You know how Opera creates a list of her favorite things every year for the holidays? Yeah, I decided to create my own list of 20 must have travel items since well, I checked Opera’s list and I’m sorry but I can’t afford to spend $200 on a pair of shoes.
Ya, feel me?
I mean, I’m sure they’re the most amazing shoes in the world and will instantly transform me into a Jennifer Aniston look-alike who never seems to age, but a girl’s gotta eat and in my world, food always comes before shoes.
But rather than give you just any old list of travel essentials, I’m going to share with you a list of travel must have items that I use daily and that make my travel life 10,000 times easier.
Travel gadgets are great, but if they weigh you down (literally) and force you to pay an extra $100 to check your bag since your carryon is too heavy, then clearly these “carry on travel essentials” are not so fabulously useful (This literally just happened to me and as you can tell, I’m still a bit bitter about the whole thing. Norwegian, why did you let me down? Sob).
But onwards and upwards to this list of t20 op travel accessories that either make travel so much easier or that have gotten me an insane number of compliments both in real life and in my Instagram feed.
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1. Collapsible Water Bottle (one of my favorite must have travel items)
Everyone knows that one of the easiest ways to save money, and the planet for that matter, is by bringing a reusable water bottle with you when you travel.
Not only do you avoid creating unnecessary plastic waste but you also avoid spending $3 on a bottle of water (I literally recommend packing a water bottle in all my backpacking guides, like in this backpacking Edinburgh guide).
Talk about a win-win.
But the problem? Well, when water bottles aren’t carrying your water, like when you’re going through airport security, they tend to be heavy, bulky, and take up a lot of precious space in your carry on.
A collapsible water bottle! I use mine all the time and absolutely love it! Whenever I’m not using it, I just roll it up, throw it in my bag, and save a ton of room.
It also makes me feel like some sort of baller, minimalist packing champ. Like the Bear Grylls of minimalist packing.
So get a collapsible water bottle for the win!
2. Inflatable neck pillow
Like the water bottle I mentioned above:
Neck pillows can be big, bulky, and take up a lot of room in your carry on. Which sucks since you typically use them a grand total of twice, on the airplane ride to and from your final destination of choice.
But they are a necessary packing evil since I’m not some wizard who can magically sleep without one.
And that’s where this technological marvel comes in.
With a soft velvet exterior, built in neck support, and an air pump for inflation (it’s in the pillow), this little sleep-inducing marvel well help you get your rest while occupying a minimal amount space in your carry on.
You know it’s awesome because this is the exact pillow I use and love, minus the gross gray color. I have one in a much lovelier, snazzy pink color that doesn’t put the ick in icky. But obviously, the color choice is completely up to you.
3. Power Bank
I pray you’re nothing like me.
But if you are then you get lost in a paper bag and basically need a GPS attached to your body at all times. Yeah, if there’s a wrong direction to choose, then that’s the direction I’ll go in.
A situation that is made infinitely WORSE when I’m traveling to a city that I’ve never been to.
That’s why I love my GPS. I use it everywhere, all the time and it has basically become my best friend while I travel.
That GPS is a saucy minx that uses up a ton of power in my phone. So between taking pictures and navigating a foreign city, my cell phone shrivels up and dies kind of quickly.
Which would be fine if I wasn’t constantly lost and if I didn’t hate asking strangers for directions that I have no hope of ever being able to follow.
So the solution?
I always charge my power bank and pack it in my day bag wherever I go.
As a result:
I no longer spend my entire day worrying about my phone dying or hopping from one vacant wall outlet to the next (thanks Starbucks for always being there).
I just plug my phone into my power bank and I’m good to go.
And while you can buy a heinous beast of a power bank, why not get an uber cute, unicorn one since well, a life without unicorns is no life at all (one of those must have unique travel accessories).
Simple but so incredibly helpful.
As an avid solo traveler, I don’t really have a wingman, or woman, to tell me when someone is trying to steal stuff out of my backpack.
I could use an across the shoulder bag or a money belt but I just feel like a backpack is so much easier.
So instead of freaking out every time someone comes within in a twenty-foot radius of me since I think they’re gonna pillage all my stuff, I just put a lock on my bag and POOF, problem solved.
I can walk around, perfectly at ease, because I know that my day bag is secure at all times.
The lock also needs to be easy to use since I don’t want to lose the key or spend twenty minutes trying to open the thing just to get through security.
And yes, I have been in both of those situations.
That’s why I use the lock above. It not only keeps my belongings safe but is easy to use and helps me quickly move through any and all forms of security.
Because no one wants to be THAT GUY that holds up the entire security line.
***Don’t make a rookie mistake like me and get a lock in a vibrant color. When trying to avoid getting robbed, you always want to blend in more than you want to stand out.***
5. Tripod for Your Camera
So if you have a super awesome Instagram husband (or wife), then you can probably skip this one, unless you’re a pro photographer who is taking photos at really low shutter speeds.
If you’re a solo traveler like me then you need a tripod (aka Instagram husband) if you ever want to take a photo of yourself that isn’t a selfie.
I could ask someone to take my photo for me but I hate talking to strangers. And inevitably, they’ll take a photo of me where I more closely resemble Jabba the hud than I do Cindy Crawford.
And since they’re doing me a favor, it’s not like I can ask them to do a mini photo shoot.
So that’s where my handy dandy tripod comes in. I just whip this bad boy out, attach my camera, and I can be super self-indulgent and take as many photos of myself, for Instagram, as I want.
I just have to deal with weird looks on a regular basis but so be it.
I also love this particular tripod because it’s tall enough and sturdy enough to take great photos, easy to use (no engineering degree needed to assemble), and small enough for me to carry around without hurting myself or paying ridiculous luggage fees.
As a card, carrying member of the introvert herd:
I hate talking to people in general, but especially strangers that I don’t know and will probably never see again.
When I get stuck on a plane next to a super chatty Cathy who will not shut up about their sister’s wicked awful IBS, I just put in my headphones and let the magic happen.
Headphones are a universal sign that you should shut up and leave me alone but in a nice passive aggressive way.
Some people tell you that you need a super fancy pair of noise-canceling headphones that do everything except make it rain, but I disagree.
I love cheapish headphones because if they get lost or broken (which always happens to me) then it’s not a big deal. You just buy another pair.
A lot of those super awesome Bose headphones are huge and take up way too much room in my bag. And yes, I actually did have a pair of Bose headphones and they were lovely but enormous.
I bought these insanely adorable unicorn headphones to fuel my slightly disconcerting unicorn addiction, and I love them.
Are they the best headphones ever? No. But for $10, they get the job done and make me look cute in the process.
7. Microfiber Towel
I’ll admit it:
I don’t bring this microfiber towel with me on most of my trips but I am so glad that I have it.
Well, not only is this towel enormous, but the microfiber practically dries instantly.
You can easily use this towel to dry yourself off and pack it up damp, without worrying that a thin layer of mold will appear on the exterior.
The accompanying storage bag is the perfect place to pack your towel so that you can save some space. The only reason I don’t use this towel more is that I don’t really swim (I love cold weather) and never really stay in hostels.
But I did use it on my trip to Greece and loved it.
8. Packing Cubes
I LOVE packing cubes and think they’re even better than sliced bread. Not only do they organize your entire wardrobe, but they help you fit a ton more stuff in your suitcase since they compress your clothes and push out any excess air.
If you’re financially unstable, especially after the holidays, you can Macgyver it up and use Ziploc bags instead of packing cubes. The effect is pretty much the same except that Ziploc bags won’t last as long and will rip fairly quickly.
But in a pinch, Ziploc bags do the trick.
9. Boots with a secret zipper
I just got these boots and absolutely love them!
Not only have I gotten a ton of compliments from people with serious shoe envy, but they come in an assortment of colors, are seriously comfortable, and are true to size.
I just wore them during my entire trip to Edinburgh, where I walked around for multiple hours a day, and my feet stayed comfy, minus a blister on one heel that was easily fixed with a band-aid.
They have a secret pocket where you can store an extra credit card or cash if you’re worried about someone stealing your stuff.
Just an all around great winter boot that is cute, easy to walk in and that will help keep your feet warm.
10. Umbrella or Rain Coat
The great debate continues:
I use an umbrella when I’m traveling since it helps keep my bag dry. Plus, my winter jacket is somewhat water resistant so it doesn’t really make sense to pack a raincoat as well.
If you’re heading to a place that is known to be warm, windy, and wet, then definitely bring a raincoat since the wind could turn your umbrella inside out and break it (like when packing for London).
With a raincoat, you don’t really have to worry about breaking it as you open and close it.
I suggest packing raingear that comes in vibrant red or yellow colors since these colors tend to look much better than neutral colors, in your Instagram feed.
Unless you’re worried about getting mugged.
Then I’d pack neutral colors that will help you blend in with the locals. But alas, I’m one of those total weirdos who prioritize safety over fashion.
God, what’s wrong with me (said with intense sarcasm)?
11. Carry on Bag
I NEVER check luggage.
Unless they say I can’t get on the plane if I don’t check my luggage. Then I’ll proceed to moan and groan about my ridiculous first world problem and eventually check my luggage.
But that’s the only time. That’s why:
I always need a carry on bag for all my clothes, toiletries, etc. Personally, I will forever and always be a backpack girl since I have been burned way too many times by rolling bags that broke, got wet, or were too damn heavy to lug up a flight of stairs.
My go to carry on has to be the Cabin Max backpack. Now, is it as stylish as a Louis Vuitton? No, but it gets the job done since it’s roomy enough to hold all my clothes, durable enough to withstand years of wear and tear, and comfortable enough to carry without getting scoliosis.
This backpack is the one and only bag that I use as my carry on. Plus, it even fits my tripod. Talk about a packing win.
12. Day Bag
I am annoyingly picky about the day bag I use when I travel. I want it to be big enough to hold all my stuff, but not so big that it looks like I’m schlepping a huge ass suitcase around with me wherever I go.
I’ll be carrying this thing around with me wherever I go, so it has to be stylish because chances are, it’s gonna go out to dinner with me and end up in an impromptu Instagram photo or two.
That’s why I go with the Ecosusi travel bag in black. It’s cute, it’s useful, it’s durable, it holds all my crap, it doesn’t make me look like a total tourist, and it doesn’t make me feel like I’m lugging around a dead body.
But just remember that it is a weekender bag (AKA BIG).
So if you’re looking for something slightly smaller than I definitely suggest the Lily and Drew Backpack below. Not only is it adorable (I got a ton of compliments on my bag), but it’s a smallish bag that is still big enough to hold a 14-inch laptop.
Definitely one of the better day bags that I’ve owned also. Plus, it’s reasonably priced so you can still afford to go on vacation after buying it.
13. Universal Travel Adapter
Probably one of the lamer essential travel items on this list but a necessary evil since no one wants to fry their laptop while traveling throughout Europe.
I don’t have this exact brand but I feel like brand loyalty isn’t exactly a huge thing with travel adapters and surge protectors. That;’s why I feel like this one should be just fine.
And rather than drone on about the necessity of travel adaptors, I’ll just tell you a mildly humorous story instead.
While writing this post:
In usual Girl with the Passport fashion, I totally forgot what this particular device was called and kept looking up currency or current converters, which is not right.
Don’t be like me and sound like a total moron. It’s a travel adaptor and a lifesaver when you travel outside of your home continent.
I LOVE Books. And it’s kind of sort fo serious.
It’s to the point that if I see a bookstore, I MUST go inside. But first I lie to myself and say that I’m just going to look around and NOT buy anything since I don’t need any more books.
And inevitably, I always buy a bunch.
But currently, my need to save money has outweighed my love of books. No, I haven’t done anything drastic like stop buying books.
I’ve started buying them on Amazon and downloading them to my Kindle App since I don’t want traditional books to weigh me (aka my carry on ) down and cost me extra money.
I’m not some super swanky intellectual who reads Charles Dickens in her spare time. Nope. I like dystopian, teen romance novels like The Hunger Games and The Gender Game. I also loved The Girl on the Train and tried The Woman in the Window but just can’t seem to get into it.
But definitely download some books since they’re the perfect way to pass the time while you’re waiting for your plane.
If you are a travel addict like me and exclusively fly on budget airlines, then you know that you will probably never again see a TV in the back of an airplane seat.
SIGH, the gifts of flying on standard airlines.
That’s why it’s imperative that you download shows and movies before you take your next TransAtlantic voyage because let’s be real, your sanity depends on it.
But per usual:
I subscribe to both Amazon and Netflix and somehow, still can’t find anything to watch. Either that or I just watch WAY too much TV and have seen everything already.
But it really all just depends on your cinematic tastes.
16. Cute Dress
Dresses are wear it’s at (get the pun?)!
Not only do they make you look good, but they are easy to pack, take up minimal space, and can easily be worn in the winter if you just pair the right dress with boots and leggings.
I love the dress above and have gotten a ton of compliments while wearing it. It’s long, flowy (covers up the pooch), and perfect for girls of any size and shape. Plus, the length gives it a more conservative feel which is perfect if you’re visiting a more modest city.
Really Want to Blend in with the Locals?
The get a dress with more neutral tones that will help you blend in more and stand out less (but vibrant colors look much better on Instagram so it’s up to you).
But the best part?
This dress only costs $16 on Amazon! Crazy right? Now you can look good without spending a small fortune. Your bank account will thank you.
This isn’t my exact dress, because Amazon was being grumpy. But this one is super cute too. My dress has sleeves and a skirt that is white with a lemon pattern. But this one is the same brand and so lovely that I might buy this one too!
Need a nice winter dress that is warmer and gives off more of a winter vibe? Then check out the dress below! And yes, it looks good even on curvier girls.
17. Cute Hat
What, You Haven’t Met Casper the Friendly Ghost?
Yeah, that’s me, your pasty white friend with the passport. But it’s not just me. I think the sun just doesn’t like me and my freckle ridden white skin.
If I’m traveling during the summer, or to a country with perpetual warm weather, I always bring a nice hat because yes you’ll be walking around (one of my not-so-glamorous beauty hacks for travel), exploring a ton of top attractions. And no, you don’t want to look like Larry the lobster in all of your Instagram photos.
Hats are an accessory that always makes Instagram photos look super cute. I personally love the hat above and have received so many compliments since it’s a feminine hat, with a wide brim that provides sun protection without making you look like you’re wearing a dinner plate on your head.
No need for me lo look like I’m attending the Kentucky Derby.
Need a good quality hat that keeps you warm but that still looks nice? Then get the hat below. I have one in gray and it has an awesome fleece lining that keeps my head nice and warm.
18. First Aid Kit
You know how mom and dad always INSIST that you buy travel insurance, even though you never actually use it?
And you know how it can be tempting to save money by NOT buying travel insurance?
A first aid kit is kind of the same thing. Sure, it isn’t sexy but it’s helpful when you are… trapped down a well (where’s Lassie)! Kidding! It’s much more likely that you’ll get a blister and need a band-aid.
So Not Usually End of the World Stuff:
But a travel must have because even though you don’t typically use it, if you need it and don’t have it, you’ll regret it (kind of like how I regretted wearing those leggings with the huge hole in the butt).
So check out this compact and super nifty first aid kit. I love it and use it on all my trips.
19. Wifi Hot Spot
Staying connected while traveling isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Between work and client deadlines, I have to stay connected no matter when I am, and that’s why having a skyroam wifi hotspot is so important!
No matter where you go in Asia, Europe and beyond:
Skyroam provides you with a secure Wi-Fi signal for up to five devices and with virtually no data limits (hip hip hooray! The crowd goes wild!).
Just purchase day passes (typically $5 a day) at their website. And when you’re ready to wifi it up, just turn on your Skyroam and boom, you’re good to go with the click of a button!
The passes themselves run on a 24-hour cycle so if you connect at 7:08 am, you will run out of service at 7:07 am the next day. And If you don’t need service, that’s cool. Just turn your device off and you won’t be charged for any additional service.
Ah, behold the mindblowing power of modern technology.
Besides the whole protecting your retinas from getting seared by the sun thing (essential when packing for Barcelona):
I always pack a pair of polarized sunglasses, no matter the season, because I feel like sunglasses just always make me look so much better. Like they somehow hide my inherent awkwardness from the rest of the world.
And on a more practical level:
Nobody wants to be squinting through their entire vacation. Not a good look unless you’re a rabbit. Plus, if they’re mirrored, no one can see where you’re looking. Therefore, if you’re busy being a not so low key stalker, no one will ever have to know!
VICTORY! See, there’s a method to the madness!
And get something cheap since I always lose and or break my sunglasses like the total spazz that I am.
21. Gatta Camera Bag (the only camera bag you’ll ever need)
Have a nice camera?
Then obviously you need a nice camera bag since you don’t want to ruin the fancy smancy camera that you just spent at least a $1000 on.
Most camera bags are hideous and utilitarian looking, not something that you want to be seen with every single day.
Gatta bags! Seriously the highest quality and most stylish camera bags that I have ever used. and at a relatively affordable price too.
I love the Rosewood Camille (above) and the Chloe Noir (smaller, chic, and black). Both are stylish on the outside and have a fabulous, felt like interior that cushions your camera and protects it from damage.
But it gets better!
The inside of the bag has an adjustable divider that you can move around and that actually stays where you place it. Talk about a total lifesaver.
I wish all things in life were this reliable.
There are not enough words in the English language to express my love for leggings. Not only are they ridiculously comfortable, but they never remind me that I’m eating too much on vacation (also one of the many items on my Paris packing list).
Leggings understand my need to eat and sit there quietly with their elastic waistband, reassuring me that everything will be okay because they’re holding in my ever expanding waistline.
Jeans are bulky and retain odors so you kind of need to leave your fave pair of jeans at home, especially if they’re those skinny jeans that you’ll never fit into because you’ve gotten over that breakup and now eat regularly.
Pack black leggings. Not yoga pants! Leggings are comfy and look a little nice than workout gear that basically screams, “I am a total tourist!”
23 and 24. Advil and Melatonin (God’s gift to insomniacs)
I saved the most incredibly boring, travel that have items for almost last!!!
Lame to discuss, but essential none the less (see what else I pack in my carry on). Now, the need for Advil is pretty obvious since it alleviates headaches and helps with wicked awful hangovers.
But what about the melatonin?
Honestly, this is probably the one item on this must have travel gifts list that has most improved the quality of my travel life.
And that’s basically because I’m a horrible sleeper and can never seem to fall asleep in general, let alone on a horrendously uncomfortable plane.
At least, that was true until I found melatonin (and Benadryl).
I love it because not only does it help me sleep, but melatonin also naturally occurs in your body. So there’s about no need to worry about getting addicted or waking up and feeling insanely groggy since this chemical is already in your body, to begin with.
A word of warning though.
If you’ve never taken Melatonin before then go with the lowest dose, which is usually 2 or 3 mg, since this stuff can and will knock you on your ass.
This vitamin is really effective so a little goes a long way.
25. Tide to Go
Just one more item on this list of must pack travel items and then we are so outta here Now as you’re probably already aware, I am one of the most clumsy humans on the planet.
So anything that could go wrong does go wrong since I have absolutely zero poise or grace. That’s why, if anyone is gonna spill something all over herself then it’s gonna be this chick right here.
And that’s why I always have a Tide to Go stick with me at all times. This way, when I do spill something on myself, I can just pull out this stain fighter du jour and, TADA, make myself look mildly presentable once again.
A little miracle that is only one of my carry on travel essentials.