Whether you have a 40L or 70L, there are some things you need when you travel. I’ve compiled the most useful items I used abroad!
I traveled to Europe in the summer of 2017 with this 46L backpack by Osprey for 90 days. I stayed in mainly hostels, a few hotels, and AirBnbs, so I was never far out of reach of a laundry facility. The dimensions of the backpack look a bit larger than what most budget airlines allow, but I never had a problem with using it as my carry-on on RyanAir, EasyJet, etc.
The #1 reason I love this backpack for traveling so lightly is that it has a top zipper pouch for my toiletry bag. It fit a carry-on toiletry bag very easily, so I could just grab it and shove it right back into the top compartment without having to open my actual backpack when going through security. It has a lot of different compartments and straps around the body really easily. Anyone who has had an Osprey swears by it!
Here are the necessities for traveling solely out of a backpack:
1. Compression Cubes (by Gonex)
OK. These things were awesome. I could shove so much stuff into them and then the double-zipper compresses it when you zip it up, so a majority of what I had in my backpack fit into only 3 of these bags. While they were pretty annoying to pack and repack every time, it definitely made my backpack a lot smaller, so if you plan to travel with a lot of budget airlines with just a backpack (and don’t want to check it), then I definitely recommend some sort of compression system.
You know, I always see memes about people who bring a million pairs of underwear when they travel – I, however, did not. I didn’t bring enough. And for some reason, I DIDN’T EVEN BUY MORE! I was ALWAYS running low on underwear. If I had bought more, I wouldn’t have had to wash the rest of my clothes so often. I don’t care what anyone says, you cannot wash your underwear in a sink with laundry detergent packs and a sink plug. It just doesn’t work. Bring enough for at least 2 weeks.
3. Wrinkle-Resistant Clothing
Test your clothes out. Roll them up and put them in a compression bag overnight, or pack as you would to travel, and make sure that your clothes don’t come out looking like a mess. I thought some of my clothes would be OK and not wrinkle, but some of them did a lot worse than others.
4. Reusable plastic bags (reusable bags in general)
YOU WILL NEED THEM! I used an old Wal-Mart bag for all of my dirty underwear – and then I bought a few more. They also come in handy for when you get your shoes muddy and put them back in your backpack – it won’t get everything else dirty.
Most places in Europe do not give out plastic bags with groceries, so you have to bring your own reusable one or buy one. It’s not really worth the money, so bringing along a reusable grocery bag is helpful. It also makes it easier for labeling / putting away your food in a shared refrigerator at a hostel because you can keep everything together.
5. Travel Safe Purse (by Travelon)
This was the most important thing I bought and it took up barely any room in my backpack when I wasn’t using it, but I almost always was. I felt SO safe with this purse. I genuinely had no concerns because of the lobster-claw hooks that hook to the side after you zip it; no one could pickpocket you without you noticing. It could fit a (small) water bottle and even my biggest wallet. It actually fit my iPad mini really well, but it didn’t zip with it in there in its giant case.
I was very diligent and paranoid of pickpockets because it wasn’t something I was ever exposed to. I grew up close to NYC and could walk those streets without a care, but Europe was not my territory and I didn’t want to make myself a victim of theft. So. This purse. Worth every penny.
6. Passport Wallet and Small Wallet
Yes. Bring two wallets. A wallet that has the capability of holding everything but not the wallet that you bring out. I used this one and it had RFID protection; mine was hot pink. And then, a smaller wallet that holds some cash, maybe a credit card, your U.S. identification, and a photocopy of your passport and insurance card. I never personally brought any credit cards or debit cards when I went out. I’d go out to an ATM and go right back to my hostel to drop my debit card off and lock it up.
Use the smaller wallet for when you’re going out and only bring enough cash with you that you will need. Do NOT bring your passport with you if you’re just going out for a night on the town or going out for lunch. You should only have it when you’re crossing borders. Otherwise, keep it locked up. This leads me to #7.
7. Photocopies of your passport and other identification
A photocopy of my passport with a valid ID (I used my Florida License) is all anyone should need to identify you or if they’re questioning your age for a club or anything else. The only time you should be carrying your passport is when you’re traveling and crossing borders. There’s no point in risking losing your passport or getting it stolen when you’re on a walking tour or just exploring a city.
Yes, you will need them. My backpack could lock through the zippers, so when I was in travel mode going from place to place, I always kept my backpack locked. I used these two locks with different combinations. They were pretty small and didn’t fit on ALL of the hostel lockers but they did most, so I definitely recommend getting a cable lock or a lock that’s slightly bigger than the small ones.
9. Printouts of tickets (if you can get your hands on them early)
Some flights let you print out their tickets 30 days before the flight, so, if you’re still in the states and you can print out some tickets, do it! Same goes for busses and trains.
9. USB Charger Plug with multiple ports AND country adapters
One of my best decisions was buying this plug. It came with different adaptors that you can slide onto the block and it had 4 different ports for charging. I brought extra, smaller ones but this thing was seriously all I needed!
11. Headphones and extra headphones
Have a backup pair in your backpack that you don’t touch. You will be happy you brought them.
12. Charger cables and extra charger cables
Yeah, there’s no reason to only have one charger. Bring 3 because I promise you will lose at least one. I had to charge my iPad and iPhone, so I needed a few to begin with.
13. A portable charger (a good one)
These are great for when you’re on the go. Invest in one. Spend at least $20 and it’ll be worth it. They take a while to charge, but you can let them charge while you go out during the day and come back to a fully charged battery. The one I had charged my iPhone fully 4-5 times. This one isn’t the exact same but it is a newer model of the one I have.
14. Neck pillow
Ok. I had an inflatable neckpillow and someone stole it in the first 3 weeks. I guess it was a hot commodity, but either way, it was awesome and makes busses/trains/planes way more comfortable.
15. Fast-drying towel
This towel is absolute must. I got the XL, but I should have gotten one in every size!
16. SIM Card Holder
Now, traveling in Europe now is a lot easier because you can roam freely in the EU. You really only need one sim-card that you can reload; however, I bought some foreign ones and some countries had better deals than others. I ended up buying one every month rather than reloading (because they were all foreign and I couldn’t understand the instructions on the phone, lol). No matter what, though, I needed somewhere to put my original U.S. SIM card. So I bought this!
17. Heavy. Duty. Ear. Plugs.
THIS IS SO IMPORTANT, unless you’re a really heavy sleeper and know you don’t need them. I am a light sleeper and I bought snore-proof earplugs and basically died every time I went to bed in a hostel. Some of the best nights sleep I’ve had in my life were in hostels because of earplugs (and being pretty drunk). I didn’t wake up for anything besides my alarm. People in hostels arrive and leave at different hours of the day and night, so you never know what kind of noise they’re going to be making.
18. Eye mask
Again, I’m a light sleeper, so this was huge for me. You don’t know what time people are going to be up and moving around, turning on lights and using a flashlight, so it’s helpful.
19. Extra Glasses and Contacts
Bring them! I never had to use the extra pair of glasses but I’m glad I brought them just in case.
20. Glasses Case (a hard one)
For sunglasses or eyeglasses, protect them with a durable glasses case. You can shove a cleaner in there, too!
Bring extra tampons if you use them. There was nothing more frustrating than walking into a drugstore when you have one or two tampons left and only being able to find the old cardboard ones that your nurse in middle school would hand out.
Please note: I am not in any way sponsored by any apps or products recommended in this post. All opinions are my own and based off of personal experience!