For most trips, I take my green 50L Quechua front-loading backpack and a 20L Camelbak daypack. I bought the Quechua bag at a Decathlon in Shanghai in 2011 (to replace a blue one of the same model and size that came down with an ant 🐜🐜🐜 problem in the Philippines). The updated model is available at Decathlon stores. The Camelback was originally Dan’s and I liked it better than my 25L Quechua of a similar size, as it’s slimmer and supports weight better. I don’t use the water bladder and use the compartment for other things. Both bags have held together in all types of environments and situations.

These are some items that I can’t travel without:

  • Quick-dry towel: This is for every type of trip! This kind of towel can dry super-quickly after a shower and be dry by the time I have to pack up. Dan has this one too!
  • 🔒 Small locks (with keys): for locker use or for locking my backpack zippers on long bus rides. Because locks come in pairs, I share mine with Dan (we split the package half-half).
  • 📖 Lonely Planet guidebook: I collect these and buy them used on Amazon in paperback. Usually I’ll wind up with an edition that’s a few years old, but it’s okay because we use updated websites for current information as well. I love reading the history of a place I’m traveling to during the ride there.
  • 🍫 Granola and snack bars: I usually take as many as I can, for snacking on bus rides and as backup food. I usually pack Larabar and GoMacro bars.
  • 💰 My travel wallet: I take a small wallet that has pockets for my credit and bank cards, along with a zipper part for coins (some countries use so many coins!).
  • 🔌 Adapter plugs for wall outlets: it pays to have one that can adapt to a few different countries.
  • 🔋 Backup battery power: I’m so glad these exist, and in small travel size! My small Anker battery is usually good for a few charges, and it has saved me on bus rides or flights that don’t have outlets.
  • 👂 Ear plugs: these may be your savior when someone is snoring loudly in a hostel dorm or bus/plane/train.
  • A light scarf: I typically bring a scarf that qualifies for travel in all seasons. It can double as a way of covering shoulders when entering a religious place, too.
  • 👡 Flippy flops: crucial for beaching, and taking showers in hostel shared bathrooms.
  • A Ziploc bag (gallon size): useful for storing toiletries or things like socks, because you can squish out the air.
  • Plastic shopping bags: I hide these in the pockets of my backpack and use them when needed for laundry and wet clothes. Some countries charge at stores for plastic bags. I recommend bringing some with you!
  • 🛂 Passport: an obvious item, for leaving your home country! I have a passport case, also, which is nice for storing a boarding pass or entry papers.

I like paper printouts, and I make sure to print these things for travel days and emergencies:

  • Copies of my passport, hidden in all backpacks and purses
  • A print-out of my flight info and some pre-made reservations, in case my phone gets misplaced/stolen (it never hurts to be prepared for a worst-case scenario)