*Once again, I’m giving my opinion on products with no kickbacks whatsoever.  I really gotta get in on that Amazon Affiliate program.  But I probably won’t.

On our recent trip to England & Wales I tried out some new travel items.  I thought I’d rate them here.  As we say in the teaching world when we pass on lesson plans and ideas to our colleagues: Use or lose.

What I boughtPacking cubes

Packing cubes 1

I’ll admit, I was skeptical when I heard other bloggers talk about packing cubes.  Why do I need suitcases within suitcases?  But in the days before our recent trip, while staring into the abyss that was my empty suitcase, my inner Type A Organizer became curious.  Then I remembered the near instant gratification that our Prime membership offers. I practically ran to the computer and ordered them at once.

Packing cubes 2

What I thought: I LOVE them!  Usually my bag starts out so neat and tidy it could pass military inspection, but within a day or two of arriving at the destination, order and discipline become lax.  By the third day it looks like the pants have gone to war with the shirts and the underwear got caught in the crossfire.  But these cubes changed everything.  I sequestered the pants, skirts, and other bottoms in one cube, and confined tops to another one.  I incarcerated the unmentionables (and socks, which co-mingle with my unmentionables) in the long, skinny cube, and sentenced shoes to solitary confinement in the remaining one.  When I wanted a shirt, I just pulled out the appropriate cube.  Same with capris, or socks, or whatever.  They also stacked with Tetris-like precision in my suitcase, but whether that was by chance or design, I’m not entirely sure.  What is certain is that I won’t ever go back to a suitcase full of unrestrained, war-mongering travel clothes.

What I bought: White Noise Machine

Noise Machine

Here’s a little secret: The husband sometimes snores.  Not usually at freight train levels, but enough that if I wake up at say, 2:00 am, as is becoming the norm these days, I can’t get back to sleep.  I’m also easily fussed by the sounds of people talking, music thumping, and all the other noises that are antithetical to a good night’s sleep.  At home I combat any vexing disturbances with my cherished Sound Spa Sleep Sounds machine, but alas, it’s not portable.  Thus, a few years ago, before embarking on a Viking River Cruise with my mom, I purchased a Sharper Image white noise travel machine from an airport shop.  That was good for a while, but after a year the volume buttons conked out, and a white noise machine that refuses to get loud enough is a white noise machine you don’t want.  Ergo, I thought I’d try again, but with a different brand, and this one had good reviews.

What I thought: I like it a lot.  It’s small and convenient, and though it has just three sounds – two different pitches of white noise and one crashing wave setting – that’s all I really need.  It has several volume levels, so getting it loud enough is not a problem (unless it is one of those freight train nights, in which case elbow jabs and swift kicks may be your only options).  I also like that it’s rechargeable.  It does need to be recharged daily, however, or it’ll run out of juice in the middle of the second night.  I’ve had this for six months and have used it several times, and so far so good.  As long as the volume doesn’t crap out after a year, I’ll be happy.

What I bought: Travel Outlet Adapter

Outlet converter

Gone are the days when a single converter plug between the two of us would suffice.  Hauled along on our most recent trip were 2 iPhones, 1 iPad, 1 white noise machine, 2 bike lights, and 2 Gamin bike computers – all in need of frequent recharging.  It was time to upgrade to a different outlet adapter.

What I thought:  Perfect!  This met the Millennial-like charging needs of a couple of Gen-Xers.  No more fighting over who got to charge their phone overnight.  What more can I say?  One less thing to argue about on vacation is always a plus.

What I bought: Travel Pillow

pillow 2
Weird shape, I know.

So here’s a little something about me you probably wouldn’t know about me.  I have to sleep with a knee pillow.  If I don’t, my lower back talks to me – and quite rudely, I might add.  At home I have a specialized one, and when I’m sleeping elsewhere, our donut-shaped travel pillow has worked well enough.

Pillow 4
Mmmm… donuts.

Anyway, when I decided to try a new travel pillow with a shape that wouldn’t make me crave junk food, I was curious to see not only how it rated in its traditional role as head-and-neck-supporter, but also in its night job as knee-separator.

pillow 3
It looks like he’s being hugged – or strangled – by a stuffed dinosaur

What I thought: Pretty good!  My head stayed more upright than it does when using one of the donut-shaped pillows.  This meant the kink that permanently resides on the left side of my neck didn’t get activated, at least not until we started cycling.  The fabric is soft and the foam is decently firm.  While trying to fall asleep on the plane I was wishing that the two parts that go around the neck could snap together somehow, perhaps by a connecting piece of fabric.  My donut-shaped travel pillow snaps and I quite like that feature.  However, I woke up five or so hours later and the pillow was perfectly in place, so I guess I can live without it.  The only other con is that it can be a little challenging to fit into its bag, but again, not a deal-breaker.  And as a knee pillow?  My back had no complaints, so neither do I.

pillow 1

So there you have it – stuff I bought and what I thought.  Do you have any experience with these or related travel items?  Share your wisdom in the comments section below.  And let me know: Do you, too, love using packing cubes to put your riotous clothes on lock-down?

41 thoughts

  1. I love packing cubes and recently upped my game to include compressable packing cubes. I also have an adapter plug with 2 usb outlets and 2 additional outlets – bought for home use, that ends up in my bag – would love to find a travel-designed one with a slimmer profile. Saw one at the airport but much too spendy. Will check out ye olde Amazon soon as I am travelling in a few weeks. Thanks for this post – it has reminded me to do so!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my God! I didn’t know about compressible ones! Now you have me thinking about adding those to my arsenal! I guess we scratched each other’s backs! By the way, do they make your clothes wrinkly? They seem like something I wouldn’t compress on the way TO the destination, but would compress on the way back, when I have more stuff to fit in and when I don’t care anymore if the clothes get wrinkled because I’m on my way home. Thoughts?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I haven’t noticed my clothes being any more wrinkly with the compression bags. I roll my clothes and I try to avoid fabrics that wrinkle easily. Iron is a 4 letter word at my house. 😉
        I went to compression bags because I bought a smaller carry-on, one that fits under the seat (just in case no room in above seat storage). I only check a bag as a very last resort (like when I need to bring hiking poles and getting them past security as carry-on is too risky).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ha ha! At our house, too! We have an iron, but it’s only seen action maybe once in 20 years. Don’t really know why we still have it. Maybe it will be a rare collector’s item one day?
        Good to know that they don’t wrinkle. I roll my pants, but my shirts stacked so nicely in the cube that I didn’t need to.
        Thanks again!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t tried the packing cubes, but you’re making me think about it – I try to not pack anything so there’s nothing to mess up, but sometimes I do actually need to wear more than two jersey dresses…

    I love this travel adapter: https://www.shopbop.com/universal-adaptor-flight-001/vp/v=1/1526426290.htm because it has such a small profile – we generally also then travel with a usb splitter to accommodate all our things, but I’m tempted to just buy a few more of these because they’re so low-profile.

    For me, though, the most important thing is the bag. I’ve given up on hard-sided carry-ons due to the number of times they’ve been gate checked. A soft bag of the EXACT SAME PROPORTIONS always gets on board. I swear by my Everlane backpack which has come on nearly every trip I’ve taken since I bought it 5 or 6 years ago. After a pretty uncomfortable trip this year where I attempted to squeeze all my camera gear and clothing into a duffel with a single shoulder strap, I have come to the conclusion that I need a backpack if I don’t want to be miserable, so I’m investigating slightly larger backpacks for when I have slightly more gear.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow, that adapter really is small!
      As for the packing cubes – read The Widow Badass’s comment about compressible ones – those may be even better, though I would definitely get cubes with mesh tops – I really like that feature.
      I’m glad to have your outlook on bags. The husband and I were just discussing the possibility of new bags before our next big trip. We may even discuss it in our next podcast. We’ve never used hard-sided ones, and appreciate hearing pros and cons. Thanks again!


  3. Thanks for these reviews. I’ve wondered about those packing cubes and your wonderful description of how you packed your clothes convinces me I need to get some. I have to take issue with your statement: “No more fighting over who got to charge their phone overnight.” Now what kind of vacay would that be without the *discussions* surrounding the nightly phone-charging issue? Honestly… 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I have also wondered about those packing cubes! They’ve always looked like a good idea, but nobody I know owns them. I might have to try them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Packing cubes are a game-changer when it comes to travel. I seriously can’t imagine traveling without mine. Also couldn’t do without the travel adapter we have. We have one that looks like yours and it’s been great for our family of three! We just use a white noise app or turn on a fan if one’s available. I also revert to my ear plugs if that’s not enough to drown out outside noises.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. We’ve been traveling the world for the past 17 years and haven’t even bought one travel gadget – well apart from a travel adapter – be it a travel pillow or the famous packing cubes. I usually travel with my backpack and there isn’t much room for stuff, but maybe one day I’ll splash out, thanks for sharing

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I jumped over here at the suggestion of Ally Bean. I just wrote a post on travel hacks and she suggested that I check out your suggestions… and I’m glad I did. Several people wrote glowingly about packing cubes and travel adapters (neither of which I’ve ever used) on my site so I’m happy to see your reviews and tips. Also, travel pillows… I’ve admired them but haven’t made the plunge. Thanks for these great suggestions… also, I am now a follower of your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! That Ally Bean is great, isn’t she? I’m getting ready to research *collapsible* packing cubes and put some on my Christmas list. I just followed your blog – it looks great, except it’s going to be a little difficult for me (as someone who has a good 14 years left until retirement but craves it every day). 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I snore really loud and we got (see below). It stopped the snoring day one instantly.

    Cushy Form Bed Wedge Pillow – 1.5 Inch Memory Foam Top (25 x 24 x 12 Inches) Best for Sleeping, Reading, Rest or Elevation – Breathable and Washable Cover (12 Inch Wedge, White)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post! I was skeptical of the cubes at first too, but they really do help you stay organized as your travels progress. I absolutely love white noise when I travel as I am a light sleeper and tend to somehow find the noisiest room locations. I have a great app on my phone that I love when I travel.


    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’ve been interested in getting packing cubes. I use canvas shopping bags to separate my clothes and that keeps them more or less organized. A lot of places I go in Asia have transitioned to the American style plugs so I don’t’ need converters as often. That has made traveling a bit easier.


  11. Often, when traveling, I will buy really inexpensive disposable clothes at the end of seasons ($1 tanks at Forever 21, cute shirts on clearance at walmart) and after a trip or evacuation, I’ll donate it rather than bringing it home. The first time I did this was for a trip to Hawaii in ’97 where I had 2 weeks worth of clothes but I had so many souveniers. I donated everything I could to a local charity (left the stuff at my hotel front desk). I left unused soap and shampoo/conditioners for the hotel folks (I told them ahead of time) and tossed the rest. I left with my luggage filled with keepsakes.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Just bought the J pillow for our trip to London! I’ll report back. Sean is skeptical, I tried it on the couch and thought it was better then the donut!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s funny, because I learned of its existence from another blogger. When I first got on the plane I wasn’t sure it was going to work, but the next thing I knew I was asleep and it stayed in place the whole time, so I ended up really liking it. I look forward to hearing your review. There are so many different airplane pillow shapes on the market these days. It’s hard to know which one to get. I hope you have a great time in London – and that you blog about it, too!


  13. I don’t know where I’d be if it weren’t for compressing packing cubes!! absolutely love them! I’m traveling for 14 months and because of the afore mentioned magic packing cubes not only is living out of a backpack easy but I also managed to fit all my belongings plus gadgets into a 32lt backpack. meaning its a bit heavy for its size but its carry on size!!! and nobody ever checks the weight of carry on anyways!

    Liked by 1 person

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