What should I pack?

Figuring out what to pack for your trip – as well as what you may need to pack for everyone else in the family – can be daunting and overwhelming. I’ve purchased and tried out a lot of different items over the years in hopes of finding things that fit our needs as well as being lightweight and affordable. Here are a few of my favorites. These are all items I’ve personally bought and hold a high spot on my list of favorite things.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.  I did not receive any discount on the purchase of these items and the opinions and reviews are all my own.

Stuff to wear

I discovered 32degrees by accident through an Instagram ad, and now I am a convert! My whole family has multiple 32 degrees items in our wardrobes. I own their cool fitted t-shirt in nearly every color, as well as their sports bras, dresses, and leggings. My son really likes their Ultrasonic polos for school, and my daughter likes their stretch Bermuda shorts because they are soft and comfy and a longer length. Their items are lightweight, dry quickly and pack nicely with few wrinkles. They are extremely affordable, and are my go-to travel clothes.

I ordered a bunch of different sandals to try out before our big trip to Costa Rica. I knew we’d be walking a lot in various environments, so I needed something sturdy, comfortable and since we were packing carry-on bags only – lightweight and versatile. After a lot of research and trying on – I went with the Chuco ZCloud 2 Sandals. I wore them all over Costa Rica and still love them. They were great for walking around town, hiking in the jungle, as well as whitewater rafting and hanging on the beach. The sturdy footbed and arch support provided support and comfort. They are adjustable (though it does take a little figuring out at first), let my feet breathe and I liked the look of them better than some of the other models too. I wear them around town at home as well, they can get wet and dry quick. Mud and dirt rinse off easily. Will be in my bag for lots of trips in the future too.

The Superga 2750 Cotu Classic Sneakers have been my go-to everyday sneaker for a while, and according to the click-bait headlines on other sites – they’re a favorite of Princess Catherine as well. The Superga sneakers go with everything, look cute and most of all – are comfortable. I normally need an insert in my sneakers to support my high arches, but didn’t with these. I was nervous about keeping the white canvas clean, but found that they cleaned up nicely with a wet sponge or occasionally a magic eraser sponge to get off dark scuff marks. They’ve lasted through nearly daily wear and 2 Disney trips as well as our England/Scotland trip and are still going strong.

Packing Gear

Osprey Ultralight 20L Dry Stuff PackMy husband and I both ordered this Osprey daypack for a recent trip, and have been really happy with it. It folds into its own interior pocket (so no separate carry bag to keep track of) about the size of my hand, so easy to tuck in a suitcase. It’s lightweight but sturdy and the large interior compartment can hold a surprising amount. My favorite part is that even when packed full of stuff it felt very light, and my shoulders weren’t aching after carrying it all day on our journeys. We opted for the waterproof version so we don’t have to get worried about cameras or phones getting wet if we get caught in a rainstorm or it gets splashed/spilled on. 

I found these handy packing squares in my local HomeGoods and quickly returned to buy 2 more sets because my family kept stealing them.  They’re very sturdy and keep their shape really well, so they slip into your bag easily and the mesh panels let you see what’s inside. They are a terrific size for sorting all sorts of little things that normally get lost in the bottom of my bag. I’ve got one for cords, one for medicines, one for pens/markers/pencils –  I use them for travel as well as in my everyday bag to keep myself organized. 

Electronics

While I really enjoy using my point and shoot Canon camera while I’m traveling, the reality is that 95% of the time, I’m grabbing for my phone to take pictures and videos while I’m on the go. But my concern is that since I also use my phone as a GPS, restaurant finder, digital ticket holder and communication device – my phone battery runs out pretty quick.


The ShiftCam ProGrip is a wireless dock for your phone that allows you to hold your phone like a DSLR or point and shoot for a firmer grip and better stability, while also wirelessly charging your phone at the same time.  It lets you snap your phone into landscape or portrait mode, with a bluetooth connected shutter button right on the grip to snap a pic of video one handed.

I used the ProGrip extensively on our trip to Costa Rica, and loved it. Not only did I feel like I wasn’t going to drop my phone if someone bumped me (mine also has a handstrap on the grip) but I didn’t have to do that 2 handed “hold the camera with one hand while hitting the shutter button with the other” manuever that always lead to more camera shake in my videos. I could just hold it up and use the shutter button to snap a pic or start a video. It has a cold shoe mount and a screw mount for a tripod if you want to up your photo game with accessories too. 

I know – one of the key points of AirPods is that they are wireless – but have you ever been wearing your airpods and had one fall out? They always seem to dive into that spot underneath your seat that you cannot possibly reach, so you have to go without until the flight ends, or hope a kind seat neighbor can reach it before it gets pushed or jostled even further away as people and bags move around. I’ve had it happen a few too many times – until I found these Airpod straps. They slip over the stem of your Airpods and keep them from flying into cracks and crevices unknown when your flight hits unexpected turbulence and your pods fall out of your ears. These work well with Apple Airpods, while these work with other stemless-style earpods.

I don’t often get a stretch of uninterrupted time to sit and read, so I love to take advantage of the opportunity on long plane or train ride to dive into a good book. But the bulk of a large book or 3 takes up a lot of space in my carry-on. I recently treated myself to a new Kindle E-reader, and I love it! I can fit loads of books onto something that takes up less space than a magazine, and read to my heart’s content. It’s not a travel necessity, but definitely makes the journey more enjoyable. Tip: if you have a library card and access to the Libby app, you can often check out e-books from your local library and download them to your Kindle free of charge! Try and catch the Kindle during Amazon’s Prime Days for a pretty good discount. 

My husband and I both use a c-pap machine to sleep at night, but the machines were use at home are rather large and take up a lot of space in a suitcase. I started looking into purchasing travel CPAP machines, but found that they are fairly expensive – especially since we’d need 2 of them. I was thrilled when I found RespShop, an online supplier that rents travel size CPAP machines. They have a few different models available to rent, and you will need a copy of your prescription so they can send the machine to you already set up with your correct settings. We both rented machines from RespShop for our Costa Rica trip, and it worked out great. They sent us the machines, all set up with the correct settings, along with tubing (we could use our existing masks with the model we rented), as well as a pre-paid return label so we could ship if back when we returned. They were very helpful and quickly answered any questions we had. I’ll definitely be renting from them for our next big trip!

Toiletries

I used to be a horrible overpacker. In researching how on Earth I would fit 10 days worth of clothing and toiletries in one carry-on bag, I came across a recommendation for shampoo and conditioner bars, and I am now a convert. They take up very little space in my suitcase, no worries about leaking bottles or  TSA liquid restrictions and they generally last for 50-70 washes – so we were able to share one bar without each having to take our own separate bottles of shampoo and conditioner. If you’re going on a shorter trip, you can cut them down and only take a portion to take up even less space. There are different brands out there for different hair types, I’ve used the Kitsch brands and been happy with them. I also got these mesh bags to store them in, so I could hang them in the shower in between uses.

Mosquito bites are no fun, whether you’re at home or away. It can be challenging to find bug spray in TSA approved sized bottles, and expensive to purchase at your destination. I keep a pack of these in my bag for when the bugs won’t stop biting, and they have saved our skin multiple times. The wipes are easy and fairly mess free,  and easy to stash in your bag so they’re always handy.

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