Welcome to the first post in the “Top Things Chosen by Travelers Around the World” series! Last week we asked bunch of globetrotters about their favorite traveling items, something that they always carry on their journeys and is crucial for them, but beyond the obvious stuff like passport, money and backpack.
The answers we received vary from high tech items like a netbook and GPS, to practical items like a headlamp and extra shoelaces, from essential items like comfortable pair of footwear, to fun items like a deck of cards and guitar. The most popular items were comfy footwear, a camera with video recording ability, and ziploc bags!
It’s interesting to see what other travelers came up with… So many things we have in common, and lots of great new ideas too. Headlamps, for example. Before seeing how popular they are, we always thought headlamps were for cave exploration or coal mining! We never thought of having one while traveling. Turns out that many travelers love it for many different dark situations, so we’re going to give it a try.
Now, let’s compare what you have in mind with what these travelers shared. I hope you have as much fun reading this list as I had collecting it!
Simon playing his travel guitar in the Laos jungle with one of their guides on the Gibbon Experience. © Never Ending Voyage
Simon and Erin from Never Ending Voyage:
- Macbook Pro – Simon’s a web designer/developer so it’s essential for work but we’ve found it so useful for many things (watching films, sorting photos, taking advantage of free wifi etc).
- Compression bags – we travel with two carry on size backpacks (30 litre & 40 litre) and these enable us to fit all of our clothes in and leaves us a little spare room.
- Travel Guitar – our Martin Backpacker guitar is really small, light and fits in overhead compartments on planes. As we’re travelling forever Simon wants to keep up with his music (and I’m learning too) and it’s a great way to connect with locals.
Nora from The Professional Hobo:
- Mini Optical Mouse – great for faster laptop surfing
- Travel Journal – for making notes and jotting down contact info on the fly
- Headlamp - my absolute best piece of travel gear; useful in soooo many ways
Earl from Wandering Earl:
- Nag Champa Incense – Just lighting one stick of this incense helps make even the worst budget hotel room become somewhat pleasant and I always seem to sleep better as a result.
- Eneloop Battery Charger & Batteries – These environmentally-friendly batteries and its super-compact (and super-cheap) charger allow me to take almost 600 photos with my digital camera on just one charge. In addition, the batteries never lose their energy if not used and they can apparently be re-charged 1,000 times before needing to be replaced.
- OluKai Sandals – Given my flat feet, the abnormally high arch-support system of these sandals have been a wonderful discovery as I can now walk everywhere without any pain, making them the perfect companion for my nomadic lifestyle.
Mike from Art of Backpacking:
- Deck of cards – Play Solitaire with yourself, Ring of Fire with alcohol, or card tricks with the little ones – it’s got many uses and their all entertaining.
- Harmonica – A small instrument that can go right in my pocket. It take’s loads of practice but once you start getting the hang of it, it makes for great fun with a group of people. Join a local band on the streets or the people playing at the hostel for a on the spot improvised band.
- Cheat sheet - In Asia, I had someone working at the hostel write down a few local foods, drinks, and sayings on a piece of paper to help me get around and order certain foods or drinks. Written on just a small piece of paper to put into my wallet to point to locals on what I need and eventually I start to memorize the words on the cheat sheet to the point I don’t need it anymore. Works every time!
Sabina from Solo Female Traveler:
- Two pairs of exquisitely comfortable shoes – Whether spending one day strolling slowly from sight to sight or two weeks hiking through the mountains, what is your single most important clothing component? Footwear. Ten meters can seem like 500 if your feet are in flames. I bring at least two pairs of extremely comfortable walking shoes so I can switch them out and fully enjoy every step I take without even thinking about the existence of my feet.
- One routine – I love green tea. I must drink it daily or I think I might freak out. How could I leave this happy daily routine behind when I travel? I always bring my favorite tea along for the ride and, when I run out, buy local tea for the rest of my trip. A little routine like this can really help keep you centered.
- Copious amounts of reading material – On my first long overseas trip I made the mistake of not bringing enough books for down time. Unhappily, I ended up actually having to buy reading material to get me through. My money was largely wasted, as books written in English seemed to be available only at train stations, all of which had very expensive yet pitiful selections. Books may be heavy, but if you’re a reader you’ll be happier if you’ve packed too many rather than too few.
Shannon from A Little Adrift:
- Sarong - agreed that it is simply invaluable. In hot countries I don’t even travel with a towel – just my sarong!
- Packing Cubes - I have yet to encounter another backpacker who can go from sleeping to darting out the door for a train as fast I myself. The packing cubes make repacking a cinch and keep my clothes off of hostel floors!
- Headlamp - You need one. From dark hostel rooms to reading on night trains, I love it to pieces.
Dave from Dave’s Photo & Travelblogue:
- Zipka headlamp with retracting string – I’ve already used it to do laundry when the light in the hostel bathroom went out.
- Smartwool shirts – warm, breathable, sweat dries fast, and they reeeeally resist the stink. And merino is NOT itchy.
- Waterproof orthotic shoe inserts – I’ve always been uncomfortable walking long distances. Blisters, rubbing, etc. So far, with good Merrell lightweight low-top hikers and these inserts, my feet have been happier than ever before with this much walking. Machu Picchu today was no problem!
Brooke from WhyGo Australia:
- Chaco sandals – They are hard-core and comfortable for long days of walking!
- Lip balm with SPF – Lips burn, too, so its nice to have a balm that includes SPF for days when you’re out in the sun.
- Hand sanitizer – Public transportation is a necessity when traveling, so I always carry some to clean my hands, especially before eating if I’m not near a restroom. I HATE getting sick while traveling, so whatever I can do to help that to NOT happen, I do!
Melvin from TravelDudes:
- Sunglasses! I never leave the house without them, even if I’m not traveling & in the winter. My friends just don’t get it, that the sun even shines in the winter…
Left: I’ve got new sunglasses, but I never looked liked that with my new ones again. Right: It was an atmosphere right how it looked like… I will always remember our trip through Down Under when I see this photo. © TravelDudes
- My photo & video camera is a must on my travels! It’s nicer to remember a trip if you see photos or even better… moving photos (film).
- My Flip Flops are always with me, but maybe I would leave them at home on an Antarctica trip… but only maybe!
- Mascara - I know. I am being a total girl here, but if I haven’t showered or the road is making me feel a little bit too rough and tough and I need a little pick me up, mascara does wonders. Plus it takes up very little space in a bag, helping me look awake when I may not be.
- A deck of cards - While this is not necessarily a travel gear item, if you are meeting new people in hostels, at language schools, or just traveling with friends, sometimes it is nice to always have a universal way to break the ice or pass some time on trains, planes, and automobiles.
- Little plastic bags - Going through security, you always need to have your liquids in those little quart sized plastic bags. I always find myself using a whole pack of these for all sorts of reasons beyond just the initial plane ride. If you collect little mementos from places, it is a great way to stay organized and protect those valuable souvenirs.
Brian from BikeandBoots:
- Sun Hat
- Pocket Knife
- Zip Lock One Zip Freezer Bags, Quart and Gallon Sizes
Adam from Travels of Adam:
- iPod Touch – I don’t care if you are one of those travelers who abhors using technology on the road. This thing is awesome! It’s a great way of being able to quickly and discreetly find wifi, whether to shoot off an email to your parents, call your significant other on Skype or plan a meetup with your local contacts.
- A shoelace – An extra one, I mean, not just the ones for your shoes. Useful for tying up loose things at night in your hostel (wallet, keys, cell phone, what have you…) or anything really. It’s not a security thing by any means, but it’s useful to have a bit of rope and a shoelace is as easy as anything. Plus you can just wrap it around your wrist when you’re not using it. Just don’t forget to wash it every now and then.
- A pen – Or whatever writing utensil you prefer. You’ll need it to jot down that Polish girl’s name so you can remember to Facebook her later. Or to write the name of that hostel you booked (at the very last minute, no doubt). You can write on almost anything (from a subway map to your wrist) so just be sure you’ve got something to write with.
Joel from Freedonia Post – High tech, low tech and hygiene:
- Garmin Edge 705 – a GPS specially designed for cyclists that records exactly where you rode so you can upload the trip route and share it with others
- Large binder clips – for hanging clotheslines, emergency repairs, sealing food bags, weighing down floating shower curtains and 1001 other uses.
- Bandana – to keep sweat out of my eyes on a long ride
- Travel towel – This is an absolute must-have. It’s not only great for drying yourself off after a shower, but also for wiping sweat from your face as you’re trekking around. I use an MSR Ultralight Pack Towel and it dries out extremely fast and stays surprisingly clean.
- Ziploc bags – I brought a couple of these with me when I packed my bag, not knowing if I’d ever use them. To my surprise, they have been extremely useful for storing nuts and food, keeping small loose items together in my bag, and keeping things dry during those sudden downpours.
- A camera that also records video – I’ve never liked shooting video, but I’ve discovered that having a camera that can record decent video really allows for capturing moments when sound is involved (music, chanting, festivals, etc.). It also allows you to record video blogs for future posting! Size was a huge concern for me and I discovered that the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 is absolutely awesome for traveling: 12-megapixel photos and 720p HD video!
Jenna from Adventures of a 21st Century Family:
- Comfortable shoes – We like Keens because they’re light and waterproof, and Chacos because they’re great walking sandals, adjustable, and even kind of cute
- Rainjacket that rolls up into a tiny bag – especially for those windy, rainy days in Europe
- Flip video camera
Anil from foXnoMad:
- Long-range USB antenna – let’s me extend my wireless range
- Ethernet cable – so many free access points at airports you can get that way
- A lock – for bags, hostel lockers, bikes, it comes in handy
Ryan and Dina from this blog:
- Pants with multiple secret pockets – I got a great pair of khaki pants from REI, with secret zip-up pockets sized perfectly for passports and credit cards. They’re made of material that repels dirt and water, so I can wear them for a week or more without washing, and when I do wash them a quick scrub in the hostel sink with some hand soap does the job. I spent 6 months in Europe wearing only this one pair of pants and they still look new. (-Ryan)
- Waterproof camera – We rarely take pictures underwater, but the greatest thing about a waterproof camera is you don’t have to hide it away and miss out on candid photo opportunities when you are under rain, or around a river, lake, beach, or waterfall. It lets you get all kind of great shots you’d otherwise miss. (-Dina)
- Small shoe horn – A little plastic shoe horn is extremely handy. Lots of travel situations have you taking shoes off and on, like temples, mosques, and homes in some places. Having a shoe horn in your pocket lets you slip your shoes on and off quickly. You can even do it if you’re wearing your backpack – no need to set it down. Plus, whenever you need to scrape off something that’s stuck, or chip away some ice, or need a little impromptu shim to hold something up, you’ve got the perfect tool at hand. (-Ryan)
So… How do you compare your favorite items with the list above? Did you find many of yours mentioned? Tell us which ones! Any of your favorite items not listed? Tell us about it!
For next week: Please participate in the next edition of the “Top Things Chosen by Travelers Around the World“! The topic is Top 3 ethnic food/local specialties. Food is one of the beauty of traveling around the world. Share the highlight of your food experience! Either the one that is so delicious you are addicted to it, like JamÃ³n ibÃ©rico from Spain, or the weird one, like chocolate covered bugs, that it’s more of a challenge than enjoyment to eat (or maybe you took the challenge and ended up loving it?!). Drinks are also fine too, for example Cretan honey raki. Send your top 3 picks to me at dina(at)vagabondquest(dot)com. I will need your (nick)name, your blog name and URL (so I link back to you), and your answers. For the answer, you can either just list the items, or give some explanations. Illustrating pictures are welcome! (We might need to collage/pick one if you send more than 1 picture). Please submit before Sunday May 23rd, 9 am Eastern Standard Time. Interested to participate but have some questions about it first? Give me a shout!