Packing Essentials for the Savvy Traveler

7 essentials to add some order to your travel life — in no particular order

The way we travel is constantly evolving. Along with help from expert travelers, we have curated a list of seven essential items that will keep you comfortable and confident as you seek and explore! 

The Pack

Every savvy traveler, regardless of intent, needs to be able to carry their essentials in a comfortable and functional way. And it all starts with the right pack. A primary consideration is the space needed for your necessities. You can always take items out of your pack, but you’ll find it difficult to walk away with that extra tchotchke if your bag is already on the verge of bursting. Growth Lead at VacationRenter, Zander Buteux recommends that you, “approach packing in two phases.” Lay out some of the items you plan to take and over the course of a day. Think intentionally about each and decide if they will truly be of value and use on your trip. “If you pick and pack in the same moment, you are bound to either under-pack or over-pack.” said Zander. Also consider your mobility; your bag should always be able to go with you and stay with you. See what you can get away with in terms of size and style. The upper range for a carry-on that will go from train, to plane, to car, to bar, is about 45 liters of space! 

Person wading through waist high water wearing a blue backpack.
Photo Credit: KAL VISUALS on Unsplash


Today’s travelers find a portable computing option an essential tool for both work and play. Whether you want to share pictures, research your destination, or prepare for an intensive meeting, having access to technology that you can trust is critical for navigating the increasingly digital travel landscape. But keep in mind accompanying accessories such as charging cords. Norm Bour of recalls, “I have forgotten USB-C cords for my Android and had to severely power down or off to be sure I had enough until I got to my location. I have lost count of how many have been left behind in hotels or on trains… When you need to find your AirBNB or get an Uber or BOLT and have no phone, it’s stressful.”


Your travel clothing is another essential element that contributes to the overall success or failure of your trip. When on the go, there is a premium placed on the versatility of items in your pack. Often when traveling, we attempt to plan for every occasion or eventuality. While planning ahead is always good, overdoing it may lead to the zipper on our luggage feeling slightly overburdened. We have all seen the “sit on the suitcase to close it” technique. Seasoned pros know that overpacking is a critical error; Staying nimble and light while on the move allows you to more easily lose yourself in your travel destination. 

According to Kevin Mercier of, “cross-compatibility” is essential to selecting proper travel wear. This term is emblematic of the savvy traveler who packs just enough—striking a balance between efficiency and personal style while on the road. 

“If you’re reluctant to wear the same outfit every day but also need to trim down on your luggage, bring clothes with color palettes that can be worn together and you’ll have multiple outfits for multiple days just by mixing up the combinations,” said Mercier. The dilemma surrounding travel clothing often complicates the event for many individuals and leads to headache and lack of engagement in the moment. Avoid this potential hurdle by simplifying and streamlining your look. 

Dressing up for a particular occasion such as a nice dinner or professional engagement is important to keep in mind, but reduce the urge to sacrifice your everyday comfort and travel zen when a paired down approach could suit you tremendously. 

Grey pants, white shirt and earthen toned Shoe laid out on a bright background.
Photo Credit: Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash

Personal Hygiene and First Aid

 Often we find enjoyment in the spontaneous discovery of finding a new favorite cafe, or steeping in the mystique of a previously unknown location. Travel stretches the imagination—offering the opportunity to learn, grow and be pleasantly surprised. However, a packing error can quickly throw a wrench in your day and have real financial impact. The importance of having personal hygiene products on hand is especially relevant to Becky Ginther, owner of Disney in your Day, who recalls a costly travel situation from her past. 

“I packed a toiletry bag for a trip I was taking to California, but forgot to put the toiletry bag inside my actual suitcase,” said Ginther. “It was only basic things like deodorant, a hairbrush, toothbrush, and contact solution [however] Just those few basics cost me almost $50.” 

While inconveniences are bound to arise while traveling, having key hygiene products tucked away in your day bag ensures the foundation of your travel essentials is intact. 

Money & ID

You can very quickly wind up in a tight spot if, for example, your day pack is stolen or misplaced and your money and IDs lost. Depending on where you are, this could pose a simple inconvenience or a legitimate threat to your security while traveling. There are a variety of storage solutions available that keep essential documents and cash safely stashed on your person while traveling. Keeping valuables such as credit cards and your passport on your person can act as a line of last resort should your travel endeavors take a sour turn. There are a variety of options for both men and women on the market today geared towards securing your valuables. 
World travelers Daniel Armesto Gutiérrez and Ilona Bicker of, who together have visited more than 50 countries, say, “For female travelers, we highly recommend using a bra stash. These are small pockets that you can attach to your bra. Ilona had one with her on a trip around the world, for storing an additional credit card.” Ensuring you have access to cash and necessary identification while traveling is a great way to maintain your peace of mind and safeguard your trip while keeping your focus on the interesting people, places and culture you will be exposed to.

Image of a camera, passport and loose currency (bill and coinage) on a wood grain table.
Photo Credit: Benjamin White on Unsplash


Food can be found most anywhere nowadays. Convenience is king and while exploring the country, you are likely to find yourself with an array of delectable options from cuisines both familiar and foreign. However, on occasion, you may find yourself in a tight spot when it comes to chow. Whether it be a press for time, a dietary restriction or a lack of funds, having access to dependable, nutritious food can make or break your mood. “When packing for travel, make sure to research your accommodations ahead of time.” Says Ravi Parikh, CEO of RoverPass, “Many hotels, motels, and airports have stepped back their complimentary services due to COVID. You will likely want to bring breakfast bars since complimentary hotel breakfasts have been scaled back. It’s a good idea to pack other quick, portable snacks for the trip itself in case dining options along the way are limited.” Before you embark on your trip, source some regular favorites that are shelf stable and mess-free. Protein rich snacks like nuts always make great travel companions due to their nutritional value and cost. There are many great options on the market today and surely something to fit your budget and dietary needs. 


One of the most important items to consider in your day pack is a solution for hydration. Refillable water bottles and canteens have become an essential and an accessory. Whether you are part of the cult of Hydroflask, or prefer something slightly more specialized, having water available to you while traveling will continue to be critical. Today, there are many options for water bottles — ranging from super duty, to dainty and sleek. Tom Wahlin, founder of Pack Hacker, recommends the Vapur Eclipse Water Bottle. “This water bottle—or water bag—is one of the smallest bottles we’ve been able to find to date. While compressed and empty, it’ll fit into the palm of your hand. When you get through your TSA checkpoint, unravel it and fill it up. This reduces the use of throwaway plastic bottles—so it’s more sustainable—and it prevents someone from having to lug around a large bottle all the time.” said Tom. Also consider the cost burden of not taking reliable hydration with you. Tourist traps know you are coming—and that your wallet isn’t far behind. Consider the airport for example: after passing through security, avoid the costly trip to the convenience and fill up your reusable bottle at one of the available water fountains. This is a quick plan-ahead and people will surely be inspired by your travel savvy.

Image of a hand holding a water bottle up to the sky. Blue sky with Clouds.
Photo Credit: Elias Kauerhof on Unsplash

For more inspiring travel stories and resources, visit Vacationist USA!