15 REAL Essentials You Should ALWAYS Pack When You Travel

We’ve all been there. We’re traveling, we arrive at our destination or the airport, only to realize we have forgotten one or more essential items. Sometimes these items (like travel documents) are immediately apparent, other times we don’t realize we need them until it’s too late. (You know, AFTER you’ve been attacked by a swarm of mosquitos and realize you REALLY needed to have the bug repellent on hand.) As a frequent traveler, I have forgotten almost every single one of these items. Not only is it inconvenient, but costly. Especially if you’re traveling overseas and the products are difficult to find and expensive. Really, have you ever tried to trek across Spain/France/Italy in search of a charger cord for your American Hewlett Packard laptop? Let me tell you, it is not fun! This happened to me last summer and after my laptop battery died, I had to resort to internet cafes. Do not be me. Use this list to check off all your essentials BEFORE you head to the airport. Learn from me, friends!

Plug Converter

In case you didn’t know, many foreign countries have different plugs than America, so you will need a plug converter to avoid blowing up your electronics. Never, ever try to plug an American plug into foreign plugs without a converter; it will destroy your electronics.

A Rewards Credit Card with No Foreign Fees

Always make sure you have a credit card when you travel, preferably one with rewards and NO foreign transaction fees, like Discover IT Miles card. First, carrying currency is risky and non-replaceable. So, if you lose your cash, you’re out of luck. Second, because having a rewards card with no foreign transaction fees saves you money AND you get credit back on your expenses. For example, Discover’s IT Miles card gives you 1.5x miles for every dollar you spend and the miles never expire, so you can use them forever. You can redeem miles for cash, or as a statement credit toward travel purchases, including commercial airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, commuter transportation and taxis. And unlike other cards (including your debit card) there are no foreign transaction fees -which can add up to a lot by the end of your trip! Best all, you have $0 fraud liability, so if you lose your card or it gets stolen, you’re not responsible for the charges AND Discover will even send you a brand new card over night (within the U.S.). Plus, you get additional perks like an annual $30 credit for in-flight wifi and no annual fee. So really, there is no reason NOT to get a rewards card when you travel. It’s the safest, most beneficial way to travel. Bottom line. Get your Discover rewards card here. (They’re currently offering double miles!)

Charger Cords

That time I trekked across Europe with no laptop charger.
Barcelona, Spain: That time I trekked across Europe with no laptop charger.

While you may not forget your phone or laptop, forgetting charger cords for said devices is all too common. Always double check that you have packed all charger cords, so that you don’t end up on a wild goose chase like me.

Health Aids: Pain Relievers, Cold Medicine, Bug Repellent, Bandages etc.

I assure you, you’re going need one of these at some point. Make sure to pack pain relievers, cold medicine, bug repellent, cough drops, bandages, anti-nausea medicine etc. Trust me, when you’re on that long flight with a stomach ache and/or splitting headache or trekking through a bug-infested countryside, you’ll be glad you did.


Travel Documents


Captain Obvious reporting here, but yes, some of us do forget our travel documents and it can be a disaster. Avoid the stress and missing your flight by having your travel documents prepared and neatly tucked away in one place. This includes your license, insurance cards, state ID, passport, work visa, birth certificate etc. Always double check that you have EVERYTHING you need to travel and work in other countries.

Nail Clipper/Files

Because you know that hang nail or jagged broken finger nail is beyond annoying! It’s also gross to chomp it off with your teeth and it can be a bloody disaster to try to peel it off. Always be sure to pack and nail clipper and nail file. Your hands will thank you.


Yes, my dear sun-bather, we all need sunscreen! 1 in 5 people will develop some form of skin cancer in their lifetime, so wearing sunscreen is nothing to balk about. Also, have you ever tried purchasing sunscreen in a foreign country? So. Expensive. One time we paid $28 for a can of spray-on sunscreen. Highway robbery. Bring your own sunscreen!

Sun Hat

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Always protect your skin.

Always bring a baseball cap, sun visor or sun hat to stay  cool and keep the sun off your face. When the blistering sun is shining on you, you’ll be so happy you have some protection from those harmful UV rays that cause skin cancer and premature aging.


Whether you’re a workout junky or not, you will need sneakers when you get tired of those nasty blisters your sandals gave you from walking around too much. It’s at that pivotal moment you are no longer willing to suffer for fashion and you will be thankful for your sturdy, comfortable sneakers! Bring ’em.

Headphones/Ear Plugs

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You’re going to need these for sure.

Of course you’re going to need headphones and ear plugs on your flight. Whether you want to snooze, watch a movie or drown out the excessive talking or a crying baby, ear plugs and headphones will be  your saving grace.


Because we all know what happens when we start and we’re unprepared: disaster. Even when you think you know your cycle, bodies are weird. Sometimes they do things that you don’t expect. Always have tampons on hand!

Everything Smaller Than 4 oz.

This is just a friendly reminder that you can’t pack anything in a carry-on that is over 4 oz. Save yourself  the devastation of tossing your favorite cosmetics at the airport by making sure everything in your carry-on is 4 oz. or less.


Begur, Spain: Never without my sun hat or swimsuit!
Begur, Spain: Never without my sun hat or swimsuit!

I’ve forgotten my swimsuit more times than I can count. And no, your bra and underwear does not work and it’s painfully obvious when people try to pull this off. Add a swimsuit to your travel check list. Forgetting one can be inconvenient and costly.

Waterproof Makeup

It’s likely  you’ll be doing some swimming and sweating while on vacation, so be sure to pack waterproof cosmetics. That is, unless you love hashtagging #raccoonlife on your Instagram pics.

Double Underwear

Yes, exactly what it says. Double your underwear. So, if you’re going on a 7 day vacation, pack 14 pairs of underwear. You may think I’m crazy, but between pool time, multiple outfit changes, sweaty activities and what not, you will probably be showering and changing more often than you realize. You’ll obviously want fresh underwear every time you shower and change. Pack ’em.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.



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Desiree Rabuse

Desiree Rabuse is a social entrepreneur and founder & CEO of StyleFox®. She's a devout bookworm, a fan of "Dad" jokes, and an apparent INTP. She loves snowboarding, philosophy, traveling, martial arts, coffee, and helping people lead healthy, happy, more efficient lives.

1 Comment
  1. Kandie Overgaag says:

    Ooh also, Passports expire! Don’t forget to check the dates! Great article!

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