I’ve flown a lot of miles this year, and have been compiling and testing products for this post for some time. Instead of making a generic shopping list with each individual heading, I’ve included my personal insights and highlighted a handful of great travel products under each, ones that I’ve personally tried and tested, and have in my bag at the moment. Check out our travel essentials list
Noise Cancelling Headphones
At TVG we’re stalwart supporters of Sennheiser. For me, there’s no competition when it comes to the Noise cancelling game, and they are the creme de la creme, combining superior noise cancelling, impressive sound quality and portability. I’ve been trialling a pair of Sennheiser PXC 450 headphones for a few months, on both long-haul and domestic flights, and I can’t fault them. Even if I’m not listening to entertainment, I disconnect the cord and utilise the noise cancelling function to sleep or read, with roughly 90% of ambient noise being cancelled. You can also read my review on the updated PXC 550 model.
If you are listening, and the attendant needs to speak to you, the TalkThrough function can be activated, amplifying conversation without the need to remove the headphones. The extra large cups cover your ears completely, providing sufficient comfort for extended wearability. A single AAA battery operates the NoiseGard technology for entire long haul flights, and if it does run out you can use the headphones normally with the bypass function. At the end of your flight, the headset conveniently folds up into a small black carry case, which also holds extra batteries and the inflight adapter.
I’ve also trialled the wireless MM 500-X Bluetooth headset (which you could win at the end of this article) , not a core travelling headphone, but slightly more versatile for those who are looking for a work/travel headphone, allowing you add a cord on flights, but also answer your mobile phone wirelessly in the office.
I cannot stress the importance of quality luggage enough. If you are serious about travel, you must invest in your luggage. My life as a frequent traveller since introducing the Victorinox Spectra luggage to my arsenal has been an absolute breeze, gliding through airports, with no more than a single finger on each bag. My Spectra combination includes a large suitcase for checking in, and a carry on piece with easy access compartments for my laptop, documents and headphones – perfect for security. Remember if it doesn’t have four wheels, it’s not worth your time.
Universal Travel Adapter
Considering the number of devices we now travel with, it’s funny how often this simple device is overlooked, despite good ones being very affordable. I’ve been travelling with the Elago TripShell USB adapter which plugs into just about every socket in the world and also boasts two USB charging points which is great for cameras, phones and portable speakers. Pair it with a small power board or double adapter and you’ll be cursing yourself for not buying one sooner.
Whether you’re reading on an iPad, Phone, Kindle or good old physical book, a good novel or two is a vital addition to your essential travel kit. Whilst I travel with my iPad mini (which is always armed with a handful of backups iBooks), I prefer a physical book for reading, and I love not getting bothered by the occasional flight steward opposing the use of a book during takeoff and landing. Last month I read Anthony Horowitz’s new James Bond story, Trigger Mortis, in which Bond finds himself embroiled in a Korean businessman’s intricate plot for revenge.
Shoes are the mortal enemy of the ‘packing light’ concept. If I’m travelling domestically for one or two nights, I really only want to take one pair of shoes, unless there’s a formal event included. If I’m travelling internationally, I try to avoid bulky and heavy items in my suitcase. Ideally, you need a pair of shoes that can handle everything, and that’s where the sneaker comes to the party. Walking, climbing, clubbing, driving, dining, exercising, the sneaker can do it all, whilst being dressed up, or dressed down. Our sneakers of choice at the moment come from the folks at Spring Court – classic styling, thick comfortable innersole, ventilated outer sole and washable canvas – very important for those who like to rock no socks!
If your itinerary is looking more adventurous than usual, or you need some additional space without checking in a suitcase, a good daypack is a must. Often I travel with quite a lot of camera kit, and it’s nice to know it’s attached to your persons, with your MacBook resting against your back. I recently invested in the 25L Patagonia Black Hole pack and I love it. The weather-resistant 25L pack has a host of convenient interior and exterior pockets, a laptop compartment, and zips up behind your head, not on the outside of the bag, giving you extra piece of mind.
Dual Timezone Watch
I know everyone has phones with world clocks, but being able to glance at your wrist and register the time at home, is instantly settling, and super convenient. Aside from the second timezone, my ideal travel watch needs to be rugged and waterproof, which is why I opted for the Sinn 856 S UTC. It features Sinn’s patented Tagiment case, hardened to 1,200 vickers for superior hardness, 200m water resistance, magnetic field protection and dehumidifying technology. The dial is simple, the size is perfect, and the styling is versatile enough to be worn with a polo shirt and swim shorts, or a suit.
Sometimes you’re visiting places where it’s best not to walk the streets with top-of-the-line noise cancelling headphones on your head. I also like to be a little more discrete and responsive in transit. Whether it’s conversing with security personal, lounge staff or customs officers, I prefer to use earbuds that offer the flexibility of having one out of my ear. My RHA noise isolating MA750i earbuds have gotten significantly better since I unboxed them a couple of months ago. After finding the perfect fit with the selection of provided ear tips, I’ve come to enjoy superb sound quality and comfort. The hooped cord design (over the ear) is a great way to keep the earbud secure if the cord catches on something, and also keeps the earbud close if I pull it out of my ear to talk to someone.
Lately, the majority of my airline travel has been done in Business Class which obviously comes with lounge perks. Occasionally though, I find myself in Economy (scandal). I don’t mind flying Economy, as long as I’ve picked the right seat. And when it’s paired with a place to relax before, after and while connecting, it’s absolutely fine. Priority Pass allows you to access lounges all over the world, no matter what airline or class you fly. The lounges aren’t exactly incredible, but for US$27 a fridge full of cold beers, food, Wifi, a comfy seat and often a shower, is a small price to pay to relax.
The biggest problem with travelling with a DLSR is having to carry it around with you. Usually, I travel with both a DSLR and my Sony RX100miii but I tend to miss a lot of moments with the SLR because taking it out for the whole day, not knowing where you’ll end up at night, is a hassle and sometimes a safety concern. The Sony is pocketable, has a flippable screen, integrated viewfinder, WiFi and a 1.8 maximum aperture resulting in excellent low light performance. Outside of brilliant images, it also produces great video with inbuilt stabilisation. If you’re a traveller who preferences portability and capturing sporadic moments, the Sony RX100 is a worthy consideration.
There’s nothing worse than travelling with friends without an adequate speaker. Even when I’m by myself I set up a speaker in my hotel room. Opt for something that balances build quality, sound quality and weight – good Bluetooth range is also handy. I’ve tried a host of portable units since starting TVG and keep going back to the Logitech UE Boom for ease of connectivity, battery, range and amplification.
There’s a lot of items I take in my Carry On, but it’s the moisturiser I can’t go without. Sitting in air-conditioned planes and hotel rooms drys out your skin, as does walking around all day in the sun. A quick application of quality moisturiser will reinvigorate your skin, making you feel ten times fresher, especially on long haul flights. I’m currently using Ultraceuticals Ultra Hydrating Lotion as my daily, and travel moisturiser, which is conveniently sized at 75ml to get through airport security.
There you have my top 12 Travel Essentials for 2015. I hope I’ve provided you with some useful products to help make your next trip more enjoyable!