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Packing Essentials: 10 Items I Never Travel Without

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

Travel necessities include a book, itinerary, camera, snacks, Yeti water bottle, travel bottles

As the phrase goes, we are creatures of habit. I typically see this statement used in a negative way, but not all habits are bad! Some, such as those in the list below, establish organization, create a more successful outcome or even allow us to be happier and enjoy an experience more.

I am definitely habitual when I travel. Whether it's a weekend or weeklong trip, to a city or to a natural area, there are 10 things that I never fail to put into my bag(s). Let me share these key items as well as why they're so important when vacationing.

1. Camera

You have to capture at least some of the memories you make when traveling! Of course, you’ll likely always have your smartphone on hand to take pictures and videos. I also bring my camera (a very basic Canon), which typically takes better photos than my phone. These days, I also bring a tripod just in case, my gimbal if I'm going to go on a hike or simply want to keep my phone stable and other assisting tech.

2. Travel Itinerary

I ALWAYS have a printed itinerary with me. It probably sounds extremely OCD or old school, but things don't always go as planned. You never know when an activity will take less time than you intended or if you're going to decide against an experience for various reasons. My itineraries include a tentative schedule with a list of other things to do in the area that I — and those with me — might find enjoyable. This has saved me from taking 30 minutes or longer during a trip to look up what else there might be to do.

3. Yeti Water Bottle

I don’t go anywhere without my Yeti bottle ... let alone a trip. I bring it on car rides and planes. I bring it to outdoor and city adventures. It’s obviously important to stay hydrated, but the Yeti bottle also keeps my water cold all day long. (It's easy to hook it to a backpack, too, if there's no room in your bag on the plane.)

4. Laundry Bag

Nobody wants the smelly clothes they’ve already worn on a trip to mix with the other clothes they're going to be wearing. From the time I was young, I remember my mom always packing a laundry bag. This can be as simple as a trash bag, which I typically use, to separate the old from new and keep your upcoming outfits smelling fresh.

5. A Book

I’m a bookworm, so if I’m going to be flying or might have downtime, I bring a book to read (others might pack their Kindle). Okay, full honesty, I bring one even if I don't think I'll have an opportunity to read it. Who knows, you might unexpectedly find a coffee shop or an outdoor nook that’s perfect for reading a chapter on your trip!

6. Outdoor Shoes

Even if I think a vacation is mainly going to be filled with nice restaurants, the beach or museums, I’ll bring a durable pair of tennis shoes that I don't mind getting dirty. You never know when you’ll have to walk a long stretch to get somewhere or when an outdoor activity will pop up that you didn’t prepare for in your packing.

7. Snacks

Since I never know how long travel will take or if I’ll have to eat a meal at a later time than usual, I always bring snacks. Typically, it's food that won't spoil like nuts, a protein bar, crackers, etc. In my opinion, It's always better to take up a short amount of time and a small amount of space to pack a snack if there's a possibility of feeling hangry.

8. Toiletry Bottles

While it’s important not to overpack, it's also still a good idea to bring travel-size toiletry bottles. Depending on where I'm going and what I'm doing, I fill mine with the top-needed liquids for that trip, from shampoo and lotion to mouth wash and makeup remover. And, keep in mind that the bottles can go in your carry-on, so if your luggage gets lost, you'll still have some necessities.

9. Cash

Yes, it’s the age of credit cards and payment apps, but there will still be times when you run into experiences that cost and don't accept normal payment options (or when your card won't work for some odd reason). So, I always bring cash just in case and have found it to be helpful at some festivals and restaurants in the past (and even tolls!).

10. Motion Sickness Medications

Does anyone else get motion sickness? If so, be sure to pack your medication/treatment of choice. It is NEVER fun to watch others have fun while you sit in agony in a car, boat or plane. I used to tell myself that I wasn't a wimp and would be fine without packing anything. Thank goodness I got over that arrogant notion because it has allowed me to enjoy so much more during my vacations.

*Extra Must-Have: One item that I used to carry around with me all the time for discounts was my student ID. More recently, I would make sure my husband had his EMT ID card on him. While I don’t qualify for any discounts anymore, those of you who do (student, military, seniors, emergency or healthcare workers) should definitely add this as a must-have to your packing list.


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