Many of us took a two-year break from traveling when cases offlew around the world. But if you’re like me, you can’t wait to get back to exploring new places. While traveling is generally a fun and eye-opening experience, it can also be extremely stressful, especially when it comes to packing.
Even though I’m a notorious over-packer and planner, I inevitably forget to pack anything I need and am forced to buy whatever I’ve left behind. (Don’t get me started on the trip where I forgot to pack socks and pajamas.) While you can usually find what you need at your destination, it’s easier to pack what you need in advance.
Considering that it’s been a while since many of us have traveled, a refresher on often-forgotten items seems in order. You probably won’t forget pants or shoes, but what about items you might not think of? Whether you’ve already booked your trip or are just planning ahead, here are 12 things you should pack with you on your next vacation.
1. A power strip
In all my travels, one thing I’ve discovered is that there are never enough power outlets where I’m staying. It’s a tough task to choose between having a lamp or charging your phone, and it’s only exasperated if you share a room with others.
My solution: Bring your own power strip.
You also don’t need to pack a full-size power strip. Belkin, Philips, and other companies offer power strips that are compact and designed for travel. They turn one outlet into several and usually come with built-in USB ports.
2. A reusable water bottle
If you spend hours walking city streets or day hiking in a national park, you will need to hydrate frequently. Access to water isn’t always easy in some destinations – not to mention the brutal heat or humidity in some climates – so it’s always worth carrying a refillable bottle with you.
Of course, you can count on buying bottled water at your destination, but water is often expensive in tourist centers or popular hotels, and grocery stores or convenience stores are not always nearby, especially in rural or wooded areas.
Here is a list of. If the tap water at your destination is not safe to drink, try .
3. Portable Power Banks
When you’re traveling, you’re likely to use your phone more — picking up boarding passes, finding places to go and directions to those places, keeping in touch with friends and family back home, and taking hundreds of photos. All of this drains your battery, and it can be frustrating to interrupt your busy sightseeing route to charge your phone. In addition, access to power outlets is never guaranteed.
That’s why it’s always good to bring a laptopwith you. Power banks put power in your pocket for easy access and are usually not too expensive. I recommend investing in a device that is not only reliable, but can also charge your phone multiple times before it needs to be recharged itself.
While bus tours or subway rides can be a lot of fun, they’re not always the cleanest places. During your travels, you will probably have to grab “touching” objects such as remote controls, light switches, telephones, door handles, faucet handles, etc. It is therefore important to keep hygiene in mind to prevent disease.
Washing your hands isn’t always an immediate option, so be sure to pack a few wipes with you. Plus, small wipes should pass through security checkpoints with no problem.
5. A quick-drying towel
Towels come in handy most of the time and you never know when you might save the day. Maybe you spilled your outfit or got caught in a rainstorm and need to dry off quickly. Or maybe you arrived at your hotel oronly to find that they didn’t provide towels.
Quick-drying towels aren’t the most luxurious option, but they’re lightweight and easy to store when travelling. Most importantly, they dry super fast so you can clean them up and put them in your bag without too much of a wait.
6. Plastic bags
If there’s one travel necessity I swear by, it’s a plastic bag. Need to put away your muddy shoes? Plastic bag. Want to separate dirty used clothes from your clean items? Plastic bag.
Although plastic bags or trash cans aren’t the most glamorous travel items, they have a multitude of uses and won’t take up much room in your luggage.
7. A foldable backpack
I always pack too many things in my hand luggage: I want to bring my cameras, my hat, my sunglasses, a change of clothes and toiletries in case my back gets lost. But all of these items quickly add up to leave very little room in my backpack and usually I don’t want to take them all with me as I wander around the destination I’m visiting.
I suggest taking another smaller backpack, preferably collapsible, that you can use during your visit. This will save you from having to pack and repack your hand luggage. Plus, you can use it to carry souvenirs you pick up along the way.
8. Bottle guards
I come back from almost all my trips with a bottle of wine or a special beer as a souvenir. I like to bring a special bottle of beer, liquor, or wine home to share with my friends and family as I tell them about my adventures.
But before that happens, the bottle has to actually make it through the return trip. And that means you’ll need to bring some form of protection. A lot of people swear by the wine bottle in the sock method or swaddling glass bottles with their clothes, but I prefer to pack an actual bottle protector bag. I recommend a bottle protector bag with padding and a zippered top that will help protect your clothes.
9. Dryer sheets
For me, it’s a no-brainer. As you drive for miles and miles through various train or bus stations, airports and cities, you are going to sweat. And your shoes will probably pay the price.
Bring several dryer sheets with you to help mask the smell of your shoes. Back at the hotel or Airbnb at the end of your day, simply place a dryer sheet in each shoe to air them out.
10. A universal plug adapter
You probably already know that. I will still remind you: if you travel abroad, you need a plug adapter. Plugs in the United States are a different size than plugs overseas, which means that if you intend to use electronic devices in another country, you will need an adapter.
You can try to buy one at your destination, but they can be expensive and hard to find. It’s best to take one with you before you go to save time and money.
11. A travel router
OK, this may sound like overkill, but a travel router has saved me more than once. Internet connection is not always reliable when traveling or in some rural areas, and establishing awill almost always be more reliable than wireless (especially in hotels). I feel much safer knowing I have a stable connection to call in an emergency, keep up with the group I’m traveling with, or communicate with my loved ones back home.
Here’s more good news: travel routers are generally small, affordable, and easy to pack. You can buy one for anywhere between $20 and $100, and they’re usually not much bigger than a wall adapter.
12. Packable rain or down jacket
It doesn’t matter if you’re heading to a tropical destination or the streets of a European city, it’s always wise to pack an extra down or rain jacket. Even if you religiously check the forecast, you could still get caught in a freak rainstorm or have a cooler night than expected.
One of the best options that won’t weigh down your suitcase is to pack a rain jacket or a packable rain jacket that can easily fold up. Believe me, prevention is better than cure.
Traveling can be a life-changing experience and create memories that last a lifetime. But before you can discover all the magic of the cities of the world, you have to pack your bags. And packing the right way can make all the difference in reducing stress and saving you money in the long run. While everyone may have a different idea of travel essentials, the 12 recommendations above are the ones I’ve found most useful on my own travels.
If you’re planning a vacation soon and are stressed about planning, we have plenty of resources to help. Prepare for your next trip like a pro with these travel tips and advice:
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