I am an aviation queen. I have spent my life from the age of 6 on at least two round trip flights a year thanks to having divorced parents and traveling for holidays. In the last few years, I’ve also started traveling internationally! From week long trips to visit family, short weekends away, or moving to another country- I’ve learned how to pack and make the most of my space. I don’t always do it successfully but after years of experimenting and understanding my own needs, I’ve finally got the right concoction. However there are plenty of blogs, YouTube videos, and endless other forms of content geared toward packing smart. This post is about packing for comfort with some great non-essentials. What makes travel better?

Travel Must Haves(2)

  1. Accessory Container I use an old cigar tin to hold my travel jewelry and accessories. I actually got the idea from my tres chic friend Franchesca, who uses a cigar box for her sewing tools. It’s perfect for matching up a few sets to your wardrobe, or just throwing in a handful of pieces you love and will pull off under any condition. For me it really helps to have something that can be slim in order to keep from necklaces and earrings to get tangled up. Plus if I find little rocks, paper souvenirs, or other things I want to keep I now have a place to store it.
  2. Fun Item Inspired by Amelie, a friend of mine used to pass a small ceramic gnome when one of us went on adventures and take pictures with it. Unfortunately that friendship has died a good solid death due to drug dependency issues. Now I carry around a hand-crocheted penguin from my kick-ass friend I met in grad school who is running Expedition Penguin over on Instagram. You can find daily pictures of all the cool unique places her penguins have traveled. She’s made the whole set herself, and they’re all themed after characters from Supernatural. For the record, I have John Winchester. It’s really nice to have projects like these because they become good memory keepers, and allow you to share your adventures in silly ways.
  3. Art Supplies Pencils! I am a painter at heart but toting around my acrylics and everything is totally unrealistic. Luckily it doesn’t cost much to carry pencils. They won’t burst during flight, easy to use, and light. Add paper, and apply. I usually carry at least one kind of craft to do when I travel. For my super duper long flight to Indonesia from JFK, I packed a cross-stitching project.
  4. A Book I don’t think I need to say anything more on this but I will anyway. Any kind of e-book reader will work too. For me personally, relying on things that need electricity on flights or travel makes me really anxious because I’m constantly worried about running low on battery. Additionally, I’ve learned that when I pack more than one book on trips I end up overwhelmed and get this: I feel like I make the other books jealous when I choose one. It becomes distracting. But when I pack just one book I’m way more likely to read, and to enjoy it. Like music, it ends up becoming a sort of soundtrack of my trips. Here are some books and where I distinctly remember reading them:Pride & Prejudice = Denali National Park, Alaska
    Red Mars = Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland
    Radiance of Tomorrow = Kansas City, Missouri
    Fahrenheit 451 = Boston, Massachusetts
    The Shadow of the Wind = Pisa, Italy

    I tend to give my books away when I am done with them unless I really believe I’m going to re-read it. I give the books to others, leave behind in free libraries, coffee shops, or in airplanes. That’s how I got a copy of The Secret Life of Bees, stuck in with the in flight magazines. I gave my copy of Shadow of the Wind to another train passenger in Italy when she expressed how sad she was that she had already powered through her other books she packed. Fahrenheit 451 got me a nice compliment on a bus while I went to visit friends from high school. They can open up or shut down social interactions too by reading with a really serious face, or with an open inquisitive one. If you are a female, then know nothing will stop someone from hitting on you and they will target your book as a way to make their opening. This can be good or bad. Plus, if it’s a physical copy it smells really good.

  5. Scarf or Towel I cannot stress how important this item is. Either a scarf, or a towel will always be seen on my carry on. If the cabin is too cold, I get an extra layer of warmth. If I feel like a snooze, I ball them up and make myself a pillow. In the case of the towel, it’s also helped me: picnic in local parks at my travel destination, create a partition in hostels, cover up gross pillows, or any other number of things. Douglas Adams truly knew what he was talking about y’all, so pay attention! This scarf I got because I was kicked out of a church in Italy for having an exposed back. So if you’re traveling to conservative style locations having a scarf also works to help. Also should be mandatory for European travel. Everyone wears one there, even the men.
  6. Journal I love to write. I use my journal to explore and record my thoughts and emotions. Yes, it’s exhausting, slow, and intensive, which is why when you’re stuck in a seat for 2 hours it’s a good way to pass time. I’ve probably done the most journal writing while I travel.
  7. Tea Bags These have been a life saver for me. They’re a quick way to get some caffeine, or a hot beverage. It helps you not be limited to what’s on the menu, and is very inexpensive. In flight, you can generally request hot water since they use it to mix tea or coffee already. On layovers or during delayed flights, I find most places will give you a cup of hot water for under a dollar, if not for free especially if you’re purchasing something else. Plus, you can use them throughout your trip too. If you’re a big tea snob like moi, be sure to pack herbals or tisanes, because inevitably the hot water is going to be a temperature suitable for coffee rather than tea leaves.
  8. Address Book In reality I carry this so I can send letters and postcards to friends. But in one or two occasions it’s helped me track down numbers of family members I forgot to put in my phone, or if my cell has died then I can still get to someone by borrowing a phone or a payphone… if there even is one anymore. Downside to this is I’ve had this so long it is also filled with information from ex-boyfriends and people I no longer talk to so it can be a bit of a weird trip down memory lane when I flip through pages.
  9. Personal Care This is actually essential- your toiletries. But I really like this cute bag and it rounded out the picture so I put it in there. It’s the red herring.
  10. Space Bag Clothes are definitely essential, but a space bag is not. However it is the most powerful tool for getting more space. They are cheap to buy, and easy to use. Some of them require you to use a vacuum to suck the air out but I’ve found ones that work just as well when you manually squish all the air out. That pack there holds 4 days worth of outfits plus pajamas. I can fit it inside a backpack along with my laptop and everything else pictured here.


So there you have it! My traveling non-essentials. All of these things help me spend my time in meaningful ways, getting more comfortable, or just to entertain me. What are your non-essentials? What do you bring for flights, long car rides, or trips to the dentist?

6 thoughts on “Travel Must-Have Nots

  1. I love this! I’m a super-minimalist packer, but also believe that well-chosen non-essentials are.. well, essential. I like to have a portable knitting project, water bottle – and I forget what else. Time for a trip.

    1. You know I’ve never found a good water bottle that’s lasted more than 3 years. After that they get a metal/plastic smell or taste. Are you and Robert still making those kick ass mix tapes for the car trip every year?

  2. Great list! I super agree with the the space bags. I had a pretty small suitcase to move to the other side of the world and without my space bags I never would have fit everything! One of my important non essentials was my childhood stuffed bunny. She’s gone everywhere with me and I couldn’t leave her behind this time either. Plus she’s quite small and light so it was easy to bring her. Having some sentimental items really helped me when everything felt weird and different and I needed something to ground me.

    1. Oh I am super down with the sentimental items. Actually because of your recommendation, before leaving I allowed myself one box of completely emotional items that would help comfort me. And a stuffed dragon. I have a childhood stuffed bear but I did leave him behind. The stuffed dragon was smaller, and reminds me to emulate Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons whenever possible. And a small collection of family photos. They’ve been a life saver so I’m glad you did the moving to the other side of the world before I did 🙂

    1. You need ALL THE SPACE BAGS! As for the tea it was a happy coincidence. I think I’d been bringing them to school, then found one in my backpack while in transit somewhere.

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