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.
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
I 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
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
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
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.
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.
Of 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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