My 5 Essentials for Traveling Internationally

It’s that time of year when a lot of us are thinking more about vacation and travel. Recently, a friend and I scheduled a trip for fall. (Read more about that here: Pyramids, Mummies and Cruising the Nile.)

When I travel, sometimes there’s very little time to prepare if I’ve jumped on one of the “last-minute-travel-deals” that some travel companies offer, but in the case of the fall trip, there’s plenty of time for planning.

I’ve received several questions lately about how I pack when traveling, how I manage charging electronics and other travel related questions. This morning as I was writing this post, I received an email with a great question about my favorite rolling carry-on bag, so I’ll kick off this post answering that question first.

Wanda asked, “I am traveling to the Holy Land next week and have ordered the Nicole Lee rolling bag like yours.  Will it fit at your feet on the plane or under the seat? I have read reviews but get mixed answers. Thanks for always sharing your finds! They are great!”


Thanks for that question Wanda! Here’s was my reply:

“It will fit at your feet but then there’s very little room for your feet unless you are sitting in a bulkhead seat. The one time I tried to place mine underneath the seat in front of me, it wouldn’t fit. It may fit under the seat on some planes, but I only tried that once, and it didn’t work on that flight.

So I always get out my laptop, travel pillow and anything else I need, then place it in the overhead bin. It fits nicely in the overhead bin, so that has worked great. If you do get a bulkhead seat, they will probably make you put it overhead at the start, but then you can take it down after takeoff.”

This rolling, carry-on bag has gone with me on soo many trips. The Atlanta airport is huge so you do a lot of walking to reach your gate. It has saved my back so many times! There’s a pocket designed to hold a small laptop, my 13-14″ laptop fits perfectly. I always put items that I would never “check” in this bag, like my camera, headphones, medicines, spare change of clothes, electronics I’ll need…anything I’d be devastated to have lost if my checked bag didn’t show up at my destination. It’s also great for carrying back a special souvenir, done that many times. This bag is surprisingly still being made and is available here: Rolling Travel Bag.


Bag Scale

Since I love taking along a lot of clothes when I travel, I faithfully weigh my bag before heading to the airport so I’m not caught off guard with a bag that’s 2 lbs over the limit. This is the little device I use and it’s always dead on accurate. Whatever my bag weighs at home has always matched the scale at the airport. It’s available here: Bag Scale.

Weighing Suitcase Before Flying for Travel


Anti-Theft Handbag

This is the anti-theft handbag I’ve used on the last 3-4 trips I’ve taken. It holds a lot and gives me total piece of mind. The straps are resistant to being cut by someone driving by on a motorcycle, the interior credit card pockets offer RFID protection so a bad guy can’t scan your cards as he walks by and the construction prevents anyone from slashing it with a knife. It also has little latches on the zippered openings so it can’t easily be unzipped in a crowd.

Travelon Anti-Theft Cross-Body Bag for Travel


I will definitely be using it when I travel to Egypt where I won’t be drinking the local water. It has a pocket on either end that’s perfect for carrying a water bottle, yet the pocket closes flat when not in use. I like that! It’s also large enough to hold a fairly large camera. I’ve carried my Nikon DSR in it many times. It’s pretty much an ideal travel bag. It’s available in a lot of different colors here: Anti-theft Travel Bag. I like the “Stone” color since it goes with pretty much any outfit.

Update: Read how this bag kept a thief from stealing all my credit card numbers while traveling in Cairo, Egypt in this post: How I Foiled a Pickpocket Thief in the Khan Al-Khalili Bazaar in Cairo.

Best Travelon Anti-Theft Cross-Body Bag, Holds Water Bottle


Best Travel Pillow I’ve Found

I always, always take along this travel pillow. It blows up with 4-5 puffs and deflates quickly when you no longer need it.

It has a strap that fits over the back of a seat or across your back for stability. I always place it across my back and that works great. When returning from Morocco, on the leg from Paris back to the United States, I awoke after sleeping several hours and was immediately asked by the man sitting next to me where I had gotten my pillow. He swore he was going to order one the minute he got off the plane.

There are a couple of different ways to use it. I usually stick my arms/hands under the portion of the pillow that’s across my tummy so I don’t have to support my arms while sleeping. That works great. It’s available here where you can check out the reviews. Travel Pillow.


Supposedly laptops and cell phones can be charged in other countries now without getting fried. My smartphone costs a blooming fortune, as did my Lenovo laptop, so there’s absolutely no way I’m chancing it.

I always, always take along this voltage converter/charging station. I carry it in my carryon bag so I know it will not get lost in my checked luggage. It’s small, compact and lets you charge up to 7 things at one time. So there’s not fighting over the outlet when you and your traveling companion both need to charge a laptop, iPad, phones, etc… at the same time.

It is the very first thing I pull out of my suitcase when I arrive in my room. I can’t really explain how much peace of mind it gives, and the convenience it offers is outstanding! I like it so much, last year I purchased a second one to keep in reserve in case my original one ever croaks. After many, many trips, it is still going strong. It’s available here: Converter/Charging Station.

I’m sure I’ve left something off. If I think of another travel essential I always carry when I travel, I’ll add it to the end of this post today. The good thing about traveling a fair amount is you tend to build up a nice arsenal of travel essentials that you know you can always count on. Definitely speeds up the packing process and helps to reduce travel anxiety that sneaks in when a big trip is on the horizon.


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  1. Maria A Trunzo says

    I purchased a travel anti thief vest that helped with carrying passport, snacks, tissues, extra prescription medicine, gas pill, anti diarrhea, sea-sick pills, asprin, etc.

    It was real helpful. I used a few of the over the counter medication for my husband, people on our tour, & myself. Our son loved mine so much we ordered him one when we visit D.C. it was a convenient way to keep things organized in addition to the bag.

  2. A great list of five necessities for international travel! Now to decide where we are going!

  3. Hi Susan!

    The travel bag recommendation is so wonderful. I just sent the link to my best friend in Nashville. (And getting one for myself too!)

    I’m a family travel writer and am always on the search for items that make life easier on a traveling parent.

    Thank you for this great list!


  4. Ruth e. Rupp says

    Are you aware of the Lifestraw Water Bottle for travel. Essential for international travel, so you always have pure water to drink. Wouldn’t leave home without it. Check it out here.

  5. Thanks Susan!

  6. Snowflake281 says

    Your trip will be unforgettable, I guarantee. My husband & I traveled to Egypt and afterwards Greece and a cruise to a few Greek Isles back around 1985 and even though we experienced a major diversion in our itinerary upon leaving Egypt due to the hijacking of TWA flight 847, we still enjoyed all that we saw. We did not see all that you’re going to see, but most of it we did. The pyramids were great but I thought the presence of so many vendors took a lot away from the experience. The Khan El-Khalili was overwhelming and a bit scary, like walking through a corn maze with lots of interesting? animals (non-living) hanging up. The Mena House Hotel was great and the museum was my favorite. The history alone was extremely captivating but please be careful. I will tell you that you can expect to come across some deplorable scenes but don’t be fooled because there are the ever present con artists and miscreants that keep their eyes on you and your personal property. They are well acquainted with and can easily recognize designer items or things of value. But I guess you could find that anywhere you travel.
    I’m sure so much has changed since we were there so just enjoy yourself, but be cautious.

  7. Tips that I’ve read before, but forgotten–thanks for the reminders!

  8. Thank you, Susan, for your tips. My two granddaughters, daughter and I are leaving for a week to Paris next month. I have purchased the rolling carry-on with the Eiffel Tower on the front. I purchased the travel bag in black too. I have the smaller travel bag I used on a trip to the Biltmore last May, but I need a bigger one for this International trip. The girls and I are so excited about our trip. This vacation is the first time they have been out of the country. Since we live in California, we have a 12-hour layover in Toronto. I have packed a smaller bag to put under the seat as my survival kit. The measurements for under the seats of Canadian Air are too small for the carryon. I did lose my luggage for 24 hours, and this time I will have a change of clothes and a toothbrush with me. There are always lessons to learn when traveling anywhere. Thank you for your beautiful writing and explaining all the tricks to SURVIVING AN AIRPLANE TRIP.

  9. Great tips Susan!!…I especially love the travel pillow! Have a great week!!!

  10. Cecilia says

    Wow Susan, Egypt!
    You remind me of Agatha Christie, my favorite author: she, too, was an avid traveller and loved to travel very far away from her home. Usually, she accompanied her husband who was an archaeologist but sometimes she travelled alone. And I thought I am brave because I once flew to Paris all alone… (which is just a stone’s throw away!) Haha!
    Kudos to you!

  11. This is an excellent article! I haven’t flown in years or traveled very far in years either, but I’m going to California this summer (from Waco, Texas) and I will be looking for one of those pillows.

    Thanks for all the good ideas!

  12. Thanks Susan for all the travel tips. I’m ordering the pillow and the charger when I’m done posting. Could you do a post on how you pack personal items? Sine the airlines have a limit on liquids and aerosols, I never know how to properly pack these items. Do you put the in your luggage or Carry-On? My husband says I pack too much but I have to have my personal items like makeup and moisturizers. I know you love your fragrances so I wonder how to go about packing those items. Thanks again for all the great tips!

  13. Cyndi Raines says

    A wealth of great information for travelers. I have my eye on that purse, even for trips in the U.S. I like the water bottle area feature and of course all the safety features. Thanks Susan!

  14. It’s embarrassing how many of your ideas I’ve used. I have the rolling bag(stays packed in my room for overnighters to the lakehouse), the handbag and the charging station!!!
    And now seriously considering that pillow!!!

  15. The bag scale is a really cool gadget to have. Thanks for sharing such a helpful post.

  16. Thanks, Susan…great article. I have two Travelon bags ( the tan one you pictured and also a black one) and I love them. I like that you can carry water and lock them to your seat when you stop for a bit. Still looking for the perfect carry on…bought new luggage last year and purchased the tote that matched the cases. A good price but not very good space inside – so I appreciate all your help so I can shop before the next adventure.

  17. virginia westlake says

    I have the charger and like it, but sometimes when I use it there is a humming noise. I noticed it especially in Norway. I don’t know why it happens.
    w e are going on a Crystal Cruise this summer. They sent us information that they have American outlets on board. Fantastic, no adapters to take!!

  18. I just want to thank you for this post as well as all of the other travel posts!
    I will be traveling to London (1st International trip!) and I’m so happy to get great tips from your travel posts as well as the replies to those posts.
    I just received the adapter you recommend as one of my Mother’s Day gifts =)

  19. I’ll say it again—great tips! The charging station is super cool, I’ve been using the same, completely content. The travel pillow is so interesting, the shape, I mean. Maybe, I need that one as a change for my old worn-out thing.
    By the way, I’m also planning a solo trip to Egypt, for late October. Besides pyramids and the Nile, I’m determined to hike Sinai trail and watch the sunset on the legendary mountain.

  20. I love the wide variety of down to earth topics that you blog about that we all encounter in our every day life and travels. I would enjoy a post on your preferred travel companies to follow for planning trips and to be on the lookout for “last minute travel deals.” I know you have mentioned a few travel agencies here and there but if they were consolidated in one blog post that would be helpful.
    Thanks so much for sharing your ups and downs, extensive product research and shopping sources!!!

  21. Susan, I wanted to thank you for recommending the anti-theft travel bag. I bought it just before our trip to Scotland in late May. I LOVE this purse. It was the perfect travel companion with enough room for my personal travel items as well as my camera. The crossbody style helped me be comfortable and confident. Thank you again for a great recommendation!

    • I’m so glad, Zenda! I love the crossbody style, too! I will definitely be taking mine with me when I travel to Egypt this fall, such peace of mind. 🙂

  22. ZoeAnn Yussman says

    Per your recommendation I purchased the Nicole Lee rolling bag for our recent trip to France. I have never had a carry on I love as much! It does fit under most seats, holds everything I need, is super easy to roll through airports, and super cute!

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