Business

A Little Travel … 8 Surprisingly Stylish & Useful Things for Your Next Trip

stylish travel giftsAs a long-term traveler on the road for more than eight years, I have carefully tested and tried countless travel products. There’s an art to travel, and I’ve spent dozens of trips testing options in an effort to reach that perfect mix of practical and useful — but still stylish! A lot of travel gear is bulky, khaki, or just plain. And travel shoes are often just plain ugly. These products, however, strike a perfect balance. All of these things make my travels more enjoyable and make me look like a put-together traveler.

While I travel all over the world with this gear, you can choose colors and styles that work best for the countries you’re visiting. I started searching for stylish travel gear when I began passing through Europe more often. While safari shirts look good on safari in Tanzania, that look was decidedly out of place on the streets of Barcelona.

If you’re heading to Europe, or elsewhere, these eight travel products are among my favorites that I carry with me on each trip.

1. The Perfect Cross-Body Travel Purse

The search is over, Travelon officially makes the best travel purse I’ve yet found. While a pretty leather purse looks good, I found these are less useful when out sightseeing. After searching for years, I found a travel purse that looks nice enough to carry out to dinner, but also holds my camera, water, and sightseeing gear. I have carried expensive bags, cheap sack-like bags, regular purses, messenger bags — none of these bags ever quite kept pace with my travels. I started my yearlong RTW trip with an AmeriBag — this worked well and was easy on my back, but it’s not stylish. And the Baggallini Travel bag is a finalist — looks good but is less durable if you plan to use outside of a nicer vacation.

The best cross-body purse for travelers. It can be hard to find the right fit, size and comfort, but his one is well-designed and perfect for stylish yet comfortable and convenient travels! The Travelon Anti-Theft Cross-Body Bag emerged as a clear leader for it’s combination of size, functionality, and number of pockets. If you’re a long-term traveler, it will keep pace with your travels, and if you’re heading to Europe, it will transition from go-bag for sightseeing to dinner with friends.

  • Sturdy features, the material is strong and the strap is wide and comfortable.
  • Great convenience factors; there are a range of pockets in various areas so you can easily store and find things. I like the back zippered pocket to hold my tickets and passport for quick access.
  • Good looking and versatile; works in a range of situations from sightseeing to dinner.
  • A great size; this purse fits an outing’s worth of stuff in it: water bottle, sunglasses, mirrorless camera, notebook, snack, chap-stick and Kindle.
  • Anti-theft features; I usually travel with a carabiner to secure my purse strap, and this one has it built it. So handy! It also has locking zippers and slash-proof fabric. In Europe, the carabiner and anti-theft features are particularly ideal so you can affix the purse to your chair in places like Paris and Rome where petty theft is high.

I always carry a purse on my travels, and if you’re looking for something ideal for your trips, this one hits all of my positives.

Picking one out: Amazon has a range of gorgeous colors. I prefer the black Travelon, but the grey one is cute too.

2. A Stylish Pocket Scarf

pocket travel scarfWearing a scarf is a great way to dress up an outfit when you’re traveling, and the SHOLDIT Fleece Pocket Scarf is a fun, practical addition to your travel wardrobe. It’s wicked useful and they have dozens of colors. Use the pocket to keep your passport, credit cards, and spare cash safe as you roam around Europe or squeeze through crowded streets in Asia. This is also a great way to go super lightweight for a night out on the town as it works as a scarf or a small clutch.

The best travel wardrobes have items that function in different capacities, and this wins on that front. You won’t regret tossing one of these into your bag in a neutral color that coordinates with most of your outfits.

3. A Stylish, Warm, Durable Cardigan

best travel caridganLook no further for the perfect cardigan for your trip. Made from Merino wool (a breed of sheep from Spain), the Icebreakers Bliss Cardigan is my favorite piece of travel clothing. It’s a travel must, especially when venturing around Europe. The weather fluctuates a lot in Europe and you are likely facing warm days and cool evenings. The great thing about Merino wool is that it stays cool in warm weather and warm in cold weather. Having a good sweater is important so that you can keep yourself warm on chilly planes, buses, and trains. And even more, this sweater looks so good that I always get compliments on it when I’m on the road. It works just as well on a plane as it does in a bar for happy hour. I own this sweater in grey and blue, and it’s one item that is always in my travel bag.

 4. Cute, Comfortable Sandals

stylish travel sandalI never thought I would say this, but I have found the perfect travel sandals and they’re a pair of Crocs. I am in love with my sandals. I know, don’t make that face though, because I’m going to make my case. The Crocs Sexi Flip Sandal is so comfortable, and surprisingly stylish, too. Like my cardigan, people have stopped me on the street to ask about my sandals. They’re as comfortable as you would expect from a pair of Crocs, but the style is downright trendy. The soles are manmade and the ankle strap fits well (they are tight when you first order them, so round up a size and then they will fit once you wear them in for a day or two).

I have worn these through half a dozen countries now and my original pair is still going strong (and they’ve never given me a blister). This is the perfect sandal for hot summer days spent wandering through historic European cities and villages.

5 & 6. Security for Your Smartphone

lifeproof case reviewYour smartphone is likely one of the most expensive items in your day bag and you should take a few steps to keep it safe. The best cases on the market are both the Otterboxes and the Lifeproof cases. While Otterboxes are good for daily use, the Lifeproof FRE case wins out for travelers. There is a reason why Lifeproof cases are so popular among travelers, they are almost indestructible. Lifeproof cases protect your phone from falls, sand, snow, and water. Anything you dream up for your trip — your phone case can handle it. There are several colors and styles available, and they also have a floating case if you’re planning a beach holiday.

kenu leash reviewWith the camera safe from drops and spills, now it’s time to prevent theft. I hands-down love my Kenu Security Leash more than most anything else. I traveled Africa with this and I had no worries about dropping it into Victoria Falls when I leaned over the edge. Nor do I worry about a “grab and run” when I’m at the iconic European hotspots (which are known for pickpocketing and theft). I love that I can secure it to a zipper inside my bag to keep from phone completely safe.

7. The Perfect Travel Camera

perfect travel cameraDepending on your travel style, you may want to bring either just your phone, a point-and-shoot camera, or a higher end camera with interchangeable lenses. You don’t need to have a big fancy DSLR camera to take beautiful photos when you’re travelling, plus a point and shoot is light and does not take up too much room. If you’re looking for something small but powerful, the Canon Powershot S120 is the perfect pocket camera. It’s more powerful than your phone. It goes fully manually. And it takes great photos. One big benefit is the camera’s 24mm wide angle lens — now you won’t chop off part of the Leaning Tower when you’re taking your selfies!

perfect camera for travelAnother great camera option is the Panasonic LUMIX GX7, which I use religiously. This camera has 16MP and a CMOS four thirds sensor. If you considered bringing a DSLR camera, you just have to look at the micro four-thirds cameras. These line of cameras are the hands-down best travel cameras for quality and size. While most travelers will enjoy having a slim point-and-shoot, if you’re considering getting a better camera then read my review of my Panasonic LUMIX GX7 — it’s my favorite purchase in years.

8. Stylish Camera Scarf

comfortable camera strapFinding a comfortable camera strap is challenging. If you own a DSLR, or if  you opted for the Lumix that I recommend, then you might want to upgrade your camera strap. With the Capturing Couture Scarf Strap, I love the idea of a camera strap that is made from a scarf. Made from soft jersey fabric, this scarf camera strap is comfortable, functional, and stylish. It will look great as you snap photos of anything from the Taj Majal to the Eiffel Tower.

Other Items You May Need

In addition to these travel items, I always pack a few extra things that make my travels easier.

  • Backup Battery: If you’ll be using your smartphone then don’t forget a backup battery. I like the mid-priced and compact Anker Astro, or the Power Brik Portable charger, which is less expensive, slim, and it will carry at least one charge for your phone.
  • Reading Material: I always bring a Kindle as I like have a single-purpose device and no distractions. You can download a few books related to the country you’re visiting and learn about the history, culture, and people as you travel.
  • Tunes for the Road: Spotify won’t work overseas, so consider upgrading to Spotify Premium for your trip. With premium, I download all of my music so I have offline tunes for the train rides and days out wandering new cities.
  • Handy Travel Journal: There are no better notebooks than a Moleskin and this travel themed one is super cute.

That wraps up the handful of my very favorite items that make it into my backpack on each trip, despite the extra weight. And there are other things I love (my backpack, my hiking boots, etc), but each one of these items have made my travels better in some identifiable way. As a traveler, every single thing I add to my backpack adds to the weight I carry on my back. And as a woman running a business from all over the word, I need to look nice when I’m on the road. For this reason I am ruthless and meticulous about what I allow into my bag. And while many of these items cost more than other brands, these are the ones that tend to combine quality, style, and function. If it’s only going to break or look mishapen a few weeks into my trip, then it’s not a good purchase. My full travel packing list is here. And if you’re interested in fashionable travel gifts, I have a full gift-guide here!

Gorgeous Travel-Themed Jewelry

, , , ,


  • Welcome to the world of Tripit. I have been using it for a while now and it is an essential part of my travel planning. I love not having to go to a net cafe to print out flight confirmations anymore.

    Those bags look great as well. Too bad they don’t cater for dudes though. I’m always on the lookout for good day bags and I would like to see them make a more dudelier version of the bag.

    • ShannonOD

      James, do you want a man purse?! I think they should make better man travel bags… you guys need to carry water too! TripIt is so good, and the fact that it stores the information offline=a perfect world. I’ll be on the lookout for a dudely bag for you :)

      • Noooo, not a man purse, a manly man bag is what I want :p I like the courier style bags like crumpler but their shape is too odd and they don’t have convenient pockets. Thanks for looking out for me :)

  • Great suggestions!!! The pics that camera takes are unreal!

    • ShannonOD

      Thanks Andi! I know the DSLRs are higher quality at the end of the day, but I just love the size to image quality ratio of the micro-four-thirds cameras! :)

  • Jeremy Branham

    I love Spotify Premium. It has replaced my iPod because now I can listen to my favorite songs on my phone or computer without even being online. I think we discussed the camera thing before. I ended up going with the Sony NEX 5N (the 7 is the current one now) and love how compact it is.

    Your list is a good reminder that I need to get a back up battery!

    • ShannonOD

      I agree! I rarely use iTunes now for anything other than the apps, music all goes through my Spotify. As for the camera, we have talked about the Sony, and I am glad to know that version of the micro is excellent too. I think they all are strong because Jodi has the Olympus, you verify that the Sony is good, and the Lumix is aces. And the battery is a must! Esp if you’re streaming Spotify, that saps my iPhone quickly :)

  • SacVoyage

    fantastic post nice photos

    enjoy reading it

  • Can you speak about activating your locally purchased SIM card? I’ve heard a variety of stories on the matter and they unfortunately seem to cancel each other out. I’ve been curious about those card ambitions but the prices can be very ridiculous in certain places in South America.

    • ShannonOD

      Thanks a great question Frank, my friends have a tech travel site and talk about SIM cards several times (http://toomanyadapters.com/?s=sim) and this one on SEA in partciular: http://toomanyadapters.com/buying-sim-cards-south-east-asia/

      I have used a SIM in Laos and Thailand without any issue at all in my unlocked/jailbroken iPhone. :)

      • Wow, I just reread my comment from last night. I really must of been out of it—hardly makes sense. My apologies. I’m actually leaving in less than two weeks and I’ve put in some long nights piecing together all final items. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve come to your site. Check your analytics — those one hundred 2am hits from an IP in Tampa — yeah, that’s me. Lol. All seriousness, thank you for yet another lead. I will review and get that final todo off my list.

        One last thing — totally unrelated and sort of a thank you to you. I’ve noticed that in Chrome your navigation jumps to a second like due to padding. In any case — thought I would send over a quick and easy solution. http://i.imgur.com/d8Wsk.jpg. Some how I’m sure you know how to fix it. But I happen to have all my gadgets open and thought I’d send it anyway

        • ShannonOD

          Thank you for that! It wasn’t happening on my browser, and I wouldn’t have known how to fix it. :) I am so glad to hear that the site had been helpful, and that your trip is near! Shoot me an email if there is anything I can help you with before you leave!

          • No no. Thank you! Yes, if anything comes up I’ll most definitely send you an email. And yes, I just tested again and realized that the padding issue is only on Chrome for Mac. On PC, everything is looking splendid. Sure in the grand scheme of things “Chrome browser+Mac” is the few. :)

  • Jamie Bowlby-Whiting

    What a great list! It is so easy to take far more than we need when travelling and that, “What would you like for Christmas?” question is an absolute killer. Every year I get given guide books and every year they sit unopened in my wardrobe as I prefer travelling light. I take everything on your list, except the smart phone and the back-up battery. I do get lost a lot, but sometimes that’s fun too!

    • ShannonOD

      I agree that getting lost is half the fun! Unfortunately I get lost no matter what I have with me. And if you don’t have a phone, you likely don’t new the backup power. Safe travels!! :)

  • I gotta get that purse ;)

    In all seriousness, I loved, loved, loved my Kindle, but I have broken three now. Just reading that stuff now on my phone. I am such a bad techie.

    • ShannonOD

      I think the purse would look smashing on you Michael :) Sorry to hear about your Kindles, sheesh, that’s tough … and reading on the phone is so tiny no?! Hmm, I think we just need to get you a better case for your next one!

  • Stephen Schreck

    Great gift list, unique from a lot of backpacking gifts guides I have seen this holiday season. I agree, traveling lets you realize what you don’t need. It is a liberating feeling.

    • ShannonOD

      I tried to think outside of the typical lists, so I appreciate your feedback Stephen. Anything that is a non-essential “must have” for you? :)

  • Capturing the moments every time you travel is one of the things you should never, ever forget. For this reason, camera has been one of the best items you must have whenever you travel. Travel light will always work best-as always. Just bring the essentials and you will definitely enjoy your time.

    • ShannonOD

      Thanks Jim, I agree! My camera is one of my prized items, and the other non-essentials just make it more comforting when I travel long-term! :)

  • Hogga

    Can’t go anywhere without my iphone

    • ShannonOD

      Agreed! One of the most multi-tasking, useful items in my bag :)

  • The travel gift list shared here in the post are really good for use.. Merry Christmas and Happy holidays……

    • ShannonOD

      Thank you! Happy holidays to you as well! :)

  • Ha ha ha .. I am laughing aloud by seeing the eyes of Ana while you were nearby her. By the way.. dialing up the phone from the bank looks unique.

    • ShannonOD

      Ana is quite the character isn’t she! She made my travels a lot more fun over the past year, thanks for reading Suzanne! :)

  • Pingback: Gifts for Travelers: Holiday Blogger Guides()

  • i love reading about other traveler’s favorite products – awesome picks! i’m in the market for a new camera so the Lumix is on top of the list! great pic of Railay by the way – went there last month – WOW so glad i had a chance to experience that beauty! hope it’s ok, i featured a link to your gift list on my blog :-)

    • ShannonOD

      I appreciate you including my post in the round-up Alex! The camera is definitely worth checking out too, I love mine dearly and a couple other travel bloggers over the past year have gotten it too and seem to echo my love for it :)

  • As a gift: a versalette, a piece of clothing you can use in so many ways. So far I use a sarong as towel, skirt, bed sheet, scarf, head cover…

    • ShannonOD

      I agree Pauline! I really loved the idea and have met both women. Unfortunately they are no longer making any more of the versalettes, and I was waiting to buy one for a new color, so I missed out! Glad to hear you love it, and that it’s super handy :)

  • john@discoverydiscovery

    i don’t know if that makes a difference, I’m a guy. but for a gift, all i want is an awesome smartphone, with great camera and a backpack with two pair of denim.:)

    • ShannonOD

      Hah, fair point John … though I tried to vary the money levels of gifts because my dad would laugh at me if I asked him to buy me a nice camera or an iPhone. Though as you noted, I do love them …especially when paired with Spotify :)

  • Laura

    Is the bag big enough for a DSLR?

    • ShannonOD

      Only if you carry a fairly small lens, or perhaps just the camera. I carry a water bottle, my wallet, some odds and ends, and my Panasonic (just one pancake lens on it: pretty easily in the bag, so if you don’t carry full gear + a purse it could work! :) It’s a decent size inside.

  • Mandy Klose

    Such great stuff! I agree with you… here a few extra things I swear by in my travels…
    – a Microsoft surface tablet (with extra clip on keyboard) — PERFECT for travelling, everything like a normal computer word, PowerPoint as well as kindle, apps like on smartphone, but small, light, easy, great battery life, all the benefits of a normal tablet but with the keyboard it just like a computer, typing is so much easier! I have never had a phone on my travels, just used this (with Skype account to call numbers) and written down numbers and asked to borrow people’s phones when I need to call someone out of wifi reception.
    – a medium sized strong clip-it lunchbox– sooooo useful! When in your bag you can store things in it ad in use it can be used as a bowl to eat or drink from, or a storage for anything (I use it mainly for food), I take it always in my day bag and whenever I am around places with food and there is an excess I put it I my lunchbox and then have a meal later when I am hungry. Great for example, when you go out to dinner with some friends and you or they do not finish meals, put leftovers away and then you have a meal for later or the next day (a real tip in saving money)
    – duck tape — my life is two words! Can be used for just about anything from a clothesline to fixing your shoes temporarily, to strap things to you or to other people, to secure things, to hide things, omg I can’t even describe my love for duck tape!
    – a little, small, light picture book from the place where you are from, this has been so cool in countless situations, whenever you are meeting people and they are interested in where you are from you can just pull it out and give it to them to see (can get from a tourist shop in your home country), everyone who I have showed mine on New Zealand have loved it!
    – a pillow case, my favourite one from home, gives me a little bit of comfort especially when sleeping in real far out places, and can be filled with clothes to make a pillow, there is nothing worse than not having a pillow to sleep with.
    I hope this was helpful =)

    • Some great ideas here Mandy! Duck tape is always in my backpack for those very reasons you mentioned! The rest sound handy for a packing list too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, safe and happy travels.

    • Sue Sturos

      Microsoft surface pro 3 is what someone just recommended to me with all my traveling I do and it also hooks up to a zyto compass, which I haul around with me. Which the kindle doesn’t have the capibility for that. I was looking for something lightweight and also functional without hauling another laptop! Thanks for the tips on what to do with it.

  • Sue Sturos

    I came off the link for the purse recommendation somewhere…and fell in love with your blog post. Cannot wait to read your other posts. I would add in essential oils. I carry them with me when I travel and have been so thankful. I carry the mini bottles filled from my larger ones and can share what I do on my blog with you when I get it done. I have lavender for sleep and skin issues (bug bites, cuts, scrapes & burns), Purification for hotel rooms & bad smelling rooms, Digize and/or Peppermint for aiding in food poisoning or stomach issues, headaches, aches and pains and more.

    • Hi Sue, so glad you like the site and that you found it useful! And essential oils is a great recommendation — I don’t carry very many with me, but Tea Tree Oil is one that I always have in my bag and it has come in handy countless times. Thanks! :)

      • Sue Sturos

        Call me if you would like to learn more for simple tips on the basic oils to use on trips. You will wonder how you ever did without them. I have used them countless times when I am unfamiliar with the hospitals and over the counter remedies in a different country. My husband had an interesting time when he ended up in the docs office, after food poisoning, in Japan. He learned the hard way to carry the oils. :)) Poor guy! :(He said he will not be without the basic kit I made for him. You have an awesome day, Shannon!

        • I am always open to new knowledge if you have an easy list of the ones you always carry with you!

          • Sue Sturos

            I sure do, here is the list:

            1) Thieves
            2) Digize
            3) Lavender
            4) Peppermint
            5) Frankincense
            6) Stress Away
            7) Lemon
            8) Copaiba
            9) Peace & Calming
            10) Purification
            and of course YL’s awesome Sleepessence capsules for sleeping at night, naturally. If you want to learn more on them, I do personal consults on why, each of them and how I do it for each trip. 763.3seven0.224six I had to spell for them silly crawlers that like to randomly call me. Only 14+ years of experience, with the oils.

          • Thank you, thank you for the list of oils! My best friend studied oils and introduced me to Thieves, which is incredible. I really appreciate you taking the time to share them and I will definitely contact you in the future if I decide to delve deeper into them. Safe and happy travels! :)

          • Sue Sturos

            You are so welcome! :) Yes, I love that whole line of Thieves products. So happy you liked it. No issue here, if your best friend is still doing them, by all means head on over to the person. But if you need someone, I am willing to lend a hand. So glad you enjoyed the list.

  • B Heistein

    Awesome site Shannon with loads of helpful info! I’m looking at going to South America next month if all goes according to plan and the whole thing seems a bit daunting if I must say. At least I’ll have everything I need :-). Would you reckon it’s safe enough to just take Malaria tablets and I have my Yellow fever vaccination. That is if I closely watch what I eat and drink and lather myself with repellent and sleep with a mosquito net? I’ve been to Morocco and Egypt and Turkey and all of them recommended a few different vaccinations but I never had any and did not have any issues.

    • Congrats on the upcoming trip! I know how overwhelming it can be to get everything aligned and ready. I am glad to hear that the resources on the site have been helpful! For the vaccinations, that’s a really tough call. If you don’t have your childhood vaccinations like Hep A, measles, polio etc, then I would highly recommend that you get them. The thing is, vaccination rates outside of the U.S. are much lower, so although you can go years without contact stateside, if you’re traveling in poor areas then it’s impossible to prevent contact with many of them, and poor sanitation heightens the rise. Hospitals are also scarce, so something like tetanus is far more serious if you’re in a remote part of the Amazon. If you’re just talking about the odd-ball ones, there are several that I’ve opted out of, like rabies and Japanese encephalitis, but ultimately I’ve always found the precaution worth it. Despite being cautious, I nearly died in Laos from a diarrheal illness (dysentery), and it was terrifying to be in a country without any healthcare system. No hospitals, no way to get an IV, just 15 hours of boat to bus to tuk-tuk to get to Thailand. Best of luck! ~S

      • B Heistein

        Thank you for taking the time to write back. :-) Geez! Glad you made it outta there then. Was that from eating something do you think? All these health websites warn against eating from the local markets and that even though that is the kind of food i’d rather have. Always looks and smells yummy. Did you eat much from there or mainly in restaurants? Thanks again! Bernardine

        • I am fairly certain it was from eating fresh fruit that wasn’t properly washed. As a vegetarian, I sometimes risk things that I know are less safe but I eat them because I lack other options that are safer (like well-cooked meat on a stick or something like that). Often times street food is far safer than a restaurant. The turnover time is faster. They often specialize in a single dish and buy the ingredients fresh every day (as opposed to restaurants that keep a lot of ingredients on hand for weeks). Plus, you can watch them prepare it in front of you. There are easy ways to eat safely, like going to places with a queue, watching how they handle money, and eating at the proper local mealtimes. I give a full rundown how to safely eating streetfood here: http://alittleadrift.com/rtw-travel/#food and Jodi wrote a fantastic post about it here: http://www.legalnomads.com/2016/01/street-food.html Definitely don’t avoid street food when you’re on the road! :)

          • B Heistein

            Thanks for that again Shannon. I’m still in two minds about getting ALL the vaccines they recommend as I’m sure it’s also a money making racket like a lot of things so it’s hard to know for definite. I have my Yellow Fever one and have Malaria tablets and getting the strongest repellent for clothes, net and myself which I will be sure to apply every two hours but still need to decide on the rest of the vaccines. GP is no help either cause they just do their job and say that you need all of them. :-)