Whether you’re headed out for a quick business trip, a monthslong world tour, or a laid-back weekend at the beach, our list of 2024’s best travel essentials has you covered.
Sure, some necessities are obvious — toiletries, medications, snacks, phones — we know you’ll pack those. We’re here to cover the game-changing items you may not have thought of that’ll help elevate your packing list and make life easier on the road.
Whether it’s a minimalist wallet, a compact Bluetooth speaker, a lightweight laptop case, or something else, we bet you’ll find a piece of gear here that will add value to your travel bag. We know this because we’ve traveled extensively with every item on this list and stand behind each recommendation.
Packing is a juggling act, so let’s dive into the must-have gear we’d never travel without.
Personal Item Bag
Our Top Picks of 2024
Here’s our top essential: A personal item bag that’ll hold and protect the stuff you need close at hand, every day and everywhere. We’re talking about travel documents, snacks, personal care items, electronics, changes of clothes, and assorted accessories.
Browse through our favorite personal item bags for a wide variety of lightweight, weather-resistant, and feature-rich options. I often take a duffel bag for longer trips, but backpacks and messenger bags are more convenient for hands-free sprints down the concourse near departure time.
Our Top Picks of 2024
I like keeping my belongings nice and tidy inside my bag, so travel organizers are lifesavers. I rely on them to help me find essential toiletries, packing cubes, ditty bags, cables, adapters, and all the other miscellany of life on the road. ‘Tidy’ is satisfying.
Trust me, travel organizers make packing and unpacking much less of a hassle. I especially love the transparent and zippered bags that keep everything visible, secure, and easily accessible. Travel is stressful enough; we don’t need the extra burden of chaotic clutter.
Slimfold Soft Shell Wallet
A purse or wallet designed for travel is another sanity saver. Monitoring your spending is easier with a lightweight, compact, minimalist front-pocket wallet — we highly recommend the Slimfold Soft Shell wallet pictured above.
Women may want a stylish but minimalist purse with organized storage for the basics. The Travelambo we recommend will efficiently stash your ID, cash, credit cards, and not much else. Minimalism is a good thing when traveling.
Apple AirPods Pro
Wireless headphones are a top travel necessity for anyone listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks that muffle their noisy surroundings. I use my Apple AirPods Pro daily when I travel. High-quality Bluetooth headphones like these are a no-brainer.
AirPods are my favorites as they have excellent sound and solid battery life. Plus, you can use their built-in microphone to talk on the phone when a call comes in. And, of course, they’re cordless, so the aggravation of tangled cords will be a non-issue.
Lightweight Titanium Water Bottle
Our Top Picks of 2024
You need to stay hydrated, whether you’re summiting a mountain or wandering crowded city streets. I recommend sipping your beverage from a titanium water bottle; they’re rugged, ultra-lightweight, and won’t leach off any flavors to your drink.
Titanium water bottles come in all shapes and sizes and should fit easily and compactly in your bag. And by saying ‘no’ to single-use plastic containers, you’re doing your part to combat pollution, including microplastics in the water supply.
Laptops have become essential for traveling, whether watching Netflix, working remotely, or keeping in touch with loved ones. Packing your laptop without proper protection is a big no-no, so grab a laptop case or sleeve for extra protection.
I like the Tomtoc 360° because its plush padded shell includes corner reinforcement and a decent amount of storage for accessories. I’ve dinged-up laptops in the past, so I’m a big advocate of protective cases and sleeves.
Durable Phone Case
Many people choose an OtterBox as their go-to phone case, and so do I. They’re the market’s most trusted brand, and their cases are definitely ‘engineered to endure.’ There’s a wide variety of stylish designs and colors, so grab one to protect your precious phone.
Imagine trying to travel the globe with a smashed phone. Not a pleasant picture, is it? Too many phones are BSB designs — “Beautiful, Slippery, and Brittle” — so protect your phone and your investment with a rugged case from a trusted brand.
Ultra-Compact & Lightweight Power Bank
Nitecore NB10000 Gen II
Letting your gadgets run out of juice in the middle of a busy day is a rookie move. Use a power bank like the Nitecore to top up your device batteries. Despite its compact size, this will keep your electronics alive until you can return to your home base to charge up and wind down.
This Nitecore is a medium-duty 10,000mAh power bank sized for phones, tablets, and cameras. However, if you also need to charge laptops and other power-hungry devices, consider splurging for a bigger, more powerful unit.
Compact Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker
JBL Go 3
Do you like to listen to music as you get ready in your hotel room or soak in a sunset on the beach? Then, grab a portable Bluetooth speaker. This may not seem like ‘essential’ travel gear, but many of us (myself included) consider it a necessary comfort of home when out on the road.
The JBL Go 3’s sound quality makes it an easy recommendation, as does its portability, waterproofing, and value. I use it to listen to podcasts, create white noise for sleeping in noisy environments, and to motivate myself during bodyweight travel workouts.
Compact International Travel Adapter
If you’re a globetrotter like me, you already know that reliable and powerful travel adapters are must-haves. This is the lightest and most compact charger I’ve used that can charge my MacBook Pro, and it keeps all of my other electronics powered and ready to go. Ironically, I use it to keep my Nitecore power bank topped up… a charger for a charger.
Frequent travelers stay in touch and find their way using their digital devices, so it’s wise to recharge with a compact and reliable product. We rely on our adapters, and it’s good to know that Anker has a reputation for reliable and innovative products.
Compact Phone Kickstand/Tripod
The Pocket Tripod
Your phone’s camera will take better low-light photos if you stabilize it with a tripod. And this tripod is the size of a credit card, making it a perfect travel companion. It’s also a kickstand to hold your phone steady while it plays videos as you nod off during the flight to your next destination.
Versatility is why I chose The Pocket Tripod as a travel essential. It’s a convenient and innovative piece of gear that I always have on hand, ready for the next great photo opp. A steady camera means less image blur, better self-portraits, and more hands-free video chats.
Ultralight Camera Clip
Peak Design Capture
When I travel with a camera, I keep it close at hand with the Peak Design Capture clip. I no longer have an excuse to leave my camera behind because I don’t want to bother with straps or cases. Always having my camera within reach means no more missed opportunities for the perfect photo.
I prefer the Peak Design Camera Clip to tangle-prone camera straps. It’s lightweight and easy to attach to a backpack, bag, or belt. Use it if you travel with an expensive camera to keep it hands-free until the moment you need it.
High-Quality Travel Journal
Travelers keep journals to document and make sense of their lives. Paper journals have been around for centuries, and they’re a tradition that’s far more intimate than typing notes into a cell phone. Moleskine journals are legendary — Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and David Bowie all captured their thoughts on those distinctive creamy ivory pages.
For me, journaling is calming and therapeutic, especially in nature. My thoughts and memories seem to expand when I write by hand. It’s a ritual I cherish, and traveling inspires me. Set your smartphone aside and give it a try. It’s delightful.
The Write Everywhere Pen
Fisher Space Pen
High-quality journal pages deserve high-quality pens, and that’s where Fisher Space pens come in. They were designed for astronauts floating in zero-gravity environments! I’ll bet their journal entries are slightly different from yours and mine.
Fisher Space Pens have a no-nonsense heft, plus a special ink with a velvety glide. Their compact Bullet Pens slip easily into purses and pockets, and writing with one puts me in the mood to jot down my day’s adventures. Life’s too short to use Bic pens.
Howard Leight by Honeywell
Moving from Point A to Point B often exposes you to plenty of noise — jet engines, city traffic, crowds, and much more. Battery-operated noise-canceling headphones have their place, but simpler, old-school noise-blocking methods like earplugs are also worth considering.
Traditional earplugs like these colorful inserts from Honeywell can block many of the noises you’ll encounter when traveling. I use mine regularly on airplanes when I’m tired of my headphones but still need relief from the cabin soundscape or Jerry from Omaha snoring loudly in the seat next to me.
Merino Wool T-Shirt
Clothes designed for travel enthusiasts should be lightweight, comfortable, and well-fitting. That’s why I suggest Merino Wool T-Shirts from Wool&Prince (for men) and Wool& (for women). W&P is a top supplier of Merino wool clothing and my favorite brand on the market today.
W&P shirts are super soft, anti-microbial, odor-resistant, and perfect for travel. Banish smelly clothes that cause discomfort over the course of a day. The best part for travelers is that these shirts can remain odor-free for several days — quite a benefit for those on the go.
Lightweight & Versatile Travel Pants
Outlier Slim Dungarees (Men’s)
Vuori Ripstop (Women’s)
I’m a travel pants nerd. When searching for the perfect pair, do your homework and choose one that balances comfort, functionality, and style. You’ll spend long hours wearing these travel pants, so you’ll want to be comfortable and good-looking.
Slim Dungarees and Ripstop pants are two of our absolute favorites. I’ve sampled several pairs of pants and travel jeans, and Vuori is one of my favorite brands. They’re versatile, and I wear them for everything from hiking to bouncing around town.
One Pair Do-It-All Travel Shoes
Our Top Picks of 2024
For the no-checked-luggage traveler, I recommend bringing only ONE pair of do-it-all shoes. That can be tricky, especially if your trip involves a mix of city streets and hiking trails. Versatility and comfort should always be your top priorities, but never discount the value of a stylish pair of shoes or boots.
We’ve simplified your choice by listing our favorite footwear for both men and women. From sneakers to loafers and slip-ons to athletic shoes, you’ll likely find several varieties that might pique your interest for your upcoming trip. I only travel with one pair of shoes, so they must be versatile and comfortable.
Efficient travel requires a savvy mix of preparation, planning, and organization if you’re going to thrive out there. No matter the length of your trip, you must learn to prepare and pack wisely. To help you, here are a few tips for putting together the perfect packing list:
If It Doesn’t Add Value, It’s Not Essential
Avoid packing items that don’t serve a purpose or add value to your travels. Leave it at home if it doesn’t make the trip more enjoyable, productive, or efficient.
Define your essentials based on your activities — backpacking, camping, hiking, or visiting a new city. Pack only the essentials: clothing, footwear, technical gear, and personal care essentials that add value to your travel.
Focus on Multi-Purpose Essentials
Have you ever regretted your packing choices while out on the road? To avoid that feeling, pack items that serve multiple purposes. This will save time, and you’ll have fewer items to track.
For instance, select shoes or pants ideal for multiple activities, such as hiking and sightseeing. Another great multi-purpose item is an all-in-one bag like a fanny pack or backpack that can also be worn crossbody.
Aim for Compact and Lightweight Gear
Selecting the right items can be daunting, so if you’re a ‘just-in-case’ packer, you’ll quickly end up with an overstuffed bag. Stay focused on proven methods — lightweight and compact packing is the way to go.
Look for items that’ll pack up tightly and fit snugly in your bag or suitcase. Choose clothing and other items that will last the entire trip and can fold up neatly. Opt for shoes or sandals with lightweight soles that offer grip and traction but won’t overload your bag.
Do Your Homework Before You Buy
Avoid making terrible travel decisions, and always read reviews thoroughly before purchasing. This is especially true when making a rushed, last-minute purchase. Learn from customer experiences and insights into the product’s performance in different conditions and climates.
For example, if you’re shopping for technical apparel or a multi-purpose tool, tap into the wealth of knowledge out there. Solid research could lead you to buy something that performs well and lasts for years.
If you’re a minimalist traveler, you know the truth of the saying “less is more.” Minimalism is all about embracing the principle and avoiding the temptation of packing too much stuff. Clutter will drag you down and hold you back.
Start by looking for versatile items of clothing and footwear that can be used interchangeably in different settings or scenarios. And when you return home, keep track of the items you used most and decide what can be left behind next time.
Invest in Quality — Buy Once, Cry Once
Last but not least, invest in quality travel gear. The up-front costs of high-quality items are often offset by their greater utility and longer lifespan.
If you have to replace cheaper items every few trips, are they really saving you money? Probably not, especially if the higher-quality items have a solid warranty and offer reputable customer service.
Are you ready to draft your own perfect packing list for 2024? Our list of travel essentials for men and women may not match yours, but we hope you found a few items that will add value to your next journey. The goal is to find gear and clothing that will add consistent value to your life on the road.
Please share any tips or gear recommendations you have in the Comments section below. We’re especially interested in hearing what’s worked for you (or not) regarding trip planning, organization, packing lists, and any advice you may have on travel-friendly clothing or general-use gear.
We’d also love to hear your thoughts on the minimalist lifestyle, specifically regarding travel. What kind of travel do you do, and how much do you pack? Have your definitions of ‘must-haves’ and ‘luxuries’ changed over the years? After all, being a nimble traveler is both a physical and a philosophical journey. Let’s share and compare our paths.
- Carry-On Packing List: Pack Light, Travel Right
- Minimalist Travel [DIY Packing List + Best Ultralight Gear]
- Minimalist Backpacks for Modern One-Bag Travel
- Travel Organizers [Keep Your Luggage & Bags Tidy]
- Personal Item Bags for Underseat Carry-On Travel
- Travel Shoes for Walking All Day [Men’s & Women’s]
Last Updated on February 6, 2024