8 Suitcase Essentials You Should Never Travel Without

8 Suitcase Essentials You Should Never Travel Without

Packing right is an essential part of any travel experience, and no matter what your destination, there are certain items that should never be left behind. At the same time, few travelers have ever returned from vacation wishing their bags had been heavier!

For the best travel experience, your goal should be to carry what you really need and leave the rest at home. How do you know what should stay and what you should bring, though? Consider these eight suitcase essentials and you’ll be on your way to finding that perfect balance.

1. A Daypack

I’ve never once regretted bringing along a daypack on any vacation. It can be a lifesaver when traveling to unfamiliar areas or to certain cities where you want to make sure your hands are free to discourage thieves.

No matter where you’re traveling, you’ll need a daypack to carry maps, a guidebook, bottled water and snacks while you’re exploring. They’re also perfect for electronic equipment like an iPad or mini-laptop. Other frequently carried items include sunscreen, spare shoes, a camera, lip balm, etc.

You won’t want to lug your entire suitcase around and carrying a purse or handbag isn’t always safe. A daypack is a better option and will distribute the weight of your stuff more comfortably across your back. Make sure it’s light and small enough to fit into your luggage, but big enough to carry everything you need.

2. Comfortable Shoes

Comfortable walking shoes are always a must. If you’re heading to the tropics, bring a pair of beach sandals or flip-flops and a pair of shoes for hiking or exploring the town. Blisters can easily ruin a vacation.

Unless you’re planning on attending a fancy event like a wedding, leave your Oxfords or high heels at home. Even if you think there’s a chance you’ll use them, 99% of the time they take up lots of room and are never used.

3. A Bathing Suit or Two

If you’re heading off on a beach holiday, bringing two bathing suits is a must, especially for those who enjoy spending most of their time in the water. This way you’ll have a dry suit to wear when the other is wet. Even if you aren’t heading off to a tropical paradise, many hotels offer swimming pools or hot tubs; you never know when you’ll need one.

Bathing suits can be really difficult to find in the off season—and very expensive when purchased at the coast. They also take up very little room in your luggage.

4. Maps and Directions

Before you leave, try to print out online maps of the area where you’ll be staying or places you plan on visiting. Put them in your daypack inside of your luggage. It’s much easier and cheaper than carrying large fold-out maps or books!

If you already have an idea of your itinerary, consider printing out some Google Maps directions before you leave. A manila folder that holds these directions along with copies of all of your reservations, including car rentals, accommodations and any other confirmed activities, is a great way to stay organized and on track.

5. Document Copies

Be sure to make copies of your passport (when traveling internationally), as well as your airline tickets or electronic ticket confirmation and any health insurance cards. In the unlikely event that our passport is stolen, having a copy can speed up your ability to replace it. Leave another copy of your passport with a family member or friend at home.

Along with these documents, bring a list of telephone numbers for your bank, credit card companies and travel agency (if used) in case you need to contact them while abroad.

6. Other Clothing Essentials

Check the predicted temperatures and weather of your destination before heading out, and pack clothing according to what you think you’ll really need. Try not to bring any “just in case” clothes other than a light rain jacket. You don’t even need that if you’re heading somewhere known for its dry climate.

A good rule of thumb for a trip of one week or less is one shirt per day, one bottom (shorts, skirt or long pants) for every two days, one layering sweater or jacket for cold-weather locations, underwear for each day (plus a spare), and one to two bathing suits depending on the destination.

Choose a neutral main color such as black or brown, and bring accessories that go with that shade. Wear your heaviest clothing on the flight so that it doesn’t weigh your bag down and result in extra fees.

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7. Rain Gear

Unless you’re heading to the desert or a very dry climate, rain gear can make an uncomfortable experience much more bearable. Rain ponchos, collapsible umbrellas and folding hats are perfect—they don’t take up much room in your suitcase and can often be squeezed in along the sides.

8. Travel Alarm

Even if you plan on staying in a luxury hotel, wake-up calls don’t always happen on time, and unfamiliar alarm clocks can easily be set incorrectly, causing you to miss a scheduled activity or event. While many people use their cellphones for this purpose, don’t forget that if you’re traveling out of the country, it may be difficult to charge. A small travel alarm clock that can easily be seen in the dark is always useful.

If you bring these essential pieces of gear and a few things specific to your destination (a heavier jacket for your trip to Alaska, anti-malaria medicine for your African safari, etc.), you’ll have everything you need to enjoy your trip without breaking your back under a mountain of luggage. Travel light and enjoy your flight!