Creating a packing list for travel is a chore that depends on your lifestyle, your destination, your planned activities and the amount of time you will be traveling. Here is a comprehensive list of 300+ items that should cover most travel situations. The idea is not to pack every item listed here but rather to create a customized list for each trip you take, while hopefully getting occasional “oh, I didn’t think of that” inspiration.
Rather than one continuous list, I have created sub-lists based on the general purpose of the items included. I have also added some thoughts I consider relevant to certain items or topics.
Most items include specific suggested brands, models or a link to a relevant search on Amazon. These and possibly some others are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a very small commission.
Some of the items I have chosen to list come from personal experience but others come from recommendations by others travelers and bloggers and some are based on my own evaluation of existing online reviews. I don’t know if I always made a good (let alone best) choice, but if you would like to skip some of the investigative work yourself, maybe what I list will be helpful. If you disagree with any of my recommendations or think I am missing some, please let me know.
If you prefer shopping in stores rather than online, REI in the U.S., MEC in Canada and Decathalon or Uniqlo in various countries are good options. For outdoor or travel-specific online alternatives to Amazon, consider Craghoppers, Eastern Mountain Sports, Magellan’s, Rohan, Sea to Summit, Steep and Cheap, and Travelsmith.
However you choose to create your packing list, if one of your goals is to pack lightly, keep in mind that any final list should focus on eliminating the liabilities rather than on allowing for all possibilities. Think of your personal list as a sort of contract with yourself. The terms of the contract specify the most stuff you will ever bring with you. The list will change based on circumstances and experience (packing is definitely a skill that improves over time), but it should remain somewhat constant.
Packing List Tools
The full list I provide below is useful, but what you really need is an easy way to create a customized list for each trip. There are some online and mobile packing list apps but most have some deficiency. On some you cannot add or remove items. Some won’t let you save your list. Some don’t let you specify a quantity. Some require an account.
There are quite a few spreadsheet lists you can download, but I didn’t find any that were interactive so I decided to create my own. My interactive Google spreadsheet packing list generator has multiple sheets.
On the main sheet you’ll find this entire list (without all the comments or links). You can edit any item or add your own items. You then mark a quantity for each item you wish to pack, note whether you consider the item essential or not, mark relevant items that you will include in your carry-on bag, and finally add any item notes.
As you modify the main sheet, four other sheets will be automatically updated. One is your customized trip list, one is a list of your “essential” items, one is your carry-on items, and one is a specialized health and medical (first aid) packing list.
Give my spreadsheet a try and let me know what you think. But first, continue reading to see some useful notes, tips and suggested brands and individual products.
Travel Documents, Cards and Money
- Driver’s license
- International driver’s permit
- Student ID
- Transportation tickets/itinerary
- Copy of immunizations
- Directions to lodging
- Contact information for important people or places
- Passport photos
- ATM card and backup
- Credit cards
- Local transportation cards if revisiting a destination
- Membership cards (e.g., travel award programs)
- Certification cards (e.g., SCUBA)
- Insurance information
- Tickets or Coupons for activities, tours, events
- Local SIM card(s) if you are revisiting a country
- Local currency and some extra US$ or Euros for exchange purposes
- Emergency login codes for any crucial two-factor authentication websites (email, banking)
- Business cards
- Copy of any prescriptions, including for eyeglasses if you wear them
- Photocopies of all critical documents
- Packing cubes
Using packing cubes is the most useful packing technique I have discovered. They allow you to separate your clothes just as you do in your closet at home, thus making it a snap to find what you are looking for as well as making it easier to unpack and re-pack when you check into or out of a hotel. They also offer extra protection from spills or other accidents. I recommend getting different colors, styles or brands to easily keep your different clothes items separated and make re-packing a faster, smoother process. Also note that it might take some experimentation and experience to decide what combination of sizes works best for your luggage and your packing list. There are also compression packing cubes but I haven’t tried those. Bago, eBags, Eagle Creek, Rick Steves, Shacke Pak, and TravelWise are good choices, though most brands get excellent ratings and reviews (perhaps a testament to how popular packing cubes are with those who use them). The purchase challenge isn’t so much which brand as which dimensions and styles and the fact that most are sold in variety size sets.
- Packing folders
Packing folders are like packing cubes for dress shirts, pants or other garments that you wish to keep from wrinkling.
- Compression bags
Some travelers prefer compression bags to packing cubes because they allow you to pack more in less space. I have never tried them because they seem to require much more effort, and also because I don’t want any excuses to pack more than I already do. Still, I can see how they can be useful either alone or in combination with packing cubes and might be especially useful if packing for cold weather where your clothes will be bulkier.
- Compression sacks
Compression sacks are a sort of compromise between compression bags and packing cubes and are well suited to top-loading backpacks or other luggage where bags or cubes are either inconvenient or don’t fit well. Many are water resistant or waterproof.
- Ultralight dry sacks
A dry sack is designed for protecting your belongings from water but also act like a compression sack, using a roll top closure instead of compression straps. A smaller size can be used for packing your electronic items to protect them from rain while backpacking or you could use one if you head to the beach alone and don’t want to leave your belongings unattended. Another good use is as a pillow. Just roll up the air inside and seal the bag. Finally, if you plan to hand wash clothes on your trip, use a dry sack instead of a hotel sink. Just put some detergent, water, and your clothes in the bag. Agitate and let soak, then rinse. A popular dry sack choice is the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil, which also comes in a version with a clear window to easily see what’s inside.
- Gobi Gear SegSac Compress (a.k.a. HoboRoll)
This is basically a multi-compartment bag that is useful for organizing as well as compressing.
- Rolo roll-up travel bag
This bag has various zippered mesh pockets for your clothes. Once packed, roll it up, and use the straps to compress it. When you arrive, just unroll, hang it up, and you’re unpacked.
- Toiletry Bag
A good bag is helpful to wrangle your toiletries and beauty products. I prefer a hanging bag with some pockets and zippers. I recommend a compact or medium size rather than the common larger sized options to help avoid temptation to pack too much. Unfortunately, there aren’t many smaller sized options, but one worth considering is the Muji nylon hanging case.
- TSA-approved clear 3-1-1 bag
If you will be flying with liquids in your carry-on, the TSA has special 3-1-1 requirements—no more than 3 ounces (100ml) per bottle, and all bottles in one clear 1 quart (1 liter) bag.
- Makeup bag
I don’t know much about makeup or how important it is to have a dedicated bag versus just stuffing everything in your toiletry bag, but if it is important to you, add it to your list.
- Soap / shampoo container
A small soap box is useful when traveling. If you travel with a dry shampoo/conditioner bar as well, get boxes of different colors so you can easily tell one from the other.
- Squeezable silicone travel toiletries bottles
I think opting for dry solid bars instead of liquids is a good approach for travel, but that isn’t always cheapest or most convenient so if you are going to pack liquid toiletries consider getting some GooToob or similar squeezable bottles. They are soft, easy to refill or clean and even have a suction cup so you can stick them to the wall or mirror. They come in multiple sizes, including 3oz tubes that are TSA-approved, but unless you are taking an extended trip, I would choose the smaller options.
- Electronics organizer
If you have several electronic devices and associated cables, keeping them all together in a small—ideally waterproof—bag or specially-designed organizer can be helpful. One popular option is the Cocoon Grid-It.
- Camera bag
If you carry a camera, a protective bag for it and its accessories is a good idea.
- Ziplock and/or plastic bags
These can be used for many things (carry-on liquids, packing leftover food, temporarily storing wet clothes or other items, bagging potential leaks before they happen, etc.) and it’s really nice to have a few with you when needed. Get a variety of sizes. The large heavy-duty Ziploc bag called an Aloksak bag can be useful for packing clothes or doing laundry (vs. using a sink, though I think a good dry bag might be a better choice).
- First aid kit container
If you purchase a pre-assembled first-aid kit it will come with a container but if you wish to assemble your own of more than just a few items it might be worth buying a suitable small box or bag.
- Laundry bag
What do you do with your dirty clothes when you travel? One option is to carry a lightweight laundry bag, though a plastic or other bag you already own might do the job just as well. Some packing cube sets also include a laundry bag.
- Shoe bag
A shoe bag is a good way to protect nicer shoes as well as protect all your other belongings if your shoes get dirty or wet.
- Stow-N-Go portable hanging travel shelves
If you are a neat freak or just like to be organized, these hanging shelves will let you set up an instant closet as soon as you unpack your bags. If you have enough space, you can use them as a packing system to replace cubes or other organizers.
My current travel pants are low-cost Champion C9 Men’s Golf Pants and the travel-specific Bluffworks Chino (see a review of the Chino vs Original Khaki). The latter is definitely more stylish and offers zippered external and internal pockets to help thwart pickpockets. Both are good for drying quickly and being wrinkle resistant.
- Pants (jeans)
Jeans get a lot of debate, mostly because they are bulky, heavy, and take a long time to dry but some seasoned travelers consider them worth packing because they are versatile, rarely need washing, and can help you feel a bit less like a tourist. For cooler climate destinations I usually pack a pair myself.
- Pants (convertible)
Beside jeans, convertible pants are perhaps the most hotly debated clothing item, especially for backpackers. Most brands are lacking in style and they mark you as a tourist. Then again, you are a tourist and probably stand out already. And, they are quite functional, especially if you plan to do a lot of hiking where temperatures can range between cold/cool to hot.
- Pants (leggings / tights)
As a guy leggings aren’t part of my travel kit, but most female travelers I meet pack at least one pair.
- Pants (capri)
Another item popular with female travelers. Nora from The Professional Hobo swears by Anatomie Amy Capri.
- Pants (dress slacks)
- Pants (specialty)
Some specialty travel pants options I have read good things about include Duer, Anatomie (mostly for women but also offer a pair of men’s travel pants) and prAna.
A reversible skirt adds versatility.
- Shirts (basic, T-shirt)
I usually opt for a mix of synthetic fiber, quick drying, moisture wicking T-shirts.
- Shirts (tank top)
- Shirts (collared)
As with my t-shirts, I mostly choose synthetic, moisture wicking, quick drying collared shirts.
- Shirts (cold weather)
When traveling somewhere colder, I bring long-sleeve options for layering. Again, I prefer synthetic, odor resistant, moisture wicking materials, though I plan to try merino wool someday.
- Shirts (merino wool)
I have yet to try a merino wool shirt but I constantly read rave reviews of them. They are said to be good for both cold and warm weather, are odor and wrinkle resistant, can be worn multiple times between washings, and are lightweight and comfortable. Brands I read about include Icebreaker, Wool&Prince, Outlier, and Unbound. Usually you can choose between 100% Merino (more expensive, can wear longer between washings) and blends.
- Shirts (for sun and water)
UPF protection shirts or a rash guard can be especially useful for extended times in water or outdoors.
- Shirts (dress)
If you are looking for a comfortable dress shirt, Tim Ferriss claims the Beckett Blue Gingham is his favorite.
- Shirts (travel)
- Shirts (specialty)
Ably offers eco-friendly, odor and water-resistant, fast drying, all-cotton (Filium®) shirts that might serve as an alternative to either more expensive merino wool or cheaper synthetic fabric shirts (read the Never Ending Voyage review). Coolibar specializes in sun protection shirts.
- Shorts (“around town”)
- Shorts (sports)
- Shorts (casual, lounging)
- Pajamas (men | women)
- Warm-Up Pants or Tracksuit
This can be useful for sports in cooler climates and/or can be used as pajamas or an evening lounge outfit.
I pack a lot of underwear because they don’t take up much space or weight but can really help reduce or eliminate the number of laundry days. Many brands now offer synthetic fabric “performance” or travel underwear options that are light, comfortable, odor resistant and fast drying. Ex-officio is one of the pioneers and is excellent, though the increasing popularity for sports and even everyday use means you can now find good options in sports and department stores. I have tried multiple brands and each is slightly different, but I found most worthwhile.
- Underwear (bras)
Bras are easy to hand wash and air dry, so some travelers only pack a couple. A sports bra can do double duty and can prevent chafing when wearing a backpack. A bikini top can also double as a bra as well. If you are traveling someplace unsafe, check out the Travel Bra™, which has hidden, fold away pockets for storing cash, cards and jewelry.
- Underwear (sports)
- Sweater or lightweight fleece jacket
This can be useful even if you are not traveling somewhere cold, especially if you are the type to get cold easily on flights and bus rides. If you do visit a cold destination, it will help with layering.
- Thin sweater
As an alternative to (or in addition to) a sarong, women might consider packing a thin sweater to cover shoulders and/or midriff when traveling in religiously conservative countries or entering places with a dress code.
Clothes (Cold Weather)
- Ultralight down jacket
Even using a layering strategy, an essential item for cold weather travel is a jacket and perhaps the best option (if not the most fashionable one) is an ultralight down or PrimaLoft® Most of the better ones are weatherproof, warm, small, and very light. One popular option is the Patagonia Nano Puff, If the price of it or similar premium brands is out of your budget, check out the relatively inexpensive Uniqlo Ultralight Down Jacket.
- Winter hat
- Thermal underwear
- Warm socks
Clothes (Dressing Up or Business)
- Jacket or blazer
- Pants (slacks)
- Little black dress (women)
- Clever Travel Companion
This line of clothing offers built-in pockets created specifically to stash valuables and deter pickpockets.
- Baubax travel jacket
This multi-feature jacket was a Kickstarter sensation, raising more than 9 million dollars and is available in four different styles.
Some people swear by these multi-pocket vests, and they can be especially helpful on travel days to keep your important small items organized and readily available while also keeping your carry-on luggage under airline weight restrictions.
I use a special money belt that is non-metal and can pass through airport security.
- Slim wallet
When traveling, you don’t need to carry every store and loyalty card, picture and whatever else you might normally stuff in your day-to-day wallet. Instead, purchase a minimalist, slim travel wallet and just keep the bare essentials. This slimmed down wallet will be easier to carry in your front pocket, which is safer. I recommend getting an international version to accommodate countries that have larger bill sizes. The SlimFold MICRO Soft Shell Wallet-RFID is a good option to consider.
- Coin purse or pouch
I picked up a couple of inexpensive coin purses in South America and I love them. I use one daily as an easy way to keep all my coins together but when I travel I bring an extra one to hold the coins of the destination country separate from my home country coins.
- Sarong, pashmina, bandana, buff (merino wool buff) or travel scarf
A sarong can be quite useful for both male and female travelers. Both can use it as a towel, light wrap, tablecloth, bed cover, a ground cloth, or a cover when visiting places of worship. Women can also use it as an item of clothing or an accessory to spice up an outfit.
You can pick up a basic hat anywhere, but for sunnier climates or activities, a sun hat might be a good option. Dorfman Pacific is a popular brand worth considering but I met a traveler in the Philippines who created his own Shape Flexer sun hat that did insanely well via a Kickstarter campaign. He is currently working to gear up further production so consider supporting this innovative hat from a fellow traveler.
I recommend buying an inexpensive pair for travel so you won’t be too disappointed if they get lost or stolen.
A lightweight handkerchief is useful for many purposes while traveling, especially for dealing with the heat.
- Sewing kit
I travel with one of those tiny complementary sewing kits you often get at hotels but there are proper kits for sale as well. Of course, my sewing skills are so weak I usually just get my sewing/mending needs taken care of in a shop. On the other hand, I have actually used it in a pinch and sometimes use the needle to burst hiking blisters.
Footwear (Shoes and Socks)
In warmer weather, a pair of flip-flops are a great, lightweight complement to whatever main pair of shoes you choose to pack.
A lightweight pair of sandals can replace your flip-flops, or alternatively, you can opt for the more rugged models (Chaco, Teva, Keen, and Merrell are popular brands) that can serve as your primary footwear, water shoes and even work for moderate hiking. If you do buy sandals, opt for a pair with toe protection and which don’t have a reputation for trapping odor.
- Multi-purpose shoes
The goal for carry-on-only travelers like myself is to bring only one pair of proper shoes so these should be good for walking around town, light hiking, sports, and any other activities. Cross-trainers are often an excellent choice, but you may opt for walking, tennis, running, or trail running A comfortable pair of hiking shoes or boots can also work well and a comfortable pair of chukkas can be great if you don’t plan to do any sports. Finally, there are now travel-specific shoe brands like Lems (lightweight, rollable/packable) that might be a good option.
- Dress or business-casual shoes
If you plan to visit places or attend events where you need to dress up a bit more, your multi-purpose shoes probably won’t be up to the task so pack something appropriate.
- Hiking shoes/boots
If you’re planning to do a lot of hiking, a pair of boots is probably worthwhile and can even serve as your multi-purpose shoes. If you are just a casual hiker however, you may not actually need boots if your multi-purpose shoes have good ankle support and soles appropriate for easy to moderate terrain. If you know exactly what hikes you plan to do, look them up online before you travel and see what type of footwear other hikers recommend.
- (Ballet) Flats
There are foldable flat shoes that can really make a great addition to any female traveler’s gear as they can be used for many purposes, including dressing up a casual outfit. As a guy I have no personal insight, but I have read positive reviews about Tieks, which are made with Italian leather and can be folded in two for compact packing. Jodi at Legal Nomads also recommends Sidekicks or Scholl’s Fast Flats as less expensive options, writing, “of the two, I’ve found the ‘fast flats’ to be more comfortable, and slightly more padded, but still unwearable for more than an hour or two.”
- Specialty shoes
There are some innovative things going on in footwear these days, including Merino wool shoes from companies like Allbirds that are lightweight, comfortable, odor resistant and don’t require socks. The only review I have read was from Lifehacker but it was glowing. Another innovative specialty shoe is the minimalist Sockwa line for people that prefer to go barefoot. If you plan to spend much time in the water, a pair of water shoes might be worth packing.
Shoe insoles can be a good way to provide extra support and comfort to your weary feet, especially if you like hiking or prefer to walk the city rather than use cabs or public transportation. I have read good things about Superfeet, though lighter foam insoles will be more appropriate for something like women’s flats.
Spending money and effort getting good travel shoes will be for naught if you don’t pair them with good socks. I suggest skipping the cheap department store cotton socks and instead get some synthetic sports socks. Alternatively, many travelers sing the praises of merino or smartwool socks because they work well in hot and cold weather, they minimize odor and they deal well with sweat. I usually travel to warm places and rarely have a problem with odor so I pack a few pair of inexpensive and lightweight ankle-high sports socks, though I pack Smartwool socks when going somewhere cold. In the future I plan to try some lightweight merino wools socks.
- Socks (liner)
Wearing liner underneath your regular socks can help you avoid blisters, especially when hiking. Women can also buy low cut (no show) liner socks to wear alone when pounding the pavement.
- Socks (compression)
Compression socks are useful for long haul flights, extended sitting, and sports, especially if your legs tend to swell up. For flights they are recommended to reduce the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT).
- Socks (toe)
I have read that toe socks can prevent blisters, especially in hot weather. Perhaps I will try the popular Injinji
- Backpack rain cover
If your backpack isn’t already waterproof or at least water resistant and you plan to be hiking outdoors, a rain cover might be worth packing.
- Travel umbrella
Some travelers find an umbrella a waste of time and space, especially if they travel with a rain jacket or poncho, but I find it is quite useful as it is easier to access and use when rain develops suddenly and it is also much more convenient when it is hot outside.
- Rain poncho
Rather than a rain jacket or even an umbrella, sometimes the best option is a waterproof poncho. In places with regular rainy seasons, like Southeast Asia, you can usually just buy a cheap plastic one at the local convenience store and throw it away when done. For a longer trip or one where you will spend more time in the rain it might be worth buying a more durable version. If buying a cheap version, I prefer to find one with full sleeves that have elastic around the wrists.
- Rain jacket
I used to travel with a rain jacket but rarely used it because I mostly visited warm weather destinations where using one was usually too hot (most don’t breathe well). I do recommend one if you are visiting a more temperate or colder climate, especially if there is expected rain and you plan to be outdoors often. In colder climates, a rain jacket makes for a good outer layer. If you plan to pack one, the big decision will be waterproof vs. water resistant, keeping in mind that waterproof options will be slightly heavier and probably hotter in hot weather. One good option to consider is the popular Marmot PreCip.
- Rain pants
Rain pants (or a full rain suit) is really only recommended for trekking or other trips where you plan to be outside in the rain for long periods of time.
- Specialty rain wear
The Mission Workshop Meridien Waterproof Ultralight Vest provides protection in wet conditions with a minimalist design. This vest would be a good choice for muggy and warm rainy days.
Toiletries, Beauty and Hygiene
- Travel towel
If you are staying in hostels or even mid-range guest houses in some countries, towels may not always be provided. Carrying your own travel towel is also helpful for hiking, camping, swimming, etc. These days there are some excellent, lightweight, highly absorbent and fast drying options in a variety of sizes. I often carry two, a small facial size and a larger size for showering and swimming. Not everyone likes the microfiber or other synthetic material used but I think you adjust to it pretty quickly. A couple of brands to consider are Sea to Summit (Pocket Towel) and PackTowl (Personal or UltraLite). Lightload also makes an ultralight camp towel.
- Cooling Towel
If you are traveling to a very hot destination you may want to pack a cooling towel in addition to your regular travel towel. A cooling towel is made of special materials such that when you wet the towel the water quickly starts to evaporate producing a cooling effect, while staying somewhat dry to the touch.
My toiletries bag came with a small mirror that attaches via Velcro. I recommend getting an unbreakable model.
I travel with a regular toothbrush, but if your toiletries bag is extra small, consider one of the foldable travel toothbrushes.
- Toothbrush cover
A cover is a cheap way to protect your toothbrush while traveling. There is even a cover with an attached suction cup which lets you conveniently hang it.
- Dental floss
I recommend a dry soap bar. Bronner’s is a popular, eco-friendly brand that can serve 18 different uses, including washing your clothes. It doesn’t seem to come in travel size so you may need to cut it in half for your trip.
- Comb or brush
- Hair clips, elastics or binders
- Travel hair dryer
Make sure you purchase a dual-voltage model for international travel and never use it with an outlet adapter as those are typically not powerful enough.
- Travel Curling iron
Follow the same voltage and adapter warnings I provide for a hair dryer.
- Hair clipper
I am bald so I travel with a rechargeable electronic hair clipper. I currently use Philips Norelco but have also used Braun. I have read good things about Remington but it only supports 110V so is not ideal for international travel unless you charge before you go.
Some travelers prefer a dry shampoo bar because it lasts longer, doesn’t leak, and isn’t subject to airport liquid restrictions. Lush is a popular brand, though I have read you may need to try different types to find the one that works for your hair type.
As with shampoo, there are travel-friendly solid conditioner bars.
Annie André offers 51 reasons to pack it.
- Sunscreen (Sunblock)
Regular sunscreen should be fine for most travel, but if you plan to spend any time in an ocean or sea, those tend to contain ingredients—most notably oxybenzone—that are toxic to coral reefs and marine life. As a result, many places are starting to ban them and instead require the use of eco-friendly sunscreens. Generally this means a mineral sunblock with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide that are “non-nano” in size (formulations below 100 nanometers are considered nano). Haereticus Environmental Lab publishes a list of chemicals to avoid.
- Mosquito repellent
DEET-based mosquito repellent has long been the gold standard, though it tends to smell bad and irritate the skin of some. Look for a concentration of 10% to 50% with higher concentration lasting longer. Icaridin (also called picaridin) is a comparably effective DEET alternative and is generally less irritating to the skin. Look for a concentration of about 20%. More natural alternatives exist, including Cactus Juice and REPEL Lemon Eucalyptus, though their effectiveness has not been proven in the same way icaridin and DEET have.If you are traveling to an area with sandflies (sand fleas, no-see-ums), a DEET-based repellent is probably the best option, though Avon Skin-So-Soft gets good reviews as well. I have read conflicting reports on whether Cactus Juice is effective. As an alternative, some travelers claim that oil (baby, tea tree, coconut, etc.) works well. Apparently, it does not actually repel the sandflies but rather traps them, preventing them from being able to bite you. You end up walking around with them stuck to your skin, but at least you remain bite free.
- Sunscreen + mosquito repellent
There are a few brands that combine sunscreen and mosquito repellent, which can be a nice way to save a bit of space and weight when traveling light. I have used the Bullfrog brand before and quite liked it but Cactus Juice and Avon Skin-So-Soft seem like good natural options worth considering. Note that some claim that these products have reduced efficacy and lead to over-applying insect repellent since it typically needs to be applied less often than sunscreen.
- Lip balm
You probably already have a favorite brand but if not, I recommend Blistex with SPF protection.
- Laundry detergent
If you plan on traveling light, you may need to do some laundry by hand while on the road. Some multi-purpose soaps will do the job but if yours doesn’t, consider a solid bar or pack a travel bottle of powder detergent from your home. Travel-size packets and laundry detergent sheets are also convenient options.
- Skin moisturizer
As with shampoo or soap, there are solid lotion bars that can be more travel friendly.
- Razor or electric shaver
I used to prefer an electric shaver but when I started traveling I switched to regular disposable razors for convenience. Either way, make sure you use a cover for the blade.
- Shaving oil
I once read about replacing my bulky shaving cream with shaving oil and have been a convert ever since, using it at home as well as on the road. One small bottle can last months and takes up almost no space or weight. My favorite is from Pacific Shaving Company. Shave Secret is similar and can be bought in Walmart but I personally don’t like its smell. If oil isn’t your thing (do try it first, you’ll be amazed), King of Shaves shaving gel is a popular alternative.
I don’t use aftershave but I have read that Shavex Alum Block is a great option that can be used as deodorant and antiseptic as well.
- Eye drops
Even if you prefer wearing contact lenses, it can be a good idea to pack a pair of glasses as a backup.
- Contact lens, solution, and case
Daily disposable contact lenses are convenient, though not very practical for long-term travel. One option would be to switch to bi-weekly or monthly disposable lenses if traveling for more than a few months. The downside to this is having to pack a lens case and cleaning solution. You can also research purchasing lenses along the way.
- Baby powder
Baby powder can be used as dry shampoo or deodorant, and can soothe rashes and prevent chafing. It is also useful to remove sand from a beach outing.
- Cotton swabs (Q-tips)
Most cotton swabs come in sizes too big for travel, so I just pack a small number in one of my toiletry bag pockets.
- Deodorant / antiperspirant
In the U.S., most deodorants are actually deodorant and antiperspirants combinations but in many other countries you buy one or the other. Similarly, while I am used to and prefer solid roll-ons, in some countries they are not available. For that reason, I always travel with enough to last me my entire trip.
- Feminine hygiene products
Pads and panty liners are usually easier to buy locally than tampons, especially in developing countries so if that is your preference, pack what you will need. Reusable cloth menstrual pads are also an option.
- Menstrual cup
Many female travelers swear by reusable menstrual cups. They’re small, reusable, easy to clean (be sure you use potable water or bottled water), and can be left in for several hours or even overnight (convenient for overnight travel or long days out exploring). If you are new to the idea, this video uses a see-through anatomical model to illustrate how a menstrual cup fits and interacts with other aspects of your anatomy. The narrator also gives some helpful tips on removing it.Popular brands are Diva Cup, Luna, Lunette, Mooncup, and The Keeper. Wirecutter has a useful guide to the best menstrual cup (their top choices are from MeLuna, Luna, and Diva). There is also a Softcup “use one per period” option that some prefer. This quiz from Put a Cup in It can also help you narrow down your options for best fit.
If you’ve never used a menstrual cup, plan on using it at home for a few cycles before your trip as it can take a few months to get comfortable using it. You may also have to try more than one brand or size to get a comfortable match. For example, Shannon O’Donnell of A Little Adrift writes, “consensus seems to say that the Lunette works well for petite women and/or those with a short vaginal canal or low cervix. I am tall with a long vaginal canal and have tried other brands, but I stick with the Diva Cup.” She also recommends carrying the Lily compactas a backup because it collapses to a vey small size.
Apparently, not everyone thinks the diva cup is the greatest thing since sliced bread. For reasons why, read Alex Logan’s “An Ode Of Hatred To My Diva Cup.” For more insight, read O’Donnell’s full take on why traveling ladies should use a Diva Cup or my friend Sam’s discussion of the trials and tribulations of managing an unruly uterus on the road.
- Makeup (women)
- Nail clippers
- Tissue packets and/or toilet paper
Public restrooms in some countries don’t provide toilet paper and street food or inexpensive restaurants sometimes don’t provide napkins so bringing along some tissue packs or a mostly used roll of toilet paper (crushed flat for space savings) can be a good idea.
- Hand sanitizer or antibacterial cream
- Antibacterial wet wipes
Scrubba is a lightweight, waterproof bag designed to let you wash your clothes on the road without a sink or other special facilities. I haven’t tried one yet but I wonder if it is better than an ultralight dry sack, and if so, enough so to justify the much higher cost.
- Sink stopper
If you want to wash your clothes in a sink there may not be a stopper so bringing your own can be helpful. Since different sinks may have different size drain holes I recommend getting a flat, silicone version that should work for all sinks.
Once you have washed your clothes, you will need a way to hang them to dry and a portable clothesline should do the job.
- Eagle Creek clothing care kit
If you don’t want to buy a clothesline, sink stopper and soap separately, try this handy kit that is cheaper as well.
- Stain remover
- Silica gel packets
You know those little packets that sometimes come in packages? They are there to control humidity and avoid spoilage or degradation. They also can work wonders if you ever need to pack a still-wet bathing suit or other clothing and can provide a bit of protection for electronics and other things in your backpack or suitcase.
- Luggage Link
A luggage link is a simple adjustable strap you can use to link two pieces of luggage together. It can be especially helpful to link a laptop or smaller carry bag when wheeling your main bag through airports or city streets.
I keep an inexpensive carabiner permanently attached to my backpack as it sometimes comes in handy for fastening or securing things.
- Charcoal air freshener
Bamboo charcoal absorbs and eliminates odors and is thus a great option to keep your luggage fresh.
- Fabric softener sheets
If you don’t opt for bamboo charcoal to keep your luggage smelling fresh, try packing a couple of softener sheets instead. As a possible bonus, some people claim the Bounce brand of sheets keeps mosquitos and gnats away.
- Luggage scale
If you are worried about weight restrictions for your flights, a luggage scale is a great and inexpensive investment. Typically you will only need it at home after you finish packing, but if you plan to purchase a lot during your trip and are worried about the weight for your return flight, carrying a scale with you might be worthwhile. Likewise, if you are planning extended travel with multiple flights, it might be worth having a scale. I use the popular Etekcity model, which is sort of a generic design sold by multiple companies. There are also models that have a flashlight and/or portable charger that might be useful.
- Plastic container
If you plan to travel with or purchase something fragile, carrying a plastic Tupperware container can help prevent damage. It can also be used to keep smaller items together and dry or to use as a bowl.
- Water bottle
A refillable water bottle is a great way to avoid adding more plastic to the environment while being convenient as well. Since I am always focused on traveling light, I prefer the collapsible BPA-free I currently carry two Vapur Element bottles (which also include a carabiner-type clip) and I have previously used Playpus as well. Nomader makes what looks to be a slightly sturdier collapsible design. Dopper is a bottle with a novel design that lets you use it like a bottle or a carafe with a cup. It’s also produced with a net zero carbon footprint and for every bottle sold Dopper gives 5% of sales to water and sanitation projects. I recently read about Keego, a startup offering a squeezable elastic titanium bottle, which promises to be lightweight, pure tasting and long lasting. As of this writing it is still a Kickstarter campaign so ultimate success and pricing is unknown.
- Water bottle sling
I usually carry a daypack and carry my water bottle in it, but sometimes I don’t really need to carry anything but a water bottle. In that case, a bottle sling seems like a good solution.
Earplugs are probably my most essential small travel item. I use them in noisy hotel or hostel rooms, on the plane or other transportation, when I need to concentrate while working. I usually prefer the disposable foam options (e.g., 3M E-A-R Classic Earplugs, Flents Quiet Please, Howard Leight 3301105 or Max, Moldex Sparkplugs) but sometimes I like the reusable silicone or flanged swimming style as well (e.g., Sorliva Swimming Earplug, Mack’s Pillow Soft Silicone Earplugs, Mack’s AquaBlock). If you choose the foam type, be aware that it’s easy to use them incorrectly so watch this video for proper foam earplug usage.
- Travel pillow
A pillow can make a big difference in the comfort of your travel and there are many options to choose from. Some people don’t like the inflatable, u-shape type but I think they are perfect for my travel light style. If you opt for an inflatable model one note that if you inflate it before taking off on a plane, the air pressure will change and will inflate the pillow a bit more, so either wait until the plane is at altitude or underinflate just a bit. Also be aware that not all inflatable pillows are created equal. The worst ones have hard edges that will cut into your neck and are either hard to inflate or don’t stay inflated. The best ones have a good inflation valve and a soft cover for the pillow itself. Mine is an inexpensive, but very small and light version from Newfeel that I picked up at a local Decathlon store. It doesn’t have a cover but it is very soft (there is also a model that has a soft cover).Some pillows with less traditional designs include: Cabeau Evolution (uses memory foam and a Lifehacker reader favorite), J-Pillow (offers head, neck and chin support with the latter keeping your head from falling forward), JetComfy (not light or compact, but a unique design that provides good support), Kuhi Comfort (uses two separate cushions rather than one molded u-shape so your head doesn’t get forced forward but is bulky and gets mixed reviews), Morph (includes a stay-in-place strap and is also good for supporting your lower back, knee or head), Total Pillow (flower-shaped microbead pillow that can be altered and locked into various positions to support neck, knee, and back), Travelrest (uses a long shape with an attached strap to provide full lateral support and prevent tension and neck strain), Trtl (scarf-like design that includes an internal frame to hold your neck in an ergonomic position), and Voyage Pillow (combined pillow and eye mask, easy to wear in multiple positions).
Whether you carry a travel pillow or not, if you pack a pillow case you can stuff it with clothes to create a make-shift pillow, especially if there are none on offer at your lodging or they seem a bit unsanitary. You can also use it as a laundry bag to store your dirty clothes.
- Eye mask
I rarely use an eye mask for sleep as light doesn’t usually bother me, but for most a mask is an essential travel item. Some travelers recommend getting a contoured mask to avoid putting pressure on your eyelids.
- Sleep sheet / liner
I used to travel with a silk sleeping sack but never ended up using it. Still, if you know you will be sleeping somewhere dodgy, hot but with biting insects, or without a light sheet, having one can be helpful. One good option is the Sea to Summit Coolmax Adaptor Liner with InsectShield.
For travel days, especially long ones, it is good to pack along a snack or two. All-natural energy bars are a good option.
- Eco-friendly straw
There are some small things we can do to be more environmentally friendly travelers. One is to carry your own reusable straw.
- Travel yoga and Pilates mat / gloves / socks
If you are keen to keep your yoga or Pilates regimen going while you travel, packing a lightweight mat might be worthwhile. Alternatively, check out the Yoga Paws padded yoga gloves and socks, which claim to offer all the benefits of a mat without the bulky weight and space.
- Fozzils Solo Pack (Cup, Bowl, Dish) + Lite My Fire Spork
Having your own lightweight, flat packing dinnerware and silverware can be handy whether camping or cooking in hostels. The Lite My Fire spork also includes a serrated edge (not enough for serious knife uses or to bother airport security).
- Immersion heater
An immersion heater lets you quickly boil a cup of water to kill any nasty organisms that may be lurking (if using unclean water) or simply to make coffee, tea, soup, instant noodles or whatever. One common complaint for these is that they are pretty easy to destroy, especially if you leave them plugged in too long or if they are not constantly kept submerged in water. You will want to check if the model you buy supports universal voltage or not and, like other high energy devices, you don’t want to use one of these with most outlet adapters.
- Female urination device
A female urinary director is a simple device that lets women pee standing up. This is not a common item, but I once went on an overnight group hike where one of the women mentioned using one. She said that it takes some practice to master. Some popular brands are Freshette, pStyle, Shewee, and Go Girl.
- Hospitality gifts
If you plan to be meeting or staying with friends, colleagues or acquaintances, bringing along small gifts to show your appreciation is a good idea. Products local to your home town or country are usually good options.
Health and Medical
Assuming you are not going the minimalist route, one decision to make is whether you want to assemble your own customized health kit or rely on a pre-assembled traveler’s first aid kit. The latter might be the easiest option and usually comes with a compact organizer that can make packing easier but will take up more weight and space and may not contain everything you would like to bring. Assuming you want to assemble your own kit (or supplement a pre-assembled kit), below is a list of items to consider.
Note that some items that might be considered part of a medical kit are also health and beauty items and I have thus included them in that section instead.
- Current medications
Check the laws of the countries you will be visiting for any medications (prescription or over-the-counter) you are currently taking to verify they are legal there and, to be safe, carry a copy of any prescriptions. Knowing the generic name of your medications will make communicating with the local pharmacist much easier and much safer if you plan on obtaining refills locally. If traveling to hot, humid climates try to get your prescription filled in tablet form as they will be more stable.
- Analgesic (pain) medication
It might be worth packing a small quantity of common pain medicines such as aspirin, acetaminophen (paracetamol), naproxen, ibuprofen, and diclofenac. Ibuprofen and diclofenac are good choices if they work for you since both are also anti-inflammatories while aspirin is good for reducing swelling when you have a sore throat.
- Imodium (loperamide) or other diarrhea treatment
As a rule, letting nature take its course (along with plenty of fluids) is the best approach to dealing with traveler’s diarrhea, but if it is a travel day or you won’t have ready access to a toilet Imodium is good for immediate relief. Keep in mind that it is designed to keep you from needing the toilet rather than actually treating the underlying cause and it is also quite aggressive so perhaps first try Pepto Bismol and/or activated charcoal, which can also be useful for preventing diarrhea in the first place.
- SMECTA (Diosmectite)
I only recently heard of SMECTA, a natural alternative to Imodium. Travel blogger Sharyn Nilsen writes, “It was recommended by a doctor friend of ours […] and yet, many travelers aren’t aware of it. 1 sachet in 100 ml of water works miracles for us, in all but the most extreme circumstances. It quells nausea, heartburn and stops diarrhea within about 20 minutes. It’s also meant to be good for hangovers, although I’ve never used it for that purpose. Everyone we’ve recommended it too has become a fan and lamented that they wished they’d known about it sooner.”
- Pepto-Bismol or other bismuth salicylate stomach relief tablets
Pepto-Bismol might be a bit more well-known than SMECTA but many outside the U.S. aren’t familiar with it. Some only know about it as a diarrhea treatment (which it is), but it has long been my go-to for an upset stomach.
- Activated Charcoal Pills
Activated charcoal is another item new to me. Fans say these pills work wonders for traveler’s diarrhea. Instead of treating the symptom like Imodium, the charcoal absorbs the bacteria in your body so you can get rid of it on your next bowel movement. I also read it can work for people who are allergic to things (it helps with the allergic reaction).
- Antibiotics or anti-parasitic pills
Ciprofloaxacin (Cipro) is a prescription antibiotic used to treat a number of bacterial infections, including bone and joint infections, intra-abdominal infections, certain types of infectious diarrhea, respiratory tract infections, skin infections, typhoid fever, and urinary tract infections, among others. Some travelers request a prescription for this from their doctor prior to traveling to be prepared. Azithromycin (sometimes called Zithromax or a Z-Pak) is a good alternative, especially if you are traveling to an area where Cipro resistance is becoming more common. Metronidazole is an antibiotic used to treat giardiasis, amoebic and other bacterial infections. Alternatively, Tinidazole is an anti-parasitic useful for treating infections from amoebae, giardia, and trichomonas.
- Diflucan (fluconazole)
Diflucan is an antifungal medication used for a number of fungal infections but commonly for women with vaginal yeast infections. An alternative treatment for yeast infections is the popular Monistat
- Cold, flu medications
You can surely find these wherever you are traveling, but if you have a preferred brand, better to pack it with you. If you are already carrying diclofenac as an analgesic, it can work well for flu symptoms as well.
- Antihistamine (allergy medication)
If you already carry cold or flu medication it probably contains an antihistamine ingredient but if not consider an allergy medication. Antihistamines can also be useful for things like insect bites, sun burns, mild food allergies, motion sickness, insomnia, etc.
- Motion sickness treatment
- Sleeping pills or melatonin
If you suffer from insomnia or jet lag.
- Antimalarial treatment
These will usually require a prescription and the best option will depend on the part of the world you will be visiting.
- Oral rehydration salts (ORS)
Recently I have been reading studies that show vitamin supplements are completely useless and I have never relied on them personally anyway, but if you believe in them, add them to your list.
- Mild laxative
- Cough drops
Interestingly, while Halls are considered cough drops in the U.S. they are considered candy in other countries.
- Cough suppressant/expectorant
Ointments, Creams, Sprays, etc.
- Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is useful for treating bites, cuts and blemishes as it soothes, cleanses and dries. A small amount goes a long way. Be sure to get the medicinal strength stuff.
- Essential oils
I know that tea tree oil is considered an essential oil and that they are all the rage these days, but that’s the limit of my knowledge. Assuming you know much more and rely on them, add to your list.
- Tiger balm
If you aren’t already carrying anti-itch and analgesic creams or sprays, consider Tiger Balm, which is good for both. It can be used as a chest rub to help relieve chest congestion and relieve a cough caused by a cold or flu. You can also use it to relieve nasal congestion.
- Hydrocortisone (anti-itch) cream
Caladryl lotion is an alternative to hydrocortisone options.
- Aloe vera gel
In case the sunscreen you pack doesn’t do the job, aloe vera can be a good sunburn treatment. It’s also useful for dry or itchy skin and insect bites.
- Lidocaine-based pain ointment or spray
- Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol
- Burn gel
- Antibiotic ointment
Neosporin or a similar antibiotic cream or ointment is helpful for cuts, scrapes and burns. If you’re going to be spending a good part of your time in the tropics or somewhere with high humidity, travel blogger Jodi Ettenberg recommends you opt for antibiotic/antiseptic powder, writing, “I’ve had deep cuts where using the cream actually made it worse, because the cut never dried out. In high-humidity environments, antibiotic powder is your friend.”
- Contraceptives and prophylactics (birth control pills, condoms, IUD, etc.)
- Water purification tablets, drops, or device
I once traveled with water purification tablets, thinking they might come in handy during my hikes. I also considered the popular SteriPen UV water purifier, MIOX purifier, Ketadyn filtration system, Sawyer mini water filtration system, and LifeStraw personal water filter. I never once used those tablets and I am glad I didn’t bother buying any device. Don’t get me wrong, if you are a hardcore outdoors type doing multi-day hikes in remote areas, one or more of those might be a good idea, but the reality is most hiking tourists do are one day or less, involve groups or guides, have access to potable water, etc. And, for the occasional outing that doesn’t, there are probably tablets you can purchase locally beforehand.
- Fever thermometer
- Sawyer Products B4 Extractor Pump Kit
This small, reusable vacuum pump helps remove poisons below your skin in one quick motion and is useful for snake bites, bee/wasp stings, mosquito bites, and more.
- Instant cold and heat packs
- Adhesive bandages / plasters (Band-Aids)
Carrying a variety of adhesive bandage sizes can help with the cuts and scrapes you get on your trip. And, since you are likely to be walking more than normal, blister, corn, and callus prevention or relief plasters are also a good idea.
- Butterfly bandages or 3M Steri-Strips
Butterfly bandages are useful for serious cuts where a regular adhesive bandage won’t suffice. You’ll probably end up needing stitches but a butterfly bandage can help until you are able to get proper treatment. A more modern and supposedly more effective option is the Steri-Strip skin closures from 3M.
- Moleskinand 2nd Skin for blisters (the former for regular walking, the latter for hikes)
- Gauze and medical tape or Tegaderm transparent film dressing
- Elastic bandage
- Suture kit
I think you have to be pretty hard-core to include this in your kit, but I include it to be thorough.
Jet Lag Fighters
- Melatonin or No-Jet-Lag pills
- White noise machine
A white noise machine can drown out ambient noises to help you fall asleep faster and sleep better. Check out the Pictek machine for yourself and the Cloud B Gentle Giraffe if you travel with children.
- Very dark sunglasses
If you are trying to avoid light, very dark sunglasses can help, though if you need to drive or otherwise see clearly wear blue-blocking sunglasses,
- Camera and related equipment
I am not a good photographer nor do I own a fancy camera, but I do use a fairly nice Lumix point and shoot that I prefer to my phone camera. I also bring my camera bag, a spare battery and charger, and a spare SD memory card. I don’t carry a portable tripod but I sometimes think about getting one. If interested, I have written a detailed guide to selecting and buying a camera for your travels. If you travel with a nicer camera, you may want to include lenses and filters.
- Waterproof camera
If you will be spending time diving or snorkeling or engaged in other underwater activities, a GoPro or similar waterproof camera might be worth packing.
- Mini MP3 player
I prefer a separate player for convenience and to save phone battery life.
- Kindle Paperwhite and case
My Kindle is one of my prized possessions at home but it really proves its worth when traveling. If you have never tried one, now is the time. And, a Kindle isn’t just good for books. I use a browser extension to send longform articles to mine so I can read them at my leisure without the eye strain from my computer. I am such an e-reading fan that I even published an eBook about it.
- LED keychain or mini flashlight (torch) and/or headlamp
Whether you are exploring caves, camping, exploring a poorly lit area at night, or trying to find your way around a dark hostel dorm room, some form of light is worth packing. A headlamp is ideal because you can use it hands free.
If you are serious about your photography, you may want to consider carrying along a drone. Until recently, they have mostly been fairly bulky and heavy, but newer portable versions like the DJI Spark Portable are starting to hit the market.
Electronics Accessories (common)
- Laptop neoprene sleeve
You likely already have a laptop bag, but if it is a bit bulky for travel, consider replacing it with a simple neoprene sleeve.
If any of your electronic devices need batteries make sure you have enough. There are even USB rechargeable batteries so you can skip having to carry along a bulky charger.
- External battery charger (power bank)
As we become more dependent on our mobile devices, even as we travel, a power bank is becoming an indispensable item to make sure we don’t run out of juice while out exploring the sites. The main consideration is size (physical) and capacity (mAh). Match the latter to your devices’ ratings and your typical usage to determine what is appropriate. One option is to get a higher capacity model for when you plan to be away from a charger for an extended period and also a smaller, pocket model to keep in your pocket or purse in case you get caught out unexpectedly. I love the small RAVpower model I have which includes a flashlight.
- USB charger
I currently use the iClever BoostCube though there are many good, lightweight options, including this four-port model from Anker and this compact, dual-port unit from Aukey. Note that not all chargers are created equal and some may not be up to the job of powering your particular device, so verify the requirements of your devices before purchase. For more info, read my post on powering and charging your electronic devices on the road.
- USB car charger adapter
If you will be taking a road trip or renting a car wherever you are going, bring along a USB charger that can use the car lighter slot.
- USB charger cables
Don’t forget to pack a micro USB, mini USB, USB Type C, or Lightning cable to keep your devices charged. If you have devices that use more than one type of cable, try a 3-in-1 cable with micro, type C and lightning connectors.
- Ethernet cable
Some hotels charge for WiFi but offer free wired (Ethernet) service. Also, sometimes you end up with physical access to a WiFi router but don’t have the password. In such a case you can just plug in your Ethernet cable and start surfing.
- OTG cable, Android flash drive, or iOS flash drive
An OTG cable lets you connect a USB external memory device to your micro USB mobile phone or tablet. Alternatively, there are flash drives made with either a micro USB or lightning connector to attach directly to your Android or iOS device, respectively (there are also options that include support for simultaneous charging).
- External memory (cloud)
Cloud storage is a great way to back up your files and keep them synced across your devices. Popular options include Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, Box, and SpiderOak. See my article for more cloud storage service information and options.
- External memory (hard drive)
If you aren’t already using a cloud backup and sync service or it isn’t sufficient for your needs, a portable hard drive can be great. I have always used the small and inexpensive WD My Passport Ultra but newer SSD models like the Samsung T5 are smaller, faster, and more reliable.
- External memory (SD card, microSD)
An SD memory card is becoming more useful than the older USB flash drives as they are used by cameras, mobile phones, and laptops. Pay attention to the class of any card you buy as the higher the class the faster the performance.
- External memory (USB flash drive)
I still travel with a flash drive but I admit I don’t use it much and I can probably rely on my SD cards instead. If you need to travel with sensitive data and aren’t comfortable using encryption software, you can try an encrypted flash drive with a mini combination lock keypad.
I use and like an inexpensive Monoprice wired pair and the Anker SoundBuds Slim wireless pair. I find the latter a bit less comfortable for longer listening and, of course, you need to regularly recharge it, but for situations where you need mobility or don’t want the hassles of wires, they are great.
- Portable speaker(s)
If you want to ditch the earbuds or entertain others, a portable speaker might be worth packing on your trip.
- Noise cancelling headphones
I don’t use these but some travelers swear by them.
- Universal outlet adapter
I have been using the Insten Worldwide adapter for years and it has been immensely useful. Actually, that design is common to multiple brands and can often be found inexpensively in stores in developing countries as well but it doesn’t include surge protection or USB charging ports, both of which I recommend. Because of that, I recently decided to switch to a similar model with both USB ports and surge protection. Note that mostly this design gets good reviews but invariably there are those that claim it is useless or blew up. I have never had any issues with mine so I don’t know if they misused it or just got one from a bad manufacturing batch. Also, various companies sell the same basic design so sometimes one particular provider becomes unavailable and you need to search for an alternative seller. There are different types of designs that get good reviews but I haven’t tried any of them yet. Two that look promising are the ones from Epicka and Travel Inspira, both of which also include an extra fuse. The Ceptics model is interesting in that it provides two outlets and a micro USB cable, though I am not a fan of it and similar designs that use separate physical adapters as they take up much more space. For a very compact option, but one with no surge protection or USB ports, check out the Kikkerland Transformer.Whichever adapter you choose, be sure to check whether it accepts the two-prong polarized Type A plugs (where one of the two plugs is slightly larger than the other). I ordered a second adapter that I thought was the same as my original but only the newer one will accept a polarized plug. I don’t know if that is because it is newer and they have improved the design or if there are actually similar but slightly different models sold by different vendors. Definitely check before leaving that your adapter works for all your devices. For more info, read my post on powering and charging your electronic devices on the road.
Electronics Accessories (for road warriors and special circumstances)
- Voltage converter
I actually don’t recommend carrying a voltage converter because they tend to be heavy and because these days most travel electronics are universal voltage capable already. If you have an item that does not support universal voltage, I would consider replacing it before spending money on a voltage converter. If you do decide to buy one, make sure it is actually a voltage converter (as opposed to being just an outlet adapter) and, most importantly, that it can support the wattage needed by your device(s). The items that most commonly do not support universal voltage are things like hair dryers and curling irons and those usually have high wattage ratings that some cheaper, lighter voltage converters won’t be able to handle.
- Travel extension cord or outlet splitter
If you travel with multiple electronic devices or spend a lot of time in airports or other places where electrical outlets are hard to come by, an outlet splitter/extender or extension cord can be a lifesaver. When asked politely, most people will allow you to commandeer an outlet since you are adding something to the game. Many models now include USB ports as well, which can be convenient and is often what other travelers are really after anyway. If buying in the U.S. or other country that uses grounded (3-prong), polarized (one of the two vertical prongs smaller than the other) outlets, you may need to search for an extender or splitter that is ungrounded and unpolarized (2 equal sized prongs) as those are what most mobile devices use and are most compatible with international outlets. Of course, it is always good to have an outlet adapter as well.
- Cell phone leash
This leash lets you easily tether your phone to your clothing or something else to help protect it from theft or damage if dropped.
- Waterproof case/bag for your cell phone
- Selfie stick
- Travel alarm clock
I generally use my mobile phone’s alarm but I am a light sleeper. If your phone’s alarm isn’t up to the job of waking you up, pack a travel alarm.
- Solar Charger
I think a solar charger is one of those things that seems convenient but in reality never gets used, unless you are planning something like a multi-day hike, but even then you probably won’t have online access. Still, if one suits your travel needs, there are some relatively inexpensive options these days, like the popular Anker PowerPort or the Dizaul Portable Solar Power Bank.
- USB WiFi adapter
If you travel often you have probably had to deal with being in a room too far from the WiFi router to get a strong signal. A small USB WiFi adapter is just the trick to strengthen those weak signals or even pick up ones you couldn’t access at all with just your computer’s WiFi card. Some good options are the ALFA, Panda or OURLINK
- Portable Travel Router
If you need to create a hotspot and cannot do so with your computer, carrying a small pocket WiFi router while you travel may be worthwhile. The Hootoo Tripmate models are good options.
- Headphone jack splitter
Watching a video or listening to music with a partner on one device can be difficult if you need to use headphones. Fortunately, you can use an inexpensive splitter cable to plug two sets of headphones or earbuds into one jack.
- Mobile data (SIM card) USB dongle
Buying a local, prepaid SIM card for your mobile phone when you travel is a great way to save money and get better service. Sometimes it would be nice to use that data for your computer. You can do so by making your phone a hotspot (tethering) but there are also special USB dongles that have a SIM card slot. They usually include special software to interface with the mobile provider and use the data signal.
- Phone camera lens kit
Traveling light may mean using your phone as your only camera. While phone cameras are getting better and better, one weak point is the lens. To help address that, you can buy a clip-on lens kit.
- Laptop cooling pad
If your laptop tends to get very hot, a cooling pad may be the solution. These are usually bulky so not ideal for travel, but may be worth it if you are a road warrior.
- The Roost or Nexstand laptop stand
A laptop stand is another ergonomic tool for digital nomads and road warriors but probably overkill for the average traveler.
- Portable mouse
- Mouse pad
- Portable keyboard
- Hootoo wireless travel router, external battery and USB port
I already mentioned the Hootoo portable router, but this model adds a power bank and USB port as well.
- Bluetooth headset
If you will be using Skype on your laptop or tablet or just plan to be talking a lot on your mobile phone, a wireless Bluetooth headset can be worth the investment. Unfortunately, choosing one is a hassle since the price range is huge and reviews are usually polarized. In the end, I decided to buy an inexpensive one (I chose the 390 from the Plantronics Explorer series) that had more good reviews than bad and hoped for the best. One thing I was looking for, which was difficult to find several years ago, was a model that can be charged via USB (the last thing I want is to carry yet another charger in my kit). I would imagine that is a more common feature these days but verify before buying.
Safety / Security Related
- TSA approved Combination locks
A combination lock is great for securing your belongings if you have luggage with dual, lockable zippers, and is also useful if you tend to stay at hostels that offer lockers. A simple lightweight lock is best as it will make it difficult for a casual, opportunistic thief, whereas a pro probably wouldn’t be deterred even by a sturdier lock. A TSA approved lock is one that you can lock but that can also be opened by a master key by TSA personnel. The better versions include an alert whereby a normally green color becomes red if the lock is opened, so you can know if the TSA actually opened your bags for inspection. One thing to consider is how many digits or dials are included. Three is standard, but a four digit lock is more secure.
- Loop cable and lock
While a basic TSA lock is fine for your luggage or a locker in a hostel, sometimes you may want to secure your entire bag to something solid. In that case, a loop cable lock combined with your TSA lock is a good option, or alternatively you can choose Master Lock’s all-in-one solution (2 feet, 3 feet). Of course, a determined thief can cut through these cables, but it should be enough to deter most thieves looking for easy targets.
- Money belt (neck) / passport wallet with neck strap
On travel days I always use a neck money belt, though I don’t really consider it a money belt as much as an organizer for my passport and other travel day necessities. I carry my passport, flight and other travel documents, spare photos for visas, proof of vaccinations, a pen, a bit of cash, and a spare ATM card.
- Money belt (full waist)
A money belt is something that gets a lot of debate in travel circles. Some travelers swear by them and others say they are useless and that thieves are well aware of their use. I land somewhere in the middle. I think they are inconvenient as your primary way of carrying your valuables but can be very useful to store things you want to protect but don’t necessarily need to access easily or often (e.g., ATM card, passport). And, even if some thieves know about them, some won’t and others won’t want to take the time necessary for you to take yours off. Plus, they can also be helpful in thwarting pickpockets.
- Money belt (undercover hidden pocket)
The big problem with a full waist money belt is that it can be hot to wear and inconvenient to access. This hidden pocket is similar but instead of wrapping around your torso it slips onto your belt and tucks into the waistband of your pants. If you don’t want the hassle of a pocket you have to attach to your belt, you can also buy ready-to-sew Velcro pockets.
- Money belt (actual belt)
While I rarely travel with my full waist money belt, I always travel with my security belt. I have a black nylon version from Pacsafe that I can take through airport security but there is also a leather version if you tend to dress a bit nicer than I do.
- Money belt (ankle, wrist, scarf)
If a typical money belt doesn’t suit you or if you think modern thieves are hip to their use by tourists, perhaps an ankle or neck (scarf) version will work. A wrist version can also be useful for securing ready cash or if you want to exercise outdoors without carrying your wallet, but obviously it won’t hold too much.
- Decoy wallet
I carry a decoy travel wallet for convenience and safety. I usually only carry the amount of money I anticipate needing for 1-3 days around town and perhaps a credit card (if I don’t need a credit card I sometimes pack an expired card) so if I get robbed, the thief gets something but not much. Carrying less also means I can get by with a lighter wallet which is more comfortable.
- Item for hiding emergency cash
You can easily turn a common item like a dental floss box or makeup container into a secret money stash. Fold up currency and hide it inside, then put it in your regular backpack in an unexpected place in case your day bag is lost or stolen.
- Cross-body, anti-theft bag
In some countries thieves are known to cut the straps of your daypack to snatch it. If you are traveling to an area like that perhaps consider using a cross-body, anti-theft bag.
- Travel Bra™
The Travel Bra™ is a full support bra with hidden, fold-away pockets for storing cash, cards and jewelry.
If you are staying in a room that seems insecure to you or if you don’t trust the hotel staff, one way to provide a bit more peace of mind is to carry a rubber doorstop and use it to prevent the door from being opened while you are inside.
- Safety whistle
A safety whistle can be useful to scaring away someone trying to rob or attack you or, alternatively, to get the attention of someone nearby that might provide assistance.
- Laptop security cable
Did you know that most laptops come with a small security slot? Some of the newer ultrabook models don’t because they take too much space but if your laptop has one you can buy a special security cable that securely attaches to that slot on one end with a loop on the other so you can easily secure your laptop to something solid and prevent theft. I recommend a combination lock rather than key. I used one for years and loved it but unfortunately my current ultrabook has no security slot.
- Sports or adventure equipment
If you’re avid about some sport or adventure you might like to travel with relevant equipment. A snorkel or dive mask. Fins. Diving watch. Trekking poles. Frisbee. Whatever works for you and your hobby.
- Multi-function tool
A multifunction tool, like the popular Leatherman Micra multitool or this credit card size survival pocket tool can be very useful in a lot of situations but unfortunately most cannot be packed in your carry-on luggage when flying, though the Nite Ize DoohicKey
- Velcro ties
These can be put to various uses, including to close pant legs and long-sleeve shirt sleeves to prevent mosquito bites.
- Safety pins
A safety pin can come in handy if you lose a button or have another wardrobe malfunction. You can also use one to secure unruly curtains, to use as a makeshift towel hanger, to burst a blister, or even to access the SIM card slot (depending on your phone model).
- Small notebook and pen
Moleskine and Field Notes are popular options and there are also waterproof notebooks that can be useful if you will be hiking in inclement weather.
- Duct tape or gaffer tape
Duct tape is just as useful—perhaps more useful—on the road as at home. For example, you can use it to patch something (e.g., backpack, tent, mosquito net, window screening, umbrella), or to seal a container. Gaffer tape is more expensive than duct tape because it leaves no mark or residue, though I have read it sometimes causes concern for airport security agents and apparently it is less waterproof than duct tape. Wrap some or either around a pen or other object to avoid packing an entire roll or purchase this special small roll travel pack.
- Binder clips
Binder clips can be put to creative use. For example, you can use them to close curtains that won’t close fully on their own. One can also serve as a protective cover for disposable razors or to mark things (e.g., a towel) to show ownership. You can also use it to close open bags of food or, to wrangle cables, and to keep something off a counter or other surface. With a bit of imagination you can probably think of other uses as well.
Backpacker Magazine has a useful video explaining the things you should consider when picking a tent.
- Sleeping bag
I don’t have much camping experience but my understanding is that the most important consideration is traveling with a sleeping bag rated for the temperatures you expect to encounter. As a general rule, the lower the temperature rating, the more expensive and larger the bag. And, speaking of size and weight, the lighter and smaller you go, the higher the price.
- Sleeping bag pad
Most sleeping bags won’t provide much comfort on hard ground so using a sleeping pad is the way to go.
- Lighter / matches
- Mosquito net
- Camping stove and fuel canisters
- Collapsible/inflatable solar lantern
A solar powered lantern is great for camping nights. A couple of good options are the MPOWERD Luci Outdoor Inflatable Solar Light and the LuminAID PackLite Max USB Solar Inflatable Waterproof Lantern.
- Baby powder/lotion
- Baby food and/or formula
- Favorite toys, games or books
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