My Top 7 Travel Essentials

October 6, 2015

travel planning, Travel Tips

Travel Essentials

Photo via Flickr

As I began packing for my next trip I realized that I have a few essentials that go with me regardless of my destination. Many of these items, in some form, have been coming with me for the last 15 years! If they are this essential to me, perhaps you will also find them useful in your travels.

1. Scarf/Sarong

Pashmina Shawl - Travel Essential

Photo via Flickr

Ever since my first trip backpacking around Europe, I have carried some type of scarf or sarong. In the early days it was a sarong that I would use for a towel, beach cover up and light blanket for bus or train rides. After moving to India, my sarong took the backseat to my Indian pashmina.

On every trip I always have my pashmina and/or my sarong. This is an indispensable item for a female traveler. A shawl or pashmina can be used to dress up an outfit, to cover up in religious sites or even to cover your head while riding a camel through the dusty desert (yes I have done this!). Now that we travel as a family, it has become even more useful as a blanket for my son, a shield in nature to use the restroom with some privacy, you name it!

2. Plug Adapter

Bestek Travel Adapter - Travel EssentialsI have changed this item only 2 times over the last 15 years. My newest addition is the BESTEK® Universal Worldwide All-in-one Travel Adapter that has USB outlets rather than just a plug. This has been my greatest friend – one plug for anywhere in the world I go and with the increased use of USB plugs, I can now plug in several items at once, which is especially helpful in hotels with limited plugs. Another thing to keep in mind when you purchase an adapter is getting one that has options for multiple types of input plugs. We have a hair dryer with a UK plug we use for Europe where this is important. Please note though, this is not a voltage converter, i.e. do not bring your US hair dryer to Europe and expect it to work!

3. Foldable Backpack

Muji Foldable Backpack - Travel Essentials

Photo via JustWandering

A foldable backpack or duffle bag has also been coming with me for a long time. Even if I manage to pack light (which is not always easy for me!), I pack my bag to the maximum, no matter the size. And I always need extra space on the way home for souveniers, snacks and other travel essentials. My current favorite is a foldable backpack from Muji. This thing packs so small and light that it is essential to bring. We use this bag as a daypack while venturing around cities. as a backpack for hikes and for extra storage on the way home. Prior to this bag, I used a fold up duffle bag from REI. There are lots of reasonable priced bags on Amazon like this Ultra Lightweight Packable Backpack.

4. Packing Cubes

Packing Cubes - Travel Essentials

Photo via Flickr

Before my very first trip backpacking in Europe, I attended a Rick Steves seminar where he convinced me of the benefit of rolling my clothes and the use of packing cubes. Fifteen years later, I still do both. Thanks Rick Steves! I don’t always use the packing cubes in the way they are intended, but they always come with me.

I recently discovered these Eagle Creek Travel Compression Cubes which help me fit lots of stuff in a small space (think carry-on bag only). For family travel, I use the packing cubes to separate different family member’s clothes quickly and easily. I still use and love my original Eagle Creek Cubes, but have added the compression cubes into the arsenal as well. For different sizes and styles, you can also check out Muji’s cubes.

5. Comfortable Travel Clothes

Travel Yoga Pants - Travel Essentials

Photo via Jetsettimes

This has changed a few times over the years, but essentially I always wear a similar outfit on travel days. A flowing dress or long shirt over leggings has been my go to for many years now. In the last 10 or so years, many of my trips have included long 24+ hour travel days where it was essential to be comfortable, but also feel put together. My one requirement on my long shirt/flowing dress or leggings is for it to have a pocket! I really like having a pocket to store my passport while moving through security or while waiting to board.

6. Notebook

Notebook - Travel Essential

Photo via Flickr

This has significantly changed over the years, but it’s still very important in my travels. For my first few trips abroad I would make a personalized journal/notebook based on my destination – photos, quotes, notes and places to be discovered. Or I would fill the cover of the journal with photos of my friends and family for the days of loneliness that often occur in solo travel.

These days, with the internet and smart phones, my “notebook” is my digital notepad on my phone or my laptop. Although I have been looking to move back to the old school journaling as it just feels better to sit in a cafe or a park writing in a journal rather than pecking away on the phone.

7. Camera

Sony Mirrorless Camera - Travel EssentialOf course this could not be left off the list. I think I could do without a change of clothes on a trip, but I could never survive without a camera! On my first trip abroad I really discovered the beauty of taking photos. I would capture everything from the streets, buildings, people, scenery and plant life all in an attempt to be able to bring back the essence of a place to share with my friends and family.

My photo taking career began with a point and shoot, moved to a film SLR and then to a digital SLR. Now I am back down to a smaller sized camera with my Sony Alpha a6000 mirror-less camera along with my iPhone and even a GoPro as well! For me, taking photos of a destination is almost as important as being there. It’s what often propels me to book a certain holiday – the images that await.

As my husband can attest, I definitely take a lot more than just these items, but these few things are my go to travel essentials no matter if I am driving to Utah or flying to India.

What are your travel essentials that go with you regardless of the destination?

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After 15 years of traveling, seven items always come with me. What are your Travel Essentials?

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27 Responses to “My Top 7 Travel Essentials”

  1. Tarah Says:

    This is very helpful!! Hope you have a safe and fun holiday with your family! x

    Reply

  2. Juhi Says:

    Love this list – sometimes it feels like if you have these essentials on you, you can manage without (practically) anything else. :) (Actually I’ve had to do that more often than I care to admit…my luggage has quite the tendency to go missing or get delayed!) Have a great trip!

    Reply

  3. N J Magas Says:

    The adapter is such an essential that we ALWAYS FORGET! It’s ridiculous how desperately we need this one little thing, but it’s always the thing to get left behind.

    Reply

    • kkowen Says:

      I have a bag where I keep all of my travel essentials- locks, packing cubes, adapters, travel hair dryer, camping knife, etc that I consult for each trip so I never forget the basics! But we always forget something as well!! This trip – a sun hat!

      Reply

  4. Denise Says:

    I can’t travel without a camera either! I have a DSLR but I have been looking at a smaller system for on the go. I also have a Go Pro but would rather keep that for videos.
    Denise recently posted…Cliffs of Moher | Liscannor Clare IrelandMy Profile

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    • kkowen Says:

      Check out the Sony mirrorless line. They are really great. I have the body and a 50mm lens that I take everywhere!

      Reply

  5. Roma Says:

    I was a young inexperienced traveler when my mum jammed a sarong in my suitcase. “You might need it” she said. I scoffed and thought ‘Yeh as if’… but she was right. To this day, desert or snow I still pack a sarong. Glad to see it made your list!
    Roma recently posted…Rugby World Cup 2015 – Where to watch the RWCMy Profile

    Reply

  6. Elena Says:

    Interesting, my list is fairly close except 2 things: 1)I tried packing cubes, but eventually switched to compression bags; 2)notebook had been replaced with mini iPad (my handwriting is pretty dismal, and I got too tired of not been able to figure my own notes):)
    Elena recently posted…Agrigento In Two DaysMy Profile

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  7. Eloise Says:

    Good list!

    I have a very similar list, that’s funny. Scarf is so great, you’re right! I becomes a protection from the sun, from the cold, a beach towel, a pillow, a blanket, even a bag if you’re good enough ahah

    Few little differences: I don’t use packing cubes. If I lack space, I use dry bags to compress the air. And I don’t have a notebook: I use my phone. Main reason is weight… and because I ALWAYS forget to take a pen (this is ridiculous, I always forget the pen!). So I’d replace this one with a powerbank to recharge batteries on the go! :)
    Eloise recently posted…Travels & Full-Time Job: 3 Steps To Find the Right BalanceMy Profile

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    • kkowen Says:

      The compression bags are great! If I see them at the dollar store I always pack some for the way home when I need extra space!

      Yeah I haven’t taken an actual journal in a while.. Considered it for this trip, but went with the phone instead due to weight needs!

      Reply

  8. Lesley Says:

    I feel like a do pretty well without packing cubes but I love the rest of your list, especially the scarf. It’s such a multi-purpose piece.

    Reply

    • kkowen Says:

      I’ve found through the years I use them most when I’m backpacking. Now that I use an actual suitcase I tend to just use the compression cubes to fit more in! I use the small compression cubes for my sons stuff and roll al of my stuff to fit in between!

      Reply

  9. Mary Says:

    I’m so glad I looked at your list! Most of these I have on my top 7, but I did not think of the adapter! I’m heading to Europe next year and I think you just saved my electronic’s battery life! ☺️
    Mary recently posted…How to Start a Travel Blog BackwardsMy Profile

    Reply

    • kkowen Says:

      Yes, definitely don’t forget the adapters!! And i realized on my trip that another essential i always have with me – Tide stain remover sticks. Of course it’s because I travel with a messy child & husband, but I realized they are so great to have around!

      Reply

  10. Halida A. Says:

    Hi! I love traveling and i never traveled without my camera too! I don’t like relying on my phone to take pics so i always bring a proper camera (now i carry a mirrorless). I’m not that good w/ the features yet, but i find it so much better than phone cameras.. i can never believe it when i see friends traveling, esp abroad, without a camera. I dont know, i guess it suits them that way but personally, i like to bring home lots of pics from my trips!!
    Halida A. recently posted…Universal Studios Japan: Review Wahana dan TipsMy Profile

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    • kkowen Says:

      I have to say that on our recent trip to Fiji, I almost never took my camera out of the bag! Being around water and on the beach so much meant that it was easier to use my phone and the gopro. Lets see what the results are when I now go back through all of our photos!!

      Reply

  11. Dannielle Lily Says:

    Those packing cubes are all over travel blogs at the minute! Are they really that good? Completely agree on all the other thing – especially the scarf and notebook!
    Dannielle Lily recently posted…Surviving without wifi abroadMy Profile

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    • kkowen Says:

      Yes I have also seen it all over the internet at the moment! Honestly, I have been using them forever.. but now days they are the best when backpacking or when I need to easily separate all of our clothes so the bag doesn’t become a big jumble of clothes!

      Reply

  12. MaryAnn Says:

    Pashmina/sarong is on my list with compression cubes and a universal outlet with USB ports.
    My ipad mini is my notebook and my phone has a 13mp camera that takes sweet pictures. I used to drag my 35mm with lenses but I don’t miss it.
    My last 2 necessities are based on bad experiences. I’m that person with all the Imodium, big spray, sunscreen…my med kit is small but packed like an apocalypse is expected. I always hope to only use the sunscreen.
    Well fitting adult diapers…6 because I’m an optimist. These are something I have never needed except for traveling but when needed, they beat the crap out of my pashmina!

    Reply

  13. Corinne Says:

    Karilyn, Great list1 I also pack a flashlight. I find that when sleeping in a new place and it’s really dark, that I can reach over and grab my little flashlight to show me the way to the bathroom. It makes me feel better.
    Corinne recently posted…Weekend Inspiration – Mark TwainMy Profile

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  14. Elizabeth Says:

    I also carry a foldup nylon shopping bag. We use them constantly. So many places charge you now for plastic bags (all of Europe) and it doubles as a beach bag etc. I use my backpack for all my normal stuff- camera etc. The nylon bag is for shopping, beach, going out on a boat for the day etc.
    Elizabeth recently posted…Greetings from Hanoi: Wish You were Here!My Profile

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    • kkowen Says:

      Oh yes!! I also always have at least one of those in my purse. In CA we have to pay for bags so I use them daily!

      Reply

  15. Shannon - SoleSeeking Says:

    Good tips! That multi-country plug adapter looks really useful! I am currently trying to get into the habit of rolling my clothes when packing. And as convenient as it may be to write a journal alone, I’m an old romantic and do still love the tactile element of a paper journal.
    Shannon – SoleSeeking recently posted…Descent into the Deep: A Daring Four-Wheel Drive in Canyonlands National ParkMy Profile

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  16. Donna Says:

    Have never left home without a sarong … Have even been known to use it as a table cloth in public picnic areas

    Reply

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