See my list of 15 travel must-haves to pack for every trip! These have been my travel essentials for the past 20 years of jetting across the globe. I never leave home without them.
Want help with your packing checklist to make sure you have everything needed for an enjoyable trip? These items are what set apart novice travelers from frequent travelers.
Some items may be obvious while others might be things you never thought of.
You'll soon find that some of these items make a big difference in your comfort, health, or sanity! Below is my list of travel must haves to pack for every trip, no matter what your destination!
15 Travel must-haves to Pack for every trip!
Backpacks are IN! They're becoming more popular with businessmen and travel guys and gals!
A good backpack has quickly become one of my top essential travel items. I appreciate that brands like Tumi are making backpacks for women that are extremely functional and fashionable.
My main travel backpack is the Tumi Voyager (now Celina). This fits everything I need for the day including my laptop.
I've had my eye on the smaller version (Tumi Halsey) which looks a little more stylish and less bulky.
Though Tumi may be expensive, I can't rave enough about this brand. I've had my Tumi backpack for about 8 years and have really put it through the ringer. It's held up well and barely looks used.
The materials are far higher quality than other copycat versions. If you want to invest in quality and know it will be years and years and years before your backpack needs to be replaced, Tumi is great.
I try to buy directly from Tumi's website as the customer service and warranty is fantastic.
I also have a Lululemon backpack that fits all my travel essentials and recently bought this Tory Burch backpack that's smaller than my Tumi and for days when I don't need my laptop.
I always buy backpacks that are made with the ultra thin parachute/nylon material. These take up little to no space when I'm packing them in the bottom of my suitcase or need to fold them up.
AWA Tip: I always pack a Longchamp shoulder bag to use as a "handbag" when I don't want to wear my backpack (i.e. for dinner). The medium size (make sure to get the one with the large handles) is perfect for traveling. It folds up into a little square and fits all the essentials (my camera, a water bottle, small wallet, etc.).
Similar to Tumi, it's not cheap. Priced at $140. But it's SO worth it. I've had my Longchamp for 11 years and it still looks new even though I've taken it on every single international trip.
2. Water bottle
One big mistake travelers make is not drinking enough water and becoming dehydrated. Find a water bottle and pack it along. I like the S'well water bottles that are 17 ounces since they keep my drink hot (when I make tea) on cold all day.
The 17 oz. size is big enough to get you between refills but small enough to fit in your backpack or shoulder bag. I also like that the screw on cap covers where you put your mouth. Pass up the water bottles that leave the part exposed that you sip on.
Simply Modern is similar to S'well but a tad more affordable.
This is a big travel must have if you want to save money while traveling AND be environmentally friendly...assuming you're in a country that has safe drinking water.
Instead of buying water bottles, fill up for free in a cafe or restaurant. It's also a lifesaver at the airport since most airports in the US have filtered water stations.
If you want the added security of filtered water, check out the Brita water bottle that comes with a mini filter in the straw.
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Don’t be one of those travelers that doesn’t pack an umbrella unless there's rain in the forecast. 90% of the time it rains at some point during my trip and I’m glad I packed my umbrella.
Also, I'm not forced to waste money buying another. I recommend a windproof umbrella with Teflon coating. This Repel umbrella has both qualities and is super compact and light.
4. Noise cancelling headphones or earplugs
A travel must have for that long plane ride with a crying baby behind you. Also wonderful for when those thin hotel walls fail at buffering outside noise or if you need to get some work done at a noisy cafe.
The Bose QuietComfort Wireless Headphones are your highest quality option...though I don't love how bulky they are. The comfort is a big perk. After hours of use, those ear buds can start to hurt.
The new Apple AirPods Pro are a great option for something more compact and do a surprisingly good job at canceling outside noise.
If you're looking for essential travel items to give as a gift, these are a sure winner.
Earplugs are an ultra-cheap alternative if noise canceling headphones aren’t in your budget.
5. Sneakers/tennis shoes
Even if you think you have feet made of steel and you'll have the willpower to wear those cute shoes all over the streets of Paris, pack your tennis shoes. At some point you will cave and be so thankful you packed comfortable shoes.
I usually bring 1 pair of tennis shoes that can also function as a running shoe. Workout shoes, like APL or similar, look nice enough that you can pair them with jeans and get away with it.
I also LOVE the Cole Haan Zerogrand Wingtip Oxfords. Not only are they super comfortable but they are washable and almost weightless. Great for packing light. These look great with jeans, dresses, skirts...everything really. I recommend getting both black and white in these since they are washable.
You'll see how much I love these shoes by scrolling through my Instagram...they make an appearance more than I'd like to admit.
6. Detox tea
That clean diet you eat at home probably goes out the window during vacation. Pack some detox tea to help your body deal with the added toxins from your travel diet.
I really like the Yogi Peach Detox and the Traditional Medicinals Lemon Detox because they taste really good.
AWA Tip: when possible, I prefer to buy any "health food items" like tea, green powder, etc. from VitaCost instead of Amazon.
I find the prices are the same or better at VitaCost and I trust Vitacost more than I do Amazon for things I'm ingesting or putting on my skin.
Sticking to the idea of combating your travel diet, probiotics are a healthy and digestive travel essential. This will help with stomach and digestive issues and help keep you regular while on the road.
Be sure to get one that does not require refrigeration. Garden of Life Primal Defense works best for me.
8. Green powder
If you read my post on how to stay healthy while traveling, you'll be familiar with green powder and already know it's one of my go-to travel must haves.
I always pack powdered greens so I can replace a few afternoon meals with a green juice and give my body a break from digesting heavy meals. Or I'll have them for breakfast. Jake takes powdered greens every day whether we are traveling or not.
Choosing a juice over a meal is not only healthier and will leave you feeling lighter but can also be enjoyed on the run while you're walking to the next destination.
I really like:
- Peak Performance Organic Greens Travel Packets
- Amazing Grass Detox and Digest (Jake loves the taste of the antioxidant version that has a slight berry flavor).
- Garden of LIfe Superfood Powder (travel packets of the protein plus greens version)
9. Portable charger
If you're taking videos and photos all day, your phone is likely to die before the day comes to an end. Bring a portable charger so you don’t miss any photo opps.
I have the Anker PowerCore 10000 and have been really happy with its charge power and how small it is.
10. Converter/travel adapter
Pretty sure no explanation is needed for this one when traveling to another country. I recently upgraded to a converter that has several USB slots and it's a game changer! No more fighting over who gets to charge their phone first.
11. Eye drops/lip balm/hand cream
I don’t know about you, but I get super dehydrated on the plane and when traveling in general. I always pack plenty of eye drops, lip balm, and hand cream to help with the dryness.
If you're using eyedrops multiple times a day be sure to buy the preservative free eye drops. The regular eye drops can be irritating if used frequently.
These are some of my favorite products:
- Laneige lip mask - I use this during the day and at night and love that it's thick without being gloopy.
- Hyaluronic Omega Moisture Lip Mask - light and super hydrating.
- NUXE Rêve de Miel Ultra Lip Balm - this is very thick and perfect for bedtime/overnight flights.
- CAUDALÍE Hand & Nail Cream - I'm a big fan of all Caudalie products.
If I'm packing light I'll rely on my iPhone. I’ll bring my Sony Alpha 6000 or Sony Alpha a7iii mirrorless when I know I’m going to have some incredible photo opps and need a higher quality lens.
13. Laundry detergent sheets
This will be one of those travel must haves you probably never thought about. This is an essential travel item if you're a rockstar at packing light and rewearing your outfits.
Don’t put yourself in the situation where all of a sudden you have no clean socks or underwear. I used to pack a travel bottle of laundry detergent so I could wash items as needed in my hotel sink.
Then I discovered laundry detergent sheets! Genius product.
I pack just 2 Laundry Detergent Sheets. You only need 1/4 of a sheet to do a sink full, so 2 sheets will be plenty. Be sure to put them in a plastic baggy because they need to stay completely dry.
There are also travel packets of laundry detergent. I prefer the sheets since it's not a liquid.
14. Compression socks
Compression socks are a new must-have travel item for me. I started researching them not for myself, but for Jake. His feet would get so swollen after long plane rides and walking around all day.
After researching the benefits of compression socks, I knew this needed to be added to the list. While I only use them for the long plane journey, Jake will probably wear them more often outside of plane travel.
Compression socks help with circulation, reduce soreness and inflammation, decrease lactic acid build up, and more. I really like the Comrad knee-high medium compression socks.
15. Compression Packing Cubes
Compression packing cubes are a game changer in not only packing light, but keep everything organized and make moving between hotels a breeze.
I actually keep my clothes in my packing cubes the entire trip and just transfer the entire cube into drawers and closets. My packing cubes are organized by category.
All my workout clothes go in a small cube, pants and shirts go in a medium/large cube, dresses, bulkier clothing, and other miscellaneous clothes go in another medium/large cube, and all my underwear, socks, bras, and accessories like hair scarves, jewelry, etc., go in a small cube.
The ones I have are no longer available, but I was able to find similar ones: Tripped Packing Cubes, Well Traveled Packing Cubes, Outdoor Products Packing Cubes, and REI Packing Cubes.
AWA Tip: be careful not to buy packing cubes that compress too much. I have these cubes, and while they are great for my smaller items, I really can't fit much in them because they are so slim when zipped/compressed.
For winter travel, these compression sacks are a travel must have. Once filled with clothes, you roll/fold/press the bags to get all the extra air out. Perfect for bulky sweaters, down jackets, etc.
I hope you found some new travel must haves after reading this post. These items help me to stay healthy while abroad, pack light, and travel comfortably. I haven't left home without these 15 items in my 20+ years of jetting across the globe!
Silvia Tallarico says
I carry eco stripes detergent when I travel. They are leaves with concentrate eco soap for clothes. They take minimum space and not risk of leaking. I travel once a month minimum.
Ashley Friemel says
Agree! Awesome invention.