“I don’t really have something I absolutely must bring with me while travelling. When I bring books, half the time I don’t read them because I end up sleeping, chatting with my neighbour on the plane or staring out the window and marvelling at the cloud landscapes. If I’m going somewhere exotic, I rarely feel the need to read as I’m usually much too entertained by my new surroundings. I do like to write about my trip, so maybe a notebook and a pen, but the only absolute must-haves I can think of are my passport and some cash.
“I never get on a plane without a stack of magazines – at times modest, but more often shamelessly large. Scrutinizing glances aside (‘who could possibly need 8 magazines for a two-hour flight?’) nothing makes the time fly by like flipping through my favourite glossies. A tablet would probably be more efficient weight-wise, but I’m old fashioned when it comes to in-flight reading materials. Plus, who can resist the wall-to-wall displays of magazines at airport convenience stores? I certainly cannot.”
“I always carry a compact bag for toiletries. It’s not that I need my beauty products while traveling, but most of the time I travel to places where it’s difficult to find even basic items. It looks more like a survival kit then anything else, and I take great pleasure in preparing it – going to the pharmacy and making up elaborate stories in my mind to find excuses to load up on tiny bottles of bug spray, ointments, pills for all kinds of tropical illnesses, etc. Then I complete the kit with shaving cream and organic soap. The challenge is keeping everything within the millilitre limit so that I can take it as a carry-on.”
“Anyone who knows me knows I can get a little (read: a lot) grumpy when I’m not well fed. For some reason, travelling brings out this monster a little more often and, without knowing what I’ll get on the flight, (and really, I’m not paying that for a sandwich) combined with being a vegetarian (no, I don’t eat tuna sandwiches, thank you), it’s best for me to bring my own snacks and save everyone the trouble. I make my own trail mix with lots of nuts, seeds, dried fruit and a little chocolate, some PB&J wraps, and something junky (that might be from my childhood when travel = getting any treat I wanted). Chocolate and chips usually make the cut. That, along with a water bottle full of cold water, makes for a really comfortable trip. I wouldn’t want to travel without it; I don’t think any one else would want me to, either.
An eye mask and earplugs
“At the best of times, I’m a lousy sleeper-and travelling only exacerbates the situation. The combination of excitement, jetlag and unfamiliar cacophony means I see Spain on a catnap a night. My only hope for some shut-eye is to block out as much light and noise as possible. When moving around, basic is best: the disposable foam earplugs sold at hardware stores work just fine (I steal handfuls from my contractor sister when I visit) and it’s no big deal if you lose them. I’ve used the same in-flight eye mask for years but a folded scarf or kerchief is effective in a jam.
“Travel I do not. The closest I come is occasionally driving to my mother’s tiny cottage in rural Ontario. My escape from the concrete jungle complete, the goal is simple: unplugging. In her tiny kitchen, there is a couch I lay back on to consume the endless pile of physical print that accumulates in my apartment. Whether books, magazines or esoteric literary publications I’d never have time for in Montreal, what they are not is a computer, phone or tablet screen. Which eventually leads to another indispensible vacation essential-mid-day naps.
“I use it as an alarm clock, a watch, a flashlight, a camera, a way of emailing friends and family, figuring out where I am and where I need to go and buying tickets to avoid waiting in long lines. In case that’s not enough, I also listen to music on it and check the weather forecast. The best part though? It takes up almost no space in my luggage.
“I might be 28 going on 80, but the one thing I never leave home without when heading on a trip is a bottle of sunscreen. My shield of choice? Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen. Nothing puts a damper on a vacation quite like a scorching burn, and ‘operation preservation’ has become a mantra among my friends. It helps whether I’m skiing in Revelstoke or on the beach in Maui, and I guarantee you’ll never hear anyone say, ‘man, I really wish I’d left my sunscreen at home!
An empty bottle of water
“I never go to the airport without an empty bottle of water. After I pass through security, I fill it at a water fountain (when the water is drinkable, of course). That way, I save 5$ at the airport’s convenience store and I am not thirsty during the hour-long wait before the flight attendant begins to serve drinks.