What is Essential Travel Gear?
Essential travel gear is the equipment you need before you set off on adventures, whether in your home state or around the world. The list starts with the basics:
- Travel planner
- Packing lists
- Luggage and packing gear
- Clothing & toiletry gear
- Photography equipment
- Snacks and hydration
When pulling together your essential travel gear, be mindful of:
- the space an item takes
- how heavy your travel gear is
- whether or not you really need it
Everything you pack will become your “home away from home” for the duration of your trip.
So, You Think You Want to Travel…
Are you a traveler extraordinaire, adventure seeker, or thrill junkie? Or maybe you want to be? Perhaps you have recently graduated from high school or college and are ready to set out on some amazing adventures.
You might just have a serious case of wanderlust.
Wan-der-lust (n) – a strong desire to travel and explore the world
Do you feel as though the world is calling your name and you are ready to answer? Perhaps you have created multiple boards on Pinterest dedicated to your dream destinations and have had a travel bucket list since you were in second grade?
Or maybe, like me, you married a traveler extraordinaire and need to learn the tips and tricks to flying around the world.
If you answer “yes” to ANY of these questions, like many others, the dream of travel has been on your radar since… forever it seems.
Before setting off on your first adventure, make sure you are equipped with the essential travel gear you need to ensure your travels go smoothly.
“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so… get on your way!” ~ Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!“
Giving Essential Travel Gear as a Gift
Travel is expensive when you consider the costs of purchasing airline tickets, securing accommodations, and adding adventures PLUS travel gear. No doubt, the new as well as the seasoned traveler in your life would love a little help in putting together or adding practical and necessary items to their essential travel gear.
If you are not a traveler yourself, as the gift-giver you may not be quite certain what would work best. This post shares ideas that are especially helpful.
First, all you new travelers out there, think practical.
A new traveler will need everything from luggage to clothing to electronics.
You don’t need to acquire all of your travel gear at once. There will be time to add some “extras” or “nice to have” items later.
Let’s get started.
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If You are New to Traveling
Check out the great tips in this eBook: SUPER EASY Travel Planning.
This book is full of tips for planning travel anywhere in the world!
You’ll find in-depth information on how to plan a trip:
- The planning stages and deciding when and where to go
- Booking flights, lodging, rental cars, and local transit
- The benefit of using reward programs and points
- Using common sense
- Food and water
- Traveling solo or with kids
- Luggage and carry-ons
- What to pack (essential travel gear)
- Travel apps and websites
Essential Travel Gear: Packing Lists & Planning Tools
Travel Planning Notebook
One of the first steps in your travel planning process is to keep notes of your planning: travel details, schedules, confirmation information, etc. You’ll find a travel planner quickly becomes part of your essential travel gear.
Document your travel with the Ultimate Travel Planner (hardcover).
Fill The Ultimate Travel Planner with everything you need as you plan your worldwide adventures. Plan your best trip ever as you organize all of the details in this hardcover travel planning journal and notebook. Plan your budget, check off your packing list, discover places to visit and things to do, and TO DO lists so you don’t forget anything. 216 pages to plan and organize 10-12 trips along with travel quotes to inspire your travel dreams!
When you travel, record details and destinations, mishaps and memories all along the way. One of the easiest ways to do this is with a travel journal.
This is a great way to remember the places you visit, people you meet, ideas for future travel, suggestions and notes for your next trip, funny moments that happen along the way, day-to-day experiences, mishaps, favorite destinations and day trips, and interesting tidbits of information.
You may find that if you don’t record the day-to-day happenings as you travel, you begin to mix up days and locations or forget insightful moments.
And if you ever plan to start your travel blog, these notes will become invaluable.
If you function well checking things off of a list, the following packing lists will be helpful in making sure you pack all of your essential travel gear.
Why are there two separate lists for international and domestic destinations? Planning for your international destinations requires a few different items, ie., passports and travel adaptors, to name a few.
Luggage and Packing Gear
The first item to consider when you are putting together your essential travel gear is luggage.
I have found that Samsonite Luggage [affiliate] is lightweight and easy to maneuver, always a great option for travel—especially when you need to lift the luggage overhead to store in travel bins, carry onto trains, or lift up flights of stairs when the Airbnb you have chosen has no elevator!
If you don’t already have luggage, you will want a case that is lightweight, has wheels, is well-constructed, and falls within the TSA carry-on guidelines.
Your luggage has the potential to really take a beating as you travel; consider investing in a carry-on that will stand up to the rigors of travel.
Having wheeled luggage as part of your essential travel gear is a must. It makes:
- Traveling through the airport a breeze
- Allows you to keep one hand free
- Enables the use of the handle to use “pass-through” sleeves on your backpack, travel bag, or photography pack
When you are coming home with a few extra mementos, luggage that has zippered expansion capability is also a welcome feature.
You will probably love The NorthFace Recon backpacks [affiliate] designed specifically with the different needs of men and women in mind.
These could make the perfect travel gifts. My husband and I both travel with ours and they are just enough different that we don’t get them mixed up. I’d like to say his is heavier, but mine has camera equipment, so it can be a toss up!
As you travel, hike, act as tourists, or sightsee while on vacation, you often wear your backpack all day long. The NorthFace Recon backpacks boast the following features to make them comfortable to wear for an extended length of time:
- extra padded shoulders straps and back
- a large middle section
- lots of interior pockets
- expandable side pockets for a water bottle
- a mesh front pocket
- a sternum strap
- a waist belt
Packing cubes [affiliate] are zippered, organizational pouches perfect for categorizing items within your luggage.
These cubes are made of soft fabric with a mesh top so that you are able to easily identify the contents inside as you need them making them part of your essential travel gear. They are easy to scrunch into your luggage and don’t take up a lot of extra space.
These colorful cubes are perfect for business travel, weekend getaways, and even extended vacations.
If you want to go a little fancier on your travel storage bags, check out these Water Resistant Travel Pouches [affiliate].
Perfect for women and men who love to be organized with all of their essential travel gear! These pouches as travel gifts are versatile for toiletries, snacks, and essential gadgets.
The Travelon Passport Wallet with RFID [affiliate] is ideal for securely storing a passport, credit cards, and a little extra cash.
This wallet features an ID window, credit card slots, a zippered coin section, and a zip around closure.
The passport wallet is small enough to easily slip into your backpack, yet big enough that it will be easy to grab when you need it.
Have you ever picked up the wrong luggage at the airport, driven home with someone else’s bag, and then received a call from the airport informing you of the mistake? No? Maybe that’s just something I have done!
These luggage tags are bright and easily identifiable… and essential travel gear so that you don’t have to make a trip back to the airport to exchange luggage!
Electronics and Tech Gear
Are you a gadget fan? Do you love cool gadgets that not only work seamlessly with your electronics but also have great function too?
With all of the gadgets and electronics, an organizer is essential. When traveling, you will need a variety of cables and chords for your phone, your watch, your laptop or tablet.
The Travelon Urban Tech Organizer [affiliate] features an abundance of pockets and slots. My husband, Chris, loves this organizer because it lets him see at a glance if he has forgotten to pack a cord, charging cable, or charger.
Did you know that a phone cable is THE one essential travel gear item that people most often forget to pack? Don’t be one of those people!
Bose Noise-Canceling Headphones
Seasoned travelers know that getting sleep as you travel is important, thus having Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Noise Canceling Headphones [affiliate] while traveling is essential travel gear.
The benefit to traveling with these Bose Headphones is that they are corded and offer less chances of falling out of your ears and getting lost while you sleep.
You can also plug into the plane’s onboard system to watch movies or listen to music.
Even after hours of wearing and sleeping in the Bose headphones, Chris says these noise-canceling headphone don’t hurt his ears. This is a highly recommend essential travel gear from a frequent business traveler; they make a perfect gift to give as well.
You may also wish to consider the convenience of wireless Bose Noise Canceling Headphones. They are a bit more bulky but serve to block out noise quite well.
International Travel Adapters
If you plan to travel regularly to international destinations, you many wish to invest in a universal adapter that works in a number of different countries. This cube-shaped International Plug [affiliate] adapts to a variety of plugs across Europe. Not all European countries’ outlets are the same.
Many options are available for smart phones. Whatever phone you have or choose to purchase, this is one device that you don’t want to leave home without.
To protect your phone, don’t forget an iPhone Case [affiliate]!
**Be sure to order the correct phone case for your model and style of phone.**
An iPad or tablet is definitely essential travel gear AND an adventure seekers must-have item. They can be used for:
- Storing all information related to your vacation—dates, locations, activities, booked flights, confirmation numbers, hotel reservations and information, and transportation
- Reviewing in the evening for the next day
- Unwinding or relaxing while reading an eBook
- “Facetiming” with family at home
- Watching a downloaded movie. Check out the options from Amazon Prime Movies [affiliate].
- Journaling throughout vacation
- Blogging on the long flight home
Have you ever thought to travel with a Power Strip with USB Ports? [affiliate] The options are varied when you search online, so find the one that best suits your needs.
Invariably, with all of the devices to be charged, this power strip comes in pretty handy anywhere in the world as you can plug it into an international plug adapter and maximize your charging space.
When you return home from vacation and unpack, leave the power strip in your luggage until the next time. It is definitely an essential travel gear item.
Portable Charger/External Battery
If you are using your phone [affiliate] throughout the day for taking photos, getting directions, navigating and checking maps, figuring out transportation, or researching on the internet, don’t forget to pack a Portable Charger so you can recharge your phone when needed.
And…don’t forget to bring your charging cable.
If you are using your phone for all of those activities, you will most likely use up your battery before the end of the day.
They should be added to the list of essential travel gear.
Clothing & Toiletry Gear
It is helpful to invest in some travel-specific clothing with zippered and secure pockets.
You can find additional clothing and shoe recommendations in My Favorite Travel Things in the CLOTHING section.
A word or two on packing lightly with your essential travel gear and clothing.
For those of you who typically plan an outfit where the pants and top match but don’t really go with anything else that you have packed, you need to adjust your thinking when traveling. Choose neutral pants, shorts, or capris that will match with more than one shirt and can be worn multiple days before being washed.
Look for pants with lots of pockets. Just make sure the pockets where you might keep valuables can be secured to prevent theft from pickpockets.
You CAN wear the same clothes a couple of times over the course of a vacation. Pack an extra pair of underwear and socks and go light on matchy matchy shorts, shirts, and pants. Oh, and rolling your clothes instead of folding them really does keep them less wrinkled.
Also consider adding to your essential travel gear:
Footwear as part of your essential travel gear
If you plan to purchase new shoes for your vacation, be sure to spend some time breaking them in before you leave home. Even with the most comfortable shoes that you own, you might also want to bring along band-aids or moleskin.
If you are traveling and exploring for any length of time, you will log hundreds of miles on your feet and shoes. Take care of your feet by investing in quality shoes that fit well.
You may wish to consider investing in a pair of flip flops for lounging in after a long day of exploration (or even for wearing in the shower in some destinations).
Rain jackets [affiliates] can be scrunched small enough to slip into an outer pocket of your luggage or backpack. You can plan for the weather as you set out for a day of adventure or touristing, but sometimes you are surprised with a quick rain shower. Be prepared for these moments with a rain jacket that doesn’t take up a lot of space.
Much the same as a compact rain jacket, travel-sized umbrellas are pretty small as well and take up minimal space in your backpack as your sightsee each day.
If you are a photographer and travel each day with a camera around your neck or clipped into your Peak Design Camera Clip [affiliate]. You may not want to put your camera away with small bursts of rain, so an easy trick is to pull out your umbrella; it keeps you and your camera dry.
I received this camera clip as a Christmas gift, and I absolutely LOVE it!
If you accidentally broke your glasses on vacation, could you function without them? Perhaps consider bringing a back up pair.
Sunglasses [affiliate] are equally essential among your travel gear when you are sightseeing all day long. Don’t forget this important accessory—it is fashion and function all in one!
For all adventure seeking women and men, whether you are traveling or at home, be kind to your skin. PCA Skin Active Broad Spectrum SPF 45 [affiliate] sunscreen with zinc oxide is definitely essential travel gear.
This sunscreen is sweat and water resistant and is an everyday necessity. It works brilliantly to protect beautiful faces.
There are a variety of levels of cameras to choose from. You can select a point and shoot, an entry level DSLR such as the Canon T8i, or more sophisticated models.
If you do not plan to learn the manual features of your camera, the T8i or any DSLR wouldn’t be worth the effort or neck strain to carry, in my opinion. Go with an easy to use point and shoot such as the Canon Powershot G1 (or even just your phone camera).
The cameras on cell phones are so amazing nowadays; you can use them for all of your photography needs and be completely happy with the results.
If you have upgraded to a Canon 6d Mark II [affiliate] or other more advanced DSLR, you can capture some pretty amazing sights and memories in a photograph.
If you have a knack for photography, then a DSLR would be your essential travel gear. You wouldn’t even consider leaving home without your camera. It may even be #1 on your essential travel gear list!
The photo opportunities around the world are plentiful.
Check out the simplyjolayne Photo Gallery.
A favorite lens for the Canon T-series Camera is the Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 with Image Stabilization.
If you are using it for travel, it can easily handle all of your photography needs without having to add the bulk of extra camera equipment in your essential travel gear.
You may wish to bring your Canon “Nifty Fifty” because it is light and compact and just a handy all-round camera gadget to have.
One of the “go to” lenses for the Canon 6d Mark II is the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens [affiliate]. Having image stabilization (IS) is key for travel on the go when you don’t always have the luxury of setting up or packing a tripod.
Camera Battery, Charger & Memory Card
A Camera Battery Charger with a flip out plug is perfect for charging your devices and gadgets as you travel and in making sure that your camera is always charged and ready for the perfect shot.
Be sure to pick a charger, battery, or any gadget listed here that is specific to YOUR camera, phone, tablet, etc.
simplyjolayne would recommend original Canon Batteries every time, but if that is not in your price range or readily available, you can try these Camera Batteries.
Be sure to have a SanDisk 256GB Memory Card [affiliate] for your camera; it will be the ideal size for photo storage as you travel.
Backpack Rain Cover
If you have ever had a rain-soaked backpack, you will understand why adding a waterproof lightweight Backpack Cover to your essential travel gear is necessary. When downpours hit, you want to be prepared to keep your backpack and gear dry.
Peak Design Camera Clip
Again, if you are a photographer, you know that sometimes traveling and exploring all day with a camera around your neck can cause a lot of neck strain. While the Peak Design Camera Clip [affiliate] may not be on everyone’s essential travel gear list, it sure does make travel easier.
The clip easily attaches to your backpack strap; your camera then clips on and off as you need to use it throughout the day.
Snacks & Hydration
You may not consider snacks “essential travel gear“, but when you have missed meals because of long travel days, having something to eat is… satisfying. Be sure to add your favorite snacks to your backpack and even a few extras in your luggage.
If you are traveling with children, well, you already know how necessary snacks are.
Built Bar protein bars are perfect for all of your travel days, hiking, excursions, and adventures.
Bonus * Use Code SJTRAVELS at checkout for 10% off your Built Bar purchase.
Bonus TIPS for planning your essential travel gear
America the Beautiful National Park Pass
If you are traveling and going on adventures within the United States, purchasing the annual America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is totally worth the investment.
Did you know that US Military members receive this pass for FREE?
The pass is also free to all US 4th grade students. Be sure to follow the instructions on the Every Kid Outdoors website.
Having the yearly pass will inspire you to visit the many national parks in the United States. It’s a win-win.
LastPass is a SECURE password manager and vault app that keeps your personal or family’s vital information secure and makes your digital life easily accessible at the touch of your fingertips.
Use LastPass to securely store digital records and travel documents.
Digital Copies you may need for travel:
- Passport – note the expiration date
- Driver’s License
- International Driver’s Permit (if you have one)
- Travel Visa
- Global Entry Card or TSA Pre-Check
- Birth Certificate
- Health Insurance
- Travel Insurance
The easiest way to use LastPass is to create a digital copy of your passport and other important documents by taking a picture with your smart phone. Store your photos and data in notes and files within your LastPass Vault.
Amazon Gift Card
For all types of budgets, an Amazon Gift Card [affiliate] leaves the options open for giving essential travel gear to your adventure seeker.
How about the ultimate gift that says “adventure awaits”? An Audible Gift Card [affiliate] opens up the world of books as you travel and makes a great gift as well.
Handy Apps for your essential travel gear toolkit
GyPSy Guide App
The GyPSy Guide App is a downloadable app that provides narrated audio tours for your road trips and scenic drives. Currently there are audio tours in Canada, United States, and Australia.
The GyPSy Guide provides a guided commentary that uses free satellite GPS signal along with the GPS on your cell phone. Use the GyPSy Guide App for awesome narrated tours.
It is just like bringing you own tour guide along for the ride!
If you seek out hiking adventures as you travel, the AllTrails App will become your go-to trail map app.
Travel Reward Programs
Whether you are a beginner at planning travel adventures or you have been journeying around the globe for years, learning new tips and tricks to enhance your travel can always elevate your travel experiences.
One of the best travel tips for this next year is for you to sign up for travel reward programs, travel loyalty programs, or travel rewards credit cards. They will help you to earn discounts and rewards that can be redeemed for travel.
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Final Thoughts on Essential Travel Gear & Gift Ideas for Adventure Seekers
Do you feel as though you have some direction on the essential travel gear you will need to plan for as you set out on adventures? With time, your accumulated gear will grow. Some items you’ll discover you don’t really need and others you will wonder how you ever survived without them.
Confidently plan you travel so that you can play harder, see more, sleep better, and enjoy every second of all of your adventures.