Eight Travel Must-Haves (and Two You Should Ditch)

Illustration by DWITT

Illustration by DWITT

It’s easy to slip into “what if” mode when packing for a trip. What if the temperature does a nose dive and I didn’t pack anything appropriate? What if I lose my cell phone? What if my luggage gets lost? While there are some things, like the weather, that you simply can’t control, there are also several safety nets you can put in place so that even the most irritating hiccup in your plans doesn’t ruin your entire trip.

The following essential travel items will not only help your brain transition from panic mode to vacation relaxation, they’ll also act as an insurance policy against some of the most common travel annoyances.  

Baby wipes: Bathrooms are not always stocked, and travel delays are not always avoidable. Carrying a travel-size packet of unscented baby wipes will ensure you aren’t stranded with your pants down (literally) and have a way to wipe the grime of airports and long plane rides off your face and body.

Earplugs: Getting enough sleep is essential for having an enjoyable trip. Block out noisy neighbors and screaming babies with a good pair of earplugs. 

Reusable water bottle: Don’t shell out $7 for lukewarm water—pack a bottle to refill along the way.

Rain jacket: Umbrellas are a pain to pack and carry. Find a lightweight, waterproof (not just water-resistant), windproof jacket that can double as an extra layer when needed, and never go chilled or soggy again.

Copy of ID and printed itinerary confirmations: Phones die and wallets get stolen. Having a printed copy of your ID and hotel, bus, airplane, etc. reservations will ensure you can still get by even if you encounter some unfortunate hurdles along the way. 

Toothbrush in your carry-on: Nothing feels better than brushing your teeth after a long flight or never-ending delay. 

Gallon-size Ziploc bag: This can be used for just about anything: as an extra layer of protection for uncooperative toiletries, a waterproof seal for electronics, storing dirty clothes. Throw in a couple quart-sized bags, too, to use to pack snacks or as back-ups in case your airline-approved, 3.4 ounce bottle carrier needs replacing.

Stowaway backpack: These are incredibly handy for exploring a city, or carrying groceries, or trips to the beach, and are compact enough to squeeze into a corner of your purse, laptop bag, or carry-on bag.

Now that we’ve covered what you need to pack, here are two things you need to leave at home:

Valuables: I’m sure your favorite jewelry does complete your outfit. You’ll also miss it that much more if you forget it in a hotel bathroom and it
disappears forever.

Pillow: Travel pillows are rarely effective and always awkward to carry post-airplane, train, or bus ride. Better to pack a scarf that you can bunch up behind your neck and then stuff back into your bag.

Related: It’ll Fit: A Master Course in Packing

About Ellen Burkhardt

Ellen Burkhardt is a freelance writer. When she's not writing, editing, or interviewing, chances are she's on the road seeking out good food, drink, and fodder for her next story.