6 Travel Essentials

I get it. Everyone travels differently. Some people pack a toothbrush and a pair of underwear, and some people bring 7 suit cases. I'm a relatively light packer, but on the many trips I've taken, I realize there are a few essentials I always bring. And if I don't bring them, I wish I did at some point in time. These are items I like to have on my person at all times - 'carry-ons', if you will. So, without further ado, here are my 6 travel essentials that I think pretty much everyone should bring.

1. A good travel bag. After viewing some of the bags tourists tote around, I realize that the intricacies of choosing a good travel bag are often lost on non-travelers. A good travel bag should satisfy a variety of criteria, including: difficulty to steal from, carrying comfort, and ease of storage. So what does this mean? Your regular purse or backpack might not be up to par for safety and comfort. While I'm not suggesting that you run out and purchase an anti-theft bullet-proof purse, I do suggest you find a bag that has a few important characteristics.
  • Choose a bag that is cross body. Not only will you get super tired of carrying a bag in the crook of your elbow, you're also practically begging someone to come and grab it off your arm. Cross-body bags are easier to carry, free up both your arms/hands, and are much more difficult to steal from a person. 
  • Select a sturdy material, like leather. Before I traveled, I was always warned about pick-pockets who would carry scissors and cut into people's bags while they weren't looking, to steal the contents. While this has never happened to me (or anyone else I know...I'm beginning to wonder if it's an urban legend), I have a bit of paranoia about the possibility. As a result, I only select bags that are made of leather or a similar thick material. Bonus - your inner-bag things won't get soaked if you're caught in a rainstorm. 
  • Use a bag with working clasps. Again on the pick-pocket theme - it's relatively easy to steal from a bag that has an open top, magnet closure, or a plain zipper. As a result, you should always look for a bag that actually closes. My purse in the above photo is vintage, and the clasps work but are quick to jam - making it difficult for me to get into, let alone a thief. This type of button-clasp or a buckle clasp are my preferred styles.
2. A big scarf. I can't tell you the number of times I've had a scarf on hand while traveling, and used it for a purpose outside of as a stylish accessory. I'm talking a big pashmina scarf, not a little vintage silk scarf. Granted, I have approximately 488,320 pashmina scarves from Egypt, but they're still my go-to. Possible alternative uses for scarves include:
  • As a head wrap while traveling. I truly hate sleeping on a train or a plane while someone next to me is free to stare away as I dream. Now, maybe I'm paranoid (and have a big ego to assume someone wants to stare at me? haha), but having the ability to wrap my head in a scarf has been lovely. Plus it keeps your nose warm and buffers a little noise.
  • As a makeshift pillow. Every. Single. Plane ride. I use a scarf as a pillow, because I'm a chronic red-eye-purchaser.
  • As rain protection during flash storms. Rain storms happen, and not always when you expect it. I've used my scarf to cover my camera, my head, and my bags to keep them from getting soaked in a surprise rain storm.
  • As a blanket. If you've stayed at a $5 hostel before, you know they don't always live up to their websites. Whether you're staying at a hostel or not, scarves make excellent blankets.
3. A new book. Even if you're not an avid reader, traveling almost guarantees lack of wifi. AKA, perfect reading time. Now, I love reading; I do it all the time. But I highly suggest that anyone who is traveling bring a book for long bus rides or unexpected waiting period that might pop up. Choose one you'll actually read, not a text book or something you've already tried picking up a dozen times or put down (I avoid both from experience). 

PS. The book photographed above is my new favorite, and I highly recommend you bring it on your next trip. Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer.

4. A journal or planner. It took me a few traveling mishaps to be convinced of the necessity of a journal or planner and a pen. Yes, you might think Google Maps on your cell phone will get you to your hotel, or you swear you have the address to your friend's house in your text messages, but...what happens when your phone dies? This is one of those 'better safe than sorry' additions I always like to have. Plus, you can write down your favorite memories along the way, if you're into doing travel journaling. I suggest making physical note of:
  • Your hotel/hostel addresses
  • Contact phone numbers and addresses
  • Important information you might need (a person's name or the name of a company you're using)
  • Your (tentative) itinerary
  • Times for arrival/departure of the different forms of transportation you are taking
5. A travel wallet. First off, I would like to say that I truly hate money belts. If you don't know what those are, they are like a flat fanny-pack you wear under your shirt, and in which you keep your money, passport, and ID to keep from getting stolen. What's the obvious problem here? Anytime you want these things, you have to lift up your shirt to get them. Also, they're uncomfortable, and 75% of the time you can tell you're wearing one. I own two, and I've tried them both on different occasions, but I just hate them. Anyways, back to the travel wallet scenario. A travel wallet is nothing special, just a small sized wallet that can contain your necessities. The problem with bringing your regular wallet to travel is that you likely bring with it a variety of unnecessary and hefty wallet-related items (frequent customer cards, old gift cards, your funny high school ID from too long ago). This puts you at risk for potentially losing a significant number of items. As a result, you should find a small wallet that you use only for traveling, which you can easily hide in a compartment in your bag or someplace else safe. When I travel, I only carry:
  • My ID
  • My Passport (when applicable)
  • My credit card (one only, you don't want to risk having multiple stolen)
  • Cash
6. Good music and noise-canceling headphones. This item relates primarily to plane travel, but extends to nearly any form of transportation. I listen to music like a fiend; I play it at work, while I drive, and sing it in the shower. Also, I don't like trying to sleep on a train or plane with too much background noise. Solution? Music and noise canceling headphones. Done.

So what do you think? Do you have any additions or alterations you would make to this 'essentials' list?
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