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Easy Travel Essentials: The Must-Pack Items You Already Have!

I tend to tread the idea of "travel essentials" lightly, because aside from a few obvious items (e.g. a bag or clothes-- which you likely already own), most essentials are not required to travel. The last thing I want is to create false travel barriers or unnecessary spending--- these are items that make my life a LOT easier while traveling, but having them is not a prerequisite to seeing the world. You don't need trendy earplugs to go to Spain, but they will make your sleep in a hostel a bit more bearable.

1. Bag in a Bag

This is my favorite travel essential. It falls a little more into the "travel hack" category, but I do it so invariably on my trips that I consider it an essential. The name describes exactly what it is-- putting a bag inside another bag. This is most helpful for the actual transit portion of your travel, whether it be by plane, train, bus, or car. Pack a tote bag with everything you'll need during transit. This could be headphones, a snack, a phone charger--- whatever you think you will need during a flight/train ride/etc. Put the tote bag inside your main travel bag, ideally a backpack or duffle. Once you've boarded your flight/mode of transit, take your tote out of the bag and stow your larger bag. Congrats! You now have ample legroom and a streamlined bag of everything you want during transit.

2. Traveling Pharmacy

Feeling sick, or getting injured, sucks. When you may not 1. know where the nearest pharmacy is, 2. speak the local language, or 3. have access to medicines you are used to, it is even worse. To avoid this while traveling, be your own pharmacy (within reason-- if you are seriously ill/injured or need something you didn't pack, head to a doctor). The biggest tip I have for this is absolutely do not keep the medicines in their original bottles. Put pills into clearly labeled Ziploc baggies, or contact cases, and take pictures of the drug instructions.

I try to bring an array of medicines, without being ridiculous.


  • Band-Aids

  • Neosporin


  • Advil and Advil PM

  • Pepto Bismol

  • Allergy Medicine (Zyrtec)

  • Cold Medicine (DayQuil)

3. Sunscreen

Cool people wear AND REAPPLY sunscreen. You don't want to be a tomato in all of your cool travel pics, and you certainly don't want to be dealing with sun damage in 20 years. If you have trouble remembering to reapply sunscreen, choose a sunscreen you actively like, rather than just feel neutral towards.

Choose a sunscreen with a nice smell, like Hawaiian Tropics, or unique formula, like Supergoop's Glow Oil. Essentially, make the experience of applying as easy and enjoyable as possible to maximize your chances of remembering to reapply. Eventually, it'll become a habit. You can also try setting a 2 hour timer when you're out in the sun.

4. Insect Repellent

You know what can really put a damper on a great trip? Being eaten alive by mosquitos. If you are headed to a warm climate, you should bring insect repellent. Depending on where you are traveling, insect-borne diseases may be more prevalent. If that's the case, then you really should bring insect repellent.

I tend to go for the more intense DEET heavy repellents, but I have also used lemongrass oil repellents that have worked great. Something to note: the more "natural" repellents oftentimes need frequent re-application, even if you can still smell the spray. Read the label, and may the bites be ever in your favor.

5. Mint Gum

Simple. Classic. Especially if I am flying, I'm bringing a mint gum with me for takeoff and landing. I have a slight fear of my ears not popping in takeoff and then being stuck with ear pain for a whole flight, so I like to use gum as an extra measure to make sure my ears pop. It does the same thing in landing, but the freshened breath helps you feel a bit more human after a long flight. As an added bonus, if you pick up peppermint gum, it can double as a nausea-fighter!

Travel preparation is often more stressful than the actual trip, but it doesn't to be. Having these essentials in tow, which you likely already have lying around, you'll be ready for most scenarios that come your way.



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