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12 Not so Obvious Items You Shouldn’t Travel Without

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After being on the road for so long, packing has become a rather effortless task for me. I’ve been packing the same items over and over again for the past two years, and I feel like I can pack for a long trip in my sleep. However, packing wasn’t always that seamless for me. I was packing everything I thought I needed like phone chargers and headphones. But, I was missing other crucial items that slipped my mind. I was reading several packing lists and they all pretty much said to pack the same things. After my first 2+ week international trip, I realized that I needed to pack more than just comfy clothes and sunscreen. I don’t want you to have to go through that so here’s a list of some not so obvious items that you shouldn’t travel without no matter where you’re going.

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1. Jacket

I don’t care if I’m going to the desert. I’m still bringing a jacket with me. You never know when you’ll need one. If you’re hiking through a forest, a lightweight jacket is a good way to protect your arms from any thorns. It’ll also be your best friend if you’re going somewhere during monsoon season. I tend to freeze on flights so my jacket comes in real handy in that instance. A few months ago, we took a bus from Bariloche to Mendoza in Argentina. It was an eighteen-hour bus ride and it was freezing cold the entire time. A few people teased me for carrying around a jacket when it was hot outside, but the joke’s on them. They were shivering the entire time while I was nice and cozy.

A photo of me wearing a black rainjacket that I take with me everywhere.

This jacket is almost like a safety blanket for me. It’s been to 83 countries with me.

2. Hand Sanitizer

Raise your hand if you’re a germophobe. Traveling has totally turned me into one. Germs are literally everywhere – airports, taxis and more. I can’t even tell you many times hand sanitizer has saved my life. When we were in Kazakhstan, we had to make an emergency stop at a restroom on the side of a road. When you gotta go, you gotta go. Think of a porta-potty, but fifty times worse… if that’s even possible. This little stall had nothing to wash my hands with. Also, I’ve been on several flights where there was no soap to wash my hands with. Ew. Good thing I had my bottle of hand sanitizer to bathe my hands in. Keep it in your purse or pocket and don’t be afraid to use it often.

3. Flashlight

Power outages are pretty common depending on what part of the world you’re traveling to. Power outages happened on the daily when I went to India about twelve years ago. I honestly thought my parents were a little crazy for bringing flashlights with them, but it made total sense. It’s a great way to guide you down the stairways or hallway when the power goes out. We desperately needed a flashlight every evening on our safari in Maasai Mara. Our tent was far away from the dining area and we had to wait for an escort with a flashlight to take us back. His flashlight was pretty dim and it was honestly no different than me just walking in the complete dark. I could’ve gotten eaten by a cheetah. But really though… a flashlight would have been really helpful.

4. Mini First Aid Kit

I’m not a huge proponent of buying a ready-made first aid kit. I’ve never used half of the items that come with it. Rather, make your own first aid kit. Throw in a few band-aids and cleansing wipes for wounds. Also, pack some antihistamines in case you have an allergic reaction to something. I always pack antiseptic cream, ibuprofen, Pepto-Bismol, and cold medicine.

5. Travel Insurance

Do you need travel insurance? That’s ultimately up to you. I know plenty of people who travel without it and plenty of people who never travel without it. Personally, I believe you should carry some type of insurance when you’re traveling. Things will happen whether you think it will or won’t. It’s better to be safe than sorry. I highly doubt you want to be stuck with a hefty hospital bill if you break your leg abroad. Depending on the coverage, you’ll also be protected against theft, flight cancellations, lost luggage, and more. I personally use SafetyWing and I love them. Their customer service is great and they even paid for our flights home during an emergency situation.


6. Cold Hard Cash

Always have USD on you. Sometimes, immigration officials will only accept USD for visas and they won’t accept their own currency. When we went to Laos two years ago, we ran into this issue. It might be different now though. Furthermore, in the past, Uzbekistan had a black-market currency exchange program where you could get double the local currency when exchanging with USD. Lastly, you just never know when ATMs won’t work or when your ATM card might stop working.

7. Portable Charger

My portable charger has saved my life and my phone’s life many times. We have been on some very long bus rides that didn’t have an outlet to plug my phone charger in. Nothing will make a long bus ride or flight more miserable than your phone running out of juice.

8. Pen

Random, I know. Your pen will come into good use when you have to fill out a passenger arrival form on your flight before you land. Sometimes, the flight attendants won’t have enough pens to hand out to every passenger who doesn’t have one. I don’t know about you, but I’m hesitant to ask my neighbor to borrow their pen. Kudos to you if you’re braver than I am when it comes to that.

9. Ziploc Bags

I just counted how many Ziploc bags I have in my suitcase right now. I have seven. I use Ziploc bags to store my dirty clothes in until I can wash them. They also protect my belongings from liquid spills. I secure all of my liquids in a Ziploc bag so my toothpaste or shampoo doesn’t bleed all over my clean clothes. I’ve been a victim of this and I’m determined to not let it happen again.

10. Baby Wipes

My husband’s favorite thing to do when he boards a flight is to grab a baby wipe and clean every single surface he’ll come into contact with. He’s a bigger germophobe than I am. I like to use baby wipes to clean my sticky fingers after I chomp down on a bag of chips. They’re also useful for wiping the sweat off your face and cooling down after exploring on a hot day.

11. Daypack

I’m not a huge fan of carrying a purse when I travel. I just don’t like it for some reason. I’m all about small daypacks though. They’re easy to throw on your back and you can fit all sorts of things in them – water bottles, maps, snacks, sunscreen and more.

12. Passport Copy

Bringing a copy of your passport is crucial in some countries. When we went to Kuwait, it was mandatory for tourists to carry a copy of their passports at all time. We went to the museum there and we were required to show the guard before we were able to get in. It’s also good to have just in case your passport gets lost or stolen. Obviously, the copy isn’t an official document but it’s enough to show who you are.

What is something that you always pack when you travel? Let me know in the comments below.

I hope you found this post helpful for packing for your trip. Don’t forget to pin it for later!

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Diane Henry-Fraser

Monday 26th of July 2021

I would also take some paracetamol, Ibuprofen and sunshades, collapsible tote bags


Thursday 29th of April 2021

Passport copy.. OMG I never thought of it.

Disha Smith

Tuesday 4th of May 2021

The copies come in real handy when you lose your passport.

Graeme Stewart

Saturday 10th of April 2021

I have a mini flashlight but all phones have a flashlight function now. If I am carrying a charger as well I think the stand alone flashlight might be overkill?

Linda KVM

Tuesday 9th of February 2021

I always carry a 10 ft. extension cord. I use it on most trips. And I always check on what shapes of prongs the electrical outlets are, and whether I’ll need an adapter to connect my plugs with the country’s outlets.

Disha Smith

Wednesday 10th of February 2021

I found a universal adapter on Amazon that converts every country's voltage. That has been a lifesaver on my trips. Good for you for checking up on the prongs. Some people don't do that kind of research and they have to figure that out once arriving in that country.


Friday 1st of January 2021

Great list. I totally do the same. My husband is also one who will use wipes to clean every spot on the plane that he will touch. I made my own medical kit using an old lozenge tin. It is so small it won’t impact luggage space. I keep safety pins in it to pin curtains closed, use in place of a lost button and hung clothes to dry. Beware that they were thrown out on one trip as a safety risk. So was my hand sanitizer even though the bottle was tiny. ☹️ So the wipes have been a better choice.

Disha Smith

Monday 4th of January 2021

Thanks so much for reading and for sharing some tips as well, Jacky! Wipes are something I NEVER travel without - especially right now.