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  • Writer's pictureAnthony Dempsey

Packing Items That Will Save You From Travel Trouble

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

It can be easy to overpack your bags for a long trip, but why is it we still always forget important items? Even worse, we don't pack the things we need- things we didn't even know we needed! I've been there, done that WAY too many times.

I've learned from my mistakes and have created a list of essential items that I think you should ALWAYS have packed in your travel bags.

Printouts of Tickets

Whatever tickets you’ve bought ahead of time, be it for an attraction, or even transportation, be sure to keep a printout of EACH ticket in your easy to access itinerary book.

It’s great to have all of your tickets on your phone, but sometimes technology fails. You don’t want to be about to board a plane when your phone can’t be scanned, because it has happened to us several times. Luckily we had a paper back up to save the day.

Pro tip: Do the same thing for ALL of your accommodations. This has also saved us on several occasions when the hotel clerk couldn’t find any information on our reserved booking.

Medicine Kit

Travel can be rough on your body and you never know what’s going to happen. In America we can buy most medicines at any local convenience store, but that isn’t the case abroad.

Need ibuprofen while in China? You have to go to a pharmacy. Trust me, it’s not easy to find!

Having a well thought out homemade medicine kit in your main bag is the way to go. Bonus points for having a smaller kit in your day pack. The CDC has a great list of things to include and consider, but not everything is needed. Choose what would work best for your trip and get that kit started! Keep in mind that certain medications are illegal in some countries, but basic medications should be fine.

Packing Cubes

We’ve found that using packing cubes is a great way to compress your items and keep them organized. You wont have to dig through your bag (making a huge mess) to find a specific item; you can just find the cube you need and retrieve it.

Besides helping compact and organize your stuff, it also helps things move a lot quicker if TSA stops you. You can locate the item in question without having the world see your underwear. We once bought a bust of Zeus in Greece and had our bags searched 6 times because of it!

Itinerary Book

We have our entire trip planned and laid out inside our designated travel itinerary book. For us, it's usually a stylish journal my wife purchases from HomeGoods. It details what we’re doing in order of each day, including copies of each corresponding day’s attraction and travel tickets.

On every day’s section, we’re sure to include addresses of where we’re going, public transportation directions, as well as some short notes about the sites we’re going to see.

On the first page of the itinerary book, we include emergency information like our travel insurance policy, a parent’s phone number, and addresses of US embassies. The last page of the book includes stapled copies of our passports and IDs in case the real ones were ever stolen or lost.

With everything laid out ahead of time, we don’t have to worry about thinking what the next thing to do is. We already took care of the stressful part so now we can just go with the flow and enjoy our trip.

Empty Water Bottle

If you’re traveling to a country with drinkable tap water (make sure you check), be sure to have an empty water bottle with you. It will save you from having to buy water everywhere you go, and reduce your plastic waste.

When it comes time to go to the airport, dump it out, and fill it back up once you get past the security checkpoint. That alone will save you about $10!

Backups of Every Important Document

Besides having paper copies of all of our tickets and accommodations, we also make multiple color copies of every important travel document that we will need for a trip. This includes the following:

- Our State IDs

- Passport ID Page (Have a few of these)

- Passport Photos

- Necessary medical records

- Visas

- Travel Insurance

- Credit Card Information (hidden and coded)

- Travel Itinerary

- Marriage certificate (Sometimes needed to stay in certain countries’ hotels)

Pro tip: Get a copy of these to someone you can trust. This way you can have the information sent to you in case of an emergency.

Multiple Battery Packs for Phones

You are going to be using your phone for a lot of things during your trip. You also will be on the move so you might not have access (or time) to charge your device somewhere.

Bringing along a few quality battery packs is a great way to stay prepared and keep your tech charged up. Just be sure to charge them up at night so you’ll be ready for the next day!


Lets face it- no body ever looks cool in a poncho. You look and feel like a total dork!

But at least you’re a dry dork!

Invest in a decent poncho and you’ll be able to enjoy your trip regardless of the weather. We prefer this to an umbrella because your hands are free to move around and you won’t accidentally hit anyone with it. Plus, it packs into a day bag a lot easier than an umbrella.

Money Belt

A money belt is a hidden zipper pouch that can be used to secretly carry your money. There are several styles available that can be worn around your neck, wrapped around your ankle, or hidden around your waist.

This is a tool that should be used with the utmost discretion, something that I don’t usually see from my fellow travelers. It should never be seen or referenced to, but it is there if you need it.

Should you need money out of it, go to a private stall restroom, and definitely don’t do it out in the open. That is just asking to be mugged. Remember, most thieves go for easy targets.

Ear Plugs and Eye Mask

You never know what type of sleeping conditions you will find yourself in, so it’s best to be prepared. The last thing you want is to not be able to get your beauty rest thanks to a streetlight near your window or a noisy baby on a flight. Be sure to test them out before you leave for your trip!

Portable Power Strip with USB Plugs

If you’re like me, you have a lot of items that need to be recharged. A power strip helps accommodate all of those items in convenient place.

There have been several instances where a place we’re staying will only have one outlet; this helps you make sure you get full use of it.

Plug Adapter

If you haven’t had the chance to travel yet, you may not know that different countries have different electrical wall sockets, sometimes with different voltage.

In order to have power you will need to carry an all-in-one international travel adapter. You will be able to charge up your devices with no problem. We usually bring a couple, just in case.

Pro Tip: Avoid bringing an American blow dryer or hair straightener, or be sure to check the voltage on the plug (my wife has a dual voltage international straightener). Certain items have dual voltage capability, while others do not. Just because you put your item through an adapter doesn’t mean it won’t pull too much electricity from the wall plug. Early on in our travels, my wife accidentally fried her travel sized garment steamer!

Ziplock Baggies

I always carry several sandwich baggies as well as a few gallon sized bags. They will keep your stuff dry if you’re caught in a sudden rainstorm and even help your things stay organized in a day pack.

Water Resistant Shoes/Jacket

It’s going to rain whether you like it or not. I like to be prepared by wearing water resistant boots and if in a snowy climate, a water resistant jacket. It will help keep you dry and happy.

Emergency Cash

One of the most helpless feelings you can have on a trip is finding out your credit card doesn’t work. Whether it has been lost or compromised, you are at the mercy of your credit card company until you get it replaced. A week’s worth of emergency cash can help buy you time.

Heel covers/Mole Skin

It’s hard to believe, but when we’re traveling we find ourselves walking an average of 10 miles a day. That’s a lot of walking! Moleskin can help with any blisters or skin irritations that may arise during your trip.

Extra Passport Photos

If you’re traveling to a place where you get a visa upon arrival or any other official documentation they will require a passport photo. If you don’t have one handy it can lead to exorbitant fees and a long wait to get a new one.

Pro tip: Not all passport photos are accepted. Depending on the country you are visiting, they may require your photo to be a different size or have a certain colored background. Do your research of what is required before you go!

In conclusion

What do you think is missing from this list? Let me know and we can grow this list together!

Hungry for more information about traveling? Check out my guide on how to save money when traveling .

- Anthony

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