As many of you know, I’ve spent months, if not years, living out of a backpack. By the end of my year-long RTW trip, I had gotten packing down to a science and could pack and repack in thirty seconds or less (thank you, packing cubes).
Which is why I wanted to make a list of my absolute favorite things to bring on a long-term trip. Some of these selections are controversial- for example, I prefer to check my bag rather than carry-on. (And even worse, I have a rolling backpack- the horror!)
But after many years of trial and error, I’ve found what works best for me. When I travel I prioritize both looks and comfort- let’s just say you’re more likely to find a pencil skirt in my bag than a roll of duct tape.
Without further ado, my top twelve travel essentials for long-term trips.
1. A Rolling Backpack
I absolutely love my Osprey 60L rolling bag. While in the past I used a traditional backpack, before my four-month Southeast Asia trip I upgraded (and yes I say upgraded) to a rolling bag.
I prefer a rolling bag mainly because it’s so much easier on my back. And plus, on my Asia trip I was also using a front-back for valuables and tech, and I had no interest in wearing two heavy bags at the same time.
I specifically love the Osprey rolling bag because it’s durable, easy to maneuver and attractive. Furthermore it does have backpack straps, so if you need to carry your bag you’ll be good to go.
Note- I actually own an older version of the bag linked- Osprey no longer makes the bag I have.
2. Packing Cubes
Packing cubes seem like one of those travel products everyone says you need but you really don’t. Newsflash- you do need packing cubes. They make packing and unpacking something that takes seconds rather than minutes, and overall keep your bag so much more organized.
I’ve used several brands of packing cubes, but my favorite kind are Eagle Creek– they’re super sleek, durable and surprisingly spacious.
3. Comfortable Flip Flops
When I’m traveling in tropical regions, I more or less live in flip flops. But I count flip flops as essentials no matter the weather- hostel showers can be sketchy in any part of the world.
Wearing my extremely comfy Reefs as usual.
I’ve worn Reef flip flops since I was 14 and swear by them- they mold to your feet and are so comfy.
4. An Eyemask
How do I love thee, eyemask? Let me count the ways.
With the help of an eyemask, I can fall asleep basically anywhere, including a noisy hostel common room in the middle of the day.
I used this extremely soft Lewis N. Clark mask on my year-long trip but still use it in my apartment in Denver. Frankly, now it’s hard to sleep without it. It’s the best $5 you’ll ever spend.
5. A High-SFP Sunscreen
I’m a nut about skincare as melanoma runs in my family and I don’t want wrinkles. But seriously, pack a good sunscreen- there’s nothing worse than a second-degree burn when you’re on vacation.
I use a facial sunscreen every single day called Eltamd SPF 40. It’s the only sunscreen I’ve ever found that doesn’t smell like sunscreen- it goes on just like lotion.
For my body, I swear by Sun Bum Continuous Spray. It smells like a Piña Colada so it just reminds me of vacation. The only downside is that it runs out fairly quickly.
Note- you will have to check the Sunbum sunscreen as it’s an aerosol. Also the Sunbum lipbalms are amazing too!
6. A (Preferrably Unlocked) Smart Phone
The first time I ever used a local SIM card was in Jordan quite recently (what is wrong with me?) but it was a total gamechanger. Having an unlocked smart phone allows you to use local SIM cards and use data anywhere in the world– perfect for fellow Instagram and Spotify addicts.
And even if you don’t need to use data, I’d recommend bringing a smart phone of some kind to check your email while using free wifi. It’s much more secure to connect on your own device than use a computer at a guesthouse.
7. Comfy Sweatpants and Hoodie
My friend Jen modeling my TenTree sweatpants on a hike in Boulder!
Somehow the one thing I always forget when I’m traveling is sweatpants. Sweatpants are the unsung hero of the travel clothing world, as they make long-travel days so much comfier. I rock them on everything from flights to bus rides and to cold nights camping.
The sweatpants above are a new favorite- they’re from TenTree, an environmentally friendly clothing brand that plants ten trees for every item purchased. So far they’ve planted more than 5 million trees around the world.
Also necessary for travel comfort- a great hoodie. I like hoodies because you can use them to comfortable press your face up against bus windows, and create your own cozy little cocoon.
8. A Kindle with 3G
If you’re a bookworm, having a Kindle is a lifesafer. I particularly like having a Kindle while living in France, as English-language books were hard to find and incredibly expensive.
A Kindle makes downloading English-language books painless and inexpensive all over the world.
I currently have the Kindle Voyage, a birthday gift from my bookworm father. It’s expensive but considering how much I use it, well worth it. Regardless of which Kindle you choose, I’d recommend buying one with 3G as you won’t have to rely on fickle wifi connections when abroad.
9. Lush Solid Shampoo
Like packing cubes, solid shampoo is another one of those products that seems unnecessary but actually works. For years, I shrugged off solid shampoo. Have you ever seen my super thick, tangly, color-treated hair?
But finally I gave in and now love Lush Solid Shampoo. It lathers up better than you’d think and is super compact. (Though frankly I hated the Lush solid conditioner and threw it out at after a few weeks.)
10. GoToob Refillable Containers
In addition to solid shampoo, I put my body gel, face wash and conditioner in these three-ounce GoToob refillable containers. So handy.
11. For the Ladies- Miscellaneous Girly Products
For ladies who like to look good when they travel, I recommend bringing cheap H&M costume jewelry, a BCBG bandage skirt, Mac Studio Fix (a lifesafer in humid Southeast Asia), Differin if you suffer from acne and Almay eye-makeup remover pads.
Oh, and possibly a Packtowl travel bathrobe– I’m obsessed with mine and use it at my apartment.
12. KIND Bars
One of my least favorite things when I travel is being stuck on a bus absolutely starved, without a snack in sight. Which is why I bring KIND bars traveling. They’re seriously delicious and healthy as they are a good source of both fiber and protein, and each bar has 5 grams of sugar or less.
My favorite KIND bar collection is the Nuts & Spices collection. My favorite flavors are the dark chocolate chili almond and dark chocolate nuts and sea salt, as I love anything spicy or salty.
13. You tell me! What’s your #1 favorite travel accessory?
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I will earn a small percentage if you purchase through these affiliate links at no extra cost to you. Eagle Creek provided me with these packing cubes for review but I had a set already, Kind sent over a box of their Nuts & Spices bars and TenTree provided me with a pair of sweatpants. As always, all opinions are my own.