Ah, packing, one of the most essential and, if you’re an organisational weirdo like me, exciting parts of the travelling process. There’s just something magical about being able to fit your entire life for the next few weeks into one piece of luggage, whether that luggage be a backpack, a suitcase or one of those nifty convertibles that can’t decide what it wants to be. It makes my minimalist-at-heart side happy. But when you’re first starting out travelling it can be hard to know where to start in terms of what you should be bringing (heck, even I struggle sometimes). That’s why I’ve compiled this handy list of the items that I always bring with me on an adventure that you might not have thought of to add to your list. Plus, let’s face it, I love a good peek inside someone else’s luggage as much as the next person. All you’ve got to do is scroll down for all your packing-inspiration needs.
Osprey Porter 46L Carry-On
Being specifically designed to fit the maximum dimensions for carry-on travel on most major airlines, this backpack is absolutely perfect if you appreciate the benefits of travelling light. The 46 litre capacity is enough for taking a little bit more than the bare essentials, but will prevent you from going overboard when you literally cannot cram anything else into it (trust me, I’ve tried). While it doesn’t have a frame, which helps to keep the weight down to just over 1kg, I’ve never once found this backpack uncomfortable to wear. The shoulder straps are super comfy, it has ventilation in the back, it doesn’t pull too much when fully packed, and it moulds perfectly to my 5 ft 3 back. This backpack has been shoved into overhead compartments in trains, squeezed into hostel lockers and even used as a pillow on one or two very sleepy occasions, and it’s still going strong. It’s definitely a toughie.
American Tourister 55cm Applite 2.0 Spinner
This one’s a new addition to my luggage line-up – purchased for an upcoming trip where I’m planning on buying a lot of goodies to bring home in it – so I don’t have too much to say about it yet. My initial review is that it’s incredibly light and the four fully-rotating wheels are perfect for if you want the manoeuvrability that comes with a backpack without having to lug your possessions on your back. Let’s just say I’m incredibly excited to try this one out (plus, it’s canary yellow on the inside, which makes me one happy traveller).
Call me a millennial all you like, but I rarely go anywhere without my IPhone. Not because I’m a fanatic Apple fan, but because it’s the only phone that I own. It’s second-hand, it fits my travel sim, and the camera’s not too shabby for the occasional selfie. Plus, it’s so universal that if something does go wrong abroad, you’ll probably be able to find help in some form. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a win-win to me.
While this one’s probably not essential for everybody, my 2DS has more than come in handy on those pesky flight delays or 5-hour bus journeys. Sometimes you just don’t want to read for multiple hours and naps are probably off the table – which is where this little beauty comes in. I can while away a solid three or four hours with a good Pokemon or Fire Emblem sesh without finding my eyes constantly checking the clock.
The Kindle has earned its place as the bookish travellers best friend for a very good reason. It’s crazy light, you can fit a bookshop worth of novels on it, and the battery lasts for literally weeks. Yes, weeks. Be still my beating heart. My Kindle of choice is the Paperwhite as the inbuilt light is great for when you don’t want to wake up your roommates or the person in the seat next to you on a flight if you fancy a spot of reading.
Belkin Universal Travel Adaptor
You guys, this one’s a new addition to my backpack, but it has changed my life. No longer do you have to fight it out with your hostel roommates/travelling companion over who gets priority over the single power-point in the room. All you have to do is clip on the appropriate travel adaptor for the country you’re in, plug this bad boy into the wall and you’ve got access to not only two grounded power-points but also two high-speed USB charging ports. That’s triple the charging points, and all you have to do is pack this tiny little device into your luggage. I’m telling you, it’s revolutionary.
Nikon D5200 + 35mm 1.8G DX Lens
Ugh, I have such a love hate relationship with this camera and lens combo. The images are absolutely stunning, it’s so intuitive to use for beginners like me, and I look professional AF whenever I whip it out. But it’s. just. so. heavy. Like, I’m convinced that one of my shoulders is lower than the other as a direct result of lugging this camera around, that sort of heavy. But the photo quality is totally worth the pain and not worth the money involved in replacing it. You see the cycle I’m stuck in?
In-ear or noise-cancelling headphones
You need this one guys. Have you ever been lying wide awake after an exhausting day exploring because a roommate has decided to re-pack their bag at midnight or road traffic is crazy loud? Pop in your headphones. Screaming baby on the plane or just want to retreat into your own perfectly controlled sound bubble? Headphones, guys, headphones. Trust me, stick these into your bag and I promise you won’t regret it.
White Noise App
Speaking of cancelling out noise, a white noise app like the iconic Rainy Mood literally saved my sleep schedule on my most recent trip. Combine a white noise app with those noise-cancelling headphones I talked about above and you’ll soon be sleeping like a baby in even the loudest of circumstances. Don’t worry, I’ll wait while you run to the app store.
Vitamin C + Zinc Tablets
This one goes for any form of immune support tablets that you fancy. The Contiki cough is not just limited to tour groups guys, getting sick while travelling is super easy and super sucky. Think about it: you’re in a strange place, eating strange food and interacting with strange people who have their own strange germs. Sure, this is the thing we love about travel, meeting people different from us (and their germs) but getting sick is so not bueno. Stick these bad guys in your bag and kick those potential future colds right in the butt.
Portable Hand Sanitiser
Imagine: you’ve stumbled into a public bathroom in some random corner of the world. It’s not the cleanest, but you’re busting and you promise yourself you’ll wash your hands thoroughly once you’re finished. But – shock, horror- the soap dispenser is empty! Enter portable hand sanitiser. Pack it, use it, love it. You’re welcome.
If you pack anything on this list, make sure you pack some tissues. You can use them as toilet paper if you find yourself without some, you can make origami out of them if you get really bored waiting for a flight, or you can use them as, well, tissues. They take up so little space in your luggage that there’s really no reason not to bring them.
This one might be dependant on whether you’re visiting a country where it rains a lot (read: most countries), but if you are then a rain poncho is absolutely invaluable. It doesn’t have to be a super expensive one, just make sure its completely windproof and waterproof like the handy Kathmandu Pocket-It Waterproof Anorak I recently invested in. But, I know what you’re thinking, why don’t you just buy an umbrella? Well, because umbrellas are useless if there’s even the slightest breeze, which there most definitely is going to be at the most inconvenient of times. Remember this post the next time it buckets down in the middle of a day exploring and you’re able to hunker down under your poncho while other, poncho-less, tourists are forced to leave and seek shelter elsewhere.
You never know when you might have the chance to take a dip in the hotel pool or spend an evening relaxing in a natural hot spring. Keeping a swimsuit in your luggage means you’ll never have to miss that opportunity when it comes up. Plus, they take up so little space that packing one is really not that much of an inconvenience.
Ladies, hear me out on this one. Dresses are the ultimate travel clothing. They’re a bottom and a top in one, they go with both boots and sandals (great for those cross-equator travellers amongst us), and you can easily whip them on with a pair of tights and a jacket if things get chilly. Even if you’re not usually a dress person, investing in some cute, comfy dresses will change your travel wardrobe world. No longer will you be stuck trying to co-ordinate everything you want to bring for your trip, now you just have to pack a dress for each day that you won’t have access to some form of laundry.
Circle scarves, or infinity scarves, are a great addition to any traveller’s wardrobe, regardless of the weather of your destination. They can be used for their original purpose in a cold environment (even in an artificial one, like a plane or train), doubled-up as a pillow, wrapped around your body like a blanket and used to cover up your shoulders, head and knees when visiting temples or churches. Even if you don’t think you’ll need it, it’s great to keep one on hand for those situations you just can’t plan for. Plus, they fold down into a teeny-tiny bundle, which is fab when you’re trying to save space.
This one might be sacrilege for a travel blogger, but I always have a guidebook on hand. It’s mostly in case I don’t have access to internet and thus can’t google things, but it also just makes me feel like a “real” traveller. Like the kind of traveller that dons an Indiana Jones-esque leather jacket and ends up spending a year shepherding llamas in Peru. Ah, what a life, eh? Oh, and guidebooks also usually come with a multitude of maps, so you can check those off your packing list.
Particularly relevant to hostel-stayers, an LED torch – which is softer on the eyes than your standard torch – is a must-pack if you’re staying in a dorm. The next time you have to leave the room in the middle of the night or come in late, just whip on your torch and step away from the room light. Your room-mates will thank you later for not interrupting their sleep.
Food to share with your roomies
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there is simply no better way to break the ice with a potential new friend or a new roomate than by sharing food, particularly food that is unique to the country you obviously both have a desire to explore. Chocolate or lollies work best but even preparing a home cooked meal is a sure-fire way to make another person feel welcome and make you seem approachable. You know what they say, the way to another’s heart is always through their stomach.
This one’s also a must if you’re staying in hostels who don’t provide towels or even if you just plan on hitting the beach on your trip. Mircrofibre towels, also sometimes marketed as travel towels, are much smaller than your average fluffy towel and dry in half the time, so you don’t have to worry about stuffing a sopping wet towel in with your nice dry, clothes when you have to leave early in the morning. Plus, sometimes it’s nice to just have access to your own clean towel, especially when staying in dodgier accommodation.
Have you ever had that moment halfway through a trip when you can’t quite remember which of your clothes needed to be washed and which ones were clean? Trust me, we’ve all been there. If you want an easy way to avoid having to do the sniff test on all your items of clothing, buy and pack yourself a laundry bag to separate the good from the smelly. You can get them in all kinds of funky patterns, and they fold down into a tiny little bag so they won’t take up much space when not in use. Then, when it comes time to wash, you can also just take the bag with you. No more precious exploring time lost on sorting out your clothes!
Feature image by Drew Coffman