Before I packed up and left my life in Glasgow to travel around Asia, then on to live and work in Tokyo, I needed to prepare with not only the essentials, but also with some really great travel products and gadgets.
In the run up to my trip, even before I knew exactly where or when I was going, I did a lot of research. It kept me motivated and added to the excitement of what lay ahead.
There are many great blogs out there with plenty of recommendations. As I researched I noticed similar themes and brands popping up. So over a year after my trip, now settled into life here in Tokyo, this is my tried and tested top 10 list -
This was the best investment I made. A tad pricey, but in my opinion, worth every penny. It is ridiculously sturdy, it’s been thrown around everywhere for over a year, and it comes with a lifetime guarantee. Seriously, if you look at the materials section on their website, it says “high tenacity 1050 denier ballistic nylon,” I mean who can resist that? It has the word ‘ballistic’ in it! Here are some other great things about it:
- It’s the most non-backpacker looking backpack and I love it just for that reason alone.
- It’s specifically designed to be the largest carry-on size allowed by most airlines.
- There are lots of different colour options. I chose the steel colour for the exterior and the ultraviolet interior. This makes it easy for me to find small things I may have dropped inside like pins and hair clips.
- It opens from the side so I can easily see all my stuff without having to dig around for something that would be at the bottom of a traditional rucksack.
- At the moment you can only buy this product from the U.S., I paid extra for international shipping plus an extra £20 in taxes upon delivery from UPS. I still maintain that it is worth every penny.
- Although not a feature of the bag itself, Tom Bihn customer service is second to none, they won me over completely.
A nifty wee gadget recommended to me by a friend and probably my star product (after the backpack of course). It’s great because:
- I can charge my iPhone or Kindle at the same time as I’m charging my laptop.
- It converts any MacBook power adapter to an international charger.
- It comes with 5 different AC plugs to use around the world.
I received this thoughtful gift as part of my leaving present from my work friends. The benefits of it during my trip were:
- I didn't need to worry about using tap water anywhere.
- I didn't have to buy bottled water every day.
Oh, and remember to empty it before going through airport security.
These are definitely worth investing in. I have 2 medium sized ones which was all I needed for my clothes. I was told by many of my friends that they burst very easily, but either they're very careless or I'm really careful, given the number of times I’ve packed and re-packed them, over a year later they're still intact. The best things about them are:
- Space saving – originally I had 8 dresses, 7 tops, 3 pairs of shorts, leggings, and a pair of trousers between the 2 of them.
- No vacuum cleaner required, you just put them on a flat surface and roll the air out.
- This particular brand (Pack-Mate) comes with a 5-year guarantee.
I used these every day, all the time. I know that it's relatively easy to open them but they're great for keeping the zips on your bag together and useful for hostel lockers. If anyone can advise me in the comments section where to buy light-weight ones from, that would be really useful, mine have a fair bit of weight to them.
6. Packing cubes
Brilliant for organising all my accessories. I used one for my gadgets, cables, and other non-clothes stuff. And the other for things like a scarf, hand towel, sleeping bag liner and the like, which in turn made it a great travel pillow!
- They're great for saving space and help to keep you organised for trips, especially when you're moving around a lot.
- As well as being practical they're long lasting and can be used even when you're not travelling as I am now.
- From personal experience, the smaller the better - make sure you check the sizes, the largest one in my pack of three is the same size as my backpack so there was no need for it.
7. Silk sleeping bag liner
A lot of my friends who have travelled a lot advised me to buy one. I wasn’t keen at first but it's come in handy a few times, especially on overnight train journeys, but also here in Tokyo over the summer when even a sheet feels too hot! I saw them all over the place in Vietnam for a quarter of the price I paid in the UK, so you might want to wait until you're away before buying.
Not quite travel specific but these products were really useful during my trip -
Sweden is my new favourite place for quality product designs that have really blown my mind. I came across this brand on Instagram. It's a hairband that doubles as headphones. Perfect during hot and humid weather at keeping my frizzy hair at bay with great quality sound to boot. Practical, functional, and stylish. The best thing was that I bought it for a fraction of the original cost on eBay, someone's unwanted (what?!) birthday gift was my gain. The bad news I just found out today: They don't make them anymore! But if you look around online you may get lucky and find one for sale.
This case has protected my laptop through a good few bumps and drops. I love the zipper-less closure! The big elastic band keeps it very secure and the StretchShell™ neoprene keeps the bulkiness down.
I sold my old one to a friend and bought the new Paperwhite version. Of course I miss the smell of books, the satisfying flick through the pages and being able to see how many actual pages I have left to read (I still don't get the location number and can't visualise the % left) but the advantages while travelling are obvious – I can read pretty much anything and everything, anywhere in one small handy gadget.
What are some of your favourite travel products? Let us know in the comments below!
Planning a trip to Japan? Check out some of my favourite spots in my profile.