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5 Things I Always Pack – Lisa Niver Rajna

Lisa Niver RajnaLisa Niver Rajna is the co-founder of We Said Go Travel and co-author of Traveling in Sin (now available in paperback!). She has been living out of her backpack since July 2012 but has mainly been on the road since 1990 with seven of those years on a cruise ship working as an assistant cruise director like Julie McCoy for Princess Cruises: the original Love Boat!

So Lisa, what do you always pack?

I have very little with me when I am on the road and I find that nearly everything in my backpack is one of my favorite things!

1.     My Becca Swimwear Bikini.

Becca Swimwear bikiniI love my Becca bikini so much that I have two with me at all times. I love the over the shoulder bra top style. I can wear it all day while carrying my backpack so after a day on the bus in India I am ready to hit the beach immediately. I appreciate their commitment to quality swimwear and the wounded warrior project.

2.     My Amazon Kindle

In Summer 2008, George and I left for a one-year sabbatical. We had the idea to leave with nearly no electronics. My sister said, “You cannot travel without books” and my family bought me one of the very first Kindles. By the time we were in Australia (our second destination during month one of our trip), we already had two of them! I have read hundreds of books on the Kindle reader and literally cannot leave home without it. Many of the books I read are listed in our memoir, Traveling in Sin.


travel hoop

3.     My Hula Hoop

In 2011, while living in Los Angeles, I took a hula-hoop class. I loved it and even bought a custom hoop. During our recent travels in Asia, I found a hula-hoop at Tesco (like Walmart) in Koh Samui, Thailand. It was 300Baht (about $10usd), came in six pieces and fits in my daypack! Here’s a similar one you can order from Amazon. I often hoop for thirty minutes on the beach but the most memorable day was when I hooped with the Iwahig Dancing Inmates in Puerto Princessa, Philippines. Here’s a post I did on Hooping for Happiness in Hawaii.

4.     Tiger Balm

One of the realities of budget travel in Asia is bugs. I did eat fried crickets once in Chiang Mai at the night market and although “Tyler told me they taste like Lay’s Potato Chips, I disagree!” I did not enjoy eating bugs but mosquitos often take a bite out of me. Using Tiger Balm calms the stings and stops the itching almost immediately. I often have one in my day back and an extra in my backpack! If you’re traveling in Asia, you can find it in nearly any market or store.

Monster travel outlets cord

5.     Extension Cord

When we were in Varanasi, India, we spent a day with a BBC Film crew. I asked them about how they charge all their devices (cameras, flashes, lights, recorders, phones) in a guesthouse, which often has only one outlet. Claire kindly explained that they carried extension cords with multiple plugs. I bought one for US$3 at Tesco and it literally changed my life. I could charge the digital camera, the laptop and the phone all at once! You can get a fancier one meant for travel (pictured above) from Monster.

 You can follow Lisa’s adventures on Twitter @wesaidgotravel or on WeSaidGoTravel’s Facebook Page.

See other travelers’ lists of 5 things they always pack.

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5 Things I Always Pack – David Lee of GoBackpacking

David LeeDavid Lee is a the founder of two popular travel blogs, Go Backpacking and Medellin Living. He considers himself a minimalist, and when not on the move is based in Medellin, Colombia. So Dave, what do you always pack?

In 2013, I challenged myself to begin traveling ultralight, with nothing but a 1,950 cubic inch North Face Big Shot backpack. Traveling with a small backpack requires boiling down what I take with me to the bare essentials. Here are 5 things I still find room to carry with me when traveling.

1. Sea to Summit Dry Sacks dry sack for travel

Nylon dry bags are much lighter than the rubber rafting type, and are perfect for protecting clothes and gear against rain, snow, dirt and sand. The type of travel I do often requires taking small river boats, throwing my backpack on the roof of a minibus, or going on multi-day treks. Using dry sacks allows me to relax, knowing my stuff is protected.

They’re also useful for keeping things organized, and can be used as compression sacks to help you fit more clothes into less space. I use a small one to carry my money, passport and documents, and a larger one rolled up at the bottom of my backpack in the event I want to protect everything I’ve got with me.

2. Petzl Zipka 2 LED Headlamp

Hands-free LED headlamps are incredibly useful for camping, trekking and caving, as well as navigating hostel dorm rooms while everyone else is asleep. I’m a fan of the Zipka model because it’s designed with a retractable cord mechanism, versus the typical headband, thus making it smaller and lighter. This also allows you to easily wear it on your wrist, or fasten it to an object.

Atacama travel hat

3. Hat

I carry a hat for sun protection, which became especially important after I began shaving my head in my twenties. Earlier, I’d used bandannas or baseball caps, but since 2010, I’ve been sporting woven hats, which are more traditional amongst the older generations in Latin America.

4. ExOfficio Boxers travel underwear

I’d been hearing the praise about ExOfficio boxers for years before I finally bought a few pairs myself. Now I can’t imagine wearing anything else. They’re extremely comfortable, lightweight, durable and easy to clean.

5. Mophie Juice Pack Air

When I’m traveling to new places, I rely heavily on my iPhone 4S to share thoughts and images via social media apps. Whether using WiFi or a local 3G cellular data connection, the battery drains quickly. The Mophie Juice Pack Air doubles the battery life of my iPhone 4S, allowing me greater use between recharges. There’s also an iPhone 5/5s version.

You can follow Dave’s adventures on Twitter @rtwdave or on Go Backpacking’s Facebook page.

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5 Things I Always Pack – Juno Kim

runaway juno packingJuno Kim runs the popular Runaway Juno blog and she’s kicking off our relaunch of the “5 Things I Always Pack” series—items that go in the suitcase or backpack for every trip. Take it away Juno!

We all know the critical items to pack before a trip: Passport, Visa (if any), Credit Cards, guidebooks, and so on.  But every traveler has her own packing style, and the subtle differences lie in personalized items and packing procedure. Here I’ll introduce five items that have always made my travels more comfortable.

Elastic Bands
They don’t weigh much, but they’re cheap and useful little gadgets, and they are in every pocket of my backpack. They are useful for: saving leftover food in a plastic bag, making sure a container doesn’t spill, fitting the bottom of your hiking pants, locking your backpack zippers, organizing small things in a backpack, and tying your hair back. The biggest purpose for my elastic bands comes when I pack. Rolling instead of folding my clothes saves a lot of space, and elastic bands come in handy keeping the roll together. If you haven’t pack any, have no fear, produce bands also work very well (usually they come with vegetables like asparagus).

French Press/ Travel Mug
I’m a tea drinker. I do love coffee, but a perfectly brewed black tea with milk in the morning beats organic coffee’s butt. I mix and match tea and coffee throughout the day, on and off the road. My beautiful purple Bodum travel mug has been a great travel companion for the last few years. A French press filter is embedded in the mug, and the lid is interchangeable. It helps me keep my routine even on the road, avoid using paper cups, and get discounts from local coffee shops.

It has been canoeing on a lake, backpacking through Malaysia, hiking in the White Mountains, and with me throughout many other adventures.

 French press travel mug

My sarong has been the best travel buddy in any season; it is fashionable and efficient at the same time. It is a sundress and a towel at the beach, a scarf for a cold day, and a blanket for overnight stays in the airport. A sarong is travel friendly as well; much less volume than a towel, and it dries more quickly. For female travelers in Asia, a sarong is a great item for covering your skin in religious places. Also, it’s a must-have on planes, especially if you are using a lot of budget airlines that don’t provide blankets. You can easily purchase it cheaply at any local market in Asia.
Baby Powder
traveling baby powderSince my recent trip to India, I’ve developed a deep appreciation of baby powder. I once overheard someone in India say, “What’s the point of using deodorant? I’m going to get filthy as soon as I walk out!” Frankly, I couldn’t agree more. My apologies to people who had to travel with me in India, but I wasn’t too fond of applying deodorant.

After suffering from severe chafing (I don’t want to specify where, but let’s say it happened somewhere behind), I discovered the amazing power of baby powder. This is the best stuff to have in a humid climate, such as in India. The hot and humid climate of Varanasi did some damage to my skin, but it was all taken care of with a bottle of baby powder. Use it instead of deodorant, apply it after you finish your business in the toilet, and spread a little on your skin before falling asleep on the overnight train. This is the best item to get rid of that sticky feeling on your skin. Also, it smells good.

Coconut Oil
It’s a makeup remover, hair conditioner, body lotion, and great cooking oil.  A small bottle of coconut oil will be useful on lots of occasions during your travels. The best part is that it is easy to transport. You don’t have to worry about leaking because coconut oil solidifies under 25 °C (76 °F). Coconut oil is also a proven remedy for revitalizing dry skin and damaged hair. It’s hard to travel with several different beauty products, but a bottle of coconut oil can replace most of everything.

Juno Kim is a storyteller, writer, and photographer at She was born and raised in Seoul, but struck out for the wider world two years ago to pursue her passion for international travel and storytelling. Since leaving her corporate job, she has been living out of a backpack, writing, and photographing her way through more than 30 countries. She believes there are always stories to tell, in any corner of the world.  She published a daily travel photograph at

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5 things I always pack: Amy Whitley

amy-whitleyAmy Whitley is the newest reviewer here at Practical Travel Gear. She’s a freelance travel writer and founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids, a site for traveling families (and parents who have heard ‘Are we there yet?!’ one too many times). A partner of Best Family Travel Experts, Amy’s articles have appeared in print newspapers, online travel sites, and Redbook. She makes her home in rural Oregon, and travels extensively with her husband and three children. So Amy, what do you always pack?

1. iPad or iPod Touch
As extensive road-trippers, we’re believers in technology on the road. But even more so, we’re believers in streamlining the amount of gadgets, chargers, and books and movies we need to pack. Our iPad 2 tablet is the ultimate multi-tasker: we use it for in-car entertainment, mapping, storing our itinerary, communicating with people at home, and maybe, if I get a spare moment, working. Downloading movies and TV programs onto our iPad allows us to skip the big tote bag of DVDs we used to lug along on every trip, and eReader and audio apps allows us to bring books without the bulk (for car-sick apt kids, I recommend a Tales2Go audio subscription). An unexpected perk: my kids have taken to creating their own movies while in the backseat of our van, creating video travel journals and interviewing one another on the attractions we see. My son’s pocket-sized iPod Touch is not only a source of entertainment while en route, but serves as a camera and video camera while touring sights.

tuffo-family-car-organizer2. Tuffo Family Car Organizer
There are a lot of car storage solutions out there, but I’ve found that most take up more space than the things they’re intended to store! What I love about the Tuffo car organizer is its sturdy, square shape (it won’t get stuffed under a seat and forgotten), its many pockets and dividers (so toys and games don’t get buried), and the way it can be secured with a seat belt. It’s snap-on and off lid doubles as a tray or writing surface, and there are side pockets for water bottles. If you have two kids sharing a back row, the Tuffo provides the perfect barrier to promote personal space while keeping everyone’s stuff on-hand.

3. Airborne Immune Defense
Does it work? Does it not? It depends upon who you ask, but we’ve found that bringing immune defense supplements such as Airborne on the road can stop some minor sniffles and coughs before they take hold (and ruin a vacation). And who couldn’t use a little extra Vitamin C while traveling?

4. Mesh laundry bags
Even if you only use these mesh and nylon bags bags for their intended purpose (storing dirty laundry), they’re a godsend on the road. But we take a whole handful with us when we go (they wad up to almost nothing while empty) as a means to store extra shoes, coats, or rain and snow gear, allowing us easy access to our outerwear when we make a fun pit stop at a beach or snow-park. (No one wants to dig through their suitcase for their boots after pulling up to an impromptu sledding stop! Packing all the shoes and coats in laundry bags also saves precious space in individual bags and duffles.

platypus5. Collapsible water bottles
These bladder-style water bottles are made for travel! (Our favorite is made by Platypus and Tim just reviewed one from Vapur.) Not only do the collapse flat for easy storage (we empty them before going through airport security, slide them into carry-on pockets, then refill them on the other side), but they’re light enough (even while full) for kids to easily carry their own while hiking, city touring, and the like. Most include carabiners to clip onto backpacks or belt loops, and most importantly, they’re just plain fun. Oh, and did you know Platypus makes a wine storage version as well? Good to note!

Read more reviews by Amy Whitley here at Practical Travel Gear each week, and follow her on Twitter @pitstopsforkids or on the Pit Stops for Kids Facebook Page.

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5 Things I Always Pack: Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is a freelance writer and creator/editor of Travel Mamas, a site for anyone who wants to travel with children…and stay sane. Colleen is a video blogger for Barilla’s, the former editor of the Travel blog (by Lending Tree), and a family travel expert at Her articles have appeared in such publications as Parenting Magazine, San Diego Family Magazine, and 101 Things To Do San Diego. She teaches writing classes through San Diego Writers, Ink and University of California San Diego Extension.

1. Book Light
I love to travel but, ironically, I don’t sleep well when away from home. This is especially true when sharing a hotel room with my young children, who go to bed much earlier than I do. That’s why I always pack a book light so I can stay up reading while my travel mates doze. For those of you who still read old-school books, check out the LightWedge book light, which lights up the page but not the whole room. I suggest getting the soft case too to protect this acrylic light from getting hacked up.

2. Fiber
My family tends to get a little (ahem!) backed up when we travel. Apparently we are not alone. A friend told me travelers’ constipation is nature’s way of protecting us from predators because back when we were cavemen the Sabertooth tigers and whatnot would be able to track us down and eat us if we were to “use the restroom” too far from our respective caves. I don’t know if that’s true but I do know that my family eats less fruits and veggies and more corn dogs and ice cream cones when we travel, so I pack a little extra fiber to keep everyone feeling chipper. I like to bring Benefiber Stick Packs. These are individually wrapped powdered fiber servings. You can mix it in your coffee or in the kids’ juice undetected. If you’d rather mix it with plain water, try their Kiwi Strawberry or Cherry Pomegranate stick packs instead.

3. Antibacterial Cream or Gel
Whether on an airplane or visiting museums, amusement parks, or historical monuments there are a lot of opportunities to come into contact with germs while vacationing. To stay healthy on the go, I like Clean brand antibacterial moisturizing hand cream because it’s fragrance-free and doesn’t dry out your hands. My kids like the Pocketbac mini tubes of antibacterial gel in scents like Caramel Apple and Fresh Picked Strawberries from Bath & Bodyworks. Clip one of these onto your purse, diaper bag, or backpack with a handy Pocketbac holder for easy access.

4. Protein Bars
When traveling, whether stuck in an airplane on a tarmac for three hours or while sitting in a conference room on a business trip, it can be hard to gauge when you’ll get your next meal. I have a little bit of a blood sugar issue; I get shaky and cranky if I don’t get enough protein to eat throughout the day. While many travel snacks are carbohydrate-laden, I like to carry a few protein bars wherever I go. I consider myself somewhat of a protein bar connoisseur and my all-time favorite is the Melaleuca Attain Sweet and Salty Nut Bar. They remind me of my mom’s homemade oatmeal cookies and they contain 10 grams of protein each. For a less expensive option that gets the job done, I like SnackWell’s Peanut Butter Cereal Bars, with 8 grams of protein per bar.

5. Swimsuit
I don’t know how many times I’ve gone somewhere to find a hot tub, indoor pool, or nearby water park that I couldn’t jump into because my travel mate didn’t pack a swimsuit. Always, always, always pack a swim suit (especially if you’re traveling with me)! It takes up almost no room and you never know when some body of water will be splashing your name.

You can follow Colleen Lanin on Twitter @TravelMamas or on the Travel Mamas Facebook Page.

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