Eleven countries later, and I’m starting to figure things out. I’m often asked what travel gear I recommend from shoes to bags. It definitely depends on the type of trip and activities you’ll be doing, but after many trips, here are some of my favorite travel tools and gear:
My mom calls me the bag lady. As a kid, I’d find bags and just carry them around. The back of my door was always cluttered with different purses and totes. I’ve tried many different bags when it comes to travel, and here’s what I’ve found.
As for a carryon bag, I tried out a travel backpack by Calvin Klein with all the bells and whistles (called pockets and compartments). But I much prefer my basic North Face backpack because it’s sturdy and spacious.
As for a purse, I’ve had luck with two kinds of bags. During my Europe tour this past January, I opted for a convertible backpack/crossbody from Gap. It was a good size, and the ability to switch the type of bag is a great party trick! Crossbody bags are ideal for tour-oriented vacations because you’re harder to pickpocket. For my recent weekend trip to New York City, I chose to bring my Tommy Hilfiger tote bag. It’s the purse I use on a daily basis, and since it wasn’t a tour group trip and I wanted to carry magazines and my dSLR with me, a larger bag made sense. It’s up to you and the nature of your trip, but crossbody is the least amount of maintenance.
Coats and winter gear
Summer isn’t the only time to travel, and you might even find it cheaper to travel during the winter depending on location. I am obsessed with my Michael Kors black down coat, which I bought at Marshall’s. It’s simple but so warm, and it can stuffed into a baggie it came with.
Another great investment if you’re traveling to cold places is a blanket scarf. I bought this pink leopard blanket scarf from Old Navy, and I couldn’t recommend it more. Infinity scarves or other thinner scarves are fine, but when you only have so much space and money, go for the big blanket scarves. My coat is simple, so scarves are a great way to show off your personality and stay warm.
Yes, I love my Vera Bradley duffel for weekend trips, but when it comes to any trip on an airplane, hard-shelled and four-wheeled luggage is the way to go. Your bags endure a lot en route to your destination, and four wheels mean efficient movement. Having a bright pattern like the blue floral one I have has been a game-changer. It’s so easy to spot at any baggage claim, and it’s rarely confused for someone else’s. Everyone has black or navy luggage, which makes claiming it sticky at times. If you’re going to have a basic color, add a ribbon to the handle so it’s easier to spot.
Getting a cover makes it easier to keep track of your passport, but it’s also just cute! I’m obsessed with my ban.do “i’m outta here” cover, and it’s been with me on virtually all of my international travel. Getting senti here!
Mark my words: shoes are one of the most travel purchases you will make. Period. If you buy bad ones, you won’t forget it, and it’ll probably define your trip. On a trip to Chicago in middle school, I vividly remember how much pain my feet were in, so much so that we had to go stop and buy new ones. Because breaking in new ones couldn’t be as bad as wearing the ones I’d started with. Don’t be middle-school Kristin. For many reasons.
Having a sister who works for a shoe company has made this search much easier, and this past year I’ve found some incredible shoes that will serve me well for years to come. The first pair I can’t recommend enough is my Sperry boots. They have rubber soles and zip up on the sides. They’re warm and water-proof, not just resistant. They can be dressed up for museum perusing at the Louvre or mountain hiking in Montserrat, Spain. Both true stories. And I never got a blister from breaking them in.
I’ve also had fairly good luck with shoes from Naturalizer. I have a pair of gold sneakers that took me through Europe and never gave me blisters. They’re cute and truly so comfy. I had a pair of tan Naturalizer flats, which accompanied me on my summer-long stay in France. They were comfy and loved very well.
I didn’t realize how important a portable charger would be until I studied abroad this winter. When I lived in France, I usually wasn’t out longer than several hours. And travel within the U.S. doesn’t usually require as much data or cell service, so my battery doesn’t drain as much. But six European countries in three weeks? I packed an Anker portable charger, and I’m here to tell you not all chargers are created equal. But this one is a winner. I kept it with me almost every day and was able to share it with friends on the go. I think I only had to recharge the device once during my three-week trip.
Buying all the right gear for your trip can be stressful, but with a little research, you can make good investments. What did I miss? What are your favorite travel tools and gear?