My Favorite Items for Travel

I don’t travel very often, but when I do, it’s stressful so I want to keep the experience as low stress as I can manage. Part of what helps keep my stress levels down when I’m on a journey is having all my stuff organized and feeling prepared for the things I can prepare for.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, but these are the items that took me the longest to find after a lot of trial and error, so I wanted to share them to hopefully save someone else some time.

I found most of the items specifically for a trip to Japan that I was planning, so depending on your destination, some of the items may not work or be needed. For example, if you speak the same language as the people in your destination, you probably won’t need the translation cards below. If the place you’re visiting has issues with tourists getting pickpocketed, you may want to choose a more secure wallet than I chose for my trip below. Do your research about your destination and use your best judgment.

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Allergy and emergency cards

Image by Equal Eats

I am gluten- and lactose-intolerant, and I have an egg allergy. I am also allergic to certain medications. The thought of traveling internationally and having to explain all this in another language was daunting, but Equal Eats eased all my worries.

They have food and medication allergy cards available in 50 languages, their buying process is much smoother than others I’ve seen, and their customer service is top notch.

Even if you don’t have food or medical allergies, I always have an emergency card when I travel just in case I’m not able to speak to ask for help.

Get 10% off your first purchase at Equal Eats

Google Fi

Ok, I don’t have anything to compare it to, but Google Fi was so easy to use when we visited Japan in 2019. I didn’t have to do anything special to my plan or get a new SIM card. I just used my phone normally, and the bill was only $30 more than usual for 2 weeks of travel. Here are their options for international travel.

Google Fi works best with Google and other Android phones, but it also worked fine when I was using iPhone for a few months. It takes a little extra time to set up and you have to access voicemail in the Google Fi app (instead of the phone app), but otherwise, I thought it was fine for iPhone.

Get $20 off your first month at Google Fi

Neck pillow

Photo by Cushion Labs

I’ve probably spent hundreds of dollars trying to find a neck pillow that would work for me. I’m short for an adult but too big for child-sized neck pillows. I’ve tried similar cushions, but this neck pillow from Cushion Labs is the one I’ve stuck with the longest. It’s not perfect, and it does it get warm, but it’s the best one so far.

Buy neck pillow from Cushion Labs

Day pack

I spent months looking for a backpack that was good for everyday commuting and:

  • Comfortable
  • Durable
  • At least mildly attractive
  • Padded for laptop (bonus if it also had a spot for an iPad)
  • Big enough for textbooks and a couple extra things
  • Smaller than 19″ since I’m short

I search and searched for a new backpack in what seemed like a futile effort. The size narrowed my options considerably, but it was a deal breaker since anything bigger would be too big and uncomfortable for me.

As I kept looking, I started remembering my school experience of being annoyed by having a backpack with a U- or J-zipper, which created such a narrow opening to get things in and out of the bag, especially if I had to dig around the bottom for something. I have seen a lot of suitcase-style backpacks that are great for weekend trips, but if you’re in a meeting, class, or on a plane, it’s hard to open a suitcase-style backpack without causing a scene.

Finally, I found this wide-mouth framed bag by Swissgear. I don’t love the all black look (aptly named Stealth), but the functionality and comfort are totally worth it. Plus, I can always add my own extra flair. It says it can fit a 13″ laptop, but I was able to fit my 14″ MacBook Pro without issue.

It doesn’t have a false or padded bottom in the laptop section, so I put some extra padding there to protect my laptop.

Buy Swissgear Artz Laptop Backpack on Amazon

This bag was great as a carry-on when I went for a 3-day trip, but depending on what you need to carry, it could also be a great addition to checked luggage. This bag is quite small compared to other carry-on bags, but check with your airline for carry-on restrictions on size and weight. If you need something bigger, I really like my eBags Mother Lode Jr Travel Backpack, which I took as my only bag for a 2-week trip to Hong Kong and Japan.

Wallet big enough for international currency

Neither of these wallets have the cards zipped up or otherwise secured, so I only use these in areas that I’m not too worried about theft. I chose these wallets specifically for a trip to Japan.

Photo by Herschel Supply Company

After many hours of searching, I finally found the best wallet for international travel. These were my requirements for a wallet:

  • Spot for larger international bills
  • Easily accessible coin pocket
  • At least 8 card slots
  • Attractive
  • Durable

Since I was planning to use the wallet mainly in Japan, I knew I needed a wallet that could handle larger (than US dollar) bills plus coins. I found plenty of wallets with coin pockets, but the coin area was always really small and difficult to get into. I found a couple wallets that had a larger opening, but I didn’t like the design. I even imported one wallet from Italy that had a great design, including a wide-mouth coin pocket, but it was so masculine and had an obnoxious embossed design (not shown in the photos) that I didn’t want to use it. I ended up giving it to a friend who I thought might appreciate it might.

Finally, I found the Herschel Quarry wallet. It’s a great wallet and met all my criteria, but it doesn’t seem to be widely available anymore.

Try Zappos for the Herschel Supply Company’s Quarry RFID wallet

If you can’t find the Hershel Quarry wallet, The Sak Iris Wallet is my daily driver.

It has plenty of space for cards, cash, and coins. The zippered pocket doesn’t provide as clear a view of the coins as the Quarry, but this wallet seems to be more easily available and comes in lots of fun designs.

This also has a clip on a chain so you can secure it to your belt loop or your bag.

Buy The Sak Iris wallet on Amazon

Multitasking, fast-drying towels

Photo by The Bali Market

I always travel with a towel. Even if I’m going to a hotel and I know they’ll have bath and pool towels, I still bring one because you never know. The towels I have are from Bali Market, and they are totally incredible. They’re pretty, huge, and super fast drying.

They can also be used as a shawl, sarong or poolside cover-up, or beach blanket to sunbathe on, and multitaskers are always smart to pack when traveling.

Buy Turkish towels from The Bali Market

In closing

Traveling is an exciting adventure! It may not always be fun and games, so it helps to make yourself comfortable and be prepared whenever possible.

A little research goes a long way, so definitely read up on your destination to make sure you’re prepared for the specific needs of that place. Safe travels, and have fun!