Packing Light? Don't Forget These 5 Must Haves


Have you ever gone on a trip, and almost immediately regretted leaving behind that one item that would have made things easier? So have I, which is why I put together this list of the essential items to remember to pack, even when you don't have much space. (See also: 15 Packing Secrets From a Professional Traveler)

1. Comfortable Footwear

Getting caught without the right shoes can really ruin a trip. This is not an excuse to bring every pair of shoes you own, but you do need a practical, comfortable pair of shoes that will work for a variety of situations.

Best option: A solid pair of sneakers that you can dress up or down. Of course, your fashion choices will depend on your style, but neutral colors tend to pair with a wider range of outfits, for both men and women. Try colors like black, beige, or white for the most versatility.

Comfort is even more important. You will be surprised how often the right sneakers can get you out of a fashion bind and enable you to fully explore the place you're visiting without worrying about blisters or tiring your feet too much.

Some travelers walk 10 miles a day or more when visiting a new city. Walking is an amazing way to see a new place, while helping you keep in shape while traveling. My wife and I travel with Lems shoes, which are extremely comfortable and roll up if you need to jam them in a small space. The black version can even pass in more formal situations.

2. Versatile Pieces

When you're trying to pack light while not leaving any essentials behind, a good packing strategy is to pick out pieces that are multipurpose.

For women, a large scarf is a great piece that can be used in many situations. You can use it as a blanket on the bus when the air conditioning is too cold. You can bring it to the beach to use as a towel or just a place to sit while having a picnic. Plus, it's always good to have as a cover up.

If you're going to a warm destination, you can often find skirts that will double as a top. Remember that dresses and rompers can be a good use of space, since you don't have to think about matching a top and a bottom.

For men, you'll want to think about bringing classic combinations. Dark jeans transition from day to night seamlessly. Pick out clothing that is casual but that can easily be dressed up for going out in the evening.

For both men and women, look for pieces that can layer well.

3. Essential Toiletries

Sometimes the hotel shampoo makes the cut and sometimes you really need your standby toiletries to feel like yourself. If you have certain items you can't live without, buy travel-sized versions that will save you a lot of space and weight compared to full-sized bottles.

Alternatively, if you can't find the travel size of your favorite shampoo, you can easily buy small plastic travel bottles at your local drugstore and make your own travel versions of any of your favorite products.

To keep bottles from leaking in your bag, put a piece of kitchen plastic wrap over the mouth and then screw the lid on over this extra layer. This will prevent you from unpacking your bag to discover a goopy mess when you reach your destination.

4. Chargers

Forgetting a phone, camera, or computer charger is really a bummer. Before you leave your home or a hotel room always double and even triple check the outlets to make sure you haven't left an important charger plugged in. Some chargers can be very difficult to replace on the road.

On that note, also be sure to bring the appropriate plug converter. If you can find an all-in-one converter that has plugs for multiple countries, you will save yourself the headache of trying to keep track of a bunch of different adapters.

5. Passports and Credit/Debit Cards

No matter how light you pack, these items are the very most essential. If you have your travel identification and, ideally both a credit and debit card, you'll be able to figure out the rest on the fly. (See also: Follow These 5 Credit Card Rules When Traveling Abroad)

It's also an important precaution to make a couple of copies of your travel documents and credit cards. Leave one with someone at home and take an extra along with you. Keep that one in a different place from the originals. That way if anything gets stolen you will be in a much better position to get replacement documents and cards. In addition to having a paper copy, you can save a digital copy to Google Drive or a similar cloud account, or just email a version to yourself.

See also: What to Do When Your Belongings Get Stolen Abroad

Pack Smart

Traveling light is not only very practical, it's also liberating to realize how few belongings you really need. When you pack less you'll have less to lug around and worry about losing.

If you still feel like you're having trouble fitting everything in, remember to roll your clothes when you pack instead of folding them. You'll save just a little more space and may be able to take a smaller bag. (See also: 7 Tips for Single Bag Travel)

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Guest's picture
Kyle Burbank

Great list. My wife once forgot to grab the toiletries bag for a trip we were taking and was livid about it for days. Never again! haha