My 16 Travel Essentials

I have spent years tweaking and attempting to perfect my packing skills so that I have all the things I need when I travel. After 20 plus years I can say that I am STILL working on that perfect part but I am getting better all the time. Friends often ask what things I bring on all trips. All trips are not the same of course, but I do find myself bringing many of the same core items on almost every trip. My travel essentials may seem obvious but some may be things you haven’t thought of. Either way, I hope this list is helpful!

#1 Head Torch

Um, “I’m not going out into the wilderness where there isn’t electricity”, you may be thinking. Ok fine. I do tend to travel to more places with sketchy infrastructure than the average traveler, but you just never know, do you? What if the power fails? What if you are lost at night and your cell phone dies? At an eco-resort desert camp? Have you ever had to rummage through your toiletries in a dark hotel bathroom? It’s not fun my friends. These things have all happened to me and I will never be without light again! This one is tiny, light and inexpensive so just throw it in your bag in an easy to access place (and bring extra AAA batteries). You will thank me someday.

So you think you don't need a torch? What if the power fails? Have you ever had to rummage through your toiletries in a dark hotel bathroom? It's not fun my friends. Read these and other tips for travel essentials! Click To Tweet

#2 Power Bank

I have been in many places where my phone ran out of battery at the MOST inconvenient time. Either when I’m late and waiting for an uber or looking at the map when I’m lost or trying to use it as a flashlight when I didn’t actually have a real flashlight. I’ve had battery packs die or break. NEVER AGAIN! A battery pack needs to be strong and reliable. It needs to be there for you. It’s not cheap but neither is your peace of mind. There are two options here. The smaller one may be better for men who wish to carry in a pocket and the larger if you have a bag for it. The larger one will give you almost 3 times as much charge.

#3 Comfortable Walking Shoes

As a previous Miami- girl -5-inch -stiletto -heel- junkie it almost pains my mouth to say the words “sensible shoes,” but for travel, there is no compromise. Ok, maybe a little compromise because I still want to look slightly cute while being comfortable. It’s always a struggle to find the perfect travel shoes and knowing the ideal number of shoes to bring. Shoes are heavy and bulky and should truly be minimized for those who value packing light. Here are two I bring on practically every trip. The exception would be a hiking trip or winter weather trip where I would have different shoes.

For sandals, I swear by the Born brand and have now used several types of their sandals. This was one of my faves because it actually looks like a normal stylish sandal. The bottoms are super cushy and a tad rugged. I can actually hike in these, or walk all over the city OR even take to the beach. Versatility baby.

My other basic “do everything” shoe is the Chuck Taylor All Star Low Top. They are light, flat (easily packable) and they truly go with anything. I can wear them with jeans, dresses, shorts and even hike in them if it’s not crazy hard-core hiking.

After many months of travel on several continents, I can honestly say I have never had a blister from these shoes. Enough said.

#4 Warm Fleece Jacket

There really is nowhere I’ve gone where I didn’t want to have this. Having something warm and cozy is needed in all places. Even warm-weather places sometimes have a slight breeze at night or maybe too much AC indoors. I like to have this when I’m cold on an airplane or just when I need something soft and comforting to put on.

#5 Travel Pants

These are technically hiking pants but oh so much more. They are a travel essential…my “everything” pants, if you will. After 4 years they have not faded, torn, so much as talked back to me whatsoever and I put them through hell. They are lightweight and will dry in just hours. These are comfy on the plane but can also look good when dressed up a bit for dinner. I love that they don’t look like hiking pants. Look back at all my photos and these will feature prominently.

These magic pants are the Patagonia Quandary Womens Hiking Pant

#6 Tripod

I realize this may not seem like a travel essential but for a solo traveler who wants nice photos of themselves actually IN the photo, it’s kind of a must. A huge pain in the ass, but a must.

#7 Noise Cancelling Headphones

From blocking out screaming babies, drowning out your partner’s snores or fighting off boredom on long journeys with the ability to listen to a book, to music or watch a show on your device, I would consider headphones a travel necessity. I’ve used these for years and they require charging every now and then but I love them and they have been Cherene proof ( I tend to destroy things).

#8 Laundry Detergent Sheets

I always wash clothing in the sink when I travel. This is how I’m able to pack light and reuse items. These detergent sheets are a godsend. They are literally pieces of paper made from compressed powder detergent. Light, packable and eco-friendly. No more messing around with liquids that you have to fight with TSA about or using wasteful individually packed detergents. I just grab a few of these sheets, tear them into smaller sizes and put them in a little pouch. They take up a few cms of space and weigh next to nothing.

#9 Skin Care Regimen

My friends, family, and coworkers all know what a skincare nazi I am. I have a profound and legit fear of aging and will fight it every step of the way. I refuse to give my skin a vacation from my anti-aging regimen and have figured out how to take my crazy skincare show on the road.

Rx Genesys products were created by a plastic surgeon in Miami using stem cell DNA technology to literally rebuild your skin to fill in wrinkles. They are cruelty-free and easily refillable from the bigger bottles in the non-travel sized set so eco-friendly as well. I have used these products for over 3 years now. Not to mention, one of the most reasonably priced medical-grade skincare lines on the market.

If you want more skincare travel tips, I got plenty!

#10 Sunscreen

Arguably THE most important thing that I take anywhere is sunscreen. Part of my intense anti-aging efforts (a huge part) involves fighting further aging with sunscreen. Yes, the sun is our skin’s biggest enemy. Don’t even get me started. This sunscreen is reef-safe and is an elegant formulation with a high percentage of powerful UVA and UVB blocking zinc oxide, an ingredient that is second to none when choosing a sunscreen.

#11 Eye De-Puffer

That is not the true product name but that’s what I call it. Say goodbye to puffy travel eyes. This has been a staple for me for many years and I have friends swearing by it. I don’t know what I’d do without it. Look very tired I suppose!

#12 Rain Parka

I’m not sure where in the world there are places with 0% chance of rain (please tell me) but it seems like everywhere I go has rain as a possibility so I like to be ready. I also resent when an annoying item like a rain parka has to take up precious cargo space in my luggage so I looked for the lightest least offensive one out there. This isn’t going to win any fashion awards but it helps in a pinch AND it comes

#13 Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are a life-changing travel essential. I only started using them 4 years ago and packing has been so much easier, I’m much more organized PLUS I can fit more. It doesn’t matter whether you are using a backpack, a suitcase or duffel bag. These will help you!

#14 Tote Bag

This is another indispensable item. I have this Longchamp Pliage Tote in two sizes and two colors. It easily folds up into an envelope and is handy to pull out when you need a shopping bag, a beach bag or an extra bag to carry things you bought when you fly home. I also use it as a day bag to hold my camera and bigger items when I don’t want to carry a backpack. The nylon is fairly indestructible and the whole thing can be tossed in the washing machine.

#15 Carry-On Luggage

This is the most basic travel essential. What bag to carry all my crap in? Well, “Little Blue” here (my affectionate nickname for my beloved Travelpro Maxlite 4 suitcase) has been through thick and thin with me, has suffered much abuse and is still there for me, ready for more. I use this bag almost exclusively since it is an international sized carry on and aside from budget airlines with super strict weight limits, this fits all airline’s size requirements.

#16 Filter Water Bottle

I love this easy to use Grayl water bottle that makes virtually any water in the world drinkable. This filter removes 99.9999% of viruses, bacteria and protozoa. It filters sediment, many chemicals and heavy metals (e.g. lead, arsenic), eliminates bad odors and improves flavor. Bye Bye plastic bottles.

I hope some of these items will become your travel essentials? What items are must-haves for you? Please share in the comments!

Need more packing tips? Read how I packed for 3 months in Southeast Asia in a carry-on! Yes it can be done!

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About The Author

Cherene Saradar

Cherene is a travel expert with 30 years of experience in over 100 countries and 7 continents. She has traveled solo to over 50 countries. She is also a nurse anesthesiologist with over 20 years of healthcare experience. Her passions include wildlife travel and visiting wine regions of the world.


  1. Frans | 1st Dec 20

    Great list! Planning to add these things to my to-bring list when traveling.

    • csaradar | 17th Mar 21

      Glad you found it helpful!

  2. toddco | 25th May 20

    Good list! I’ve always decided to carry a mini keychain sized flashlight (“torch”), but now my phone takes that role. I only bring it when I think it’s a trip where my battery might be strained.
    Cheers from !

    • csaradar | 11th Jun 20

      I feel like my battery is always strained when I travel!

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