Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time unpacking and repacking. Whether it’s been personal or professional, I’ve had several out-of-state adventures, and they don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
Over the years I’ve refined the practice of packing, and I’ve learned that (for the most part) no matter the occasion, destination, or length of time, there are a few things I won’t leave home without. Please keep in mind that this isn’t geared towards backpacking or any kind of unusual or specific getaway, just your generic vacation or long weekend. It’s also overlooking the obvious, like comfortable shoes, toiletries, and weather-appropriate clothing.
So without further ado, here are 10 items that have improved my travel experiences:
- Solar-powered battery backup charger – This thing is the #1 item I won’t leave behind. As someone who pretty much lives off their phone (trip pics, work emails, music, books, boarding passes, maps, etc.), I have found myself in many an airport, bus stop, beach front, or random café without access to an outlet. I love having the ability to charge on-the-go, and am especially fond of chargers that are solar-powered, so that even if I kill both my device and my battery backup, I can still manage without an outlet. I also have a teeny, tiny, lipstick-sized version that requires an outlet to recharge, but fits in a clutch as needed.
- Refillable water bottle – One of the keys to successful travel – at least for me – is to hydrate. If I can manage to drink enough water (especially if I’m on a plane), it tends to negate a lot of the jet lag and headaches I otherwise suffer. Since I’m a travel cheapskate, I hate buying water in airports and other places, and since most of my adventures are pretty active, I’ve learned it’s best to keep water around at all times!
- Ziploc bags – Wet bathing suit, leaking shampoo, jewelry, protecting my phone in a rainstorm, you name it. One time I had the stomach flu and well. . . you get the idea.
- Towel – This seems really dumb, but I guarantee you will need a towel at some point. While your hotel is going to have you covered, an impromptu beach trip, a fragile item you want to bring back, a place to stuff your sweaty gym clothes, or a makeshift airport pillow are just a handful of moments when it might come in handy. The best part? You can get COMPRESSED TOWELS so that they don’t take up valuable suitcase or backpack room. They come in sizes ranging from hand towel to full beach towel, and they’re worth the $5-10 spent online.
- Luggage lock – Even if you’re not planning to check your suitcase, you never know what might go wrong at the airport. I like to have a luggage lock for those moments, and also for locking up my laptop or other valuable items I don’t want to leave lying around in my hotel room. Just make sure that whatever lock you buy is TSA approved!
- Sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, umbrella – I call these my “weather preparedness” items, and I don’t always pack all of them. You can get a tiny umbrella pretty inexpensively, and then you’re not shelling out $20 on a street corner in a moment of rain-soaked desperation. I never, ever, go anywhere without sunglasses, and since I’m super pale, the sunscreen and hat come along often, though not always.
- Band-aids, ibuprofen, antacid – I’ve never gone on a trip where someone hasn’t needed one of these things. Sure, you can usually buy them with relative ease, but this takes up no space in your carry on or backpack, and I promise that someone will thank you for being prepared. If I’m traveling somewhere more remote, my first-aid kit gets a little more serious, but for a standard vacation where you can access extras if it comes to that, this is all you really need.
- Headphones – Yes, this one is obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people forget them! I don’t think I’d make it through a trip without mine, as I use them for workouts, long bus rides, and falling asleep wherever I need to.
- The proper bags – If I’m flying, I’m obsessed with this Genius Pack carry on, (don’t buy it full-price, it goes on sale pretty frequently), which has pockets for everything to keep me organized, an expandable water bottle holder, a magazine slot, an umbrella pop-out, a dirty-laundry compression compartment, and a dozen other features. It costs a pretty penny, but if you fly frequently, it’s worth it. They also sell the best packing cubes, if you can’t manage to fit all your clothing in via my favorite technique of rolling it (saves space and cuts down on wrinkles!), and packing layers/similar color schemes so that everything is interchangeable. I also always tuck one of those reusable grocery bags in somewhere, and it nearly always comes in handy, as well as a small crossbody bag so I can keep my valuables close at all times. (Of course, if you’re traveling somewhere with a pickpocket problem, you’ll want a different technique for that last one).
- Cash and copies of all my important documents – I’m not advocating that you travel with a lot of cash, but I have found it useful to have some on me. Thankfully, I’ve never had an issue with my credit or ATM cards while traveling, but I’ve certainly found myself in cash-only cafés. My other standard trick is to take photos of really important documents and email them to myself, so that no matter where I am or what gets lost or stolen, I can readily access my information and cancel or replace credit cards, IDs, etc. I also leave a set – as well as my itinerary and emergency contact information – with someone at home. Finally, I back up my phone and computer to an external hard drive before leaving, so if everything gets stolen, all my information isn’t lost, too.
I know that’s a lot to take in, and I’m sure the experts might advise you differently, but this is what works for me, and I hope it helps you, too!
*Main image via Time.com