We (Me and Joel) are huge fans of packing light and most often never take more than a backpack and carry-on bag. Many of the most active travelers utilize this philosophy, even for long term travel. Most travelers tend to come home after a trip only to realize that they didn’t utilize half of what they put in their bag. Packing for the “what-if” situations is often the culprit for over packing and results in bulging bags that the poor ticket agents can barely lift.
When you begin packing for a trip, it is important to go in with a list that you don’t deviate far from to avoid such “what-if” situations. While there are many additions onto your packing list based on location, activities, etc. there is a core group of travel essentials that we abide by. No matter what the location, the list below will come in handy when packing for any trip to get your packing list kick started.
Below is the list of travel essentials that our team takes on every single trip to ensure that we are prepared, but not over packed.
Good Sturdy Walking Shoes
A good pair of sturdy walking shoes will make or break the comfort of a trip. Even if you plan to be on the beach all vacation it is always a good idea to have a pair of sturdy walking shoes in your bag. They don’t take up much space and can be a lifesaver if you suddenly find yourself on a jungle excursion or stuck halfway across town because the trains are shut down. I have been on many trips where a companion wanted a “cute” or “cool” looking pair of shoes only to have their feet be full of blisters at the end of the day, which makes the rest of the trip miserable.
A good simple pair of athletic shoes from your brand of choice should be just fine. Just make sure that they aren’t brand new (don’t want to break them in on the trip) and that you could feasibly see yourself walking a few miles in them a day. It can easily make your experience walking around a new city much more enjoyable.
7 Pairs of Underwear
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Having underwear that is both comfortable and wicks away sweat is key for any traveler. If they can be washed in the sink and dried overnight, it’s even better. Laundry is almost always available on the road otherwise and having 7 pairs allows you to do laundry 1 time per week. Some travelers like to stretch it a bit further….to each their own. Ex Officio comes pretty highly recommended from many travelers as a great pair to have in your suitcase.
If you choose a couple different colors you almost always have something to wear and they can be matched with almost anything. If you wear a lot of formal wear, pack a couple white ones so you have enough.
Pants, Shorts, Dresses, Skirts
I normally carry 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of khaki shorts, 1 pair of athletic shorts, and 1 pair of swimming trunks. This allows for me to dress for almost any occasion and if I think there might be a time when I need to dress up, I will throw in a long pair of khakis. For women, shorts can be substituted for skirts, dresses, etc.
Essential is the key word for this part of the list. For myself, essential means toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, hair goop, and a comb. This list can lengthen depending on what you use daily, but it is key to remember that many things can be purchased on the road often for less than at home. Items like blow-dryers and straighteners are often put in this list, but remember that many hotels provide these electronics in your room. A good rule of thumb is to try and fit all toiletries in a small carrier that can be purchased at most department stores.
A Light Jacket or Sweater
Even if you are heading to the Caribbean or on the equator, a light jacket or sweater is almost always needed. Night time can often be chilly and it might be nice to have inside air conditioned rooms. In some parts of the world, having some sort of long sleeve is required for entry into monuments, religious areas, etc. Thin jackets and sweaters can be rolled so they don’t take up much room in your bag as well.
1 Nice Non-Wrinkle Shirt
On the road, you never know what opportunities might happen. Maybe you will get invited out to a fancy dinner or decide last minute to head to a play. Having a nice shirt for a more formal occasion is often a good idea, even if you don’t plan on using it. Wrinkle free materials are normally better for travel as they are more easy to manage and you can use the shower steam trick if you don’t have access to an iron.
A Travel Towel
Having a towel in your bag is great because it is highly versatile and useful in many situations. The most obvious is having something to dry yourself off with after a shower or swimming. Towels can also be a protective barrier for your electronics from rain or being jostled in your bag. Travel towels aren’t as bulky as a towel you likely use at your home. They can fold/roll up nicely and should easily fit in your carry on.
There are many items that could be added onto this list, but this is the core for any trip.