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If you’re planning a long trip and wear glasses or contacts, you’ve got a bit more to consider than the lucky ducks with good vision. Packing glasses seems pretty simple, you just get on the plane with them on your face, right? It might be that simple, but I’ve thought about this at length for myself and have some ideas to share about packing glasses. 

Which Pair?

I’ll take you through my thought process on vision care on the road. If you have several pairs, you should lay them out and take a look at them all. I suggest taking your most rugged pair, I like plastic or titanium frames that are not too delicate. I bought a lovely, frameless, ultralight pair last year and on the first day in Italy, promptly sat on them after a shower, turning my $500 beauties into a twisted, origami-like, wonky mess. One thing I hate about rimless glasses, if you take them off you often need glasses to find them again!

Check your glasses carefully before departure, look for scratches or loose screws (I’ve got a few, but they aren’t on my glasses…). I’ll often take my glasses up to the optometrist before I leave for a little tune-up and make sure they are in good condition. It’s amazing what a good optometrist can do in a few seconds. If you’re in my neck of the woods, I can’t recommend Seattle Optical more, they do great work and fixed even my bent up glasses.

Buy a little glasses repair kit for your emergency kit, and bring a wiping cloth. You’ll probably use it more than you expect. My Box of Awesome contains a small tube of crazy glue which has saved multiple pairs of broken tour member glasses. Might be a good addition if you’re accident prone. Bringing a backup pair is a good idea, it’s a tiny bit of weight for a big chunk of peace of mind. Skip the soft-sided glasses cases, you’ll need a tough, hard sided case on the road. And last but not least, get a copy of your prescription from your optometrist ahead of time. You can put it in your glasses case, or even just take a picture of it with your camera.

Contact Lenses

I’ve fought with contact lenses over the years. I don’t like touching my eyeballs. I don’t like things in my eyeballs. I am terrible at cleaning anything, I can’t be trusted to clean a floor, much less something that goes in my eye. However, the allure of contacts is still there. They are so easy and comfortable when it’s going well. I decided to give them another try a couple of years ago. My optometrist thought that daily use contacts would be best for my lifestyle, no cleaning necessary. They are great. So much thinner and lighter than normal ones that I can hardly feel them in my eye. I’m not supposed to sleep with them in, but I do. They really are perfect for travel, I just toss them at the end of the day and use a fresh pair in the morning. I’d wear them every day, but some days I just don’t have that spare 5 minutes to put them in. For that reason I usually bring glasses too.


Bringing sunglasses is a good idea for everyone, whether you’re going to sunny Italy or the cold, dark north. Cloudy days can be even tougher on your eyes without you realizing it. We tend to be outdoors much more in travel, so every traveler should have sunglasses.

I’ve tried a variety of tactics in this department. I tend to wear contacts and a cheap pair of regular sunglasses. I’m terrible about losing or breaking sunglasses so I rarely spend much more that $30. I’ve tried glasses with clip-on sunglasses. They are pretty nice, although the choices are limited. After two pairs of those, my feeling is that they are great… for careful people. If the sunglasses get bent in any way, they don’t clip on very well.  

My next experiment was with the Transitions lenses, the kind that turn to sunglasses when they are hit with UV light. I’ve had them about a year and I do like them. They are not perfect. The darkening is pretty fast but it takes a bit of time for them to clear when you go indoors. The tinting is not as dark as a regular pair of sunglasses. They also don’t tend to darken in the car, as most windshields block the type of rays that change the color of the lenses. Overall, they are a good compromise but not a cure-all.

I’ve recently bought prescription sunglasses. I’ve never wanted to spend the money one them, they can be quite expensive and I am too careless with sunglasses. I bought a pair from Coastal Contacts that cost me a total of $90, a very low price for prescription sunglasses. I have about 4 pairs from Coastal and I really like them all, even if it is a bit of a gamble to buy them without seeing them. I went with something a bit artsy looking, but with huge lenses that can seal out the sun and protect my eyes. They may be too much, but I’m trying to channel my inner Peggy Guggenheim in Venice anyway. I’m looking forward to giving them a field test in a couple of weeks.  

One more note about sunglasses- I don’t need reading glasses, not yet at least. But my friend Jennifer, the one who went to Africa recently, does. One of her more intriguing items were her sunglasses, which were also reading glasses! I’d never seen anything like that, but it seems like a great idea for any sunny vacation. I can imagine her right now wearing them, sitting on a beach and reading a book. 

My solution for packing glasses on this upcoming trip will be a combination of things. I’ll be gone 4 weeks. I’ll bring contacts for about half of the days, so 14 pairs. I will bring a regular pair of glasses, one that is comfortable and sturdy enough to sit on, and I’ll bring my funky new sunglasses. It will be March, so I don’t think I’ll need regular sunglasses, but we will see. We will see! Ha! After all this thought, it had better be true!

AWS Staff

This post was published by the Adventures with Sarah team. Click here to find out more about the people that make everything at AWS happen.


  • Pam Brown says:

    I love my Fitovers – sunglasses that go on over regular glasses. Because they go on over my regular glasses so I don’t need prescription sunglasses. They cover the top of the glasses and sides, so more sunlight is blocked than my transition lenses. They are polarized and the lenses are amazing – you have your choice of lense colors/types. You can see out the side so peripheral vision is good. The best part is that they don’t look like old folks eyeglasses. Jonathan Paul Fitovers cost $70 so they are a lot cheaper than prescription sunglasses. And if your regular prescription changes, these still work.

  • lowwastetraveller says:

    They’re quite expensive but ROAV eyewear are folding sunnies or Iolla have prescription glasses with folding clip on sunnies but they’re based in the UK and they have free shipping to the USA

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