What’s essential to pack?

UPDATE: I’ve put this list and more in my new book Women with Wanderlust. Get the updated list in the book and access to the FREE printable list in the shop.

I try to travel as light as possible in a carry on; everything I need to get by for three weeks in just a backpack. What do I consider essentials for a trip can depend on where I am going, but I have some staple items.

Always in my pack

  • External battery charger for my phone, tablet or other small electronics
  • Printed and digital copies of my passport, credit card numbers in case of being lost or stolen, Visa pictures (if required), flight itinerary and anything else I have booked ahead like hotels and excursions.
  • Saved maps for the places I am going or an app on my phone like Triposo.
  • Small finger nail clippers, file (I’ve broken more nails in airports than anywhere else…ever) and scissors (not sharp, under one inch) or just bring a Swiss Army knife if you are checking your bag
  • Go Toob’s for all my liquids (shampoo, body wash, face wash)
  • Upset tummy meds, sleep aids and Emergen-C
  • Extra memory cards for my camera (I take a lot of photos…everywhere I go) and a small tripod
  • Scarf / shawl and compression socks for the plane
  • Plug adapters for every country I’m going to (I don’t bring anything that needs a converter)
  • Noise canceling ear buds (for the flight and anytime I need some peace and quiet) and the in flight two prong adapter (some flights just don’t have the one prong option)
  • TSA lock (this comes in handy even if you don’t plan to check your bag)
  • Snack bars or trail mix (quick pick me ups for in between meals or when you get lost and can’t find food)
  • Three pairs of shoes, light weight walking shoes that double as running shoes, comfortable sandals and cheap flip flops (they come in handy for beaches, showers, plane travel and double as house slippers)
  • Undergarment bag (if someone has to go through your bag for security they don’t have to touch them, plus, it keeps them all together and they don’t fall out anywhere embarrassing)
  • Sleep sack if I am sleeping somewhere in transit or couch surfing (acts like a barrier for anything unclean and it can take the chill off if it’s cold)
  • Face wipes and hand sanitizer
  • Two credit cards, one Mastercard and one Visa (I learned this the hard way that sometime only one or the other is accepted), and a debit card. Make sure they all waive foreign transaction fees (no need to pay more than you need to for things)
  • Cash (just a small amount, you never know when you will need it and any currency can do in a pinch)
  • PacSafe day bag (or equivalent bag that is cut proof and has RFID protection)
  • Kindle stocked with several books to read (and my reading glasses)
  • Phone stocked with sleep music and a couple shows to watch (just in case I need entertainment on the plane, more than a couple times the TV’s haven’t worked on flights)
  • Aspirin (if its a long flight it helps, assuming you aren’t allergic)
  • Sunglasses (Always! Even if it doesn’t call for sun I wear them almost everyday with my sensitive eyes)
  • Tissue/Toilet paper (sanitary items for women, because it always comes when you’re not expecting it)

Seasonal items I pack

  • Lightweight, water repellant wind breaker (if where I am going has any heavy rains in the forecast. I may also bring a small umbrella if it shows rain everyday but usually just my rain jacket.)
  • Sunscreen (if I am going somewhere sunny)
  • Hat, gloves and scarf (if I am going somewhere cold)

I usually pack three times. I put out all my stuff a week or so before I go, then pack it lightly. With a few days to go, I sort through and get rid of some stuff and fill in if I have forgotten anything. Then when I pack the last time, the day before I go, I get rid of more stuff.

Clothes I bring

I never wear all the clothes I bring so I bring less than I think I need, and I usually, still, have too much. I bring one comfy pair of pants that also doubles as PJ and running pants. I bring at least one pair of jeans and a comfy pair or two of linen pants. I bring one pair of shorts if it’s going to be nice. I bring one shirt for every two days, or less! I also bring long sleeves that double as sun protection and layers for warmth.

Also, wherever I go I usually like to buy an item of clothing.