14 Must-Have Travel Items to Add to Your Packing List

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.
— Benjamin Franklin

It's often the little things that make or break a trip. Getting a poor night's sleep makes you grumpy or less likely to hike to that amazing waterfall. Your phone dying could be a minor inconvenience, or it could leave you stranded. Having a medical emergency or getting sick away from home can be scary or keep you in your room for days. While you can't prepare for everything, you can add a few essential items to your packing list that can turn trip-ruining disasters into minor inconveniences. Read on and travel with confidence knowing you can handle whatever your adventures throw at you.


stay healthy


Nothing ruins a vacation like getting sick, especially traveler's diarrhea! Knowing this is your most likely malady, come prepared. I bring my own pharmacy so I don't have to find a pharmacy...or doctor.

  • Imodium A-D and Pepto-Bismol: These are essential and can keep you from being stuck in your room...or bathroom more specifically. Make sure to check the expirations dates, as they will lose their efficacy.

  • Emergen-C Electro Mix: This is a great sugar-free powder than dissolves in water and will replenish your electrolytes after expelling bodily fluids. This could also be used on those hot and humid jungle treks.

  • Oreganol P73: I'm not a doctor, but have used oregano oil to treat infections for my family that would normally require antibiotics. As it's not killing the helpful bacteria, like a traditional broad-spectrum antibiotic (Cipro), I'll take preventatively (5 drops under tongue twice daily) when I know I'll be exposed to questionable food / water / ice, and would double that if I showed symptoms.

  • Lewis N. Clark Deluxe Pill Organizer: I keep a variety of pills, including anti-vert, Benadryl, Advil, activated charcoal, and yes...Cipro. Keep a list in the side pocket of what's in each pouch...you don't want to take an Ambien instead of your vitamin to start your day!

  • Trauma Kit: The most important item this kit contains is a QuikClot sponge which stops bleeding fast. Unfortunately, they seem to no longer sell the kit I show in the photo, but I linked to a comparable one I also have. This is an essential items to bring on trips as judgement may be impaired by alcohol, there may be lower standards on building codes (I saw a wall collapse on someone who had tied a hammock to it), there are more scooter rides, and local driving habits may be unsafe or unfamiliar.


Stay charged

phone chargers.jpeg

Who wants to be stressed about their phone or iPad running out of juice, especially on a plane or in another country? It's nice to not worry about tracking down that elusive outlet, or having to stand around the charging station at the airport. I also prefer to charge my devices from my large charger rather than directly plug my phone into an outlet in places with inconsistent / surgy power (I'd rather my charger explode than my phone).

I recommend bringing a large charger and 1 or 2 pocket chargers. Don't forget to bring a couple charging cables as well.


Sweet dreams


It's hard enough to sleep without your own bed and pillow, let alone throwing in a different time zone. I take my sleep seriously, and can attest that these items are life savers!

  • Mack's Earplugs: These are made from silicon putty that molds into your ear. You may have worn them for swimming. They are so much more comfortable than the normal earplugs you twist and put into your ear...the ones that always seem to go uncomfortably deeper when you lay on them!

  • ALASKA BEAR Natural Silk Sleep Mask: This eye mask is incredibly comfortable and breathable (doesn't make your face sweaty). It's also a little oversized so no light sneaks in.

  • NOW Valerian Root Supplement: I find a sleep aid particularly useful to quickly acclimate to a time zone shift. I take for the first few days of the trip and then again when I return home. While not as strong as an Ambien, if you'd rather go the natural route, I suggest giving valarian root a try. Be sure to test at home first. Warning: You may need to plug your nose when you take it!


my favorites


I'd be remiss if I left out my 3 favorite items, even though they don't fall into a specific category.

  • Petzl e+Lite Headlamp: This is the best emergency headlamp. It's super small and weighs less than an ounce! You can always use your phone light if the power goes out, but think how much cooler you'll be busting out this headlamp to save the day! Besides the coolness factor, it is nice to have both hands free.

  • Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack: Even if you already bring a day pack as one of your carry-on's, it is typically already full. This day pack is 20-liters but packs into it's self-contained bag that is smaller than your fist. I wouldn't put rocks from your hike into it, but you can bring a small camera, sunscreen, water, phone charger and sweatshirt no problem.

  • Tactical Pen: This is a very effective self-defense weapon (and glass breaker) that passes airport security. If you find yourself walking back to your place in the dark or your cab driver takes you to an abandoned warehouse, you'll be thankful to have this in your pocket. While I can't find a link to my exact pen, the pen I link to has the key element of a flat top. You put your thumb on this so it won't slip through your hand and use it like an ice pick rather than thrusting. I also choose a pen that doesn't say Smith & Wesson or look too much like a weapon.


Just like a Boy (or Girl) Scout, an analytical traveler is always prepared! Remember our motto, "Optimized planning. Maximized adventure." Share your favorite items that you don't leave home without in the comments below. If you liked this post, please join and contribute to the Analytical Traveler community. 

Safe travels!

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