What are the essential travel items you need to pack on every trip? We investigate and share a list of 21 Travel Necessities that travelers typically bring on every trip. These include good-quality luggage, a decent set of headphones, and a portable power charger. Oh, and a face mask – for now anyway!
Popular Travel Necessities – the essentials when traveling
This article contains a list of 21 travel necessities we feel travelers should pack with them on almost every trip they take. We say “almost every trip” because there are a few items that are situational in nature (e.g. if you are not traveling internationally you don’t need an international travel adapter, or if you are not traveling where it is raining you can leave the travel umbrella at home).
- Note: this post has been updated to include a few key items you will need to travel safely in today’s unique travel environment
The criteria for inclusion were simple: is this something that is actually a travel necessity, something that you will use on almost every trip you take. Items that are self-evident like your toothbrush or clothes, etc, were excluded.
Lastly, the items are ranked in loose order of priority. Meaning, travelers could focus on just the top 10 if they wanted to.
Note: we intentionally excluded your phone from our travel necessities list as we assume everyone’s got one and would be taking it with you traveling anyway.
Travel Necessities List – a summary of what to pack on your trip
Before we dig into the details of our list of travel necessities, here’s a quick summary (feel free to use this as a packing list!).
- Good Quality Carry On Suitcase
- Hard Case Large Suitcase for extended trips
- Backpack or Travel Handbag
- Hygiene Kit for Travel
- Portable Charger
- Apple iPad or Tablet
- Portable Travel Surge Protector
- High Quality Wireless Headphones
- Travel First Aid Kit
- Laptop Privacy Screen
- International Travel Adapter
- Sewing Kit
- Backup Wired Headphones
- Cord Organizer
- Travel Water Bottle
- Travel Hand Sanitizer
- Travel Wet Wipes
- Travel Umbrella
- AC Mounted Magnetic Cell Phone Holder
- Travel Credit Card – for your preferred hotel
- Travel Credit Card – general card to maximize your points
- Optional: A travel sized thermometer, which might come in handy as we start traveling again.
- Recommended: a face covering, which is sadly the newest travel accessory in today’s world.
Best Travel Necessities – these are the essentials when traveling
The sections below provide a more detailed explanation of why we think these are the 21 Travel Necessities travelers will find themselves wanting or using while traveling. We’ve also included a section at the very end that offers a few less-than-essential items that travelers still might find interesting and worth packing (although they are certainly not essentials).
Quality Carry On Suitcase – a top travel necessity
First on our list is a good quality carry-on suitcase. It might be tempting to go cheap here, but experience suggests that investing in a decent to maybe excellent carry on is worth every penny. These days, we recommend a 4-wheeled spinner, and preferably a soft-sided bag. For example, the TravelPro Crew 11 21″ is one of our favorites (read our review here).
The more affordable TravelPro Maxlite 5 is also an admirable entry and works quite well at a much more affordable entry point.
Hard Case Large Suitcase for extended trips
I rarely check a bag. And I mean rarely. But, occasionally it does make sense to do so, particularly on long or extended trips and/or if you are traveling internationally. While you may not use this piece of luggage on every trip it will be a necessity for those longer ones. Consider the Briggs & Riley Sympatico, which isn’t cheap, but is a strong choice for quality hard case luggage.
For many years I used a rolling Samsonite briefcase as my 2nd carry-on. However, after spending significant time in NYC on business travel I quickly realized that wasn’t going to work anymore (ever tried rolling anything on busy city streets??). I then switched to the Ogio Metro (which was an excellent backpack for many years).
However, I stumbled across the Knack Bag which has now become my go-to travel backpack for every trip. This creative and expandable backpack allows me to easily travel with all of my travel essentials and it expands if I need to toss in a day or two of clothing. This bag isn’t perfect (read my review), but it’s darn close.
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If a more stylish laptop purse is your preference, there are many options to choose from including this Laptop Bag from EaseGive.
The civilian word for this is Toiletries Kit, but as a Marine, I have the phrase “hygiene kit” ingrained in my brain housing group (another USMC term…for the head). Whatever you call it, investing in a bag that you can store your toiletries in and then easily use is one of those travel necessities you can’t get around. It’s ok to splurge a little here.
For men, a simple leather kit often does the trick. For example, the Alpine Swiss Sedona is a perfectly sized bag that easily fits all of your toiletries.
Women may choose to go in a different direction and one travel toiletry kit that’s very popular with female travelers is the BagSmart Hanging Toiletry Kit:
Always be charging. That’s one of our top rules for travel and that means having a portable charger in your travel kit. We’ve reviewed the Anker PowerCore 20100 and we think it’s pretty swell, but we also like the Anker PowerCore Essential 20000 which we are currently reviewing. It’s pictured below:
Fighting those bouts of travel boredom is often done by downloading your favorite TV shows or movies and binge-watching them on the flight or while you wait at the airport. While many airlines have in-seat entertainment, the trend is moving heavily towards app-based entertainment systems where you bring your own device. And sure, you can use your phone, but why not make that screen a little bigger and use an iPad. I never travel anywhere without my IPad.
If you’re not an Apple fan, there are many great Android tablet choices or even an Amazon Fire including:
You never know when you might need an extra few feet to get to a plug. As a business traveler, I’ve learned over the years to bring a travel-size extension cord / surge protector everywhere. You just never know what kind of set the customer might have or where you might get stuck sitting at the airport.
As a leisure traveler, I’ve also found this to be exceptionally helpful and bring it on every trip now (business or pleasure!). This is one of those traveler’s essentials that you will come to appreciate. Trust me.
My personal favorite (and highly recommended) is the UPAWADE Mini, pictured below:
I don’t go anywhere without my wireless Beats Solo 3 Headphones (you can read my review here). I recommend all travelers invest in some decent, if not excellent wireless headphones. Certainly, the Beats Solo 3’s are popular, but the Bose Quiet Comfort 35 II’s are even better.
Travel First Aid Kit
This travel necessity is less about actually buying a travel first aid kid (which you can do) and more about building your personal medical kit. For example, I always travel with a few band-aids, some Aleve, some Tylenol PM, some Dayquil, fingernail clippers, tweezers, etc. Whatever your first aid kit is, be sure to bring it, and replenish it from time to time.
As we discuss in our 7 Cyber Security Tips for Travelers article, there are prying eyes everywhere and a Laptop Privacy Screen is a travel necessity, especially for business travelers. The best laptop privacy screen filters on the market today are those made by 3M including the 3M Gold Privacy Filter.
If you are doing international travel then bringing an International Travel Power Adapter is a travel necessity you simply can’t live without. There are a plethora of options available, but my personal favorite is this highly regarded MINGTONG Travel Adapter which covers around 150 countries.
Busted seam? Broken button. Never happens when you want it to and if you have this travel necessity you are home-free. I always, always, always carry a small sewing kit with me on every trip.
Most wireless headphones come with a corded attachment (which I also bring with me in case I need it), but I’ve learned over the years to bring a cheap corded set of headphones in case I damage, break or lose my main pair. There are lots of options to choose from here, but these, pictured below, are just fine:
Spaghetti. That’s what your travel bag can easily become if you don’t get serious about your cords. I fought this for years, but ultimately my travel cord organizer is now part of my travel necessities kit. Here’s one option from Jelly Comb:
Staying hydrated while traveling is a crucial part of staying healthy on your trip. But, rather than spend $6 on bottled water at the airport, invest in a collapsible travel water bottle. For our money, the Nomader, pictured below, is the way to go (read our review here).
And be sure to stay away from the Baiji Water Bottle which is junk.
Get sick anyone? Yeah, no thanks. Travel sized hand sanitizer is a travel must-have these days. Bathe in it if you have to…
I now consider this item a travel necessity and carry a small pack of disposable wet wipe with me on every trip. Handy to wipe down a tray table or as a solution to rough sandpaper grade toilet paper.
This is an item I don’t always bring with me unless it’s the time of year when rain is common. Then it goes in the bag every time.
This tiny, but incredibly useful travel gadget goes in my bag every trip. When I rent a car this little bugger helps me use my phone’s nav instead of having it thrashing about on the floor after having fallen off my seat.
Travel Credit Card – for your preferred hotel
We love our points, miles, and rewards here at the CBoardingGroup and one of the basic elements of this game is to use credit cards that maximize your point value. This means getting a hotel credit card associated with your hotel program of choice.
For example, I prefer to stay at Hilton’s (been a diamond for years) so I personally hold onto (and use) Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card which helps your earn some serious points when you use it (12x on top of any other bonuses you earn for your Hilton Status)
And although I rarely stay at Marriott Properties I do own the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Visa Signature Credit Card which can help you earn points faster when you stay at Marriott properties.
Travel Credit Card – general card to maximize your points
In addition to having a credit card for hotel points, it’s highly recommended that travelers include a more general travel credit card which you can use across various travel rewards platforms.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card is one of the best overall travel credit cards you can get your hands on and is highly recommended for business and leisure travelers.
Some Nice to Haves (but definitely not travel necessities)
The following items are definitely not traveling necessities but they are certainly quite nice to have.
- Luggage Tags (customized or creative is always nice)
- Portable Travel-Sized Disinfectant (ok this one might be an airplane necessity or travel necessity at this point)
- Travel Pillow – the Trtl Pillow Plus is clever
How about you? What’s your favorite travel item or gadget that you prefer to get or bring with you? Maybe it’s not mandatory…just a luxury…but you always pack it!
Thanks and safe traveling out there
We hope you enjoyed our list of airplane necessities you’re going to want to pack for every trip. Be sure to check out these useful tips and travel gear reviews:
- 147 Business Travel Tips
- 31 Amazing Hotel Hacks
- 11 Best Hotel Beds
- Best Hotel Pillows
- Must Have Road Trip Gadgets
- Best Travel Purses
- Best Travel Games
- Best Packing Cubes
- Outdoor Water Toys
- TSA Food Rules
- Buy Travel Toiletries in Bulk
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