Last Updated on February 23, 2022 by Janine

Packing for an upcoming trip? Don’t leave home without these 14 essential travel items.

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Regardless of how much you love to travel, packing can feel like a horrible chore. Don’t you wish you could just apparate to your next destination, like in Harry Potter? 

Hell, I’d even use floo powder if it meant I didn’t have to sit around deciding how many pairs of socks I should bring on my next trip. 

I’m a pretty seasoned traveler, and I still always end up taking far too many or far too few socks…. Why can’t I figure this out?!?!

As confusing as packing can be, I have a few essential travel items that I take everywhere I go. 

I’m sharing them with you now in hopes of making your travels (and your life in general) easier. Because I’m a carry-on traveler most of the time, you KNOW you can trust me on these. I don’t give up valuable real estate in my pack for just anything!

I used every single one of these products regularly, and many of them even when I’m not traveling. 

These essential travel items will help you have a safe and comfortable trip wherever you may go. Check them out, and let me know what you think. 

If I leave out one of your favorite travel products, tell me in the comments!

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Travel Gear Essentials For Every Trip

1. Microfiber Towel

I bought a travel towel for a trip to Costa Rica a couple of years ago, and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since. In fact, I love my microfiber towel so much that I use it even when I’m not traveling. 

It just dries SO fast! 

Also, when it folds up into the little pouch that you can use as a pillow when you’re on the road. 

2. Sarong

If you’re going on a beach vacation, you need a sarong.

A sarong is one of the best investments I’ve ever made. It’s a shirt, it’s a dress, it’s a scarf, it’s a towel. A sarong is whatever you need it to be in the moment. 

I bought mine in Belize 8 years ago for what seemed (at the time) like an exorbitant price ($20 USD). But now that I’ve used it regularly for almost ten years, it seems like a steal! 

I held off buying a microfiber towel for years because I figured my sarong was adequate, but I’ve never regretted bringing both.

3. Luggage Tags

I don’t often travel with checked luggage, but when I do, I’m glad for a way to distinguish my black Samsonite suitcase from everyone else’s. These goofy luggage tags are sure to do the trick. 

These are the only item on this list that I don’t actually own. Instead of using these, I use a colorful bracelet I bought from a street vendor in Chiapas. If you haven’t had a chance to visit Chiapas yet, these tags will do in the meantime!

A daypack is one of the things all travelers need– they are handy for outdoor adventures and carrying your belongings around town.

4. A Compact Daypack

My Osprey Daylite daypack is often my “personal item” when I travel, but it’s also so light and compact that I can easily fit it inside my pack. 

I love it for day trips because it has just enough space for my camera, water bottle, snacks, and a light sweater inside. Hikers will be thrilled to learn that It also has a sleeve for a water bladder. 

I truly think this pack is the perfect size — just big enough to fit all your travel essentials and not so big that it can ever get cumbersome. 

Additionally, it doesn’t have dangling straps or loops hanging from it. It has a sleek profile that keeps it from getting caught on things while you’re out and about.

5. Water Bottle

A water bottle is an essential travel item. After years of purchasing $5 bottles of airport water, I finally started packing my own bottle. Not only am I saving heaps of money, but I’m also doing my part to eliminate single-use plastics! 

There is a seemingly infinite selection of water bottles out there, many of them lighter and more compact, but I am loyal to Hydro Flask. It doesn’t leak, it doesn’t give my water a weird plastic taste, and it even keeps it cool! 

Plus, it can double as a thermos in times of need! I’ve definitely filled mine with coffee a time or two, and not only does it keep it warm, but it doesn’t maintain a gross coffee flavor for weeks afterward. As a bonus, it comes in a whole rainbow of colors!

A LifeStraw bottle is a solid alternative to the HydroFlask. If you’re headed somewhere where the tap water isn’t drinkable, the built-in filtration system makes the LifeStraw a no-brainer. 

  • Not recommended: A folding water bottle. Don’t do it. It may seem like a great way to save space and weight, but in my experience, foldable bottles serve only to spill all over you.

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6. Solid Shampoo & Conditioner

If you’re a backpacker, you NEED to have this in your pack. Solid shampoo and conditioner frees you from worrying about how much liquid your toiletry bottles hold when dealing with TSA. Plus, it won’t accidentally leak all over your pack.

Additionally, shampoo bars are an easy way to cut back on single-use plastics. I also suggest purchasing a shampoo bar holder to keep your bars neatly stowed when not in use. 

7. Portable Battery Pack

I recently purchased a portable battery pack, and it has been an excellent investment. Keeping your phone charged is an important safety consideration when traveling alone, and this makes it easier than ever before.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been crouched in a weird corner of the airport with my phone plugged into a sketchy outlet, just trying not to get trampled by other travelers as they rush by. 

This device essentially solves that problem. 

No longer will you have to waste time sitting in cafes waiting for your phone to charge when you should really be out sightseeing. Just throw it in your purse, and you’re all set for the day!

female traveler reading a kindle by the pool
A kindle is an essential item for any traveler who loves reading!

8. Kindle

I was skeptical about Kindles at first. I thought nothing could beat the tactile experience of reading an actual book. The Kindle quickly proved me wrong because it solves so many other problems that readers face. 

Firstly, it’s backlit, meaning you can read literally anywhere, at any time of day, even if the lighting is terrible. And, you can fit hundreds of books on a single device (that happens to be smaller than the average paperback), meaning you don’t have to decide ahead of time which book you’ll read during your trip.

Kindle editions of books are often less expensive than paper copies. Plus, if you have a library card, you can probably access your local library’s catalog of titles right from your device! 

It’s still not quite the same as flipping ACTUAL pages, but… life is about compromise. 😛

The Kindle Paperwhite is waterproof, and it even pairs with Bluetooth earphones so you can listen to audiobooks through Audible

9. Lip Balm

I carry a tube of lip balm in my purse at all times. I often forgo bringing makeup when I travel because I’m just too lazy to wear it, but lip balm is essential. 

Sleep deprivation, along with changes in altitude and climate, can leave your skin feeling parched, and chapped lips are not a cute look for travel photos. 

This lip balm leaves your lips feeling silky smooth!

10. Hand Lotion

Once again, travel is hard on your body. Changes in the climate and frequent handwashing and sanitizing will quickly take a toll on your hands. Packing a tube of hand lotion enables you to nourish your dehydrated skin before too much damage is done.

11. Diva Cup

Hopefully this isn’t TMI, but a menstrual cup has revolutionized my travel experience. You can wear it swimming, hiking, and everywhere else without having to figure out how you’ll conceal it or plan bathroom breaks around it. 

You need to empty and clean the cup every 10-12 hours, so it’s usually pretty easy to plan your day with that in mind. It also saves the stress of finding feminine products that you trust while exploring a foreign country. 

Another bonus, the cup packs into a small, inconspicuous canvas bag that you can slip inside your toiletry bag or purse.

Related Reading: 8 Period Travel Hacks You Need to Know

12. Wet Wipes

Wet wipes are so handy when you’re traveling, especially in places where running water and well-equipped bathrooms can tough to find (like Mexico!). Having these on hand makes it easy to wash your face or hands in a pinch.

In light of the pandemic, wet wipes are great for sanitizing areas like your seat on an airplane or your table and menu at a restaurant. 

woman packing suitcase

13. Airpods

I recently added Airpods to my tech collection and there will be no looking back. They sound good, they’re comfortable, and most importantly, they are wireless!

The fact that I can charge the Airpod case with the same cord I use to charge my iPhone is even better– I can pack just one charger!

Time in transit passes much faster when you can listen to music or an audiobook, and wireless earbuds save you from struggling with tangled cords while you’re on the go. 

Whether you opt for Airpods or another brand of wireless headphones, it will be worth the investment.

14. Theft-Proof Purse

An anti-theft purse offers a ton of peace of mind when you’re traveling solo. Unfortunately, many travelers fall victim to pickpockets, and having items stolen is always a huge hassle. 

The last thing you want to do is waste time filing a police report when you could be out seeing the sights. 

I purchased an anti-theft purse a few years ago and never looked back. These bags offer slash-proof straps, RFID blocking materials to prevent your cards from being scanned, and locking zippers, among other features.

Now, whether I’m on the Mexico City metro, navigating a crowded marketplace, or simply wandering through town, I don’t have to worry about my belongings getting snatched.

Related Reading: 6 Best Theft-Proof Purses for Solo Travelers

Bonus: The Best Carry-on Travel Pack

Wondering what to carry all this essential travel gear around in?

My pick is the Osprey Farpoint 40. I genuinely love this pack! 

It’s compact but somehow just the right size to fit everything you might need. 

It doesn’t have a steel frame, so it doesn’t weigh much, and the padded straps make it pretty comfy to wear even when it’s full. 

Zip the back flap closed to conceal the straps, attach a padded strap (like this one), and you can port it around like a duffel bag. 

The bag also has a handy key pocket and a padded laptop sleeve in the front compartment.

Did I forget to mention one of your essential travel items? Let me know in the comments! 

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