A question that we often get is, “what to pack when traveling?”Forget packing cubes, backpacks, and cameras! While those things are great, the essential (must-have) travel tools are often the most simple and accessible items. In this article, I want to review the things that I carry with me on most trips that aren’t slick or fancy, but are essential items that have saved the day on many occasions. We’re not talking about packing cubes or backpacks, even though those are awesome tools to help make the process of packing and traveling smoother. Instead, these are simple and basic items that I carry with me that have proven to be extremely handy when traveling.

1. Wipes:

I know we’ve mentioned wipes in several videos, but they are truly a must-have when traveling. They have definitely come in handy when dealing with a dirty airplane tray. We’ve also used them when visiting a place with no running water in the bathroom like many national parks. These things are super handy and cheap, and there’s no reason not carry a few in your bag.

One tip though is put your wipes into a second plastic bag. For some reason, the packaging from the store seems to often leak, so I recommend putting them in a ziplock bag to be safe.

2. Pens:

I know a lot of us use pens less and less every day, especially since more of our life is digital. But one thing that is almost never digital are those pesky customs and immigration forms that you need to fill out when entering another country. And it seems like there are never enough pens on the airplane.

So, make sure you pack a pen. Actually, pack a few of them and you’ll be a hero when you can share them with others. You may even make some new friends.

A tip though is to carry pens that won’t leak on a plane. You don’t necessarily need a fancy space pen either. Most gel and ballpoint pens will work, however, I would avoid rollerball pens as they tend to leak under pressure.

3. Headlamp:

You’re not going to win any fashion or hipster awards for wearing one, but these things are super useful. I know that I have a flashlight on my phone, but there are times when I want my hands free while still having illumination. An example is when I traveled to Vietnam and went through the Cu Chi tunnels. We were crawling through the tunnels, and holding a phone would not have been practical.

I have one that I’ve used for years, and it still works great. It also doubles as an emergency light at home and comes in handy when doing home repairs in dark places.

4. Plastic utensil:

This little plastic utensil is not only sturdy and reusable, but it’s saved the day on several occasions. Why? Because I’ll often buy foods like yogurt when I travel to not only save money for breakfast, but also because I think it helps my digestive system. Though what often happens is I realize that I don’t have a spoon. And even worse, the stores often don’t have them either or I have to buy a large pack of spoons, which is wasteful and cumbersome.

After going through this exact scenario in Panama, I decided to get a cheap reusable utensil, and it works great!

5. Watch:

I know a lot of people just use their mobile phones as their watch. That makes a lot of sense, but I always recommend wearing a watch when traveling. Why? Because I tend to burn through my mobile phone battery faster when I’m traveling and using my phone to capture photos and videos. And with time being more sensitive when you travel, especially when flying or taking a tour, it just makes sense to have a dedicated watch for the task.

I’m also a bit old school, so I like carrying an automatic watch, which means that it doesn’t use a battery. I just happen to be a watch geek, so I like the idea of the watch being powered by my motion, but any watch will do.

6. Spare battery charger:

Speaking of mobile phones running out of power, I always carry a small USB battery charger. It’s come in useful so many times when traveling, and I honestly recommend one to any traveler.

They come in a variety of sizes and capacities. I personally love the battery packs made by Anker, and I plan to get a bigger capacity one now that I’m carrying more camera gear and a drone. However, their tiny charger is what I usually carry, and it’s saved me on so many occasions.

7. Multi-port USB charger:

To continue the theme of power and electronics, I recommend carrying a multi-port USB charger. One thing that I’ve noticed when traveling is that hotels often have very few plugs. This is especially the case in some of the more dated hotels. This can be an issue if you have multiple devices that need to be charged. Having a multi-port charger allows you to charge many different devices, and can even win you some friends at the airport.

Again, I highly recommend any chargers from Anker. They even make a charger that doubles as a spare battery pack, so check out their gear if you’re interested in getting one.

8. Rain gear:

Being in a sudden downpour is no fun, especially when you’re carrying important items or gear. I sometimes will carry an umbrella with me, but most times, I like to pack a poncho. It doesn’t take up much room, and it works really well to keep me dry.

You can get ones that are disposable, but I recommend spending a bit more to get one that is reusable. They are not only more durable, but they also tend to be made of more breathable materials, which is much more comfortable to wear.

9. Luggage lock:

The last item on my list is the simple luggage lock. The reason I recommend carrying one is that there have been times when I have checked into a hotel only to find that there isn’t a safe, or even worse, it just doesn’t work properly. I usually carry a portable safe, but in the event that I don’t have it, or if I have items that are too big, I’ll usually lock it in my suitcase. This isn’t the best way to secure your items as the lock can be destroyed or your bag can be cut. It’s definitely not going to stop a determined thief, but it’s probably enough to deter a curious housekeeper. If you are traveling with expensive or valuable items, then you’re better off carrying it with you during the day. Another option is to have the front desk secure it in their safe if they offer the service.

Also, if you want to use a luggage lock when flying, makes sure it’s TSA approved. This is especially important if you’re traveling to or within the US. Otherwise, it will likely be cut. For US travelers, be aware that theft from your luggage is much more common around the world.

If you’re looking for a specific brand or recommendation, we love the luggage locks from Travelon. They are colorful and unique, which makes it easy to spot your luggage and bag at the baggage claim.

What underrated items do you carry when traveling? Is there anything that you’ve used that has saved the day? Please let us know in the comment section below.

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