Travel Essentials: Your Ultimate List of Things You Must Never Go on a Trip Without

travel essentials travel gadgets

Updated On: February 01, 2024 by   Noha BasiounyNoha Basiouny

I used to think that my worst nightmare was finishing a 1000-piece world-map jigsaw puzzle—this is a pretty demanding ‘fun’ activity, by the way, given that around 500 pieces of those are just blue with no indication whatsoever of where on the map they belong—and finally discovering that the last piece is missing or waking up one day and realising my four-year-old, fluffy-tailed ginger cat had sneaked out in the middle of the night and did not come back!

But as I was preparing for my first overseas trip, my already overloaded brain started coming up with every possible scenario of what may go wrong and ruin this trip altogether. For instance, getting stuck in traffic and missing my flight, forgetting to take a must-take vaccine, or shockingly noticing I left my passport and my plane ticket on the dining table are all as dreadful as they are incredibly common. Their consequences are also upsettingly costly.

Apparently, there are a bunch of other things that make better worst nightmares!

But apart from forgetting the passport, which cancels the trip before it even starts, forgetting other things can make travel a little, or a lot, unpleasant. In that matter precisely, we cannot rely on our memory only to remember the essential things we must pack. A little bit of planning indeed comes in handy.

In this article, we will walk you through the most indispensable things you must make sure you pack before you travel anywhere, whether locally or internationally. You can definitely use this as your packing checklist and expand it even more by adding your very own travel essentials. So bring along a cup of coffee or a gigantic mug of hot cocoa if you are anywhere in the southern hemisphere, and read on.

1. Packing cubes

YouTube is filled to the brim with videos about the best ways to pack and how you must roll your clothes and not fold them to save as much space in your carry-on as possible so you can pack more and more stuff. The aim, of course, is to get organised but surely not to become Marie Kondu! That is why a lot, if not most, of that content can be somewhat overwhelming.

Why then bother with all of that if you can just use travel packing cubes?

Packing cubes are the most straightforward way to organise your stuff, for the last thing you want to do after you have already packed is to reopen your carry-on and take everything out again to check whether or not you put your phone charger.

As they are usually sold in sets, you can use the differently-sized travel cubes to categorise your belongings. For instance, assign one for your outfits, another for your pyjamas, and a third one for your socks and swimming suits and so on. You may also pack your shoes, flip-flops and sandals in one to make sure the rest of the cubes stay clean.

2. Travel pillow


Nothing can ruin a trip like a sore or stiff neck one usually gets from sleeping with their head tilted to the side. While you should actually bring a muscle pain relief cream just for any expected injuries, you can avoid this nasty pain in the neck just by using a travel pillow.

Travel pillows help you have a good sleep, prevent any future neck problems by making your neck stay in place, breathe better while asleep, reduce snoring and generally have a better posture.

It is also a good idea to bring along a travel eye mask with your travel pillow; sometimes, they are sold together as a set. If you really want to release some fatigue, an eye mask helps block out any light, which is necessary to have even better sleep.

3. Travel earplugs

While many people get that annoying sinking feeling during or after takeoff, everyone cannot help but feel tremendous pain in their ears while the plane is landing. That is due to the change in the air pressure.

Wearing earplugs is a good way to slow this down, reduce ear pain and help adjust more quickly to the new pressure. Earplugs are also essential to block any loud noise, especially high-frequency baby crying sounds, and therefore protect your ears.

4. Face masks and hand sanitisers


Well, we did learn it the hard way, and we all now know how highly significant face masks and hand sanitisers are. Apart from covid, the air around us is already loaded with other little invisible evils, such as dust, smoke, dirt, gases, Persian cats’ fluffy hairs; you name it. The sure thing is, they are all, more or less, pretty nasty to our health.

So remember to take as many precautions as you can. Keep a portable hand sanitiser within reach and clean your hands every now and then. Also wear a face mask whenever you are in a crowded place or wherever it looks foggy, smoggy or generally not clean.

5. Supplements, painkillers, motion sickness reliefs and allergy medications


A good way to enjoy your trip is to make sure you stay as healthy and physically feeling good as you can. So if you take supplements or any allergy medications, remember to bring them while on the trip. It is also recommended you carry a few painkillers. Headaches, backaches, and tired legs after an afternoon of sightseeing are all very common while travelling, so be prepared.

This list can expand to include any cure for whatever common physical problems associated with travelling, such as motion sickness, muscle pain, fever, or cold.

6. Your very own personal hygiene kit

An extension to the aforementioned item is bringing your personal hygiene kit to stay as clean and protected as you can, whether you are in your hotel room, out there sightseeing or on a boat trip. The items in this kit can include, but are not limited to, a toothbrush, shampoo, moisturiser, conditioner, lotion, suncream, tissues, wet wipes, a comb or a hairbrush, a nail clipper, and plasters.

Your hygiene kit may also include a handy stain remover. It is pretty annoying to walk around with a coffee stain or some bloody-red sticky cheesecake raspberry sauce on your white shirt. It is even more annoying and also tiresome to go back to the hotel to change. A little stain remover roller bottle or a spray will save you in such an unpleasant situation.

7. Mosquito repellent


Although mosquito repellent sounds less essential than packing cubes or earplugs, it is a complete game-changer. Even if everything about your hotel room is perfect, just one teeny-tiny, almost invisible and weightless mosquito sneaking in from the terrace can ruin your sleep entirely and pretty much make you so pissed!

A travel mosquito repellent is a little device that releases some kind of a scent that annoys mosquitoes and keeps them away, giving you a chance to enjoy a good night’s sleep. All you have to do is just plug it into the outlet, and ta da! Your room is mosquito-free.

If you are outdoors, you can get yourself a bug spray—OFF! is a well-known trusted brand. You just spray it on your clothes and hands and all sorts of tiny flies will fly away from you, annoyed and discouraged, instead of flying toward you with open wings!

8. Portable power bank


So you are on the train travelling for eight hours to the north of the country. You are texting your best friend about the past few beautiful days you spent in the south while checking Instagram every now and then to see how many people saw the last 50 stories you posted of that paradise-like island you visited.

Suddenly, your phone beeps “Low Battery”, but it is OK because you have already packed your phone charger and will soon connect it to that seat outlet. What you do not remember is that you are actually travelling on a budget train to cut down on expenses, and budget trains do not have electrical outlets. In a few minutes, your phone will die leaving you irritated at yourself and the fact that you still have six boring hours to get to your destination, no books and too much caffeine in your system you cannot even fall asleep.

But you can spare yourself all that drama if you just get a portable power bank.

There are many types of power banks out there, and each has different features. But do not get overwhelmed. One way to choose the most suitable one for you is to check how many times it can charge your phone before you have to charge it itself and whether or not it is able to charge multiple devices all at once. Also make sure you are buying a trusted brand.

9. Universal travel adapter


At some point, you will need to charge your power bank, which you may have thought is pretty easy since there are multiple electrical outlets in your hotel room. So you get back late at night and remember to plug the power bank in so it can finish charging by the time you wake up in the morning.

But oops! This outlet does not seem to match your plug. In fact, it is different from any outlet you have ever seen anywhere back home.

Like the imperial and metric units, every country uses a different power system which results in differently-looking electrical outlets. What is common in your country may pretty much not exist in the country you are visiting. That is why getting a universal travel adapter is necessary to spare yourself all that hassle.

A universal travel adapter is a small device that has multiple plugs able to fit in the most common electrical outlets used in most countries. It also has two USB ports so you can charge your devices easily.

10. Portable luggage and door locks


Feeling safe wherever you are is important. One way to do that is to get yourself a luggage lock so you can prevent it from opening by accident. Even if your luggage has a built-in lock, it is recommended you use another one for extra protection.

Another way to get a sense of extra privacy and safety is to use a portable door so whenever you leave your room, you are sure no one can get in. Door locks are easy to install on any door that opens inward, and they are pretty cheap too.

11. Credit cards or cash for tourist debit cards


As recommended by your parents, your friends, your intuition, and everyone else on the Internet, you should not carry a lot of cash when you are moving around, especially when you are in a different country. This is where credit and debit cards come in handy. You can stay safe and light either by paying with them or withdrawing the exact amounts you want from any nearby cash machine.

However, those same credit cards can be of no use whatsoever in some countries, such as Iran, where Visas, MasterCards, AmericanExpresses and others are not accepted. Instead, tourists can buy tourist debit cards to use while in the country. These are prepaid cards which one can load cash onto and use as temporary credit cards.

In this case, you need to carry cash to load onto your new card. You can determine the amount based on the currency exchange rate, the duration of your trip and the living cost of the country you are visiting. This is a little bit hectic but super helpful.

12. Books, games, music and other activities to kill the time

While travelling is so much fun and all, it does get a bit boring and wearing before you reach your final destination. So you need to think of different ways to keep yourself occupied as you move from here to there.

Reading an interesting book is definitely a great way to kill time. Fiction, especially crime fiction, is a pretty entertaining genre and easy to indulge in. You may also take some time to create a playlist of your most favourite songs to listen to it during your trip. You can choose songs from your teenage and childhood years, as long as they make you feel good, of course yet, in general, choose vacation-related songs to keep your spirits up and help you stay in that fun vacation mood.

If you are travelling with kids, bringing a few things to keep them distracted is even more vital for you than it is for them! So check what they like, what keeps them busy for an extended period of time and what you can easily pack and carry on. This can be anything from card games and colouring books to paper puzzles and short stories.

Mobile games are also an option, even a more favourable one for both kids and adults. But it is better if you take this trip as a time off screen. We all know how vital that is.

13. Comfortable shoes


While yellow beach flip-flops and sandals are very vocational, it would be better if you limit them to beach trips and exchange them for a pair of comfortable sports shoes if you are planning on exploring the city on foot.

Many people, unfortunately, underestimate the importance of putting on comfortable shoes that provide the necessary support for their feet and make it easier to walk long distances without feeling tired. Comfortable shoes also improve blood circulation, prevent foot problems, support the back and spine and generally help keep a good posture.

14. Others

Other things that may or may not be vital for you to pack include a hair dryer, personal towels, eye drops, a portable handheld fan, tea bags, facial spray, compression socks, a luggage scale and a raincoat! As you must always carry a water bottle to stay hydrated all day long, a collapsible one could be an easy-to-carry option.

That said, some people like to take their travel essentials to some fancy level by packing a multiple sunglasses case, a travel jewellery box, a cable organiser, a travel blanket, or a laundry bag. Speaking of laundry, some like to carry an on-the-go detergent to hand-wash their clothes in the bathroom sink. This could be helpful if your instant stain remover were not very instant or if you like a piece of outfit too much you want to wear it again.

Others upgrade their list of travel essentials to an annoyingly overwhelming level by packing binder clips to use as hangers, a mini steamer to iron their clothes, a sewing kit for any emergency stitches, a solar charger for when they forget their power banks and travel adapters, duct tapes, bobby pins, gum, and portable mattresses for whatever other misfortunate scenarios their obviously wild imagination comes up with!

Planning for a trip can fairly be as fun and enjoyable as the trip itself if done right. For that matter, the Internet is full of websites and tools that can help you plan the best trip. Are you going on a budget vacation or a fancy lavish one? Is your destination local or international? Do you like the country or the city? Are you looking forward to a beach vacation or a road trip? Everything you want is all there and it is all accessible. Just make sure you ask the right questions. 

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