12 Essential Travel Items for Every Adventure

headphones camera

When we first started traveling together, we made many mistakes when it came to packing. Now? We kind of think of ourselves as packing ninja gurus. This list has our absolute essential travel items, the ones we don’t leave home without, most of which were tested on our five-month trip around the world. Some are a bit obvious, some have surprised even us (who knew a blow-up neck pillow would be the difference between fly happy and crazy jet-lagged nutjob exiting the plane, for example). We’d love to hear your favorites too, leave us a comment below!

Want more packing intel? We made a FREE packing checklist for yours truly based on a two week itinerary with just a carryon. This includes even more essential travel items, in addition to ones that are more optional or activity specific. Or, see our mega packing post from five months abroad, including reviews of each item.

Note: The links below contain affiliatte links, meaning purchasing an item through these links will give us a small commission at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting Miles Less Traveled!

1. Comfortable and practical backpack

Two woman hiking with backs turned secret falls kauai
Trekking through the jungle

This is probably the single most important item we bought for our long trip. Whether you are going for a week or a year, the piece of luggage you bring with you can make or break the vacation.

We opted for backpacks because we needed something easy to transport, lightweight, and that could be carried from point A to B in any circumstances (ever tried rolling a suitcase through a thick crowd or across a beach? Not going to work). For shorter trips, we usually prefer a small carry on duffle or rolling luggage.

If you’re traveling to a winter destination or through the tropicas, you might to consider investing in a high quality waterproof backpack instead.

Pick for backpacking packs:

Joe: I ended up not loving my Osprey pack, but I think they make great packs overall, the setup of mine was just not practical for this trip (I have a more in-depth review of this in our complete long term travel packing list).

Alicia: I used a traditional hiking backpacking pack from REI that I loved. This is something I highly recommend trying on in a store yourself, as it is super personal in terms of fit and comfort.

The Patagonia duffel bag is such a great size and would be a great carry on bag versus bringing a rolling bag.  

Backpacking Europe? Check out this location specific guide to find the best pack.

2. Blow up neck pillow

Essential Travel Items Neck Pillow

This was a very silly last-minute purchase that we snagged from REI on one of our many supply runs before we left, and yet it ended up being one of our favorite items. Our particular model folded into the size of the palm of your hand, and handily clipped onto our packs for easy access. It blew up with a few quick puffs — no pump required–and we were snuggled into it in a matter of seconds. We used this on countless bus/train/plane trips in every country we visited.

This is a similar, well-reviewed inflatable neck pillow on Amazon:

3. Headphones

We live off music/podcasts/Netflix when traveling. When we are the only people we are talking to, it’s easy to run out of things to say. Cue the I can’t speak to you anymore signal — headphones.

We originally used the pair that came with our phones but have since upgraded to these noise-canceling ones. They make EVERYTHING more manageable — snoring, crying babies, blaring horns. I slept Buy your own pair:

4. Camera

What started out as 1 camera grew to 3 by the time we were done. The first met its sad end on a lonely bench in Kaikoura, New Zealand during an allergy attack where Alicia could not see her hands in front of her face. The second camera was purchased in the same town shortly after and held us down for a good month until we were gifted our most recent during Christmas.

Camera TypeCamerasProsCons
Point & ShootSony Cyber Shot

-Easy to use
-Less expensive
-Lightweight &
-Less control
-Some are better than others
MirrorlessSony Alpha
-Higher quality photos
-Easier to Edit
-More gear
-May need to
learn more techskills

Our favorite point and shoot: the Sony Cyber Shot. If you’re looking for a starter camera that is easy to use and takes fabulous pictures this is it!

The Panasonic Lumix point and shoot was our second camera after Alicia lost the first one in New Zealand. This one was ok but inferior to the Sony for about the same price point.

Our current love ended up being the Sony a6000 mirrorless camera is the one we intend to stick with for a while and slowly build up gear for.

5. Packing Cubes

Essential Travel Items Packing Cubes

There is a reason that packing cubes are on every blogger’s packing list ever created: because they are amazing. No way would we have been able to consolidate our clothing the way we did–or avoid the stress freakouts when Alicia feels disorganized–without these guys. We never travel without them anymore.

We used the entire Flight 001 set, though there are certainly more affordable options out there as well. However, these did hold up our entire trip.

Sometimes, we switch those out for the below Herschel ones as well:

Herschel Standard Issue Travel System, Black

6. Quick-dry underwear and socks

I take it back, THIS might be the most important thing you take on a trip with you, especially when it comes to anywhere humid or wet for any reason (including lots of rain/snow). Since we were going to places that brought us through just about every climate except the extreme cold, we relied on these to keep us dry in all the right places. From climbing volcanoes to eating our way through a Roman winter, we found that these worked just about everywhere. If you’ve ever had wet sock syndrome walking through a new city, you know how important this is.

See similar items to what we brought by clicking the links below: 

7. Quick-dry pants/shorts

Couple standing on Mt. Rinjani with sunrise behind them
Survived everything from volcano treks to boating to multi-day plane trips.

These were great for working out, hikes, and just general life. Bonus that they happened to be super comfortable, and also became our go-to wear on travel days. Nothing says “I’ve been in 4 different time zones and on 6 planes” like soggy sweat patches on your bottom. These helped us feel slightly more human in these moments.

See similar items to what we brought by clicking the links below: 

8. Quick-dry shirts

Couple hiking in the woods
Sweat as much as you please in these.

Notice a theme here? Quick dry ery-thang. This worked better for Joe than it did for Alicia, mainly because these don’t tend to be good for petite women.

Click the link below to see similar item:

9. Hat

Man and woman in kayake wearing sun hats and reflective sunglasses on river
Stylish AND skin safe.

Mainly for sun protection, but also for the inevitable unwashed hair for 4 days strong look. We used a Patagonia baseball cap, but really any hat with a brim will do including the more fashionable floppy sun hats for the ladies. It’s also useful to have a knit hat if traveling someplace with cooler temperatures. There are a bunch of beanies out there that fold up nice and tiny.

This link is the exact hat we brought:

Click here for a winter hat option:

10. Extra day trip backpack

backpack on a rock

Another impulse buy (see blow up pillow, above) that made the cut for all time favorite items. We got a daypack that folded into its own zipper pocket, making it compressible and easy to pack and unpack.

Buy a similar one here: Osprey Foldup backpack

11. E-reader


We could do a whole rundown of our favorite tech items, but we probably need more than most do traveling as bloggers. The Kindle, however, is a non-negotiable for us even if we’re simply taking a long train ride for a day trip. It is the one item we never travel without. Both of us are BIG time readers and have passed many a boring travel hour with our nose in a digital book.

Is a paper book better? Probably, nothing quite replaces the smell of warped paper and the weighted feel of a book in hands, but it is no match for the Kindle in terms of traveling convenience. The ability to access millions of books in a matter of seconds, and carry as many as we wanted at a time without added weight is a rational benefit that we can not trade in for the nostalgia of the printed version.

Buy your own Amazon Kindle:

12. Earplugs and Eyemask

woman sleeping

Picture this: you have just sat down in your cheap basic economy seat and fall asleep within minutes. This is something I could have never imagined before I started traveling with an eye mask and earplugs, two items that are now essential to us every time we get on a plane. They also work wonders in big cities (like that AirBnB we rented on a busy street in Saigon).

The number of sleepless days and nights that have been avoided because of these are hard to guess at, and our gratitude is infinite. Try these for a great night’s sleep on the road:

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Alicia is a freelance writer, bartender, and the MLT wife! She loves running, beaches, and tiny animals.


  1. May 29, 2018 / 5:32 AM

    Wonderful list and I will definitely use it for my next trip. My headphones are one of the really essential things that I always carry with me.

    • Joe & Alicia
      May 29, 2018 / 8:58 AM

      Thanks Nathan! Totally agree, headphones are a MUST.

  2. Susan Hepner
    May 10, 2018 / 2:05 PM

    Great tips! I’m creating my shopping list now before summer travel. Thanks!

    • Joe & Alicia
      May 11, 2018 / 9:16 AM

      Thank you! Hope you summer travel your way to the east coast 🙂

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