Before I took the plunge to travel full time, I was in and out of San Francisco constantly. I can't even tell you how many trips I was taking on average per year, but it began to feel like I might as well pay rent to SFO instead of my landlord! When you travel that much, you're pretty much forced to create a system that works, so I had a giant bin on my shelves with my go-to items that I could quickly grab and put in a bag to make packing a cinch. What were some of the items I kept in this travel bin? Here's my shortlist of my 5 essential items I always pack when traveling:
This is basically my uniform right here. In fact, when I did a search for an example photo of me wearing this shirt, it's embarrassing how many I could find. It is just so dang practical! I almost exclusively wear this shirt on planes over leggings because it is just thick enough to keep me warm on the freezing planes without being so thick that I'm frustrated that I have cram it into my luggage the rest of the trip. Because it's a shirt, not a jacket, it can be rolled to fit into a small cross-body bag (like pictured), and I love having an extra layer on me at all times because you never know when the A/C will be way too much, or you'll be out just long enough for the sun to begin setting and the temperature to go down. I've found the grey to be mega-practical to break up my often all-black pants + shoes combo, so another black shirt would be too much, and white is just asking to get dirty quickly. I got this one at Old Navy almost 3 years ago! But I've linked something else similar.
I'm really trying to avoid using disposable items as much as possible, so this mug is really helpful to do my part. It's small enough to be an easy travel item, stylish enough to not make you scream 'tourist', and keeps my coffee or matcha lattes warm for 12 hours of adventuring! Any barista will make your drink in this mug, but also, I love that I can make coffee in the morning at home and then put the extra in the mug to carry with me on my morning jaunts. I drink things veryyyy slowly, so this allows me to take my drinks with me so that I'm not slowing everyone down when I'm only halfway done and they're ready for the next place! It also keeps cold drinks cold for 24 hours, so you could use this for water on hot days.
The number of times I packed just my favorite goes-with-everything brown leather bag to save space only to find myself cramming things into my jacket pockets at night because the brown bag was wayyyy too casual with my nighttime outfits... So I then switched to always packing a day and a night bag, but I'd be out exploring all day and wouldn't have time to go back to my hotel to swap out purses. Other countries are just so much dressier than the U.S. (especially San Francisco!), so I'd forget how underdressed I'd feel at night just due to a simple bag. Now, I take one bag that can be dressed up or down, and I have so much more space in my luggage!
While packing cubes' huge perk is helping you cram as many things as possible into your suitcase, their organizational ability is extremely underrated. Even if I'm going on a shorter trip where I don't necessarily need to squish things down, I love separating my shirts into one and bottoms + dresses into another so that when I arrive somewhere, everything is ready to go to be placed in drawers. Then, once you're a few days into the trip, you can start putting all your clean clothes in one and dirty clothes in the other to keep them separate and organized. Seriously my #1 travel game-changer!
I never travel without earplugs- especially while abroad. I've found myself in much older buildings that don't keep the noise out like I'm used to in the U.S., so it can be really difficult for me to sleep. Nights are often later and/or mornings are earlier in other countries, and I'm the lightest of sleepers. But I always used to have a problem- the earplugs would come out of my ears in the middle of the night because they were a little too big for my ear canals. I found these ones that are 20% slimmer than normal earplugs, and they no longer fall out!! Now I'mnot woken up by a rooster because one fell out in the middle of the night. I'm so thankful to have found these!!
So there ya go! Nothing too revolutionary, but sometimes it's easy to forget the basic things that truly make the world of difference. It's crazy how much better trips have become thanks to these 5 "essential" items. What are you essentials?