Summer’s finally here, and that means it’s time to travel! Unfortunately, it also means it’s time to start packing your bags. The dreaded pre-trip task can feel overwhelming to a lot of us, but the good news is, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, there are a few simple travel accessories that can make your packing - and your trip - a whole lot easier. Here are five of our favorites.
1. Front-loading backpack
First, a little backpack 101: there are two kinds of packs on the market. The traditional, camping-style backpacks are usually top-loading: you stack all of your stuff in starting at the bottom, then unload from an opening at the top. But it’s all about the front-loading pack for multi-destination travel. Front-loading packs open like a suitcase, so you can grab only what you need rather than unpacking all of your clothes every time you need to find a clean pair of socks. Our favorite pack is made by our friends over at Tortuga, but outdoor suppliers like REI also often stock high-quality store-label versions at a variety of price points.
2. Packing cubes
While we’re on the subject of loading up your backpack, we can’t say enough good things about packing cubes! Made of durable, breathable fabric, these soft cubes zip around the edges and open from the top. Pack one full of shirts, another of shorts and jeans, and one final cube with socks and underwear, and you’ll never have to dig around your bag to cobble together an outfit again! Plus, they keep everything organized and contained so you don’t have to be that person with the clothing explosion around her hostel bunk.
3. Folding water bottle
Carrying a reusable water bottle is a great way to make your travels a little greener, but it can be a drag to carry around the empty bottle once you’ve finished hydrating. Enter foldable water bottles: made of lightweight, flexible plastic, you can fold or roll your bottle up when it’s empty and stick it in a daypack or pocket. Vapur makes a great foldable bottle with built-in carabiner clips so you can attach them your pack or belt.
When you come home to a dark dorm room full of sleeping roommates, the last thing you want to do is turn on the light just to find your toothbrush. Keep a small headlamp handy for easy, hands-free illumination of your stuff. Bonus: if you find yourself in a more rustic location (like HI Harper’s Ferry hostel), your headlamp can double as a lantern. Just grab a jug or bottle of water and strap the headlamp on with the light facing in.
5. Hostelling International membership card
If you’re planning on staying in hostels during your travels, an HI membership can be a huge money-saver. You’ll get special member rates at HI hostels in the US and abroad, as well as an offer for a free overnight stay. But the best part? Buying an HI membership helps support HI USA in its mission to create a more tolerant world through the power of travel. Which, when you think about it, is a pretty sweet deal.