Once you’ve booked your dream travel itinerary, it suddenly dawns on you that you will have to figure out what to pack. I am a big proponent of carry-ons and limiting what you take with you.
Long gone are my days of carting a bulging full-size backpack around the world–I carry a 35 litre pack and its contents are carefully considered. With my young daughter as a travel companion my packing experience as a mom has led to an evolution to how I pack for her as well.
I need to keep my hands free to keep her safe for a start.
Consider spacepak bags if you have a hard time organizing and making your items fit into a carry on bag. If you need a good travel checklist for everything, I am a big fan of Rick Steeve’s travel checklist, click here to use it (opens in a pdf).
Once the obvious passport and credit card are safely stowed, here is my list of essential items for all types of travel.
8 Must Have Travel Items:
1. A cotton scarf, sarong or a wrap.
This is one of my favorite must have travel items. Apart from its obvious use as a scarf, this can be used as a towel, a wash cloth, a picnic blanket, a sleeping cover in hot climates, a head or shoulder covering when visiting sacred sites, a head cover for the inevitable bad hair days, the list is endless.
2. A first aid kit.
The contents will vary widely depending on where you are travelling but first aid kits are a must have. Personal medications are an obvious place to start, as well as a small supply of a pain killer like ibuprofen. Sticking plasters, an iodine solution, re-hydration salts are going to be useful wherever you go.
For women travelers consider supplies of contraception and I often take a few cranberry capsules to ward off UTIs. From there the travel first aid kit can include everything from insect repellent to broad-spectrum antibiotics to hypodermic syringes.
Sometimes my first aid kit consists of a few things in a small Ziploc bag; sometimes I carry the works. Also consider how you are going to keep topped up with first aid supplies regularly on the road.
3. Comfortable shoes.
From standing in line at the airport security to city sightseeing to mountain hiking, travelling involves a lot of time on your feet. Make sure you look after your feet and your joints by investing in a quality travel sandal, or perhaps a black travel shoe like this that can go from day to night.
4. A pocket knife.
It’s got little scissors to keep my finger and toe nails short. It’s got a toothpick and tweezers. It’s perfect for everything from cutting off a wedge of delicious French cheese to spreading peanut butter on crackers. Unless I’m travelling without checked in luggage of course – then leave the pocket knife off the travel packing list!
5. A universal adapter.
Sometimes I travel with a good collection of devices – laptop, tablet, smart phone etc – and sometimes I prefer to leave technology behind and carry only my journal and pen. But I always have my camera and a universal adapter to charge batteries wherever I am in the world is an essential item on my travel packing list.
6. Sun protection.
As the proud but long-suffering owner of very fair skin, sun protection is very important to me and to be honest it ought to be for everyone. A high SPF sunscreen is an obvious thing to pack whether I’m city sightseeing or enjoying an adventurous activity in the great outdoors. But I don’t just rely on sunscreen. A broad-brimmed sun hat, long-sleeved clothing and sunglasses are also de rigueur on my travel packing list. I also keep a high SPF sun-protection lip balm handy for emergency top ups!
7. A book.
Even if you’re not a beach/hammock holiday sort of person you never know when the opportunity may arise for some quality reading time while travelling. A Kindle reader can be a great companion and can also sub as a small computer. But keep in mind if you’ll always have the electricity to charge it, which is why a book is the most versatile option. For some people music is more important so a personal music player and earphones or mini speakers will be what you need.
8. Something nice.
After years of travelling without this, it is now an item I never leave home without. I just got tired of going out for dinner at night or to a museum or shopping in my tired-looking travel clothes. These days the travel gear companies have designed all sorts of dresses and skirts that are easy to wear, pack and wash. Some even have reversible patterns/colors to ward off that other bugbear of the female traveler – wardrobe boredom!
While packing, remember that you will usually be able to buy most essentials in the country where you are travelling.
If you are traveling with children think about putting together a doodle travel kit of new color books and different sizes of paper (use washable pens over crayons – crayons can melt and leave marks that are hard to remove) for them so they won’t get bored. Paper paper mache kits are a great addition to the doodle bag too.
To your travel dreams!
Natasha von Geldern
World Wandering Kiwi
Excerpted from The Wandering Kiwi Travel Packing Guide
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Natasha von Geldern is a travel writer, editor, and blogger who is passionate about making the pages of the atlas real by traveling the world. She is a contributor to Travel Wire Asia, Wild Junket Magazine, Yahoo! Total Travel and Travelbite. You can find her on World Wandering Kiwi.