Packing for a holiday or trip can be overwhelming, there are so many considerations to think about. How long are you going away for, where are you going, what will the weather be like?
We had the same problem when packing for our year overseas and after months of travel have discovered some items are universally essential.
Here are our recommendations for the most useful items to pack for your vacation or holiday, no matter how long you are away for (in no particular order).
1. Power Board & Plug Adapters
When travelling as a couple, group or family a power board is incredibly useful. You will often find accommodation is lacking plug outlets, or the outlets are located in difficult positions such as behind beds or desks.
A multiplug power board will give you extra cord reach for those difficult places, and will provide enough places to charge all your phones, tablets, computers and cameras overnight.
If you are travelling to another country or region, you may find it uses a different plug outlet than at home. A plug adapted will convert the pins on your plug to the socket at your destination. While these can be picked up at your destination, they might not always be the best fit as the female side will likely be a universal adapter (I’m looking at you weirdly shaped Australian plugs).
Also, while most electronics these days support a large range of voltage, check that your devices and chargers support the voltage at your destination (ie. the Americas use 110v, while most of the world 220/240v).
If your chargers don’t support the destination voltage, the best case scenario is they won’t work, the worst is that they will fry. To combat this you may need to use a converter, rather than just an adapter to change the pin type.
We love these international power boards, with sockets that suit most plug types (Aus, US, UK, European, and more) plus USB slots to charge your phone without need for a wall adapter. They’re also great in shared accommodation (hostels, camping, tours) where you have many different nationalities fighting for the plugs, as you can pop the power board in and share with everyone!
Get one today: Amazon US / Amazon Australia
For Plug adapters, check your destination here.
Travelling with the oddly shaped Australian plugs has been frustrating at times. We have purchased many adapters during our travels (due to ‘misplacing’ them) and often have to be a little rough with our plugs to make them fit… despite being touted as ‘universal input’.
2. Swiss Army Knife or Multitool
Not just for outdoors enthusiasts or that guy in a fishing vest, you never know when you’ll need one of its many attachments.
Just this month I’ve used our swiss army knife to: open beer bottles, uncork wine bottles, as a nail file, as a screwdriver to change the battery on our luggage scale (see below), and to cut (and eat) a piece of cheesecake.
3. Packable Towel (quick-dry)
Perfect for that summer beach trip, these fancy new sand-free towels are taking the world by storm. We love Dock and Bay towels, they’re inexpensive, quick-drying, sand-proof and pack up small. Plus they come in cute patterns and colours (for men and women).
Even if you’re heading off on a winter holiday, it’s always useful to have a spare towel. Some budget hotels and hostels don’t provide them, and you never know when you may want to indulge in a sauna or hot spring.
4. Packable Shopping Bag or Backpack
Useful in almost every situation, you should always have a small packable bag available. Perfect for a quick trip to the grocery store, laundromat or the beach. It’s a great way to reduce plastic waste and makes those bottles of wine you purchased at the grocery store much easier to carry back.
We use the Sea to Summit Ultrasil packable daypack and love it. This durable bag packs up tiny and is water resistant, we’ve used it almost daily on our trip!
5. Reusable Water Bottle (insulated)
Save the environment and keep your water cold (or hot) with a reusable insulated water bottle. Available everywhere, this is an essential item for travel. There’s nothing more refreshing when exploring on a hot day than a cold drink (or vice versa)!
6. Water Filter
A water filter is an essential item when travelling overseas if you don’t want to constantly buy bottled water. Save your wallet and the environment and invest in one for your next trip.
Even in places where the water is safe to drink, the different bugs can make your stomach upset for a few days while it adjusts to the new bacteria. Sometimes its safer to just filter it before drinking.
We have the Sawyer Mini water filter due to its affordable price and small size and weight. We use it regularly to make tap water more palatable and to filter water to drink when it’s not safe out of the tap (note it doesn’t filter viruses). The best part is it can be rinsed out and reused indefinitely (no need to buy replacement filters!).
You could also get a reusable drink bottle with inbuilt filter to combine these elements (like this LifeStraw filtration bottle). We chose not to do this for our trip as we were on the road for a long time and didn’t want to constantly need to buy replacement filters or worry about finding the specific one, but will probably get an inbuilt filtration bottle for future trips, as its much more convenient!
7. Fee-free Travel Account & Credit Card
Fees quickly add up when travelling, don’t get caught out! If you choose the right travel account you can avoid hefty ATM withdrawal fees and international transaction fees.
Have a look at our guide to managing travel money for some tips and tricks.
If you are Australian, have a look at our guide to the best bank accounts cards and credit cards for travel. For everyone else, have a look here for a list of great travel accounts in various regions.
8. Headphones & Headphone Splitter
Headphones should be obvious, use them for flights, trains and buses on your trip.
The best purchase we’ve made during our trip was a $5 headphone splitter! Now we can watch movies together in hostel dorms and on long bus and train trips.
9. Packing Cubes
Most regular travellers swear by them, and we are no different.
One of the most useful items you could get for your trip. Packing cubes are used to separate and organise your clothing in your bag or suitcase. They come in various shapes and sizes to suit your luggage and clothing options (larger for clothes, smaller for underwear).
If you are staying in the same place for a few days, simply take them out of your luggage and use as little drawers to keep your stuff organised.
10. A Scarf or Sarong
Not just for women! These make great fashion accessories, sun shades and extra pillow padding where needed. Plus Dan feels quite dashing in the one he bought from Iran!
11. A Smartphone
Seems like an obvious one, but your smartphone replaces so many items that were once essential on a trip.
Rather than bringing a camera, just use your phone. Smartphones now take incredible photographs, so unless you are serious hobbyist photographer, leave that camera at home. The only caveat is if you’re bringing a GoPro. You can get waterproof bags for your camera, but if you already have a GoPro (and are planning beach or adventure activities) it will definitely be useful.
Your smartphone is also a replacement for maps, can be used to find hotels and restaurants, and will keep you up to date with news and weather forecasts.
Check out our list of the best travel apps for more incredible things your phone can do.
12. A Portable Power Bank
Don’t get caught out with no phone battery in transit or when you’re trying to find your hotel. Depending on how much charge you need, there are chargers available from tiny pocket-sized devices to larger chargers perfect to stash in your backpack that can simultaneously charge multiple devices.
This small portable charger is perfect for on-the-go charging. Buy on Amazon
13. Luggage Locks & Portable Luggage Scales
Luggage locks are the best way to keep your items safe in transit, or when leaving luggage unattended in your hostel dorm, hotel room or left-luggage office. Make sure to get TSA approved locks if travelling to the USA so they don’t cut your lock off. Locks with flexible wire cables are handy for lockers since the size differs and access can be awkward.
Avoid overweight bag fees with a lightweight, portable luggage scale. Taking up almost no space or weight, this will be your saviour if you did a little too much shopping on your trip, especially if you are travelling budget airlines.
14. A Hanging Toiletry Bag
Not everyone loves them, but we feel they are really useful for small hotel bathrooms and shared hostel dorms.
Hang it on a towel rail, shower door, under your dorm bunk to put on makeup… the options are endless. Try and choose one that will hold its shape when resting on a bench too.
We have the Deuter Wash Centre II and Kathmandu Kit Classic hanging toiletry bags. They are the perfect size for us on a long term trip, or either would be great for a couple on a short holiday. (Ashlea also has a very small makeup bag for ‘non-essentials’, ie. eyeshadow & lipstick).
15. Universal Sink Plug & Washing Line
If you’re travelling for more than a few days you’ll probably need to do some washing.
You would think most sinks would have a plug, but think again! We have used this universal sink plug for laundry in bathroom sinks, in bathtubs where the provided plug didn’t fit, and to wash dishes when there just wasn’t a plug provided.
For its small size and weight, a portable washing line is very useful. Look for a braided washing line (3 strands) rather than the common twisted version (2 strands), and choose a rubber (or similar) material, as it will hold your clothes better.
A useful addition is a carabiner clip to one end of the line, that you can use poles and handles as anchor points for just about anywhere.
This Lewis N. Clarke Clothesline includes carabiners, velcro strips and suction cups to allow attachment to any surface.
16. Eye Mask
If you’re a light sleeper, an eye mask is an essential item to pack! Hotel rooms don’t always have the best curtains, or your hostel dorm mate might decide 3 am is a good time to turn on the light when you’re asleep on the top bunk!
Don’t be caught out, as a former shift worker Ashlea swears by a good sleep mask.
For a cute AND comfortable sleep mask look no further than Alaska Bear! Made from natural silk, this sleep mask is perfect for hot climates and those with sensitive skin and even come in cute colours and patterns.
Get one now on Amazon / Australia
17. Polarised Sunglasses
Especially useful when driving, on the beach or in the snow (and when feeling a bit light-sensitive after a big night). No matter where you go, a decent pair of polarised sunglasses is an absolute must-have!
18. Comfortable Walking Shoes
Make sure you wear comfortable shoes when planning walking or sightseeing. Again this should be obvious, but we’ve seen too many people suffering the effects of bad footwear choices not to comment.
Depending on your trip this could be comfortable boots, sneakers, sandals or hiking shoes. Whatever you choose, make sure you wear them in before your trip to avoid blisters and make sure they’re comfortable! Consider removable insoles to make your favourite shoes more comfortable for walking (and save money on a new pair!).
Dan loves his Adidas trail runners for most occasions, while Ash prefers her cute Frankie4 sneakers (an awesome Australian company; the shoes are all designed by a podiatrist!) unless doing some serious outdoor activities.
19. Selfie Stick
Yes, we’ve included the dreaded selfie-stick! While not for everyone, we’ve found ours useful to take couple photos that still include lots of background.
Best used in places with some swinging room (in case you hit an unsuspecting fellow tourist), we like to use it to take beautiful landscape photos with us in them!
If you are going to indulge, get one with a Bluetooth shutter button that connects to your phone! It’s much easier than setting the timer and repositioning for every photo.
20. A Mesh Wash Bag
Not just for ladies, the delicates (well call it a ‘mesh’) wash bag is incredibly useful to keep all your socks, jocks, bras and undies together when doing laundry. Obviously it’s also useful to keep actual delicates separate in the wash.
Most useful in communal washing machines (laundromats), hostels, and places where they do the washing for you. We use these every time we do laundry (Ashlea insists) and have yet to lose a sock or have delicate underwear or wooden thermals put through the dryer.
We hope you find our recommendations for the most useful items to include on your vacation packing list helpful when packing for your next trip. Remember to SHARE and PIN IT!