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Essential Travel Items

I recently came across a travel article whereby the author was talking about the latest and greatest travel gadgets out there; things that would somehow make your travel experience easier or better; things that one should never leave home on a trip without.  It got me to thinking; what is the most essential item that I would always want to take on a trip?

Of course my passport is the most essential item I need to travel followed I suppose by travel insurance and/or my flight tickets (although in the day of e-tickets the latter is no longer an issue).  If you take prescribed medication then this would also be at the top of your list.  But I am not referring to these things.  I am wondering what non-essential items would you consider “essential” when you travel?

In the old days of traveling I would fret over how many books to take along.  Travel guides, novels to read etc.  It was crucial to not take too many books and even worse to take too few.  And considering that I was a bit of a hoarder/collector I had to keep all those books afterwards.   Everyone who travels more than once in a decade knows one of the cardinal rules about travel: go light.  Carrying all those books was a crazy idea.  Then the e-reader came along and took care of that problem.  Now I can travel with literally thousands of books all in one small and light device.  The only problem is making sure I can charge it up between reads and I am good to go.  But is an e-reader “essential” to my travels?

I am an avid photographer.  I could not imagine going somewhere without having one of my cameras along with me.  Those that wanted to look professional carried a large slr camera with a bag full of lenses so that they were prepared whatever the situation.  Another strike against the advice of traveling light.  Then the digital age of electronics arrived and meant smaller and better cameras.  The cost came down so much that there really was no excuse to not take a camera along on a trip.   The only issue was bringing extra batteries and memory cards and you would be set.  Yet despite these advancements I am meeting more and more people on the road who have sworn off of their cameras.  They tell me it just gets in the way of the entire experience; how they can focus on seeing things and meeting people and enjoying a meal without first trying to capture it in a digital image.

What about the Internet and computers?  When people book a trip or are on a trip that I am leading I am always asked about the situation re computers and Internet coverage.  It is not unusual to see people run off of the bus towards the hotel lobby looking to get on the computer.  Sure we have family and friends at home who may be ill or there may be a situation that could require our attention but honestly if it is critical and you need to be reached friends and family will find you.  What did we do before computers and the Internet?  We weren’t making long-distance phone calls a few times a day when on a trip.  Is this an essential thing to have when traveling?

Maybe it is the smaller travel items that I really need: a bed liner, quick-drying underwear, my wide sun hat?  I used to always carry a Swiss army knife with 200 features on it but with the increase in travel security I no longer risk bringing it near an airport.   And now that I think of it I have rarely found myself with a bottle of unopened wine or an apple that needs coring and wishing I had the Swiss army knife with me.

Those of us who are super-organized may travel with small travel bags within our larger bags as a way of keeping things in order.  Bags with rollers, 2 wheels, 4 wheels, extendable handles.  Collapsible bottles to hold fluids, mini stain remover sticks to allow us to keep on traveling with the same pair of pants through South-East Asia.  Packets of instant coffee, hot chocolate or soup.  The list goes on.

So what is the most “essential” item that I would not want to be without on any trip?  When I think of the many items above it is clear that I do not really need any of them to have a good time.  I suppose that other than myself, just being there experiencing all the joys of travel there is really nothing that I could not do without.


What is your most essential travel item you could not do without on a trip?

David Roth - February 15, 2013

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