As much as I love to travel, I seriously hate packing. Whether it’s gathering a few things for a weekend getaway or stuffing my life into a backpack for a jaunt around the world, I inevitably put off packing until the last moment possible.
The result? Whatever happens to be in arm’s reach gets taken along for the ride, a lot of it impractical items I’ll never use. But I’ve accepted it. I’m a horrible packer, and it’s unlikely I’ll ever feel inspired to Tetris-Cube my belongings into a suitcase.
But along with the unrealistic dress I might wear once, I also know the articles I’ll definitely be in need of. All small and seemingly simple things, these items have proved invaluable again and again. Whether you’re eating your way through Italy or volunteering in India, here are the 5 essentials items all travelers should have.
I only recently bought my first sarong, and I honestly don’t know how I traveled so long without one. These things are brilliant. For starters, sarongs are easy to find and dirt-cheap, often going for around $5USD. They’re also lightweight and can be stuffed into the tiniest of spaces. But more importantly, you can employ sarongs for virtually a million things. Think beach towel (or any towel for that matter), cover-up for religious spaces, blanket on a cold bus ride, or scarf for a quick accessory. Drape a sarong on a tree for instant shade; gather the corners for a laundry pouch; create a sheet at a sketchy hostel. And of course, if you’re not using it elsewhere, you can actually wear your sarong, too!
Foldable Flat Shoes
I tend to live in my sandals when I travel, but sometimes I just want to feel a little bit classier. Heels are typically out of the question, partly because of their bulk and partly because I can only wear them for five seconds before I’m limping around. Foldable flats are the perfect solution; they’re ridiculously lightweight, compact, and can easily be toted along in your purse for that spontaneous outing for drinks. I purchased my makeshift pair at a local market, but some popular options are Tieks, Dr Scholl’s Fast Flats, and Sidekicks. I’ve heard amazing things about Tieks, which should be expected with the large price tag attached.
I was very hesitant when I bought my first headlamp. Maybe it was the girly-girl coming out of me, but I just couldn’t see myself wearing a flashlight on my head. Since that day nearly five years ago, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve used my headlamp. It has assisted me when night trekking to the top of volcanoes and simply tiptoeing my way to the bathroom at hostels, not to mention through countless power outages. I use a Black Diamond, and I’ve never had any issues with quality or performance.
I’ve only been mugged once. I won’t bore you with details, but a kid that was probably fourteen cornered me on a secluded road and threatened me with a screwdriver. He stole a ring and ran off, but I was definitely left shaken. I felt extremely irresponsible because I had nothing with me to protect myself. Nothing. Since that event, I’ve always carried a safety whistle. It’s easy to use, easy to carry, and can make a lot of noise right when you need it. Luckily I haven’t had to use my safety whistle yet, but I always feel better knowing I have it.
Neutrogena Cleansing Wipes
You know that sticky and grimy feeling after a long day of traveling? Well, I detest it, as I’m sure you do too. These face wipes are my perfect solution to clear away dirt wherever I am. I’ve found they don’t lose their moisture as easily as baby wipes, and I like to think they keep my skin looking clearer and more radiant. Cleansing wipes are also much easier to transport than liquid face wash, especially if dealing with carry on regulations. No tiny bottles required.
What travel essentials always find their way into your bags?