Five Things That Are Always in My Suitcase

I kind of hate the “how to pack a bag” type of travel articles, which begs the question why I wrote this post today. Well, I think this is a little different – it’s more about my travel style than it is a prescription on how to travel better. Of course you could certainly adapt these tips and dramatically improve your travel experience, but I still maintain that this is not a how to pack post. Make sense? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Anyway, without further ado here are a few things I always pack when I travel.


1. Ziploc bags – These little modern miracles are truly the traveler’s best friend. The variety of sizes in which they are available also means that they are useful for a wide variety of travel purposes. I use the large bags to pack socks and underwear and then use them again to segregate and store dirty clothes as I’m traipsing around the planet. It makes it easier to see what you have to wear and limits any potential of smelly clothes contaminating the rest of your bag. The small Ziplocs are also incredibly useful of course, namely in my carry-on bag. A quick peek will show them used as medicine storage, ring and watch storage and a catchall for small odds and ends I don’t want lost in the abyss of my bag. I’m sure there are a million other uses for these wonderful plastic bags and I’d love to hear some of yours. (So I can steal the ideas and claim them as my own of course)


2. Power Strip – The technology of the 21st century is amazing and has changed our lives forever. However, traveling with our modern conveniences can be difficult given how many things we all have to charge. When I travel I have to charge my: laptop, DSLR camera, pocket camera, waterproof camera, iPad and my iPhone. While I don’t mind lugging around all the wires necessary to power up my devices, it can be challenging in hotel rooms with just one or two outlets – especially if I’m traveling with my partner. That’s why I always carry a power strip when I travel. Not only does it make living in a hotel room much easier, but it’s also easier to power up several devices anywhere. It also makes you incredibly popular in airports.


3. No more than two pairs of shoes – I know, I know, I’m a guy so this may be easier for me than others, but I think it’s doable for everyone. Shoes can take up a lot of room and depending on the style can also be fairly heavy. In general, they’re a total pain. Whenever I travel I never, ever take more than two pairs of shoes, but I choose them carefully so that they can be used in a variety of situations. Tennis shoes are a must of course, I always do a ton of walking around when I travel and I’d be lost without them. But if you choose wisely, they can also be used in a variety of different circumstances, even in more dressy settings. The second pair of shoes I bring are usually docksiders or similar. They’re comfortable shoes for low-key walking but they are also perfect for dressy occasions that may pop up on the road. That way I get the look of a nicer looking shoe, but the same shoe can also be used in a more casual setting.


4. My own amenity kit – I love luxury travel, especially when flying. However, I sadly can’t always afford Business or First class and so I travel with my own, do-it-yourself amenity kit. More than just a vain way to pretend I’m traveling in style, it’s actually a very useful little packet. In it I always include: eye masks, ear plugs, lip balm, a pen, deodorant and waterless disposable tooth brushes. It’s not much but these little comforts can transform a long haul flight into a much more bearable experience.


5. Poncho – I have a stack of disposable ponchos that I always tuck away in a side pocket of my suitcase when I’m on the road. It’s not really for me, not unless I’m stuck in an absolute torrential downpour, the ponchos are really for my electronics. My carryon bag is somewhat water resistant but not totally and given the amount of expensive electronics I carry with me, I need to make sure I can keep everything safe. The poncho is perfect to wrap around the bag to form a truly waterproof barrier. If I’m out and about then I use it to protect my all-important camera. It may not be pretty, but it’s incredibly useful.

What are some things you always pack when you travel?

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

36 thoughts on “Five Things That Are Always in My Suitcase”

  1. I think there is a difference between a post that says “this is how you must pack for a trip” versus sharing the essentials you pack for travel. I always find the later very helpful as sometimes there a brilliant idea in there that I hadn’t thought of before.

    Zip locks bags are a life saver when traveling! They’re extra helpful for me with various food intolerances, so I can pack my own snacks while traveling around. And I love the idea of a power strip – I really out to take that up. I usually travel for work, so I end up with two laptops and two cell phones and it’s a serious challenge to find enough open outlets in a hotel room for all those.

  2. Monster makes a 4-outlet strip that I take with me. It is much smaller than yours, but still gives me enough outlets to plug into.

    Also like the color splash in today’s post.

  3. Nice article. I like the socket idea very much. When I was on my gap year travels (about 14 years ago now!) I found out that a sarong is a must have travel accessory and ever since then I have travelled with one. It’s incredibly light and can be used as: a skirt (long or short), a blanket, a pillow, a turban, a towel, a cover up in religious places or if the weather turns or on a plane, a bag, a dress, even a baby sling (long story). It can be semi smart or very casual. Basically it’s the first item I pack before any trip as its so versatile.

  4. Books, or now (even more space efficient) an e-book reader.
    Earplugs: a lifesaver in so many circumstances.
    Pareos:not so much to use as clothing, but they make exellent towels (dry fast) and in a pinch I’ve used it as a sheet or blanket. And they pack up small.
    Waterproof plastic case: big enough to fit your passport and camera.. It’s amazing how often this comes in handy.
    My own snorkel & mask. Rentals are always disgusting!
    Ditto on the ziplock bags. Check Customs first for carry-on allowance size for your toiletries, and buy that size.

    1. “My own snorkel & mask. Rentals are always disgusting!”

      Agreed. planning to bring my own as well.
      Also a mini surge protector by belkin which fits better and has multiple plugs including 2 USB.
      ziplocks of course. and spacebags for anything larger

    2. Snorkel & mask. Just got back from a trip where I (gasp) rented the worst possible equipment. I knew I would be snorkeling but thought, gosh, that takes a ton of space. That is definitely going on my Pack This First list now!

      Power strip WITH SURGE PROTECTOR! Love the newer, smaller ones with USB outlets, but make sure you’ve got that surge protection. I got a dandy new laptop and camera because I used to travel with a plain jane power strip. :(

      I always toss a few small safety pins in my amenity kit – incredibly useful for a variety of things and usually ok for TSA – along with an eye glass case that has back up glasses, lenses and solution. (Otherwise, I can’t see to get home should I lose a lens!)

      Good post – got me re-thinking my packing list!

  5. You know, I knew that there was something I liked about you! I always bring a poncho too…and extra zip lock bags! I bring the zip locks in case I want to bring home something liquid, or in case one of my toiletries burst, or for wet clothes. :)

  6. I always carry two list:
    1. Quick List. Key contacts, medications, fraud alert numbers, ect.
    2. Copy List Front and back of credit, drivers licenses, passport, medical cards

  7. Not all women need lots of shoes to travel. I also adhere to the two pair rule and that usually includes what I wear on the plane. I also pack these first…I wear a women’s 12 and would be in serious trouble trying to find replacements. I like the power strip suggestion. Gotta go hunt one down right now. Time to pack!

  8. Have to say I also love those individual wetnaps made for removing makeup/washing your face.. After a long bus trip/flight/anything, it’s nice to feel even slightly cleaner and more alive.

    1. I like to bring a small pack of baby wipes for my hands (or feet after visitng places where I must remove my shoes).

  9. Great article! We always travel with large ziplock bags,& extra power strip for charging up all the electronic’s while on a cruise ship. We also pack a foldable med size duffel bag and a kitchen size white garbage bag for stuff we don’t plan on buying but we do, worse case use it as a dirty laundry bag! (eww)

  10. Gotta love those ziploc bags, don’t ya? I too am a female that travels with 2 pairs of shoes but I do find that is not the norm. I like the Belkin mini surge protector for its size plus USB capability. I also read somewhere about taking clothes pins to hold curtains together. I recently could have used those in NYC so I may be adding them to by list.

  11. I myself have written a similar post: just my three essentials, no matter the duration or climate of a trip. They include Tylenol, a deck of playing cards, and a bathing suit or bikini. You just never know!! ;)

  12. I always take a permanent marker, like a sharpie. Good to write on your food in shared hostel kitchens! And a small roll of gaffa tape. Fixes everything! And all the other things of your list (only *just* cottoned on to the power strip thing on my last trip).

  13. The ponchos are a great suggestion for electronics! I’ll be sure to pick up a box bedore my trip to London, bit worried about rain and my cameras. Do you use them in addition to camera cases for your equipment?

    1. Yes, but only in extreme emergency. In general 1) I don’t mind if it’s sprinkling while I’m shooting and 2) my case does offer some protection. But, I was in Hawaii recently on a hike and a torrential downpour came out of nowhere. I mean dogs and cats here. The poncho was a life saver and allowed me to shoot better as well.

  14. I’m with you on the ziplock bags, I always keep them in my suitcase! Also 2 small travel power adapters that allow me to plug USB cords into them as well as standard plugs. I throw some zipties in my bag as well which are great for stowing and attaching stuff together. Also a notebook, pen, and small shopping totes that I can use to shop when I’m out and about.

  15. Great info as always, Matt! I always take a small sturdy over-the-door hook to hang clothing or anything I want to keep off the floor. If it’s raining and I have a wet jacket or jeans, putting it on the hook frees up the shower curtain rod if someone needs a shower while stuff is drying. I also use it right before leaving, so I can clean out the closet and not risk leaving anything behind – it’s all in front of me on the hook.

  16. A “must pack” for us are washable garmets. ExOfficio is our fav because the items are durable and the dry in quick fashion. For washing powder–we use the soap that’s provided or that we pack ourselves (if we’re roughing it).

  17. Backpacks and Baguettes

    I always bring ziplock bags with me too. They come in handy for keeping electronics dry, to put your shoes in so they don’t get your clothes dirty and also to keep away dirty clothes from the clean ones.

  18. The Chaotic Scot

    Mines has gotta be dry shampoo. Perfect for when you’re at a festival, travelling from A to B or when the hostel showers just don’t look too appealing!

  19. A couple of years ago a friend of mine who is a very experienced traveller told me to always remember ziplock bags and duct tape. It’s never failed me since. We all seem to agree on the wonders of the ziplock bags, and duct tape (which can be unrolled in strips and re-rolled on to smaller rolls if you’re short on space) has so far extended the life of; 2 rucksacks, 1 suitcase, 1 shoe, 1 bra, a camera with a broken battery compartment, electronics in a leaky bag in monsoon season by waterproofing the zippers, and made an impromptu plug for a bath in Kazakhstan where no shower was available!

    Really nice to see a post to discuss good ideas for what to pack without insisting that everyone should take the same thing, or implying that you can’t travel without the latest expensive, celeb endorsed travel accessory!

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