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Aly Smalls’ Travel Resources & Toolkit

Aly Smalls’ Travel Resources & Toolkit

Welcome to my go-to travel collection, featuring everything I use for travel.

Here you’ll find all my favorite travel products that I use and feature on my blog posts and YouTube videos!

This page includes everything I use for travel: 

  • My complete list of travel essentials, like bags, luggage, and accessories 
  • How I book hotels
  • How I book tours and excursions
  • Flight deals
  • Top travel credit cards to start earning points and miles
  • All my best travel tips

This post contains affiliate links, meaning if you click through and make a purchase I may make a small commission. I only share information about things I know, love and trust! Please note: there is no extra charge to if you if you decide to purchase a product that I have an affiliate relationship with. In fact, most items and services already have a built in commission in the price, no matter where you purchase from. I appreciate your support!

Luggage & Bags

Roller Bags

Mixi 20″ carry-on in avocado green:

  • this is a flexible hard shell case, and since it’s not a clamshell design, it fits perfect in small hotel rooms or when you don’t have a luggage rack.
  • It also has a built in cupholder and phone holder!

Road Runner Carry-on 20” (from Level8 website)

Road Runner Carry-on 20” (buy from Amazon)

  • This is my go-to spinner wheel carry on bag when I need the laptop compartment at the front. 
  • As you can see on the left, it fits perfectly in the overhead bin on a 737 aircraft.

Gibraltar Aluminum Carry-On 20” (from Level8 website)

Gibraltar Aluminum Carry-On 20” (from Amazon)

My Gibraltar carry-on fits perfectly in the airport security bins
  • This bag is a little smaller than the Road Runner, and perfect if you’re looking to invest in an everlasting carry-on bag that’s sleek and elegant. 
  • It’s zipperless – meaning it’s much harder to break into (so I love the added safety) and the fact that it’s aluminum with sealed gaskets protect against unwanted bedbugs.  

If you need lightweight luggage, I compiled a list of the best lightweight carry-on bags available on Amazon that weigh under 6 lbs (3kgs).

Personal Item/Under the Seat Bags

Weekender Duffel Bag – this is my tried and true personal item bag, I’ve used it on so many flights! 

30L Backpack (fits 15.6” laptop) – this is the bag I featured in my video about how to pack for 2 weeks in a personal item bag that fits under the seat!

25L Bag Designed for Spirit Airlines – this bag has been designed to fit the restrictive sizing requirements for Spirit Airlines to fit under the seat! 

Everyday Carry bags

Belt bag

You’ll see me wearing this in almost every video when we travel! (comes in over 40 colors now!)

Soft Faux Leather Tote Shoulder Bag – I bring this bag when I need it to do double (or triple) duty. It works as a personal item under the seat and then either a beach bag or tote bag when I’m planning to do some city shopping. 

Small Crossbody Bag – like the perfect little black dress, but in bag form! Simple, but elegant, can be dressed up or dressed down (and comes in many colors). 

Toiletry Bags & Accessories

BAGSMART Toiletry Travel Bag

This is the viral hanging toiletry bag, and yes, it lives up to the hype!

It’s got 4 separate compartments to help you keep everything organized. 

Low profile Toiletry Bag

This bag is a very similar concept to the one above, but it’s more compact and slim. So if you need to save space, this one’s for you.

I love that you can hang it 2 different ways, and the detachable dopp kits are leakproof (and handy if you’re only headed somewhere for a night or two and don’t need the entire bag. 

Toiletry Skins – these slide over your liquids bottles to make them leakproof.

Flat-pack toiletry bottles – these are my refillable pouches that only take up as much space as you fill them (instead of those silicone squeeze bottles). This is the key to saving space when it comes to packing liquids.

Packing/Luggage & Airport Accessories 

Luggage cup holder – slides over your luggage handle so you can walk through the airport hands free even if you have coffee, water bottle, etc. 

Airplane foot hammock – my #1 accessory to stay comfortable when flying in economy. It helps take pressure off your back to be able to elevate your feet. Note – this likely won’t work if you’re on the taller side. 

Stuffable neck pillow – the ultimate lightweight packing hack! You can stuff this full of clothes (or a blanket, scarf, puffer jacket, etc.) and bring it on the plane and it doesn’t count toward your bag limit. 

Packing Cubes

8-piece Compression Packing Cubes

Compression packing cubes are the only way to go. I love this set because it comes with different sizes so I can pick and choose based on the type of clothing I’m bringing. 

Baggallini Slim Packing Cube – this size fits in between the trolley spine of your roller suitcase to maximize space!

Hotel Room Must Haves 

Collapsible Kettle – if you NEED to have a cup of coffee before you even leave your room. I pack this and some instant coffee packs – they’re a lifesaver when there’s no coffee machine (although…those things are never clean, so I try to avoid them). 

USB-C Portable Power Strip – Why is it that there’s never an outlet on my side of the bed!? Hotel rooms, cruise cabins, Airbnbs…never have enough outlets, or they’re always in the wrong spot! This little gadget has a flat head, a 3-foot cord and several different kinds of ways to plug-in. 

Contoured eye mask – ultra soft and lets you sleep in pure blackout, because you never know how many annoying blinking lights will be on in your hotel room!

Airport Lounges

If you don’t have a credit card that grants you access to airport lounges, a Priority Pass membership is the next best thing!

There are over 1500 lounges worldwide, where you can enjoy a more comfortable atmosphere, free food and alcoholic drinks.

Some even have showers and nap rooms!

Get up to 30% off your Priority Pass membership here

How I Book Hotels & Places to Stay 

This may or may not be an unpopular opinion, but I always use third party hotel booking websites! 

The key is to read the fine print and terms of booking. I only ever book something with free cancellation (unless I’m doing something last minute or I absolutely know I will not be changing my plans) and I’ve never had an issue. 

Booking.com 

Booking.com is my go-to website. They often run sales and if you book early enough, prices are heavily discounted. 

Go to Booking.com now

Expedia

Expedia is another go-to. If I find something I like on Booking, I’ll always check Expedia to see if the rates are the same or different. 

Or sometimes Expedia will have different hotels than Booking or vice versa. 

And sometimes the photos will be different for the same hotel, so I like to look at both to compare. 

Go to Expedia now

Plannin

Plannin is a brand new hotel booking platform that works the same as Booking or Expedia, with one major upside – the reviews!

Instead of sifting through all kinds of anonymous and impersonal reviews, Plannin is backed by creators who have stayed at these hotels and have included their personal photos, videos, stories and insights – helping you make a decision built on trust. 

You can see all my hotels that I’ve stayed at and recommend in one place, as well as other creators you follow.

And don’t worry – I only add the hotels I would actually recommend others to stay in (hint – there’s a lot that don’t make the list). 

But the best feature is that many of the 2 million + hotels worldwide are up to 40% less than the exact same hotels you’ll find on sites like Expedia or Booking. 

All you have to do is create a free account (like you have to for Booking or Expedia) and you’re all set to find deep discounts. 

Check out Plannin now

How I Book Tours 

Viator

Checking out natural hot springs near Puerto Vallarta on a tour we booked through Viator

One of the first things I do after booking a trip (after I’ve booked flights) is check Viator for a listing of all the best tours and excursions. 

This is the largest site for booking sightseeing tours, day trips, excursions & activities and even multi-day trips. 

I love it because of the flexibility – free cancellation and the ‘reserve now, pay later’ feature. So you can book a tour but you won’t pay until 24 hours before. 

I also just love browsing through the listed tours for my upcoming trip, because sometimes you find some real hidden gems, like this natural hot springs excursion in Puerto Vallarta! 

Viator tip: make sure to sort by ‘traveler rating’ instead of ‘featured.’

This will give you the highest rated tours first.

I also use the ‘unique experiences’ search to help me find some really interesting things to do! 

Get Your Guide

I also use Get Your Guide, it’s very similar to Viator.

Generally, I’ll do a scan of GetYourGuide for more tours that may not be listed on Viator. 

Airbnb Experiences

Airbnb Experiences is another great way to find more unique and intimate tours.

Lots of hidden gems on here. This is how I booked our sandboarding experience in Cabo San Lucas!

GuideAlong (for road trips)

If you’re headed on a road trip somewhere scenic (think national parks), GuideAlong is an amazing app that’s like your own personal tour guide. 

It’s just like having a tour guide along for the ride.  You’ll hear stories, local tips, points of interest & navigation play automatically, all based on your location.  Best of all they don’t need cell signal, they work offline with GPS.

Check out the big list of road trip routes here!

How I Get Flight Deals

I usually start with Google Flights – this is the easiest way to find cost comparisons among different airlines and routes – though not every airline is listed, such as Southwest.

It’s a good starting point though, and you can watch prices for deals…though I haven’t seen many deals from this function come through since the pandemic. 

That’s where FareDrop comes into play. 

You can save hundreds of dollars on flights just by setting cheap flight alerts with Faredrop. It sends me notifications when flights drop in price from my home airport so it creates a lot more opportunity for budget travel! 

Instead of scouring and searching the internet for flight deals, it’s like having a personal assistant to find flight deals for you.

My favorite part is the flight deals on business class flights, like this recent deal for lie-flat business class fares from Calgary to Hawaii for $618, which is $1200 lower than the average price of $1900.

Travel Credit Cards

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Daily Drop

Earning miles and points through travel credit cards can significantly cut down on your travel costs, allowing you to indulge in high-end experiences that might otherwise be out of reach.

For savvy travelers who manage their finances well, having one or more travel credit cards is essential. 

But, choosing the right travel credit card can be tricky.

To make things easier for you, check out Daily Drop

Each month, Daily Drop updates the best choices for the most attractive credit card offers currently available

You can even shop and search for specific credit cards based on the types of perks you’re looking for, such as: 

If you’re new to the travel credit card points game, the Miles & Points 101 course (totally free) provides a great overview, makes it really easy to understand, and will help you choose your first card to start earning points and miles (that you could be missing out on)!

Travel Planning Tips & Websites

Check out my massive list of all my best travel tips & hacks here!

Things I Do a Few Days Before My Trip

Buy travel insurance – I like SafetyWing because it’s available for longer term trips if you need it and you can add electronic theft coverage. 

Download Google Maps for the city, road trip route or region that you need so that you can access it offline, as you may not have WIFI right away.