Has the game of travel essentials changed much in the last few decades? For instance, do you think your grandpa’s packing list for his 1965 expedition to China would feel unusual to you today? I venture to say no.
Travelers, then and now, look for comfortable, reliable, and high-quality equipment to get them through the highs and lows that come with visiting new places. For that reason, the items listed below have truly earned the title of “travel essentials,” and why we felt so compelled to share them with our community of modern explorers.
While the travel essentials of today are certainly updated to meet the needs of us millennial and Gen Z travelers (headlamps trump flashlights every time…), many of these items will also seem familiar to the travelers who’ve laid footsteps before us. Even your intrepid grandma might have a story to share about when travel essentials like these saved the day.
So let’s jump in: Here is everything you need to know about THE travel essentials of 2018-2019.
Travel Essentials Checklist
Easily compressed and flung into your main backpack or additional packing capacity, daypacks are travel essentials for shorter-adventures within your grand one. Think daytrips, weekend getaways, or an overnight hike up that really big mountain. The key here is to find one that overlaps in style and functionality, boasting enough capacity to hold the necessities (and a little extra room for souvenirs).
We recommend: Outbreaker Travel Daypack
Don’t you *just hate* when an inconsiderate hostel dorm mate barges in after hours and flips the light switch on? Yeah, we do too, which is why we’re starting a movement — one where all “travel essentials” lists include a headlamp. Join us!
Bonus points if you pack an extra set of batteries or invest in a headlamp case to keep it extra safe.
We recommend: Petzl
Swiss Army Knife, or Multitool
A multitool is just that — a tool that can be used in multiple situations. Be warned that packing this means you’ll have to check your luggage, but having an instant cheese cutter-meets-nail clippers-meets pill remover-and more handy will ultimately prove its utility.
Note that if your blade is less than 2.36 inches long you should be able to carry it on.
We recommend: Vise Pocket Tool
We’re just going to give it to you straight. You’re bound to have some waterborne adventures during your travels — or, even more likely, have moments where your clothes just aren’t quite dry enough, or your swimsuit is still soaking wet from that spur-of-the-moment cliff jump. Prepare for the inevitable with a wet/dry bag, and you’ll never have to worry about your fresh items (or electronics) shouldering up too close to those soggy ones.
We recommend: The Outbreaker Wet/Dry Bag
Sarong, Pashmina, or Scarf
Even for the gentlemen, scarves can be one of the most practical items you pack for your travels. Great for keeping you warm on drafty airplanes, functioning as a beach towel, giving you the go-ahead when visiting places where visible shoulders are not allowed — the list goes on. Dress it up, dress it down, crumple it into a pillow. A big scarf is basically your travel BFF.
We recommend: That favorite scarf you have lying around. If you’re in the market for a new one, check out Speakeasy’s Travel Scarf
From snorers, to crying babies, to rattling windows, and beyond, earplugs can double as the perfect escape from your less-than-pleasant surroundings. Bonus points if you invest in a hearty pair rather than the cheapy-throw-away ones (hint: they tend to last longer and do the job better).
We recommend: MyTravelUp High Fidelity Earplugs
Reusable Water Bottle
When we’re talking international travel essentials for 2018-2019, we’re talking reusable water bottles. Those one-off plastic sissies shouldn’t be your go-to when you’re traveling at length. Instead, invest upfront in a sturdy, reusable one.
Tip: consider purchasing one with a built in UV light water treatment, or other filtering system if you’ll be traveling in countries that lack potable water.
We recommend: Hydroflask or Grayl
Your Pertinent Travel Information
Create a single location where you store all of the international travel information for your trip. This means confirmation numbers, emergency numbers, rental car details, hotel or Airbnb addresses, your passport copies, and any other information you think you might like to have available offline with easy access. You can update this on-the-go, but the storage location should stay the same.
This may not land itself on a list of travel essentials for 2018-2019 that you can buy, but it remains absolutely essential nonetheless.
We recommend: Your smart phone’s “Notes” app.
All this air travel can do a number on your peepers, so it’s best to stay ahead of the (dry, itchy, red-lined) curve and stow a tiny bottle of tears/eye drops in an easy-to-grab location. These can also be helpful if you’re traveling in a place with new flora and fauna (hello, allergies!) or when you’ve had a long day of sightseeing.
We recommend: Visine, baby!
Modern explorers know that international travel essentials include a set of packing cubes — vital for separating items (think shoes, socks, undies, or outfits) so that all of your items are clearly organized and easy-to-grab. It may seem to the untrained (and untraveled) eye that these are superfluous, but it just takes one full-dumping-of-all-of-your-bag’s-contents to understand the value of packing cubes’ inherent organization.
We recommend: Outbreaker Packing Cubes
A quick bath in a pinch and the perfect solution to long airport layovers (or one-of-those-days where a simple face wipe feels like a trip to the spa), face wipes can end up serving multiple uses during your travels. You’ll be surprised at how refreshed these little babies can make you feel.
We recommend: Simple Skin-Cleansing Face Wipes
Universal Plug Adapter
Buying one plug adapter that can be used worldwide just makes sense — after all, no one wants their first stop in a new country to be the electronics store instead of the rooftop bar. Do yourself a favor and invest in a universal one up front rather than picking them up along the way.
We recommend: T Power’s Universal World Wide Travel Plug Adapter
Say “Sayonara” to Your Luggage and get a Backpack
Let’s face it. Suitcases are OUT. It’s time to maximize your mobility (and work those butt muscles!) by carrying your travel items on your back instead of dragging it behind or pushing it awkwardly (here’s looking at you, four-wheeled luggage). Your travel essentials must include a backpack that is not only dependable and spacious, but also looks pretty rad, too.
We recommend: Outbreaker 45 L
Carry On Travel Essentials
If you’re splitting your items between a main bag that you’re checking and a carry on pack, you’d be wise to consult our Definitive Carry On Packing List. If you’re an ultra light packer, you might even get away with only traveling with a carry on (you pro traveler, you!). When it comes to stuffing your stowaway-compliant-pack, you’ll want to consider five main categories of items:
It may seem a bit overwhelming at first, but that handy packing resource will break it down step-by-step for you. The only difficult challenge that remains is picking a soundtrack to listen to while you pack!
Additional Travel Essentials for Men
Whether you’re bro-ing out for the weekend or rocking the digital nomad work-life balance for the foreseeable future, there are certain additional considerations our male friends must make when packing. Your favorite shaving cream and razor, condoms, foot powder, an extra pair of boxers, a baseball cap, and a durable belt all make our short list of additional travel essentials for men.
Check out the Dopp Kit Essentials: Dapper Dude Packing List for more.
Additional Travel Essentials for Women
Ladies are notorious for being a little more picky about our beauty products than our male-counterparts, but who knows if that’s really true. If that’s you, your list of travel essentials for women might be a little longer. At very least, women should consider packing for their period (pack tampons, a Diva Cup, or pads) and packing condoms, their preferred skincare regimen, any gotta-have-it hair products, and a razor.
Women might also consider packing additional items for safety, such as mace or an emergency bra (a sad but true reality for us).
The travel essentials of 2018-2019 aren’t necessarily ground breaking or a huge diversion from the norm. Both the travelers of yester-year and our contemporaries can all agree on the benefits of these seemingly simple, yet incredibly useful, items.
- Adjust your list based on your travel details: If you’re planning to travel for six months in primarily developing countries, your travel essentials might look a little different than someone’s three month UK jaunt; adapt the list to meet your needs.
- Add necessary medications on the list. These are just general life essentials, but you should make sure to pack them and plan in advance so your supply is sufficient.
- We called these international travel essentials because they’re, well, essential: You might not agree in the here and now, but we guarantee that sarong is going to feel extra useful when you want to enter Angkor Wat but forgot to wear a shirt with sleeves.