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WARNING: These travel essentials are game-changers. Whether you want to save space, stay warm or dry, or even get shinier hair, these travel essentials are a MUST for every traveler. Check out my 13 travel essentials that will change your life below!
Related: First time solo traveling? Follow my step-by-step guide plus FREE printable checklist for traveling alone for the first time!
These handy packing cubes are my best-kept secret when it comes to traveling smart and light. I almost didn’t want to tell you about these because I’m afraid their price might go up if they become more popular. But I want to tell you because you can practically fit twice as much in your bags. Yup, you heard that right – twice as much. Plus they effortlessly keep your bag organized and it’s easy to take things out while on the road. I will never travel without packing cubes again.
Related: Wondering how to pack for hot weather in conservative countries? Check out my female clothing essentials for hot weather during summer in the Middle East!
Despite many hairbrushes not living up to their promises of painlessly smoothing out tangles, when I first discovered this little buddy in Sweden I decided to give it a try anyway. Boy has it changed my hair game when I travel. I pretty much never style my hair, whether I’m on the road or not, but this thing actually lives up to its promises. It’s also super small, so I can easily fit it in the top mesh pocket of my Osprey travel backpack. 10 out of 10, would recommend.
A lightweight scarf has so many uses besides its typical function of keeping you warm. It can be a pillow or blanket on the plane, an extra sheet on your bed, a cover-up for the beach, or a towel in a pinch, and that’s just the start of the list. Bonus: it’s also an easy way to add variety to your outfits when you’re packing light! I never travel without my pashmina scarf.
Related: Put your pashmina scarf to good use with my ultimate local guide to Copenhagen, plus the 8 best restaurants in Copenhagen to eat like a local!
If you bring one of these, you won’t have to use your scarf to dry off! Especially for hostels that charge you for towels, these travel towels are absolute genius. They’re made of microfiber so they dry effectively but can fold up really small. I’ve used mine after bathing, at the beach, or even sometimes as an extra blanket on my bed. It’s so versatile, small, and cheap, there’s no reason not to have one!
No one wants to worry about getting their stuff stolen, but let’s be honest: we also don’t want ugly, totally dysfunctional bags. Unfortunately, my beloved crossbody bag from L.L. Bean that has been traveling with me for four years now isn’t sold anymore. However, I like this crossbody bag as an alternative: it has the many compartments and zipper-buckle double closures that I like and keep thieves away. I promise: you will shove everything in this bag and it will be your travel companion forever.
Related: Stay safe with the 7 safest places to travel alone in Europe!
If you haven’t noticed already, the items on this list are masters of versatility, and these sandals are no different. Their thick and textured tread gives them great grip on all kinds of terrain. I have waded through rivers, hiked Mount Sinai in the dark, swam in the ocean, and showered in these sandals. These shoes are basically good for everything in warm climates, and you shouldn’t leave home without them.
To travel pillow or not to travel pillow: that is the question. Though I used to convince myself I was fine on long-haul flights without something to support my neck, my neck has started to tell me that I’m wrong. Now, this inflatable fold-up travel pillow is one of my essentials for any long-haul flight. Because it’s half microfiber, half inflatable, it’s still comfortable to rest on, but still doesn’t take up too much room. I use the snap closure to hang it from the outside of my backpack, and it works like a charm.
Related: Dreading that longhaul flight in economy? Read my top 10 tips for flying internationally!
Typically, I only use a day backpack as a “personal item” on the plane (to fit a few more items in my luggage) and when I go for a day trip that’s more than just walking around the city. It’s also good for throwing a towel and some sunglasses into for the beach. It doesn’t really matter what kind of backpack you get, as long as it’s big enough to hold some stuff for the day. The day backpack that I got in Cinque Terre in Italy is 18 liters and I find this is big enough most of the time. What I particularly like about my bag is that it has a long strap on the outside with velcro, so if I have a wet towel or swimsuit, I can hang it on the outside of my bag and keep everything inside dry!
Little did I know when I bought this from some shop in the Netherlands that I would use it literally all the time when I travel, in both hot and cold weather. There’s something super convenient about having a warm but versatile sweater you can just throw on when you’re on the go. I would suggest a neutral color to make sure that it will go with anything. Mine has a turtleneck neckline which I especially love for staying warm on the plane.
Related: Check out the top 12 solo travel destinations in Europe!
This is a superpower travel hack when it comes to saving space in your precious liquids bag. When I switched to using these ultra-soft cleansing face wipes instead of liquid micellar water to clean my face every day, I saved valuable real estate in my carry-on only liquids bag and I didn’t also have to pack cotton rounds. It’s a two-in-one space saver that’s too effective not to use.
When I was serious about getting a sleep mask that’s comfortable and actually blocks out all the light, I found this baby and I love it. It’s made of silky soft material, and the extra folds of material at the bottom keep light from getting in underneath and around your nose. Especially when sleeping on the plane or staying in a hostel dorm where people can turn lights on at any time, a sleep mask is a basic essential for any savvy traveler.
Related: Stumped on how to make friends while solo traveling? Don’t worry, I’m socially inept awkward too! That’s why I made this complete, in-depth guide to making friends while solo traveling. It will take anxiety completely out of the equation so you can get to your drinking games with your newly-found travel buddies sooner!
Finally, to accompany the great sleep you’re about to get with that sleep mask, make it even better with a set of earplugs. It’s another essential that I often convince myself I don’t need, just to be kicking myself when I get to the hostel and there’s always that one guy snoring like a freight train. Seriously, do yourself a favor and buy some of these. Trust me – you’ll thank yourself later.
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