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Every time I pack for a trip, there are a few travel essentials that I know will go into my bag. I’m sure I’m forgetting something, and each destination determines the way I pack, but the following list is pretty standard.
I always keep a copy of my passport in a different bag than my actual passport. I bring my drivers license, health insurance card, any proof of travel insurance, important phone numbers for contacts back home, phone numbers for hotels or B&Bs I’ll be staying at in case a taxi driver can’t find the location, I keep a paper copy of my airline itinerary and hotel confirmations too, because I’m neurotic. I can’t rely on my phone. If I’m renting a car, I bring my insurance info and if it’s in another country that requires it, an international driver’s permit.
Depending on how my access to ATMs will be, I at least bring enough cash to get by for a few days for small purchases like food and cabs in case I wind up places that don’t accept credit cards. I usually exchange a little cash at a major airport on my way if it’s a common currency, or at the airport when I arrive if it’s not too late. On that note, I always look up the currency conversion ahead of time so I have a clue if I’m getting a good deal or not.
I have a pile of electrical plug adaptors and always research which one to bring, or bring a universal one like THIS ONE. Check the voltage where you’re going to make sure you don’t fry your electronics if the voltage isn’t appropriate for the device. In that case, you’d need a voltage converter. I can’t think of one time when I’ve actually needed one of these.
My camera equipment is always in my carryon and it includes my Sony A7III, which I love! I also have an all around awesome 24-70mm Sony lens.
My previous camera, the Sony Alpha6000 mirrorless camera is a great introductory camera and conveniently small for traveling. For the price point, most reviews agree it is one of best. It is much lighter than a big DSLR camera and takes great images. It can be purchased as a package with the zoom lens if preferred.
I also bring my GoPro along with it’s waterproof case and my new fun toy, this DOME for awesome water shots. This is especially true when traveling somewhere where we’ll be in the water. Just make sure to get one specific to your GoPro edition. And get a GoPro if you don’t already have one.
When the country allows it, we also bring our drone, the DJI Phantom 3 Professional but just upgraded to the smaller Mavik which is sooooo much better for traveling.
Chargers! Can’t forget all the chargers for your toys!
If you take travel photography seriously, I highly suggest getting a drone. They are smaller and more portable than ever and make the photography experience so much more exciting. I wrote an entire guide comparing the best DJI Travel Drones you can read HERE.
I’m a sucker for books, so I always bring my Kindle. It’s smaller than a real book, you can use the built in dictionary to look up words, you can have more than one book stored on it, you can check books out from the library, it’s just amazing. And I actually read to fall asleep every night by propping my Kindle up and putting the light on the dimmest setting and reading till I pass out, haha!
Laptop and Hard drive
Depending on the location, how complicated my flight schedule is, whether or not I’m checking baggage or not, and how much I’ll be moving around on my trip, sometimes I bring my MacBook. At the very least, I bring the iPad and use the Lightroom app if I need to edit photos. I consider my portable hard drive to be an essential item. And I actually have two in case one fails. My favorites are: Seagate Backup Plus Slim, Toshiba Canvio Premium, and Lacie Rugged Thunderbolt USB-C.
Sunglasses! For some reason, this always seems to be the last thing I remember because they’re in my car.
I always bring some of my most versatile and inexpensive jewelry with me.
Must have a sunhat! I’m prone to melasma (the discoloration of my skin) from the sun, so I wear a hat whenever I can.
I often bring a lightweight towel if there’s room in my bag, and my choice is Round Towel. So many fun patterns and lightweight so they don’t take up too much room and make for fun photos! Travel towels are amazing. Who actually packs a beach towel that takes up 3/4 of their suitcase? Another option are quick dry backpacker towels like THESE, which are shown below on the right.
They are literally the hardest thing in the world to pack for me. I always lay out all my outfit combinations and start with all the shoes I really want to bring, then narrow it down. I try to pick shoes that will go with the most outfits and are the most comfortable. I literally almost never bring heels anywhere. Typically it’s just waterproof flip flops, comfortable walking shoes (flats or leather sandals with straps), hiking shoes if appropriate (usually waterproof hybrids like Keens – I have the ones on the left), and perhaps one pair that can be dressed up a bit. Pikolinos are my go-to brand for casual or dressed up looks, while still retaining comfort (I have the ones in the middle and another pair). And I literally, just this second, discovered that Amazon has them. I discovered Pikolinos in Positano, Italy years ago then happened across them again at the Portland airport of all places. And now Amazon. Sweet!!
When it comes to toiletries, I use little travel size jars for moisturizers and face creams and bring a travel size sunscreen. I bring only my makeup essentials and leave anything I don’t use regularly at home. To save space, I bring a travel size hair brush and a few hair ties because you know those things disappear constantly. Everything must fit in my one makeup bag.
Remember the rules about liquids and security. Any carryon must be 3.4 ounces or less. I bring my essential makeup and liquids in my carryon because those are the things that would drive me nuts not having if my bag was lost. I also package all liquids into one quart size ziplock ahead of time and always bring an extra quart size bag or two in case mine gets a hole or something leaks.
One of the other items I always fly with is my neck pillow. But it’s not for my neck. I think I’ve had an injured tailbone ever since I was a kid (and tried surfing on a hammock that flipped and landed my tailbone on the bar – not a smart move). So I get really bad tailbone pain when I sit for extended periods of time. I put my neck pillow under my butt like a donut pillow to get my tailbone off the seat. For the neck though, I’d totally go for memory foam which won’t droop and move. You can obviously get one at any airport, but they’re more expensive than anywhere else.
I almost forgot! We need something to put everything in! If I’m traveling for less than a week or somewhere hot and tropical, I typically just carryon a regular roller bag. If I’m going for longer or I need more warm clothes, I have to check my bag. I splurged on a big Osprey Meridian roller backpack at REI and I love it. For especially active trips, it’s versatile, just the right size, and there is an attached matching day pack that is removable. Then I always have a backpack for under the seat in front of me. Gotta have easy access to things like my phone, Kindle, charging cords, snacks, wallet, chapstick, medications, etc. for the duration of my flight.
Medications while traveling are incredibly important. Whether they are your regular maintenance medications that need to be taken daily, or emergency meds for “just in case,” the pharmacist in me likes to bring an entire mini pharmacy everywhere I go. Keep a box in your home that has everything you might need in one place and take a little bit of everything when you travel. If you want my downloadable PDF of my recommended travel medications to discuss with your doctor, click HERE.
There are a few more things that I always consider my top items if I were stranded on a deserted island, so naturally I wouldn’t travel without them either. Due to my neurotic personality, I cannot survive without chapstick, nail clippers, or tweezers. Seriously. If you have other suggestions for travel necessities, let us know in the comments!
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