This Travel Trend Is The Key To A Guilt-Free Vacation

Travel and environmental experts break down the rise of the "green travel" movement and how to incorporate it into your next vacation.

As we become increasingly aware of the impact our actions have on the environment, more and more people seek ways to reduce their carbon footprint. This approach is important both in our everyday routines and during the times when we deviate ― like when we’re on vacation. 

Fortunately, there are ways to travel more sustainably and minimize the negative effects of our tourism on the environment. It’s all part of a growing lifestyle movement called “green travel.”

HuffPost spoke to experts in tourism and sustainability about the growing world of “green travel” and how to incorporate this approach into your next itinerary.

What is green travel?

“Green travel is traveling in a way which is more sustainable than conventional travel,” said Anna Dacam, environment program manager at the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance. “It’s about minimizing the negative impacts on the natural environment as much as possible.”

She noted that taking a green approach to travel might entail curbing your carbon footprint, the amount of water you use, the waste you generate or any impact on local species and ecosystems. 

“At its best, green travel goes beyond just minimizing harm, to actively contribute to the prosperity of people, planet and place,” Dacam said.

Indeed, this type of tourism is about thoughtfulness. It’s seeking to lessen your environmental footprint while positively impacting the local communities you visit during your travels. 

“Travel can negatively impact local communities in destinations by driving up costs of living, promoting cultural commodification, or causing congestion at popular sites,” said Kaitlyn Brajcich, senior manager of communications and training at Sustainable Travel International. “Sustainable travel aims to minimize any negative impacts and maximize the positive by improving career opportunities, promoting the equitable distribution of tourism benefits, improving local quality of life, ensuring respectful interactions and celebrating the local culture.”

Make sure your tourism dollars go to the people and ecosystems most impacted by your presence. Focus on how your travels can help fund conservation efforts, raise environmental awareness and support the restoration of vulnerable habitats. 

“There are many words to describe sustainable tourism these days,” noted Rachel Dodds, a sustainable travel expert and professor at Toronto Metropolitan University’s Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. “Green travel is one of them.”

She explained that terms like “regenerative travel” or “sustainable travel” have come into popular usage in recent years, as experts emphasize going beyond reducing harm and actually benefiting the environment and locals during your visit. But nomenclature aside, the message of highly conscious, eco-friendly tourism is consistent.

“Green travel should really be thought of more holistically as ‘responsible travel,’ taking into account not just the environment but also the local community, the economy, and travel culture,” said Brian McMahon, travel curator at Origin. “They’re all interconnected, so you can’t talk about one without discussing the others. Thankfully, travel is trending more and more in this direction and it’s now commonplace to see hotels, airlines and travel companies proudly show off their sustainability commitments. The hard part for travelers is sifting through all of that information and deciphering between real action and lofty language.”

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d3sign via Getty Images
Green travel is about taking a mindful, sustainable approach to your vacations.

Why is it getting so popular?

“Green travel in various forms has been around for a long time ― there were ecotourism lodges as far back as the 1980s,” said Rebecca Benner, deputy director of the global climate team at The Nature Conservancy. “But there is now an increasing focus on the many aspects of the environment that travel can impact. It is hard to ignore the twin crises for climate change and biodiversity loss. The public consciousness about humans’ impact on nature has risen substantially in the last few years as has considerations of sustainability.”

For this reason, she believes green travel has become even more popular in recent years and will continue to grow in prominence. 

“Humanity is facing some huge challenges,” Dacam said. “Fossil fuel usage, globalization and mass production have reached a point where humans are using far more of the Earth’s resources than can be replenished, generating greenhouse gases which are warming the planet. The tourism industry is no exception, contributing roughly 8% of global emissions each year. Climate change is causing increasingly extreme weather, rising sea levels and ecosystem breakdown.”

This reality is particularly relevant to tourism, which relies on the existence of safe, diverse, accessible destinations that attract people from all over the world. 

“As the impacts of these actions begins to become more visible, individuals and businesses are increasingly waking up to the need to act now, to address the impacts we’re already experiencing and to safeguard future generations,” Dacam added.

She pointed to a 2023 report from that found 76% of travelers say they want to travel more sustainably over the coming 12 months. Compared to the 2022 report, there were also big increases in the percentage of travelers taking sustainable steps on vacation, like turning off air conditioning when they aren’t at their accommodations, reusing the same towels and bringing their own refillable water bottles. 

As travelers seek to minimize their negative environmental impact, many tourism-related businesses are working to make sustainability a major focus.

“Destinations trying to attract visitors realize that eco-aware consumers have the same concerns when they travel as they do at home, so work with hotels, restaurants, tour and transport operators to have high environmental standards in place,” said Tom Hall, vice president of Lonely Planet. “Of course, in many cases host communities already have specific programs in place, so it is a matter of communicating them to visitors.”

Recent inflation and economic woes also play a role in the rise of more sustainable travel. 

“Things are getting more expensive, which often helps encourage more low-carbon activities,” said Charlie Cotton, founder of the carbon consultancy ecollective. “Lastly, there is better understanding that travel done well can have a lower carbon footprint and be a more authentic, enjoyable experience.” 

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Dalibor Despotovic via Getty Images
Consider visiting a local farmers market or farm-to-table restaurant, rather than eating at establishments with a larger environmental footprint.

How can I engage with green travel?

“The first thing is to know why you’d like to take a greener approach to travel,” said Paula Espinoza, creative director at Naya Traveler. “By making this personal to you and your values, you will be more inclined to research and make decisions that will positively impact the environment.”

Commit to planning ahead so that you can learn about your options for eco-friendly lodging, transit, food and more and choose the ones that will minimize your negative impact. Espinoza also recommended purchasing carbon offsets to mitigate potentially unavoidable emissions like air travel.

“When you’re packing your bag, consider what you put inside,” advised Eloisa Lewis, the founder of New Climate Culture. “Are you traveling with reusable options, or single use? Do the single-use items have biodegradable options?”

Again, a little research goes a long way, especially in the area of sustainability. 

“If plastic waste is difficult to avoid, for example, come prepared with reusable eating utensils and other items,” said writer and sustainable travel expert Sarah Reid. “If local tap water isn’t potable, pack a water-purifying device. Once you start taking these small steps, it soon becomes second nature.”

Try to pack reusable toiletry bottles, bring your own tote bag as you shop, turn off the air conditioning and any electronics when they’re not in use and pick up litter you see. 

“Every effort, no matter how big or small, can make a difference,” said Jan Louise Jones, coordinator for hospitality and tourism management at the University of New Haven. “Choose companies that include sustainability in their mission and goals. Recycle when you can, choose transportation with low carbon emissions, spend money at local businesses and interact with locals in a positive and meaningful way.”

Select activities with minimal carbon footprints, like hiking, biking and kayaking. Ensure any interactions with wildlife are handled responsibly. Take public transit. 

“Think local,” echoed Theresa Jackson of Enlightened Journeys Travel. “Really explore in depth one region, or combine two destinations in one trans-Atlantic or -Pacific flight. I think an approach of contributing to culture, conservation and community through commerce, wisely placed, is the best way to go. Choose accommodations that practice environment-regenerating measures, support micro enterprises to raise up women to economic parity ― which, in turn, builds community and educates children ― and make sure your money is correctly going to support local people or conservation efforts.”

Prioritize hotels and activities that directly support the community and environment, like restaurants that source local food or tour operators that promote authentic cultural exchange.

“Be careful to look out for greenwashing ― claims that a company is ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ which are not supported by robust action,” Dacam said.

When booking hotels, she recommended looking out for environmental certifications from trusted providers like EarthCheck, Green Key, and LEED. Major platforms like are increasingly displaying sustainability information, and there are also a number of smaller booking companies with an eco-conscious mission. 

If all this research and pre-planning seems daunting, there are also green-minded travel agencies that can help you find and book accommodations, activities and other impactful aspects of your next trip.  

“Communication is key,” Dacam added. “Hotels are more likely to embrace sustainability if they know that customers are interested in it. If you come across a particular measure that you are impressed by ― e.g. the property collects and reuses rainwater for the garden ― let the hotel know that you’re impressed by it. This will motivate them to embrace further measures.”

Similarly, you can offer feedback to hotels, tour operators or other travel companies you encounter on ways they might improve their sustainability. 

“My advice would be to really consider the destinations we visit as places we hope future generations can visit,” said Kelly Bricker, director of the Center for Sustainable Tourism at Arizona State University.

She called on travelers to support local businesses, respect every destination’s culture and contribute to protect the natural environment and thus help people live healthier and more fulfilling lives. 

“Our dollars that support travel should benefit local communities and cultural and natural assets for the long term,” Bricker added. “We are all stewards of this planet, and therefore must think about how we move about and how we can work to support amazing places around the world.”

Before You Go

If You Always Run Out Of Room When Packing For Trips, Try These 28 Travel Products
A wheeled carry-on bag if you have no intention of paying for a checked bag(01 of28)
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Now you won't even have to pull your suitcase outta the overhead!

Promising review: "If you are a consultant and struggle carrying big carry-ons. This is a perfect one for you. I love this purchase!!! Lightweight. Enough space for 1–3 days of travel. Thank you!" —SS
Or a durable travel backpack that is the perfect personal item(02 of28)
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This is super roomy, zips completely open (like a suitcase — so it's easy to find what you need), has plenty of pockets (including one for shoes and a separate wet bag!), and a strap that slides down over your luggage handle for easy transport.

Promising reviews: "I bought this backpack for work. It's the BEST backpack I've ever used. I needed one with several pockets and not too big or heavy. I found that with this backpack, I can fill it and still have room! There's even a shoe and clothing compartment for traveling! The straps are just wide enough to stay on your shoulders especially with the snap straps in front. I also love the color, and it's true to the picture color. If you're looking for lightweight with tons of pockets, this is what you need!" —Kelly Miller

"This is a perfect size backpack for traveling on a plane as your personal item, especially to international destinations. You could fit rolled-up clothes in here for another week, and it has a very handy shoe bag and tons of places for your electronics. This will be an excellent addition to my carry-on suitcase. Best purchase all year. I consider myself an expert on travel bags. I have way too many. It’s smaller than it looks but so roomy." —AP
A digital luggage scale to help you pack the essentials(03 of28)
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Promising review: "Buy this if you travel a lot. I travel with scuba dive gear and this saved me from going over the weight limit both going to the island and returning. I was a hero with my friends. They had no idea how much their bags weighed. I helped them too from going over their weight limit. It's easy to use and worth the money." —Kindle Customer
A travel wallet to carry all your important documents(04 of28)
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This RFID-blocking wallet has a passport pocket, boarding pass compartment, three credit card slots, an ID slot, a slim card pouch, a slim pocket, a ticket slot, a cellphone pouch, a zippered coin pocket, a key holder, and a pen holder.

Promising review: "This wallet is durable, chic, and spacious. The lining is very soft and feels expensive. From the design to the material to the zippers and snaps, it's well made. I ordered it in rose gold, and it's a beautiful color. I travel frequently and love the boarding pass pocket. I recommended it to my sister and mom, who also love theirs! They ordered in yellow and bronze and were also happy with the color." —Brianna graham
A set of packing cubes you'll soon wonder how you ever traveled without(05 of28)
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Promising review: "I travel frequently and travel light. My luggage is usually limited to a backpack that slides under the airline seat. For a two-week European cruise, I added a carry-on rolling suitcase. I've used these packing cubes twice so far, and I am hooked. One cube holds everything (including clothing) I take on a three-night trip. The cube slides into my pack, saving massive amounts of room, and everything is easy to find during travel and at the hotel. Taking out one cube and unzipping is much better than digging through a pack! I will never leave home without these!" —Gura
Or some vacuum storage bags when you're a serial over-packer...(06 of28)
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BuzzFeed Shopping writer Jasmin Sandal says: "I swear by these bad boys not only for general storage purposes, but also if I know I'm going to be traveling for an extended period of time. As someone who tends to pack for every eventuality (who doesn't like to be prepared?!) I have learned that it's better to travel with them than without — especially since it's more or less a guarantee that my clothes are gonna take up a ~substantial~ amount of room in my suitcase. And if I can use something that's gonna shrink the size of my bulky hoodies and/or big tees in order for me to create more space, I'm sure as heck gonna do it. Plus, the satisfaction is indeed guaranteed because when you see those chunky layers flatten into a's just *chef's kiss*."

Promising review: "I've used these bags before, and they are so helpful. Even used the medium one for travel, and I have tons of extra suitcase room.The clothes don't come out wrinkled at all as long as you fold them nicely before placing in the bag, then the air sucks out, keeping them safe and sound and very compact. Arrived on time, would use this seller again." —Susie Kochsmeier
(credit:Jasmin Sandal / BuzzFeed)
A Kindle for bookworms who keep up with their reading habit while on vacation(07 of28)
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It has a 300-ppi high-resolution display, an adjustable front light, and dark mode. The battery can last up to six weeks on a single charge and it offers 16 GB for storing thousands of books.

BuzzFeed Shopping editor Maitland Quitmeyer says: "I never thought I'd be an e-reader person, but living in a New York apartment with limited bookshelves changed my ways. I love love (love love love) my Kindle — especially for easily borrowing library books, squeezing in a few chapters on a subway ride, and of course traveling. I lit'rally read 10 times as much with a Kindle in my life."

Promising review: "I was so skeptical about switching from actual books to the Kindle but I have loved it!!! It’s so much more convenient to read and travels well. I’ve only had it like two weeks and have only charged it once (have read three books)!! Its battery life is amazing." —Haley
A slim and packable Trtl neck pillow(08 of28)
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The Trtl pillow is adjustable — you wrap the pillow around your neck and secure it with Velcro, and if you find it's too loose, just make it a bit tighter! I've truly never slept better on a plane than with this pillow.

Promising review: "WOW! Literally life changing; used it on my 11-hr flight to and from Norway to SF and I usually can never sleep on planes, but this did the trick! It’s also super packable and doesn’t take up too much space!" —Julie Cox
An amazingly compact travel stroller(09 of28)
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The stroller is supposed to accommodate kids from 6 months up to 55 pounds (approx. 4 years old).

Promising review: "This stroller is great! So cool looking, too. I constantly have moms coming up to me asking where I got this! So easy to fold, so light, andbarely takes any space in my trunk.We took it on a flight, and the flight attendants recognized the stroller and told me that I can just wheel the baby on and put the stroller in the overhead bin. I wish I had gotten this stroller with my oldest, but I was being cheap. This stroller is so worth the money. I regret not getting it sooner! But at least my youngest can enjoy it." —Nai Len
A set of TSA-approved silicone travel bottles(10 of28)
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These BPA-free bottles feature a leakproof design so you won't have to worry about messy spills. Each silicone bottle also has the capacity printed on it for TSA purposes! You get four bottles, four jars, and two spray bottles. It also comes with two scoopers to use with the jars, a funnel for transferring liquids, a clear travel bag, a set of labels, and a cleaning brush.

Promising review: "This little set is perfect for your travel toiletries. Instead of paying $3 for those little travel bottles, you can fill your favorite products in these. The taller tubes are silicone and easy to fill. For the circular containers, I used the little scooper to fill them. I didn't use the spray bottles this trip, but I did use everything else, and I'm happy to say nothing leaked. Easy to clean after use as well." —Nicole
Or a waterproof toiletry bag designed to hold tons of stuff(11 of28)
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Promising review: "I. Love. This. Bag. Seriously, I had a cheap toiletry bag from Target that essentially did the same thing, only way worse. It was too small; the hook didn't rotate so you could only hang it at an angle, if anything ever leaked; it would seep right through the bag, etc. But THIS bag has NONE of those issues! It fits everything I need and then some, meaning I don't have to skimp on my 10-step Korean skincare routine when I travel anymore. It never leaks.And I love that the hook swivels so you can hang it anywhere, and your stuff hangs perfectly. I also love the handle and the overall flatter shape. It makes it so easy to travel with! Cannot recommend this bag enough." —KaiEli
OR a set of magnetic Cadence containers for storing toiletries(12 of28)
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Cadence is an AAPI woman-owned small business that was founded by Steph Hon with the goal of eliminating single-use travel-sized plastics. The containers are made from recycled ocean-bound plastic.

BuzzFeed Shopping editor Abby Kass is a fan: "I recently got a set of four of these, and, wow, I love them so much. I used them on a six-day trip recently, and they were perfect. I customized the label so I knew which one was my shampoo vs. conditioner and did a general label for any other things I wanted to bring along. They do hold a surprising amount. According to the brand, they hold approximately one to two weeks of skincare products, more than two weeks' worth of serum, two to three days' worth of haircare, and more than 15 tablets (for medicine and such). And while two to three days worth of haircare might not seem like enough, I found it held more than that for me, but I also don't wash my hair every single day. They were small enough to slip right into my toiletries bag and go through TSA with no problem. The container was easy to open in the shower (even with wet hands), and I had no leakage from them (like I did from my face wash bottle that will not be making the trip with me next time. SMH). These are an incredibly useful tool anyone who travels will want in their luggage."
A collapsible water bottle(13 of28)
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Promising review: "Great water bottle for travel. It is durable, compact when not in use, and versatile. One of the main reasons I like this collapsible bottle over others is the sliding band on it. It allows you to hold it firmly without squeezing the bottle and squirting the contents out of the top and all over the place. I bought mine, and a friend liked it so much that she bought one." —Vivian (
And if you can't survive without caffeine, a collapsible coffee cup(14 of28)
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It's also microwave-safe! Note that the 12-ounce size does not include a straw, but both the 16-ounce and 24-ounce sizes do.

Stojo is a small biz founded by three New York dads who wanted a better way to get their convenient coffee fix without all the waste. Now they make stylish collapsible essentials in a variety of sizes and colors, including bottles and food storage containers.

BuzzFeed Shopping writer Danielle Healy has this and loves it. She says: "This is of the first zero-waste swaps I made and I've never looked back. If you buy to-go coffee – whether you're jet-setting or just grabbing a mid-day pick-me-up — this cup is a must-have. So long as you remember to bring it, it's all the convenience of to-go coffee with none of the waste. It's leakproof and, when you're all done, it collapses down teeny tiny and can be tossed back in your bag. Oh! And it comes with a straw, so all you iced coffee lovers can get in on the action, too."
A space-saving laundry bag(15 of28)
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Just stuff them in and squeeze to release the extra air!

Promising review: "As a frequent traveler, this bag has been great for packing dirty laundry on the return trip home. It will hold much more than I usually put in it and compresses nicely in the suitcase. I toss it in the washer along with the clothes, and it has held up for well over a year now." —CC
A travel pill organizer(16 of28)
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Promising review: "I take a daily medication and I like to keep vitamins, supplements, and emergency meds like fever reducer and upset stomach relief with me when I travel. This is compact, feels sturdy, and holds more than I anticipated." —hw65
A pocket-sized, refillable travel perfume atomizer(17 of28)
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BuzzFeed Shopping editor Elizabeth Lily says: "^ That's me pumping my signature perfume into one of these travel atomizers I've been using for about a year. As the reviewer down below mentions, it's great to just throw in your purse on the reg for a fragrance re-up throughout the day. As you can see, it's about the size of my thumb and therefore takes up very little room. Plus! It's smaller than most rollerball travel fragrances you can pick up. This first one is working so well, that I just have the other three in storage. But if this one bites the dust this summer during travels, I'll be OK about digging into my stores to use one of the remaining three...especially at this price point."

Promising review: "I bought these due to traveling a lot for work and needing to cut down on the size of things in my carry-on bag for flying. I can bring four different perfumes now instead of one big one. They’re super easy to fill and haven’t leaked so far, but I keep them in a sandwich baggie while traveling just in case. I would 100% buy them again." —Emily
(credit:Elizabeth Lilly / BuzzFeed)
A small jewelry case with enough space for your daily wear items(18 of28)
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Promising review: "I travel a lot for work, and this jewelry box has everything I was looking for! It’s a nice small size and has plenty of storage for necklaces, rings, earrings, bracelets, and even a watch! Very good quality, and I love the color. Highly recommend!!" —Morgan
A pack of laundry soap sheets(19 of28)
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Promising review: "This came SO in handy during my vacation to Europe! I was making lots of different stops at places with different types of weather. With these laundry soap sheets I was able to wash my clothes in the sink — letting me pack just the right amount of clothes for all the different places I went." —Katie Fujarski
A genius hanging packing cube(20 of28)
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Plus, it has a zipper compartment at the bottom you can put all your dirty clothes in, so they don't get mixed together and you end up just washing everything when you get home (bc that's usually what happens to me).

Promising review: "I just love it. I travel a lot. Now I don’t have to hang anything up but my organizer. I can see what I pack and where everything is. Just love it. I can fit easy seven days' worth of outfits and three pairs of shoes in a carry-on suitcase. Just great." —Amazon customer
Or a carry-on garment bag(21 of28)
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It also has multiple interior pockets for matching accessories or any other odds and ends you need to store.

Promising review: "I recently purchased this bag to be able to accommodate a couple of suits for business trips without having to check a large garment bag. This worked perfectly! It was easy to pack, I had no issues placing it in the overhead bins, and my suits were in great condition when I unpacked at the hotel. Overall, it's a great value." —PSTEENSON
A travel umbrella(22 of28)
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Promising review: "This is the best travel umbrella I’ve ever owned! It’s very easy to open and close one-handed with the push button. It’s very sturdy and fits nicely in a carry-on or backpack." —C.J.
A three-piece luggage set(23 of28)
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These suitcases have TSA-approved locks, 360-degree wheels, interior mesh pockets, and telescoping handles.

Promising review: "My family travels internationally, which means lots of airplane transfers, rail, ferry loading and unloading. Each member has their own set. Only one cosmetic scuff has appeared. About to order another set for my mother as we are taking her to London, Scotland, and Ireland for the holidays. We rarely use the middle size. The small size we carry on, and the largest size we check. Very pleased with maneuvering and durability of wheels on various rough surfaces. The retractable handle makes for easy storage on ferries and railway. We’ve had zero issues with locking mechanism. We are a family of four with kids ages 8 and 12." —ChiefLaughALot
A shoe bag that'll hold a few pairs if you're always questioning how to fit 'em all(24 of28)
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Promising review: "You can totally fit three pairs of shoes in this! (Size 6.5 female shoe, fit heels, wedges, and sandals.) I bought two and will absolutely be buying more for my husband. 10/10 would recommend! I travel frequently, and I always overpack; this helped cut down space and stress immensely!" —Taylor
A packing checklist to replace that feeling of panic with calm(25 of28)
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Promising review: "So helpful! I travel a lot, and so does my husband, and this pad makes packing so much easier and stress-free. The list is quite extensive; while I probably will never need to pack all of it for one trip, it covers everything for a business trip or a pleasure trip. I don't worry about what I forgot to pack anymore. Use a pencil, erase it when done, and one sheet will last 3–4 trips." —Cktine
A mini lightweight flat iron that is truly the perfect size for traveling(26 of28)
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It also comes with a heat-resistant pouch for easy carrying!

Promising review: "This fits perfectly in my toiletries travel bag that I take with me as a flight attendant. Anything that comes in small size and still works well is perfect for me." —Kathy S
A retractable lint roller(27 of28)
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Promising review: "I love that this lint roller has a close option to prevent it from picking up everything in my bag and wasting papers. It's such a nice size that I keep one in my work bag and one in my travel bag and it doesn't take up any space!" —Kehad
A fold-up duffel(28 of28)
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It folds into a tiny pouch when not in use, is tear and water resistant, and even has a separate side pocket for shoes. There's also a side strap that slides easily over your roller luggage handle.

Promising review: "We bought this to take with us when we visited our daughter who is studying abroad for four months. We figured she would not have enough room in her luggage when it was time to come home. Folded up, this bag was so compact and lightweight it took up almost no room in our own luggage for the trip over. Then, sure enough, she had a ton of clothes and shoes to send home with us and packed this bag full. We checked the bag and it made it through two international flights without a scratch. The BEST feature is the side strap that allows you to slide it over the handle of a rolling suitcase so you don't have to carry it. This is probably the most practical and the best-value item I have purchased in years." —Tosa Mom

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