No one likes packing for a trip. (Right??) It has to be the least enjoyable part of traveling. And packing procrastination? That’s a very real problem. But waiting till the last minute also increases the risk that you’ll forget something.
I am actually NOT a procrastinator when it comes to packing, but that doesn’t mean I like it. I’m just a natural-born planner. Five to seven days prior to departure, I create a packing list—and not just a list of necessities. I also write down every article of clothing, pair of shoes, and accessories I plan to bring, which is actually less than you might think. Planning ahead allows me to curate a mix-and-match travel wardrobe to maximize outfit potential and minimize bulk. And that leaves more room for souvenirs!
Though I don’t physically pack my bags till a day or so before I leave, the list makes it easy. And yet, I still can’t escape that horrid, nagging feeling that I’m forgetting something. But, on the rare occasion that I do, it’s only ever been something I can easily buy at the airport, pick up at my destination, or just go without. (Thanks, list!)
Ultimately, when it comes to packing, the goal is to figure out what you need to have a smooth trip, at the comfort level that best suits you. Here are several must-pack items that make it on my list every single time I travel.
1. A really powerful portable phone charger (or two less powerful ones)
In Paris, I only had one small charging device, and before sunset, I’d drained my phone’s battery, and 95% of the juice in my charger. Yikes! It probably didn’t help that I made frequent use of Google Maps, took loads of photos, and had an international plan that allowed me to access social media without wifi. (Hello, Instagram stories!) But still. An extra charger is never a bad idea. So, in Barcelona, I upped the count to two and didn’t have to stress about conserving battery life. Heaven!
Music is a must when traveling—especially when traveling solo. Waiting in the airport… riding the metro… just walking to and fro. I need some tunes! And, earbuds fit so easily in a purse or pocket.
3. Reusable water bottle
If you’re planning to walk, bike, hike, or have limited access to water for even an hour, a reusable bottle is the way to go. I swear by my pretty pink S’well bottle, because my water literally stays cold ALL day. Just fill ‘er up before you set off for the day, and top off whenever you have the opportunity. Oh, and pack the bottle in your carry on bag to use at the airport, too. Just keep it empty till after you go through security!
Fun fact: I forgot I had water in my S’well when traveling from Barcelona back to the states. It was probably half full when I passed through security, and no one ever questioned it. Weird! I didn’t even realize I’d left water in it till I was on board the plane, feeling parched. So, exceptions to every rule!
4. Dry shampoo
If you jam, cram, pack a billion activities into your itinerary like I do mine, things like washing your hair—or even showering at all!—are often secondary priorities. I left for Paris on a Friday, returned on a Monday, and did not wash my hair the entire time. Bless you, dry shampoo! Guys, you have it easy, but for us ladies, this stuff is magic. And, it’s now easily found in travel sizes, too. (Over here doing the happy dance!)
5. Face wipes
Convenience is king when you’re living out of a suitcase. Even with access to soap and water, I still choose face wipes for time savings and cleansing efficiency. After a day of travel, my face feels—and is!—extra grimy; and I can literally see it all come off on the wipe, which means I’m less likely to end up with clogged travel pores. No one wants break outs on vacation!
6. Plastic bags
Yeah, just plain ol’ plastic grocery bags. I use them for separating dirty (or wet) clothes when returning home, and also bag my toiletries for an added safeguard against potential liquid leaks. Oh, and my extra shoes go in bags so the soles don’t soil my clothes. I basically bring plastic bags everywhere I travel, and I’ve never NOT used them. Plus, they take up zero extra space, so why not?
If you plan to be outside in the daylight and don’t like squinting, bring ’em. They’re also great for people watching, masking sleep deprivation, and giving you that incognito, I’m-not-a-tourist look. And, if you’re worried about losing your favorite pair, any ol’ cheap ones will do.
8. Broken-in shoes
Do not wear brand new shoes on your trip. Please don’t. Even seemingly comfortable shoes can give you the worst blisters. I once walked a full day around Dublin wearing a new pair of flats, and my heels started bleeding. No joke! I had to stop in a pharmacy for Band-Aids—which kept falling off, so I nearly used the entire box in one day! Never again. And never would I wish that on anyone. So much ouch!
9. Pepper spray or mace
Of course, for plane travel, my pepper spray goes in my checked bag; but, as soon as I arrive at my destination, I pop it into the bag I plan to carry while walking around. Though I’ve never had to use it, I do feel safer traveling solo, knowing it’s right there in my purse or pocket. Buuuut, if you have a mean right hook, and a killer roundhouse kick, that works, too.
Obviously, my packing list is much longer than this. And, depending on the type of trip, I may add a few more relevant must-packs to the list. But, these are my never-fail-me regulars, beyond the obvious toothbrush and underwear sort of things.
So, what’s on your must-pack list—bonus points if it’s for solo travel? Do we have any items in common? I love suggestions, so please leave a comment if you have one!