Outstanding travel clothes, shoes, accessories
September 15, 2019 10:39 AM   Subscribe

What specific items of clothing, shoes or accessories have you found to be particularly useful when traveling?

Maybe it's something that is wrinkle-proof, does double-duty, or just makes traveling safer and more comfortable. I'm particularly looking for items for women traveling in Germany in Autumn. Links to specific items are appreciated!
posted by christa to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
I really like this jacket from Talbots. They have other items in the same line, too.
posted by rw at 11:23 AM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

I like to bring Rothy's as a second pair of shoes (if the weather is unexpectedly warm)because they're incredibly lightweight and I think they're also comfortable. I have a basic black ballet flat from them. I also sometimes wear them with black tights, and they could theoretically work as the only pair of shoes on a trip. On a recent trip where I wanted to carry as little as possible, I brought a little silk dress from Madewell (this old one) and just hand washed it every night and hung it on a hanger. It says dry clean only, but it turns out to be fine to wash, and it's so lightweight that it dries quickly for the next morning and as it hangs, any wrinkles fall out. It worked really well, though if you're traveling for work you may need something that looks more perfectly ironed.
posted by pinochiette at 12:16 PM on September 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Also, if you're near a Daiso (Japanese dollar store), I think that's the best place to buy mesh packing cubes. Super useful for keeping clothes organized in a suitcase. Most of their products are $1.50- I can't remember if that's the price of the packing cubes, but it's something close to that.
posted by pinochiette at 12:25 PM on September 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

Packing cubes of any sort. I like Compass Rose for carry-on only trips, because they’re all the same size. My family uses color coded Amazon Basics cubes when we check bags.

This Lo & Sons Catalina Tote is everything. It’s huge (I got the smallest size, and in nylon so I can easily wipe it off). It makes a great personal item and a great shopper, and most importantly, has a luggage sleeve. I usually roll up this Baggalini crossbody , and stuff it somewhere, just in case. (I swear I am not a maximalist, but it is nice to have a small bag on a trip sometimes.)

Also, travel size bottle of Downey wrinkle remover + folding travel hanger = less rumpled look when you forget to hang out clothes the night before.

And finally, I used to think my husband was ridiculous for this, but now I’m 100% on board. He takes a luxe travel size candle with him when he travels, since hotel rooms can be sterile (and occasionally stinky).
posted by asnowballschance at 12:29 PM on September 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Peshtemal Turkish towels. Light and compressable to the size of my fist, absorbent enough for my waist-long hair, can double as a modesty robe or (as I discovered this year) hostel bunk bed curtain if you're sleeping in the lower bed.

And Ikea sells a surprisingly handy set of travel toiletry bottles that isn't just 10 100ml ones.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 12:46 PM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

I have a backup battery for my phone that has a flashlight and will (slowly)charge from solar; keeping my phone charged is always the biggest headache. I have a google voice number; it's labeled on the phone with an email address in case I leave my phone on the plane; transportation folks say they find a *lot* of phones they can't return. Mine also says Reward.
Spare charging cable(s); I put bright tape on them and other stuff; if I scan the room, the hot pink is obvious, also helps me find it in my bag.

You can get a country-specific electrical adapter at the airport.

I use the clear zipper bags that sheets come in or ziplock bags for accessories and underwear; transparency is a big plus. Grooming kit is mesh. Plastic groc bags for laundry and shoes.

Lightweight reusable grocery bag for shopping, picnic, etc.

I have a couple email addresses. I take pictures of documents, passport, credit cards, and keep them in drafts while traveling. Conversely, a card with critical phone numbers in my wallet. I make sure I have addresses for sending post cards.

A big shawl/ pashmina looks nice. Wool for Germany in Fall. Provides a fair bit of warmth, can wear it over my head visiting a fussy church, over a chair, makes my room feel like home. A pair of thin gloves, probably fleece.

I have a toothbrush, washcloth, travel deodorant and spare panties in a mesh bag in my purse, along with spare reading glasses, meds, tylenol, bandaids. I have spent nights in an airport and/or without my luggage.
posted by theora55 at 12:57 PM on September 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

An assortment of ziploc bags - super lightweight and great for a million things. e.g. packing leftover bread at a resto.

For shoes, be sure they are non-slip, on wet or sleety surfaces.
posted by storybored at 1:05 PM on September 15, 2019 [6 favorites]

More on the accessories side:
Small little shopping bags like these. Obviously you only need 1 or two, and I have a different brand with triangle carribeaners. But smaller than a postit pad when folded up.
I also use a bag like this bag for my carryon and for walking/hiking/carrying things. On the plane it fits under the seat EASILY, carries an iPad, headphones, Kindle, water bottle, documents and passport, and a snack. Around town it carries wallet and stuff, water bottle, and whatever else... camera, maps, and things I need. Hiking it carries 2 HUGE water bottles, documents, and snacks, and thin layers of removed clothes. The linked bag doesn't have it, but it also has a mesh panel that keeps the bag off of my back. Air flow!
posted by Snowishberlin at 1:41 PM on September 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Blundstone boots! They are unisex, look great with jeans, business casual pants or shorts, and sometimes even can be cute with dresses. They are waterproof and essentially indestructible, can be made pretty warm with good insoles, are quick to remove for airport security, and are comfortable to walk long distances in. They’re really the perfect shoe.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 3:05 PM on September 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

First thing out, and last thing back into my bag: Collapsable Travel Tray.

Creates a square of order and certainty to keep AirPods, pen, wallet, keys and other misc contained.
posted by weft at 3:08 PM on September 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

I like having a flexible water bottle (mine is BPA free from Vapur). It can be attached to the outside of a bag or even purse handles with the carabiner, flattens, rolls and folds up to be very small and light when empty.

Seconding packing cubes. Mine are from Eagle Creek and are very sturdy. I have the shoe cube; a divided cube for keeping clean/dirty clothes separate; a medium, a small, and an extra small (they came in a set and were cheaper that way). I use the extra small one to corral small items in my carry-on.

I like wearing slippers in my hotel room or rental apartment when travelling, so I have a pair of folding cloth slippers that pack into a pouch and live in my suitcase. I got mine from Daiso, but these are similar.

Seconding the suggestion to bring a large, thin shawl. I use mine for everything—blanket on the plane or train, extra warmth when walking around, travel neck pillow, making a temporary bag to carry groceries in.

Last trip I went on I brought 5 large and 5 small ziplocks. I was so glad to have them.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:28 PM on September 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

My toiletry bag gets checked in and is permanently packed. Amongst assorted personal care items it always contains a Swiss Army knife - it never ceases to amaze me how often a sharp knife, scissors or a cork screw come in handy when travelling.

If you wear nail polish it is also a good idea to have some remover pads/wipes and a bottle of neutralish polish for maintenance.

I like to take my makeup off with a hot cloth and I also do not like to have housekeeping come in every day/at all. So I bring a suitable number of cloths.

Nthing the ziplock bags. There are plenty of hotels in Germany that don’t have in room coffee facilities. If you are staying somewhere like that consider if you need to bring anything to overcome that.

Irrespective of where I go - for air travel I always have clean underwear and a clean top in my hand luggage because luggage sometimes follows a different itinerary.

Curate your liquids for carry on - I like minimal make up items, a sample sized tub of Clinique moisture surge as well as things that would normally live in my bag anyway like hand cream and lip balm etc. Not normally a fan of face wipes but again for air travel I will use them.

I have a suit jacket that can be folded small, doesn’t crease, contains plenty of elastic I.e. is very comfortable and is all round great for travelling. Depending on where you are located you may find that casual dress in Germany may be more formal than you’re used to. Such a jacket would be great with a pair of jeans for example.

Be sure to spend some time assessing your electrical needs. I have to travel to clients for work so my normal work bag already contains assorted cables, plugs, headphones and a mouse. For travel I’d only grab an adapter plug and perhaps the car charger for my phone. If you have fitness trackers, a camera or noise cancelling headphones that use different cables be sure to bring those as well as any adapter for the plane headphone jack.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:09 PM on September 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

In case it matters to you: do you mean "accessories" like...specifically women's clothing accessories, that is hats and scarves and jewelry etc. (the way a department store would define it), or do you mean "accessories" like "assorted miscellaneous other items, anything really"? I thought maybe you meant the first but you're getting a lot of the second.
posted by spelunkingplato at 7:43 PM on September 15, 2019

A cotton bandana. I wear it as a neck kerchief, tied it around my head as a headband, knotted the ends together for a quick pouch, wiped the sweat off my forehead, dusted the dirt off a park bench, wrapped around my ankle when I twisted it, soaked it in cold water on hot nights...1001 uses. Found a company on Amazon which makes a larger version than the typical surplus store size.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:33 PM on September 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

For clothing:
These specific REI socks. They are mostly wool, so they breathe. I have had to wear them for 36 hours in a row (most recently this weekend!) and they still weren't stinky, which is frankly an accomplishment with my feet.

A very wide scarf or a Pashmina-type wrap. Pick your own style; I got mine in Cambodia so no links. I can use it as a wrap when it's just a little chilly. I can use it as a lap cloth when I'm eating. I can even use it as a towel in a pinch, for example when my AirBnB host has not provided towels. When I'm on a plane, I can put the pillow in the middle of it and then tie it around my neck so the pillow stays under my neck and works as a neck pillow. (I have dragged a neck pillow around the world; the wrap is much easier.) Same philosophy as the bandanna above, and overlapping uses.

A plug with multiple USB outlets. Here's a good one. 90% of my devices charge via USB and this allows me to charge them all from the same outlet.

If you love coffee, an Aeropress and some ground coffee in a Ziploc. Many hotel rooms don't have coffee, and when they do it's often the bad instant stuff. If you want something simpler, Starbucks Via Coffee Packs are a much better grade of instant than I've found in most hotel rooms here.
posted by rednikki at 3:04 AM on September 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

These Prana Halle Pants travel well, wash well, can be rolled up on a warm day, go from hiking to dinner (esp. the black ones). I've actually gotten compliments on them when I've worn them in Germany! A lot of rentals in Germany will have a washer but not a dryer, so bring items that will air-dry well if you're planning to do laundry.

Bring a coin purse or a wallet that will accommodate Euro coins so you don't end up with heavy pockets. Also, I have a travel adapter like this one and it's sturdy and works well.

Seconding fold-up reusable shopping bags (I make sure mine are strong enough to carry bottles of mineral water) and Rothy's as a second pair of shoes.
posted by beyond_pink at 5:59 AM on September 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

Buff microfiber headgear. They stay in place, keep my hair out of my face, work as an eye mask while sleeping, etc. I gave my wool one to my husband (I'm allergic), but those are good, too.
I wish I could recommend them as well as the ones I purchased years ago (cheaper nylon-like fabric, tighter tubes), but I still get them at the sports supply stores when I find them.

Seconding having a $1 bandanna for all the reasons you use a scarf, wipe, napkin, etc. A large shawl or pashmina on the plane will give that little bit of cover when the temps are too cold. Extra underwear and a toothbrush are helpful in the carry-on (a travel tube of toothpaste optional in the 3-1-1 quart bag).
I've never understood the need for packing cubes when Ziploc bags come in so many sizes. They are clear, waterproof and cheap. If I need something bigger and waterproof (swimwear, outerwear during rainy vacations, etc.) I use a dry bag.
I always carry a headlamp, a compass, and some nail clippers (no Swiss army knife in carry-on). I do prefer a blow-up neck pillow while trying to sleep upright.
posted by TrishaU at 8:42 AM on September 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Two items from Tom Bihn:
Travel tray - haven't lost something on a hotel room nightstand since I got it
Travel laundry stuff sack - SO clever! Your clean clothes go on one side, and as they get dirty, you put them into the other side -- the internal divider moves so it always has room. I went so far as to sew myself one that exactly fits in the bottom of my backpack, but the original is amazing.

I also swear by traveling with a headlamp. Any headlamp will do; my most recent is one of these $10 Energizer ones. It's saved me so many times.
posted by ourobouros at 11:42 AM on September 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One thing about germany specifically: it's a HUGE pain in the ass to get certain meds that are totally OTC in north america. I get carsick, my band did a 3 week tour of mostly germany back in June and I ran out of bonine. It wasn't possible to buy it there - i had to go to a pharmacy and ask at the counter and they gave me dramamine which wasn't ideal because it makes me super sleepy.

Also, stuff like melatonin that is super easy to find here is much harder to find there and way more expensive. So make sure you bring that kind of stuff with you!
posted by capnsue at 2:37 PM on September 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

A few 1 gallon ziplock bags always go with me. Also a small spool of duct tape. The ziplocks always get used, the duct tape less so but when it does I am glad I thought to bring it.
posted by bz at 3:45 PM on September 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

Merino wool tee shirt / long undies. Warm and smell resistant.
posted by Bee'sWing at 5:52 PM on September 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

The things that make travel so much easier and more comfortable for me that I never forget them, even when I forget other much more important stuff:

- Breathable, quick-drying underwear. I like Patagonia and SmartWool best, many others swear by Ex-Officio. I get sweaty, so it's good to not have to y'know, walk around all sweaty in that area. It's also very nice to be able to hand-wash in the sink at the end of the day and wake up to dry undies ready to wear in the morning.

- A light black overpiece, which I can throw on over pretty much any clothes I'm wearing to look a touch dressier/more professional or be a bit warmer. My 3/4-sleeve one is most versatile, but I also have a short-sleeved one and a long-sleeved, slightly thicker one for when I'm traveling to places with more weather. You can get ones designed for travel from places like Travelon and Royal Robbins, but I just buy mine from wherever else I'm buying clothes. Black fits my wardrobe best, but maybe another color would do it for you.

- A large black scarf/shawl, for additional warmth, a blanket for an impromptu picnic, a clean place to sit on the airport floor, shade from the sun, to actually wear as a wrap, you name it. I have never regretted carrying it, and have found it a crucial solution for very specific situations for at least 50% of trips over the past year.

- Titanium travel spork and chopsticks set, so I can always eat even if the deliverator forgot to put utensils in the bag or the crappy plastic spoon broke. (Set seems to no longer be available, but you can get mini-fork and chopsticks separately.)

- Travel power bank that also doubles as a wall charger
posted by rhiannonstone at 10:23 PM on September 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I always take my most sacred socks and underwear (the ones that have gotten holey). When I take them off, in the trash they go. No more bringing back dirty smalls, they serve one more good purpose, and I have, on average, nicer stuff because the old stuff is periodically discarded.
posted by Daddy-O at 10:33 AM on September 19, 2019 [5 favorites]

Packing cubes, check. A hang-bag for toiletries. I repurposed a toiletries hang-bag for computer and device chargers and so forth a few years ago and it gets smaller and ligher every year. A four-wheel rollaboard overhead stowable primary travel bag.

I have a large Tom Binh soft bag for books, ipad, laptop, etc but currently I find I rarely fill it to capacity. It tends to be the toiletries hang-bag, the tech bag, my ipad, and maybe a book or a notepad and my lay-flat notebook calendar these days. A decade ago it would have also toted a laptop, travel books, a sweater and a hat. These days I just buy a hoodie or a hat if I need one and travel books are checked out from the library digitally.
posted by mwhybark at 8:16 PM on September 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

Oh yes, headlamp 110%
posted by mwhybark at 8:19 PM on September 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

I was a big fan of Blundstone boots until a pair blew out their soles in the middle of a multi-day trip. When the soles blow out, they're effectively unrepairable, and it really sucks to learn that the hard way. (The soles can be replaced with Vibram soles, but Blundstone soles aren't available to shoemakers in the US, and the Vibrams are a lot heavier and change the way the shoes fit.)

My current travel footwear of choice is a pair of low-profile Scarpa shoes. They look like run-of-the mill walking or jogging footwear so they don't look out of place in an urban setting, but they're serious hikers. I've gone on all-day city hikes in them and feel better than I ever had wearing Blundstones. As a bonus they're both cheaper and far more durable, and most Scarpa models can be resoled.
posted by ardgedee at 12:06 PM on September 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

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