10 Travel "Must-Haves" That You Can Live Without
If you Google "travel must-haves," you will be treated to pages upon pages of articles listing many travel-sized, helpfully collapsible items and nifty little space-aged gadgets all geared toward making your next trip hassle-free, and all (they swear) completely and utterly necessary.
While every destination admittedly comes with its own set of packing requirements (a water purification pen would be pretty handy in some places) and certain factors (like traveling with small children) warrant an exception, it seems kind of silly that many people feel the need to travel with all the comforts of home — isn’t the reason we go traveling in the first place to experience someplace else? Next time you travel, try to avoid lugging along these travel "essentials." (See also: 40 Most Useful Travel Websites That Can Save You a Fortune)
They’re big, they’re heavy, and even though they usually have wheels, they can still be a pain to cart everywhere. What’s worse, their size can fool you into thinking that any extra space after packing needs to be filled, prompting you to pack something else you don’t need. Condense your possessions into a backpack for a more flexible, less cumbersome trip. You’d be surprised how much they can hold, and provided you meet certain size requirements, backpacks can also help you avoid the headaches of checking your bags.
2. More Than One of Almost Anything
When packing for a trip, I often find myself rationalizing an extra pair of shoes for imaginary "just in case" scenarios. But the truth is, unless your trip’s itinerary careens wildly from hiking up mountains to attending black tie events, one hat, one pair of shoes, and one belt should be all you need. Even limiting one’s self to a single pair of jeans, while extreme, is entirely possible. Underwear, of course, is an exception to this rule. You should probably bring more than one pair of underwear.
3. Neck Pillow
A sore neck is definitely a bummer, but there are alternatives to relying on the official neck pillow. Even rolling the soft sweater you brought along can be a suitable substitute. Now, some people do swear by these, and so if you really feel like this item is nonnegotiable, I suggest an inflatable model that can be neatly folded and tucked away when not needed.
4. Keepsakes From Home
Although it may be tempting to bring a memento to remind you of home such as a stuffed animal or a particular piece of jewelry, there is literally no use for any sentimental trinkets while you’re traveling. Yet, many travel sites suggest bringing something to ward off homesickness. An alternative to taking up space in your pack with teddy is to simply bring a few photos and tuck them into your wallet, or buy a country flag badge and sew it to your backpack.
Books can make for great entertainment on long flights, but once you’ve finished reading them, you’ll be stuck carrying them around for the rest of your trip. This is true even of pocket-sized paperbacks. Stick to disposable recyclables — magazines, newspapers, etc., or else leave your paperback behind for someone else to enjoy.
Guidebooks offer advice and perspective on your destinations, outlining historical facts and famous landmarks in addition to recommending hotels and restaurants. These books are convenient, to be sure, but there are also many travel review sites online that offer the same services without the bulkiness of a book. Plus, relying on their expertise can often prevent you from discovering the magic of your surroundings yourself. So if you’re looking to pack light, avoid bringing a guidebook along — spending your trip with your nose buried in someone else’s experiences is a surefire way to miss your own.
7. A Monster-Sized Camera
Lots of sites recommend bringing professional-grade SLRs (usually whatever model is new the month the article is published). Unless you’re a professional photographer or photojournalist and you make your living using a camera, you really don’t need a big fancy piece of equipment weighing you down. Pocket digital cameras are very affordable these days, are portable, and literally fit into nearly every pocket. Plus the newer ones take really fantastic pictures.
8. Basic Toiletries
Soap, shampoo, razors — even toothbrushes — are provided happily by most hotels. I regularly packed three plastic baggies full of conditioner and Q-tips for years before I realized that they were taking up valuable space, and I never used all of what I packed during the trip anyway.
This popped up on more than one site’s "travel must haves" list. I barely like carrying my laptop around the city, let alone an entire country! If missing emails is a concern, there are Internet cafes nearly everywhere you go, and if there aren’t, chances are you’ll have a hard time accessing the web on your laptop anyway. Unless you’re on a working trip, leave the laptop at home — you’ll love how freeing it feels to not be tethered to a screen.
10. A Plan
I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve gone somewhere with a detailed, to-the-minute itinerary only to have the most magical, memorable moments of the trip be the spontaneous ones — moments no one could ever plan. Of course, plan where you are staying at night and know what time your next flight is, but in terms of where to go, what to eat, and what to do during your day, try simply taking off in one direction and seeing where it takes you — you won’t be sorry.
It can be rather surprising how easy it is to get by without certain conveniences — and how little you miss them — once you’re in the full swing of your trip. Sometimes it’s to the point where you can’t believe you once thought those conveniences were necessities in the first place. On your next traveling expedition, save your storage (and your back) from over-packing. Instead, challenge yourself to discover what you can live without.