My travel must-haves!

travel must haves

I’ve been very fortunate in my life to travel to many countries, and after meeting Wes, throughout my own country as well. I hope to slowly detail the trips that I’ve taken and make mini “travel guides” to some cities/countries I’ve visited, to share my experiences there and personal thoughts. For example, a secularist’s take on visiting Israel, female solo travel, hostel etiquette, travel hacks (beach towel color = key to lounge chairs) and more!

But for now, I wanted to share some of my must-haves when traveling. Some of these are obvious, but some of these ideas come with specific product recommendations (#1 and #2) that I’ve found after trying a few things and have been lifesavers. Check em out, and let me know what you think! Did I miss any?

*Note: all opinions are my own and I’m not being compensated at all. Most links to products available through AmazonSmile, benefitting my workplace/favorite charity ever, Lucy’s Love Bus. We provide comfort and quality of life to children with cancer through free integrative therapies, and any purchase made starting at our AmazonSmile link equals some money to help continue our work!

1. Water bottle

Granted, some places might not have water that is safe to drink from the tap- but do some research and follow the locals on this one. I always take a water bottle with me anyway, and I especially love my Platypus 1L SoftBottle with Push-Pull Cap. When you’re flying and can’t have water in it, you just empty it out/down it and roll it up. I also like it because if I do run out of water, I can put it in my purse and don’t have to worry about carrying it around. Some of my purses will have side pockets or awkward openings, and this will contort and fit if I don’t feel like carrying it when it’s full! I like this size, but they have a .5L and larger sizes as well. They also come with different options for caps, and I love the push-pull because sometimes you have your hands full, and the screw on cap becomes impossible to open. Lots of options for these water bottles!


2. Reusable Bag

Many other countries (especially in Europe) don’t have plastic bags at grocery stores like we do here (and even then, you should always avoid plastic and bring your own). Sometimes they don’t have them available, sometimes they charge a fee to use them. Avoid the hassle and bring your own bag! I’m in LOVE with my Grand Trunk Eco Travel Bag because it all folds up into its own pocket, so it easily fits in my purse/pack when not in use! It comes in handy at the grocery store, farmers market, or even as a beach bag!



3. Portable USB charger

How many times have you been at the airport and all the outlets are taken, or on a train with a dying phone and no outlet in sight, or high on a bunk in a dorm watching your battery drain? Raising my hand really high on that one! This small portable charger has been a lifesaver, and I only just got it as a stocking stuffer this past Christmas! When you do have access to an outlet (or another way of charging it, like plugging it in your laptop) give it some juice and then it will work to charge your usb devices! Some even have a flashlight on one end!


4. Dry Spray Deodorant

I’m the queen of arriving to my destination with some sort of explosion in my suitcase or backpack. The worst, in my opinion, is when your stick deodorant lid cracks and your suitcase overheated so now you have gooey little chunks of white deodorant on your clothes… not easy to clean. Spray deodorant makes that impossible, but while in Europe, I also find out another use for it: making friends/not coming off as a snobby American. Some Germans we met in our Berlin hostel told us that the fact that we use stick deodorant makes it seem like we aren’t friendly and communal: stick deodorant, applied directly to the skin, is then seen as a personal item, whereas spray deodorant can be easily shared. So, there ya go! Two reasons to make the switch to dry deodorant, even if just when traveling!



5. Breath mints

Following the “practical use in addition to coming off friendly to new people” tangent like dry spray deodorant above is… breath mints! Not only is it handy to keep some on you to freshen up, but you can offer some to new friends! Breath mints are a universal language; offer some to those sharing your train car, and you’re guaranteed at least a smile 🙂 Orrrr they’ll politely refuse, but either way, your breath won’t stink!


6. Ear plugs

And totally opposite from the “making friends” side of things: bring ear plugs! If you’re staying in a shared dorm or hostel, with someone you haven’t traveled with before (or have and know they snore), or staying someplace you haven’t stayed at before (so you don’t know how loud the hall noise is/how thin the walls are) than you’ll be super glad you packed a pair of these suckers. You can buy a ton for cheap, so you pack some extra in case you leave ’em on a nightstand in another country.


7. Maps/offline city guides

One of my favorite parts about backpacking through Europe with my friend Kayley was that I was tasked with being “tour guide.” TripAdvisor had a City Guides app, which it phased out in August 2015 as its main TripAdvisor app became more comprehensive. Using that app, I would read aloud tips and facts about certain places we were visiting. We had our trip planned out as far as where we were going and (for the most part) where we were staying, but not necessarily what we were doing in each city. The app ranked the best places to visit in the city according to other app users, and then most places would also have facts and tidbits about that place. I decided part way through our trip to throw in a few made up facts while reading the guide, to see just how much Kayley believed me. The easiest time to do this was when we’d pass a statue or building, and would wonder the significance.

“Ah yes, this statue was erected after a young boar was briefly crowned king of Germany due to a misspelling in the decree. Rubbing his snout brings good luck and great fortune.” “REALLY?!” “No, Kayley, not really.”

Do you know how many statues there are in Europe?! I’d say 1 out of 6 had something in the app explaining why they were there. And all the others? I’d just pull up the app, and totally make something up. It was awesome. On our last stop together (Amsterdam), I finally broke the news, and we laughed for a gut-busting 10 minutes. Coming up in a future post: why you should travel with your best friend.

But yeah, when used correctly, guidebooks/city guide apps are awesome 😉


8. Offline language guide/pocket translation book

Obviously only needed when traveling somewhere that the common language is one you might not know. I’ve found these incredibly helpful in learning a few key phrases beforehand, and reading menus. I always learn “hello,” “goodbye,” “thank you,” “where is the restroom?” and “how much?” before going to a new place. But especially if you’re spending extended time somewhere, these can be super helpful. I was in Turkey for 2 weeks, and unlike some European languages that might have words similar to those English or Spanish so you could sort of guess what was on a sign or menu, I was totally lost. Since I was there for more than just a day or two, I learned a few extra things, like numbers, and asking if I needed a head covering or was allowed to enter (if going somewhere while wearing shorts/tank top, though that was rare). Especially if you were to get lost, these come in handy. There are lots of apps out there, some with instant translation capabilities (even offline) and others have more basic statements for lots of languages. Take a look at the app store for your device to find something, or buy a book!

East Side Gallery, Berlin. Photo credit: me.

So there ya have em, my travel must-haves! What are some things you always take with you on your trips?