I have spent years thinking about how I can make travel more effortless. The clothing part is one thing (I'll tackle that in my next post), but the getting there and around part of it is another stress I'd love to remove as much as possible.
I want to be the person who breezes effortlessly through security without frantically digging out electronics and liquids...or spending minutes afterwards configuring them back into my bag.
I want a personal carry-on bag that slides perfectly under the seat and where every item is easily accessible from its position on the floor—no more contortionist moves or hauling the entire bag into my lap when I need something.
And when we arrive, I want these accessories to work just as hard for the duration of our stay.
Next week we are headed to Barcelona, and I once again have a chance at unstressing travel. Here are the six hard-working accessories I am bringing along as my secret weapons.
- Dominique Paye, Founder
1. The Can-Handle-Anything Suitcase
Like many, this is the suitcase I've used and abused for years, and it is still going strong. I've drug it over cobblestone sidewalks, down gravel driveways, up multiple flights of stairs, and through countless airports. Goodness knows how many shuttle buses and Ubers it's been thrown into the back of.
For me, its size is big enough to pack for a 7-10 day trip*, yet small enough to fit in a plane's overhead bin, even-tighter train overheads, and small European car trunks. On our first trip to Europe, we brought two VERY large suitcases and regretted it the first time we had to board a train. We really regretted it when we had to pay for two taxis to transport them to our hotel.
Its clamshell design has a compressible side for clothing, while the other side I use for shoes, my toiletry bag, packing cubes and anything else I don't want to compress.
* I pack a lot of Field Trip shirts (naturally) that are lightweight and hardly take up any room in a suitcase. I focus on items that are versatile and that I confidently know I look and feel great in. Anything else I leave at home.
2. A Travel Tote that Works from City to Coast
I have been looking for the perfect travel tote* for years, and I finally found one that checks all my boxes. Not surprisingly, it shares a lot of properties with our shirts.
Luxe, but laid back. The pebbled leather is elevated enough for European city travel (and everyday at the office), while its camel-and-cream palette is both classic and fresh enough for the coast.
A little bit of structure, a little bit of ease. The slightly slouchy construction and its long-rather-than-tall shape means it fits under an airplane seat easier than many leather totes.
Simple, but extremely versatile. Many travel totes on the market have an abundance of pockets and dividers. While it sounds great at first, in practice I find it limits the versatility of the bag. I want to carry electronics, as well as beach towels and snacks. This tote has a single zippered pocket on the inner sidewall, but otherwise it is wide open. I use a lightweight insert (see more below) when I need more exact organization.
Roomy, but not engulfing. With my 5'2" frame, I can't handle a bag that is too oversized. This is the perfect length at 18" and the just-right handle drop means I can comfortably carry it on my shoulder—even with a jacket on—or in my hand without it dragging the ground.
An investment, but it will become your daily go-to. If you can afford it, the quality, design, and versatility means you'll be reaching for it daily for years.
* The brand is based in Australia, so the pricing is in AUD, not USD (the bag is $566 USD as of the date of this writing), but the shipping is surprisingly reasonable at $20 AUD/$14 USD. This is my fifth purchase from this company and it is an investment that I haven't regretted yet. I've seen US brands with higher prices and half the quality.
3. A Lightweight Bag Insert = No More Rummaging
I am counting on this lightweight bag insert to be the hero product that allows me to effortlessly extract my liquids and electronics at security, organize my blanket, laptop, headphones, and carry-on necessities on the plane, keep my water bottle standing upright, and allow me to easily find anything I need.
Its waterproof material can handle the spills that seem inevitable with travel and it doesn't pill up like some felt versions you see online. It's also super lightweight.
I plan to store it in my suitcase while we are in Barcelona, then use my empty leather tote for grocery store runs, picnic lunches, books and towels for the pool/beach, and all of those souvenirs I inevitably bring home. :)
*I've been field testing this insert and the bag for a couple of weeks as my everyday work tote and I am in love.
4. A Wallet That Converts to a Crossbody Bag
I don't have a problem diverting from my day-to-day routines while on travel, but the one thing I don't like changing out is my wallet. It's a real pain to lose your credit card or ID while abroad. Having my everyday wallet with everything in its regular spot makes it more likely I'll notice if something is missing. And when I get back home, it's one less thing to "unpack".
I recently switched from my old Louis Vuitton Sarah wallet to this wallet that offers a lot more flexibility. It fits all of my credit cards and cash and has a zipped area for coins, but it can expand to hold my keys, a lip balm, my giant iPhone, and even my passport.
This detachable cross-body strap gives the wallet even more flexibility, turning it into a mini cross-body bag. At the airport, I plan to wear it through security, before takeoff, and after landing for easy access to my identification and money...and to keep it safer. I'll slip it into my tote while on the plane. Any other handbags I want to bring, I can simply pack in my suitcase.
In Barcelona, I can wear it cross-body on the days I want to travel light or I can place it into a larger handbag if I need to carry around a bit more. Even when fully expanded, it fits in my handbags as well as my old wallet.
* At home, I've been using it anytime I don't need to take a whole purse with me, whether it is a quick errand or taking the dog for a walk.
5. A Lightweight Blanket that Doubles as a Pareo
I used to carry around a small throw, but I really prefer these muslin swaddling blankets. They provide a lightweight layer if the plane gets chilly and have the perfect amount of coverage without dragging on the ground. They also brilliantly double as a pareo for the beach and pool, or as a ground covering if you have an airline delay and your kiddo needs to take a nap on the airport floor. They add almost zero weight to your bag, are easily hand washable and quick drying. In these amazing shibori prints they don't read as baby blankets at all.
6. An Incredible Beach Towel That's Also Great for Handwashing Clothes in the Hotel Room
My friend Joy Robyn Fenwick—who owns the Lexington, Kentucky boutique omar + elsie—turned me onto these amazing beach towels. They are crazy absorbent without getting heavy, dry three times faster than a standard cotton towel, fold up to about a third of its size, and repel sand. Since this trip has us in the city as well as at the beach and in the pool, these are a must. The XL size is also great as a picnic blanket at the park or an outdoor concert.
Back at the hotel, they are also a huge help when hand washing clothing. Once you've washed the item and pressed (never wring) the water out, I lay this towel down flat, fold it in half, and lay the clothing item flat on it. I then roll the towel up like a sleeping bag, and starting at one end of the rolled towel, I press my forearms into the towel to help gently absorb even more water from the clothing. (Get more hand washing tips here).
7. Ditch Your Sweats: An Overnight Travel Outfit that is Polished and Comfortable
The outfit combo I swear by for the plane, especially when traveling overnight: Field Trip's half sleeve, a chic pull-on pant (I love my Nili Lotion Casablanca pants from a couple of years ago), a flat sandal, and a lightweight cashmere sweater.
I like that this tone-on-tone outfit reads as a jumpsuit without the hassles a jumpsuit presents in an airplane bathroom. It conceals travel stains and looks so much chicer and more polished than sweats, and is 90% as comfortable.
International flights typically land in Europe in the early hours of the morning, and because hotels and apartments may not let you check in until later in the afternoon, I dress not just for the overnight flight, but the next day as well:
- This is an outfit that can take me through the airport with ease. No belt = no metal detector issues, the sandals easily slip on and off, and there is no jacket to remove.
- It keeps me comfortable on the plane. The half sleeve is cut for airflow and is made of 100% cotton poplin, so it is super-breathable but also polished. If I get chilly, I'll throw on the cashmere sweater. The half sleeve length layers seamlessly since it doesn't have the bulk of a long sleeve. A pull on pant means no buttons, which means more comfortable sitting. The slightly cropped length doesn't drag the floors (especially in airports and public bathrooms), and my legs are covered so I don't need a massive blanket or have to worry about propriety (a child sleeping on you can result in some interesting positions haha).
- When we arrive in Barcelona, we plan on having an easy first day—a long paella lunch by the beach and then touring Barcelona Cathedral. Which, incidentally, has a dress code. No shorts or skirts above the knee are allowed. With this outfit, I won't have a problem.
- The cashmere sweater I will continue to use throughout the trip for cold hotel rooms, chillier evenings by the beach, or boating on the water.
Stay tuned! When I return from Barcelona, I'll be sharing what I packed and wore each day, including what worked...and what didn't.