I’ve been fortunate to get to travel more over the last few years. Over those travels, I’ve gotten my packing routine down pat and while my packing list is not optimized to be lightweight by any means, I now have a list of reliable must-haves when I travel.
I have two principles when I pack for a trip:
1. Carry less stuff. I try to avoid checking a bag to save time from waiting in line to check it in, waiting at the baggage claim carousel, and potentially waiting even longer if they lose my bag (they have). It’s also easier to walk around and be mobile with just a carry-on if I’m in between locations.
2. Comfort over design. I like to think that the clothes I travel with are designed and fit well, but I’ll further prioritize aesthetics if I’m traveling for a special occasion like a wedding or speaking event.
Before we jump in, it’s important to note that you don’t need any of these items, though many of them will make your life easier. What’s important is to have the courage to explore and, if you want to do so, to start!
Disclaimer: This page contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase, I’ll receive a percentage of commission. These small contributions help me keep this website going so I can continue sharing knowledge and trips. Thanks!
Google Pixel 3 – I’m a Google fanboy and have used Google’s Pixel phones since 2017. I use Gmail, Google Drive, Google Photos, Google Maps, Google Podcasts, Google Fi, Google Travel, Google Home, Google Assistant, I use sign in with Google functionality when I can, and who knows what else. It just makes sense to use a phone that ties in seamlessly with all of those things.
Bellroy Leather Phone Case for Pixel 3 – I pair the Pixel 3 with a beautiful black leather case that’s slim and provides the protection my phone needs.
Google Fi – This has been an amazing service for both daily life and travel. I pay $10 per gb even when I’m traveling and have free international texting. I get a welcome greeting whenever I land in a new country and I’m notified of whether or not Google Fi provides service in that country (it usually does). If not, I’m reminded to get a SIM card. Easy. It also uses a USB-C charging cable just like the Apple Macbook Pro and Sony Headphones I use.
Schwab Bank Debit Card – You know those annoying ATM fees you get whenever you withdraw money? This card automatically reimburses you for all ATM fees worldwide. It’s an online checking account with no fees and no minimum balance. I’ve also had an amazing customer service experience during the few times I’ve had to call in for help.
Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card – The best travel credit card on the market, plain and simple. There are no foreign transaction fees, which means that you can use it anywhere in the world at no extra cost to you. You earn 3x points on dining at restaurants around the world and all travel purchases like airfare, hotels, and trains. Even better, those points are actually worth something because the Chase Ultimate Rewards program allows you to redeem your points on a wide range of airline and hotel partners. To top it all off, Chase Sapphire Reserve customers get a free Priority Pass membership, which scores you access to over 900 airport lounges around the world. Most people avoid this card because it has an annual fee of $450. However, the card automatically reimburses you up to $300 for travel, which means that as long as you’re planning on spending $300 on travel (think Lyft, flights, trains, etc.) during the year, the annual fee comes down to $150, which is a steal considering the perks.
JetBlue Plus Card – I started flying JetBlue a lot more often for direct flights between Boston and Long Beach. This card gives you 6x TrueBlue points on JetBlue purchases which go a long way. You get a free checked bag and 50% off in-flight purchases on food and alcoholic drinks. For these perks, the $99 annual fee is worth it.
MUJI Slim Passport Case – This case holds my passport, backup credit cards, backup identification, and other currencies I might have. It’s simple and doesn’t take up much space in my backpack.
Apple Macbook Pro 13-inch – You don’t always need a laptop while traveling, but this 13-inch Macbook is incredible. It’s small, light, and fast. While some could argue that you can travel with an iPad, I find it much better to have a fully functional laptop. Weighing only 3 pounds (1.37 kg) this laptop is the perfect combination of functionality and weight. It also uses a USB-C charging cable just like the Google Pixel and Sony Headphones I use.
Apple iPad Pro 11-inch Wi-Fi + Cellular – This unnecessary, but I’ve found an iPad is great for when I’m at the airport and have some emails to go through, articles or an ebook to read, or have some documents to review.
Sony Headphones WH1000XM3 – A great pair of headphones is essential when traveling. While these headphones went with a touchpad for controls instead of tactile buttons, the sound quality and noise cancellation features are amazing. Better yet, this uses a USB-C charging cable just like the Google Pixel and MacBook Pro.
61W USB-C Charger – As mentioned above, my phone, laptop, tablet, and headphones all use USB-C charging cables. That means I use this one charger for all my electronics. Yes, everything.
Anker Portable Charger – This portable battery charger has saved me on multiple trips. I can charge my phone from nearly empty to full battery three times on a full charge.
Travel Power Adapter – I didn’t know this until I started traveling more, but different regions in the world have different outlet styles so you’ll need an outlet adapter to charge your electronics. It makes sense, but I’ve had to buy many adapters. This adapter makes traveling easier.
ISM Backpack – This water-resistant backpack is pretty much waterproof. I’ve walked through downpours and snowstorms in Boston and everything in my bag has stayed dry. The bag is beautifully designed and just the right size so you can carry all the necessities, but small enough so you don’t overpack. The bag has over 200 5-star reviews and comes with a lifetime warranty.
Patagonia 55L Black Hole Duffel – This duffel bag is one of my favorite purchases. I’ve used it for trips to the gym, hiking trips, camping trips, and weekend travels. You can fit a ton of clothes and gear. It’s water-resistant and can be folded into itself to fit into another bag if needed.
Lululemon ABC Pant Slim – these pants have changed how I travel. They’re well-fitted, more comfortable than jeans, stretchy, and breathable.
Everlane Slim Fit Japanese Oxford – A well-fitted button-up that can we dressed up or down. Grey doesn’t show potential stains as much as white (:
Everlane Premium Weight Pocket T-Shirt – I go with the neutral stone color. It’s slim-fitting and comfortable.
Bomber Jacket – I bought a bomber jacket from COS which appears to be a seasonal item as it’s no longer in stock. However, this bomber jacket from Everlane also looks great. A bomber jacket is lightweight, has a couple of pockets for your items while you’re on a flight, and also looks good.
Feetures Running Socks – These socks are lightweight, breathable, and comfortable. They’re great for running, not so much for wearing if you like no-shoe socks.
Ciele Hat – Ciele is a running brand and I love their hats because they look stylish, lets my head breathe, and is great for runs or gym sessions. Just throw them in the washer or hand wash and hang dry.
Oak Street Natural Dainite Trench Boots – If I’m traveling to a place where it’s raining, I’ll wear my Oak Street boots onto the plane. They’ve gotten me through multiple storms and through dozens of countries. They can be dressed up or down and most importantly, they keep my feet dry. (I mentioned that this list is not optimized to be lightweight.)
Adidas Nizza – The all-white hi-tops are my go-to shoes. They’re lightweight, fashionable, and comfortable.
On Running Cloudflow – These lightweight shoes have become my go-to for running both at home and while traveling.
Warby Parker Downing Sunglasses – My favorite pair of sunglasses.
ThruNite Archer 2A V3 Neutral White – You never know when a light will come in use.
Alaska Bear Memory Foam Sleep Mask – I have trouble sleeping on flights so I do my best to optimize for comfort and sleep as much as I can. Even if I don’t fall into a deep sleep, at least I’m comfortable.
MUJI Gel-Ink Ballpoint Pen 0.5mm – My favorite pens. The ink comes out smooth, doesn’t skip, and lasts a long time.
MUJI Notebook – Another bring-everywhere item. Traveling is always a great time for reflection whether it be in the airport, on a plane, on a train, or when you’re taking a coffee break from exploring the city. MUJI is my choice of notebook for journaling.
MUJI Earplugs with Case – I have a pair of these with me everywhere I go.
Muji Toiletry Kit – It’s hard to find a good toiletry case. This one is small and has just enough room for me to fit the essentials.
- Quip Toothbrush – Electric toothbrushes tend to be bulky and have large chargers that are annoying to travel with, then I found Quip. It’s a sleek, travel-friendly electric toothbrush that comes with its own carrying case that you can stick on a mirror. Warning: I’ve forgotten at least two Quip brushes hanging on hotel bathroom mirrors, but I love them so much that I’ve bought replacements every time.
- Travel-Sized Toothpaste
- Neutrogena Hand Lotion
- Q-tips Cotton Swabs
- Tom’s of Maine Natural Deodorant Unscented – A simple deodorant that provides odor protection without a strong smell. If you want a subtle scent, I also use Native’s Tea Tree & Sage deodorant.
- Claritin Allergy Medication
A Good Book – I like to bring a book to keep me entertained or put me to sleep on the flight or at the airport.
Vitamins from Care/of – I have a subscription to Care/of vitamins and take Rhodiola, ashwagandha, magnesium, vitamin D, and fish oil almost every day. It would be cheaper to purchase bottles of each vitamin separately, but the packets are easy to travel with and I keep a few in my bag so if I forget to take them in the morning, I’ll pull one out and take them in the middle of the day.
Pique Tea – High-quality travel-friendly tea that’s a great replacement for coffee. I tend to buy a lot of coffee when I travel and only realize how much the coffee expenses add up once I’m back home. With Pique’s tea crystals, just mix with hot or cold water (depending on the crystals you get) and you’ve got a tasty, healthy, caffeinated drink. I recommend the matcha green tea, the pu-er green tea, and the reishi calm elixir (non-caffeinated) for relaxing in the evening.
Nalgene 32oz Water Bottle – It’s a huge bottle, but I find that I’m really bad at drinking water when I’m traveling so it helps to have a huge bottle of water with me. I fill up at the airport before the flight, after I land, when I get to my place of lodging, and when I’m leaving to explore the city.
Tripcase App – Tripcase sends reminders and notifications about flights and gives me one place to keep track of my travel itinerary.
Google Translate App – This app is helpful for learning basic words and phrases to exchanging sentences with locals. My friends and I have had entire conversations using Google Translate.
JetBlue App – Since I’ve been flying JetBlue a lot, the app has been helpful with checking in and having my boarding pass ready.
Google Maps – Google Maps has worked for most places I’ve traveled.