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Top 10 Travel Essentials

What Should I Pack?


Packing is part of any travel experience. Whether you’re headed to a beach condo or an Alaskan cruise, you’ll need to bring appropriate clothing and travel gear. Here are 10 travel essentials to include on any trip, regardless of destination.

1. Wheeled Suitcase / Backpack / Duffel Bag

Photo © Andrew Bret Wallis / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images

Wheeled luggage has revolutionized travel. No more backaches and strained muscles! Today you can buy suitcases, backpacks and duffel bags with attached wheels, any of which can make transporting luggage easy, if not entirely effortless. If you’re planning to hike or walk over rough surfaces, consider a wheeled backpack or duffel bag so you can pick it up and carry it as necessary.

2. Daypack

You’ll need something to carry maps, snacks and bottled water while you explore. Keep your heavy wheeled bag in your hotel room and pack daily essentials in a daypack or tote. Daypacks, while not quite as stylish as totes, distribute the weight of your travel items more comfortably across your back and shoulders.

3. Comfortable Shoes

Leave the high heels and beach sandals at home – unless, of course, you’re going to the beach – and pack shoes you can really walk in. Be sure to break them in before your trip begins. Blisters can ruin a perfectly-planned vacation.

4. Personal Toiletries / Medications / Glasses

These essential items vary from person to person. You’ll need to bring small, three-ounce bottles of liquids and gels if you’re traveling by air and intend to pack your toiletries in your carry-on bag. Bring your medications in their original prescription bottles, not in a weekly pill organizer. If you use an organizer, pack it empty and set it up when you arrive at your destination. Don’t forget your glasses, especially if you aren’t sure you can buy contact lens solution while on your trip.

5. Money Belt

Don’t fool yourself – pickpockets are deft and quick, and they’ll relieve you of your money and passport before you know what has happened. Buy a money belt and use it. Save your daypack and purse for items you can afford to replace, such as maps and water bottles.

6. Rain Gear

Collapsible umbrellas, water-repellent jackets, ponchos and folding hats make all-weather travel bearable. Unless you’re headed to Death Valley, you’ll probably need one or more of these items.

7. Travel Alarm

You’ll want to know what time it is and when to wake up, especially if you’re traveling with a tour group. Many people use the alarm functions on their watches or cell phones for this purpose. Others prefer a small travel alarm clock that’s easy to see in the dark.

8. Voltage Converter and Plug Adapters

If you’re traveling overseas and use plug-in appliances or electronic equipment, you will definitely need plug adapters. Some hair dryers, camera chargers, laptops and cell phones are dual voltage, but others need a voltage converter.

Check the label on each item you plan to bring. If it says “Input 100V-240V 50 / 60 Hz,” the item is dual voltage and only needs a plug adapter. If you don’t find this information on your appliance, never plug it directly into a foreign wall outlet. You must use a voltage converter to “step down” the 220-volt current.

9. Map / Guidebook

Bring guidebooks and domestic maps with you. Do some research on map prices if you plan to travel overseas. In many cases, it’s less expensive to buy local maps at your destination rather than in your local bookstore. You’ll need to factor in the currency exchange rate when comparing map prices.

Many people tear out relevant guidebook chapters and carry only the pages they need. This approach saves weight, but it destroys the guidebook. Go on a trial outing with your daypack, carrying the entire guidebook, your camera, water and food. If it’s too heavy, you may want to disassemble your guidebook and leave some of the pages at home.

10. Backup Documents

Make copies of your passport and tickets and keep them in a safe place in your luggage. If your passport is stolen, a copy will speed up the replacement process. Leave a second copy of your passport with a family member back home. You may also want to bring copies of other documents, such as your credit card’s rental car insurance coverage information, depending on your destination. It’s also a good idea to bring telephone numbers for your bank, credit card company and, if relevant, travel agency in case you need to contact them.

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