When I first started travelling, packing was my least favorite task when it came to preparing for my travel. With every new travel, I discovered a new must-have item, a new travel hack, or just a travel accessory that made my travels much more enjoyable.
When the trip is longer (more than a week), I have realized that being a bit organized and preparing for your travel helps not only to make the most out of your trip, but also in avoiding any unpleasant experiences. This does not hold true for backpacking trips, but in cases where you know more or less the places you will be exploring, preparing in advance leaves you more time to actually enjoy and do the things you want to in your destination.
I am a firm believer, and follower of travelling light. Here are my top 25 checklist items (in no particular order) that I prepare to travel stress-free.
- Packing cubes
I have a couple of packing cubes that I always use to organize my suitcase. They are a great help for long vacations or when you are travelling to multiple cities, because they keep your suitcase uncluttered.
I usually use 4-5 packing cubes – for tops, bottoms, shoes, accessories and any other items. When it comes to packing clothing, less is always more. I always plan to wear my outfits twice during the trip. I also pack a multi-purpose dress (usually something in black) that I can fashion as a casual daywear but also for an evening activity, perhaps with a scarf.
- Cosmetics Bag
I keep 2 cosmetic bags on hand – a transparent one which I can carry-on for short trips, and a medium-sized cosmetic bag to store my toiletries and cosmetics that I can check-in
- Travel sized bottles
For carry-on bags, I buy travel-sized bottles of cosmetics through the year. My go-to product is the Body Shop range of travel products for almost anything you may require (shower gel, face wash, face cream, body lotion, shampoo, conditioner…). I also keep a couple of travel-sized toothpastes, and travel-sized lens solution on stock, in case I know I am not staying at a hotel.
I recently bought empty travel bottles from Sephora which I find more eco-friendly, and can be loaded with liquids just before a travel. This helps me stick to the brands and products that work well for my skin and hair while travelling.
- Travel adaptor
Yes! I should have probably started my list with this. Nothing beats the unpleasant discovery that your destination hotel has a completely different charging plug and since you did not foresee this, you inconveniently left your travel adaptor at home!!!
Yup! I have been the victim of this, and never again will this happen to me.
- Reusable water bottle
You cannot take water above 100ml through security, but that should not stop you from being well-hydrated, or make you spend extra bucks buying water from the airport. Most airports have water fountains after security where you can easily fill and take water with you on the flight. Not to mention the questionable non-packaged water attendants serve on flights.
- Mobile SIMs
Of course everyone takes their mobile phone with them on their travel. But checking ahead if your SIM card works in the destination country and enabling roaming if needed is important. Most bad travel experiences start with your phone not working as soon as you reach your destination. I always carry my iPhone SIM ejector tool in my wallet to swap SIMs as soon as I land.
- Portable charger
Nowadays, you can charge your phone anywhere, at the airport or enroute on your flight. However, I carry a portable charger to ensure that I always have my electronic devices charged and ready to use when needed.
- Offline maps
I usually try to get an internet plan when I am travelling, but even with mobile data activated, internet use in some countries is quite expensive, and finding Wi-Fi might not be that easy. As fun it is getting lost in a new city, and exploring new places, I usually prepare before by downloading an offline Google map of the area I want to explore by foot, and saving the places that I researched/recommended by my friends.
- Local currency
Living in Germany, where credit and debit cards are not accepted everywhere, I have learnt to carry cash. I always keep enough local currency on me wherever I go to get me through the day – atleast 2 meals, and a night of accommodation. Withdrawing from an ATM when you reach your destination is usually the best way instead of exchanging foreign currency to avoid exorbitant exchange rates.
- A pen
Seems pretty basic right – who needs a pen in this digital age? Anyone who needs to fill in an immigration form, or write down an address that you cannot pronounce in a new city, or sign a document in the last minute, or make a note of an important contact/person/point of interest or anything over the phone… the use case of a pen will remain endless.
Again, there is not much need to explain use cases of tissues. Wet wipes for long journeys are extremely helpful too.
- Travel document case
My usual travel document case has my passport, a secondary ID, 2-3 passport size photos, and my boarding pass. This also goes in my handbag, and is easily reachable when I need it. I have never had a “Where is my passport/boarding pass? It was right here !” moment in my life.
- Neck pillow
I have tried and tested different travel pillows, and I prefer micro bead ones over foam. My favorite neck pillow is the Daydream 3-in-1 neck pillow, which has made many of my long or red-eye flights smooth and comfortable.
- Noise-cancelling ear phones
I never travel without noise-cancelling ear phones. I use the Bose QuietComfort 35; it’s a bit pricey, but it has been my favorite travel accessory of all time. Cutting out the airplane engine noise throughout the journey keeps me refreshed when I land. And of course it eliminates any other white noise (crying babies, toddlers, …..).
I have realized that nobody can ever fully prepare for the weather. The best you can do while travelling is to embrace it no matter what. An umbrella has always been in my handbag no matter what – whether I travel to a sunny, snowy, rainy, windy or dry place.
- A luggage tag and lock
If I don’t carry a suitcase with a built-in lock, I always carry a number lock separately. All my bags and suitcases have luggage tags on them with my name and contact number. This not only helps me recognize and pick-up my suitcase faster at the baggage counter, but keeps me sane in the event my bag gets lost by the airline company (twice so far, and recovered both times)
- Microfiber towel
Avoids the stress of packing a wet towel in your bag. Microfiber towels take up less space and dry fast. It is a good idea to pack a towel when you know your hotel or accommodation does not provide towels.
- Protein bars
Food is always an issue during the travel journey till you reach your destination and enjoy the local delicacies. It is not always possible to eat beforehand before catching a flight. To avoid hunger pangs, I usually pack a snack. If I cannot manage a meal before or don’t have time to get something healthy at the airport, I pack a few protein bars. My favorite ones are Quest protein bars. They come in several tasty flavors, keep me full for a couple of hours, and are super convenient for a low carb snack on the go.
- Socks and a jersey
Airplanes are cold. If I cannot wear socks and a jersey to the airport, I carry them with me, and put on in the flight.
- A reusable shopping bag
Not just for all the shopping you might do while travelling, but also for the extra luggage you possibly might have.
Sunglasses and sunblock no matter where I go.
- A cross-body bag
I carry a light carry-body bag to use when I have checked-in my accommodation and ready to explore the city on foot. I use this bag to keep only the necessary items I might need – my passport, wallet, phone, portable charger, tissues, sunglasses and maybe an umbrella. Carrying any other extra weight while walking just slows me down and makes me more tired.
- Hand cream
A must for me while travelling to cold countries
- Travel hair drier
I have had long hair for a long time, and with travel comes the frizzy, dry and unmanageable hair. I am not the biggest fan of dry shampoos, and if I know I will not have access to a hair drier, I sneak in a travel hair drier into my luggage.
- A notebook
Before travelling, I keep a copy of all my travel documents, hotel bookings, reservations on my phone. But I also note down important travel details in a small notebook. Having a notebook also helps me to jot down an interesting place I visit, the name of a local cuisine, a restaurant that I really enjoyed, or the name of a contact I met during the trip.
That is it. This list is not a “must-have” list. Everyone has their personal preferences and style of travelling. Even I adapt the list based on where I am travelling, who I travel with, and for how long. In the event I forget something, there are always options to borrow/buy it locally when I reach my destination. I hope some of these tips will help you prepare better for your next travels J