The travel must-haves I’m about to share with you have helped me keep trips smooth and comfortable countless times.
From duct tape to dry shampoo to Ziploc bags, these are my all-time favourite travel items and the things I always fall back on when rushing out the door on my next adventure.
Without further ado, here are 20 ingenious travel essentials that I absolutely love. I hope this list gives you some useful ideas to help your next trip go as smoothly as possible too!
1. Refillable Water Bottle
Not only is buying bottled water an expensive habit, it’s also not that great for the environment. I try to be as eco-friendly as possible and carry a refillable water bottle with me on my travels. Making this a habit also ensures you’re always hydrated!
I love bringing the Nalgene BPA-Free Water Bottle with me on all my backpacking and outdoor adventures as it conveniently allows me to clip it to the outside of my bag. Easy access and saves space — win win!
I’ve also been browsing water bottles online (yes, because I’m weird and that’s what I like to do in my spare time) and am considering getting a Vapur Water Bottle for future travels. These can roll up really small and fit into a pocket when empty!
2. Duct Tape
Duct tape — an unexpected travel must-have that I absolutely love. It can be used to temporarily repair a hole in a bag…
So after using my Jansport backpack for most of high school and university, it chose to rip on the first day of my backpacking trip. Hmmm
— Cynthia Lee (@EFAAdventure) September 16, 2016
…which, coincidently, I put to use on the first day of my three-month backpacking trip. The duct-taped backpack lasted me the whole of my trip too!
You can also use duct tape to remove lint from clothing or tape any paper or guidebooks with tears back together. Multi-purpose items like this are the best.
The sarong is a traveller’s best friend.
This multi-purpose garment can be used to cover up when visiting temples or in places having a more modest dress code. It can also be used as a beach towel, a picnic blanket, a shawl for when it gets chillier out, or even a makeshift bag (simply tie the corners together and voilà!). The options are virtually endless.
4. Portable Power Bank
For when you’re out the entire day and don’t know when you’ll next have the opportunity to charge your phone, a portable power bank is an absolute travel must-have. It’s also great for keeping other electronics, such as cameras, tablets, and e-readers, charged and ready for use.
The Anker Power Bank is one of the smallest and lightest power banks out there and charges up your device very quickly.
5. Packing Cubes
Packing cubes make travelling so, so much easier. They help you save space and keep clothing much more organized. If you’re considering travelling carry-on only, packing cubes become even more of a travel must-have.
Here’s a post with a complete packing list for when I travelled carry-on only. It was for my three-month, multi-weather backpacking trip around Europe.
I recommend the Shacke Pak set of 4 packing cubes — it even comes with a free laundry bag!
6. Earbuds or Headphones
After a long search for the perfect earbuds, I’m happy to announce that I think I have found them. I discovered the Skullcandy Method Earbuds a few years ago during my early university days and I’ve been loving them ever since. They’re relatively cheap and, yet, the sound quality is still amazing.
If you have a bit more money to splurge on good headphones, I would recommend the Bose QuietComfort Cancelling Headphones. My good friend has this and I feel like stealing them from her single every time I see her.
7. Dry Shampoo
When you’re constantly on the go, washing your hair isn’t always an option. Dry shampoo is an absolute game changer — it soaks up all the shine and makes hair feel cleaner and smell fresher.
I swear by the Batiste Dry Shampoo. It gives my hair a volume boost and it seriously looks like it’s just been washed!
8. Hand Sanitizer
In a similar manner, there simply isn’t always the option of washing your hands when travelling. And we all know how public areas are blanketed in bacteria…
Your time would definitely be better spent out and about exploring, rather than cooped inside your hotel feeling sick. That’s why bringing hand sanitizer on your trip is an absolute must. I personally love Bath & Body Works hand sanitizers and their beautiful scents.
9. Earplugs and Eye Mask
A good pair of earplugs are a godsend for airplane, train, or bus travel to block out noise. They work wonders in hostel dorm rooms (beware of snorers!) and strange hotels too. Earplugs have honestly saved my sanity many, many times…
Also, never underestimate the joy of having a good eye mask. I never thought this was for me until I started using one — I haven’t looked back since!
The Sweet Dreams eye mask is a wonderful product the blocks out all light and is super comfy.
10. LED Flashlight or Headlamp
There are times when your smartphone dies and a flashlight is a necessity to light the way and help you navigate through a dark street, bus terminal, or room. You’ll want one that is compact, has a strong beam and a long battery life. The J5 Hyper V Tactical Flashlight is a good hand-held flashlight that checks all these boxes.
After my camping trip in Killarney, I learned firsthand that a headlamp is better for the outdoors since it leaves both of your hands free to set up a tent, cook, or read a book. I recommend the LE Headlamp.
11. Universal Adapter Plug
This one is only for if you’re travelling overseas, but it’s an important item to keep in mind nonetheless. The world has no standard global plug and different areas of the world use different plugs. This is where adapters come in.
12. Wallet-Style Phone Case
A wallet-style phone case is a great way to streamline your travels (as well as day-to-day life!). With this type of case, you can have your phone, bank cards, and money all in one place, replacing the need for a bulky wallet.
What about all the coins? I hear you ask.
Well, many places around the world now accept credit card. In fact, the biggest advantage to using credit cards over cash while travelling is that the exchange rate on credit card purchases are usually lower than when you convert your own currency at a change bureau. There are even a few cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees at all! During my travels in Europe, I also carried a small coin pouch to hold any coins I had accumulated from the few places that only accepted cash.
13. Ziploc Bags
Ziploc bags are great multi-purpose items. They can be used for separating clean from dirty, wet from dry, or more. They seal in potentially-leaky items and prevent messes. They can also be used for organizing items such as chargers and cords in a clear, easy-to-access place.
Scarves are another incredibly versatile and ingenious travel must-have. Planes can get chilly
when the pilot decides to blast you with AC for the entire duration of your flight and there’s nothing better than snuggling up in a soft scarf when that happens.
Ever since I discovered the Encircled cardi last year, I’ve been loving it and using it non-stop. This one garment can be styled in over eight looks, transforming anywhere from a scarf to a top to a cape to a dress to its signature cardi style. Check out the full review of the Encircled Chrysalis Cardi I wrote a few months back.
15. Foldable Down Jacket
Of course, this depends on where and when you’re travelling. If you’re planning a sunny beach getaway, you’re probably not going to get much use out of this jacket.
However, a foldable down jacket is definitely a must-have for winter travel. It’s a testament that winter travel and winter packing can be lightweight and comfortable while keeping you warm and toasty at the same time. It’s also very useful for chilly fall and spring travel.
I’ve been absolutely loving my new Calvin Klein down jacket and have gotten so much use out of it this winter. Packed down, my down jacket can be as thin as a t-shirt; and if I roll it into its pouch, it can even double as a travel pillow! The Patagonia Down Sweater is a similar lightweight and warm jacket.
What are the best shoes for travelling? How do you find the balance between style and comfort?
In my opinion, the best shoes for travel need to be comfortable, durable, and relatively lightweight.
My two current favourites are a pair of white Converse Chuck Taylors or, alternatively, a pair of black Toms. They are both super comfy for city adventures, and I frequently raked in over 30,000 steps a day in them during my backpacking adventures in Europe. I love wearing them with anything from skinny jeans to dresses.
If you’re looking for something a little more comfortable for outdoor adventures or long hikes, I recommend Asics shoes. I’m currently rocking my Asics GEL-Cumulus 17G-TX when I workout and in the outdoors.
Flip-flops are another versatile and ingenious travel must-have. They give you peace of mind in less-than-optimal accommodations or when using hostel showers. They’re essential for tropical adventures. You can also simply use them as a pair of shoes that allow you to air out your feet after a long day of travel!
Never underestimate the usefulness of a pack of tissues. In addition to the typical use of wiping a runny nose, you can also use them to wipe things down or mop up messes.
They are especially important if you’re going to be travelling in developing countries that don’t always have toilet paper…
19. Cross-Body Bag
Cross-body bags are my favourite type of travel day bag for exploring cities. They look compact and stylish while remaining functional. Cross-body bags are able to fit all the necessities and allow you easy access to them.
I carried my black cross-body bag everywhere during my travels around Europe and it suited my needs perfectly. The one I’m currently using is very similar to this Guess Satchel Handbag.
20. Travel Journal and Pen
This might be my absolute favourite travel must-have.
While I was backpacking through Europe, my Moleskine travel journal was a fun little place to record the thrills and misadventures of my time abroad. I wrote down things like memorable events of the day, favourite spots, and songs and quotes. I kept a record of all the brilliant/not-so-brilliant ideas I had and even wrote about random boys (yes, I did that — no shame). I also liked to keep business cards and postcards of places I visited in my journal.
Looking back at it a few months later, it feels absolutely wonderful to revisit those memories and remember all the little things that made me smile at the time.
I recommend getting a travel journal that is not too big because they do get heavy. Also, splurge for a cute one — you’re going to be looking at it every day and will want to feel excited to write in it!
And there you have it — these are my 20 all-time favourite travel must-haves!
What are your favourite travel essentials? Let me know in the comments below — I’d love to learn some new hacks from you!
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