7 Travel essentials I never leave behind

We all have our particular set of creature comforts, and I’m no different. This list has been shaped through trial and error, and I think I mostly have my travel essentials locked down.

Skechers Walk Shoes

At home my step counter thinks I’m deceased. When I’m on holiday it nearly burns out. When there are things to see and do, I walk A LOT – whether I intend to or not. I also complain non-stop if my feet ache/burn/are tired – I don’t suffer discomfort well.

It is due to this discomfort that I hobbled into Debenams on Oxford street (you can read about my London adventures and misadventures by clicking here), and glided out in a pair of plain black Skechers Walk shoes. I’ve since dubbed them Speed Shoes™ as they’re feather light and I can just go and go and go when I’m wearing these. I love that they’re seamless as every lace, seam, and strap is a potential friction point (there are other options with seams and laces though). Also, I give zero shits if they make me look like a tourist.

I’ve recently gotten a second pair as I’ve worn down the first to the point that I’ve started slipping on tile floors. The new ones have very fancy air-cooled soles and they’re designed for regular machine washing but the thread is scratchy and it chafes around the heels without sneaker socks – which is how I gather you’re supposed to wear them. They’re still great though – I speed walked through Sydney like an athlete*. I just had to buy the world’s most expensive socks at a tourist trap to avoid heel blisters.

I know there must be other similar shoes out there, let me know if I’m missing out on something good please!

Skechers Walk shoes & Cotton On Body 7/8 length tights
Look, I’m clearly not going to make my fortune as a foot and leg model. I didn’t even remove the lint from my leggings. But you get the idea, right?

A customised first aid kit

Things I’ve needed to treat while abroad includes but is not limited to: Gastro, a particularly nasty UTI, a mutated sinus infection, a burn wound, a sprain, skin allergy/reactions, hangovers, and numerous migraines and their side effects. The gastro and UTI was simultaneous if you were wondering about that.

For some of these things I had medicine, for others not. It was, without a doubt, 100% easier in the cases where I had medicine. Language barriers and physical discomfort are not a great combination and I dare you to explain a gastro + UTI combo to a French pharmacist when neither of you have a very good comprehension of the others’ language. I dare you.

What I take: Antibiotic ointment, plasters, anti-inflammatory gel/spray, bandages, anti-histamine tablets + spray/ointment, decent pain & anti-inflammatory pills, nausea meds, diarrhoea treatment, electrolyte replacement, Sylvasun anti-sunburn tabs. And whatever you need on a regular basis, of course.

I’ve never had a problem crossing borders with any medication (not even to Australia), but when I’m carrying a lot of meds I keep a copy of my script and leave OTC meds in their original packaging with the pharmacy label (with my dispensing details) on it.

I’ve watched Border Patrol. I’m not stupid.

The little sis and I on a recent trip to Sydney.

Hand luggage for a full day

The story goes a little something like this. Being a pilot for, I don’t know, most of his life, my stepdad taught us to always have a full set of EVERYTHING we can possibly need to tide us over for a full day in our hand luggage – in case your luggage gets lost or you get stranded. I do mean everything. Clothes from top to toe, as well as anything else you want/need to make yourself presentable.

Long story short, the only two times I didn’t do that was also the only two times I’ve missed international flights. And both times I had NOTHING with me for 24 hours which looks like fun in the movies, but it really isn’t**. I’m not superstitious, I can just never not do this again for the sake of everyone else on the flight as well.

Aside from the above, I also like having my ipad/a book to read, earphones, and my sleep gear – more on that in a couple of paragraphs. The rest is pretty much covered in the ‘everything you would want to make yourself presentable’ category. I’ll have a separate post on my hand luggage soon-ish if you’re a voyeur (no judgies, I am too).

A Giant Tote Bag

I always travel with an oversized shopper/tote bag – no weaving or basket or anything sturdy, just an oversized fabric bag with a zip. I put a few essentials inside and throw it over my shoulder when I head out each morning, and it kind of fills up during the day – I toss EVERYTHING in there.

I do mean just about everything – small shopping bags, snacks and drinks, even wrappers and rubbish (temporarily) if there isn’t immediately a bin nearby. It keeps my hands free and it keeps me sane, as I then only have one item to keep track of. I bought a great one from Woolies early in December but I can’t find it on their website now – as long as it’s large, has a zipper, and can hold some weight; it will do.

I’m definitely not walking around with a can of Prosecco (‘It’s not Europe’, my sister reminded me, right before she proceeded to find the drinks with the highest alcohol content per volume of liquid like the champion she is) but I wanted to show the scale of my tote bag – that’s a little sliver of it showing there, the whole thing is about twice the size of my torso. Said sister took full advantage of its capacity.

Black leggings

And the Basic Bitch cries echo through the passages… But this basic bitch takes three or four pairs of black leggings on every trip. While you won’t catch me going to Checkers in them under normal circumstances, I happily wear them at airports, on flights, on days where I’m road tripping, for sleeping in cold weather – pretty much whenever the need for legging-comfort arises.

Why, you ask? Superior comfort in cross-legged (or other pretzel-inspired) positions, they take up hardly any luggage space, and they’re very easy to wash and dry if you need to.

I’ve always bought thinner leggings from Woolies or Foschini for sleeping on the plane, long drives, or any other circumstances that forces you to sit for long periods as they don’t dig into your waist.

Recently I’ve been favouring the slightly sturdier, more forgiving ones from Cotton On Body. They don’t show cellulite or underwear lines, and they don’t stretch out during the course of a day so you look decent when you arrive on the other side. As I’m on the short side my perfect fit is the regular waist 7/8 length (see them here) – the waist is high on me and it grazes my ankles – I’m wearing them with the Skechers in the first pic. They also come in actual high waist (great if you’re tall or have an ass) and full length cuts.

Compression socks

This is becoming seriously sexy but I’m really good with wearing compression socks on flights. They’re intended to reduce your risk of developing blood clots and let me tell you, after recently visiting an otherwise healthy 30 year-old friend with a blood clot in ICU, I’m even better at wearing them (Aside from being on a contraceptive pill she had no risk factors. She has thankfully made a full recovery).

A sleep kit

I’m not a great airplane sleeper, so I need a few things to help me doze off. Typo has the best sleep masks I’ve been able to find – they block out light without squashing your eyes. Earphones are non-negotiable for pre-snooze podcasts – I listen to podcasts every night before I doze off, so the familiarity of the ritual helps. I’m on what feels like my 47th travel neck pillow and I haven’t found the perfect one, but the memory foam ones are definitely better.

This little pouch is where the magic happens – it ensures that your eyes aren’t squished but it blocks out the light really well. Sadly I can no longer find it on Typo’s website.

I also get proper prescription sleeping tabs to knock me out on long flights – if they’re not for you, maybe a homeopathic remedy will do. They allow me to doze off and stay asleep through minor disturbances, but I can still get up and get a drink/use the bathroom/follow instructions if I have to, I just don’t remember it particularly well. They’re also handy for taking the first few nights to get into a sleep routine in a new environment.

On my current trip I suffered from ridiculous jet lag for the first time in my life. I ended up taking sleeping tablets for another 10 days or so, and I then switched to Melatonin that I got from a local pharmacy. Since I’m here for 6 weeks in total I figured it’s easier to just accept that I’m not going to bed before midnight (which means sleep at somewhere between 1am and 2am most nights) and not likely getting up before 8am (I travelled to NSW, Australia – there’s a 9 hour time difference and the sun sets almost 3 hours later than at home. It hit me hard – getting older is a bitch).

I use a long cardigan or something similar to cover myself on flights (for monsters under the seat, etc), and usually only use the airline blankets if I have a couple of seats to myself and I’m stretching out (higher possibility of under-seat monster attack). The cardigan doesn’t take up a lot of space and usually comes in handy again somewhere along the line.

I’d love to hear if you have practical or quirky travel essentials?


*My 1,85m tall sister who has the stride of a giraffe would beg to differ.

**Started gathering provisions (a t-shirt, toothbrush and shampoo) when I realised things were going very wrong, and was eventually wine drunk in Frankfurt for most of the second missed trip. Ended up being not so bad.



  1. Tarryn B
    Jan 17, 2020 / 9:03 AM

    Do you have a specific model code for your skechers? I know I’m asking for oddly specific info. It’s just, I’m really, badly, looking for good walking shoes and there seems to be a few “Walk” options.

    • Chantelle Bester
      Jan 18, 2020 / 7:50 AM

      I’ll check and let you know here!

      • Chantelle Bester
        Jan 22, 2020 / 1:48 AM

        Ok found it. SN 15915. Colour code NTCL. My love is growing the more I wear them, but definitely try on a few pairs and walk around with them in the store. My feet are shortish and wide (like the rest of me :P) if that helps at all. Good luck!

        • Tarryn B
          Jan 24, 2020 / 2:35 PM

          THANK YOU!! You’ve pretty much described my feet lol. I have wide, small-ish feet (size 4.5). Will definitely find a shop that sells them and do a try on. Thank you again 😀 😀

          • Chantelle Bester
            Jan 25, 2020 / 8:23 AM

            You’re very welcome 🙂

  2. Monique
    Jan 17, 2020 / 2:16 PM

    I always save old clothes to take with me when I travel. That way I can leave them behind and have extra luggage space on the way home. For example, old PJ’s. And every country has somewhere you can donate old clothes to.

    • Chantelle Bester
      Jan 18, 2020 / 7:53 AM

      I do that too! Especially the super comfy but ready to retire undies and t-shirts 😄

  3. Marné
    Jan 17, 2020 / 6:59 PM

    Such a great list. I’m also a Skechers fan for life. Yours are very pretty, mine is very koekerig (but oh so comfortable).
    If you ever want to walk for miles and miles in non-sneaker type of shoes but flat sandals – Grendha is a brand I’ve grown to love these past couple of years. I buy on Zando and they are amazingly comfortable to stay in for a whole day on your feet. You just have to buy a size bigger.
    Butterfly Feet (also on Zando) is quite nice and comfy as well.

    • Chantelle Bester
      Jan 18, 2020 / 7:58 AM

      Skechers are life savers! I love Grendha too. As well as Ipanema sandals – in very hot weather I’ll keep a pair in my giant bag and change into them late afternoon. My heels get tired after a few hours though, I’m assuming it’s because they’re flat. Still my faves for nighttime and ‘regular’ everyday wear (Foschini also has them). I’ll check out Butterfly Feet too, thanks!

      • Monique
        Jan 21, 2020 / 1:06 PM

        Also try Sweetpeas. Bought a pair of sandals for Bali and I lived in them. SO comfortable! The cushioned sole makes such a difference. And they are so helpful in customizing them to fit your feet properly.

        • Chantelle Bester
          Jan 21, 2020 / 1:17 PM

          That sounds great, definitely having a look thank you! Haven’t found sandals that cushion enough so my heels don’t hurt after a few hours.

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