Here’s a rundown of the travel essentials that I pack with me whether for a long trip abroad or a short weekend trip within the States.
I’ve discussed international travel tips and what I packed for a weekend trip in previous posts, but this one is going to feature and discuss more specifically the travel essentials you’ll need while traveling for your next holiday/vacation. I also touch on packing tips and hacks that you’ll want to know.
Let’s jump right in.
MEN’S TRAVEL ESSENTIALS
1) The Carry-On
For the first travel essential, I recommend to go with a hard shell, 360° rolling luggage with 4 wheels. It’s light and provides easy maneuverability in the airport or busy city streets. For a rolling carry-on, I’m loving the Level8 rolling luggage. It’s the perfect balance of simplicity and functionality.
If you’re about that backpacker life, however, I’d go with a lightweight trekking backpack which is handy if you’re moving around a lot and staying in hostels where there usually aren’t any elevators.
Also worth checking out this Everyday Bag from Stubble & Co. And finally, if you’re looking for a hybrid duffel/backpack, this sustainable option from Monarc might hit the spot.
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Don’t forget a TSA approved “Master” lock for your carry-on luggage, it’s particularly important if you’ll be staying at a hostel or rooming with strangers. You can’t trust anyone.
If you’re traveling international, leave some extra room in your carry-on just in case you need to transfer some things from your checked bag to avoid going over the standard 50 lbs (22.5 kg) weight limit.
2) Go-To Personal Item
Whether you go for a light backpack or messenger bag, I recommend choosing quality, comfort and functionality over style here. If you can achieve all four, even better. Ideally your bag should be able to hold up over time and not tear at the seams.
Something like this backpack or briefcase from Stuart & Lau or Saddleback Leather is a good choice. I love the backpack especially because it has endless pockets, is lightweight and comfortable to wear, making it perfect for a hike or bushwalk. I also love this bag called the Wandrd Prvke that I’ve been using for the past several years. It’s perfect for photographers with a flair for style.
For something more simple and stylish on-the-go, the Cordoba Backpack from Nisolo is perfect. Finally, there’s this commuter briefcase that’s well-made and comfortable. I ended up taking it with me everywhere during my 3 month trip abroad in Australia making it one of my go-to travel essentials.
Have a TSA approved quart sized plastic bag handy in your personal item. Fill it with toothpaste, mouthwash, face wipes, oil absorbing sheets and anything else you may need during the flight or between layovers.
3) Unexpired Passport
For travel essential number 3, It goes without saying, but if you’re traveling international, make sure you have an unexpired passport. And if you’re traveling for an extended period of time (3 months or more) it’s imperative that your passport isn’t going to expire while you’re abroad, otherwise you’ll have the hassle of contacting the US Embassy or Consulate in order to obtain a new one while paying the additional fee.
Keep in mind that some countries like New Zealand and even the US (depending on the establishment) require foreigners to have a passport to enter bars so be sure to check beforehand.
Treat your passport like your baby because without it you’ll be SOL. It’s a good idea to keep your passport close to you at all times, preferably in your pants pockets. You can also keep it in a zipped jacket pocket so that it’s secure, but make sure you don’t lose your jacket.
4) Minimal Wallet
Travel essential number 4 is a minimal wallet. My wallet only contains a handful of cards (credit, debit, driver’s license). I don’t like carrying cash because I like to track all of my spending electronically, and using credit cards does all of that automatically with an app like Mint or Personal Capital. I personally have been using Mint for ages now and it’s been working for me. Even if you don’t like to carry cash (like me), it’s worthwhile to have a few bills (20’s, 10’s, 5’s, 1’s) in your wallet just incase of emergency or for a quick tip.
Avoid using American Express, especially while traveling abroad. It almost always has a surcharge. Asian restaurants, especially tend to charge extra if you use AMEX.
5) Dopp Kit
Travel essential number 5 is the all important dopp kit.
- Facial/hair care
- Other grooming essentials
This is up to you. Many of these things you can purchase at the pharmacy after you’ve settled in. But if you have a dopp kit, why not bring along some of your favorite essentials? This elegant, yet simple dopp kit from Ezra Arthur is my current favorite.
Remember to carry travel size toiletries 3.4 oz/100 mL or under. You’ll want all of your toiletries to fit inside a small or mid-size plastic ziplock bag to adhere to TSA carry-on regulations.
6) Travel Pillow
A travel pillow for neck support is a must-have travel essential for long flights or bus rides. It sucks waking up with a sore neck or that feeling where you know you’re sleeping and your head keeps tilting over to one side until your body jolts itself awake and then you do keep doing it over and over, it can be quite embarrassing.
I recommend the Trtl Travel Pillow. My sister and brother-in-law got one for me before my 3 month trip to Australia earlier this year. It’s a life saver and much more comfortable than the traditional or inflatable kind. Plus the fleece material helps to keep you warm.
7) The 3 C’s Of Travel
- Converters (international power converter & travel adapter)
- Chargers (for all of your electronics)
- Cables & Cords
Goes without saying, but I can’t remember how many times I’ve forgotten at least one of these.
Don’t embark on a day of travel without a portable cell phone power bank in your bag. Especially if you use your phone for taking pictures or battery intensive apps like Google Maps, this travel essential can save the day.
A Few More Important Items
- Go-to travel jacket/coat (wear it on the plane to save space)
- Favorite pair of versatile sunglasses
- A good book & good music loaded up in the cloud (or get a Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora or Google Music account)
- Digital watch (that’s waterproof and can take a beating)
- Electric shaver or minimal razor
- Ear buds/headphones (airlines tend to have the crappy, disposable kind)
TRAVEL TIPS & PACKING HACKS
1) Stay Well Under The Weight Limit
I don’t know what it is, but the airlines are out to get us, particularly those inaccurate airport luggage scales. Through my experience, it’s a good idea to stay 7-10 lbs (3-5 kgs) under the actual airline weight limit. I’ve been hit with the $100 baggage overage several times now because 48 lbs at home became 53 lbs at the airport. Learn from me and don’t let them screw you over. To get an accurate measurement at home, use a luggage scale with a digital reader over a standard bathroom scale.
Better yet, pack as light as you possibly can. Through my years of travel, I’m learning that it’s best to pack light. It’s easier to get around, less of a hassle and you’ll have more room for items you plan to buy, whether that’s clothes, food, candies, souvenirs, etc.
Don’t pack anything you can buy at your destination, for example, umbrellas, medication, etc. It’s all about saving space.
2) Go With Interchangeable Clothing Items
Interchangeable clothing items will allow for you to pack lighter. When it comes to style and interchangeable wardrobes, neutral colors are best because they’re easy to style and go with many other colors. Pack versatile jeans, chinos and shirts that you can create a myriad of different looks.
If you have a 7-10 day trip, no need to pack 7-10 pairs of pants. 4-5 pairs will do. And to be honest, no one is going to notice or say anything about you wearing the same pants for multiple days.
I keep repeating myself, but it’s best to travel light and keep things comfortable. Your future traveling self will thank you.
3) Tap To Pay
Not sure why Americans are still swiping or inserting their credit cards. We’re basically a decade behind the rest of the world when it comes to chip and pin cards. Europe, Australia and other developed countries use pay wave or tap to pay terminals as the standard. The US has a lot of catching up to do.
And though many credit card companies are sending out updated credit cards with a chip in it, I find that many retailers and restaurants still require a swipe or insert, because the cards aren’t tap enabled.
With the rise of Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay, many retailers accept electronic payment, so it’s a good idea to enable NFC (near field communication) on your phone and pre-load whichever credit cards you want to use. Anytime you’re near a pay terminal you simply place your phone near the terminal and you’re all set.
Speaking of credit cards, apply for one with no foreign transaction fees if you’re all about saving money. I personally use my Capital One cards whenever I travel because they don’t have foreign transaction fees. There are also travel rewards cards worth signing up for that have 2-3% cash back on all purchases and all kinds of perks.
4) Don’t Forget Waterproofing
Pack a lightweight rain jacket or coat if you go to a wet climate or travel during a country’s rainy season. Last month I went to New Zealand and one of the areas we traveled through is one of the wettest places on Earth and so rain gear was a must. Also, don’t forget water repellant spray for your shoes, hats, bags and anything else you want to keep dry.
Pick up a pack of disposable rain ponchos incase of emergency and it can come in hand for a friend or stranger that may need it.
5) Wear Your Heaviest Clothes On the Plane
If you don’t mind the hassle of going through security, wear your heaviest items on the plane. I’m talking boots, jeans or a jacket—wear them on the day of your flight to conserve weight and space. Dress in layers that way you can stay warm and comfortable on the airplane. If you’ve flown before you know how brisk it can get during a long flight. And if you get too hot, just remove a layer or two.
Frequent flyers should consider applying for TSA Precheck which will essentially allow you to breeze through security without removing your shoes, laptop, belt, liquids and light jacket. It’s only $85 and lasts for 5 years.
Additional Travel Tips/Packing Hacks
1) Always opt for a mobile boarding pass if you have the option, that way you can’t possibly lose it by the time you reach the gate.
2) Bring light-weight clothes that dry quickly—this will not only save space in your luggage, but also allow for you to easily wash and dry your clothes on the go.
3) Keep a USB charging cable in your personal item so your phone has full charge when you’re ready to exit the plane.
4)Wear slip on shoes at the airport in the United States. Whether that’s chelseas or loafers, it will save you time and the hassle from untying and retying your laces. FYI, in Australia, New Zealand and countries in Europe they don’t require you to remove your shoes.
5) If you’re doing a tour on a big bus for an extended period of time (a week or longer), be sure to pack some meds, ear plugs, cough drops. This is especially important if you’re traveling somewhere cold. I guarantee someone on the bus will be hacking their lungs out. You may have to stiff arm a few people. Keep your space or stay away from them on the bus. There’s nothing worse than traveling sick.
6) Don’t be late and in a hurried mess. Per airline recommendations, give yourself at least 2 hours for international flights and 1 hour for domestic flights.
7) Remember to be polite and have your smile readily available. Smiling makes those around you more at ease. At an airport especially, you’ll want to have patience, treat others kindly, and be nice to airport attendants.
IN THE END
There ya have it, this concludes my list of travel essentials, tips and packing hacks based on my experience traveling abroad and domestic. Hope you were able to pick up a few new tricks to help you on your next journey.
Originally published in June 2018. Since updated with additional content.
Did I miss anything, what are your go-to travel essentials?
Let’s continue the discussion over in the Gentlemen Within Private Facebook Community.
Looking forward to seeing you in there.
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Ben Stone says
My first read of your site…excellent! Thanks
Khoi Nguyen says
Love it! Thanks for reading. 🙏 -K