Packing for any trip can be a daunting task. From deciding what to wear, how much to bring, whether you’ll use a backpack or a suitcase, and worrying if you’ll meet the airline’s weight restrictions. It’s enough to give anyone a headache! While outfits may change from trip to trip, I’ve found that over the course of my travels there are a number of essential items I must have no matter what destination I’m traveling to. They are the first items that go in my luggage and then I’ll grab a glass of wine and figure out the rest.
So what are my must-have travel essentials? I break them down below:
I’m a bit of a worrywart when it comes to keeping my valuables safe. And since I travel with quite a bit of gear, I want peace of mind when I’m out exploring for the day or enjoying a destination at night. In 2008, I bought a Pacsafe and it’s been my number one travel essential for keeping my valuables secure ever since. It’s essentially a wire mesh that goes over your backpack or suitcase. You can even attach it to something secure in the room so you luggage doesn’t grow feet and walk away. Check out my video below to see it in action.
I’ve used this single piece of fabric for so many purposes; keeping warm on an airplane, an impromptu towel on the beach, a coverup at a religious site, an eye mask when I want to grab some sleep, a pillow cover for a questionable looking pillow, a divider in a hostel bunk for some privacy, and a glamourizing add-on for an otherwise basic travel uniform. It takes up minimal space in my luggage and I often buy one in destination and bring it home as a souvenier.
With all the electronic gear we tend to travel with these days, an outlet adaptor is essential if you’re traveling to another continent. Unless you’re traveling with a hairdryer (for which you’ll need a current adaptor), a simple outlet adaptor will do the trick. Find one that is compact and houses all the different outlet styles in one casing. This way you’re not loosing adaptors and you’ll minimize the space it takes up in your luggage.
Another multipurpose item I never travel without, moist towelettes are where it’s at. A little grossed out about the germs around your seat on a plane? Moist towelette! Covered in bug spray from a jungle trek and still have an hour bus ride back to your accommodation? Moist towelette! Wanting to eat like the locals with your hands but nowhere to wash them? Moist towelette! You get the picture. There are many varieties to choose from (scented, anti-bacterial, aloe enhanced, etc) and I prefer to pick up and travel pack or two to save space.
Earplugs and an Eye Mask
I’m a light sleeper, so earplugs are my saviour if I want a good night’s sleep in a new space. An eye mask is equally important if the place I’m staying in has sub par blinds too. Both are particularly useful to get some shuteye on a plane and make sleeping in a dorm room with a dreaded snorer or a trigger-happy light-switch user possible.
Vitamin C Tablets
Jetlag hits each one of us differently but spending hours in a pressurized plane and jumping time zones will take their toll on everyone. There are many tips out there on how to combat jetlag, but over the years I’ve found a boost in vitamins and drinking lots of water on the plane does the trick. I like to pack a tube of dissolvable Vitamin C tablets in my carry-on luggage to take while I’m in the air and when I land in destination.
Ziploc Bags? Yes, ziploc bags. I always travel with them. If you’re backpacking they make packing easier. Separate your clothes and place them into categorized ziploc bags (shirts, pants, undergarments, socks, etc). Not only will the bags keep your clothes dry if your backpack gets wet, but you don’t have to pull out all your clothes to find that one item. Ziploc bags come in a variety of sizes, including large ‘Big Bag’ sizes perfect for your pants or larger clothing items. They’re easily replaceable, cheaper than those packing cubes, and see-through so you can quickly see what’s inside them.
This may raise a few questionable eyebrows like the ziploc bags might have, but when it comes to travel first aid, don’t underestimate the power of the balm. Its main purpose is to relieve muscle pain, but I’ve found it’s come in very handy for other reasons while traveling. Got a few pesky mosquito bites? Tiger Balm will take care of that. Feeling a little stuffed up? Rub a bit of it onto the end of your nose to help clear your nasal passages. Travelling by boat and feeling a bit nauseous (or worse, having those around you tossing their cookies?!) open the little pot and breath deeply through your nose. Tiger balm is made in Thailand but you can find it in most drug stores around the world. Stock up so if you’re traveling through Thailand or Southeast Asia as the prices are much cheaper there.
iPod with Music
Have a long layover? Taking a long bus or train to your next destination? It’s amazing what some music will do to make the experience more enjoyable. Before a trip, I always load up my iPod Touch with music I’m currently listening to. I like a mixture of musical styles so when I’m in destination, I have a variety of tunes to choose from. It’s also a great way to have a little piece of home with you if you’re ever feeling homesick. I’ve often found that when I return home and a certain track or album is played, it instantly transports me back to a particular trip. Foster the People anyone??
I don’t want to get into my essential travel gear here (that’s a whole post in itself!) but my number one travel electronic has to be my Canon camera. It’s multipurpose, used to capture images and shoot video, and comes with me on every single trip. I’ve been using the Canon T2i for a few years now, with upgraded lenses over the years, but I’m definitely in the market for an upgrade. For now, this little powerhouse has been doing the trick shooting everything from jungle scenes to winter adventures. It’s also my go-to item to capture my travel memories.