5 Travel Packing List Essentials

Traveling always requires some level of “strategic planning” when it comes to packing for your trip. Whether you’re meandering about a city, relaxing on a beach, or hiking in the mountains, the items in your suitcase vary. Regardless of my destination, there are always 5 items that are always on my packing list.


1. Extra Underwear

Hasn’t your dad ever told you to pack extra underwear? …Please tell me it wasn’t just mine. If my vacation is 7 days, I’ll bring 9. You never know what will happen, or maybe you just want fresh underwear for a nice dinner after a long hike at a national park. Plus, they don’t take up too much precious cargo space. Cram them in somewhere!

Side note: As I’m writing this, I mentioned this portion to my father. He chuckled saying, “You never know what will happen. Oh, and bring extra socks, too.” There you have it; bonus tip included. No extra charge.


2. GIANT novel, or 2-3 small ones

Packing List

I’m a HUGE reader, so books are always on my packing list for the flights (and airport). I’ll bring something that is typically Harry Potter sized (the 6th or 7th book, not first little three!), and will definitely finish it before I get home. If I’m only on a rather short flight: 3 hours or less, I’ll bring a few smaller books to choose from. (Coming from this book nerd, may honestly equal the same amount of reading as a large book.)


3. Shoes for every occasion

packing list


Right now all the minimalists and [fabulous] carry-on packers are screaming at me right now. Hear me out! I’ll take one pair of shoes for walking (either sneakers or a more casual pair), boots OR comfy flip flops depending on the destination, and a pair of fancy shoes, which can be sandals or heels. Really, at most 3 pairs of shoes, and I wear one.


4. Plastic bags

By plastic bags, I specifically use the ones you get from grocery shopping. They’re free, and I typically don’t need anything fancy for this. I put my shoes in plastic bags so as to not dirty the inside of my suitcase or other clothes. Sometimes I’ll use plastic bags to separate dirty laundry or use as extra “cushion” for fragile souvenirs.


5. Medicine

The last item, but not least, on my packing list is medicine. This is probably one of top 3 most important items (besides the obvious cash, ID, and passport.) Besides any prescription pills, bring Tylenol/Ibuprofen to help with headaches/small pains, and other medicine to help with upset stomach, nausea, diarrhea. Seriously, you don’t want to be stuck MISERABLE on your vacation! This is something I always remember my parents packing for every vacation, since I was four years old. Naturally, I inherited this habit for my own travels. Fortunately, I’ve also never had to use them. Better to be safe than sorry!


What are some items that are consistent on YOUR packing list?


5 Travel packing list essentials


  1. I am with your dad on the extra underwear!
    I always seem to forget the plastic bags and I always seem to need them later. Thanks for the reminder as I am packing for a trip now. 😉

  2. Lynda

    I try to bring snacks and phone charger in the carry on. These two items are vital on layovers and weather related delayed flights. Plastic bag…very frustrating when you forget.

  3. Aunt Susan

    Great list!! Instead of books, I would bring my knitting. And depending on where I was going, I would bring toilet paper. I have been places in Russia and India that did not have any.

  4. I am so with you on the books! I know I could buy a kindle and take up way less space, but I like real books, and get very nervous when I don’t have a least one extra in case I finish my current read.

  5. I carry my Kindle everywhere because I can have 100s of books to read – I’m also a voracious reader – and it’s so much lighter than printed books. I’m with you on the other things but not the shoes – I only ever take two pairs and the second is only in case the first get broken. I’m not one of those girls with a thing for shoes – comfort is all I care about!

  6. I bring extra socks for the plane ride and I am with you on the garbage bags for shoes so nothing in the suitcase gets dirty.

    I also bring my s’well bottle to fill with water or tea depending!
    Great list!

  7. Yep, totally agree on these. I remember lugging around Shantaram for a good 6 months without actually reading more than a quarter of it. I also totally agree with the plastic bags, they are so damn handy – especially for shoes, wet bikinis, dirty clothes etc. !

  8. kelly

    I am the worst with the medicine. I always forget to top off my perscrpitions before I leave and then almost run out. Maybe this trip will be different!! Lol. Thanks for being so helpful!!!

  9. Hahahaha…. Your Dad is so cool. My husband is a big believer in packing extra underwear and extra socks. He always grumbles that though the number of items that I pack may be more they occupy less space. The advantage of being a small framed Asian girl!

  10. I’m with you on everything but the shoes. I usually only pack two pairs, a regular pair I’ll wear most of the time, for both day walking and evening, and perhaps one more pair, in hot places a light deck shoe or similar, or for a winter destination, my snow boots or such. That’s it. But hell yes on the extra underwear, and the other essentials I’m with you!!

  11. I thought I would never switch to a kindle from paper, but once I did, I never looked back. I have at least 10 books loaded and ready to read at any given time. The backlight is especially helpful when you don’t want to turn on a reading lamp.

  12. Really great tips! I also never travel without medicine. Depending on where you go, you might not know what you will and won’t have access to. I used to bring a nicer pair of shoes with me, but I have stopped bringing any heels with me when travelling within Europe.

  13. Haha.. I love how you start your list with the extra underwear! So true!! After learning it the hard way, another item I always carry is a toothpaste. Believe it or not, it is not a given item in all hotels and can be difficult to find in a few cities/islands!!

  14. I do the extra underwear thing too! I count the number of days I’ll be gone, add two and then pack that many. I like to do laundry right before so I can pack my favorite most comfy ones because I know I’ll be on a plane and such.

  15. I so do the underwear thing too. I also always bering my rain jacket/good for anything coat. Its like my survival item, I even have a mini flashlight attached to the pocket for a random emergency situation I will probably never be in.

  16. I always do the book thing too! Or buy a bunch when travelling, refuse to throw them away and then wonder why my luggage is so heavy… and definitely agree on the extra underwear front too.

  17. The shoes! I do the same. I bring one fancy pair that will go with anything – I rarely wear it, but I’ve got it for when the need arises. The book is a must, because there is still nothing like holding words in your hands. I’d add rubber bands (or velcro strips) and binder clips. Both come in handy in random situations.

  18. Hah I love your mention of books. I’ve been carrying around the 1,200 page Infinite Jest on three trips now, and have been so intimidated by it that I haven’t started reading it yet…it’s just uselessly taking up space in my pack. Several smaller books seems like a good solution!

  19. Great list. Plastic bags and extra undies are a must. I’m not one for packing a lot of shoes tho as I like to travel light. If I am flying I try to keep it at 2 pairs. If I am traveling by car tho, that is a different story.

  20. Yes to the extra underwear and plastic bags. As for books… lately I’ve just been downloading pdfs onto my iPad or laptop because books are kind of too heavy to carry for me and I usually don’t end up reading that much when I travel.

  21. Sarah

    Really great advice. Instead of carrying a paperback, I usually download a few eBooks on my tablet before I go to save space. Absolutely love the tips on bringing extra pairs of undies though. We’ve even had to do our laundry in the sink on occasion!

  22. Rhonda

    I always travel with my Kindle. I add plastic freezer bags that zip closed in quart and gallon. They keep everything from my Kindle and phone dry to my wet bathing suit separate and keep any liquids from spilling.

  23. Agree with the extra underwear and the plastic bags – so useful! I used to lug around huge books but stopped once I ran out of room in my luggage after buying too many souvenirs and I had to leave my books at the hotel. Sacrilege. Now I take my Kindle instead!

  24. I also pack along a bunch of plastic bags. They’re great for storing those sandy shoes to to keep clothes clean and come in handy too if you need to pack your souvenir wine bottles securely. 🙂

    One thing about shoes though, patent leather doesn’t like plastic… For patent on jelly shoes (like Melissa) I opt for old pillow cases.

  25. I definitely agree with you about the underwear and shoes. My family hollers at me, because my bag is larger and overstuffed, but I explain to them that everything in there is necessary to me having a less stressful trip! Thanks for confirming what I already suspected!

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