My Travel Packing Essentials

I am lucky to travel often enough that I usually keep a bag half-packed with the essentials I might need for any trip, long or small, warm- or cool-weather destination, city break or nature time. Over the years, I've built up a collection of trusted travel items that usually feature on my packing lists, which I'm sharing with you here. I use all of them regularly and can personally recommend them all. There are no affiliate links below but in a few cases, I've listed a referral link or code, which means you can get a discount or other offer if you make a purchase (I also get a discount).

Luggage and bags I travel with

Carry-on suitcase: Away, The Carry On. After using a Rimowa carry-on for almost a decade, I made the switch to Away's The Carry On when a very Bex teal colour became available. It's small, light, easy to steer and pick up and has lots of pockets and other thoughtfully designed features. I take it on most trips from four days to two weeks long and everything fits in fine thanks to the built-in compression. We both get £20 if you sign up using my referral link.

Personal item / backpack: Patagonia Refugio Daypack 26L. This multitasking hero was my daypack on the Inca Trail and it often features as my long weekend bag and my personal item on planes (I try not to overfill it in this case). There are lots of pockets and compartments, making it easy to stay organised, and it is still in great condition five years after I bought it. I'm a petite 5'3 woman and the size is ideal for me, while the padded back and straps make it very comfortable. 

Handbag / day bag: Longchamp Le Pliage. I've been a fan of Longchamp's Le Pliage bags for almost 20 years. Lightweight, water resistant and stylish — and now with two interior pockets as well as a top zip — they are a great option for travel. I usually get the medium shoulder bag version with long straps, which is big enough for the day's essentials without encouraging overfilling. Mine usually last 6–7 years of constant use (and abuse).

Back-up bag: Baggu. I usually throw a Baby Baggu or two into my luggage for grocery store trips and afternoons at the beach.

My travel tech essentials

Phone: iPhone 15 Pro. Because of course. 

Power bank: Anker. I keep my phone and other devices charged on the go with an Anker power bank: either the PowerCore 5K or the 10K version depending on trip location and style. I get most of my cables from Anker too and their 65W charger will even charge my MacBook Pro (in the UK) so I can leave my bulky Apple charger at home. You can get 10% off Anker products if you use my referral link.

eSIM: Airalo. I started looking into eSIMs after my mobile phone provider stopped offering free data roaming. With an eSIM ('embedded SIM'), instead of having a physical SIM card, you add the information to your phone digitally, usually by scanning a QR code. This solved two issues for me: 1) it's more secure (no need to hand over your phone to get the new SIM installed) and 2) you can keep your existing SIM in the phone and still get calls and messages to your old number without being charged for data roaming (NB you'll need to set this up carefully but most eSIM companies have how to-guides).

I've used Airalo so far in Indonesia, Malaysia, Greece and Portugal and had a very good experience. Yes, local physical SIMs tend to be cheaper but aren't as convenient. You can also buy regional eSIMs, which are helpful if you are travelling to multiple countries within Asia, say. I usually purchase the SIM from the Airalo app at home and then activate it on arrival at my destination. We both get $3 if you sign up using my referral code, REBECC3024.

Laptop / tablet: MacBook Pro 13", iPad Mini and/or Kindle Paperwhite. Depending on the length and nature of my trip, I usually take some combination of these devices. I love my Kindle but I find the additional functionality of the iPad Mini much more useful for travel, especially if I don't have my personal laptop with me.

Other Apple tech: Apple Watch, AirPods and AirTag. I have an Apple Watch Series 5, which is nearly four years old and still going strong. It's particularly good for travel when I need to check a notification and don't want to get my phone out. I have the original AirPods, bought with the help of Kanye West (!) in DC in 2018, which fit my ears well and still sound great. I keep an AirTag in my suitcase so that I can keep an eye on its adventures via the Find My app. It usually has more fun than I do!

Headphones: Bose Quiet Comfort 35. These over-ear noise-cancelling headphones may be the best thing I've ever bought from a vending machine (thank you, Austin Airport). The name sums them up perfectly: they are incredibly comfortable, even after long time periods, and have excellent active noise cancellation — of background plane noise and other more shouty/slammy and less droney noises. I always sleep better on planes wearing these and I even sleep them in bed when needs must. There are newer versions available but it's worth doing your own research on this because some people prefer the originals.

Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III (pictured below), my primary camera, and one I would highly recommend for its combination of excellent image quality and compact size. You can still find it online, but Olympus is now OM System and the OM-5 is the new version. I usually use it with the 12-45 mm F4 PRO compact zoom lens and the 20 mm F1.4 PRO prime lens (pictured below). I also still take many photos on my excellent compact Canon G7 X Mark II and my iPhone 12 Pro.

I used the Nikon Coolpix W300 as my underwater camera but it broke in Madeira after nine years of use. I replaced it with OM System's Tough TG-7, which I used for the first time in Thailand in late 2023, and I was impressed with the image quality during my snorkelling expeditions around Ko Rok, Ko Haa and Ko Phi Phi.

As a solo traveller, I often take my own photos of myself. The best tripod is the one you have with you. That's why I always carry the excellent credit-card-sized Pocket Tripod in my wallet. It's easy to use and comes with a set of adapters that work with (almost any) smartphone.

Other travel essentials

Passport and other travel documents. I use a small zip pouch to hold my passport, yellow fever certificate and copies of other essential documents. I used to use a passport case but with the frequency of my travels, the embossing started to rub off way too quickly. Read about my fast-track UK passport renewal experience — and ten favourite travel experiences from my previous passport.

Money. I use my Monzo bank account both in the UK and while travelling. I like getting instant transaction and balance updates in the app but the main benefit for me is being able to use my debit card abroad without a fee from Monzo. You can also withdraw up to £200 of cash in a 30-day period while abroad with no fee. I prefer to travel with as little cash as is necessary for the destination I'm travelling to (ideally none) and Monzo facilitates that. I also love the neon-coral colour of the debit card, not that that should be a reason! We both get £5 if you sign up using my referral link.

Reusable water bottle: Chilly's. I hate having to use single-use plastic water bottles and take my Chilly's bottle everywhere I go. It keeps my drink cold all day even in tropical climates. I have the 500 ml matte original version in an aqua colour (you can see a sneak peek in the top photo) but they have many different colours and styles. You can use my referral link to get free engraving, which I totally wish I had on mine!

Travel towel: Hammamas. I've used the same turquoise Turkish-style towel from Hammamas for years. It's the perfect size — big enough to wrap around myself and to lie on when on the beach, but still rolls up small — and it's absorbent and dries quickly. They're an Aussie company but there are international stockists and you can find many similar versions online.

Neck pillow: Eagle Creek Exhale. This inflatable neck pillow is amazing! It packs down into a tiny bag but inflates into a comfortable, full-size neck pillow in just a couple of breaths. Deflating is just as easy. It's so small I take it with me even on very short flights.

Sleep mask: Lewis N. Clark Comfort Eye Mask. I wear a sleep mask every night, home and away, and often take a spare with me when travelling just in case. I've tried a *lot* over the years but I find Lewis N. Clark do the best combination of comfort and light-blocking. Avoid the indigo ones, though, as the dye can bleed.

Sunglasses: Sungod Sierras. I often struggle to find sunglasses that suit my face shape, but I've been very happy with this Sungod style. Mine have tortoiseshell frames and 8KO polarised lenses (worth the upgrade): they're lightweight, go with everything and they've served me well from Bali to Birmingham. I am modelling them in Athens in the photo below.

Rain gear. I currently have a teeny turquoise umbrella from Parfois in Portugal but if I'm going somewhere very rainy, I take my more robust Repel Windproof Travel Umbrella and/or my Patagonia rain jacket.

Reusable, sealable clear pouches. For toiletries, wet swimsuits and much more.

Mini first-aid kit: including hand sanitiser, paracetamol, cold & flu pills, migraine medication, stomach medication, melatonin, mosquito repellent and bite relief cream, a selection of plasters, and a COVID kit (2x lateral flow tests, 2x face masks, 1x sanitised gloves),

Moleskine. I still like to have a notebook and pen with me whenever I travel and Moleskine has been my notebook of choice for over two decades. For travel, I usually opt for the soft cover version in large.

Coffee kit

Depending on the kettle situation at my destination and on how much I think I'll be brewing, I usually pack either my AeropressGo or my size 01 Hario V60. The former is compact and very forgiving for on-the-go brewing. The latter really requires a kettle rather than other water-heating devices but this model is small and very robust. I've been chucking mine in suitcases for nine years, since I bought it in Tokyo, and it's still as good as new. Pro tip: HumanGear's medium-sized GoTubbs are great for storing diverse small things when travelling, including Aeropress filter papers.

I always travel with at least one reusable cup: usually my 4oz KeepCup, which has been restored to me thanks to Dave Jameson and Bean & Bud, for coffee shop piccolos and macchiatos and/or my 8oz Huskee Cup for hotel-room-brewed filter coffee.

If I know I will mostly be drinking coffee I've brewed myself, rather than in speciality coffee shops, I'll also bring my Made by Knock Aergrind hand grinder rather than pre-grinding beans before I go. This hand grinder is so much easier to use and less effort than every other hand grinder I've tried. It's well worth the money if you need to grind on the go — or prefer a hand grinder.

Pictured below (L–R): Aeropress Go, Made by Knock Aergrind, regular Aeropress.

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