Traveling constrains your time, luggage, and even energy. My skincare (and makeup) routine is cut in half when I travel. Read on to see what I prioritise!
In an ideal world, you have sample or travel sizes of all of your products, so you know your skin won't break out from it. Trying new products is always a risk as you're already in a new environment that your skin/body may not react well to.
Sephora's Facial Wipes - You're tired; you've been on your feet all day. I get so lazy with my skincare routine when traveling so using wipes are the easiest way to go.
A facial cleanser is a must. I love getting travel kits as they're so convenient. Belif's bestsellers On-The-Go Travel Kit has the basic essentials to keep your skin happy and healthy while you travel. Belif is one of my favourite brands but you can get whatever kit that makes your skin happy. I also recently got the Drunk Elephant birthday gift from Sephora, which includes their Jelly Cleanser and Protini Cream so I've been trying it out on my more recent trips.
- If you DO breakout, carry a sheet of acne patches to help alleviate it a bit.
Don't exfoliate on your trip. It's not worth the space nor the risk.
I believe toners are still worth bringing. I'm currently packing Son & Park's Beauty Water that I bought in Korea. They were selling the full size + a free travel size in a pack. Most if not all toners should be kind to all skin types so you shouldn't have to worry about breaking out from a new toner.
Unless you are in dire need of this, I think you can skip it.
SERUMS & AMPOULES
This one is very dependent on how you think your skin will react to where you're going. I've been bringing my marula oil(1oz) with me when I know it's going be dry and I have not regretted it.
Masks are definitely a luxury to bring, not an essential (in my opinion). They barely take up space so it should be fairly easy to pack. They're great for unwinding after a long day, or hydrating your skin on the plane, as Mama recommends.
I think this is one of the few things in the gray area. I love bringing eye cream to make sure I look refreshed when traveling but I realise it's more space and may not be essential. I think the best option for this is to bring sample sizes since eye creams are usually clean because they're made to moisturise an area that is more sensitive than the rest.
This is a MUST. Of course you need pack moisturiser. I'd argue to bring whatever size you want (as long as it's TSA compliant). You need a good moisturiser that will lock in the potent-yet-minimal amount of product you've just applied. It's not worth letting your skin suffer.
This is also a MUST!! UV protection is not essential, it's a requirement. Protect your skin- don't be a fool. Make sure you are applying sunscreen daily.
For hot or humid destinations: Blotterazzi by beautyblender. I personally don't like using the pack of blotting paper because it gets messy and I feel like my fingers get oily. Blotterazzi is a reusable blotting applicator that's easy to use and easy to travel with because it comes with a case and a mirror.
So many vacation options, so many different occasions! Which bag is right to take to your next trip?
I wanted to break down the different types of travel bags to help you:
Having each of these bags will keep you covered for any and every adventure you choose to take on!
Suitcases are one of those things where it's always worth it to do lots of research since they're so expensive, you'll use it a lot, and they're meant to last you a long time! You want a suitcase that will be durable, functional, and stylish, of course.
Suitcases are my favourite bag of travel since I never have to worry about it not fitting as a carry on, nor do I worry about it getting dirty or ruined if the airline requires/requests for me to check in it for whatever reason. It's also very convenient since I can roll it- it's not hard on my shoulders like a duffel bag would be.
I can probably do an entire post on choosing the right suitcase, but for now, I will say two things are absolutely required when shopping for a suitcase:
Whether you're doing an overnight or a backpacking travel through Europe, it's important to have a ergonomic backpack that's durable and has enough compartments.
Wirecutter recommends the Osprey Packs Farpoint 70 Travel Backpack but it doesn't look like it's carry-on friendly (this model is OK for carry on though). For more recommendations, I recommend reading through the Pack Chronicles, a new lifestyle blog that features a lot of backpacks, written by one of my closest friends!
tom bihn AERONAUT 45
I believe this bag gets its own category since it's like a backpack and a duffel combined. I've never bought it but so many of my friends rave about it and can't say enough. It's spacious enough like a carry on suitcase, but carries and travels like a backpack and duffel. It's quite adjustable and seems really easy and light to pack with, so even though I've never used it, I'm going to still recommend it!
Check it out here.
Duffel bags are a great option for a weekend getaway where you don't want to look like you're packed for a full week of travel. Duffels are more formless opposed to suitcases, which give me the justification to not be so strategic when it comes to packing (AKA I feel justified to be messy). I also love the feeling of just opening up my duffel wide open when I arrive at my hotel/AirBnB and letting that be enough, versus feeling I need to unpack everything right then and there when I open my suitcase.
Last year, I bought a weekender duffel that's also carry on size compliant from an Australian brand called Country Road. I am obsessed with it. It's pretty, sold, durable, and way bigger than you'd expect.
My absolute favourite duffel in my closet is my Cath Kidston foldable duffel set. Read about it here!
*Another note about the foldable duffels, I brought it over to Korea in case I overshop, which I did, and now I have an extra duffel bag to bring back with me without having to buy a new suitcase! Cath Kidston is putting out more of the model I love, in new patterns! Find them here.
A weekender tote is essential for an overnight stay. Again, if you don't want to take a backpack but don't need to pack an entire duffel, this is a great option. It carries enough, carried on the shoulder, and simple. It doesn't make you feel like you're able to go on some trek. You can find cute and cheap options from Target!
One con about weekenders is the lack of pockets and compartments, just something to keep in mind!
the bottom line...
There are a ton of options when it comes to finding a travel bag; the question is: 'For what occasion?' Consider the length, location/season, intensity of the trip, and which bag might make the most sense to take!
Am I missing a category? Let me know!
To be completely candid, I've never stayed at a hostel. Call me high maintenance; call me whatever the heck you want but I couldn't get myself to stay at a hostel without paranoia creeping into my head about getting taken, getting mugged, or getting some STD. I'd rather have paid an extra $15 a night to stay in a private room at an AirBnB with a good local who just needed extra cash and doesn't speak any English.
Although I've actually never stayed at a hostel, I've heard both good and bad stories. Some of the better ones about people who've made friends such instant connections that they ended up traveling elsewhere together and continue to stay in touch to this day... and some of the worse ones being that the quality of the hostels were so bad that they came back with endless bed bugs and having to cancel certain plans on their trip to deal with it.
I think hostels are a decent option for people who are young, love backpacking, on a budget, and love meeting new people while traveling.
My biggest tip when it comes to hostels, is read through reviews to get a gist of the hostel's policy, vibes, and experiences. You can read through reviews on TripAdvisor or HostelWorld.
There are such things as a 5-star Hostel- they do exist! And based on the city or country, the standards of a given hostel can vary tremendously, as can the price of an AirBnB or hotel there, so I recommend looking at all of your options for that city before going straight to book a hostel.
Beware of bed bugs at hostels
Couchsurfing is a social networking website that connects travelers with local residents. Local residents can put up their couch, space, or room up for travelers to rest their head at night. It's always free, although it's etiquette for you to get your host a little something to say thank you.
Both guests and hosts verify their identity through personal information and Facebook, and reviewed as layers of safety. You create a profile for your trip (dates, what you'll be doing, etc.) for the host to read and know more about you. You can also see host's profiles and filter them (gender, languages spoken, pets, etc.) so both parties can be selective and even communicate with one another to see if the match would be a good fit.
the bottom line
You're choosing a budget option for travel so you can't be picky. Don't expect much privacy, space, or luxury when it comes to these options.
Better alternative option is finding to stay with, even if it's like a friend of a friend, at least you have that mutual connection, and free housing.
if you have the money, just stay at an airbnb or hotel. Find my comparison post here.
Disagree with me? Add comments below. :)
I'm a little crazy and like to plan my trips a year in advance because I'll know how I'm tracking in terms of my travel goals. This also helps me keep an early eye out for cheap flights if I know where I want to be when.
Is it off your Bucket LisT?
Hopefully you have a bucket list of places you want to visit sometime in your life. Look to that list as a starting point for possible options. Depending on what you have on your list, and how much time you have, you might be able to do 3 weeks hitting 5 cities (ie European cities) or spend a whole week in just one city (ie NYC).
Don't be so concerned about checking all of these places off, but put patient and strategic of which you want to check off first, and when. It's not about how many you can visit and check off, but about experiencing different places, opening yourself up to new cultures, and enjoying great food.
have good company
I ask myself out of these places, where is good for what occasion. I'll just real life examples for myself:
Depending on the location and the specific people you go with, your trip is bound to be different! You don't need to be that specific and picky with every single location, but I think it's good to be mindful of who'd you want to share experiences with based on the different locations. Easy example: going to Vegas with your crew vs. going to Vegas with your family...
Another thing to consider is if you are traveling with family or children, does the destination have family-friendly activities and accommodations?
If you're traveling, make sure it's safe! Check the Travel Advisory website to check the safety level of your destination. I also enroll myself in STEP: Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which will basically alert you of emergencies happening around you. See my blog about traveling smart for additional tips! Otherwise, here is a list of the best countries for solo travelers!
Timing is everything
Once I've decided where I want to go, I look at my calendar to see when the best time to go is.
What time of the year does it make sense to visit this place? AKA What time of the year is the best weather? I generally save my #1 draft pick for October since you can make a safe bet anywhere will have amazing weather in October, and it's generally cheaper since it's off peak.
I'd also consider peak events and seasons of your destination: you probably don't want to go to Miami in April when every college student will be there for Spring Break, or Austin in March when everyone will be there for SxSW. Or maybe you do, who I am to assume?
I try to avoid peak seasons and cities when I know there will be an increase in population density. They also tend to be more expensive in flights and accommodations, and airports tend to be more crowded that usual.
I've finally decided...
So once you have an idea of the place(s) you want to go at a certain time of the year, go ahead and look up flights to get a gist of how much it would cost. Then, track your flights and subscribe to alerts for any fare drops so you can sense fare patterns and trends to help you purchase flights at the best time.
How to find the cheapest flights, is a separate post... to come soon.
Traveling internationally is such a privilege that we take for granted in this day and age. We have the technology and means to get there quickly and to travel alone with all the apps on our phones. Yes, it's a great opportunity to see and experience all that the world has for us, but it's important to understand that we Americans don't really have the best rep when it comes to respecting other people and their cultures.
Wherever you are, know how to say a couple of lines in their language. The last thing you want to do on your travels is to be lost + piss off the locals because you don't know how to speak their language. Speaking in a broken accent is better than not trying at all. Usually folks will appreciate that you're even trying to communicate in their language.
Read up on their history and culture if you have time. I know this is a lot to ask but it does bridge the gap between cultural barriers and understanding why things are the way they are. What is the cultural etiquette? For example, in Italy, everyone is expected to cover their legs at the churches; in France, people greet one another with kisses on the cheek; in Korea, there is a specific etiquette in drinking settings. Learn some of the more essential cultural differences so you don't look ignorant. ;)
things to consider...
What am I missing? Comment below and let me know!
Some of my most recommended and favourited apps:
FlightStats - most recently downloaded app but not sure why I didn't download this earlier! You can look up your flights and it'll tell you the terminal, gate number, baggage carousel, and any delays!
Guides by Lonely Planet - itinerary planning app. You can download guides by city plus offline maps. Solid app if you're looking for things to do or eat.
Google Maps - OK this is any smartphone standard app. I use My Maps a lot so it's helpful to visually see all the places I have pinned on my phone.
Lyft - best app to get around. Click on the link to get a $10 credit
Google Trips - helps with itinerary planning. It's extremely limited though- I think they're still working on it but there's a lot of improvements they need to make. The high advantage they have is that it integrates with gMail so they have tickets on file but there's no feature to search certain restaurants or places like you would on Google Map so you're limited to starring places they feature.
TripIt - I'm currently in the market for a good travel journal app so I can record what I've done on my trips. This one seems OK so far, probably the better free ones in the market. It lets me record my activity by day and time, and I can add photos and notes, which is nice. The other really nice thing about it is that it integrates with my gMail so it automatically records tickets for concerts, shows, and flights that I have. However, I wish the mobile app was as good as the desktop web version, and I also wish it was more integrated with other apps like Google Maps so I can see all the places within that city I've gone to, or be able to star different places that I'd like to go to.
PriorityPass - keeps your membership card stored (although most lounges require your actual card) + tells you which lounges are in which airport with super specific info like terminal, nearby gates, hours and amenities.
AirBnB (link gives you $40 off your reservation)
Units Plus (unit converter because America doesn't use the metric system while everyone else does)
Skype - to make international calls + if you want to subscribe to an international callback number
flight price tracker apps
For some, AirBnBs have become the default option of housing when traveling. I wanted to add some considerations since I see certain trips where hotels might be a more convenient and desirable option. This post is only to help you decide if you should book a hotel or AirBnB when you travel. I'll also be doing a future post on Couchsurfing vs. Hostels, as well as things to consider when you're looking to book a Hotel or AirBnB.
Some essentials that are in my purse while traveling:
Your travel buddy/buddies can make or break your trip!
Anecdote about how a buddy made my trip: I spent an entire summer in Europe with one other person, who I didn't know very well at the time. We both thought it would be OK/awkward, or worse case scenario being we would not get along... To our surprise, we traveled really well together. We had tons to talk about as we got to know each other, and realised we had very similar travel styles. We butted heads from time to time on money-related issues but they were pretty minor issues in the scope of the entire trip. Towards the end of our trip, the one thing I NEEDED to do in London was watch Les Miserables the musical, and told her I'd meet up with her after the show because I had wanted pretty good seats, which could be costly, but she was down to join me. If you're traveling with someone, and you have a 'must see/do' list, make sure your buddy is okay with tagging along, or okay splitting up and meeting later.
It's always better to over-communicate than not. <-- can be applied in most situations; that's some life advice for you, on the house ;)
Take my quiz below to see if you and your buddy would be a good fit:
[separate post coming on what I pack in my travel purse...]
Some flights may make you take a layover in another city before you get to your destination. Direct flights are probably ideal but I know they can also be more expensive. On the bright side, it can be nice to have a meal and stretch break in the middle of a long flight, and gives you an opportunity to explore the airport or city (if you have more time).
General rule of thumb: anything under 6 hours, you want to fly direct.
If you do have to take a layover, consider the transfer time. I say give yourself at least one hour of wait time in case your first flight is delayed, you need to get something figured out, you need to buy some water and food, etc. Things come up and because boarding happens generally thirty minutes prior to takeoff, better safe than sorry. I would actually go and say an hour and a half is good. I try to find layovers around 2 hours which gives me plenty of time to use the restroom, grab a quick bite, freshen up, walk around the airport, and find my transfer gate if it's at a different gate, which brings me to my next point.
If your layover is longer than 3.5 hours, consider going outside and exploring if the city centre isn't too far from the airport, especially if your luggage will meet you at the final destination! Do consider the time it'll take you to come back and get back in the security line though.
Depending on the flight, your transfer flight might be on the same plane and same gate, or different plane in a different gate. Be attentive to what your flight details read, and what your flight attendants say during landing. If it's a huge airport, it might even be in another terminal so always allow yourself extra time should things come up and you're not scrambling last minute to find your next flight.
If you can help it, avoid flights with more than 1 layover. You're going to be exhausted and that may cost you some of your trip. Remember: we want to maximise your time and enjoyment on your travels!
My piece of advice: DON'T DO IT.
Call me high maintenance, but I can't sleep comfortably at all on overnight layovers. It's cold, the chairs are stiff, you're constantly worried if someone might steal your stuff, some airports don't allow you to sleep so you have security waking you up every couple of hours, and people coming in and out of the gates. You barely get enough sleep by the time you need to line up for your flight and if you're anything like me, you end up grouchy and groggy, and you only see the negative in things until you recoup some of that sleep. It's just an overall highly undesired experience, which will likely affect your first day traveling.
If you have an overnight layover, this site will give you the 411 on WiFi, where you can sleep, and other good tips on specific airports..
If you MUST do an overnight layover, I really recommend reserving a room at a hotel with free shuttles that will take you to the hotel in case taxi service is out (if you arrive really late). At least you'll get some sleep in a private, semi-comfortable bed. If not, this page has good tips on sleeping at the airport overnight.
My logic: Most likely, the cost of a hotel will be around the much you'd be saving if you don't take the overnight layover, so just get tickets with a short transfer and be happy. (:
What are the benefits?
where do i sign up?!
You can register here.
*Pro-tip If you're going to apply to TSA Pre-check, might as well apply to the Global Entry program(cut the international entry line), which also gives you pre-check as a benefit. It's $100 for 5 years vs. $84 for 5 years for Pre-check only.
Learn more about the Global Entry program here.
Whether you apply for TSA Pre-check or Global Entry, you'll need to go through the approval process, which includes a background check to be pre-approved, then setting up an appointment at one of the centres (usually an airport) and should be approved or denied on the spot. Once approved, you'll get your KTN (known traveler number) on the spot, and your identification card mailed in a few weeks.
Keep reading if you want it FOR FREE...
yup, i said free.
Some credit cards reimburse you the $100 application fee for Global Entry. Find the list of credit cards here. I personally have the Chase Sapphire Reserve (and it's great).
Obviously I'm not saying open up a credit card just to get this, but if you're thinking of getting a card, or have one of those cards and haven't used this benefit yet, something to consider. I'd go through Nerdwallet, CreditCards.com, or thePointsGuy to learn more about different offerings.
i've been approved, now what?
Once you've been approved, make sure all of your airlines/agencies have your KTN on your profiles to have them automatically applied to future flights. For existing flights, you'll need to find a way to apply the numbers manually (either online or over the phone).
Your ticket should have a sign notifying you that you can go through the TSA pre-check line; otherwise, you can check on this website to see if that airlines at the airport will have a separate line: https://www.tsa.gov/precheck/map . Quick note: TSA Pre-check is a US program so it's only available in the States.
Don't go to the airport thinking every airline will have this. I went to a local airport of mine later than usual thinking I still had plenty of time because of TSA pre. Turns out that the terminal for my airline did not have a line so I barely made it! Better safe than sorry- check the map before you leave.
things to consider...
travel bucket list
Me being me, I organise everything. One of many lists includes all of the places I want to visit one day, and all the places I've been, timestamped. You don't need to be as OCD as me, but just like you have a life bucket list, or goals at work, I'd recommend you also keep a bucket list of places to explore to remind yourself what you have to look forward to.
Set a goal for yourself
Personally, my goal is:
Your travel goal can be as simple as 1 domestic trip a year, and 1 international every 5 years! No matter what the ratio may be, set it for yourself so you have something to work towards!
Not everyone has unlimited PTO! But you can still travel by thinking smart: Look through your work holidays (or academic calendars in you're still in school), and find holidays that may be good for you to leave town. They may be holidays you don't necessarily observe, or holidays that give you a longer weekends that save you days off.
[Fair warning: expect your destination to have more people than usual during peak seasons and big holidays... but that you're trade-off to make to conserve your PTO and go during busy times; or to use your PTO and travel to places with less people and less lines.]
If you're traveling for work, coordinate with your manager/HR to see if you can get your trip extended (you'll probably have to pay a bit out-of-pocket for your return flight, but at least you're getting a departure flight for FREE).
Be creative and make the most out of the limited days you may have to travel!