Must Have Travel Essentials

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As a frequent traveler, no one knows better than I how having the right travel gear makes a huge difference in the ease of your trip. Here are 10 travel essentials I swear by – they're my packing holy grail items. 

Must Have Travel Essentials

Start your trip on a positive note and make sure you have the right gear. There are inherent stresses built into traveling – worrying about traffic, flight delays, whether your kids are going to behave in the airport (parents you know what I'm talking about) but you can eliminate several worries/sources of stress by setting yourself up for success when you're packing. 

1. The right luggage

This list of travel essentials starts with your luggage. I am a big fan of carry on only (if flying) and minimal packing. I use a suitcase similar to this that I've had since 2017. It's literally been around the world and it still looks great. 

Whether you are a fellow carry on only person or whether you need to check several large bags (if it's the latter, I KNOW I can help you change your ways but that's another story for another day), investing in good quality luggage makes a difference. 

American Tourister doesn't make the exact same suitcase that I have anymore but the one I linked above is very similar – same size (21 inches) and able to fit into an airline's overhead compartment. You can also purchase a three piece set which has two larger bags in addition to the smaller size. 

Related post: The best luggage for cruises

If you want to show your Star Wars or Disney fandom, American Tourister has some really cute suitcases. We have one of the Star Wars Suitcases and we use it all the time:

We also have two of these small size suitcases (16 inches) that are perfect for younger kids. Since my kids are older now, we only use these on overnights – their clothes have gotten too big to pack in these small suitcases but they are very durable!

I've bought cheap luggage before and it has never held up very well. Buy hard sided luggage and go with a known brand, like American Tourister or Samsonite. You won't regret it. 

Here's a link to the travel backpack my husband and I use:

These are incredibly durable – we've had ours since 2018 and they look brand-new. As the name suggests, they hold a laptop with plenty of room for personal items. 

2. Luggage tags

If you have neutral luggage, guess what? It's going to look like everyone else's neutral luggage when it comes out on the baggage carousel. Put a luggage tag on your bag to help you identify it easily. And, if your baggage gets lost, having a luggage tag with your name and address on it will make it easier to reunite you with your belongings. 

We have pretty basic luggage tags similar to these but you can also find some fun ones.

These Disney luggage tags are super cute – they've got Minnie and Mickey as well as a glass slipper and the Cheshire Cat. 

These are really fun and cheeky and easy to pick out of a crowd.

Related post: Just add salt water: The ultimate beach packing list

3. Luggage scale

I include this one with some hesitation because if you've read this far, you know I'm a fan of minimal packing and I believe we'd all be happier travelers if we adopted this philosophy. 


I used to be that over packer who was frantically pulling stuff out of the suitcase at the airline check in counter because my bags were overweight. The airlines will usually be happy to fly your overweight bags for you – but it'll cost you a pretty penny. 

Know what the airline's weight limit is per bag and get one of these things. We got this one as a wedding gift and it has served us well. Even though we hardly ever check our bags now, this is one of our travel essentials that is so easy to use and carry.

4. Travel  shoe bags

These travel shoe bags are thin and inexpensive and protect the rest of your belongings from whatever is on the bottom of your shoes. You may not have thought about street grime getting on your pajamas but…now that I've brought it up, you're probably going to want to get shoe bags, right?

5. Packing cubes 

Packing cubes top a lot of travelers' lists of travel essentials. I go back and forth on using packing cubes. I've traveled and packed so much that I don't feel like I need them anymore but sometimes I will use them because they help keep me organized and keep my suitcase neat. 

If you're working on paring down how much you pack, packing cubes can be a good reminder of how much space you have to work with. I always unpack when I get to a hotel or vacation rental and it's easy to just throw my packing cubes into a drawer. Then I can put my suitcase under the bed or in the closet and not worry about digging in my suitcase. 

Packing cubes can also be helpful when you're packing for multiple people or trying to stay on top of what your family is packing. If you get everyone their own set of packing cubes in a different color, that might make things easier to keep track of as you pack. 

You can get all kinds of packing cube sets in lots of different colors or patterns. These travel essentials from Amazon Basics are inexpensive and do the job. You really don't need anything expensive or fancy – even if you're a frequent traveler, like me, they're not going to be subject to a ton of wear and tear. 

6. Toiletry bottles/case

My life completely changed when I bought this set of travel toiletry bottles. That totally sounds CORNY but it's kind of true!

I use the silicon bottles for shampoo, conditioner and laundry soap – you can use them for anything you want. I use the little pots for day cream and night cream and the spray bottle for toner. This kit holds enough product for a week plus and I simply refill them when I get home so it's ready for next time.  Whatever type/amount of toiletries you use, this should work for you. 

I use whatever soap and body lotion the hotel provide – and yes, I check in advance what's going to be available if I'm not familiar with where I'm going to stay. 

I started using this system when I started using Olaplex products on my hair. Before Olaplex, I was OK with using whatever was in the hotel but Olaplex has been literally life-changing and I'm not willing to use anything else on my hair. 

7. Hanging toiletry case

I don't typically pack a lot of cosmetics but if you do, these hanging toiletry bags are very handy travel essentials. I use my hanging toiletry bag for other things besides toiletries – medications and accessories are really easy to keep handy in a container like this.

8. Foldable/Soft Spare Bag

How many times have you gone on a trip and came back with more stuff than you brought? 

I have definitely done my share of that. Sometimes, that's been planned and other times, I was lured by unplanned shopping. Even though I'm not much of a souvenir person and I'm trying to live a more minimal lifestyle, I still pack a soft bag in my luggage, just in case. 

My bag is from Thirty One but you can buy a similar bag on Amazon. This one is small and easy to tuck into your regular luggage. If you get conference swag or buy more than you'd planned to while traveling, this will prevent you from having to scramble to ship stuff home or buy another bag that you probably don't need.

9. Portable charging blocks/power strip

This charging strip is the one I have sitting by my bed. Since I travel so frequently, I have one that stays in my suitcase. It's one of my most important travel essentials and it would seriously cramp my style to be without it. 

All of my electronics, except for my laptop, use an USB charger so this one works for me. If you need more outlets, you can use something like this. It's small and easily portable. I use a larger version of this at home. 

I also have one of these chargers per person. This is more than enough power for a travel day or a day of adventuring. This helps us have fun and not worry about how many pictures or videos we're taking when we're on the go. And, inevitably, someone will forget to charge their phone or tablet before a flight so it always helps to have these babies charged up and ready to go. 

10. Mini Flat Iron

I finally broke down and bought a mini flat iron this year. I know a regular Chi iron doesn't take up a ton of space in your bag but when you're trying to cram a week's worth of stuff into a 21 inch carry on, space counts. If you're tired of wearing ponytails and ball caps when you travel but don't want to drag around a ton of styling equipment, try this. 

There is a learning curve to using this one, though. It is a lot smaller than a regular sized iron so it takes a minute to get used it. 

I also recently tested this mini flat iron. Although it works about the same as the other one I already mentioned, I like the fact that it has a USB charger and a carrying case. It makes fixing my hair in a small space, like a cruise ship stateroom, easier.

11. Medicine Organizer

I felt like a total boomer when I not only bought one of these but got super excited about it. If you take medication or supplements regularly, you'll find this super convenient. 

These come in several colors so everyone can have their own – so there's no confusion. 

12. Blender Bottle

I love this blender bottle for making up protein shakes on the go. I drink an Arbonne greens drink every morning and most days, my breakfast is a protein shake. This makes it easy to stay healthy on the go. It comes in several colors so if you have more than one person drinking shakes you can grab different colors for everyone. 

13. Resistance Bands

When it comes to working out on the road, I probably get a C- but that's something I am working on. These resistance bands are easy to throw in any suitcase or backpack. You'll want to get familiar with your workout routine before you travel – I've got a butt/core routine and a biceps/triceps routine that are pretty easy to knock out in a hotel room.

14. Bento Snack Boxes

I have two sets of these snack boxes – one for our kids' school lunch boxes and one for travel.  On shorter flights – or on budget carriers, such as Southwest with limited meal/snack service, we pack our own mini meals. These snack boxes are great for packing hummus with pita chips and cut up veggies, fruits, chocolates, nuts, and sandwiches. 

I hope my list of travel essentials has helped simplify your packing. When you cover your basic needs and have great luggage, bags and other storage, you're much better equipped to handle other little travel snafus that will inevitably come along.

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