Dun dun, dun dun, dun dun… please imagine the Jaws theme song as we circle… closer… to… unpacking some travel bags that have sat, virtually untouched, for TWO YEARS.
Yes, in this episode of Out Travel the System, we are literally taking you inside host Nisreene Atassi‘s baggage. Learn what this incredibly seasoned traveler makes sure to pack every time, and why ‘Inception pouch’ may be your new mantra as you get ready to think about traveling again. It may just be the prompt you need to refresh the items on your packing list.
We’ll also engage in a flight of fancy to envision what it would be like to prep for a trip – something that may be the right choice for you this year.
Here are some items for your travel bag that you may not have thought of before:
- two in one hand lotion and hand sanitizer (yes, both in one product)
- a spray and cloth to clean off your cell phone
- two sets of headphones, one compatible with airplanes, and one for regular use
Unpacking Nisreene’s Baggage
Nisreene Atassi: Like many people during this time, I’ve been reliving old travel memories instead of making lots of new ones. Re-watching old movies and making meals from places I’ve visited before, have helped ease some of the vacation cravings that I’ve been having. The really tough part though, is how I took travel for granted. Instead of waiting by the door, ready to go on an adventure with a moment’s notice, my trusty travel bag has actually been sitting in my garage gathering dust. So today, I’m going to literally shake off the dust, because I’m optimistic that the right opportunity for travel will be here before we know it. So come along with me as we get back into a travel mindset.
Nisreene Atassi: Here with me today is Executive Producer, Claudia Kwan. Claudia is going to come with us on this journey, and really helped me unpack literally my bags. All right, Claudia, here we go.
Claudia Kwan: Would it be okay to take people inside your home first, just briefly?
Nisreene Atassi: Yeah. Yeah, please do.
Claudia Kwan: You’ve got some beautiful orchids behind you, and a lovely big piece of art, and it’s very light- filled and airy, so I feel like it’s a happy place when you’re doing the podcast.
Nisreene Atassi: It is, it is. I’m very, very big on natural light, so I like to have a lot of windows. We’ve got a skylight situation happening very closely by, so definitely lots of positive energy, positive travel vibes if you will.
Claudia Kwan: I’m enjoying it! So the bag itself, the unzipping is coming.
Nisreene Atassi: I think I’ve talked about this sort of on previous episodes, but I’m very much a pouch system person. Meaning when I travel, I like to keep everything in individual pouches or compartments, so that it’s really easy for me to grab it.
So I know exactly what’s coming with me on my carry on, and even when I have my carry on, if I’m going to put my bag in the overhead compartment or underneath my seat, I pull out the pouches that I know I need to use.
Claudia Kwan: I am also a card carrying member of the pouch and packing cube club. Sometimes I even pack them for each day of a trip to keep myself super organized. Okay, so what is the backstory here?
Nisreene Atassi: I actually think the last time I used these pouches was probably before I had my baby, because it was on my international trip. So just so you guys know, my baby is about a year and a half old now, and I was probably just coming back from maternity leave when the pandemic hit. The last time the pouch system was in full effect, I was on a work trip to London, I was about maybe six months pregnant.
Claudia Kwan: So like two years ago? Anything could be living in these pouches by now.
Nisreene Atassi: Exactly. Okay, so first pouch, this is actually a very lovely Herschel pouch, and I got this because I got upgraded to business class on Virgin Atlantic. And so when you’re on business class, they give you a Herschel pouch, and it has all of these lovely little fun amenities in it. And it was such a great pouch to be honest, and I use it now all the time. I’ve got a couple of pens here. Fun fact, one of the pens that’s in here is one that I got from a hotel, and I absolutely loved it. I was at a work conference in London, and the M by Montcalm in Shoreditch had the best pens. So I actually have like four of them in here, because I clearly grabbed a bunch and stuffed them in my travel bag. They’re so great. Okay. First things first, I obviously have some hair ties, because you never know what’s going to happen, I’ve got long hair, it’s also very thick. So I need to make sure that I can throw it up and do whatever I need to do.
Claudia Kwan: Okay. Can I reveal some more podcast insider information here?
Nisreene Atassi: Yes.
Claudia Kwan: So when this thing is recording these episodes, I will often see the hair flip happening, and she has such long thick hair, the actual fall part can take a long time. It’s like fliiiiip! and then the hair is finally over there.
Nisreene Atassi: I do play with my hair way too much, it’s a real habit of mine. So in addition to the hair tie, I have, I’m trying to jangle them, but they don’t jangle because they’re not moving. But in a lovely little clear case, I have earplugs. Because you never know what type of person you’re going to be sitting next to. And worst case scenario, you’re sitting next to an aggressive snorer, or a baby who’s upset. I always have respect for their mothers, especially now that I am one. So notorious for airplanes is the air is incredibly dry, so I have so many things of like Chapstick, a really nice Burt’s Beeswax one. It actually looks pretty gross to be fair, so I think I’m actually going to throw this one away. A little mini thing of hand lotion. The hand lotion that I have by the way is also a hand sanitizer.
Claudia Kwan: What? Where do I get my hands on this magic?
Nisreene Atassi: Really fantastic and I’ll highly encourage you go and you look for those, they’re all over the place now. I also have breath mints actually, because you’re in close proximity to people, and especially in the non- COVID world, no one was wearing masks, so you want to be respectful, have good breath.
I bring throat lozenges with me. So I have here individually wrapped Ricola, just because again, the air gets so dry, and I feel like sometimes I need to something just to soothe my throat a little bit. Especially when I get off the plane, because so many times if I’m traveling for work, I’m landing and going straight to a meeting, or something like that. So I like having a Ricola or some sort of a cough drop or something just to help my voice a little bit.
Oh, and of course I have a charger, because the last thing you want is to not have a charged electronic device. I do have a sort of like a four pronged charger that plugs into a USB, but it has like five different types of outputs. So I can use it for an iPad, I can use it for an iPhone or I can use it to charge another device, like a camera or something along those lines.
So also pretty old, and it looks like it’s tearing a little bit, I’ll probably toss this one out, and just replace it with a new one.
Claudia Kwan: Yeah, it’s at least a two old cable, you really don’t want to take a chance on that.
Nisreene Atassi: Exactly. The other thing I have in here is actually an extra battery pack. And then of course I actually usually have two sets of headphones with me. You want a set of headphones that can plug into your seat, so while you’re on the airplane, and then I have my headphones that I use with my normal phone.
Claudia Kwan: For anyone wondering, this is not like the magic bag Hermione Granger has in Harry Potter, it’s really only about the size of a good size novel. You must just be super good at packing all of those bits in.
Nisreene Atassi: That’s pouch number one.
Claudia Kwan: Okay, let’s keep going.
Nisreene Atassi: When I am traveling, especially if it’s a long journey, I will wear a fanny pack or a bum bag depending on what country you’re in. Meaning it’s something that I strap around my waist. Now, this one is designer, so it’s lovely, so it’s a little bit more fashionable, so it’s not your standard 80s Hyper Color bum bag. This one has in it some of the more important items that are what I would call very high value. It’s got like a buckle that clips around my waist.
Claudia Kwan: Oh my goodness, it is almost like the buckle on the airplane.
Nisreene Atassi: Exactly. So let’s just all be quiet and listen to that sound and imagine ourselves buckling a seatbelt on an airplane. So nice, so nice. Okay. I don’t know why, but there’s a little mini thing of toothpaste in here. I have no idea why it’s in the fanny pack, it should not normally be in the fanny pack. Although I have taken my travel toothbrush with me on long haul flights. If I’m on a flight, that’s more than eight hours I like to go and brush my teeth in the bathroom.
Claudia Kwan: I thought it was going to be like a handful of goldfish crackers, or something really gross when you opened it up.
Nisreene Atassi: Listen, we’re only one pocket in, so you never know what we’re going to find. Okay. I do have hand sanitizer, so this is just like straight up, this is the hard stuff right here. So this one we all know. Pocket number two on the fanny bag, what’s in here? Oh, this is good stuff. This is actually designed to clean your electronics. So it is a part spray, part like terrycloth sort of wipe piece on the back. You spray your phone with it and then you flip it over and you sort of wipe it down. This is one of those things that people probably don’t think that they need, but is actually really valuable. You most likely will find this in the travel section at your local drug store, or it’s probably one of those tchochtke things that is at the upfront right before you cash out. Also, these are all over the place at the airport as well. So if you go to a Hudson News or something like that, you can usually find them.
Claudia Kwan: I literally didn’t know that existed, but I’m going to put it on my acquisition list for travel.
Nisreene Atassi: Yeah, you really should. And then Clear Eyes, so eye drops. Again, the air on the plane is so, so dry, from getting off a flight and having to go straight to a meeting or something like that, it helps me to not sort of look tired, I guess. So that’s what this is. The fanny bag actually has like a hidden back zipper. In there I have my TSA pre-check card, or my global entry card. So I sort of keep that in case I forget to put in my TSA pre- check number when I’m booking my flight. And then I usually have some cash in this back pocket, nothing major, but maybe just like 20 bucks or something like that.
Nisreene Atassi: And now we’re going into the sort of big purse bag, which is in terms of size, I would say it’s a shoulder bag, so it can fit a decent amount of things in it. It could fit in the overhead, or it can actually fit underneath the seat in front of me. All right, what’s in here? Oh, of course. First and foremost, neck pillow. The neck pillow I keep in my purse, but it’s in a pouch in my purse. And the reason for that is because I once was carrying my neck pillow, and I had a drink that spilled in my purse, and it was like a Diet Coke, and so it got on my neck pillow, and it rendered my neck pillow just completely useless.
Claudia Kwan: Pouch in pouch, Inception pouches! You have Inception pouches.
Nisreene Atassi: And yeah. So this is a pouch inside of a pouch. Also it keeps the neck pillow sort of tight and compressed. Key thing with these, when you buy yourself a neck pillow, buy one that has a removable slip cover. Because if you spill Diet Coke on it, you’re going to need to wash it when you get home. If you can’t wash it, then this is gross, it gets sticky, it’s smelly or whatever. And then the other thing I have in the purse is a magazine. So I like to do double duty on the magazines. I like to find ones that have magazine content. And in the back, they usually have like a crossword puzzle, a Sudoku thing, or something along those lines, so I like to do those. So that is the other sort of key item. So here I’ve got an old one actually that I filled out when I was traveling to Florida. So I actually did pretty well on this crossword puzzle, but that’s probably because it was like a celebrity entertainment magazine, and I know celebrity pop culture really, really well. Any other crossword puzzle, I’m terrible at, and I cannot complete them.
Claudia Kwan: I thought you were going to say it was from a children’s book or something ( laughs).
Nisreene Atassi: Honestly, not far. I have another actual purse.
Claudia Kwan: Of course you do.
Nisreene Atassi: But this purse is a small little handbag, and this is usually the purse that I’m going to use with me for the majority of my trip. So it’s a purse within a purse. I don’t like to have a lot of things sort of jangling around in my bag, especially in the bigger bag, because it’s so hard to find things when you carry a big bag. So it’s almost like a vessel for all of the pouches. So when I roll up to the airport, all you’re going to see is my one sort of shoulder bag, and then I’m wearing my fanny bag. Once I get on the plane, I take out the pouch that I need, and usually the neck pillow, and then I will zip the shoulder bag up. And I’ll either put it in the overhead above me if I don’t have a carry on as well. If I do have a carry on that goes in the overhead, and then I take the shoulder bag and I slide it underneath the seat in front of me. Okay, so we are officially done with the unpacking. We’re going to get to the good part right after this.
Nisreene Atassi: You’re listening to Out Travel the System, and I’m your host Nisreene Atassi. Join us this season as we deep dive into destinations like France and Spain, and take you inside what makes a lake vacation so special. As always we’ll share tips and tricks to make sure you’re getting the most out of your trip. Don’t forget to share your travel hopes and dreams with us anytime on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, we’re @ Expedia.
Nisreene Atassi: All right, and we are back, and it looks like we are going to be repacking my bags.
Claudia Kwan: Yes, that’s right, because I would like to take you on a flight of fancy, Nissy. If you were hypothetically traveling somewhere in Hypothetical Land, where would you be hypothetically going, and what would you be packing?
Nisreene Atassi: For some reason, I have been dreaming of going back to New York City this entire pandemic, so my first flight out, we are going to New York City. When I pack my actual bags, I use packing cubes. First things first is I’m going to make a list. Let’s just say I’m going for a long weekend, so I need at least two outfits a day, and then two travel outfits.
Then I like to actually pack from, what I’m going to use first, and that gets packed last, because I want it to be at the top of the suitcase. So if I’m flying out on Thursday, that means I’m going to get there Thursday evening, the thing that I pack last into my suitcase so it’s right on top, my pajamas. I also like to pack the nicest things at the bottom, because in case it’s raining outside, or something along those lines, if my luggage gets wet, and they’ll hopefully be protected by some of the other things on top. I’ll also be sure to pack my toiletry bag. So depending on whether that luggage is going to be checked, or carry on with me, my toiletry bag changes depending on where it’s going to go. So let’s just say I’m going to pack it in my luggage, I’ll go and I get one of those really nice sort of Ditty Bags, you can get them at basically anywhere. I get a really nice one that zips up and also has multiple compartments. So I’ll put my makeup in there, hairbrush and face creams and those types of things, those all go in the Ditty Bag. Even though I am checking my luggage, I still keep everything to sort of under three ounces, because at the end of the day, yes, I’m checking it so I can have however much in there as I want, but I really don’t need to take more than three ounces of a liquid with me anywhere I go, even if I’m going somewhere for a week. So I keep everything in travel size as well, because I obviously want to conserve space.
Nisreene Atassi: So that’s my big tip. Just because you’re checking luggage, doesn’t mean you need to bring your full bottle of shampoo, or anything along those sides. Still empty it out into a smaller container, only take exactly what you need. In some instances, I literally try and measure out what I’m going to need so that at the end of the trip, it means that I’m coming home with less stuff.
Claudia Kwan: Good tip. I’m going to write that one down for myself, and for the show notes.
Nisreene Atassi: The last thing that I pack is going to be my shoes, and I usually try and pack those either in a cube on their own, so that they don’t get everything dirty, or I’ll wrap them in plastic bags, or I’ll put them in the sort of zipper pocket that’s usually at the top of a suitcase. When you get to your destination, the last thing you want to do, is have to spend time worrying about what to wear, or finding that one thing that you brought.
Spend the time before you take your trip to plan out your outfits, and to plan out what you’re going to wear, so that you don’t have to waste your time worrying about that stuff when you’re actually in the destination. You want to maximize your trip, you want to maximize your experience when you’re there, and that means being able to focus on actually enjoying the destination, versus sitting in your hotel room or your vacation rental, trying to worry about, ” Oh, I can’t find those shoes or I can’t find that top, because I’ve packed too much stuff or trying to figure out what to wear.”
Claudia Kwan: I totally get it. Thanks for letting me take you to Hypothetical Land.
Nisreene Atassi: Yeah, no problem, that was actually really nice. I feel like I can actually visualize the outfits that I’d want to pack.
Nisreene Atassi: Okay, thanks for letting me share my prep process with you. In our next episode, we’re going to talk with an extremely special guest.
Rashida Jones: I’m Rashida Jones, and be sure to check out the next episode of Out Travel the System. I’m on it, so…
Nisreene Atassi: So come on back as we have a great conversation about travel companionship. Until then, happy travels.
Nisreene Atassi: Out Travel the System is brought to you by Expedia. Our showrunner and executive producer is Claudia Kwan, our associate producer is Katie Doten, with sound engineering from Jill Constantine. Additional production support is provided by JAR Audio.