I’m incredibly fortunate to have my mom instill in me the love for travel and exploration at a very young age. I first obtained my passport when I was seven years old, and I can still remember my first experience riding an airplane was a 14-hour flight from Manila to Los Angeles. I’ve been traveling every year since, having explored nearly 31 states and 7 countries… and counting! It’s an insatiable and lifelong lust for travel that I’m happily and helplessly infected with. My passport will only retire once I take my last breath. Listed below are my top 10 travel essentials.
1. Travel journal
- I’m a firm believer in the power of writing in a diary or journal. Journaling allows us to understand and better connect with our values, emotions, and dreams. Constant reflection empowers and facilitates personal growth. And without growth, people atrophy. I’ve accumulated a number of travel journals over years, and most have been inexpensive college-ruled spiral notebooks.
After turning twenty-five, I decided that it’s finally time for me to invest in a real hand-made leather journal. You know, for adults. I first came across Rustico’s journals on Instagram, and I instantly fell in love with their products.
I have the Traveler Leather Journal, and the leather smell alone is enough to get me obsessed. It’s hand-made, the paper is textured with no lines and the flap-tie gives it a rustic Indiana Jones feel.
2. Sleep mask and ear plugs
Sleep is pretty much the first point of compromise when it comes to travel, especially traveling on a budget. For just a few bucks each and being relatively weightless, a sleeping mask and ear plugs can drastically help the increase the quality of your sleep. It can be worn on planes, trains, buses, every where!
Personally, I like it pitch black when I sleep. I love Bedtime Bliss’ sleeping masks because they’re soft, adjustable, and don’t allow any hint of light in. They are strategically contoured and are not completely flat around the eyes, leaving just enough room so eye lashes don’t feel squished when I open my eyes with the mask on.
3. Pillow case
I admit, I’m high maintenance with my sleep. My room needs to be a cool 63 degrees (and ideally pitch black as mentioned above); my mattress must be firm (never spring); my pillows can’t be too high, too low, too flat, or too fluffy, my sheets need to be sprayed with Febreze every night before bedtime… I love my sleep, and I have rules and rituals I follow to make sure I maximize those ZzZzzz’s.
I may not be able to bring my mattress, pillows, or sheets when I travel, but I can bring my pillow case, which is a small and fairly lightweight reminder of home.
4. Packing cubes (eBags)
If there is one product that has leveled up my packing game, it’s eBags. I’m always in search of strategies to maximize the space in my luggage. I’ve tried various techniques, from rolling my clothes to using vacuum bags. Rolling clothes caused too many wrinkles and vacuum sealing the bags was only effective if you can find, well, a vacuum. Which is rarely the case when I’m packing for my return trip.
After countless trials and errors, I’ve found the perfect formula for me: packing like a pro + eBags.
I purchased a pack of 6 from Amazon, and I have not looked back. eBags are so efficient in compressing as well as organizing clothes. During my Arizona weekend getaway last month, I packed 2 leggings, 3 sweaters, 3 pairs of socks, 2 blanket scarves, 1 bikini, 1 yoga pants, 1 sports bra, 4 pairs of undies and 2 bras in one large eBag and my toiletries in another, totaling two! It has made packing and unpacking such a breeze!
5. Photocopies of important documents
I hope this is self-explanatory. There is nothing worse than being unprepared when disaster strikes, such as losing your passport in a foreign land.
A few days before any trip, I like to make two photocopies of my passport, flight itinerary, hotel reservation(s), and proof of vaccinations. I keep one set of copies in my luggage and another set in my personal bag.
6. Cash (U.S. dollars)
This is applicable not only when I travel (which I talked about in this post), but everywhere I go. It irks me when I hear people say “Nobody carries cash anymore,” as if it’s some outdated trend. You want to know who carries cash? People who are always prepared. It has nothing to do with being rich, but everything to do with being prepared and being reliable. You do not want to be that person* who needs saving from others because you didn’t have cash.
*EXHIBIT A: I went on a first date with a guy who, with an air of arrogance, picks me up in his luxury brand car. We arrive at the restaurant and he opts for the valet. The valet attendant tells him that fees must be paid in cash. My date rummages through his wallet and realizes he’s cashless. He awkwardly looks at me to save his pathetic butt. Needless to say, my first impression is tainted and his ego was deflated. Him not carrying cash didn’t necessarily mean he didn’t have money. But rather, it was indicative of a bigger reality: he’s not prepared when it matters and I can’t rely on him. There was no second date.
7. Sunscreen (solid form)
I went to New York City with my closest girlfriends for my 24th birthday back in January 2015. It was bitter cold, and I used the freezing temperatures to justify carrying 5 heavy coats, 4 pairs of pants, 4 scarves, 3 beanies, 10 sweaters, and 3 pairs of shoes for a mere 10-day trip. My check-in luggage surpassed the 50-lbs. limit. It was so physically and emotionally draining that I promised myself never to check-in a luggage again, no matter how long the duration of my trip is.
Limiting myself strictly on having just a carry-on bag, I am prevented by the TSA’s rules and regulations from carrying full-size liquid bottles. Since then, I’ve learned to bring the solid form for a lot of my toiletries. I bring a stick of sunscreen instead of the bottle, soap instead of body wash, and detergent powder instead of liquid. I can even go further and bring solid shampoo and conditioner from Lush. If there’s a will, there’s a way!
8. Instant camera
I’m aware that owning an instant camera contradicts my minimalism practices, but it’s too good of an item for me to pass up. Prior to every trip, I pack my Fujifilm Instax Mini 50S and at least 4 packs of film (10 shots each). I enjoy using an instant camera because unlike digital cameras or my iPhone, I have to make sure I am truly invested in the shot before I take it. It’s not cheap, ranging from $0.80 – $1.00 per shot, can’t be redone/edited/deleted, so it forces me to be intentional with every single picture.
It’s such a high hearing that click, and seeing those special moments slowly come to life. Not to mention it adds a nostalgic and sentimental touch when I tape them in my travel journal.
Ziplocs have so many uses apart from protecting my belongings from liquid spills. I use Ziplocs for my snacks (usually nuts and dried fruits), to store wet swimsuits/damp clothes, and also to keep my jewelry and necklaces from getting tangled together!
Ibuprofen, anti-motion sickness pills, cough suppressants, anti-diarrheal meds, etc. This is more essential when traveling abroad, especially in developing countries. The last thing you want to happen is desperately trying to explain yourself to a pharmacist in a foreign country that you need anti-diarrheal medication because you accidentally ordered a Starbucks drink with ice.
Trust me, I learned the hard way.
What are your must-have travel items?