THINGS I’VE LEARNED: Items I Need to Have When Traveling

Travel essentials, packing essentials, carry on packing

Hey all! It’s #TravelTuesday – my favorite day of the week!

I hope you all are finding yourselves being productive and having a great start to the week. And if you’re not, I hope you’re enjoying your ice cream while binging on Netflix to make it better. That’s always a solid plan B when plan A doesn’t work out. Or even a better plan A without having any other plan.

I’m in the midst of packing and preparing for my 2.5 week trip in Europe. I leave on Friday and I am NOT prepared! But are we ever? This got me thinking about writing a post on what my favorite things to bring on a trip abroad are. My go-to items, my must haves, and my just-in-case items. And a surprise cameo recommendation from the male half of my life.

NOTE: The following review does contain affiliate links. If you use my link to purchase any products, I may receive a small amount at no extra cost to you. I did not receive any type of free product or compensation for a positive review. All of the following was based on an unbiased opinion. You can view my disclosures statement here. 

Here’s the boring, non-descriptive, “I’m in a rush and need to read through this quick, but I promise I’ll come back and read all of your witty banter later,” version: 

  1. Packing cubes

  2. Adapter
  3. Dedicated day backpack/bag
  4. Travel pillow
  5. Band Aids
  6. Ziploc Bags
  7. Me & Underwear (you’ll have to read to hear that story – I’m not giving away all my secrets)

OK – now for the goods

When I travel, I travel with a backpack. Last year was my first time trying to go three and a half weeks with a backpack. I wasn’t so good and it and over packed, at least with my smaller backpack.

Back pack traveler, travel europe, carryon traveling
That ain’t workin’ (side note: check out those 7/8 Fabletics leggings I talked about in my review)

Just after this picture was taken and I saw how much that was NOT going to work, I unloaded a bunch of shit and left it in the Miami hotel for whomever found it. You’re welcome to the lucky soul that did. 

My backpack was loaned to me by a friend and it was quite the…..contraption. It worked super well, but was an awkward size and it was a top-open which was hard to manage. It was great to test out how I was going to travel with only a backpack, though. (SPOILER ALERT: I loved it – switch your method if you haven’t already!)

It was easier to manage through big crowds. I didn’t have to roll an awkward suitcase on cobblestone streets or carry it up flights of stairs when there wasn’t an elevator. It also came in handy when I had to SPRINT (yes, sprint – not a light jog) through Paddington Train Station in London in order to barely make it onto a train. If I didn’t have a backpack we would have been stuck at that damn station for a few more hours.

I went out and bought an Osprey Fairview 55 liter travel backpack for this trip and I can’t wait to test it out! It’s slightly bigger than most budget airlines carry-on, but not by much. I’m really hoping I can just slide by. Cross your fingers for me. It also has a detachable day pack, so I’m pretty excited for that. (I got mine from REI – the links will take you to Amazon. I have an REI membership, so it made sense for me).

Osprey Packs 10001130 Fairview 55 Travel Backpack, Misty Grey, Small/Medium

Now, this limits me to what I can bring since it’s such a small space. So I really have to bring only the essentials. THIS. IS. SO. HARD. FOR. ME. I’m a mom-packer. I bring snacks, back up snacks, the medicine cabinet, and have my endless Mary Poppins bag. Honestly, having to pack light has really helped me be less of a hoarder. Maybe not completely hoarder-less, but at least cut it in half.

Here’s a list of my top items I can’t leave for a trip without:

I’ll start with specific products that I have tried and love. Then I’ll go into items I need that you can get anywhere.

Packing Cubes

Holy cow. These are a must. I love that they keep everything nice and tidy, even when your luggage gets thrown around. I also like that I can separate different types of clothing into separate cubes. This keeps me from throwing everything out of my bag to find that one top that is the same color as 10 other things in my bag. I really think these are key to packing everything into a small backpack to last for several weeks.

GreEco 4 Pcs Packing Cubes Plus 1 Pc Laundry Bag and 1 Pc Shoe Bag Black

I bought basic GreEco cubes for last years trip, but I’m a little rough with my possessions… The mesh didn’t hold up 100%. They were about $22 on Amazon. This may not be a problem for some of you, but it was for me. If you just want to try or are nice to your things, these work just fine!

Gonex Compression Packing Cubes Mesh Organizers L+M+S+XS+Slim+Laundry Bag Red

I purchased these Gonex compression cubes for the trip I’m prepping for right now. I’m excited that they’re compression vs static. I think that will work better for me and the way I handle things. The reviews were great and it really looked like the stretch/compression of the material packs your things nice and tight to fit into a smaller space. These were a little more expensive at about $34 on Amazon. I’ll keep you updated on whether I like these better or not.


If you’re traveling abroad, chances are that your appliances/devices won’t match the outlet of the country you are going to. I always picture Ashton Kutcher with Brittany Murphy (RIP) in Just Married. Don’t be Tom. You don’t want to burn down a castle.

Travel Adapter Uppel Dual USB All-in-one Worldwide Travel Chargers Adapters for US EU UK AU about 151 countries Wall Universal Power Plug Adapter Charger with Dual USB and Safety Fuse (Green)

This is the one I use and it’s been really handy. It has four different types of prongs (Type A, Type I, Type G, and Type C). If you’re like me and that means nothing to you… This will get you by in the States, UK, most of Europe, and Australia. You just have to flip different prongs in or out. Or slide the little notch you see in the picture one way or the other if you’r’e doing UK > USA. It also has two USB ports on it so you can charge several devices at once. This one was about $15 on Amazon. My whole family used it with me while traveling last year. And when I was at the airport in Iceland, I had about 3 fellow travelers using it, too.

Don’t confuse this with a converter that converts single voltage appliances to work with different currents. That is a different product. If you don’t have dual voltage appliances, you’ll need to get one, too.

Dedicated Day Bag/Purse/Backpack

Backpack, travel essentials, carry on traveling
Not so great shot of my backpack in Rome.

RELATED: How I Spent 3 Days in Rome – Vatican, Sistine Chapel, Stomach Flu, Colosseum, & Trevi Fountain

Everyone is a little different with this one. Some people use cross-body, travel purses/satchels. Some people use travel belts that you put under your shirt. That one I don’t understand, but to each their own. I like my backpack purse I have. The big thing you want from whatever your chosen method, keep your things safe from pickpockets. This backpack has two compartments and a front pouch. But, the two zip compartments that make up the main part of the bag also has a button flap that goes over them. If you really want to get safe, the two zippers can attach together with a TSA cable lock. I was able to keep my wallet, a jacket, my water bottle, and little things if I did some small shopping. It was the perfect size. I prefer the backpack over a cross-body, single shoulder bag because my neck and shoulders HATE me after several hours of one of these. I’m already hurting from walking around, I’m not adding in self-inflicted pain.

Scarleton Fashionable Plain Chic Backpack H173201 – Black

Is it fool proof? Nope. But it works for me and it has a little extra safety with that flap over the two zipper compartments. It was $20 on Amazon and then I bought a two pack of TSA approved cable locks for $12.

TSA Approved Cable Luggage Locks, Re-settable Combination with Alloy Body

Travel Pillow

Before I started taking long flights, I laughed at people with travel pillows. “Look at me!  I can save money by using my sweatshirt as a pillow!” JOKE WAS ON ME! I love my travel pillow now. And I’ll tell you the main reason why I recommend this one. IT WRAPS UNDER YOUR CHIN AND KEEPS YOUR MOUTH FROM HANGING OPEN! Some people are super adorable when they sleep. Then there’s me.

Sleep, Travel Pillow, Travel Essentials
My boyfriend likes to play a fun game of taking pictures of me at my most flattering angle. *double chin on point*

It’s comfortable, too. But if I’m being honest, this is my favorite part about it. This one is $40, but I’d spend the money again. 

BCOZZY Chin Supporting Travel Pillow – Supports the Head, Neck and Chin in in Any Sitting Position. A Patented Product. Adult Size, GRAY


Sleep, Travel Pillow, Travel Essentials
VOILA! And as an added bonus, it eliminates your double chin that you’re super self-conscious of (no, that’s just me? k….)

I got my mom this one last year. She said it’s comfortable. It has a memory foam to it and is a little bigger. She said it worked just fine. It’s cheaper than the one I posted above at $23. If you can sleep cute without your mouth hanging open or if you don’t care, go cheaper.

Everlasting Comfort 100% Pure Memory Foam Neck Pillow Airplane Travel Kit With Ultra Plush Velour Cover, Sleep Mask and Earplugs

Now for some non-specific products that I can’t travel without.

These are the items I’ve learned the hard way I need. There’s nothing better than trying to find a pharmacy in France right after you land to find band aids so your nips aren’t considered weapons at dinner. These don’t take up much space – just throw them in your bag.

Band Aids

Like I just said, I don’t like my nipples being considered a deadly weapon because there’s a cool breeze at night. I use them religiously instead of bras because…well…you ladies know what I’m throwing out there. I guess they can also be important for things like injuries. Or maybe you need to substitute tape for a quick fix on your shirt or backpack. You never know when you’ll need one. They take up relatively no space, so just throw them in your bathroom bag.

Ziploc Bags

You know you likely carry around your liquids in quart sized plastic zip baggies. I am NOTORIOUS for ripping mine at each destination. Without fail, it’s broken and I’m screwed. I throw a solid 20 of these in my bag before I leave home. Not only for liquids, but for waterproofing your phone, separating items in your bag you didn’t realize need separated, or you lose your wallet and you are desperate for a coin purse.

A man’s logic

I asked my boyfriend what his necessities are when traveling. Here’s the convo:

Me: “Hey, babe. What can’t you leave home without when we travel?”
Him: “You. Underwear. Lots of underwear.”

Moral of the story, some men have to travel with women so they make sure they have all of the previously mentioned. And underwear.

What are your must have travel items? Do they match any of mine? Maybe you can give me some to pack into my backpack for my trip this week. 🙂

12 Comments on “THINGS I’VE LEARNED: Items I Need to Have When Traveling

  1. I have never traveled abroad but I will say that those cubes would be so beneficial for me when packing for our trips! I always feel so unorganized when I pack for my kids and I. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post, i’ll definitely use some of these tips, so thanks for sharing


  3. I ordered some packing cubes a few days ago and they look like they’d be so handy like you said! I love the backpack recommendation, I would never have thought to take that instead of a suitcase!

    Great post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very nice writeup on things to remember. I only have one comment about the adapter you chose. Went through a similar overall exercise for leaving the states forever for Asia about 6 months ago. I had decided on a 45L Tortuga Outbreaker bag because I also carry on instead of checking my bags. This brings me to the adapter for different power plugs. For me, a necessary device is a multiple USB and AC power strip that can take my mac power supply, three USB devices, and also take my camera battery charger. The one I chose is this one on amazon:

    This power strip plugs into the plug adapter and has worked very well for me in Japan, Hong Kong, and now Vietnam. I chose this particular device because of its portability and size given I am traveling with only a 45L bag.

    BTW, will be following your blog! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh that looks like a nice one, too! The one in my post has several USB and I think 2 regular plugs. Those are SO helpful to have since the adapter tends to take up a lot of physical space on the wall and surrounding outlet! Thanks for following!! 🙂


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