Looking for investment pieces to take on your next trip? Here’s a list of 12 things I can’t travel without.
As a proud and conscious consumer, I love finding new products that fit my lifestyle. And once I’m sold, I’m a fan for life (pointing to the now three pairs of Allbirds Tree Skippers I own). From years of testing and trying out new buys, what I’ve learned is that not all products are made equally. There have been cheap purchases that have fell apart at the literal seams after three separate flight legs. But there have been splurges that also didn’t live up to their sales pitch. In the same vein, I’ve also scored some budget products that have lasted for years. Today, my buying philosophy is investing in goods whose upfront costs justify their longevity. My four standards are about practicality, durability, aesthetics, and sustainability. From my go-to shoes, to the backpacks that have been lugged around without a scratch, these are the 12 products that always make the packing list.
1. Allbirds Tree Skippers
I first saw the Allbirds wool sneakers in a friend’s backpack on her way to New Zealand. She swore by the shoes’ orthopedic build and easy-to-wash properties. When I found myself having to walk 10 miles a day for a weeklong conference, I was also recommended the Allbirds Tree Skippers and haven’t looked back since.
My personal experience: My everyday shoe, the slip-on tree skippers are made from sustainable eucalyptus tree fibers that are breathable and light thanks to their woven-knit fabric. The insole is made of caster bean oil and ZQ Merino wool, which conforms to your sole and reduces odor. It’s machine washable, looking brand spanking new every time I give it a wash and is so soft, you don’t need to wear socks with it. They’re the perfect shoe especially when going through TSA security where they just slip right off without having to adjust the laces.
2. Tortuga Backpack
I had been seeing Tortuga ads on social media and loved their Instagram community. After reposting some of their backpacks, friends would always DM me on how much they loved the backpacks so I had to get my own pack.
My personal experience: Meet the expandable carry-on luggage that take the guesswork about luggage fitting under the seat or in the overhead compartment. What I love most about this backpack is the considerations that were taken for both male and female torsoes. There’s a mesh zipper compartment to help separate items from one another, a dedicated pocket for laptops, and a section for smaller gadgets so things are easy to access. The bag can be expanded to fit more items or tightened to be as compact as possible.Take the Bagfinder Quiz to find the backpack that’s most suitable for your travel needs. Heads up! They are currently restocking their inventory with upgrades to their original line of pro travelpacks so stay tuned!
Buy Tortuga Backpack, starting from $99
3. Booty By Brabants Leggings
My friend Mary introduced me to her Booty By Brabants leggings during our girl’s trip to San Diego and I instantly fell in love with the textured compression fabric and fun colorways. But they also made me feel super confident thanks to the sleek silhouette that fits every body beautifully.
My personal experience: I love this Boston-based business and the founder’s connection to Brazil. Half-Brazilian, Kelly Brabants’ athleisure line pays homage to Rio De Janiero. Most of the apparel comes in shockingly bright colors and all the clothes are made in Brazil. These pants come in two sizes – one size fits all and plus size. The various styles have different compression attributes, lengths, and textures. I am a huge fan of the Croco Skin collection given how shapely they make me look. The only downside is they lack pockets but if you’re someone who likes to wear leggings on planes, you can wear these in lieu of compression socks.
Buy Booty By Brabants Leggings, starting from $51
4. TRTL Neck Pillow
An acquaintance introduced me to the TRTL neck pillow, raving about how much it changed their sleep habits on the plane. I was never one to use travel pillows and this one is a hardsell at first glance since it looks like a broken neck brace. But trust me when I say that great sleep is on the horizon.
My personal experience: A cult-favorite in the travel world, the U-shaped neck pillow supports your neck in the best sleeping position when sitting upright. I rarely wake up with stiff necks anymore even on the most long haul of flights. Wrapped in a soft fleece cover, you can easily remove it post-flight and wash it in the laundry. The pillow can lay flat in your bag or wrap around the handles of your luggage, making it a lot less bulky than half of its competitors. Think of it as a padded scarf that won’t pop or take up precious carry-on space.
Buy the TRTL Neck Pillow for $32.46
5. Alleyoop Essentials
My makeup bag was getting so bulky and I was tired of traveling with too many items so finding this small business during quarantine was a godsend. I was so impressed by the practicality of the goods and their great customer service that I’ve become a forever fan.
My personal experience: With its mission to be plastic neutral and a promise to return precious time to timestrapped individuals, it’s hard not to fall in love with Alleyoop. For overnights or quick weekend trips, all I pack is their 4-in-1 makeup brush, The Multitasker, their Stack The Odds compact featuring a swivel mirror, highlighter, contour, and blush for on-the-go- application, and the Double Team lip lotion. The lip lotion provides the right amount of color and really hydrates in dry conditions.
6. Sognatore Resort Wear
I met the founder of this small brand, Megan, on a Clubhouse chat and we bonded over our love of solo travel. She asked me to try the prototypes of some pieces while on our Maui babymoon and I’ve never been more excited for a clothing line to drop than this one.
My personal experience: The Bodrum Collection, a resort wear line inspired by the bright reds and azure blues of the popular Turkish getaway, is the color palette I didn’t know I needed. As someone who has felt body conscious their whole lives, especially in bathing suits, I was so impressed by how flawlessly the Cara top and Catalina bottom fit! But what I love most is the wrap around Sandrine skirt. This skirt can take you from the beach to dinner in no time flat and can be wrapped a number of ways. I feel confident every time I put this resort wear and love that the bathing suit material is made from recycled nylon.
Buy The Bodrum Collection, use code MILLETTE15 for a 15% discount sitewide
7. Sony Alpha Series
It took me years to bite the bullet and invest in a proper camera. As luck would have it, my first —not researched—purchase was the Sony A5000 thanks to a great sale we happened upon in Vietnam. Four years later and many encounters with the Sony family on the road, I invested in the Sony A7C full frame camera.
My personal experience: I kick myself for not investing in a good camera prior to my slow travel backpacking trip around Southeast Asia. Ever since I got my hands on the Sony A5000, taking photos has never been the same. The Alpha Series models range from super lightweight mirrorless models (which is what I started with) to fullframe powerhouses. I love that all the lenses are interchangeable and can elevate your photography game tenfold. Most models have real-time autofocus tracking, electronic viewfinders, image stabilization, great performing internal mics, and LCD monitors that swivel and twist. Paired with a sturdy tripod and wireless remote, taking beautiful images on the road solo has never been easier.
8. Brevite Jumper
As someone who travels with at least five cameras and needs quick access to the products, regular backpacks just don’t cut it anymore. Enter the Brevite Jumper.
My personal experience: I honestly don’t know how I traveled without this camera bag. The Brevite Jumper is on the more compact end of the camera bag range but can hold more gadgets than meets the eye. It has a fully configurable interior thanks to velcro dividers, pockets galore, a quick camera access door, luggage passthrough, and spacious side pockets. It sells out every 30 days and is an Asian-owned business. I can fit my Sony A7C and multiple lenses, a drone and its controllers, as well as its extra battteries, and even a polaroid camera with ease. And it’s such a comfortable everyday backpack that my husband travels with it as his primary backpack when we don’t have to bring our camera equipment.
Buy the Brevite Jumper for $129
9. Turkish Towel
I’m a huge sarong fan and highly recommend others to always pack a sarong. But I fully converted to turkish towel usage during my bachelorette trip to Tulum. I discovered a local Quintana Roo boutique, Moc Moc, that sold the most beautiful textiles. After getting my hands on one of her turkish towels, it’s the one thing I never leave home without.
My personal experience: I’ve used my turkish towel as an airplane blanket, beach towel, picnic spread, hostel bed cover, and extra padding for any breakables purchased on the road. They’re portable and dry much quicker than a regular beach towel but still have that fluff factor unlike microfiber towels.
Buy a Turkish Towel
10. Teva Sandals
When I went backpacking around Southeast Asia, I had two pairs of shoes for the trip: my Birkenstocks and my Teva sandals. Everyone raved about the Birkenstocks but the Tevas ended up being the more practical footwear of choice, especially during rainy season. My husband ended up getting a pair for the trip too and still has the same pair to this day (six years later).
My personal experience: The Original Universal Teva is a utilitarian dream. Made for all-day wear, these amphibious shoes are perfect for when you’re anticipating to do both water and land activities. They’ve gone through modern makeover with a number of prints and patterns available for purchase. And they are great for hiking (see my Road to Hana Vlog in Maui) and can be used as water shoes when swimming around rocky areas. The multiple velcro straps help you adjust the shoes to fit comfortably around your feet. Once you’re done with your pair, you can send them to the TefaForever recycling program so they never have to see a landfill.
Buy Teva Sandals, select styles starting from $25
11. Kosan Go Travel Dress
One of my favorite travel bloggers, Frances of So The Adventure Begins, first posted herself rocking this convertible travel dress around Saigon. From her review, I knew it would be a great investment for someone who wants a capsule wardrobe on the road while still looking fashionable.
My personal experience: Kosan prides itself on creating travel gear that fits the requirements of a minimalist lifestyle. Unlike other convertible travel dresses on the market, this dress comes in a number of colorways and has a lot of technical aspects like the ability to modify skirt lengths, four hidden pockets, UV protection in the moisture-wicking fabric, and wrinkle-resistance. You can see a lot of deliberation went into the design. Also, 1% of all proceeds go to human rights initiatives.
Buy the Kosan Go Travel Dress, on sale for $136 CAD (originally $160 CAD)
12. Ultra Slim Power Bank with Built-in Wall Charger
The only brandless product on this list, this battery pack is the ultimate lifesaver when traveling. It’s an ultra slim power bank that can be plugged directly in the wall to recharge. It’s outfitted with three micro-cables that can power iOS and Android products, as well as any USB-C electronics. It’s a no-brainer travel essential for those who drain their phones on their trips. The pack comes in black, white, and red. Unfortunately, I’ve only found it on Amazon but it’s worth the purchase.
Buy an Ultra Slim Power Bank for $39.99
Things I’ve Purchased That I Don’t *Love*
Osprey Backpacking Bag: People love this bag and while the two-bag system works since some models have a detachable daypack, the larger bag is structureless and a mess to pack and unpack. Also, it’s massive on a small-torsoed folks so it always looks like I’ve overpacked anytime I use it.
Birksenstock Suede Sandals: Even after seven months of continuous use, the sole never softened or conformed to my foot. Since it’s not waterproof, it became a hassle to use while traveling around Asia during monsoon season. Slick suede makes for an uncomfortable walking experience.
GoPro Camera: I love taking underwater footage but I never got the mileage out of this device that I wanted. It can only be used for specific cases and comes with so many accessories that it gets tedious to use on short trips.
Collapsible water bottles: Great idea but depending on which type you get, the infrastructure can be less than ideal when toting it around on long trips. I had all the water spill out of one of my collapsible water bottles due to an uneven bottom that toppled on itself.
Do you agree with my essentials packing list? And travel items I could live without? Comment below with your favorite products!
Give me a shout-out on Pinterest pretty please?