Pack Like a Pro: 22 Essentials for Frequent Travelers

Posted By Trav
Packing List

Don’t be confused about what to pack. Grab these 22 essentials and head out!

I’ve done a lot of traveling over the last 3 years and to a range of different climates and locales.  But no matter where I go, there are some items that ALWAYS find their way in to my luggage.

Since I travel with just a carry-on 90% of the time, one of my main focuses is finding high quality items that don’t take up a lot of space.

If you’re schlepping around a huge checked bag, or heaven’s forbid two, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice.  Minimize your stuff and maximize your fun.

Behold, the 22 essential items that I always carry with me whenever I travel.


Packing List

Osprey Farpoint 70 with detachable daypack. The best travel pack out there!

Osprey Farpoint 70– The ULTIMATE pack for traveling.  It’s lightweight, roomy, durable and comes with an super handy 15 liter day pack (that can zip on to the main pack).  Also, the backpack straps can be stowed away and hidden so they don’t get caught.  While it’s “technically” too tall for carry-on dimensions, I’ve had it on over 30 flights (including with strict airlines like Air Asia and RyanAir) and never once had a problem.


Packing list

Dressy or casual, easy slip on and off…these Clark’s Fury Loafers can do it all!

Packing List

In hot climates, these sweat wicking boxer briefs are an absolute lifesaver!

Clark’s Fury shoes (men)– The perfect traveling shoe.  Easy to slip on and slip off for security checks, can be worn casually with shorts or to the nicest restaurants, and takes up very little space in your bag.

Adidas Climalite Boxer Briefs (men)- Traveling to a hot location? Cotton underwear just isn’t going to cut it! These will keep you dry all day and can be washed easily in the sink if need be.

1 pair of heavy socks– You never know when the temperature will drop.  If you’re feet are cold, so are you!

A few pair of lightweight socks– Nothing stays wet longer and gets grosser than heavy cotton socks.  Grab a few pairs of cotton/mesh/polyester hybrids and thank me later.

Rubber sandals- Wear them in the shower or wear them on the beach.  They’re super cheap and pack really easily.  Get a pair with a unique design (Go Gators!) and never have to wonder which pair is yours.

Sunglasses– If you’re traveling, it better be to somewhere sunny! I prefer cheapies from a roadside stand over expensive ones because I tend to break/lose/scratch them. 


Packing List

Monster Outlets to Go plus Travel Adapter. Want to charge your electronics? Don’t forget these!

Tripshell World Travel Adapter–  Don’t show up in a country unable to charge your electronics.  Grab this baby and be safe in over 150 countries.  Bonus: It’s got two USB ports to charge phones.

Monster Outlets to Go Power Strip– Provides four outlets and also folds up flat, which minimizes the space it takes up.  This means you only have to carry one universal travel adapter and you’ll have 4 plugs available!

EatSmart Digital Luggage Scale- Find out exactly how heavy your luggage is BEFORE getting to the airport.  At only 5.4 oz, this won’t be the reason you’re over!

Macbook Air 13 inch– Does everyone NEED a computer for traveling? Probably not, but if you do, there is nothing that comes close to the slim, light, and yet powerful Macbook Air.  As someone who used to carry around a 15″ Macbook Pro, my back thanks me now!

Headphones- You won’t make it through an international flight without a movie.  I use cheap, basic earbuds but if you’ve got the money, you might want to check out the Parrot Zik (a Gary Arndt favorite) or Bose QuietComfort 15.

iPhone– When trying to save space, nothing does a better job than substituting your old, bulky guidebooks for the convenience of an iPhone and the corresponding apps (if traveling Southeast Asia, I HIGHLY recommend Travelfish apps).  I also use this in lieu of a camera most of the time.

Book Light–  Perfect for when you can’t sleep and want to stay up all night reading your guidebook, planning your next day’s excursion (and those around you aren’t quite as excited)!


Packing List

Hearos Earplugs- Never leave home without ’em!

Hearos Earplugs– Drown out the crying baby on the plane or the late night parties on Khao San Road.

SleepMaster Eye Mask– Blinds not cutting out the early morning sun? Don these puppies and sleep for days!

Dramamine-  The quickest way to make it through a 10 hour international flight? A few Dramamine and a few choice beverages!

Miscellaneous Must Haves

Packtowl Ultralite- Dries quick and takes up no space.

Packtowl Ultralite- Dries quick and takes up no space.

PackTowl UltraLite quick drying towel– When I get home, this is the one item that never gets unpacked, and therefore, I never forget it.  Is soft, takes up almost no space and dries in a flash.  I’d recommend the XL size.  Absolutely essential.

Moleskin Pocket-sized Notebook and pen- There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting in line for a pen to fill out your customs form…to then wait in another line.  Slip your Moleskin out of your pocket and always be ready to write things down, from the address of your hotel to a recommendation from a local.

Laundry Bag-  Keep your dirty and clean clothes separate so when it comes time to do laundry you’re not stuck sniffing them all!  A simple plastic grocery or trash bag works well too.

Hand sanitizer, travel size– It’s a dirty world out there.

Baby wipes, travel pack– There’s nothing a baby wipe can’t do.

Now, it’s your turn.  What are some essential travel items you never leave home without?





  1. Ken says:

    Gators?!?! NOOOOO! Seminoles for life! :)

    1. Trav says:

      @Ken- My grandmom would roll over in her grave if I ever thought about cheering for the ‘Noles. Gator chomp!

      1. Nicolle says:

        Yessss, go Gators! I just found your blog. Love that you’re cheerin’ for the best team ;)

        1. Trav says:

          @Nicole- (Gator chomp)

          1. Mike says:

            Lets Go Canes!

  2. Jan says:

    I carry some inexpensive saline nasal spray and use it throughout flights. I read that you are more susceptible to infections if your nasal passages dry out, so this helps keep them normal in the dry atmosphere of a plane.

    1. Trav says:

      @Jan- That’s a great idea! I hate that dry feeling on planes, this is a great way to combat it. I’ll be adding that to my list for next time, thanks!

  3. Shar M. says:

    Thanks for sharing! I had no idea there was something like the EatSmart Digital Luggage Scale!! Definitely going to pick this up the next time we travel. So tired of guesstimating!

    1. Trav says:

      @Shar M.- Yeah, they are awesome! I’ve been wanting one for a long time, finally picked one up fairly recently. Works like a charm and is always within .1 kilos of the airport scale. And while it looks big and bulky in the pictures, it isn’t at all. And super light!

  4. MOM says:

    How many of these things did your mother buy for you?

    1. Trav says:

      @MOM- What’s a mom for other than to spoil her firstborn? I give you all the credit for buying me my Osprey pack. Best Christmas present ever (at least until you buy me that pet monkey I’ve always wanted)!

  5. benjamincahn says:

    SOAP. dove unscented in a travel case. great post!

    1. Trav says:

      @benjamincahn- Yeah, you’re right, I didn’t include any of my toiletries in the post. Mostly I have my wife bring her stuff and I just mooch of her. I usually only bring a small bottle of Gold Bond and toothbrush and she packs the rest. The perks of married life!

  6. laa@hotmail.com says:

    check out Go Ruck for a really good bag

    1. Trav says:

      @laa- I’ve heard about the Go Ruck bags before but never tried them out for myself. Do you have one? If so, what do you like about it?

  7. EggSS4 says:

    Cool piece – liked having an inside look at how one of the experts does the oft-overlooked portions of traveling!

    1. Trav says:

      @EggSS4- Glad you liked it! I’m always interested in what other people pack and special things they bring along to make travel easier and more convenient, so I figured I’d share some of my advice. I’m glad it helped.

      Do you have any essentials that you usually travel with?

      1. Sam says:

        OMG! yes, especially after hearing so many horror stories about H2o and food. I would definitely bring a few jugs of H2o on hand. As for meat unless you know for sure, DON’T EAT meat especially in Mexico. I really hopes this helps. Godspeed travels. :)

  8. Bill says:

    Good post. One thing I’ve recently added is a small roll of duct tape for emergency repairs (amazingly duct tape is TSA friendly).I also carry a small headlamp but I’m thinking of eliminating it because my smart phone can suffice in a pinch especially with a flash light app.

    1. Trav says:

      @Bill- Duct tape, not a bad idea at all. Surprised you can get it through TSA though!

      1. The Chapel Thrill says:

        duct tape wrapped around a water bottle is a classic camping trick. Works as a bandaid in a pinch.

        1. Trav says:

          @The Chapel Thrill- Wrapped around a water bottle? Why wrapped around? Lots of love for the duct tape though, better add it in next time!

          1. Ellie says:

            You can also wrap it around an old Blockbuster card, membership card (not an old CC but the same material.
            Packs much smaller.

            I also have 2 medical grade masks and 2 pr neoprene gloves packed + if in a place where food/water borne illness is a prob a cript of Cipro for the two of us.

            Check with your healthcare HMO/PPO – they have travel clinics where you can get not just your innoculations but country/region specific advice that can keep you out of the hospital!

            We also keep a small cheap umbrella or poncho just in case as we travel borderline rainy season to some great places

          2. Trav says:

            @Ellie- Great advice, thanks so much. Usually, I just buy an umbrella or poncho in country for like $2 so I don’t have to carry it around.

  9. Jason says:

    Duct tape is a great item to add. Some of the camping/hiking type stores sell a super small roll (about the size of a chap-stick) or you can make your own.

    Great to hear you are a Gator, and that some of the best bloggers (you, Seth, Ben) have that in common.

    1. Trav says:

      @Jason- Wow, duct tape that small, huh? That’s crazy! I’ll have to look in to that! Go Gators!

  10. Jason says:

    Oops, by make your own I didn’t mean make your own duct tape, rather you can take your full size roll of duct tape from home and wrap some around a pen or something (maybe even a toothpick would work).

    Here is an example of the travel size they sell at my local hiking store:

    1. Trav says:

      @Jason- That’s pretty cool. I’m definitely picking one up!

  11. litlfish18 says:

    My ears must be abnormally small because I have never been able to wear earplugs with my ears being sore in the morning or them just popping out once they start to expand. When I was planning for my stretch of the Camino, I knew ear plugs would be a must. That’s when I found these at Walgreens. I was skeptical at first that they weren’t any different from all the normal foam ear plugs, just colored pink and called “for women”. But the man at the counter assured me the were actually smaller to fit a woman’s ear better. So I bought them and set off for the Camino. They actually worked and I can usually wear them all night without any problems. So if you have tiny ears like me, these are a definite must!


    I also have a hard time finding earbud headphones but that’s still an ongoing trial… I’ll let you know when I find a pair that I just can’t leave home without!

    1. Trav says:

      @litlfish18- Awesome advice. Glad that we are able to help the small-eared women demographic of this blog! Thanks for the tip Gale. I’ll make sure to pack my headphones when I head out to do the Camino this summer.

    2. Margo says:

      litlfish18 – if you are still looking for earbud headphones, check out the discontinued Etymotics ER-6. I, too, have small inner ears and even worse, my ears hurt when I lie on them (I’m a side sleeper). I travel ‘across the pond’ often, and these have been lifesavers as I can sleep in them on my side without waking up to sharp pains in my ears. Be careful tho’ – they are not noise cancelling, but are noise isolating … meaning you won’t hear anything but whatever you put through the headphones. For me, this means a full night sleep when flying across the Atlantic, but you won’t hear the noise when they start serving breakfast ;). Ebay is the place to watch for them!

      1. Trav says:

        @Margo- Thanks so much for recommendation, I’m sure Gale (litlfish18), my twin, will love you for it!

  12. Stevie says:

    Hi there,

    I noticed that you have the Osprey Farpoint 70. I’m trying to avoid checking it in to AirAsia flights. You mentioned that you were able to bring it as a carry-on. How hard was it to accomplish that? I just don’t want to resort to paying the crazy baggage allowance fees they have at the counter…


    1. Ken says:

      AirAsia’s carryon rules are very strict. We flew them DMK-KUL a few weeks ago and were worried about our Farpoint 40 backpacks. No problem at all. And even though you’re only allowed 1 carryon per person we saw people carrying on 3-4 large bags that were all definitely over their tight requirements. But I’ve read some places are really strict, so it may be a crapshoot in the end. China originating flights seem to be a lot more strict than those from Bangkok.

    2. Trav says:

      @Stevie- Every time I fly Air Asia or a budget airline, I worry about that. But like I mentioned, I’ve done Air Asia at least 15 times with the bag and only once had a problem. And when I did have the problem, it wasn’t at the check in counter, it was actually at the security line trying to the gate. They guy told me it was too big and tried to make me check it. However, and maybe this is a bit rude, I just acted like I didn’t understand and walked through.

      Still, 1 out of 15 isn’t too bad.

      Some tricks I use:

      1. Always zip it up and carry it as a duffel bag. I think this makes them believe it’s much smaller than it is because you are carrying it so effortlessly (hide the strain on your face if you’ve packed it pretty heavy)!.

      2. When checking in at the counter, always put on the ground right near the check in counter so they can’t see it OR if you are traveling with someone else, have them check you in and stand with your bag away from the check in counter.

      3. Play it cool. When they ask if you have a checked bag, just say no. No need to say anymore.

      4. Put the daypack on your shoulder and like I said, put the main bag down on the ground when checking in. That way, they assume that your backpack is the thing you’re carrying on.

      That’s how I’ve been able to accomplish it. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but I’ve done it enough to know that it’s possible, even on Air Asia and Ryanair, the strictest of the strict.

      I do get nervous each time though, and so that’s why I’m considering downsizing to the Farpoint 55, which means the main backpack would be carry on size.

  13. Kevin says:

    2 essentials I like to travel with are 1 Space bags (travel size. They are great at compacting your clothes and saving tons of space. You just roll the air out and no vacuum needed. The second is a small spray bottle of Febreeze. It’s great spraying on your pillows when you end up at one of those hostels that is less then you expected. It’s also great to freshen up your jacket or hoodie.

    1. Trav says:

      @Kevin- Two AWESOME suggestions. I never even thought of Febreeze, but as Heather can attest, I need it! And the space bags are great, especially when bringing heavy jackets and sweaters.

      1. Margo says:

        I use the carry-on size space bag to bring my travel size My Pillow with me. I use it both on the plane (either to sleep or support my lumbar) and then to sleep with at my destination. They’re great!

        1. Trav says:

          @Margo- Another great suggestion!

  14. WiredBarb says:

    Just found your site — thanks for all the info & tips!

    I know you have used both the Tortuga backpack & the Osprey. Have you done a comparison between these two — the pros/cons side by side? Thank you!

    1. Trav says:

      @WiredBarb- I haven’t done a side by side comparison yet, no. I do use my Tortuga exclusively now, and my wife still uses her Osprey. I use the Tortuga (and actually now am using the Tortuga Air on this 3 month trip I’m on now) because it is carryon size, whereas the Osprey can pass for it, but isn’t actually carryon size legally (at least not the Waypoint 65 and the Farpoint 70, the ones we had).

      They are both good bags, but I am really happy with my Tortuga because of the fact that if push comes to shove, it is legally the right size. Plus, it forces me be more judicious with my packing.

  15. Jean Sibley says:

    Appreciate the great tips. Just back from Vietnam and took only the essentials in a backpack and a cross body purse. My additions to the list are Argentyn 23 and Chinese WO oil, very handy if you start getting sick (sore throat, diarrhea, cuts…).


    1. Trav says:

      @Jean Sibley- Great advice, we are always looking for new things to bring with us to combat getting sick. I’ll check them out!

  16. Shawn says:

    Great advice! When recently staying in Japan, I had trouble drying my wicking trousers, boxers and socks (after wringing and squeezing in a towel). The air conditioning did no dehumidify, the hair dryer didn’t ‘cut it’, and I could not hang items outdoors. Ideas? Thank you!

    1. Trav says:

      @Shawn- There isn’t much else you can do then. Just make sure you always pack the quickest drying clothes, but as you said, even with some of them, it takes a while. Better than jeans or something that stays wet for days though!

  17. Shelly says:

    I like to carry a small lysol spray for public restrooms and hotels. It just makes me feel better. It can also be used as mace. LOL :)

    1. Trav says:

      @Shelly- Now THAT’S a good idea!

  18. Lorelei says:

    I am trying to choose which MacBook is best for my foray into being a digital nomad. You listed an Air. Those do not come with an Ethernet port built-in. Do you find you need to hardwire your internet connection often? Thanks.

    1. Trav says:

      @Lorelei- Believe it or not, I’ve never ever had a situation where I needed the ethernet port. Almost everything is wireless now. I actually did buy an adapter though. One end plugs in the Air’s firewire port and the other end is an ethernet port, so if I do need to plug in, I can. It was like $15 at Radio Shack but I’m sure you can find them online.

      1. Katie says:

        My husband and I are heading to Thailand in December. We will be doing some island hopping and snorkeling tours etc. Can you recommend a good waterproof bag or something that we can use to carry our money, phone, and other necessities
        when in the water or on the beach and not have to worry about getting things wet or leaving our valuables unattended.

        1. Trav says:

          @Katie- Great question, and I actually just got one of these for the first time a few months ago, and it rocks. Unfortunately, I got it as a gift from the Bern tourism board, so I didn’t have to buy it and don’t know the brand.

          However, it looks exactly like this one and since that’s the #1 bag on Amazon, I don’t think you can go wrong there (and it’s a great price too!)

  19. Peta says:

    I always take a hockey strap in my bag. It has multiple uses, but most often it makes a great emergency clothes line.

    1. Trav says:

      @Peta – A hockey strap? What is that?

  20. Christi says:

    One thing I packed once just on a whim and turned out to be one of my most valuable items on my trip was a bandana. I was able to use it as a wash cloth, a hand towel, a hair tie, a sweat rag, a handkerchief, and a cover for my nose and mouth when caught in a nasty dust storm. It can also be used as a tourniquet in an emergency sitation.

    I also never travel without my Anker external charger. It can recharge my iPhone completely 3-4 times over before it needs to be recharged. It can also charge bigger items like iPads. It has two USB ports so you can charge 2 things at once. When you use your phone for your guide book, and your GPS, and your pocket translator, and your camera, it can drain the battery real fast. My Anker has been my life saver.

    1. Trav says:

      @Christi- A bandana is a great idea (I first read that as banana and then laughed out loud when I realized I read it wrong!). I would recommend a “buff” too – the same thing they use on Survivor. It can be soooo handy for so many things.

      I find the Anker external batteries to be pretty bulky though. Have you found a good, lightweight one?

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