These are the travel tools and resources I have found useful during my solo travels, travels with my family, or with my friends. I will continue to update this page to share information about new tools that may be useful for you own travels.
Table of Contents
- Thwart the thieves
- Keep your money safe
- Compress & organize with packing cubes
- Defend yourself
- Save the earth when you quench your thirst
- Ditch the powder or liquid: Do your laundry with sheets
- Get dry with a microfiber towel
- Charge your electronics
- Travel Comfortably
On this page, I put forward certain products and services that I have personally used or examined. I may also list alternative products that may provide similar functions even if I have not used them personally, in order to provide you with additional choices to consider.
Note that some but not all links on this page may contain affiliate links. If you purchase a product or service through an affiliate link, I may receive a commission for qualifying purchases – at no additional cost to you.
Thwart the Thieves
Carrying a backpack behind you while sightseeing in crowded cities is not a very good idea unless you’re prepared to lose something. Crafty thieves abound in Rome, Florence, Madrid, Barcelona and many other touristy places. Experts in zipper-magic, and the slash-and-disappear techniques, they have victimized thousands of distracted tourists.
Enter Pacsafe backpacks. They are lined with steel mesh that beat the slashers. The bags have integrated locking zippers that make it just a little bit harder for zippety-zipper-happy thieves to open your backpacks without you being aware of their tugging and fiddling behind you.
I own this 25-liter Venturesafe backpack which I use to pack mostly the electronics that I don’t want to put in my carry-on while traveling from one city to the next: my 15-inch MacBook Pro, a Nikon DSLR in a portable bag, my small 360 MiSphere camera, Ankler charger, and sundry electronics.
When not being used to transport my electronics during a flight or train ride, I use this bag when I go sightseeing. I stash in it my rain or winter jacket, hat, water bottle, snacks, and my cameras when not in use. I know I can be confident wearing it on my back even in crowded places.
Keep Your Money Safe
Other products I use to try and outsmart unwanted fast fingers are:
A bi-fold wallet with RFID blocking slots and a cord that can attach to your purse, backpack, or other bag.
Moneybelts are great to keep your valuables confidently on your person and out of sight. I use it to store my passport, important cards or papers, and emergency cash I carry with me. Here’s one I have been using for several years and is still hugely popular for many travelers – the Lewis N. Clark RFID Blocking Neck Wallet/Travel Pouch for men and women. It has several compartments to help organize the important things that need safekeeping.
Compress & Organize with Packing Cubes
Organize the contents of your luggage using compression packing cubes. I use a 3-piece set of small eBags compression cubes which is enough for a week’s worth of clothing for early spring or late fall travel: 5 underwears, 2 sports bras, 3 Smartwool long sleeved base layers, 5 pairs wool socks, 1 pair thick leggings, thermal leggings and shirt for sleeping, a woolen hat, a thick scarf, 2 t-shirts. (I’m wearing the rest of my travel clothes including the down vest and jacket.)
Roll the larger pieces of clothing before putting them into the compression bag.
I’ve used these compression bags for several years and it helps tremendously also if you label them (they look exactly alike) so you don’t have to open each one when looking for stuff.
There are larger sizes and other combination small-medium-large sizes, so find the right combination for you.
By the way, Amazon has its own brand of compression bags which you might also consider – they are cheaper. However, I still prefer my eBags ones because the solid fabric in the middle of the cover makes for better bag compression, compared with a solid fabric only on one end of the cover with the rest made up of mesh.
I’m no kung-fu expert, so I have to think of other ways to defend myself in case I ever get into an unsavory situation where my safety is at stake. I hope I never have to use this travel tool, but I always pack one of these Saber pepper sprays when I travel or just hike the parks. Make sure to practice the point-and-shoot technique with the practice-spray (contains water?) that comes with it.
Note that TSA rules say you can’t bring it as a carry on but you can put it in check-in luggage when flying.
Save the Earth When You Quench Your Thirst
Be a responsible traveler and save the earth. You can do this by eliminating the need to buy plastic water bottles. Bring your own water bottle – a stainless steel one that can keep your drink hot or cold for hours, and not “weep”. I have a Mira water bottle which I consider one of my most useful travel tools. Look for the right size so you don’t have to refill too often.
Ditch the Powder or Liquid: Do Your Laundry With Sheets
If you packed light for a trip that’s longer than a week, chances are you’ll need to do your laundry. If you’re like me, I try to book accommodations with a washing machine so I can wash my outer or heavier clothes (underwear and socks get washed in the sink using the courtesy shampoo).
I pack a few of these laundry detergent sheets and use them in the washing machine. They’re very convenient, no need to worry about packing messy liquid or powder or having to buy an entire box or bottle when all you need is a very small fraction of the content.
Get Dry With a Microfiber Towel
I learned about microfiber towels from my daughter who travels light and likes to rough it once in a while – like sleeping in a built-in tent on top of a small vehicle while driving around Iceland.
This type of towel is very light and doesn’t require much space in your luggage, but it’s very absorbent and dries quickly.
This travel tool isn’t always needed if you plan to stay in classier accommodations. But there have been times when I did spur-of-the-moment things where I ended up staying in a hostel. It came in handy when towels have to be paid for, or when I felt like I shouldn’t/couldn’t use the towels provided.
The microfiber towel I bought is too brightly colored, and although it’s otherwise good quality, I recommend getting a solid color that can be washed together with your other similarly-colored clothes. Check here for other microfiber travel towels.
Charge Your Electronics
Don’t leave home without this necessary travel tool to charge your American devices: the electrical adapter for the country you’re visiting. Here’s how it looks like for Italy (Type L) or one that will work for most other countries in Europe (Type C). There is an all-in-one world travel adapter as well.
Power Banks / Juice for Your Devices
This travel tool is an absolute must: don’t run out of juice on your smartphone while traveling! I always bring my Anker Portable Power Bank with me. It charges my iPhone (and my friends’ phones), and other devices many times over. Very useful when you’re going to be out for hours without access to an electrical outlet.
Travel Neck Pillows
There was a time when you could recline your airplane seat comfortably. In those days, I used a neckbone pillow to comfortably cradle my neck and head and snooze. Nowadays, I can only use this type of pillow while traveling in our car where I could fully recline my seat.
Airplane seats in coach class no longer recline as far as you’d like them to go, and you have no choice but to nap or sleep in an upright position. The problem is your head will loll around unless you have a good pillow. After many, many failed neck pillow experiments, I finally found one that conforms to my neck/head shape and prevents my head from rolling sideways or forward. The Anywhere Comfort travel neck pillow is made of memory foam and comes with a removable and washable cover. It’s very comfortable, soft, but firm. Its length and the velcro strips on both ends make it easy to configure it into different shapes. Personally, I just roll it around my neck (like a cervical collar) – and it simply holds my head in place. I found my first one at the Healthy Back Store – but Amazon also sells this pillow. Dimensions (foam part only): 28 inches x 4 inches x 2 inches.
More and more airlines are banning those leg hammocks and portable footrests that help keep you and your legs comfortable on long-haul flights. Your best bet for good circulation and avoiding the pooling of fluids in your feet and legs are compression socks.
There are many available in Amazon and they come in light compression (15-20mmHg pressure) or mid-compression (20-30mmHg pressure). Before buying, read this article to understand the features of compression socks reviewed by Sara Hendricks on Amazon. I prefer merino-wool based socks and own pairs from Sockwell (made in the USA) which are quite durable. I also have non-wool compression socks from Physix Gear.
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