Over the last two plus years of straight travel, packing, unpacking, and seemingly continuing the cycle for eternity, you could say I’ve developed a go-to list of items that I simply don’t travel without. Some of them are items you might expect, while others may be a little less obvious or completely surprise you. If you’re planning for a long-term adventure or your next quick weekender, I hope this list helps inform your own packing list! So without further ado, here are my packing essentials for any destination — the things I never travel without no matter where I’m jetting off to!
Sony Camera + Lenses
If you’re reading this post then you’ve probably already gathered that I’m a travel blogger, which means I wouldn’t be caught dead headed anywhere beyond a 15 mile radius of home without my camera gear in tow.
Currently I’m shooting with the Sony A7RII and my go-to travel lens is the Sony 24-70mm f/4 Vario-Tessar T FE OSS Interchangeable Full Frame Zoom Lens. This mirrorless full-frame camera is a nice travel size that allows me to get the quality of photos I want without feeling like I’m paying for it in extra weight.
I’ve tried quite a few different sleep masks over the years and I haven’t found one I love as much as these silk masks by La Aquarelle. They’re plant died, come in attractive colors and are super silky and soft.
What I love most about this brand is that they’re just the right size and thickness so that they block out all light and the straps are super comfortable so you don’t have to fiddle to get them in a comfortable position. If you’re a light sleeper like me or want any hope of catching some shut eye on your next flight, these masks will be your savior.
A Perfect Pair of Jeans
I think I’m one of those weird people that prefers to wear jeans on the plane, rather than leggings or sweats. Is this odd? I don’t know why but I always feel most comfortable in my denim and that’s because I’ve found a couple brands that make incredibly comfortable jeans that I could literally sleep in. My two favorite brands that make stretchier skinny jeans are AG Jeans and Pilcro by Anthropologie.
This is a newer add to my travel list, but I’ve recently become a fan of having some Melatonin capsules on hand if I’m having trouble sleeping because of jetlag.
Or perhaps if I know I have to get up super early for a pre-sunrise hike or something of the sort, taking some Melatonin about an hour before my desired sleep time can help me better get to bed on time as I’m usually a night owl and going to bed early isn’t exactly my forté. Obviously this is to be used in moderation and I’m not a doctor so be smart and exercise caution or consult a physician before taking anything yourself.
Passport with at Least 6 Months Left Before Expiration
Before you travel anywhere that requires a passport, make sure yours is currently up to date with at least six months validity. I have yet to run into the issue of being denied access to a destination due to a close to expiring passport, but it isn’t one I’d like to gamble with and many places require six months out on your passport and empty pages for stamps before they’ll allow you entry.
Copies of Passport, Credit Cards and All My Essential Documents
One thing I’ve never had to use but has offered me peace of mind throughout all of my travels are copies of all my important documents. Not only do I have paper copies that I carry in my luggage, but I have copies uploaded to my Google Drive account as well, so that if I were to lose anything important or have something stolen, I’d at least have documentation.
It’s also smart to give extra copies to a family member back home in case you can’t access your copies for some reason. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to make a police report for a lost or stolen passport or other items, having proof of your basic information will save you a huge headache.
I ALWAYS run cold, which means I am typically never warm enough on a flight, whether I’m flying to Mexico or the Arctic (OK, I haven’t been to the Arctic, but you get my drift). I love a good basic travel wrap, because it can double as both a blanket and a scarf and is typically light enough so that it won’t take up loads of room should you forego wearing it. I love this White + Warren travel wrap.
Insulated Water Bottle
One of my biggest travel pet peeves is not having regular access to water on flights, so making sure my water bottle is filled before getting on a flight is essential.
With a good quality insulated water bottle, I’ve found that my water stays cold for up to 12 hours, which encourages me to stay hydrated and is extra helpful in desert or tropical destinations where bottled water will get hot within an hour. So far my favorite brands that I’ve found for insulated water bottles are S’Well and Hydro Flask.
Macbook Pro 13″ Laptop and External Hard Drives
Since I’m always working on the road, taking my laptop along is unfortunately a non-negotiable. I know many people are happy to leave their laptops behind when they travel, but mine comes with me wherever I go and I’ve always found it to be more of a convenience than an inconvenience (there’s nothing I hate more than trying to deal with booking flights or buying tickets for attractions on my phone – much prefer the large screen)!
Again, it doesn’t matter if I’m traveling to a tropical or winter destination, there’s always something about having comfy socks on hand that makes a new place feel like home.
I’m sensitive to cold temperatures, so whether it’s the frost outside or some heavy-handed air conditioning, a cozy pair of thick socks can go a long way to getting my internal temps back on track.
Travel disasters are inevitable over time, but I’m all about avoiding them where possible. While I rarely hear about people getting items stolen from their luggage on planes and in airports, I think TSA locks are most important to have for hotel room stays.
I personally get nervous about using hotel safes because sometimes I forget to check when I leave if they’re hidden in a closet! Instead, I put my valuables inside my luggage before I head out for the day and lock them up with TSA locks. This makes it much more difficult for cleaning staff or anyone looking for a quick grab to take off with your goods.
A Dual USB Charging Port
You never know what you’re going to get with your accommodation when it comes to outlets, and especially if you’re traveling with a friend, it can be frustrating to have to split time to charge up important devices. I love having a dual USB charger on me so that I can charge twice as fast or share with a friend to keep everyone happy.
iPhone Smart Battery Case
I used to travel with an external battery pack like this one that allowed for multiple extra charges at a time, but more recently I’ve been using Apple’s Smart Battery Case and I’ve found that’s all I really need. I charge it on my phone at night while I travel and my phone pretty much stays at 100% charge the entire next day. Magic!
T-Mobile International Plan
No, this isn’t something you have to pack in your suitcase, but it’s probably one of my favorite things that follows me along all my travels: my T-Mobile international plan!
I used to show up in every new location and waste potentially hours of my first day searching for the best place to buy a local SIM card (which sometimes didn’t even work). Ever since I switched to T-Mobile’s international plan, I have service as soon as I show up in over 115 countries.
Another item that won’t take up space in your suitcase is travel insurance – and it’s a non-negotiable for international travel, in my opinion. If you’re partaking in any adventurous activities or carrying expensive gear with you, then it’s good to have it in your home country as well.
I use World Nomads insurance for all of my trips and have found their insurance to be affordable, with expansive coverage and great customer service.
I’ve always been a writer and kept journals from a young age, and I still love to document my adventures when I travel now. I use travel journals or notebooks for a lot more than just sharing my daily thoughts and memories though. For me, they’re a way to keep track of business or blog ideas, make to-do lists, create travel itineraries and much more.
Protecting your eyes is so important, and no matter what the weather in your destination of choice, there’s bound to be sun sometimes. That is, unless you’re headed to the northern tip of Norway in the middle of winter. Protect your eyes and they will return the favor!
Charles Schwab Debit Card + Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
My top two must-have cards when I travel are my Charles Schwab debit card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card. With my Charles Schwab card, I get reimbursed for all ATM fees, which means I can bypass currency changers and get cash directly from the nearest ATM with no cost to me. I use Charles Schwab as my secondary bank account and put my money for travel in that account so that I have enough in places that require cash.
With the Chase Sapphire Reserve, I earn 3x points on travel and dining, which means I can earn the most rewards for the categories of spending I do the most of! When you sign up for the Reserve, you receive a $300 annual travel credit to pay back your travel expenses, $100 towards your Global Entry and TSA pre-check application, and 3x points on travel and dining. With the card you also automatically gain access to Priority Pass’ membership benefits, which brings me to my next point…
Priority Pass Membership Cards
As mentioned above, opening a Chase Sapphire Reserve card gives you automatic membership to Priority Pass with a quick activation call. Once your account is activated, you can gain access to hundreds of airport lounges worldwide.
So why is this so great? Well, for starters, it gives you a comfortable and quiet place to relax before your flight or on a long layover. There is also typically free wifi, free food and refreshments and often free cocktails to be enjoyed by members! This is not only an awesome perk that makes travel way more enjoyablse, but also saves you money on crappy airport food.
My white Converse sneakers are my go-to when it comes to travel because they’re not only comfy, but they literally go with everything. I also like that they can pack pretty flat together, so they don’t take up as much room as my Nike running shoes would, for example.
Another reason why I’m obsessed with Converse? They’re washable and easy to clean. I once gave mine an unintentional mud bath on a horseback ride in Cuba and my casa host graciously offered to clean them for me. I couldn’t believe how great they looked afterwards.
Lavender Essential Oil Chapstick
I tend to have really dry skin naturally, and this is only exacerbated by a life of constant travel where I’m putting my body through varying weather patterns and harsh flights on the regular. The best chapstick I’ve ever found is Young Living’s lavender lip balm and I am a crazy freak for it. I’m pretty sure it is exclusively sold online, so if you need an alternative, I also like Joshua Tree Lip Balm (also in lavender) that I recently discovered on a trip to Zion National Park.
My Own Shampoo/Conditioner
For all you carry-on only packers, this might be out as an option unless you transfer your liquids to travel-sized tubes, but I typically pack a pouch with full bottles of both my favorite shampoo and conditioner. Why do this seemingly idiotic thing? There’s a few reasons.
First off, I have really thick, really dry hair and usually have a Keratin treatment a couple of times per year that requires using hair products without sulfates, parabens etc. Basically, if my hair was your friend at a dinner party, she’d definitely be the vegan of the group.
Keratin treatments aren’t cheap and I don’t want to leave it up to chance to use whatever products the hotels I’m staying at are offering up. Furthermore, I often travel for longer periods at a time (this next month I’ll be traveling in Africa for a whole month). I hate wasting time in a new destination by going hunting for the right products if my accommodation doesn’t offer them, so I just solve this by bringing my own in full sized bottles so I don’t run out.
Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Peel Pads
Another recent add to my travel must-haves, Dr. Dennis Gross’ Alpha Beta Gentle Daily Peel wipes are one of the most incredible things I’ve ever put on my skin. Immediately after use, my skin feels glowing and 1000% softer and more moisturized than five minutes prior. These pads are super small and easy to pack as well, so I grab a small stack before every trip now and throw them in my makeup bag.
Also a necessity for long-haul flights as well as for any loud travel situation you might encounter. There’s nothing more annoying than booking accommodation only to show up and find out that it’s been built right above a bar — or worse: that you’ve pulled the shit luck card and have been blessed with the hotel room next to the couple who’ve decided to spend their holiday bouncing profanities at one another.
Even if you don’t end up using them, earplugs barely take up any space so it’s always worth packing a pair for emergencies!
Makeup Remover Wipes
After long days of travel, there’s few things more satisfying than wiping off the dirt and makeup from the day with makeup remover wipes. There are tons of brands to choose from but I’ve recently been using the Burt’s Bees brand and have been loving them!
Headphones + Organizer Taco
Sometimes I travel with my big headphones from Sudio Sweden, but since they take up a bit more space, I often just travel with my normal apple iPhone earbuds, which get the job done just fine. To keep them organized and compact, I bring along my This is Ground Cord Taco which helps keep them from flying all over my carry-on or day purse.
It doesn’t matter if you’re headed to Alaska or Aruba, I’ve learned the hard way that leaving your bathing suit at home is a recipe for disappointment. In any cold weather destination, there’s always a hot tub to be enjoyed nearby, so throw one in even if you’re doubtful you’ll use it. You never know what might happen, and it’s better to be prepared than be disappointed later.
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