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Travel Packing Essentials: What Not to get on a Plane Without

… This post has been brought to you by Vision Direct …

As anyone who travels regularly will know, over the years we discover there are some things we always want to have with us when we’re exploring new places and other things that we’ve learned not to bother packing again after they stayed in the bottom of our suitcase.

As I prepare to pack my bags for my next big adventure to Europe and Canada I’m zeroing in on those things I don’t want to travel without.

While you guys may have some of the things on this list already, I’m thinking there may even be some new ones that could make your next trip all the better.

So here are some of my travel must haves, and I’d love to hear some of yours in the comments below too.

Your (Healthy) Passport

I can’t tell you how many times I double-check that my passport is in my bag before I head off on a trip. I’m not sure what goblin I think is going to sneak into my room in the middle of the night and not steal anything else but my passport, but even if I’ve seen it in my bag the night before I’ll check again before going to the airport.

But just having your passport may not be enough. Depending on where you’re going you may need to have six months left on your passport, or up to four blank pages before you can get into a country.

Passport ready for the adventures ahead

If you’re a regular traveller you may want to borrow a tip that I picked up from my friend Peyton, and that’s to have ‘Please Leave Blank’ Post-it notes on four of the pages at the back.

That way when the immigration official flicks through looking for any old blank page to stamp they’re more likely to be find another page to leave their mark in. Simples.

Antibacterial Wipes for Airline Germ Warfare

Speaking of healthy, did you know tray tables are the most bacteria packed places on planes?

A 2015 study for the Travelmath website showed 2,155 colony forming units (CFUs) per square inch on airline tray tables, compared to 265 CFUs/sq inch on the toilet flush buttons and 70 on toilet stall locks.

It makes sense when you think about the way bathrooms are regularly cleaned but there may not be time between flights to give tray tables the same treatment. And I’m sure I’m not the only one to have lowered a tray table and shuddered when faced with traces of the last person’s meal.

Now I don’t go in for antibacterial hand gels in every day life and am actually a little bit fascinated by our good and bad bacteria ever since reading the fantastic book Gut by Giulia Enders (if you haven’t already read it do yourself a favour. It will change the way you think about your body forever!)

Read more: Eco friendly gift ideas for sustainable travel lovers

But having lost days in a new country to being sick in bed after a flight I no longer muck around and the first thing I do when I settle into my seat is get the antibacterial wipes out and give my tray table, entertainment screen, seat belt buckle and other hard surfaces a good going over. Sure I may look a little odd but I’ve found whenever I offer a wipe to my neighbour they gratefully take one.

Read: Ten Romantic Gifts for your Travel Lover Found on Etsy

A Good Pair of Sunglasses

Sunglasses are more than a fashion statement, they protect your eyes from damage including cancer and help prevent wrinkles too. So if cancer isn’t enough to worry you, just think how squinting in sunlight can make the skin around your eyes and between your brows wrinkle faster. Do your future eyes and skin a favour and don’t save the sunnies for a beach holiday, wear them anytime the sun is out.

To my horror in recent years I’ve noticed that my eyesight is changing and that I’m starting to go a little fuzzy in the distance. It’s nothing drastic and is something to do with (ahem) getting older. So now when I get new sunnies I like to have prescription lenses put in them so I can see perfectly all day.

When I recently went to buy my first pair of sunglasses through Vision Direct  I was pleased to see the prescription option on a whole range of sunnies that I had my eye on.

Amanda Woods with much loved and worn Ray-Ban Wayfarers
The folding Ray-Ban Wayfarers I bought through Vision Direct

I was in the mood for a twist on the navy Ray-Ban Wayfarers I’ve worn almost to death over the past couple of years and when I got over 200 results for Wayfarers alone on Vision Direct’s website I settled in to make a tough choice.

In the end I went for a pair of folding Ray-Ban Wayfarers because I love their Go Go Gadget folding style and the fact that they’ll take up less room in a compact handbag. They were also one of the pairs on sale, which meant by the time I added in my prescription they were still less than the price I’d seen them in some stores. Winning.

Oh and a top tip for other people out there who have polarised prescription sunglasses. If you’re like me and have realised you can’t read some screens including LCD ones when you have your polarised sunnies on all you have to do is tilt your head to the side and you can see the screen again. Sure you may look like a curious puppy or kitten, but at least you won’t miss your plane or train.

A Silk Pillowcase

This is actually a new one for me but I recently treated myself to a beautiful silk pillowcase that has started travelling with me.

It’s such a simple piece of luxury to travel with that doesn’t just feel good, it’s also good for both your hair and your skin.

Having had moments in some hotels where I’ve wondered just how well a pillowcase was washed or in what kind of detergent, I like knowing what my face is snuggled up against as I drift off to sleep.

Now here’s the thing, real silk is better for you than manmade, but I wasn’t sure I could tell the difference just by touch.

When I started looking for my new travelling silk pillowcase I was interested to find a woman on Etsy saying that she sends swatches of the material so that people can test it for themselves.

Because it’s a protein fibre if you burn silk it curls away from the flame, it’s self extinguishing and leaves a dark, gritty ash. It also smells like burnt hair. Fake silk is a polyester material that burns quickly, can leave hard beads rather than soft ash and has a chemical smell.

A Silk pillowcase is a simple piece of luxury you can take on your travels that's good for your skin and hair

Of course it’s not that easy to do a test in a shop before you buy but after my gorgeous silk pillowcase from SimplyVery’s Etsy store arrived I took my little swatch into the backyard, struck a match and watched it burn a little before the flame went out leaving a dark ash and smelling like burnt hair (which was luckily not my own as I had tied it back).

So now we know.

Read: Things to do in Sydney on a Rainy Day

Noise Cancelling Headphones

Okay, back into the more common travel buddies now, but I have to give a shout out to noise cancelling headphones.

Not only do they make movies and music sound so much better they can drown out the sound of screaming babies. Bless their little cotton socks.

And when over eager flight attendants come through the plane collecting headsets before landing? The BYO headphones people get to see the end of that movie they’ve been watching with all of that extra time spent landing and taxiing from the runway to the terminal.

Bluetooth Speakers

Music through noise cancelling headphones is a beautiful thing.

But sometimes you want to do a little Getting Ready Dance around your room or have an impromptu pool party. That’s when you want to get wireless for sound.

My Logitech UE Boom bluetooth speaker always makes my travel packing list

There are loads of options out there but for the past four years my UE Boom has been travelling with me and I love it. It’s waterproof, shockproof, stain proof and gives good sound. Love.

Packing Cells

Another one that is oh so obvious to those of us who know and love them, but I still meet people on my travels (including fellow travel writers!) who haven’t discovered them yet and so I have to include them on the list.

Packing cells or cubes as they’re sometimes called have changed my travel packing life. They help you organise your suitcase anyway you want and mean when you’re looking for that special something, let’s say your favourite t-shirt, you can go to the cell for t-shirts, or casual wear, or whatever sub category you put that shirt in and it’s there.

Travel packing essentials: packing cells and amenities kits

No more throwing everything in the case on the floor scrambling to find it. You can also put the entire cell into a hotel drawer and open the top and it’s an organised drawer of clothes just waiting. And when it’s time to go you just zip it up and pop it in your suitcase with the other cells.

Seriously I can’t imagine every travelling without them again.

A Gorgeous Travel Diary

My friend Ronnie gave me my first travel diary when I headed off on a one way ticket to London last century. It is one of my most precious possessions and ever since I’ve always had one diary that was just for travels and lives in my carry on until it is full and ready for retirement, and another that I share my thoughts in at home.

Sure most of us are sharing our travels with Instagram or Facebook, but putting pen to paper is something different.

Handwriting has been shown to increase neural activity in parts of the brain in a similar way to meditation, and a study at Indiana University showed writing by hand sparked creativity that isn’t accessed in other ways.

A beautiful travel diary makes for a great travel companion and is one of my travel packing essentials

A travel diary is also where you can share those private thoughts just for you. A precious thing indeed.

A Luggage Scale

I can’t believe how long it took me to buy one of these.

For years I’d balance on a set of bathroom scales with my bag to see how much it weighed, or if no scales were around would find myself just trying to guess if it was really heavier than the last time I travelled with it or if it was all in my head.

Needless to say there’ve been some holding the breath moments at airport check in.

For some crazy reason I thought a luggage scale would be expensive. Then one day I went onto Amazon and found a luggage scale for under $10. Seriously. So easy! Why didn’t I do that years ago?

Reusable travel mug, drink bottle and straw

There are lots of little things we can do to help the environment when we travel and at home. Despite what a lot of people think, most take away coffee cups can’t be recycled because they have waterproof plastic linings that can contaminate a whole load of paper recycling, and reusable mugs can slash the number of disposable cups that go to landfill.

Some of the best reusable mugs out there are from Keep Cup. I bought one when they first started years ago but after my original one was lost in a house move I just bought a new one. These days you can choose your own colour combinations so I went for my blog’s colours. They even have Star Wars versions with Chewie and R2D2 style options. Cute!

Keep Cup also has reusable straws and I now carry one in my handbag so I can say no to those plastic straws, one of those single use items that never biodegrades. In the USA alone they use 500 million straws a day. That’s enough to wrap the circumference of the world 2.5 times. A DAY.

Most times I just drink from the bottle or cup so don’t even bother getting my straw out. But when I fancy using a straw, my BYO one is on hand.

You can also reduce waste by using a refillable drink bottle. I now travel with an insulated ‘Earth Eco Bottle’ from Seek Society, which keeps drinks cold for up to 24 hours and hot for up to 12 hours.

As someone who loves to start her day with a cup of tea in bed that means if there’s no kettle in my room in a hotel room or cruise ship cabin I can fill up my bottle with boiling water the night before and have a hot cuppa first thing in bed.

A VPN for safe Wi-Fi use

Most of us love to see a ‘Free Wi-Fi’ sign when we’re travelling but before you click join you should give yourself a layer of protection with a good VPN.

Hopping onto a hotel, airport or any other free Wi-Fi can leave you open to hackers as anyone else on the same network could potentially get into your unencrypted data. And even if you don’t do banking on shared Wi-Fi how would you feel about your emails, documents or photos being accessed by a stranger?

Sometimes you could even be accidentally joining a fake Wi-Fi hotspot as some dodgy characters set up network names that look familiar and like something you can trust.

VPNs create encrypted ‘tunnels’ that protect your browsing and Internet activity, and also stop the network you’re using tampering with your traffic by injecting ads into your browsing.

Keep in mind when you’re choosing a VPN provider that if they’re free they’re most likely making money in other ways, such as selling user browser habits to third parties, putting in ads or selling your bandwidth.

When I decided it was time for a VPN I read a lot of online reviews and ended up settling on Tunnel Bear. Not only is it easy to use, it has cute bears that go burying and then pop up in tunnels when you turn them on. One of those little things that makes me smile.

But a word of warning: VPNs are illegal in some countries including China, Iraq, Turkey and the UAE.

So if you’re travelling through Abu Dhabi or Dubai remember using a VPN there could lead to a minimum fine of AED500,000 (A$180,000) and a maximum fine of AED2,000,000 (A$717,000) with possible jail time.

As always when travelling do your research, find out what is and isn’t allowed at your destination, and respect their rules.

So there we have it, some of the things I love to pack in my bag (and my phone) when I travel.

How about you? What would you never get on a plane without?

This post is brought to you by Vision Direct but all opinions and packing theories remain my own.

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