10 Essential Travel Items You Can’t Travel Without!

10 Essential Travel Items You Can’t Live Travel Without!

Are you heading overseas or packing a backpack for an extended travel adventure and wondering what essential travel items to pack? Packing your bag for the first time can be daunting, you have so much stuff and so little space. Having limited space is part of the fun, the solution is NOT to go out and buy more bags but rather to minimise the amount you pack.

Here are my essential travel items. This list is not designed to be comprehensive, in my opinion real travel is not about being comprehensively prepared for every situation, it’s about making do and having fun in the process.

  1. Undies (x2)
    It’s essential to have two pairs of undies so that you can wear one pair while washing the other; many cultures find nudity inappropriate even if you are washing your clothes.
  2. Jandals
    Thongs, sandals, flip-flops; whatever you call them they’re a true travel essential. While many prefer more technologically sophisticated travel shoes the jandal holds its own by being extremely lightweight, easily cleaned and easily replaced.
  3. Boardies
    Board shorts, swimming shorts, beach/surf short pants; whatever you want to call them. Quick drying, versatile and cheap; board shorts are a travel essential. They virtually clean themselves when you go swimming and then dry on your body, what more can I say?
  4. Quick Dry T-Shirt (x2)
    Quick drying, moisture wicking sports clothing technology has made big advancements in recent years and it pays to use this technology while travelling. Cotton tees are a persistent pain not worth putting up with; they’re heavy, they absorb smell quicker, they’re cold when wet and they dry slowly. All the major sports brands have a type of fabric which is lightweight and quick drying – travel with two of their t-shirts (One to wear while the other is drying)
  5. Quick Dry towel
    I read a packing guide earlier today that recommended two towels, I almost punched a wall. Two towels, are they insane? All you need is one, small, lightweight, quick drying towel. Rinse it, wring it out thoroughly and hang it up to dry after each use. Simple.
  6. Lightweight Fleece Jumper
    Cold nights, air conditioned planes and airports – it pays to have something warm. Keep it lightweight and of a size which you can layer with your other clothing.
  7. Hat & Sunglasses
    You can buy them just about everywhere and you need them just about everywhere. If you don’t want to wear your hat all the time make sure it is one which will retain its shape after being crushed.
  8. Deodorant
    Pretty self explanatory I’d say given my slight leaning toward simplistic travel.

That’s it. There is no 9 or 10 (However there are bonus tips below). Travel light, travel happy.


Wearing Essential Travel Items - Climbing in Krabi Province (Thailand)

VERSATILE CLOTHING - Climbing in Krabi Province (Thailand)



  • Don’t Buy a Big Backpack
    You don’t need those 70-80 litre bags for travel; they’re for backcountry hiking when you need to carry a tent, a sleeping bag, food and drink for survival. You don’t need this for urban travel.
  • Carry Clothing You Can Layer
    You should be able to wear all your clothing at once (even your 2nd pair of undies!). In essence this means don’t carry two bulky jackets. If you need warm clothing carry thermals & a waterproof windbreaker for your outer layer (shell).
  • Third World Countries Have Clothing Too!
    “OMG, I’m going to a 3rd world country for the first time, I need to pack everything!” Stop, third world countries have ‘stuff’ too. Take less and when you actually find yourself needing something you can buy it – probably cheaper, possibly locally hand crafted, wearing ‘it’ may even make you look less touristy.

I hope my list inspires you to travel light. I believe there is a correlation between emotional baggage and physical baggage; I believe the lighter you travel the more spontaneous and outgoing your travel adventures can become. So while my list of essential travel items was designed to be somewhat humorous (I don’t actually use the term undies, but it is a classic ‘Kiwi’ thing) I also believe it to be a good basis to start packing on – add a camera and you’re good to go.

Wearing Essential Travel Items - Biking in Austra

Biking in Austra (Wearing 2nd t-shirt)


Think I’ve missed some essential travel items? Want to argue that two pairs of undies is excessive? Don’t even know what undies are? Voice your rant in the comments section below.

Want to connect? Find Sam’s Playground on Facebook & Twitter @SamKynmanCole


  1. very true sam but y’know you cant link hat and sunglasses together – so that’s 9 (and wouldn’t soap be more important than deodrant?) – and surely you have to have toothbrush or were you planning on using sticks? so thats 10!!

  2. Most definitely Jandals! And glad you called them jandals. We wrote a post a while back (one of our first ever) about why they should be in anyone’s packing list as well. Cheers

  3. These are some great tips. I like your bonus section where you suggest not bringing an enormous backpack – I’ve found that packing lighter is always better.

    • Agreed, so often have I struggled with too much stuff just because I don’t want to throw it away. Don’t pack it and you won’t need to throw it away. Eventually I’ve ended up throwing or giving stuff away – lighter and more enjoyable afterwards.

  4. I would also add a toothbrush, soap, sunscreen (no one wants skin cancer!) and a Kindle. You can carry thousands of books on a Kindle – what’s more efficient than that?? 😛

    • Thanks Christy, very practical. My girlfriend recently purchased a Kindle and she’s loving it. I might steal it for a review soon hehe.

  5. Ha, jandals! Love that word. Why does the world insist on coming up with crazy names for these shoes! Jandals, thongs, flip-flops; amazing.

    I came up with a slightly more concise list of 5 essentials I don’t think you can travel without – the rest for me didn’t really matter! http://bit.ly/vNDGOa

    Great website :)

  6. i agree with what you have said… no need to carry huge backpacks… i left my home with a 40L backpack and now realized that I dont use much of what I packed… having been on the road for more than a year now, im just left with probably half of those stuff…

    • Indeed. If you take you take too much you’re then faced with the decision about whether to throw things away or try send stuff home. Frustrating. Pack light!