12 things you should never forget to pack when you travel

12 things you should never forget to pack when you travel

Many of us have taken a two-year break from traveling while cases of covid-19 hovered over the entire globe. But if you’re like me, you’re itching to get back to exploring new places. Although traveling is usually a fun and eye-opening experience, it can also be extremely stressful – especially when it comes to packing.

Although I’m a notorious over-packer and planner, I inevitably forget to pack something I need and am forced to buy what I’ve left behind. (Don’t get me started on the trip where I forgot to pack socks and pajamas.) While you can usually find what you need at your destination, it’s easier to just pack what you need ahead of time.

Considering that it has been a while since many of us have traveled, it seems necessary to update the things that are often forgotten. You probably won’t forget pants or shoes, but what about the items you might not think about? Whether you’ve already booked your trip or are just planning ahead, these are the 12 things you should take with you on your next vacation. (For more, check out our picks for the top cameras for summer trips and the best hand luggage).

Also read: This is the best way to pack a suitcase

1. A power strip

One thing I have discovered through all my travels is that there are never enough power outlets where I live. Choosing between having a lamp or charging your phone is a tough task, and this only gets annoying if you share a room with others.

My solution: Bring your own power strip.

You also don’t need to pack a full-sized power strip. Belkin, Philips and other companies offer power strips that are compact and built for travel. They turn one outlet into several and usually come with some built-in USB ports as well.

2. A reusable water bottle

If you’re spending hours walking through city streets or going on an all-day hike in a national park, you need to hydrate often. Access to water isn’t always easy in certain destinations — not to mention how brutally hot or humid it can be in certain climates — so it’s always helpful to bring a refillable bottle.

Sure, you can rely on buying water bottles at your destination, but water is often expensive in popular tourist hubs or hotels, and grocery or convenience stores aren’t always nearby, especially in rural or forested areas.

Here is a list of this year’s favorite water bottles. If your destination’s tap water is undrinkable, try it a water bottle with a built-in filter.

Glass bottle filled with water on the beach with a metal stopper

Water is often expensive in popular tourist hubs. Bringing your own reusable bottle saves money and keeps you hydrated.

Mario Marco/Getty Images

3. Portable power banks

When you travel, you’re likely to use your phone more—getting boarding passes, finding places to go and directions to those places, keeping in touch with friends and family back home, and taking hundreds of photos. All of this drains your battery, and it can be frustrating to interrupt your busy sightseeing itinerary to charge your phone. In addition, access to power outlets is never guaranteed.

That’s why it’s always good to bring a laptop power bank with you. Power banks put the power in your pocket for easy access and are usually not too expensive. I recommend investing in one that is not only reliable, but can also charge your phone several times before it needs to be charged on its own.

Also read: Must-have travel gear to make international travel stress-free

4. Towel

While bus rides or subway rides can be a lot of fun, they aren’t always the cleanest places. While traveling, you are likely to touch “high-touch” objects such as remote controls, light switches, telephones, doorknobs, faucet handles, etc., so it is important to keep hygiene in mind to prevent illness.

Washing your hands may not always be an immediate option, so be sure to bring a few towels with you. Additionally, small cloths should make it through security checkpoints without any problems.

female hands holding the subway handle with a napkin

Carrying small wipes with you will ensure that you can clean your hands and certain “high-touch” items when you travel.

Kilito Chan/Getty Images

5. A quick-drying towel

Towels are more often included, and you never know when one might save the day. Maybe you spilled on your outfit or got caught in a downpour and need to dry off quickly. Or maybe you got to your hotel or Airbnb only to find they didn’t provide towels.

Quick-dry towels aren’t the most luxurious option, but they’re lightweight and easy to store while traveling. The most important thing is that they dry super fast so you can clean up and pack it in your bag without too much waiting time.

6. Plastic bags

If there’s one travel essential I swear by, it’s a plastic bag. Need to pack up those muddy shoes? Plastic bag. Want to separate worn dirty clothes from your clean items? Plastic bag.

Although plastic or trash bags aren’t the most glamorous travel item, they have a variety of uses and won’t take up much space in your luggage.

7. A packable backpack

I consistently pack too much in my carry-on: I want cameras, a hat, sunglasses, a change of clothes and some toiletries in case the checked back gets lost. But all these items quickly add up to very little room in my backpack, and usually I don’t want to take them all with me while tooling around the destination I’m visiting.

I suggest taking another smaller, preferably collapsible backpack that you can use while traveling around. This will prevent you from having to pack and repack your hand luggage. In addition, you can use it to carry the souvenirs you pick up along the way.

Beer bottles in a suitcase

Glass can break easily during travel, so it’s best to pack your beer or wine in a protective bag.

Image source/Getty Images

8. Bottle protectors

I return from almost every trip I take with a bottle of wine or specialty beer as a souvenir. I love bringing home a special bottle of beer, liquor or wine to share with friends and family as I tell them about my adventures.

But before that can happen, the bottle actually has to make it through the trip home. And that means you need to bring some form of protection. Many people swear by the wine-bottle-in-the-sock method or will wrap the glass bottles with their clothes, but I prefer to pack an actual protective bottle bag. I recommend a protective bottle bag with padding and a zip top that will help protect your clothing.

9. Tumble dryer

For me, this is a no-brainer. When you walk miles and miles through various train or bus stations, airports and cities, you get to work properly. And your shoes will probably pay the price.

Bring several dryer sheets to mask the smell of your shoes. When you get back to your hotel or Airbnb at the end of the day, just put a towel in each shoe to help air them out.

dirty shoes with dryer

Smelly shoes? Just use a tumble dryer.

Alina Bradford/CNET

10. A universal plug adapter

You probably already know this. In any case, I will remind you: If you are going to travel abroad, you need a plug adapter. Outlets in the US are a different size than outlets abroad, which means that if you intend to use electronic devices in another country, you will need an adapter.

You can try to buy one at your destination, but they can be expensive and hard to find. It’s best to pack one with you before you leave to save time and money.

A close-up of the Ceptics adapters in a small bag.

A travel adapter is a must.


11. An itinerary

OK, this may seem like overkill, but an itinerary has saved me on more than one occasion. Internet connection is not always reliable when traveling or in certain rural areas, and establish one Wired connection is almost always going to be more reliable than wireless (especially in hotels). I feel much safer when traveling knowing that I have a stable connection to call in case of emergency, keep up with the group I’m traveling with or to connect with loved ones back home.

Here’s some more good news: Itineraries are usually small, inexpensive, and easy to pack. You can buy one for anywhere between $20 and $100, and they’re usually not much bigger than a wall adapter.

12. A packable down or rain jacket

Whether you’re heading to a tropical destination or hitting the streets of a European city, it’s always a good idea to bring an extra down or rain jacket. Even if you check the weather forecast religiously, you can still get caught in a freak rainstorm or have a cooler-than-expected night.

One of the best options that won’t weigh down your suitcase is to bring a packable down or rain jacket that folds up easily. Trust me, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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Final thoughts

Traveling can be a life-changing experience that creates memories that last a lifetime. But before you can experience all the magic of cities around the world, you need to pack. And packing correctly can make all the difference in reducing stress and saving money in the long run. While everyone may have a different idea of ​​what things are important for travel, the 12 recommendations above are what I have found to be most helpful during my own travels.

If you’re planning a vacation soon and are stressed about preparing, we’ve got plenty of resources to help. Prepare for your next trip like a pro with these travel tips:

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