Packing is an art form, perfected over time. When I first started traveling I was waaaay overpacking. You don’t need to pack everything and the metal bed frame with you. But there are a few things you really are going to need, and should make sure you have enough space for.
Here are seven things you should not leave home without when traveling:
You will need to pack toiletries for traveling. My toiletries kit typically looks like this: toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, face wash, face cream, lip balm, eye drops, tampons, allergy pills, Tylenol, sinus pills, motion sickness pills, anti-diarrheal pills. I carry it all in one or two small toiletry bags.
Remember you can usually pick up things while traveling, but you might have to make sacrifices (ie, pads for tampons). It’s a pain to lug things around, but it’s also a pain to not have what you need, when you need it.
2. Phone Charger and Camera
It’s inevitable: you will use your phone to take photos, and the battery will die. Bring a charger and an adapter with you and charge up wherever you can. Many places you stay will have USB charging options, so sometimes you can get away with just the cord, but bring the box in case you need to charge other electronics that have USBs, too. I always travel with an international adapter that also doubles as a voltage converter — because you can totally fry your laptop or hair straightener if the voltage is off (and I have), to carry all this things I use this leather messenger bag which allows me to carry all of it.
Try an adapter/converter like this one.
3. Travel Documents
Don’t leave home without your passport, insurance card, and medical cards. Ensure you pack the documents in a bag you will not forget. There are cases where people have traveled only to end up at the airport without important travel documents. The issue can delay you for no good reason. As a form of self-care, you need the medical and travel insurance cards with you.
You really also should make copies of your passport, and keep it in a safe and separate place, just in case.
4. Money (and access to it)
Gone are the days of having to travel with a ton of cash on you. Today, more places in the world take credit card than have ever before, and paying using a credit card does make things easier — especially if you have a card that doesn’t charge you foreign transaction fees. Also, please bring more than one card that can be used as a debit card, just in case. I have traveled with several friends who only brought one card for one account, and even though they called their bank in advance, they were not able to pull money from ATMs and it put a strain on everyone else.
5. Hand Sanitizer and Wet Wipes
With the pandemic, wet wipes and hand sanitizers are even more necessary, and you’ll want to bring them with you wherever you go. Honestly, it’s just easier a lot of times to use hand sanitizer when the bathrooms you’re using don’t have soap.
6. Sarong or fast towel
It’s always a good idea to check the travel information about the place you intend to visit before you get there. But even if you’re not heading to a beach locale, I guarantee there will be an opportunity for you to get in the water, and you will want something to dry off with. Sarongs, or even long scarves, can double as a drying device, and can also be bundled up and used as a pillow when you want to sleep on a bus. If you’re staying in hostels, most places will charge you extra for towel rental, and you can avoid those fees by bringing either a quick drying White Cotton Towel.
7. Travel pillow
Because there’s nothing worse than not being able to fall asleep on a night bus even though you’re dead tired. I use my travel pillow all the time when I’m on the road, and never leave home without it.
We talk a lot about packing on this site. If you’re backpacking, check out what to pack if you’re backpacking or pick up our 50 Essential Items Every Female Traveler Should Have book.