Packing Hacks: 10 Items I Always Bring Traveling

Last night I was busy packing for my next quick trip to the States and it got me to thinking about items that I like to bring traveling. I actually really enjoy packing (I know… CRAZY!) and I have acquired some knowledge in this department over the years… so since I also love oversharing… here are 10 items that I always bring with me on a trip.

(Note: I will not be including super obvious choices such as camera, swimsuit, flip flops… because I’m hoping everyone knows that by now)


Ear Plugs

I have heard some mixed reviews about ear plugs over the years. Trust me, I know they are uncomfortable. But, do you know what’s more uncomfortable? Not sleeping because your dorm mates are snoring as loud as humanly possible. All. Night. Long. Ever since I backpacked around Europe in 2005/2006, I have never travelled without ear plugs. And although I may have more money these days to elevate my accommodations from crowded hostel dorms to private rooms or apartment rentals,  noise can still be an issue. For example, in many parts of the world, the only form of air conditioning is opening a window. And if your room is on the ground floor in a busy neighbourhood, you can be sure that the street noise will get to you. Or what about when you’re trying to get some rest on a long flight surrounded by screaming infants. Forget sleeping. In that moment, I just want to avoid going insane. I’ve lost count of the number of nights I have slept with ear plugs while traveling but I never forget how grateful I am.


I am sporadic at best when it comes to recounting my life’s adventures. Lately, I can’t be bothered to write much on paper when I’m pre-occupied with keeping up a travel blog. But, there is something SO beautiful about a journal. In fact, I have a drawer full of them (some full, some half-full, and some waiting to be filled) at home that always bring a smile to my face. Even though I’m not great at daily diary entries… when it comes to travel, I always make it a priority. I actually do go back and look at my travel journals from time to time and I’m sure I will be glad I wrote it all down when I’m 80 years old.

Packing Cubes

Have you heard of packing cubes? If you haven’t then you are missing out because they are my new best friends. It’s no secret to those that know me that I’m a bit OCD when it comes to organization. But, it is such a challenge to stay that way on the road. I hate living out of a suitcase – and worse a backpack! – so when I discovered these amazing, light weight travel accessories, I knew I had found my perfect solution. Packing cubes are an incredible way to keep your clothes organized and reduce the amount of space they take up in your suitcase. They come in all different shapes and sizes so they fit into just about any size bag. By rolling and compressing your clothes into packing cubes you can squeeze in so much more! And with checked bag fees on the rise – this is a major cost saver! I am a huge proponent of carry on only travel and packing cubes make it so easy.

Plastic / Ziploc Bags

You just never know when you are going to need a plastic bag. Your clothes didn’t dry in time – plastic bag! Your shoes are covered in mud after a sudden rain storm – plastic bag! You shampoo exploded in your suitcase – plastic bag! I could go on but I think you get the idea… it never hurts to be prepared.

Long Scarf

Disclaimer: I am generally obsessed with scarves and wear them pretty much all year long (even in summer). But, mild addiction aside, I truly believe that they are an important travel accessory. They do SO much more than keeping your neck warm and looking gorgeous. When the air conditioning starts blasting during a flight, a long scarf becomes a warm blanket. When touring a mosque on a hot summer day, a long scarf becomes a modesty robe for your exposed shoulders. When spending a day at the beach, a long scarf becomes an easy cover-up. Winter, spring, summer or fall – there is always a reason to carry a scarf.

Luggage Lock

Knock on wood… but I have never been robbed or pick pocketed. I have, however, heard enough horror stories to make me carry a combination lock wherever I go. Peace of mind is priceless and if having a lock on my bag can take my worries away (or at least one of my worries) then I’m sold.

Costume Jewelry

So this may not apply to my gentleman readers as much, but ladies… what are your thoughts on traveling with jewelry? Personally, I don’t travel with my most prized jewels or anything incredibly sentimental but I always bring jewelry. I refuse to believe that just because you are traveling, you have to dress like a traveler. You know what I’m talking about… fanny packs, cargo pants, running shoes. Jewelry is an extremely practical way to change your look when traveling with a limited wardrobe. A couple of funky earrings and a cool necklace barely take up any space in a bag and can totally reinvent that white t-shirt you’ve been wearing for the past three days. Or, if you really don’t want to bring your favourites from home, then consider buying some on your trip. Jewelry is one of the cheapest souvenirs you can buy and will be a great reminder of your amazing trip back at home.

Smart Phone

This may seem obvious to iPhone addicts like me, but I actually get this question a lot. Should I bring a phone? My answer is yes. Even if you aren’t planning to buy a SIM card you can still use your smart phone to connect to WiFi which is something I cannot even fathom traveling without. Not only do I like staying in touch while I’m away but I often need to look up important info. And… TRAVEL HACK: When you are in a new city and have access to WiFi, open up your map app on your phone and preload the city. When you inevitably lose your WiFi again during the day, your new city will stay loaded on the map so you can use it to guide you throughout the day. My phone even tracks my exact location (without WiFi!) so that I know exactly where I am on the map. I cannot tell you how many times this feature has saved the day! There are also so many fun apps to use for travel. Try using a step counter to track how much walking you’ve done or share your adventures on a great travel app like Trover. I am also eager to try out Triposo which my friend highly recommended. It is also an app that you can preload and provides maps and sightseeing tips for the city of your choice.


I don’t always travel with a  towel but I never forget my Norwex Antibacterial Microfiber washcloth. For starters, it takes off make-up and dirt with only water and does a better job than any wipe or solution I have ever tried. It dries super fast so I can repack the next morning and it doesn’t create any waste. That’s me… clean and green! In my experience, most accommodations will provide a bath towel but washcloths are not guaranteed (I often stay in apartment rentals or guest houses). Plus, there are many times I have been on an overnight train or a bus or a long flight and the ability to wash my face made me feel like a new woman.


Okay, I am cheating a bit with this one. I only just got a Kobo Aura in December. But, I plan to bring it on every trip from this moment forward. I was far from an early adopter on this one but I am fully converted now. Even though I will always love the look and feel of reading a real book, e-readers just make travel so much easier. For example, my Kobo is so small and lightweight that I can easily toss it in my cross-body bag. While traveling in Spain last month, I carried it with me during the day so that I could read on the train or during a lovely afternoon in the park. The battery lasts for weeks and can carry an endless stream of entertainment. I even take it with me to work everyday because I can read on the bus to and from the office. My e-reader has restored my appetite for reading… in short, it is making me a smarter human or at least hopefully better at trivia ;)

What items do you always bring when you travel?


6 thoughts on “Packing Hacks: 10 Items I Always Bring Traveling

  1. I totally agree with your list above, and here are a few of my travel ‘must haves’:
    – swiss army knife (if checking luggage – must have scissors!)
    – small, nylon grocery style shopping bag
    – a couple protein/ granola bars for emergencies
    – pashmina scarf
    – dresses (especially sun dresses which take no room, comfy & look nice!)
    – laundry soap bar (if away more than 7 days)
    – mini first aid kit (a snack sized zip lock bag with bandaids, immodium, gravol, antihistamine, Advil & Blistex).


  2. Have really enjoyed your packing blog, because I have already discovered many of these must haves, however a new one for me to try is the packing cubes! Thanks for the info Whitney!


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  4. Fantastic advices! I love long scarfs, too. I have thousand scarves. Last year I was in Africa. It was sooo hot that you could boil an egg in the street. I used my scarf to cover my head and hair. I didn`t have a hat. The scarf was my best option. A great option. Thank you for sharing your post. Best regards!


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