While our backpacks can be stuffed with all manner of things depending on whether we’re heading on a multi-country, multi-season adventure or simply exploring a new city for a few days, there are some things we absolutely always grab from the travel drawer. These are our everyday necessities, basics used day in, day out on any trip. Wherever you’re going, for however long, these are the essential things to pack for travelling.
Pen & Paper
So simple, yet so easy to forget. A good old-fashioned pen and notebook are incredibly handy travel essentials. You don’t want to be that person waiting in line to use the one pen at the customs booth, or have to ask around your fellow passengers when it’s time to fill in the landing card. Having a wee notebook to quickly jot down a phone number, address or useful bit of info makes life a lot easier. Especially when your phone is dead or taking forever to respond!
Hand Sanitiser & Tissues
No water and/or soap in the bathroom? No toilet paper and you’re desperate to go? Yeah, you’ll be glad you packed those pocket tissues and a mini bottle of hand sanitiser.
If, like me, you can easily guzzle a gallon of water a day (and that’s not even in hot countries), then you’ll quickly realise how much this is costing both the environment and your wallet. Ditch the reliance on buying bottled water and carry your own reusable water bottle. We’ve had a couple of different ones over the years but are recent converts to Nalgene and we’ll never look back! We both carry a 1L Tritan Wide Mouth bottle. It’s easy to fill up, super lightweight and durable. You can hook it through the strap of a backpack, stick it in the side pocket or just carry it using the cap strap.
If you’re travelling in a country where the tap water isn’t safe to drink, take some water purification tablets with you, or even better invest in a SteriPEN. The markings on the Nalgene bottle make it easy to see how much water you have and figure out the correct tablet:water ratio. Fill up at taps, water fountains or coolers, at airports, restaurants, public parks, hotel lobbies – wherever!
Worldwide Travel Adaptor
If you’re travelling to a country with a different power socket outlet, then you’ll need a travel adaptor to use any of your chargers or plugs. If you travel to lots of different countries around the world then save yourself any hassle and get a one-adaptor-does-it-all gadget. Our choice is the Skross Pro World & USB adaptor. The two USB ports are super handy and we can charge all of our electrical devices, including the laptop. The number of times I blew the fuse in our previous adaptors while trying to use my hairdryer drove Del mad (cue an onslaught of, “Don’t you ever learn!!” and hours spent hunting around town for a replacement fuse or adaptor). There’ll be no more of that with the Skross in tow.
For those times when you don’t have access to a wall socket but need to charge anything from your phone to a camera battery, or even a laptop, a portable power bank is the answer. I was pretty late to the smartphone party, but once I had one I couldn’t figure out how everyone around me was constantly playing games, watching videos and scrolling through Instagram without their batteries dying in an instant. And then my friend shared the power bank wisdom with me and all became clear. We now have a small portable one for easy phone charging, plus a more heavy duty one capable of charging our laptop, or two devices simultaneously.
Easy to forget about, especially when you’re packing for a city break instead of a camping expedition, but incredibly handy for any trip. Sudden power cut? You’re sorted. Plus, shine the light through a full water bottle and it creates a makeshift lamp. Trying to find something in your bag or read a book after lights out? Stick your head torch on and your roommate(s) will thank you.
We’ve gone through a few cheap head torches in our time but finally invested in good quality ones last summer and the difference is very noticeable. After a lot of research we opted for the Black Diamond ReVolt, a rechargeable model which means we never have to worry about hunting down batteries or carrying spares with us. You can lock it so it can’t turn on by accident in your bag and drain the battery, plus it’s incredibly powerful. On New Year’s Day we hiked up a mountain for sunrise and our head torches were lighting the trail for every other hiker around us! This versatile piece of equipment is an essential thing to pack for travelling anywhere and everywhere.
Ear Plugs, Eye Mask & Pillow
Noisy neighbours? A 12 hour bus journey with glaring strip lights and relentless “music”? Crying babies and an aisle seat on a long haul flight? A good set of earplugs, an eye mask and a travel pillow that offers neck support are lifesavers in these kind of situations. A memory foam pillow works best for me, but when it’s not practical to carry this around for the whole trip I downgrade to an inflatable pillow. No-one wants to explore a new destination when sleep deprived and cranky, so be sure to pack these small yet essential items and make the most of your waking hours!
Tote / Foldaway Bag
A simple tote bag or a foldaway bag like Osprey’s 18L Ultralight Stuff Pack are perfect for throwing a few things in for a trip to the beach, a wander around town or grocery shopping. Plus, if you happen to pick up a few extras things on your travels then you’ll have something to carry them home in!
While Del could get by with sticking his toothbrush, toothpaste and soap in a Ziploc bag and calling this a toiletry bag, I am a firm believer in the real deal. A good travel toiletry bag should be big enough to hold all of your essentials, but flexible enough to be squished into tight spaces or scrunch up a bit when it’s not packed full. Separate compartments are ideal, as is a hook for hanging it on the back of a shower door or wall if the sink area is all wet. When I’m not travelling long term, my toiletry bag sits in the travel drawer at home full of mini versions of my everyday essentials, making it quick and easy to pack when the time comes for a short trip away.
I’ve always used Lifeventure bags and found them to be the perfect size and good quality.
Our trusty travel towels have come in handy in many ways over the years. Pack one and use it as a blanket on an unexpectedly cold bus journey or throw it over yourself at the airport and catch some sleep. Wrap up your wet clothes to carry them, or soak up some excess water from your freshly sink-washed undies to help them dry quicker. Fold it up into a makeshift pillow, or toss it in your beach bag and use it as a sarong. Or, you know, just use it to dry off after a shower.
So, there you have it. Ten (OK, so it was technically fourteen) essential things to pack for travelling wherever you’re bound in the world.
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