When we had our child, our pediatrician said something brilliant: “Unhappy parents make unhappy babies.” He singlehandedly justified not feeling bad about putting on the airplane mask before my child and having one extra cocktail at every dinner.
This idea inspired me to write about what accessories and strategies I use to be more comfortable (and thus happy) on long trips. They aren’t complicated or expensive. Both of those words generally make me uncomfortable.
It’s obvious, but not always easy. The key is to be honest about a few things:
- One nice outfit is probably enough. Two is just hoping.
- Hotels and Airbnbs all have towels. And they’re clean enough.
- No one
in Europeanywhere will know if you’ve worn your jeans twicethree times between washes.
- Layers are less bulky than sweaters.
- Paying for laundry is better than paying for baggage fees and carrying them around.
- If you paid less than $500 for your 3lb DSLR kit, your 3oz iPhone probably shoots better photos more discreetly.
- Stores exist where you are going. Buy bulky toiletries there.
- Use carry-on sized luggage. No matter how big the suitcase, you will over pack it.
Choosing the Right Clothes
Traveling in comfort is usually about the clothes on your back, or more accurately, what you’re wearing that people can’t see. It’s important to know your fabrics.
Innovative Fabrics: For long hikes or urban adventures in warm locales, I search out new types of cottons or synthetics like spandex and nylons that save my skin and my vacation by wicking moisture away quickly. They’re also breathable, easy to clean, pack light and often feel like I’m not wearing anything at all. It’s like going commando without the fear of a wardrobe malfunction.
Neutral colors: Luggage space is precious. Matching bright colors often requires unique outfits. Greys and neutral tones mix and match with everything, making that one sweater, jacket or pair shoes go a whole lot further.
UV-blocking clothing: All fabrics block some UV rays, but sun-protection clothing features an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating. Mountain hikes or otherwise high sun areas are going to pound you with sunburn-causing UV that’s going to sneak through that airy linen shirt. Sun-protection garments are rated by level of protection and this protection never washes off or sweats away. REI has a great article about choosing UV-protecting clothing for better travel comfort.
Inconspicuous styling: It’s generally good not to stand out in a crowd when you’re overseas in an unfamiliar place or culture. Keep the wingtips, sequins and mini-skirts at home, unless it’s that kind of vacation. If so, you probably don’t need to be reading this article.
Insect protection: You might run into some clothes that are treated with permethrin, an insecticide engineered specifically for fabrics, to protect your skin from insects. It’s been proven to repel mosquitos, ticks and other pests, but be warned, even the most ecologically-minded scientist will tell you that in certain places, fancy clothes aren’t going to cut it. I’m looking at you Amazon jungle and Wisconsin Northwoods. Best to keep a can of 25% DEET just in case you find the kind of mosquitos that slap you back.
Comfort Travel Accessories
I’ve both seen and used a few good tricks in my traveling days. Below are some fun and/or practical accessories that can make your vacation a lot easier and/or more comfortable.
- The smallest steam iron ever. Perfect for business travelers or those hoping to run into Benedict Cumberbatch and get invited to his poker night.
- This wallet: Because almost everybody takes credit cards and it’s safer to keep the cash carry to a minimum.
- A Go Girl: It’s a F.U.D. or a Female Urinary Device. It’s a real thing, just like a lack of clean public toilets.
- Flats: Stick to easy, comfy shoes that come off in security, can pack well and can take a pounding before being tossed for another pair.
- This $11 power adapter – light, functional and has two USB charging ports.
- Dress pants that are actually sweat pants: They exist – and probably don’t need any explanation as to why they’re on this list.
- This Sandless Beach Mat: Keep the sand at the beach and not in your car. Another “why didn’t I think of that” idea.
- A Simple Flask: The best way to get travel comfortable on a flight, at a concert or simply walking around the city is to have a (couple) drinks. Alcohol relaxes the muscles, boosts the mood, aids sleep, makes you cooler. Apparently, it’s doctor’s orders.