When I went to Chicago with my parents, my mom judged me for bringing my electric toothbrush. To be fair, the carrying cary is excessively large for a toothbrush... but I didn't care. I had to have it.
When I travel, I travel with a carry-on bag to avoid checking my bag (and subsequently paying to check my bag). Additionally, seeing as I can't walk for more than an hour while wearing my 44L backpack, a larger bag is probably not in my future. Unless you are a true digital nomad and are traveling with everything you own, no one needs a larger bag.
With all the above considered, space in my bag is limited. Along with the basics (you know... shirts) I have several extra must-have items. These items may seem excessive, but they are my packing non-negotiables.
So, without further ado, I present....
10 MUST HAVES FOR YOUR BACKPACKING TRIP:
If you are not at least trying to journal your trip, you are making a mistake. Journaling allows you to look back months, or even years later and return to a different place. When I read my journals from even just a few months ago, I am surprised how many things I have already forgotten. I have been journaling my trips since I was 12 years old, and can't imagine not having this type of record.
2. EXTRA GLASSES AND A LOT OF CONTACTS
You need to be able to see, end of story. If you wear glasses every day, it is crucial that you have a backup plan incase something happens. You don't want to be the girl I met who was blindly wandering around Laos because she had lost her only pair of glasses (even though she was a sweetheart). Bring an extra pair of glasses and and enough contacts for every day of your trip.
3. A WATER BOTTLE AND CARABINER
Tourist alert. Traveling with a water bottle carabiner'd to your bag is basically the equivalent of wearing a fannypack and binoculars. Regardless, you need to drink water to live, especially when you are traveling. Be prepared to be perpetually dehydrated while traveling no matter how much water you consume. Always be sure to ask/look up if the tap water is drinkable in the country you are in.
I have never used one of these, but I had a friend who had a water bottle with a built in filtration system so she could drink tap (or probably puddle water) in any country she visited. For more information on that, check out this page.
3. SMALL SOUVENIRS
Get one small object everywhere you go. Personally, I collect patches. I keep them all in a postcard sleeve. Other ideas: a piece of currency, bottle caps, postcards. My dream is to have a snow globe collection, but apparently that is "not practical."
4. CONVERTERS AND CHARGING CORDS
When it comes to charging my electronics, I always have several backups. I travel with 5 outlet converters, 3 iPhone chargers and 2 micro USB cords. I also bring a portable battery. I am sure I could find a place to buy all these things while traveling, but I don't want to. I also bring two extra SD cards and an external hard drive. This is what I need to feel secure.
2 pairs. This takes up no room. You, or your new friend who just broke theirs, will be grateful.
6. AN EXCESSIVE AMOUNT OF BOBBY PINS
This may be a me thing, but I wear bobby pins every day. I also lose bobby pins every day. I need to have at least a hundred on me when I travel (not a joke), so I never worry about not having them. Also, before you think I am super high maintenance, a hundred bobby pins can usually fit in one, tiny breath mint case. If you use hair ties or clips, I suggest bringing a lot. They don't take up much room and it is nice to know you have them.
7. DR BRONNERS
Wash your hair, wash your clothes, wash your body... this all-in-one will change your life. If you are traveling with a carry on bag you can only bring 3 oz. Luckily, a little goes a long way with Dr. Bronners! I used less than half a bottle in 77 days of travel. It is super concentrated, and there are a ton of scent options! Check it out here.
Do I have to explain this? You will be so grateful you have an entire library at your fingertips when traveling. Yeah, I also like reading real paper books more, but it is just not practical when traveling. Plus you can keep your travel guides on your device and not have to carry around the giant book.
It is important to have locks for the zippers on your bag and a separate lock for lockers at hostels. These were the zipper locks I used. They are not TSA approved and that is intentional - it is easier for thieves to break into TSA approved locks. Because I don't check my bag, I never have to take off my locks when going through security. Another reason to travel with a carry on bag! I use a generic padlock for my locker. Always locking up your belongings is the best travel habit to get into.
10. THE PERFECT DAYPACK/PURSE
I controversially travelled through Europe with both a cross-body "going out" purse, and a small day-pack backpack. In Asia, I had a bigger backpack and a flatter purse. For these trips, this is what made sense.
Make an effort to find the right bag(s) for your trip. Think about your sense of style, what you will realistically be carrying around, and what you will be doing (clubbing, hiking, camping, day trips).
11. PENCIL CASE
This is possibly the most controversial/superfluous item on my list, but if you know me at all IRL, you understand my relationship with my "school supplies." I have very specific pen, pencil, and highlighter needs, and I won't compromise. Plus, it was nice to never falter when I needed a pen to fill out a form at a bank or customs office.
I don't use qtips every day, but they are really convenient sometimes - especially if you need to clean up your makeup in a hurry. A small travel pack last a surprisingly long time.
13. A WATCH
Time is the valuable commodity while traveling. Don't be a slave to your phone - wear a watch.
14. MASKING OR DUCT TAPE
I see it now... the inevitable moment when your backpack rips, or the sole of your shoe comes off. In those moments, you will be really grateful you have it. Even if its just for that one, singular moment, it is worth it. Duct tape is the strongest and a smaller amount can be wrapped around a pencil. Masking or washi tape can work too.... although, lets be real: washi tape won't actually hold anything together.
15. MULTIPLE COPIES OF YOUR PASSPORT
... to be hidden in multiple different locations. Keep one (or more than one) on you at all times. What is the harm? You will feel more secure.
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