It's tough to argue with packing the least amount possible while traveling. Having less luggage to sling around on trains, planes and subways always makes the experience much more pleasant. After several years of living on the road full time however, my motivation for making personal comfort items part of my travel equation has increased significantly. From multiple meltdowns over the lack of a fuzzy robe to repeated purchases of French coffee presses every time there's a location switch, the evidence has become crystal clear. There's a limit to how much comfort I'm willing to sacrifice.
Space: Finding room for extras takes commitment and discipline, as I covered recently in a piece on traveling art studios. Reducing your number of clothing items even more, selecting micro-sized toiletries and the aggressive use of compression bags may be the first ideas that come to mind, but there are ways to be even more surgical when it comes to carving out additional space. While making sure you have enough padding for breakables is certainly a concern, putting things in padded pouches inside of an already padded rolling backpack is a surefire way to lose that space you were setting aside for reef shoes, a laptop computer or an extra eye shadow palette.
For this reason, my husband and I are starting to explore hard-sided luggage for our packing endeavors. The structure of the pieces provides similar protection for our belongings with the benefit of extra space that is no longer taken up by unnecessary padding. If we have something extra delicate, it can be buffered by our clothing. One example is iFLY, which offers several features we are finding helpful. In addition to greater roominess in their hard-sided models, the spinner wheels mean less strain on our forearms when wheeling them through airports and hotel lobbies. Their exterior tech ports also plug into empty pouches, allowing for the removable battery requirements of many airlines.
Shopping: Purchasing consumables on site is a great way to skip space concerns when packing for a trip. Wine, small candles and replacement power bars are all on my short list, along with coconut oil, tinted lip balm and specialty tea. Local shopping can also provide a way to obtain functional souvenirs that add comfort to your travel experience. On a road trip from Florida to Virginia, I picked up a warm scarf in a fun color when my old one was getting threadbare. Other ideas include homemade mittens at a local artisan market, or woven totes during a beach getaway in the Caribbean. Even Rover might enjoy a new blanket or collar if your family trip includes a shopping excursion to the local canine boutique.
Franchises: I'm all about opting for independent restaurants and accommodation options while traveling, but when you are trying to shave some highway time off your road trip or have been out of the country for a long stretch of time, stopping at a chain restaurant for internet access over a stack of your favorite pancakes can be both comforting and efficient. The same goes for affordable business or pet-friendly hotel chains with predictable amenities such as canine relaxation areas, perfect pillows, exercise facilities and protein-heavy continental breakfasts. Choosing favorite food and hotel chains is a personal process, and will be different for every traveler or traveling family. Knowing which ones consistently meet your needs can mean the difference between a comfortable journey and a stressful one.
While it's impossible to pack everything but the kitchen sink for your travels, it is possible to incorporate a few creature comforts on the road. By using retail and packing options strategically, you can select those items that bring you the greatest amount of stress relief.
(Lifestyle and travel expert Myscha Theriault blends thrift and luxury to live well for less around the world. She has sold her home, all her furniture and most of her other belongings to travel the world full time with her husband. You can follow her adventures on Instagram via @MyschaTheriault.)