Seven months into our travels, we thought it would be useful to outline our favourite and most useful things that we packed. Though they may not be the most glamorous items, they sure did prove their worth day in day out over the past 7 months! Since we brought 40L carry-on backpacks only, size and weight were super important to us.
We chose one that folded up into a small bag the size of your fist so that we would have the option of putting it inside our backpack when we didn’t need it. Turns out we pretty well always have it out most of the time instead of packed away because it has been so useful! We used it to keep things in that we want quick access to on the plane or train. We also used it to go to the beach or on hikes or bombing around a city for the day. We loved that it was lightweight and that it was a backpack. It’s surprisingly strong for such a thin material – no signs of tearing 7 months in!
Packable grocery bag:
I actually threw this item in at the very last minute. I just clipped it onto the outside of my backpack and it proved to be very handy! We used it anytime we did groceries (environmental bonus!) or as a “food bag” on the train or plain for quick and easy access to snacks. We liked having snacks and drinks in a separate bag from our electronics in the day bag as you never know when a yogurt can burst! Between this grocery bag and our Day Bag, we commonly use them as our ‘personal item’ on flights we tuck under the seats, with our bigger 40L backpacks being our ‘Carry-on’ luggage.
These are meant as waterproof bags to keep your things dry when out camping or kayaking or the like. 90% of the time we use them as laundry bags (we each have our own), so we don’t get our clean clothes all smelly. They also work great as dry bags when we go to the beach or head out on a boat or any other time there is a risk of getting wet (eg rain) and we need to keep our electronics or other valuables dry. They come in many sizes and most are a thicker/bulkier material but these are perfect for us as they are very lightweight and pack down super small. Bonus tip, we’ve read that some people will do their laundry in these bags: just add detergent and water and give it a shake. We have not yet tried this laundry technique.
We kept 2-3 carabiners each attached to the outsides of our backpacks. These were especially useful for packing things that we didn’t necessarily want inside our backpacks (eg dirty or wet shoes), things we didn’t have room for in our backpacks at the time (eg. Snorkle gear) or things we wanted quick access to (eg. Water bottle). Bonus uses: they can be attached to the outside of our day bag to carry things we didn’t want inside (eg. Dirty sandals from the beach) or were frequently used (with paracord) to attach resistance bands to trees or posts or doorknobs for workouts.
This one is a bit of a no-brainer these days – but our battery packs saved us on many occasions! There is nothing worse than the feeling of trying to navigate yourself to your hotel for the night using Google Maps with the “5% battery left” warning flashing at you! So save yourselves the headaches and pack at least one of these trusty gadgets to power through those long travel days.
This small item came in very handy on long travel days (buses, planes, trains) when we wanted to watch a show or movie together. It simply allows 2 sets of headphones to be plugged into the same device (laptop, phone, airplane TV, etc). This allowed us to use battery on only one device while also enjoying the movie/show at the same time without have to do the “press play when I say so” dance between 2 separate devices! Also, we learned from a clever couple we met in line waiting for entry to the Seville palace – headphone splitters are an easy way to save a few bucks when you’re planning to purchase an audioguide at a museum or iconic building. This way you can both listen for the price of one!
Travel Adapter Kit:
Most people don’t give this item much thought, but should! We chose a universal charger with one regular “American” outlet, 3 USB -A outlets and 1 USB-C outlet. This allowed us to charge up to 5 devices at one time! With two cell phones, two laptops, a GoPro, two battery packs and two sets of rechargeable headphones – the ability to charge many devices at once was a necessity! And only having two different types of connectors between all of our devices (USB-C or micro-USB) it made for fewer cables required. This one is slightly heavier/bulkier than some cheaper models and the different plugs are “loose” (ie. risk of losing them vs some are attached) but we really like it. We’ve heard of some cheaper ones malfunctioning or even melting while plugged in; this one comes highly recommended on online reviews and has built-in features to help prevent malfunctioning/overheating/over-voltage/etc. This was a concern for us as we were travelling to developing countries where their power distribution systems are not always reliable and didn’t want to fry our expensive electronics.
The one thing we didn’t pack but realized would have been really useful is a clothes line. Given that we only traveled with carry-on backpacks, laundry was inevitable! It was also very difficult to find dryers which required us to use the fool-proof old fashion method of hang drying. Unfortunately, not all of our accommodations had good drying racks which lead to some pretty creative tetris-style games with the clothes hangers, chairs and towel racks in our rooms. It wasn’t until we met up with my sister in Greece, who had packed a real clotheslines, that we realized how convenient it would have been to have brought one ourselves! We did pack a small length of paracord, and in hindsight now we should have purchased a much longer length of paracord to use as a clothesline and whatever else we needed a rope for (eg. Broken shoelace, tie things to our bags, the uses are endless!).