Just as important as having my passport, phone and wallet when I travel are several other items, which I consider to be my “Top Travel Essentials”. These travel essentials are my must-haves and my absolute necessities. They are things that are going to be used constantly throughout my trip and often times, they are items that you don’t even think about when you start packing your bag for your next adventure. Below are all the necessities that I can’t travel without and that I think you should consider investing in for all of your future trips.
- A Good Backpack: Do not overlook the dire importance of a stellar backpacking backpack for all of your travels. I will always choose a carry-on sized backpack over using an actual rolling carry-on suitcase and urge you to do so also. Why? Because with a backpack, you don’t have to worry about rolling it through airports, on busses, in subways, through foreign streets, etc. If you couldn’t find a place to put your bags before going out exploring somewhere, due to something like late check-in times or early check-out times and the hostel couldn’t hold your luggage, would you enjoy wheeling around a carry-on suitcase through the streets of a foreign food market or would you much rather just carry around a backpack that holds all your luggage? Your backpack should ultimately be comfortable, be big enough to fit all that you need, but not big enough for you over-pack unnecessary things. It should be durable and able to withstand all the wear and tear that comes with hopping on one airplane to the next. Keep in mind, this is often your biggest investment but if you choose the right one, you’ll be able to use it for years and years and years on end. I personally use the Osprey Farpoint 40 and recommend it 110%. I’ve used this for a weekend trip to Boston, but I’ve also used this for my 10-day trip around Asia. What I love most about this bag, besides it being the perfect size to use as a carry on and therefore, not have to spend money on checking it, is that it opens like a suitcase. Instead of being an “open-top” backpack (those backpacking bags in which you just pile all of your things on top of each other), you can lay the Osprey Farpoint 40 down on its back and access it like a regular suitcase. It’s so much more organized and you can access anything you need in your bag with ease. There are compression straps, hip and chest straps, suspension straps, a laptop and tablet sleeve, and tons of other features that make this bag the absolute best in my opinion. However, if you don’t believe me, read tons more reviews of the pack here. In addition to having an awesome backpacking backpack, having an exceptional smaller day-pack that I can take with me when I’m going site-seeing or walking around a new city is a must. I very much prefer to carry around a small backpack that holds only what I need when I’m walking around and leave my big 40-liter backpack at the hostel. Because it’s such a reputable brand, I of course opted for another Osprey to function as the smaller backpack: the Osprey Daylite Daypack is the 13 liter day pack that I’ve taken with me to a beach in Hong Kong, Disneyland in Shanghai, and have used on all of my day trips here in Mexico. You can read more about it here if you’re interested. The cool thing about my day pack is that it’s small enough to actually fit inside my Osprey Farpoint 40 if I wanted to pack it, or I could use it as a “personal bag” on practically every airline while using the Osprey Farpoint 40 as my carry-on.
- Packing Cubes: Packing cubes are God’s saving grace. The other day my friend was telling me about her graduation trip coming up– 2 weeks around Europe! What a dream. We were talking about backpacks (and she was actually already looking at the Osprey Farpoint 40 before I even had the chance to recommend it! Smart girl), and then I asked her if she’d gotten packing cubes yet. “What are packing cubes…” she replied to me. WHAT?! They’re only one of the greatest traveling inventions ever created. I had heard people talk about packing cubes and seen videos on them before but I thought to myself “Why would I need bags to hold my clothes when my actual backpack has the capability to do that? What a waste of money”! I couldn’t have been more wrong. Before my 10-day trip to Asia this past summer, I got packing cubes. I’ve used them on every single trip I’ve taken since then. It’s your next best investment following your backpack. Not only can you keep everything completely organized in your bag by using these magical cubes, but you can actually compress your clothing within the cubes and fit even more than you’d be able to fit if you didn’t use the cubes. When I first purchased packing cubes, I bought the light nylon REI brand but quickly returned them for the Eagle Creek cube set. The Eagle Creek cubes have more shape to them and just seemed more durable to me. I found that with my Osprey Farpoint 40, the medium sized cubes in the “Eagle Creek Pack it Original Full Cube Set” worked well and fit within the backpack the best. These will certainly change your packing game for the better.
- External Charger: Imagine that you’re going snorkeling on an island in the Philippines, hiking through some beautiful mountains in China or walking through the most breathtaking temples in Thailand and your camera or phone dies before you can capture the beauty of each place. Bummer, right? I can confidently say that that situation has never happened to me because I have an external charger. If my phone battery or Go-Pro battery is low, I just plug it into my charger and get on with my adventures. Additionally, I never have to worry about using “too much battery” and I never have to be concerned about whether a bus or plane is going to have a charging outlet because I have my own portable one. Often times, I’ll even use it to charge my phone overnight in my bed if the outlets in hostels are too far for the charging cord to reach my bed. The one I use now is from the Anker brand and I can easily get at least four full charges from it. You can search “external charger” or “anker portable charger” on Amazon and there will be tons and tons of options for you to read about and choose from.
- Compact Neck Pillow: You guys… I can’t express how happy I am that I splurged on the Cabeau Evolution neck pillow. When I went to Asia, I went over with an inflatable neck pillow from Amazon because I wanted to save space in my bag but still have something to sleep on during the plane ride. It sufficed. On that same trip during a layover in Seattle, I was walking to my gate when a stand full of neck pillows caught my eye. The price tag disappointed me when I saw it was $40 for a simple pillow. Still, I tried it on. Woah. Not only was it super comfy and supportive because it’s made from memory foam, but it had the capability to roll up into 1/4 of it’s original size if you stuffed it in the little bag it came with! An incredibly comfortable neck pillow that rolls up to save space for traveling? $40 didn’t seem too bad after all- especially if I was going to use it whenever I traveled. Sold. While I bought mine at the airport (and have continued to see them sold at every single airport since), I found them online too! And with more color options available. You can read more about this supportive and compact travel neck pillow here.
- Hydro Flask Water Bottle: Water bottles are an absolute essential for me whenever I’m traveling. Being thirsty is one of the worst feelings in the world and especially if you’re in a country where you can only drink bottled water, not having water always on hand is an irrational fear of mine. But better than any normal water bottle is a Hydro Flask water bottle. I’ll be honest—the cost for one of these is a kind of ridiculous, but incredibly worth it. It keeps hot liquids hot for up to 6 hours and it keeps cold liquids cold for up to 24. I found it especially useful when I was walking around the hot streets of Hong Kong in the humid summer and I was able to treat myself to some cold refreshing water from one of these water bottles. Because you can’t refill it from the tap in many countries, you can just purchase water bottles from the coolers of convenient or grocery stores to refill your Hydro Flask with. If you didn’t have the Hydro Flask, that cold bottle of water you just purchased from the convenient store cooler would become grossly warm in no time. I have a 32-ounce and 21-ounce Hydro Flask and definitely recommend the smaller 21-ounce for traveling. Both the Osprey Farpoint 40 and the Osprey Daylite Daypack have outside mesh pockets that can easily fit the 21-ounce Hydro Flask. There are several different sizes, colors, and cap choices to choose from here. If you’re an REI member, you can even get Hydro Flasks for cheaper there if you use member discounts when they come around or your annual dividends.
- Travel Microfiber Towel: Having a travel towel is so often overlooked! I used mine tons when I lived and traveled in China. I got my Raqpack Microfiber travel towel from Amazon where there are three different sizes available. The cool thing about microfiber is that it is super lightweight, absorbs a bunch of water, is fast drying, and its incredibly compact so it doesn’t take up much space in your bag. If you order the one like mine from Amazon, it even comes in a free carry pouch! Remember that most hostels don’t have towels available for you to use; therefore, having your own compact travel towel really comes in handy so you’re not drying yourself off after a shower with the dirty clothes you just took off… This may or may not have definitely happened to me before. I’ve also used this towel to take to the beach when I’m traveling, to wrap my wet swimsuits in before putting it in my bag with the rest of my things, and even use as a pillow cover/case at some hostels.
- Chacos: These shoes are the minimalist packer’s best friend. Imagine this: you’re going on a trip where you’ll be lounging on the beach, hiking through a jungle, kayaking around the ocean, and walking around the city. The best shoe option for the beach and kayaking is clearly flip-flops or sandals while the best shoe option for hiking and walking around the city is obviously tennis shoes. If you’re trying to pack as light as possible, you’re not going to want to bring two pairs of shoes—so just bring Chacos! Chacos are the ultimate adventure sandal. The soles are thick and durable enough to support your feet when you’re hiking up mountains and the straps that go across the shoe keep your feet firmly in place. Because they are sandals, they are incredibly convenient to wear if you’re participating in water activities; such as kayaking or at going to the beach. I have a deep fear of stepping on stingrays in the ocean, so I even wear my Chacos when the fear gets to be too much when I go swimming in the ocean sometimes. Some people think that Chacos are ridiculously ugly, but I believe quite the contrary. They are so cute! You can even dress them up by pairing them with a lovely summer dress. There are so many different colors and styles for you to choose from, I am certain that you’ll find a pair you absolutely love.
- Medicine: I will not leave the country without medicine. Ibuprofen, stomach, cold and flu, allergy, Echinacea, vitamin C, and especially sleeping pills are the medicines I always take with me. Even if you don’t use them, it’s better to have them and be safe, than to not have them, get sick, and be sorry. I take Echinacea and vitamin C to prevent sickness, but if I do happen to get plagued with food poisoning, contract a cold, or get a headache, I have all the medicines necessary to get me through and be able to still enjoy my trip. Sleeping pills are my ultimate favorite when it comes to long trips—I wouldn’t have survived my 13-hour flight to China or my 12-hour bus ride to Mazatlán without sleeping pills. It’s kind of like time travel: get in the plane, take sleeping pills, wake up 11 hours later, and you’re almost there—it’s magic! Please please please don’t go on a trip without medicine! I promise you’ll thank me eventually.
- Wipes and/or Tissues: More times than not, public restrooms in different countries either a) do not have toilet paper at all, or b) make you pay for it. Save yourself the possibility of catching yourself in a situation where you needed toilet paper and didn’t have it. Bring your own everywhere you go. When I mention wipes, I refer to the small make-up remover face wipes. I take these face wipes on all of my trips because not only do they take my make-up off at the end of the day, but I can use them as regular wipes to clean basically anything else if I needed to and they come in small, travel friendly packages.
- Journal: Just like medicine, I refuse to travel without my journal. Writing down everything I can about my experiences and feelings while in the near and far places I go to is so important to me. When you write things down in a journal, you have a way of returning to your trips. When you read the genuine written words of emotions you felt and things you went through in a specific place, you are reminded of what it was like to be there and you become engulfed in a sweet nostalgia. You’re also able to recall the little things of a trip that you might not remember otherwise. Keeping a journal is like having your own life story book.
I truly do hate to travel without these top ten essentials because trips and life abroad are just so much easier when I have them. If you choose to try out some of these recommendations for your own future trips, I hope that they serve you just as amazingly as they have done for me.
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