If you're lucky enough to live somewhere where budget airlines like EasyJet, JetStar Airways, Ryanair or Eurowings can take you from point A to point B on the cheap, it can be tempting to take an impromptu trip whenever possible. At The Travel, we not only support it, we downright encourage it!
The challenge with budget travel is that most of the affordable fares exclude any kind of meaningful luggage options and you can be stuck with a measly carry-on for the entirety of your trip. We're here to say that, ladies, it's totally doable.
You don't need to dip into the reserves of your travel fund (negating the purpose of travelling budget in the first place) to shell out on that upgrade for checked baggage. You can totally survive (and thrive) traveling with just your carry on as long as you're strategic and discerning about what makes the cut into your 'case. You really don't need full-size items, a full-size wardrobe, or four pairs of sandals to enjoy a holiday away.
We've compiled a list of must-haves for the modern globetrotting lady and also a few things we should all learn to ditch from our carry-on.
20 Essential: Face mist
Airplanes may as well be the Sahara desert with the level of dryness and dehydration our skin experiences while in flight. In fact with humidity levels at 10-20% during your flight, it's actually drier than the Sahara! Largely in part to the recycled air famously known to aircrafts that makes it nearly impossible to arrive as fresh-faced and glowing as we all envision ourselves in our pre-travel daydreams.
Packing a purse-sized bottle of face mist can be a true lifesaver. Whether it's rose enhanced, a plumping or even a toning mist with make-up setting perks - spraying your face before, during and after takeoff will feel nothing short of rejuvenating. Look for hydrating ingredients like geranium, rose, or aloe for an extra juicy boost.
19 Essential: Tea Bags
Seeing as how it will be more difficult to pack up your Nespresso machine with accompanied milk frother, might we suggest a more low-key albeit hydrating choice- tea! Not only will you feel like you're at a spa in the sky but tea is jam-packed with health benefits, like an abundance of antioxidants, a promise of heightened oral health, immune-enhancing properties and digestive system support.
It's also super portable so you can make a little travel sack of a few of your favourite flavours to have on hand when the coffee looks more like flavourless black water or your body needs a quick pick-me-up.
Organic tea is super accessible/affordable these days and the ultimate choice as other teas (and often the brands offered in-flight) are heavily sprayed with pesticides that the leaves soak up and that negates all the good stuff we mentioned earlier.
18 Essential: Reusable water bottle
Bonus points if it's collapsible! Staying hydrated while travelling is uber important. Not drinking enough water can have you feeling fatigue, headaches, nausea and other flu-like symptoms that are best to be avoided when you're trying to enjoy yourself on holiday.
In order to replenish the body with much-needed water you should be continuously sipping at a rate of about 8 ounces every hour. This is especially true for any longer haul (3+ hours) flights. The best part of bringing your own water bottle is that the water will undoubtedly be of a higher quality than what they are spouting out on the plane. If you opt for a thermos, you can even bring boiled water for that tea we mentioned above and save yourself the hassle and price tag of subpar, likely bacteria-laden airplane water.
17 Essential: Spare socks
Most of our bodily discomfort can be pinpointed to two main areas head and feet. If you're feeling overheated or icky, try changing your socks! It is amazing at what a big difference it can make, especially after a long day of travels.
If you want to really 'elevate' your experience, you should bring along compression socks for your flight. Compression socks help to increase blood flow, reduce the risk of blood clots during your travel and alleviate that 'tired legs' feeling as well as the swollen ankles we have all come to know (and hate) after leaving a flight.
16 Essential: toothbrush / toothpaste
After hours of dehydration and (let's face it) poor nutrition a la plane food, your mouth deserves a refresh. Packing a small kit of essentials (separate from toiletries you might use during the rest of your trip) allows for easy access for a quick clean up. Word to the wise, that if you tend to do mid-flight brush up that you will want to use bottled water (or that of your personal stash) versus the faucet in the lavatory or of any public restroom once landed.
If you are less concerned about the level of clean and just want to freshen your breath, you can always purchase a disposable, pre-pasted toothbrush. A pack of 144 will cost you less than $30 on Amazon. Or there's always your finger with some paste.
15 Essential: eye drops
Imagine this one being belted through a very large megaphone because it's so very important. The air, as we mentioned is dryer than a desert which can lead to dry, itchy, watery, or just plain bloodshot eyes. Your eyes are the windows to your soul, people! We can't be stumbling around red-eyed and sleepy looking. There are a variety of compact eye drop options that can be discretely popped in before, during and after your flight to alleviate any clues that you've been up for 10 hours straight.
Consider them the magic eraser that keeps your impending daze to a discreet minimum.
14 Essential: gum
If looking at the above picture of the plane taking off already makes your head hurt, fear not! Gum is not only great because it can help you prevent that uncomfortable sensation during take-off but it also wards against onion/garlic/coffee breath all in one go.
The eustachian tubes connected to your ears, nose and mouth equalize the pressure between your inner ear and the outside world. By chewing the gum you generate saliva which you must of course swallow. By equalizing the air pressure of the middle ear, it alleviates that dulling pain.
There are other methods to popping your ears but since you will be in close quarters with other humans, it can be nice to have basic peace of mind that you aren't stinking up the aisle while you enjoy a pain-free flight.
13 Essential: A Perfect Playlist
There's another downside to budget flights. You are on your own to entertain yourself. In other words, there's no TV, no in-flight magazine (beyond a crummy menu boasting overpriced sandwiches and scary lasagna) and no music!
You would be wise in the days leading up to your journey to curate a playlist or two that includes melodic, lyric-less relaxation music to lull you into sleep as well as happy holiday tunes.
With our cell phones acting like mini computers, it can be tempting to take advantage of your Spotify account but unless you're a premium member, you won't be able to listen without internet. Store a few songs as a back-up in case.
12 Essential: Sunglasses
Sunglasses are the gift you give yourself.
Not only can they serve as a versatile accessory, protect your eyes from harmful rays, but they also double as a sleep mask! In fact they are even better than a sleep mask because they never have to leave your face (of course, unless you're taking a red-eye and arriving at night). They can disguise any remnants of tired eyes and in combination with a quick slathering of your favourite lip gloss, you can look totally pulled together in 2 seconds flat. There's no doubt about it, sunglasses are a travelling gal's best friend.
11 Essential: a pen
Always good to have on hand and when you're handed a landing card it can mean getting a head start at your destination. For those who think it's all the same while they scramble to fill in the form as hoards of people jump before them in the customs line, it can be a rude awakening.
Pens are also great to have on hand for the following reasons: opening plastic packaging that just won't budge, signing any kind of paperwork at check-in, de-wedging things from between the seat, shamelessly requesting Ryan Gosling's autograph when you bump into him at the same hot dog vendor in a meet-cute scenario (okay maybe that last one is more a personal fantasy).
10 Essential: vitamins
Vitamins (and any medications) that you are taking regularly for maintenance of your health should be kept nearby in your pocket or purse since baggage gets shuffled around in the cabin on budget flights. If you don't normally take vitamins, it can be worth it to load up on a few packets of Emergen-C before your trip.
Emergen-C is a powdered supplement that you can easily dissolve in water or juice to make a fizzy vitamin cocktail. It has scores of vitamin c along with zinc, vitamin e, magnesium, antioxidants and electrolytes to give you a bit of a boost without the crash of a coffee. Think of it as a healthy Red Bull.
9 Essential: antibacterial hand cream
Hand sanitizer can be so disappointingly drying in large part because it contains highly concentrated alcohol. I much prefer to feed two birds with one seed and carry naturally antibacterial hand cream that both solves the problem of your already parched skin getting a bit of moisture while keeping germs at bay. Saje wellness offers a travel size 'safe hands' cream that contains all natural ingredients and can be perfectly placed in most purses.
This stuff is as great off the plane as it is mid-flight since you can keep it with you and use a dab before meals, on public transit or any other sticky/gross situation you find yourself in.
8 Essential: a big, big scarf
Or a small blanket, it depends how you look at it, right?
Scarves are great for travel because it adds an effortless layer where you can moderate the temperature without too much fuss. It's also much cozier to curl up in your favourite scarf than those god-awful microfibre blankets they sell for way too much money mid-flight. If you don't own a mini blanket, erm, big scarf I mean, then you can easily find them at budget-friendly retailers like Zara and H & M for cheap.
When you're done using it to create your seated bed on the airplane, you can style it to go with the outfits that you packed for evening strolls. Try to select a solid colour that goes best with the majority of your outfits.
7 Essential: A Multi-Purpose (Lip) Salve
It's a bird! It's a plane! No! It's the answer to all of your skin-related problems!
As we discussed earlier, budget flight means smaller bag so we have to try and consolidate as many of our essentials into low maintenance multi-products. BEHOLD the multi-salve. Not only can it moisturize those all-too-often dry lips but it can also heal cracked skin, tame flyaways, provide some temporary relief to your eczema and so much more!
If you aren't crazy on the idea of dropping $30 for this type of product, they're also fairly easy to make as most are Shea Butter based. Add a few drops of your favourite essential oil and you'll be good to go!
6 Essential: Snacks
There is nothing worse than arriving at a new wonderful destination and de-planing only to find yourself hangry because you failed to bring snacks with you. Granted, it takes a bit of planning and you already have a lot going on with the whole getting to the airport on time thing BUT proper nutrition can make a huge difference in your mood and health so its worth it.
Some ideas may include a quinoa salad, bananas, walnuts, raw energy bars/balls, a sandwich (no tuna please!), dried fruit, and/or kale chips. The possible combinations are endless! You can even pack them in a collapsible lunch box as a space/environment friendly option. Bon appétite!
5 waste of space: Bulky clothes
Bulk is not only an ugly word but it also describes a not-so-effective method for packing. Rather than bringing that adorable (yet heavy) wool cable-knit cardigan or those adorable fitted overalls, plan to layer and pack items you can re-wear (gasp!) discretely by layering. Anything too bulky or too brightly coloured is a dead giveaway that you've gone the budget route, but not in the savvy way.
Leggings or skinny jeans with long neutral coloured tops that can be layered with lighter cropped jumpers means any number of possible chic combinations. Shoes should also be a blend between stylish and functional and go with most everything in your suitcase.
4 waste of space: Makeup bag
You're not an Avon rep so there's no need to trolly around 100 different shades and pallets. You can get by for a weekend trip by bringing the bare essentials and packing multi-use products.
Choose a stain that works for both your lips and cheeks, pair it with a powdered bronzer that can also set your look (if you're worried about longevity), and top it all off with a clear mascara that also doubles as a brow grooming gel. Did we forget something? Sure you can pile on an extra tube or two of lipstick or an eyeliner, but you really don't need the whole kit and caboodle. It will only weigh you down in the long run!
3 waste of space: Neck pillow
They really are just a nuisance for the rest of the time you're lugging them around that we're not convinced they're worth it. Sure, technically you can attach them onto your bag and be one of those people who's neck pillow is accumulating bacteria at every twist and turn on your journey but you can just as easily roll up a sweater and prop it against the seat.
If you absolutely cannot travel without a neck pillow, grab an inflatable one that you can flatten out and cram in your purse after. It is probably the very best of both worlds when it comes to balancing space and comfort.
2 waste of space: Books
That's books, as in plural.
One book is fine, two books is reason enough to get an e-reader or download the Kindle app on your tablet and call it a day. Two books, well that's extremely ambitious on a holiday anyways, unless it's a reading-specific holiday where all you plan to do is sit and read, well then maybe it's warranted. Even still that's e-reader territory.
It can definitely be more satisfying to sit with the heft of a book and enjoy flipping the pages, but it's not so nice when you're breaking your back lugging around dead weight or worse, charged extra for it at the gate. Do yourself a favour and limit it to one book.
1 waste of space: Anything that’s ‘just in case’
If you're in the midst of packing your bag and you're stuck going back and fourth on a particular item and you end up saying 'yeah, I'll bring this inflatable kayak along just in case' those words should be your tip-off that you will not need this item.
In addition to not needing it, you will probably be bummed that you brought it because it means there will be zero space for any new items (read: shopping) that may cross your path.
Even if you're not a shopper and just an over-packer by nature, simply say no to anything that is deemed 'just in case.'