Whether you’re planning a no-frills backpacking trip through Europe, a road trip across America, or you’re travelling to a wedding two states over, everyone is bound to take a trip at some point in life. Sure, you can find a million guides that will tell you how many tshirts you should bring for a week-long trip or which converter you should bring if you’re travelling to mainland Europe versus the UK. This list assumes that you’ve seen those and you know how many pairs of underwear you’re bringing (tip: no more than 5 pairs, as long as you’re okay with scrubbing them in the sink). This is, I would argue, an all-inclusive list for every trip you will ever take, ever.
I’ve travelled a fair amount in my young life, so this list is based entirely on my experiences. I wouldn’t tell you folks to do something I wouldn’t personally endorse, and so this is the actual list I use for every time I travel. These items have gotten me out of a number of jams, so I highly recommend you add them to your next adventure’s packing list.
10. First aid kit
Minimally , your kit should include ibuprofen/pain relievers, band aids, antibiotic wipes or ointment, and Pepto Bismol. Also consider antacids, sunburn cream, bug repellent, tweezers, antihistamines, and decongestants based on your medical history, your destination, and the length of your trip. AAA recommends keeping a first aid kit in your car at all times, so you might already have most of these items all in one place.
9. Tide to Go (or other compact stain remover pen)
Nothing is worse than planning out all your outfits, packing exactly what you need, and then spilling spaghetti sauce on the cargo pants you had planned to wear at least 4 more times. Tide to Go is compact, discrete, and it works like a charm.
Even if you plan to stay in a Marriott, you never know when a surprise rain storm can catch you off guard and leave you longing for a dry towel (because, of course, the towels you used after your morning shower are never dry by the evening). If you’ll be staying in youth hostels, many require you to pay a fee or deposit if you need a towel; also, who wants a towel that’s been washed by some teenager (writing as someone who used to work in a hostel)?
I highly recommend microfiber travel or camping towels. They are thin, absorbent, quick-drying, and take up about as much space in your pack/luggage as a tshirt. I acquired mine when I worked at the hostel (one of the many treasures left behind by guests), and I’m very upset I didn’t invest in one sooner.
7. Extra stash of hidden money
I’m the dork who wears a money belt when I travel abroad. In it, I minimally keep my passport, a photocopy of all my important documents, and some bills in the local currency. In my rucksack/suitcase, I hide another photocopy of my documents and a $50 prepaid AmEx gift card that my mom gave to me for my birthday one year. Luckily I’ve never had to use any of my emergency supplies (*knocks on wood*), but it’s extremely comforting knowing I most likely will never be totally stranded with no money or identification.
6. Compass (or a smartphone with a compass app)
So you’re in New York City. You come up from the #6 train at 33rd St station. Your hotel is on 31st St. No sweat! Just walk two blocks to the….. right? left? down? straight? Familiarize yourself with a compass and navigating foreign cities will be a piece of cake. Otherwise, expect to make a lot of wrong turns.