Travel Packing Essentials

February 21, 2019

I’m Manali
Coach, editor & brand photographer based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. When I'm not behind a camera or teaching about systems, you'll find me at a vineyard or cuddled with my cat Keegan on our cozy couch!
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If you’ve been following along for a little while, you know that my winter season has been FULL of packing my suitcase and traveling! Between traveling back and forth from Ballston to my parents’ place in Herndon throughout last year, to packing up to drive all over Virginia for shoots to going full ham and making the most of my winter off-season recently, I’ve become an expert at packing up my suitcase and being ready to leave in just a couple of minutes!

Here are my traveling essentials & tips for making traveling less of a hassle!


Starting with this because I have LIVED out of this thing for what feels like months throughout this past year and a half! It rolls around everywhere, is relatively lightweight to begin with and although is now banged up, the zippers work perfectly fine and is super sturdy! It fits pretty well in overhead compartments on domestic flights but is large enough to fit everything I need even when packing for 2 weeks at a time! Also there’s a zippered compartment where I stow away my hair dryer, my collapsible makeup bag and my used clothes so they don’t mix with my good ones!


I used to be a chronic over-packer but recently I’ve simplified my wardrobe down to essentials, pieces that I actually LOVE and wear not once, but all the time (check Insta, you’ll see haha). It’s essentially become a mini capsule wardrobe which makes packing outfits a BREEZE!


I always stock up in Target with travel sized bottles of essentials when they go on sale so I pretty much have a pack of all my toiletries packed in my suitcase ready to go already so I only have to pack my clothes/shoes, throw in my day to day makeup essentials, toothbrush, razor & my hair appliances! I even have a spare contact lens case & solution packed so I don’t have to worry about that!

This literally cuts down SO much of my packing time and stops me from stressing out that I’m missing random items like tweezers or lotion on the go. These travel mini sizes of essentials have also saved me when I’ve run out my full size bottles during really crazy weeks when I didn’t have time to make an adhoc run to Target to restock!


I always pack a couple pairs of jeans and leggings that are good enough quality where I can reuse them without them getting stretched out and too dirty! This is super helpful for longer trips!


This is something that’s totally free that I’m trying out the next time I travel! I already keep my pants to the left, my undergarments in the middle & tops to the right but I’m going to try folding and stowing my clothes Marie Kondo style to make it easier to find & stow specific items each day.

Other items that help with making the packing process a breeze!

    1. COLLAPSIBLE SEE THROUGH MAKEUP BAGThis is the bomb dot com because not only does it fold, making it easier to pack (esp if you overpack, guilty of this despite Tip #1 sometimes, it happens!!) I don’t know exactly where I got mine, but here’s a similar one on Amazon!TIP #4: Pack your toothbrush & contact stuff, lotion/chapstick separately & in an easy to access place!
    2. ADIDAS PANTS / AE FLEECE LEGGINGS & SPERRY’SEnough said. Super comfy to travel in for long flights & car rides PLUS both have got pockets large enough to fit your phone, boarding pass, and any other essentials! I pretty much always travel with these shoes bc they tend to work in almost weather (unless it’s snowing), are great for walking in all day and have enough grip as well!
      You WILL need your phone charger wherever you go and I always keep an extra wire in my car for charging my phone during long car rides! Having a portable charger can save you in a pinch if you’re going to be without access to a socket / USB port for long lengths of time! Nothing is as stressful as needing to use your phone but hitting the dreaded 10% and below in a city you’re unfamiliar with!Also, I have this magnet that plugs into the ventilation in my car and a strip that goes in my phone case that doesn’t damage my credit cards so that I can stick my phone up to the dash! This is SO crucial when I’m using Google Maps and driving a stick car!
    4. SAVE MY SKIN – JET LAG MASK / CHAPSTICKIf you constantly have dry skin and are one of those people whose skin gets sucked DRY on airplanes (super glamorous, I know), I totally recommend incorporating a super moisturizer into your daily makeup routine but especially throwing it into your suitcase while traveling. Also, don’t forget chapstick, I’ll throw in this rose balm which is multifunctional!
    5. HAIR – DRY SHAMPOO & HAIR DRYEROK, so admittedly I’m very picky about which hair dryer I use so I always carry mine with me when traveling to new places! I don’t feel like myself if my hair is a mess so it’s worth the extra weight for me to carry it!PRO TIP: Make sure your hair dryer is dual voltage if you’re going overseas, I accidentally fried my hair dryer in India!Also, you probably know I half run on dry shampoo and coffee so of course I travel with it! I have a spare travel sized version of Tresemmé that works in a pinch and is the only thing I take on shorter trips!
    6. HOUSE YOUR TECH!!When traveling, I try to stay light so if I’m carrying any photo gear it’ll generally be my camera and 2 lenses MAX! I’ll carry it in my Jo Totes Alison Butterscotch Bag which looks like a normal purse and not like I’m toting around super expensive gear. Also, this thing is WATERPROOF and has tons of pockets to store things like your phone, wallet, keys, chapstick & more!When I take my laptop, I always make sure to carry it in my HSEOK sleeve. This is also waterproof (yes, I’m really scared of getting water on things because it’s NOT fun!) I have the 13” MacBook but got the 15” case which was great since it also comfortably fits my giant ass Mac charger (you know what I’m talking about if you have one) & a notebook. It also has a front pocket where I keep my Pixel glasses and a spare pen in!
    7. TRAVEL INSURANCESo this is something that I definitely still need to look into but after hearing stories from friends and family, I think that travel insurance can be pricey but definitely a safe investment to make any time you’re going to be overseas for an extended period of time! I don’t have any specifics because I haven’t personally used it yet, but I will most definitely be looking into this for my next big trip!

Well that’s it for now! I hope this was somewhat helpful and if there’s something that you can’t travel without, throw it in the comments!

That’s it for now! If you liked reading this, definitely check out these travel posts as well!

Dubai Part One
Dubai Part Two
India Likes & Dislikes

Featured image taken while second shooting for Hannah Smith Photography


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