Compact. Lightweight. Versatile.
If every item I packed for my travels could be described using these exact three words, I’d be the World’s Most Efficient Packer and no doubt collect my Nobel Prize shortly thereafter. They’d have to create a new category especially for me, but hey, I’d be worth it.
Unfortunately, ahem, packing hasn’t historically been my strong suit; with each new trip come new challenges, and I tweak and experiment even though I’m fairly sure I’ll never get it exactly right. But learning from my past mistakes is inching me ever closer to packing nirvana, if such a thing exists.
In this process, I’ve discovered a handful of items I just can’t live without when I travel. Each one perfectly fits the bill of easy-to-pack and ultra-useful. Some of these were ascertained through trial and error, others are suggestions from other travelers that make perfect sense to me, too. When I hit the road this September, you can be sure I’ll have each of these 9 tiny, practical items in tow.
1. Travel Journals
This may seem like a no-brainer to most people, but writing things down while traveling isn’t a habit I’ve cultivated to perfection yet, and I plan to change that. All the little details that really bring travel stories to life will finally have a place to live that’s infinitely more reliable than my brain, which will certainly make this blogging business a lot smoother. I like having different sizes for different occasions–the smaller one will come with me everywhere.
2. Pocket Knife
Oh, the kilos upon kilos of fresh fruit I would have purchased if I’d only had the right utensil to prepare it! Hostels cannot be relied upon to provide such necessities. I won’t even mention the million other things a knife could come in handy for–I’m sure you can use your imagination–but I’d say fresh produce is easily my main concern.
Yes, I am THAT much of a wine-o that I’ve decided traveling with my own personal corkscrew is the only way to go. I can no longer count with two hands the number of times I wish I’d had one of these babies (yes, many of those times were in Argentina), and again, hostels aren’t always prepared for this type of emergency.
This little cloth is the stuff of MacGyver’s dreams! The uses for a handkerchief are absolutely endless. Some ways I personally plan to use mine: lens cleaner for sunglasses, sweat towel, unwashed hair cover, face mask (when it’s dusty or polluted), fashion accessory. MacGyver would probably make a time machine or something, that guy’s such a show-off.
5. Folding Sun Hat
Let’s face it, hats are a bitch to travel with.
“Where do I put it? Do I have to wear it ALL THE TIME? In the airport? On the bus? It doesn’t stay on my head, or in my lap, and I can’t put it on the FLOOR! It’ll get crushed in my bag! Ahh fuck it, I’ll just leave it behind.”
-Me, last year (RIP fedora)
I’ve been searching high and low for a solution to this problem, because if there’s anything I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older, it’s that SUN DAMAGE is REAL! Protecting my face from damaging UV rays has become a top priority, so you can imagine the joy I felt when I stumbled upon this reversible, crushable, indestructible sun hat! I can enjoy my time in the sun, then casually cram the hat back into my bag without worry (although this one came with a nice mesh bag to store it in). And it’s not hideous! Win-win-win!
My long flights and bus rides are about to get soo much more comfortable with the addition of these soft and fuzzy slippers. The pliable fabric means they’ll pack snugly pretty much anywhere, and on chilly nights and mornings my feet will stay toasty warm.
7. Eye Mask
Fall asleep easily just about anywhere at any time of day with the help of this little accessory. Blinded by the movie that’s playing on your bus? Need an afternoon nap? Obnoxious dorm roomies turning all the lights on when they get back to the hostel at 3am? An eye mask is your new best friend. A tiny investment in both price and space.
8. Insulated Water Bottle
A water bottle is essential on the road, and this time I’m going to do it right. The Hydro Flask company, which was launched right here in the Pacific Northwest (Bend, Oregon to be exact) has created a beautiful high-performance water bottle with double-walled vacuum insulation to keep your hot drinks hot (for 12 hours!) and your cold drinks cold (for 24 hours!). Ya’ll know how I love my coffee and there’s nothing worse than a cold cup of joe–with my new Hydro Flask, I could make coffee at night and have it hot the next morning! That’d be cool and gross at the same time.
What’s more, Hydro Flasks are BPA-free, and with their 5% Back program, a portion of your purchase can be donated to the charity of your choice. Products that give back always get my vote.
I fell in love with Joey, my little llama covered in 100% baby alpaca wool, when I was traveling through Arequipa, Peru. Joey’s not one of those travel souvenirs that’s resigned to collecting dust on my shelf at home; he’s become my nightly bed buddy and I couldn’t imagine being on the road without him. We all need that little something that comforts us during moments of homesickness, and for me, that’s Joey. He may not be the most versatile item on this list, but could YOU say no to that face?
What are your travel essentials?