Photo by Margaret Zhang, Shine by Three
Do you always find yourself struggling to figure out what to pack for your trips? You're not alone. Whether you are an experienced traveler or jetting off for the first time, determining what to take and what to leave can be overwhelming. Depending on your chosen destination or adventure, you may struggle to decide between that extra pair of heels to grace the floors of salsa clubs in Cartagena or a windbreaker to face the torrential rains in Mount Waialeale. Beyond sartorial choices, factors like health can also play a role in what makes the cut. To help you get some insight, we asked some of our community members to share some of the must-have items they never board the plane without. If you'd like our recommendations in checklist format, be sure to download it here. Otherwise, read on for all the details!
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP 5 TRAVEL ESSENTIALS?
Lee Litumbe: Aside from the obvious things like my phone, cameras and laptop, my top five would have to be:
Packing cubes - they keep me organized and help to maximize packing several items in a limited amount of space.
A travel towel - is especially helpful when you're traveling long term because they are so lightweight and versatile. I've use it at the beach and sometimes as a yoga mat.
An international adaptor + step down - there is nothing more frustrating to me than having no way to charge up my electronics in a new country. A portable phone charger comes in handy for the same reason.
A travel extension cord with USB port - since I typically have so many different devices to charge at once, I like ones that take up minimal space and also have a USB port. It makes life so much easier!
A first-aid + healthcare kit - because its always better to be safe than sorry! (read about why travel insurance is importance here)
Catherine Finch: When I travel, I always have a bottle of water and a snack because the key to airplane travel is to stay hydrated. A sleep-aid is also a must for international flights. I always carry a jacket or coat if it gets cold on the plane. By carrying my bulkiest jacket, I save room in my suitcase. An iPad loaded with books and movies is a wonderful source of entertainment. And finally, I bring a notebook to write about things seen along the way.
Parker Hilton: I bring an extra hard drive that I back up pretty regularly when traveling, just in case my camera gets stolen. Aside from that I bring a book along with my kindle in case there’s no power where we’re headed. Other than those two staple accessories I’d say sunglasses, chargers for all my gear and an old phone I pack away in case mine gets stolen.
Carille Guthrie: If I’m traveling somewhere hot, and I usually am, I take a wide brimmed hat. It looks ridiculous, but it’s a lifesaver when working out in the sun. I also swear by Lonely Planet guide books.
Jahaan Kajee: Chargers, adaptors, small first aid kit, comfortable walking shoes, and sunscreen. This amongst carefully curated travel and camera ready outfits, of course!
Janis Roseanne: For me, it would have to be:
Digital luggage scale - great to have during the course of your trip in case you’re buying a lot of souvenirs.
Passport holder - it’s nice to have all of our important documents in one spot. We store it in the same area in our backpack so we’re never scrambling to find it.
Headphones & a splitter - good to pack for watching movies & TV on a flight. A splitter is nice so you can watch something with another person.
Eye mask & ear plugs - I’m a bit of a light sleeper so an eye mask and ear plugs really help me sleep on buses, planes, and trains.
Samsonite Travel Backpack - it holds our camera body, lenses & laptop.
WHAT TYPE OF LUGGAGE DO YOU TRAVEL WITH?
Lee Litumbe: I prefer hard case suitcases for added protection of my things. I always try to choose colors or prints that can stand out on a conveyer belt or be easier identified if they get lost/stolen.
Janis Roseanne: I really like the travel pack from Mountain Equipment Co-op because it opens up all the way so you don’t need to just stuff things in from the top. It also has a small day bag that zips on to the front of the big pack. There is also a travel cover, which zips over the back straps when checking the bag at an airport. I’ve had mine for over 10 years and it’s still in great shape!
Jenelle Kappe: I almost always have a back-pack for my camera gear, no matter where I travel. I also then bring a smaller bag for my clothes – I try and stick to carry-on size. When I was traveling in Cambodia, I traveled with limited camera gear, so I actually had an Eagle Creek Bag that could be a backpack, duffle bag or shoulder bag. The best part of the bag is the “bath-tub” bottom. It can sit on a wet surface and not become wet or damp. When you are wearing the bag as a backpack, the bottom is what faces out with all of your valuable compartments against your back for extra security.
Dan Sadgrove: I’ve changed from a 50L backpackers bag to a Burton roller. I just got tired of carrying around the backpack everywhere. The roller is so much easier. So, so much easier. I’m also older and lazier so there’s that too.
Catherine Finch: My luggage is a soft-sided, but structured suitcase with wheels that is lightweight and roomy. I have learned to travel light because I prefer to carry-on. I love avoiding long check-in lines and I hate standing at baggage claim wondering if my bag was routed to a destination several time zones away.
Jahaan Kajee: I have tried to travel with both backpacks and suitcases. However lightweight suit cases are easiest to pull around with me. My biggest rule when travelling is that I have to be able to lift my suitcase on my own. If I cannot, I need a serious repack!
WHEN TRAVELING, DO YOU PACK A FIRST-AID KIT?
Lee Litumbe: I always do, especially since I am currently traveling long term. Healthcare is important, so I also bring along a "healthcare kit" that includes multivitamins, an antibiotic, pain relievers, a sleeping aid (melatonin is a great natural one), sunscreen and mosquito repellant (citronella and eucalyptus oil are great natural alternatives). I also have selective eating habits (I don’t eat meat and try to avoid dairy when possible), so I try to include some Maca and green powder to supplement my diet.
Carille Guthrie: I have a handful of over the counter medicines for things like nasal congestion, diarrhea and the common cold. The only prescription medicine I take is if I need malaria pills.
Dan Sadgrove: I have a small pack I bought a while back. Let me have a look - standard first aid kit from the pharmacy plus insect repellent, after bite ‘itch eraser,’ headlight, Swiss army knife, water purifier tablets. Pretty basic, the kit is great though. Blister plasters and all that stuff.
Jahaan Kajee: I do, I’m a bit of a mom in this sense. I keep a range of everyday pills and potions. Aspirin, stomach medication, medication for cramps, antiacids, and painkillers. I also keep some kind of muscle relieve cream or spray – I have a bad back, and this is very helpful when it comes to sleeping on planes, trains, and buses!
OUR FINAL THOUGHTS
We've learned that although practicality and comfort should guide your logic when packing, the process itself is subjective. There's no definite way of doing it, but there are without a doubt staples that should find refuge in your suitcase. How do you balance your needs and wants when packing? What are your travel must-haves that you can't leave without?