The Top 5 Series: Things I absolutely cannot travel without

Packing for a big trip is daunting. In fact, the only way that I’m able to attack the task is with a big glass of wine and the original “Jock Jams” CD. “LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE” launches me into action and helps to channel my Chi so that I can count out pairs of socks and decide whether SPF 50 or 75 is the way to go. Unfortunately, this approach often leads to a few accidental omissions and, like, 300 hair ties. I only need five, for the record.

I’ve been working on a “How to pack for six months in Southeast Asia” post since, well… the day that I left for SE Asia. That was seven months ago. As it turns out, writing about packing is just as painful as actually packing. I’ve tried motivational glasses of wine but yet I still only have a hand-written list of random items. I don’t plan to give up on the wine any time soon, but it’s time that I try a new approach. And so this is my attempt to “start small” and share with you the TOP 5 THINGS I CANNOT TRAVEL WITHOUT.


iPod Touch/Smart Phone

I decided to swap out my iPod Touch for a new Nano before my trip to Africa, and it was the biggest packing mistake that I’ve made. I didn’t realize how much I relied on the Touch while on the road; it was my alarm clock, tip calculator, currency converter, back-up camera, long-bus-trip entertainer, and more. While I have always chosen to leave my expensive phone at home, bringing a similar device is a must!DSC_7724



Apparently I like my flashlight to be nerdy-looking yet functional (this theme also occasionally creeps into my dating life, but that’s for another time). Whether looking for the porta-toilet at 3:00AM on the Inca Trail or trying to locate my pajama pants in the bottom of my bag while fellow hostel-dwellers tried to sleep, this thing is a life saver.DSC_7735



I was a late Kindle adopter and, after taking it on the road, I’ll never go back. It’s light-weight, compact, and can hold hundreds of books. No need to read the literary scraps left behind at your hostel or volunteer center; you can download a book on the history of Myanmar, a Greek Island Lonely Planet guide, or the final installment of the Grey trilogy (judge away). The world is at your fingertips.



Stuff Sacks

Perhaps the biggest rookie packing mistake that I made on my trip to Europe (in summer ‘06) was to purchase a top-loading backpack and simply shove all of my belongings inside. Every time I arrived at a destination, my bag exploded with clothes as I searched for the item that always seemed to be at the very bottom. Now, I have stuff sacks with a specific purpose:

  • Blue – Bottoms
  • Green – Tops, dresses
  • Red – Underwear, socks, bras
  • Lime Green – Misc. (Pajamas, bathing suits, etc.)
  • Mesh – Technology (Chargers, cords, adapter, etc.)

These things will save your sanity. I promise.



Hanging Toiletry Bag

Oh Cabella’s toiletry bag... How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. You can hang pretty much anywhere, have zippered sections, a visible pocket, and space for my makeup bag plus bathroom essentials. You are also extremely durable, which is to be expected of a product designed to be used while camping, hunting, and fishing. You, my friend, rock.DSC_7728


Bonus: Netbook 

What’s that you say? “Ali, I thought there were just five things that you cannot travel without. What is this talk of a bonus item?” Well, this is my blog and I’d like to award the “6th Man” distinction to my trusty Samsung netbook. The thing weighs under three pounds, fits into my purse, and was on sale for only $250. If it weren’t for that little guy, this site may not exist. Sure, I love me a nice Mac, but for a functional computer that doesn’t cost a small fortune, this is the way to go. DSC_7734

If you have an item that you refuse to leave home without, please share it in the comments section below. It’s always fun to take a peek into a fellow traveler’s backpack!


1 comment

    • Ben on April 26, 2016 at 9:13 pm
    • Reply

    Very helpful, especially the bit about the separate bags! Saves so much time…

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