• sondra bernstein

Essential Travel Items

by Claudia Toulze

The #figfamily does a lot of international travel. Whether visiting winemakers, growers, producers, or taking favorite customers on trips to share our cherished food destinations, we’re on international flights several times each year.

All that travel is exciting, but it can also be wearing. Here are a few of my favorite things to smooth the way when we go overseas.

A lightweight moisturizer that won’t clog pores if it’s on for 24+ hours

I pack a small zippered bag with mini sizes of a great face oil, travel toothbrush/toothpaste, ear plugs, eye mask, and lip balm. Around hour

nine of an international flight, I tiptoe down to the lavatory for a quick freshen-up. It’s a lovely break from sitting, and the face and lip moisturizers are soothing.

La Mer Renewal Oil or Nourish Organic Argan Face Serum both keep skin hydrated in the dry airplane environment without it looking like you sprayed your faced with Pam. Anything from La Mer is always a splurge, but if you sign up for the email list, the company offers worthwhile discounts and promos. The Nourish Organic oil is more budget-friendly.


We always take a redeye flight when traveling to Europe. The hours after landing can be rough, but soon it’s bedtime at our destination, we’re so exhausted we conk out, and we wake up the next morning fairly well-adjusted to the time difference. For me, Night Rest with Melatonin3 is key for that adjustment process. Follow the instructions on the packaging for dosage and consult with your medical professional before starting any new supplement.

Compression Packing Bags

A recent discovery that has been life-changing for my souvenir game, compression bags are a godsend for magpies like me. What’s the fun of travel if you can’t bring back a little something from the places you’ve been? Chocolates from Belgium, a scarf from France, shoes from Spain… compression bags eliminate wasted space and let me fit all of my shopping and then some into my suitcase. Or, suitcases.

I have the Packing Cube Set from Target, but shop around and find something that fits the way you pack for travel. A friend recently spent two weeks in Thailand packing everything she needed into one backpack with the help of compression cubes. You do you. I’ll do me, which involves packing cubes AND a trip to the post office in whichever country is our last stop so that I can ship home my dirty clothes to make even more room.

A Carry-on with Built-in Organization

Airplane seats are jammed in so tightly, getting anything out of your carry-on is a game of Twister at thirty thousand feet. I like having my stuff nearby, and I usually end up in a middle seat without constant access to the overhead bin. I take a carry-on that zips closed (important because the bag will tip sideways at some point), fits under the seat in front of me, and has several internal and external pockets because I cannot live without extreme organization.

I took a leather backpack from BED/STU on our last trip to France. The company’s products are organic and sustainable, and I purchased my bag from Perle in Sonoma, a locally-owned shop. My pack has a top zipper, convertible straps, and pockets for everything.

Capsule Wardrobe with Comfortable Shoes

This is a no-brainer for some, but take it from a person who once brought eight pairs of shoes on a ten-day trip to Europe: less is more. Check the weather in the places you’ll be visiting. Choose fabric weights accordingly, and stick to a few key tops and bottoms, all of which mix and match, and a few layering pieces (at least one of your layers should be in your carryon- airports and planes are notoriously fickle when it comes to temperature). Bring a mini-ziplock bag of powdered detergent, and wash anything that needs it in your hotel room sink mid-way through the trip. Towel warming racks are surprisingly prevalent throughout Europe, and they dry clothes beautifully.

Before packing everything into my compression cubes, I lay out each bottom piece with all possible top combinations and any accessories, take pictures with my smartphone, then drop the photos into a digital album. It makes getting dressed on the trip fast and simple, and I can also repurpose the outfit photos for later trips.

My favorite travel piece is a denim jacket. Dressed up or down, with a cardigan or hoodie underneath, over a sundress…the combinations are endless. It can look structured or casual, it withstands multiple wears before needing a good wash, it’s wrinkle-resistant and it rolls into a tiny ball for packing.

Documentation with Intention

Over the years, I’ve tried different ways to document our travel. From the magnetic photo albums my grandmother keeps under her coffee table to the custom-printed school yearbook-esque variety, nothing has really fit the bill like a notebook/scrapbook hybrid. Sondra and I visit a stationery store at least once each time we travel; we share a deep and abiding love of paper and paper accessories. I pick up a small dot journal or blank book with good-quality paper on each trip, and I take it with me in my carry-on at the start of our next trip. I bring along a few of my favorite pens, a glue stick, and I pack scissors in my checked back. Periodically throughout the trip, I jot down memorable experiences, paste in menus, and add details that catch my fancy. In Japan last year, Sondra used hers to collect stamps at each of the shrines she visited. Discovering the Sprocket Printer was an epiphany for me when we went to Europe this past April. I printed pictures and used the sticker-backed paper to put them right into my notebook during travel from region to region.

I am unfailingly grateful to be a part of the #figfamily, and to tag along on world adventures. I hope that my trials, errors, and discoveries help add meaning and enjoyment to your next trip. Better yet, I hope to share an international journey and some delicious food and wine with you one day!

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