When most people think of travel essentials—especially travel essentials for guys—it’s safe to say most minds probably never go straight to skincare. Tech gadgets, practical shoes and luggage most often spring to mind, but grooming products never seem to be the most obvious.
Yet when you stop and take a moment to think about it properly, you’ll very quickly realise that skincare/grooming is perhaps one of those travel essentials (almost like toothbrushes) where they’re so integral to your list that you don’t ever actively think about packing them—it just happens.
By the way, I’ve got some serious goodies for you further down so look out for them…or just scroll down now if you’re too impatient to wait. 😉
And I’m not just saying this. Take for instance: when we go somewhere really sunny, SPF products are always high on the list—especially for Lloyd, who has the ability to turn an amazing shade of ‘lobster red’ after just a few minutes in the sun. It goes beyond ‘travel essentials’—it’s just plain common sense to pack an SPF product with you when you’re in a sunny destination to help prevent skin cancer. It’s that important.
Being black in Europe, I also come with a different perspective on skincare.
While Lloyd can get away with pretty much jumping from the shower straight into his clothes (if need be), I’m never afforded that luxury. I have to pile on that body lotion. The same holds true for a lot of black people who live in the Northern hemisphere.
It goes beyond just having ashy knees and knuckles or dry skin. If I skip using body lotion for longer than a day or two, my skin starts to crack (and can actually bleed—albeit in tiny bits) from the dryness.
This, of course, leads to painful and itchy dark spots which, as I learned from personal experience ages ago, are just the kind of discomfort no one needs nor wants. As a result, body lotion for me is essential. I panic if I can’t find it, and as you’re never guaranteed to have it when you travel, I just save myself the hassle and pack my own with me.
Why all this talk about skincare? There’s context behind all of this. 🙂 A little while back, a friend of mine introduced me to Jack Black—a line of men’s grooming and skincare products headquartered in Dallas, Texas (not related in any way to the comedy actor of the same name 😉 ).
I say ‘introduced,’ but in reality, I just needed lip balm. He showed me the ‘flavour’ he had (which I was surprised to find was made with natural, environmentally friendly products—not something that you’ll find with a lot of men’s grooming products… also, not sure if you’re meant to call them ‘flavours’ 🙂 ).
Anyway, long story short: used it, loved it and got myself one, along with a travel-size body lotion when I got back home to the UK (they sell it in Boots).
Fast forward to a couple of months ago when we had the pleasure of meeting with the team at Jack Black where I found out two important things:
1.) There’s soooooo much more in their range than just lip balm and body lotions
2.) They’re bringing their stuff to the UK so I can get my hands on so much stuff
Suffice it to say, we went away from that with a few samples to try out (strictly for research purposes 😉 ) and every single one I had was sheer perfection… well aside from the hair wax (for obvious reasons 🙂 )—that one’s more in Lloyd’s court!
The entire range got me thinking about the essential stuff I take with me when I travel.
Although I’ve never quite formalised it to myself, I did carry a toiletries bag with me (granted, in the past, mine was usually just a plastic bag filled with the liquids in readiness for the security checks at the airport). Still, these are things I realised I’d never even written down. Even when we’ve done lists of things to pack, it’s always been about things that are specific to a destination or things that are quirky and different from the norm—never things that are essential to any travel plan.
To that end, Lloyd and I (inspired by and in collaboration with Jack Black) decided to pull together this complete list of travel essentials, along with our reasons for including every single item on the list! The list pretty much-covered everything you’ll find in our bags/suitcases, regardless of whether we’re off to the Maldives, going hiking in Peru, or on a city break to New York.
HERE’S YOUR JACK BLACK FREEBIE (WORTH OVER $450!)
Before I start though, here’s the part you’re definitely gonna like. 🙂 (Yes, I know it’s presumptuous of me to tell you what you like but I feel like we’re birds of a feather, you and I, so you’re bound to like a good freebie as much as I do).
The team at Jack Black is giving away a Super Set of A LOT of their products—which is pretty much the ultimate gift (that’s you sorted for Christmas then?). It’s worth over $450 (which is probably around £450 thanks to the post-Brexit exchange rate now… 😀 ) and has pretty much every single piece of Jack Black awesomeness on offer. (You can see the full pack over here). All you have to do is retweet using our tweet below (closing, 11th December 2016).
— Hand Luggage Only (@HLOBlog) November 17, 2016
Right! Now, let’s get started on that list of travel essentials for anywhere you want to go in the world.
THE 35 TRAVEL ESSENTIALS FOR ANY TRIP! (…AND WHY)
THE FIRST 7…
1.) Jack Black’s Sun Guard Sunscreen SPF 45
Yaya: Sunscreen is just practical common sense. It helps protect your skin—not just from potential skin cancer, but also from rather painful burns (and the awkward peeling afterwards).
Lloyd: A good broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen is a necessity for me. ‘Broad spectrum’ simply means that it protects you from both UVA (the more harmful of the two) and UVB rays (good way to remember the difference between the two: UVB = Burns; UVA = premature Ageing). Give me a few minutes on a hot beach and I’ll bake! I always go for a factor 25 or higher.
Yaya: This is one of the most important things I take on my travels. I love photography and document my travels through photos, so this one is a no-brainer when it comes to what to pack. I use a Canon 6D and recently started using a Panasonic Lumix GX8 for videos. Oh, and I use this GoPro for water sports. (For nights out, I leave the good stuff at home and rely on my iPhone).
Lloyd: I’ve always got my camera with me. In truth, I couldn’t travel anywhere without it.
3.) Eye Mask And Ear Plugs
Yaya: This was more of Lloyd’s thing until I used it recently and realised what a big difference it can make to you when you really need a good night’s sleep or a quick nap. It’s also relatively light, so I just leave this in my hand luggage for everywhere I travel to.
Lloyd: These are a gift from the gods when you’re travelling long haul.
4.) Jack Black’s Intense Therapy Lip Balm SPF 25
Yaya: I just like the many different flavours of this, but it flat-out works too. It’s got SPF (the skin on your lips is more susceptible to sun damage than other parts of your body) and is particularly handy in very dry climates. And you’re almost always guaranteed that at least one of your friends will ask for it when you travel as a group.
Lloyd: Lip balm is a must for me. I always have this with me, even if we’re not going far. SPF is also a must to avoid cracked, burnt lips.
5.) Small Tote Bag
Yaya: This is handy for putting random stuff that I don’t want in contact with all the other stuff in my luggage: e.g., flip flops, extra shoes or even toiletries that could potentially leak if squashed in my suitcase. (I arrived in the Maldives earlier this year with a can of spray on body lotion that had been sprayed over all of the contents of suitcase on the way up—I don’t need that drama again).
Lloyd: I use this as my emergency bag, usually when I’ve bought too many items in a place we’ve visited. If my bag is full, I’ll whip out my jute bag to use as an additional carry on when boarding a flight.
6.) Refillable Water Bottle
Yaya: Always stay hydrated. It’s the first thing that goes out of the window when you’re travelling and the one thing that’s guaranteed to help you avoid being constipated when you arrive at your destination.
Lloyd: I’m one of those thirsty passengers on the plane, always having to go to the back of the cabin for more water. To remedy these trips I pack a reusable bottle that can go through security and refilled as many times as I want.
7.) Jack Black’s Clay Pomade
Yaya: Ha! This one is all Lloyd. 🙂
Lloyd: I fuss far too much over my hair—it’s my guilty pleasure which I love to style. My styling products are with me during every trip—I won’t leave the house without it!
THE NEXT 7…
8.) Additional Battery Pack
Yaya: Got myself a few terrible ones over the year but finally found this one from Anker which can charge your phone like 10 times… and even better still, charges it at almost lightning speed.
Lloyd: I’m terrible at remembering mine even though I constantly need it. Thankfully Yaya always packs his. This usually ends up with me begging to use it on a long haul flight.
9.) Waterproof Phone Case
Yaya: I don’t bother so much with the waterproof case as I do with just a solid case—if it does happen to be waterproof, brilliant! I generally try to avoid having my phone around water.
Lloyd: I always pop on a waterproof case when heading to the beach/mountains. After breaking my DSLR camera in Thailand, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of this!
Yaya: Yeah, chocolate ended on this list thanks to Lloyd (as you probably guessed), but he’s not wrong. While I may not go for chocolate as my snack of choice, I do make sure I travel with a snack in my bag (or even just sweets) as you never know when you’ll be ravenous (e.g. at 11pm in Iceland when you realise all the restaurants and shops are all shut so you’re out of dinner options), and so its always great to have choice.
Lloyd: Enough said, it’s chocolate!
11.) Glasses, Spectacles, Contact Lens Solution
Yaya: I had my prescription glasses stolen, along with my work laptop, in London a few years back and I now realise I’ve never gotten round to replacing it. I do however take my Ray Ban Clubmasters (a birthday present to myself) everywhere I go now.
Lloyd: Without my contact lens or spectacles I’d be almost blind. These are essentials that HAVE to be packed.
12.) Jack Black’s Extra Rich Body Hydrator
Yaya: Like I mentioned earlier before, this is such a huge essential to me because I can’t possibly avoid using moisturiser. My skin just gets ridiculous dry and rather painful after a few days (especially in Europe) if I don’t, and that’s the kind of discomfort I just don’t need nor want on my travels. This goes far beyond vanity for me, this is practical, common sense essential stuff that I need.
Lloyd: I’m pretty lazy when it comes to moisturising my body, but Yaya is always using dollops of it… I swear he’s the moisturising king!
13.) Universal Travel Adapter
Yaya: This beats getting region-specific ones. Nothing worse than packing your adapters for Europe and arriving in the US or the Carribean and realising that they don’t work. It’s common sense stuff really—why pack multiple adapters when you can get one that does the same thing?
Lloyd: This goes without saying really… how else would I check Twitter?
14.) Meem Cable
Yaya: I try to backup a lot of my stuff on the cloud (especially my photos), but when I’m travelling this is particularly hard to do because you can never count on the Internet connection. Having this cable back my phone up while it charges makes things so much easier.
Lloyd: I’m always paranoid about losing my photos that I’ve shot, and when you’re away it can be tricky to attach your device to fast wifi that’ll back up your device. I use the Meem cable that stores the files in the cable itself, all safe and sound!
THE NEXT 7…
15.) Passport and passport wallet
Yaya: Always handy to have your passport and important documents in one place. It’s the one thing you definitely can’t travel without after all. Also, really handy for storing extra memory cards, pens and little knickknacks in. 🙂
Lloyd: Of course you need your passport, but I always use these type of passport wallets, too—mainly because Yaya makes me chief passport holder during our trips!
16.) Jack Black’s Double-Duty Face Moisturiser SPF 20
Yaya: Same reason for the body hydrator above! Plus this one’s pretty handy to carry around and has broad-spectrum SPF.
Lloyd: Whenever we fly with hand luggage only, I always pack a small face moisturiser that will refresh my skin. I love the moisture boost especially after sitting on a heavily air-conditioned plane for a few hours!
Yaya: Snood or scarf—I don’t mind which though this is one of those items that’s in my bag for probably half of the year. I put it in around autumn and leave it in until spring time the next year.
Lloyd: I always take a snood with me on colder trips. I prefer them to scarfs as they can easily turn into something to protect your lower face, ears and head if the chill factor dips.
18.) Medication: Anti-Sickness, Altitude, Rehydration Packs and General Medication
Yaya: My essentials tend to be antihistamines and decongestants. I’m prone to hay fever so I just know enough to pack in the stuff I need for it every time—just in case my allergies flare up. (Summertime in Europe is particularly harsh when it comes to hay fever).
Lloyd: Whenever we travel, I always pack: anti-sickness, rehydration packs and general medication in case one of us picks up a tummy bug. It’s always best to be safe than sorry.
19.) Utility Jacket/Coat
Yaya: Haha! This sounds almost military in nature, but what it’s actually referring to is a jacket that’s multifunctional. Warm enough that you can be comfy in it in the middle of winter (albeit with some layering) but cool enough that you can comfortably wear it on a crisp spring evening. Thanks to our inconsistent weather in the UK, I tend to have a version of this on me most times (except when travelling to places like Sri Lanka or the Caribbean, where you’re guaranteed warm weather).
Lloyd: I’m not a fan of wearing big clunky coats, but I’ve gotta admit, my Colombia foil-lined coat has come in so handy during our treks in Norway and Peru.
20.) Headphone Splitter
Yaya: Depending on who remembered to download the latest BBC show, the splitter means that we can share entertainment a lot more hassle free when we travel.
Lloyd: I’ve always got this packed, especially if Yaya is watching a TV series that I really want to see on the plane.
21.) Jack Black’s Turbo Wash® Energizing Cleanser
Yaya: I let Lloyd pack it and pretend I don’t need it—I then nick it from him for my beard when we’re at our destination.
Lloyd: I always pack a shampoo when I travel, regardless of where it is. I’ve had too many times where I’m stuck with the hotel freebies that are like paint stripper on my delicate hair 😉 Plus, this doubles as a body wash. It’s hard to overstate how important multifunctional products are in saving valuable space in your hand luggage.
THE NEXT 7…
22.) Emergency Credit Card
Yaya: Easy no-brainer. It doesn’t even take up that much space, so I just leave it in my wallet even when I’m not travelling.
Lloyd: I always keep my credit card packed and in a separate area from my wallet—just in case there’s a time I’d ever need to use it.
23.) Aquatabs for safe drinking water
Yaya: Never really need it as we’re usually able to find clean water (even if that means buying it) when we travel, but just like the medication above, it makes sense to have this. There’s no point risking getting ill when you’re travelling, especially if you can avoid it by using these.
Lloyd: I always pack aqua tabs in my little medical pouch. These little tablets can make water safer to drink and perfect if you’re going camping or just can’t access safe drinking water.
24.) Clothes (plenty of layers)
Yaya: This is such a personal and location-specific one, but it’s just nice to have it on the checklist anyway. The obvious stuff is usually remembered, it’s usually the smaller things like pyjamas or jumpers (and sometimes even socks) that are usually forgotten.
Lloyd: I always pack lots of layers. I’m a bit of an onion when I travel and prefer to peel off layer by layer than lug around one big coat.
25.) Antibacterial Wipes
Yaya: I don’t pack the wipes as they take up too much space, but I do take the antibacterial gels. You can get tiny travel sizes, and they’re just handy to help keep your hands clean (in addition to washing them of course).
Lloyd: These are a must, especially when handling food or using public transport and toilets when travelling. They’re always in the side of my bag.
26.) Thermals & Winter Warmers
Yaya: Again, this is more of a four-months-in-the-year thing, but once it’s wintertime these are absolutely essential as being freezing cold can be such a miserable feeling, especially when you’re on holiday.
Lloyd: I don’t feel the cold easily, but when I do it’s horrible. For colder destinations, I always pack thermals that keep me nice and toasty.
27.) Waterproof Boots / Flip-Flops
Yaya: If I pack just one pair of shoes (for instance, for a weekend away), I always make sure it’s my waterproof pair. Wet feet are fun for no one.
Lloyd: For me, it’s as easy as flip-flops for the beach, boots for the mountains.
28.) MacBook & iPad
Yaya: I blog (not that you didn’t know that already), so taking my laptop with me when I travel feels very essential. The iPad is more for entertainment really… (Lloyd’s tends to use his Kindle instead).
Lloyd: I rarely travel with my iPad, but I always pack my Macbook as a necessity. If you’re a blogger you’ll know what I mean.
THE NEXT 7…
29.) Hard Drive and Extra Memory cards
Yaya: I take a lot of photos when I travel, and most times I’m good with making sure I have enough space on my camera. But I have been caught out a couple of times (e.g., when I was in Copenhagen and ended up accidentally deleting the videos I had from Mexico), so it’s nice to have a spare memory card around or to be able to transfer some of your travel photos/videos onto your spare hard drive.
Lloyd: Often I’ll skip the hard drive in favour of an extra memory card. I hate the idea of not being able to take all the photos I want.
Yaya: Essential for long-exposure photos. As it can be a bit bulky, I tend to travel with a small one or a gorilla pod when I travel hand luggage only.
Lloyd: I’m not a fan of big clunky tripods, so if I do take one it’s usually a hand-held gorilla tripod that’ll fit easily in my rucksack.
Yaya: You never know when you’ll need them. Even if it’s the middle of winter—there’s always a chance your hotel could have a spa or indoor pool so…
Lloyd: No brainer. No one wants to deal with skinny-dipping on holiday.
32.) Travel Pillow
Yaya: Lloyd found this weird blanket pillow thing that I teased him about for ages until I tried it on a train journey to Wales. I slept like a baby with it and had to get mine as soon as I could. It’s called a TRTL pillow and takes up a lot less room than a typical travel pillow, so it found its way to my travel essentials list.
Lloyd: I love my travel pillow; it never actually leaves my bag! I take it everywhere.
33.) Extra Plastic Bags
Yaya: This is really cheap of me, but I take extra airport liquids bags with me when I travel. One, I never know when my old one might rip and need to be replaced (and I refuse to pay for it in airports that charge), but more importantly, I take one with me in my camera bag as I never travel with an umbrellas and find it a handy way to keep my phone (and wallet) dry if I ever get caught out in the rain.
Lloyd: Don’t tell the airports, but I often nab an extra liquid bag at security to keep my phone and wallet in. They’re really handy if you’re heading to a beach or wet environment where things might get damaged or incredibly sandy!
Yaya: I’m a sucker for a decent suitcase! The wheels on my ‘old reliable’ finally came off a few weeks ago, and I have found this amazing new one by Osprey, which I absolutely love for several reasons—for one, it’s got so many pockets and facets which I find handy for compartmentalizing my stuff as I never really unpack when I travel and use my suitcase as a ‘cupboard’ of sorts. Also, it’s actually quite versatile: it’s a backpack and has wheels, so I get to be as lazy as I want with this suitcase. The only thing is that it’s too big to be hand luggage and needs to be checked whenever I use it, but that’s not a bad thing in the slightest.
Lloyd: It has to have wheels—there’s no question of that.
35.) Offline Maps
Yaya: This will save you so much time and effort when you travel—plus, you can usually find a free one somewhere, so you don’t have an excuse for not getting it on your phone for your destination.
Lloyd: These have become super handy for destinations like the Faroe Islands and Iceland where data services can be limited in areas. It doesn’t take any extra room, just a little extra preparation.
36.) and last, but not least…. a Watch!
Yaya: I love watches so I love to travel with a few options. Unless I’m going to places where I’ve been warned against taking watches, in which case I just leave it at home.
Lloyd: Although I don’t always wear a watch, I love how they look. If I pack mine, it’s usually as part of my outfit or ‘look’ I’m going for. I tend to see them as fashion accessories.
Hopefully, if you’re someone who struggles to figure out what to pack, a quick run through this list will help you speed up that process before your next adventure!