25 Essential Travel Items from Someone Who’s Traveled to 40+ Countries

Of all the posts I write on my travel blog (and there are thousands), the ones I love the most are packing tips. I’m a little bit OCD and very Type A, and I love to pack in an organized way – I love to pack LIGHT and smart so that I have room in my bag to shop, don’t have junk I don’t need, and have outfits/shoes and all the small things I need for any situation. Having what I need already saves me money on the road so I don’t have to buy things I “forgot”. I am going to share my 25 essential travel items.

From trips through Europe as a budget backpacker to Uganda, India, or Jordan, to luxe trips in Hawaii or Turkey – I’ve been very varied places and do know a thing or two about what to pack and what to leave at home. I’ve also tried and tested SO many products over the years to find favorites. I love fashion and style, but when it comes down to it – I pack what WORKS. This list will have essential travel items I can’t travel without, but I’m not going to dumb it down or bore you with obvious/ generic things like underwear or your phone. I want to share things that are seriously going to help you and change the way you travel for the better!

25 Essential Travel Items

1. This “Functional” LeSportsac Backpack

So, I randomly got this backpack in black about 5 years ago, and it was the best purchase I’ve ever made. It has come on EVERY single trip I’ve ever taken, will probably last forever, and is one of the most used things I have on a trip. I take it on hikes, to the beach, use it when my luggage gets too full, and it packs up to the tiniest thing because of the material and the fact there is no structure to it – so it takes up no luggage space.

It’s so expensive, though, for what it is: it’s $140, and I think the reason is that “LeSportsac is apparently a very bougie brand which I didn’t know when I got it, but it’s worth EVERY PENNY because it is damn functional as the name suggests!

It has side pockets for water, inside padded pockets for laptop, etc, two pockets in the front that expand – and it can hold so much weight, it’s shocking. This is the MUST-HAVE thing on this entire list

2. 7 pc. Packing Cubes (and other various organizers)

what to wear in panama

etsy cord leather wrap

You must… you must…. you must increase your packing cube game! I’m really into packing smart and organized. I use the Konmari method, which you can read about here. The 7 pc. Ebags packing cube set is a great starter set. I do have even more than that – and use packing cubes for my shoes and so much more.

I also suggest getting these customizable leather cord organizers from Etsy. Life-changing.

I also love the simple zip leather pouch from Everlane (above) for storing my knickknacks on a plane in my personal bag.

Having cute little toiletry bags and such are always going to make life easier.

3. Travel Pants That Don’t Suck

I’m not going to take it as far as zip-off travel pants, but I DO own a few pairs of “travel pants”. I guess it’s what happens when you turn 30. They are from Anatomie, they are not cheap, but they are worth it. My favorite are the “Skyler” which are high-waisted. These are “travely material” and dry in two seconds but I honestly think they fit like a glove and make me look more legit than if I wore what I would have previously worn: leggings. The tee shirt below is also from Anatomie and I’m super into it – bought it in tow more colors after this trip!

Also pictured: Teva Tirra’s which are later on in this list.

4. Hard-Core Portable Battery

Ebags Anti-Theft Purse Review

You just gotta have this tech item even if you aren’t a blogger. Why even worry about your phone dying when they’ve invented something that prevents it? You want to get the one that charges the most: 10,000mAh. You can find affordable ones on Amazon. They will weigh a bit but are worth it especially if you’re a nervous traveler.

Mine is that big black one in the middle of my purse, above. PS: that purse says “RFID safe” because it’s an anti-theft purse which I also love to travel with in some destinations. Read a full review here.

5. Noise Cancelling Headphones

I love mine! I have the Bose Comfort Control and my boyfriend has the Bose Quiet Comfort. I use them both depending on my mood and you can’t go wrong with either. If you want to read reviews, see which are most comfortable, prices, etc you can check out this post.

6. Affordable Mirrorless Camera

kohls popsugar collection

You can get SO many cool mirrorless cameras for under $500 these days. I have the Panasonic Lumix GX85 currently and several lenses for it. Mirrorless cameras are basically as legit as a big-ass DSLR except in low light. You can shoot on manual, you can change lenses, and you have also have 20x better images than what you’d get on your phone. If you want to switch from Taking Photos With Your Phone to check out that link of what made me make the switch and how much better the images are.

I love my prime lens which is my go-to, my wide-angle for unique situations, and I have a superzoom lens that has a really low aperture. This totally changed my photography and made my Instagram grow as well. These aren’t just good for travel, but taking photos of my nephew and family gathering, my pets, it’s just creating memories that are high-quality images I want to print, not blurry phone photos that I later delete.

7. TRTL Pillow

Must I tell you about the TRTL pillow again? Ha! I feel like I mention it constantly. I get messages from you guys every week saying “omg this pillow changed my life” and I’m like, “I know, I’ve been telling you for years!”. It’s so necessary! Full review on it here. This pillow has a “c-shaped” hard piece of plastic inside the fleece that makes it so you head will stay up straight. It’s so epic. It’s honestly changed my flight experience so much and I take it even on a 2-hour flight for a little nap.

8. All-New Paperwhite Kindle

I read CONSTANTLY when I travel. I am so addicted to my Kindle.

The one thing on this list I haven’t upgraded to, though! I still have the regular paperwhite and I’m very much “use it until it’s dead in the ground” so won’t buy the new one until this one goes kaput. BUT if you don’t have a kindle yet, then you must get the new version. It’s waterproof! I like these cheaper “paperwhite” Kindles because they are not like a tablet, they are like a book in a sense there is a no backlight so no glare from the sun like you have on the Kindle Fire and such (and those are more expensive). Although on this new paperwhite you can TURN ON the backlight, which is new, and so good as with the one I have, I have to turn on ACTUAL bedside light to read at night like it’s the 90’s.

9. World Adaptor and Surge Protector

Basic, but really necessary. The world adapter is great for any trip really, just buy it once then never think about it again – just get one of these quality ones so it doesn’t break. The cheap ones are cheap for a reason. Then a surge protector “strip” is good to plug into that so you can then charge up several devices with their REGULAR plugs into only one world adapter.

So, to clarify, you have 5 USA things to charge lets say: phone, camera, computer, headphones, Kindle. You don’t want to buy 5 world adapters to charge them abroad. So, buy ONE. Then plug in a surge protector power strip to that that you can then charge all your devices at once. Viola!

10. A Fanny Pack (Yes, Really)

Nerdy, but don’t care! I love my Patagonia fanny pack. I’m all about the hands-free experience! Throw my phone, chapstick, sunglasses, and money in there and go. I use it all the time.

11. Teva Tirras

I’m a Chaco’s girl, I will admit (see my favorites here) but lately, these Tevas are taking over and I’ve been taking them on more and more trips. I love the ease of the Velcro. These are the “Tirra” and they are incredibly comfortable and will double as a water shoe.

12. The Mummy Sleeping Bag Liner

For longer trips or trips that might have some adventure in them (sleeping under the stars in the desert in Rajasthan, train rides, etc) you will love having a sleeping bag liner with you. Packing a sleeping bag can feel intense as they are going to take a lot of space and will you use it? For trips in India and any longterm backpacker trips I do recommend one, but for a casual trip, you can take a sleeping bag liner without it taking up space and you’ll be surprised how handy it is! I use it ALL the time.

13. The Most Organized Travel Backpack

So, it’s hard to decide which to even tell you about because I have SEVERAL OCD backpacks. When I go on a trip, I have to really think it over. I love my professional slim from Ebags. So. Many. Pockets. But these days, it’s all about the Lo & Sons Hanover. Why? Because it’s small, compact, but somehow fits a lot – Mary Poppins style. And it has a little secret… the insert comes out. So, you put in all your goodies for the flight. When you get to your hotel and want to pop down to the beach or a little sightseeing, gone are the days of unpacking the backpack of your electronics and such so you can use it for the day – you just take the insert out and it all stays perfectly organized while you take the backpack!

SO OBSESSED WITH THIS BACKPACK!

14. Tesalate Towel

A travel towel is key – and I usually recommend a basic microfiber travel towel, cheap and easy on Amazon. But last year, I learned about Tesalate towels. They are sand-resistant and from Australia. You can only buy them on their website as of now. These towels are cute and as lightweight as a microfiber towel, but are also amazing for the beach. Sand cannot stick to them, for real, which you can’t say about a microfiber towel. They also dry really fast. I pack mine in the bottom of my personal item backpack and never know it’s taking up space but it’s always there when I need it. You can use the code “hippieinheels15” to get 15% off your order.

15. A Linen Button-Up

This is my staple. I am at Starbucks writing this, wearing this, right now. This exact one is actually a men’s one from GAP but you can find these anywhere. I usually size up. I love this tan/neutral color and have two of them. The other one is more “grungry” and ripped. I wear this over dresses, on adventures, on the plane, all the time.

16. Secret Tassel Phone Charger

belkin leather tassle usb

Ever since I stumbled across this as a “recommendation for me” by Amazon, I have been so obsessed with it. This little leather tassel is always on my tote or purse and inside is a little Belkin phone charger hiding. In an Uber and wanna charge up? I just plug my phone into the car… on a plane? Same! It’s so convenient and I don’t have to carry around a charger. Belkin is also one of the best brands out there.

17. Baseball Hat

Where to Stay Gulf of Chiriqui Isla Palenque

I’m all about them. Old ones from High School, sports team I’ve never even seen play… doesn’t matter. They keep the sun off, they look cute in a “not trying” sort of way and are just absolutely convenient. They don’t take up space like a sun hat and are perfect for hiding your hair when it looks like absolute shit! :)

18. One of These Quality Tote Bags

things to do in udaipur

I can’t narrow it down, to be honest, but you DO need to have a tote bag. I have so many that I love and will just share the top 3.

  1. Madewell “The Medium” Tote (classic, cute)
  2. Etsy “Etnika” Tote from Bali for Fringe (boho, cute)
  3. Lo & Sons Seville (business travel, practical)

Then I just love to get totes from Free People and watch for sales. Here are some amazing ones from them!

19. UGG Kari Slides

things to do in panama city 

My love for these shoes goes pretty deep. I have three pairs and have written about them in detail in this blog post. They are the most comfortable shoe I travel with, are so cute, are a TINY bit platform, and are really quality leather. I just love them so much. I have gold, black, and orange. They are around $90-$100 unless you get a sale color that is going out of stock.

20. THIS Classic Travel Outfit: Wide-Leg Trousers, Fitted Boxy-Cut Tee

Ebags Fortis Pro Review

Ebags Fortis Pro Review

My go-to travel outfit for flights, long days, wanted to look cute, dressed up, but still being SO COMFORTABLE is this:

A pair of wide-leg fitted high waist pants with a fitted tee shirt that I can tuck in and an actual bra. Instead of wearing a lacy number, I’ll wear a little underwire to look like less of a hippie and love tees from Social tee project, Free People bandana tees, the Aerie tees, and more.

For the pants, I go for Anthropologie all the way. I’ll put some options below as my current faves (mustard yellow cropped chinos) will probably sell out. I always get something colorful! They aren’t cheap but they fit amazing and are such high quality. To look for pants like these search on places like Free People the term “cropped pant”, “culotte” or “cropped chino”. I love to have options of these in silk, and wearing nice tailored-ish trousers is my go-to! Wearing just jeans is so boring!

21. Luggage: Backpack vs Rolling

Obviously you need something big to carry all your stuff. Whether it’s a classic rolling suitcase or a big backpack is up to you. I’ve done both, and currently I travel with suitcases. Here’s a more in depth comparison to help you choose.

22. Tom’s in a Neutral Color

toms

I love Tom’s for a casual walking shoe. I find them very comfortable, great for adventure or just city sightseeing and I love that I can wear them with leggings, dresses, on the plane, whatever. They match it all. The burlap I love are now only men’s but I still recommend getting the mens pair if you are a women, just size down. The canvas ones are great as well!

how to deal with long haul flights

23. Little Bits: Clean AF wipes, Under-Eye Patches, Kleenex, Earplugs, Eye Mask, Chapstick

So you can sleep and relax on a plane like the angel I am above… lol :p I’ll link some favorites below! Mostly I love the Patchology for wipes and under-eye, concave eye masks, Slip silk ones, or the fluffy UGG ones). Again, there is my favorite linen shirt!

24. Polarized Sunglasses

mosquito supper club

I love my Wayfarer Ray-Bans and the Clubmaster Ray-Bans and take a black and brown pair on every trip. I like to keep it simple. The polarized make a HUGE difference. They look cool and they are practical. If you are still wearing cheap H&M sunnies, it’s time to take the leap. You’ll never go back!

25. Leather Everyday Purse

You guys always comment how much you love my Etnika bags. I have several that I picked up in Bali. They sell on Etsy as well and are soooo cute with tons of tassels and amazing soft leather. The tote is pictured above, but the purses are the best for daily use. I also love a classic Fossil bag or the Madewell “small transport tote”. I also just pick up cute little ones from Free People when they go on sale!

For More Packing Advice

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2019-02-12T03:31:10+00:00

About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Hippie in Heels, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Hippie in Heels has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.

3 Comments

  1. Liz February 2, 2019 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    so glad I saw this today, the Hanove backpack looks amazing, and when I clicked through, it was 50% off in the recycled fabric…huzzah and thank you!

  2. Chris Slack February 3, 2019 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    Love all of your travel tips! They have helped me through all of my travels. I didn’t know about travel cubes until I read your posts and they have been a life changer

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