Traveling is arguably the best part about studying abroad, but it can also be a huge pain. The stress of traveling with other people, the uncertainty of mass transportation, and a potential language barrier can all contribute to some difficulties while you’re traveling about. I love anything that makes traveling easier, whether it helps you sleep better, keeps you fresh and clean, or prevents your flat iron from setting your luggage on fire, some conveniences are just worth the money.
Here are 20 essential travel accessories that will make the process of traveling much easier (and more fun!)
It’s not just Mexico– there are tons of places around the world where Americans can’t drink the water due to it containing bacteria that our stomachs are not used to. But don’t worry– take this Brita filtered water bottle with you wherever you go and you’ll have instantly drinkable water. Even if you’ll be traveling in areas with safe drinking water, this bottle will come in handy when you encounter questionable looking public water fountains.
2. Slingbox 500
It may not be cheap, but if you’re worried about missing NFL games or the newest season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta while you’re studying abroad, a Slingbox could surely be a worthwhile investment. A Slingbox lets you tap into your cable box back at home so that you can watch TV from your computer, wherever in the world you may be. It doesn’t interrupt whoever is watching TV at your home back in the states, and there’s no monthly fee. Might be a good purchase to split between your roommates.
Traveling as a study abroad student often means overnight airport stays, crappy hostel showers, and other elements that may make your hair feel less than clean. Dry shampoo is a must-have for both guys and girls if you’ve got hair that goes past your ears; it will soak up any greasies that you won’t have a chance to wash out before appearing in public. It also makes your hair smell fresh and clean. I LOVE this brand of dry shampoo– get a few bottles of the travel size for your weekend trips, and keep a big bottle in your apartment to get the smoky smell out of your hair from the night before.
One problem you’re guaranteed to run into when you’re studying abroad — “um…who wants to take the picture?” Anytime you’re traveling in a group and want to get a shot of everyone, you’ll either have to ask a stranger to take the picture for you (which may or may not come out the way you want) or you’ll have to one-man-down it and someone will have to sit this photo opp out as they snap away. Take a travel tripod with you and let it do the photo taking. This JOBY tripod may look a bit funny, but its flexible legs means you can wrap it around a tree or light pole, can position it on rocky terrain, or can even hang it from the ceiling! Never miss out on being in a photo again.
Saving money on travel often means catching the redeye flight or overnight train. Getting as much sleep as you can will make the experience a lot more bearable, so use these funky-looking eye covers to help maximize your sleep time. They’ll block out most light and have room in the eyelid area so you can still blink comfortably and not smudge your makeup.
6. Space Bags
I can’t recommend Space Bags enough– you’ll see I included them in our packing guide. I used them constantly when I was studying abroad. They help you make the most of your suitcase space and are super easy to use. Use the carry-on sized space bags for your weekend travel and you’ll be surprised just how much more you’ll be able to fit in your suitcase.
If you like passing the time by reading, a Kindle is useful because it takes us way less room and weight allowance in your bag than a book does. I still use mine to this day when I travel… don’t get me wrong, I love an actual book, but the space and weight-saving element of a Kindle outweighs that.
Stuffing everything you can into your suitcase may mean you’ll have lots of choices when it comes to picking out what to wear while you’re traveling, but it also means all of the choices will probably super wrinkled too. Not many hostels have irons (and your own apartment or homestay may not have one either), so bringing along wrinkle release will be life-saving. The one featured above is small enough to bring in your carry-on, but will run out fast, so you may want to bring a large bottle from the states and refill the travel size bottle when needed.
No more wrapping your hot flat iron in your favorite sweater as your rush to catch the bus to the airport. This heat-resistant case will help protect your flat iron or curling iron from getting damaged in addition to protecting your other packed items from melting if there’s no time for a cool down.
Bring these portable speakers with you on your weekend travels and you’ve got what it takes to get a party started. Get a fun pre-game going in your hostel room or take the speakers with you to the beach or park so you can listen to tunes while you hang out and relax. And these speakers may look small, but they produce BIG sounds, so you get a lot of bang (and bass) for your buck.
You can’t travel without sunglasses, but it’s so easy to accidentally crush them. So go for a pair of Raybans that you can fold up and throw in your pocket or purse when you don’t want to wear them. They have less of a chance of cracking, bending, or falling off your head into the ocean…
12. Hearos Ear Plugs
You’ll be happy you brought earplugs when you’re trying to get some shut-eye on your 12 hour bus ride or if you have a roommate who’s voice gets louder with each beer he has. Seriously– you’d be surprised how often you’ll need them.
If you love buying fruits and veggies from markets and street vendors while you’re traveling, these cleansing wipes will be handy to have when you want to devour your purchases on the spot. Keep a few in your bag, or just use them at home after a trip to the grocery store to make sure your food is extra clean.
If you’re a shopper, this one’s for you. Picking up new clothing and souvenirs even on just a weekend trip could end in disaster if those new goodies put your carry-on luggage’s weight over the airline’s limit. If you’re flying a budget airline, they’ll charge you big time for that. So to avoid any overweight costs, bring this little sucker with you. A word to the wise — this scale only can handle up to 110 lbs, so don’t drunkenly attempt to pick up your passed out friend by his belt loop to see how much he weighs…
Sure, you can use these for when you don’t feel like washing your hair, but we think shower caps are an awesome way to keep your grimy shoe soles away from the rest of the stuff in your luggage. Now you don’t have an excuse to not bring your workout sneakers…
Neck pillows can help so much with your quest to sleep during your travels. I love this inflatable one because you can deflate it so that it doesn’t take up much room in your bag, unlike stuffed ones. It’s also really fun to see the look on your fellow passengers’ faces when you start blowing it up on the plane…
This little backup charger packs a lot of power. When you’re on a long-haul flight and your iPod is dying, give it a quick charge with this guy and you’ll be charged for quite a while. We think this is a must-have for safety– you’ll never have to worry about not being able to use Maps to get back to your hostel or not having enough juice to call your roommate who disappeared while you were at the bar together.
18. Compact Umbrella
There’s nothing worse than suddenly getting poured on when you’re out sight-seeing. This travel umbrella folds up to a small enough size to stuff in your pocket or purse, so you can literally take it anywhere with you and avoid getting drenched.
Whether you’re the wine-o yourself or your parents have been begging you to bring back some authentic Italian vino from your time abroad, transporting wine in your luggage can turn into a disastrous situation. Bring a 3-pack of Wine Diapers with you and when it comes time to bring your favorite wine (or whatever type of alcohol suits your fancy) back to the states, you won’t have to worry about opening your suitcase to find your clothes smelling like fermented grapes.
Unpacking and repacking for almost every weekend while you’re abroad can become a nightmare. To make your life easier, get these clear travel bags, purchase a set of toiletries that you’ll only use when you’re on a trip, and put them in these bags. That way, you’ll never have to unpack anything when you get back from a weekend trip– you can just leave your hairbrush, toothbrush, shampoo and everything else in the travel bags and in your suitcase until your next adventure. I like using clear bags because you can see what’s in them without having to unzipper, and you can keep your less-than-3-oz liquids on one separate bag that you can easily take out when it’s time to go through airport security.