If you’re reading this article I’m guessing that you’ve made up your mind, you’re going on an adventure and have the money (or an idea of how to get the money) you need to make it all happen.
(If you’ve fallen short on any of that you can start on the road to victory by clicking here)
Now that you have all of that big stuff out of the way, it’s time to start stressing about the small stuff!
If you're finding yourself going Nuts-O over what travel necessities you need to pack for an upcoming trip, you're not alone. Seriously. Some people don’t so much as flinch when presented with the task of planning and raising the money to fund a three-month adventure but when deciding on what to bring - Cue the nervous breakdown!
So What Travel Necessities Should You Pack for Your Next Big Trip?
In short, not very many. Certainly nowhere near as much as what you're trying to stomp into your poor carry-on suitcase right now.
Never have I gone somewhere and thought to myself, "Damn, I should have packed more stuff.". Without fail, every time I've finished a trip I've thought to myself, "Damn, I used 60% of what I brought, I need to pack lighter next time.".
With that said, I've boiled all of your travel necessities down to just 10 items/categories in an ultimate packing checklist! My hope is that armed with this information, you'll pack smarter, lighter, and not have that horrific moment abroad where you realize you've FORGOTTEN YOUR DAMN RETAINER... That has happened to me too many times.
1. Clothes (duh)
Unless your next big adventure is to a nudist colony (funnnnnnn) at the top of your travel necessities should be clothes.
There's no one size fits all answer to which clothes to bring. In an attempt to give you some context, below is exactly what I packed during my last 8 week trip to Europe.
Versatile Tops x4 - By versatile I mean tops I could layer to deal with choppy weather that looked passable enough for a Saturday out on the town but casual enough for a Sunday afternoon beach stroll. Above all else, a versatile top needs to be comfortable enough to do physical activities in. I can't stress this enough, comfort always comes first when you're traveling. As a matter of fact, in an effort to stress this enough, I'm going to waste both of our time by adding comfy to the beginning of the rest of the items on my list.
Comfy Light Sweater x1
Comfy Pants x1
Comfy Shorts x2
Comfy Swimwear x1
Comfy Socks x3 (one long and two short pairs)
Comfy Underwear x3
Comfy Waterproof Poncho x1
Comfy Shoes x1
Comfy My Lucky Sandals I Love With All Of My Heart x1
I fully acknowledge that different people have different needs. The point here is to make sure that you pack as absolutely bare-bones as possible keeping in mind the weather and the activities you'll be doing on your trip.
If your justification to bring something is ever, "I'll bring it just in case" don't you dare bring it.
Pro Tip: Bring a trash bag in your suitcase so you can separate your clean clothes from your dirty clothes between laundry runs.
If you have a prescription you take regularly and you’re traveling for a long period of time, it’s imperative that you notify your health provider ASAP in regard to your travel plans.
It could be that you’ll need special approval to get an excessive amount of your prescription filled to cover the duration of your trip and if your health provider is anything like mine, that can take a while.
Also, it could be that your health provider recommends certain vaccinations for the area you’re traveling to that you'll need to make appointments to get.
Be aware that certain countries are very strict on the carrying of illegal drugs. Because of that, it’s important that your medication is kept in the bottle it came in stating its prescription information.
If your medication does not come in a casing that outlines its prescription information, tell the dude who deals you your drugs behind the Walmart that he should invest in a label maker.
Paperwork is among the most important travel necessities you'll need to enjoy smooth travels. Here's a list of the primary paperwork you'll need:
- Your passport
- Insurance information (both your primary and your travel insurance policy)
- A printed itinerary outlining your hotels, flights, etc.
- Information on who to call if you get into trouble in each country you’re visiting (ex: the US Embassy)
- A print-out of your vaccinations if your destination requires it
- Additional passport photos if your destination requires it
- Written permission to enter the country if your destination requires it (Vietnam requires this)
- Transportation tickets that you're allowed to print in advance
- Whatever other relevant documents you can think of
Once you have all of your important paperwork in packed, take pictures of/scan everything and save them on your cloud drive (Google Drive, Dropbox, Onedrive) so you can access everything in case the hard copies get lost on your trip or your bag gets stolen.
Finally, be sure to leave copies of your scanned documents with a trusted person back at home.
4. Bathroom Stuff
I've forgotten my retainer a seemingly infinite amount of times.
Maybe if my teeth didn't consequently look so bad, my life would have turned out different... Only God knows.
Don't be ugly like me.
Be sure to remember your retainer as well as anything else you need for your daily/nightly routine.
To get the wheels turning on what travel necessities you might need to bring along with you as far as bathroom stuff goes, here's a rapid-fire list:
- Face wash
- Feminine products
- A small pack of tissue paper (in case you're forced to use the restroom in a less than optimal location)
- Anything else that's specific to your routine
Remember, at most places you'll travel to you'll be able to pick up this stuff in a grocery store. For that reason, it isn't absolutely necessary that you pack everything I've mentioned.
Be sure to funnel all liquids and lotions you do pack into travel-friendly containers so you don't get forced to pay checked bag fees at every airport just to lug around your shampoo. I've snatched a lot of those little shampoo bottles you find in hotel rooms over the years and I now use them to hold all of my liquids when I travel!
I know it can be tempting to bring your $1000.00 camera on your trip but unless you’re a budding pro photographer, fight the urge.
Most of us take pictures so we can look back on our memories and share them with friends and family. Most of us have cell phones that can accomplish that mission exceedingly well.
That's one of the big reasons why you'll definitely want to bring your phone. Phones are versatile and light. Even if they don't have service where you're travling, you can communicate with them through WiFi or buy a pre-paid sim card that works in the country you're in.
"What about bringing my laptop?"
Can your phone do everything you were thinking of using your laptop for on your trip? I know you were planning on getting A TON OF WORK DONE on your adventure but let’s be honest... How productive are you really going to be while in the middle of a whole new world filled with once in a life-time experiences?
Laptops can be expensive and are a nuisance to carry.
Bottom Line: Bringing a lot of electronics while traveling is an easy trap to fall into. If you get caught in that trap you’ll usually kick yourself for having to lug around the extra weight. You’ll sometimes murder yourself when you get back to your hotel room and find that a thief has done you the favor of lightening your load.
6. Payment Methods
You always want to have a primary and secondary means of paying for things among your travel necessities.
I recommend bringing a credit card that doesn't have foreign transaction fees (a fee you incur when you’re paying for a product in a currency other than your native one) and a debit card that doesn’t carry foreign transaction fees so you can easily withdraw money from ATM’s without incurring cash advance charges (fees credit cards will charge if you withdraw money from an ATM with them).
My absolute favorite debit card to travel with is the Charles Schwab Investor Checking card. This card is 100% free to sign up for and hooks you up with a traditional checking account with one of the most respected names in banking.
The Charles Schwab Investor Checking card has no foreign transaction fees and REFUNDS 100% OF ATM FEES. That’s right. 100%.
This card has saved me hundreds of dollars in ATM fees and I don’t get on a plane without it.
As far as credit cards go, any credit card that offers favorable cashback/rewards points in categories you’re going to be using a lot on your trip (flights, restaurants, hotels) is a good bet to bring along.
Pro tip: Never carry a lot of cash on you or in your bag. Just have a small amount to get you through a pinch that you won't miss terribly if it were to get lost or stolen. I always had roughly $20.00 on me in Asia (saved my life one time!) and $40 in more expensive continents.
7. Fanny Pack
Throw your vegetables! Call me names! I don't care!
When I travel I always do so with a Waterproof Fanny Pack I keep securely fastened around my waist. I keep important documents in it, my phone, a payment method and a small amount of cash.
When you're exploring popular tourist destinations, pickpockets are a real concern... for most.
Not for me though!
Short of taking a knife and cutting my fanny pack off my body, nobody is going to be able to take my important belongings from me with the same ease in which they're able to swipe a purse or coax a wallet out of a pocket.
When I'm in a safe area, my fanny pack is double strapped and visible around my waist (fashion forward). When I'm feeling insecure, I hide that bulky beast under my shirt (FASHION FUTURE!).
I cannot recommend enough that you bring a high quality, waterproof (meaning you can dive into an ocean with it on and avoid leaving valuables on the sand) fanny pack with you on your next trip. It's an investment in your convenience and safety... and fashion.
8. An Ultra-Thin Day Bag
If you're going to be spending the day exploring a new place, you're not going to want to carry everything you need to get you through the day in your hands (water bottle, snacks, sun-screen, sweater, etc.). An ultra-thin day bag like the one pictured above can roll up in your carry-on bag which means it takes up 0 space and can help you keep your hands free when you're out and about.
Pro tip: Don't put ultra-valuables in your day bag. It's easy to leave them lying around and it's possible that a thief could slash your bag and grab what falls out.
9. A Microfiber Towel
I like bringing a microfiber towel on trips to keep me dry when I happen upon a beach, to use in hostels that don’t have shower towels and to sleep on when the sheets at my guesthouse creep me out... here's the specific towel I use.
10. Miscellaneous Items
A Lonely Planet guidebook you've come to rely on, chap-stick, a reusable water bottle, a deck of cards... any other little thing you feel will make a big difference to your comfort on your trip may be worth your packing consideration.
Wrapping Up the Ultimate Packing Checklist: 10 Travel Necessities You Can't Forget
Everything that you need for your next awesome adventure should fall within the 10 ultimate packing list travel necessities I mentioned above. Now for the important part...
Everything you're going to bring (clothes, electronics, medications, etc.) should all fit into a single carry-on bag.
This is where being honest with yourself about what you absolutely need versus what would be nice to have gets really important. Having everything in a single carry-on bag can save you hundreds of dollars in checked bag fees. It also reduces the risk of theft and makes you more mobile which is the most important part of traveling!
Remember... You don’t want to travel to another part of the world and feel tied down to stuff.
Pack light, be free, and focus on your adventure.
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