQuil and it is SLEEP TIME with no negotiation.
3. Silk Sak
I love staying in hostels. I do not love rough hostel sheets of questionable cleanliness. I’m never going to stop checking for bedbugs (and neither should you!) but my Silk Sak is a great way to get more peace of mind and comfort when sleeping in strange places. Essentially, it’s an extra-large sleeping bag made of a thin layer of silk. You just slip it in between the covers and sleep in it to have your own layer between you and the sheets. Best of all, my Sleep Sak has an extra-long flap on the bottom side with a pocket on the outside so that you can put the pillow inside it. This way it’s like having your own sheets AND pillowcase. The best part? It stuffs easily into an attached pouch that’s about the size of two small rolled pairs of socks.
4. Packing cubes
For organization, compact packing, and generally being able to find what you need when you need it, I seriously don’t think there’s a better solution than packing cubes. They’re exactly what they sound like: cube-shaped zippered bags, usually made of rip stop nylon and often with mesh on top.
How you choose to pack them is personal and depends on your trip, but I keep it simple with one large cube for pants and scarves/hats/gloves/ other climate specific gear (sometimes sweaters will go in here), one small or medium cube for tops, and one small or medium cube for socks and underwear. When my clothes get dirty, I transfer them to a plastic grocery bag to keep them separate from my clean stuff.
I’ve used these cubes for anything from going home for the holidays with a suitcase to solo traveling in Scotland with a backpack, and while they are always helpful, they are truly invaluable when backpacking. Here’s why: I have a top loading backpack, meaning anything I want to get must be accessed from the top opening or the zippered bottom of the bag. By using cubes, I have way fewer individual items to sort through on my way to finding what I want.
5. Turkish towel
My Turkish towel is my other lifeline in hostels! It’s a cotton towel the dimensions of a full bath or beach towel, but much thinner. However, it is SUPER absorbent and fast drying! I have long, thick hair, and it’s absorbent enough to dry my hair after I’ve used it as a body towel.
It can fold or roll up to about the size of a long sleeved shirt but functions like a normal towel. As a result, the Turkish towel is perfect for lightweight travel. Many hostels have towels that you can rent cheaply, but I prefer to save that money and have my own towel.
Bonus: I’ve also used it as a privacy curtain in hostel dorms when I’m on a bottom bunk near the door and I’d rather not be woken up by the hall light at all hours of the night and early morning.
What do you think? Will you be giving some of my travel staples a try? Whether or not you do, I would encourage you to find the products and hacks that solve your personal travel conundrums. Happy travels!
The post was not paid for by the products’ companies. All opinions of the author are her own.