6 Suitcase Essentials for the Avid Traveler

While everyone doesn’t necessarily have the same needs and wants when they’re packing their bags for the next big adventure, I’ve come to find over the years that there are some certain travel essentials you just really shouldn’t leave home without.

Thinking back over the past 8 years, I narrowed it down to six personal must-haves that are in my bag whenever I leave home. Some might seem a bit silly and that’s ok. They work for me. I’ve even found that when I’ve got the right stuff with with me, I feel at home wherever the road takes me– whether it’s a short or long voyage. It’s pretty brilliant. So:

1. First and foremost, buy a bag you really love that meets airline requirements.

DSC_2718Seriously you won’t enjoy any of your travels if your luggage – be it a suitcase or backpack – isn’t comfortable for you to carry and gives you issues with airline regulations (and I mean WHATEVER kind of airline you’re flying, discount companies included). With your perfect-for-you bag, you eliminate unnecessary stress, save money on extra baggage fees, and also have an idea of what will and won’t fit once you create this relationship with your luggage.

Yes. It’s a relationship. Seriously my luggage is my best friend. We don’t leave anywhere without each other and it holds my deepest secrets (well kind of). Anyway the point is, your bag is important. I personally prefer a smaller rolling suitcase to a backpack. This Rockland hard case carry-on is similar to what I carry now, super sturdy, and has a great warranty without being ridiculously expensive.


2. If you’ve got long hair, invest in a travel hair dryer.

Call me a bit vain, but my hair air-dries terribly (this might apply to all you long-haired dudes out there too), and when I’ve decided to sacrifice the hair dryer in my bag, I’ve always regretted that decision once at my destination. I’d walk out of where I was staying and simply feel like I wasn’t my usual, put-together self. To be fair, you can kind of troubleshoot this one if you know the place you’re staying has complimentary hair dryers (or if you really don’t care I suppose too). But, even those aren’t a guarantee, and they are generally not all that great either − so it takes twenty years to dry your hair.

In other words, another absolute essential for me is a travel-size hair dryer (get one with a warranty too, like this Babylisspro — in Red!). You should also keep in mind that converter’s don’t work so well with these kinds of small appliances, so if you’re traveling outside the US often, you may want one that has a different voltage (see below for your destination’s specific numbers).


3. Take that extra pair of shoes and statement accessory.

I travel often, whether it’s for work, vacation or research, and no matter where I’m headed I like to be prepared for any kind of scenario or social situation the journey might take me on. You just never know what is going to happen! Still that doesn’t mean you should stuff your suitcase with a 8 pairs of pants, 4 pairs of boots and your entire jewelry collection. That’s just ridiculous.

Instead, it means you need to pack smart (again to all the dudes: my apologies if I don’t point out specific items for you. I gotta go with what I know on clothing choices. The same principles apply though, so read on!). Bring two pairs of shoes – mine are usually a comfortable pick and a favorite pair of heels. If you bring your favorite, chances are they’ll go with a majority of your wardrobe. Also choose a couple of your favorite statement accessories, which could range from a chunky necklace or ring, to a couple of scarves that give your outfit some flair (maybe a watch and blazer for all you guys out there?).

When I pack those specific things (whether you find it superficial or not), I feel like a million bucks no matter where I am. I feel better, I enjoy myself more, and that kind of confidence attracts people, which makes for meeting some awesome individuals along the way.

4. Layers give you versatility.

Seriously. Packing smartly also means that not only does your footwear need to be interchangeable, but so do your clothes. Layers are your friend. Say it with me again − layers are your friend. So what does that mean? I never leave home without camis in a variety of colors so I can change up a pair of pants or shorts. They also roll up easily all together to fit in my suitcase with no problem. You can generally pack 5-6 all together and they’ll take up the space of one shirt. It’s amazing.

I also rely heavily on cardigans or a blazer in case it’s chilly or need to dress up an outfit in a pinch.  Having a variety of colors in camis will come in handy here as well and allow you to mix and match. Then it doesn’t look like you’re wearing the same thing in all your photos (hey these are memories frozen in time people – am I right?!). Add in your statement accessory, and you’ve got enough options to last you a couple of weeks without repeating too much. Still not sure what I mean? Check out this great article here

5. ABSOLUTELY bring a journal or a sketchbook (along with your camera).

DSC_1597Bringing your camera is a given, but do also bring a journal and/or sketchbook. I mean it. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a celebrated artist or writer for this to be a good idea or meaningful exercise. I have found that most of my best moments of reflection, beauty, and self-discovery while traveling have come to me when I’ve been writing about or drawing the place I am visiting.

I don’t know if it helps me connect more fully with the time and place, but I do know that I remember those moments the most vividly – even years later. So, I never leave home without my journal or my trusty sketchbook and charcoal. The sketchbook varies in size depending on what space I have available, but it’s not overly important. What is necessary is that it makes it into my luggage. I love this travel size one – you can choose from so many colors!!

6. Less actually is more.

Finally, the biggest essential lesson I learned over the last 8 years of packing, unpacking, and repacking? Less is more. Truly.

When you over pack, you end up causing yourself unnecessary stress and fatigue. You’re freaking out over fitting all your items in your suitcase and the weight makes you to feel like you might die hefting your bags through airports, up hotel stairs, and on public transport. It’s enough to wish you’d just left all your clothes at home and boarded the plane naked with only your phone. For real.

In the end, your essentials come down to being smart about them. Packing light doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice stylish, sentimental, or practical items. There is room for all of them if you know how to make it happen. It just takes a bit of guidance and some practice.

Think something’s missing from my essential packing list? Comment and share!

I’d love to know what you find absolutely indispensable in your luggage. 🙂 Happy adventuring!!


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