Travel Necessities: The 6 Things I Always Pack

I’m not really into doing gear reviews (except to rave about the elusive amazing travel purse), despite the massive amount of solicitations that end up in my inbox. I mean, how much interesting stuff can I really say about a pair of shoes or a computer case?

Even so, I do get a lot of questions about what gear I carry with me on my travels. I’m not the kind of expert who reads dozens of backpack reviews or constantly upgrades my gear. I buy stuff, and if I like it, I stick with it, sometimes for many years.

Because space is always at a premium when you are moving around, I have to be very careful about what I select to tote around the world. Today I thought I would share some of my favorite travel necessities that always make it into my bag, no matter where I am headed.

Packing Cubes

Packing Cubes are a Travel Necessities
Two styles of packing, side by side

There are two kinds of people in this world. People who organize their backpacks with cubes or compression sacks (me) or people who just shove everything in and hope for the best (my husband). He can be all wrinkly if he wants, but I’ve been organizing my clothes in my backpack for years and its become one of my travel necessities.

I’ve been using the same old set for years, but recently I’ve replaced them with these Pack-It Specter Cubes from Eagle Creek. They are lighter and pack up even smaller. I usually organize my clothes by type (dresses, t-shirts, socks etc) and it makes unpacking even easier: just put cubes in drawers.


Can’t live without them. Don’t care what brand although I’ve been really into Yoga pants from Old Navy (yeah what can I say? I’m cheap). I made the mistake of packing none for my RTW trip and ended up almost immediately stealing a pair from Michael. They are travel necessities for lazy, rainy or chilly days when you just want to feel cozy and at home, wherever you are.

Flip Flops

Travel Necessities - Flip Flops

From Old Navy, preferably. What can I say? I used to shell out for expensive Tivas, Havainas etc. but now I save my money and buy the $5 ($2.50 if you can find them on sale) colorful rubber flip flops from the same store where I buy most of my cheap disposable clothes. They are surprisingly sturdy and I don’t feel so bad when I inevitably drunkenly lose one, which has happened… more times than I care to admit.

External Hard Drive

I’ve learned about backing up my files the hard way more than once. My Mac Book Air is perfect except for it’s tiny hard-drive, so I use my Western Digital 1 terabyte external drive to store my photos, music and a whole bunch of movies and tv shows. I’d be lost without it and I think all serious travelers, blogger or not, should have one, seriously make this one of your travel necessities.


No surprise here! My Kindle Paperwhite is my most prized possession, it’s the number one thing I would save in a fire (besides Mike I guess). When you read as much as I do, an e-reader is an essential travel accessory for a steady stream of new material.

You can read more about WHAT I read on my Kindle here.

Collapsible Shopping Bag

I bought this as an after-thought at a big department store sale and it has become one of the most useful things I own and one of my travel necessities. It’s a thin fabric shopping bag that squishes up into a container the size of my palm. Perfect to carry in my purse and whip out to hold groceries, market finds, an impromptu picnic and more.

As the way I travel continues to evolve, the things I carry change too. In the next year, I’m looking to update my travel gear to become more streamlined and light. I may even switch to carry on only, a big change for me! Eagle Creek as sent me a carry-on size backpack to try out (it has wheels!), so I will be sure to let you know how that goes for me. As long as I can fit my sweatpants, I should be good to go.

What travel necessities do you always carry?



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14 thoughts on “Travel Necessities: The 6 Things I Always Pack”

  1. iphone loaded with travel apps and a good international credit card so I can avoid international fees on the card and getting screwed by the currency exchange services…

  2. Compression bags save my life! I’m a recent convert, only having discovered them a couple of years ago, but ever since, I can’t go anywhere without them. I used to be one of those messy packers who shoved everything in my bag, but inevitably thigns would get mixed around and wrinkly, and the idea of a totally disorganized pile of clothes leaves me feeling totally panicked. So compression bags to the rescue–AND they allow me to pack smaller bags (I actually fit a week’s worth of bulky sweater dresses in a tiny carry-on recently, a major win), so what’s not to love?

  3. “From Old Navy, preferably. What can I say? I used to shell out for expensive Tivas , Havainas etc. but now I save my money and buy the $5 ($2.50 if you can find them on sale) colorful rubber flip flops from the same store where I buy most of my cheap disposible clothes.”

    You know, I’m going to have to disagree with this.

    I have a pair of men’s Teva “hiking sandals” (seriously) that I purchased… oh, what, two years ago? Since then, they’ve been more or less permanently discolored and tinted “dirt-shade,” but are otherwise absolutely unscathed.

    They’ve been through the woods, they’ve been up and down trails, they’ve taken several extended dips into large bodies of water – hell, I wear the things when it’s below freezing and three inches of snow are on the ground because I’m from the cold North and nuts that way, I have heaped all kinds of abuse on these things and they barely even show it. My last pair lasted five years and only got retired because my family’s dog decided to chew through the straps – and at $50 on sale from L.L. Bean, I decided to just eat the cost of a replacement instead of trying to fix them.

    Not that I’m trying to mount a defense of buying (and especially overbuying) heaps of expensive clothing/shoes/accessories, but – and this is my personal experience so yours could be different – if you can snag a single, high-quality item (like a pair of sandals) and it lasts you longer than the equivalent amount of money on the disposable equivalent; I would call that a better financial decision even if the initial sticker shock of EXPENSIVE ITEM would give you pause.

    Now, obviously, this doesn’t apply if you find yourself replacing the expensive item on a regular basis. Mostly, I only wanted to make the counter-point that the lowest-cost item isn’t always the best purchasing decision. (Also kind of sort of to rush to the defense of Tevas because these things rule. Seriously.)

    1. Tevas ARE great, I used to wear them all the time! If I were doing any hiking or other intense stuff in my sandals I would absolutely go for them. I mostly use mine to go to and from the beach though, so $2.50 sandals work equally well.

      1. Ah, well, fair enough!

        Sometimes I forget that most people don’t wear sandals for literally everything.

  4. I love packing cubes! They make (un)packing so much easier. When you travel long-term, your backpack kinda turns into your home. And you wouldn’t want a super messy room, right? I love having my backpack organized!

    I think what I would add to this list would be a scarf. When you travel in countries like India it comes in super handy when you want to cover your shoulders. Sometimes you need to cover your head when visiting religious sites. It also serves as a “pillow” for long bus rides 🙂

  5. These are all great! And not the typical list, ha. Mine would be: a maxi skirt (good for changing in and discretely going to the bathroom by the side of the road too!), lightweight leather boots, body butter, and an ipod to make long journeys a little more bearable!

  6. We never did the packing cubes. Got bigger packs, packed somewhat haphazardly, never had trouble fitting stuff in and it left us room to shop in the US before heading home.

    My must haves are definitely my laptop, Toms and flipflops, sundress, cloth shopping bags, bug spray, sunblock, and Camelbak.

    1. I never used the packing cubes either until 2 years ago. One for my t-shirts and buttoned shirts, one for pants (long, short, trunks) and one for boxers and socks.
      Believe me, it’s sooo much more comfortable to have kind of an organized backpack, especially when you have to pack or find anything quickly. And you can compress everything pretty well. Also after almost 12 years of extensive travelling my much-loved backpack fell apart and i bought a new one, this time one that i can open when it’s lying on the floor (i chose the Fjällräven Kajka 75 and I looooove it).
      Also, some net-bags for dirty laundry are very handy for me.
      Even if my backpack takes up to 75 litres since then I never start travelling with more than 14 kilos altogether and it’s plenty of room left for stuff you buy and very comfortable to carry all the way. 🙂
      Cheers, Christian

  7. I don’t think I could live without yoga pants/leggings, either. Anything that can be “dressy” and comfortable? Sign me up. I’m horrible with packing organization though…I really need to get some see-through packing cubes. I’ve tried compression sacks, but always forget what I put in the damn things.

  8. As long as I have my phone, money and passport, I’m good. I could get lost in the city. It’s part of the adventure.

  9. When I go traveling, no matter what country or season, the first thing I pack are an umbrella, sunscreen, powerbank or mobile battery charger, and a digital camera.

    My handbag usually carries a small tube of sunscreen, the mobile battery charger and digicam along with wallet, coin purse (depends on country), my Moleskine, a pen, and a good tube of lip balm. A rented pocket WiFi from airport of destination is becoming a staple for me, too.

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