Pin It

Eight Travel Items We Can’t Do Without

Recently I wrote about the five travel lessons we’ve learned from nearly two months of travel. However, the right mindset will only get you so far – you have to have the right tools. Day after day Vicky and I rely on the same, basic items. Yes there are computers, cameras, and $200 backpacks, but what about the unsung heroes of travel? Here is our list:

1. Tissues


Coming in at number one by a long shot are tissues. But wait, they’re not just tissues, they’re also toilet paper, and napkins, and they’ll even do your homework! OK, maybe not that, but these little lifesavers are worth their weight in gold. There’s nothing worse than feeling dirty all the time and most bathrooms in Asia do not have toilet paper. Moreover, after about two months of travel we’ve each had multiple runny noses. Tissues are king.

2. Hand Sanitizer

Hand Sanitizer

Continuing on the cleanliness theme, we call forth hand sanitizer as our number two travel must have. Did we mention that most bathrooms don’t have toilet paper? Well, they mostly don’t have soap either. Actually, carrying around your own bar of soap isn’t a bad idea either, but it can be a bit messier and isn’t as versatile so we always have hand sanitizer as well. We brought a few bottles with us from the US and have yet to see any sold here in Asia so make sure to stock up!

TIP: When that small bottle of hand sanitizer runs out  do not throw it out — fill it up with liquid soap instead and now you can easily bring that into the filthy bathrooms with you!

3. Day Trip Bag

Day Bag

$200 backpacks are great, but they’re not something I want nor something I need to be carrying around day to day. I want to be able to walk around the city, lightly. This means having a small bag where I can store the aforementioned essentials, as well as a few other things (usually a map, some fruit, and a notebook). The day trip bag is perfect! It’s even strong enough to hold my netbook, if on a rare occasion I want to bring that somewhere. The lighter the bag the better. Sure it doesn’t have bells or whistles (or separate compartments) but then again it also weighs next to nothing.

4. Amazon Kindle


I feel a bit bad including an electronic device on this list but it’s really handy and very different from a computer. The one we have is simply black and white and not a touch screen – we bought it for only $39 (refurbished). It’s great as a portable storage device. We can load all our guides on it as we travel so we don’t have to carry any large books. Using Microsoft Word we can PDF maps, guides, or directions from our Couchsurfers and upload it all to the Kindle so it will be with us when internet isn’t! We cannot even count the times we have shown documents uploaded to the Kindle to figure out what street we need, what bus stop to get off at etc.

5. Travel Notebook


Serves a similar purpose to our kindle but is simpler and good for writing quick things on the go. We keep track of all our costs and like to write quick directions/notes that people give us when we’re out and about. It’s been really nice having this around and it’s quickly filling up, but remember to always have a pen/pencil handy, otherwise it’s pretty useless.

6. Sunglasses


Bottom line, we’re out in the sun all day. If you’re not protecting your eyes with a decent pair of sunglasses (UV protected) you’re not doing your body a service, and frankly, will spend much of the day walking with your head pointing towards the ground. I hated that time in between when I broke my last pair and hadn’t haggled for a new pair – it was a stressful afternoon.

7. Playing Cards

Playing Cards

In a separate article I’ll address some leisure activities that Vicky and I have to pass the time. Unfortunately, without internet, normal gaming activities like internet poker. That’s where playing cards come in handy. We love busting these out when we’re waiting for a train, or on a train, or just getting off a train and waiting for the next one…They cost next to nothing and it’s fun to learn new two-player card games. Moreover, as we’ve noticed in China, the locals love them are will literally flock around us to see what we’re playing.

8. Deet


Dengue, Malaria, Japanese Encephalitis, the number of mosquito born illnesses in Asia are astounding. Yes, we have vaccinations, but it’s not really something I want to risk. Mosquitoes are everywhere. In fact, last night in our hostel, we had to kill about 10 or so before bed – it’s kind of a nightly ritual. So for us, Deet is a top priority. We recommend getting at least 30% Deet. The more the merrier (except in the case of mosquitoes).


Here are a few honorable mention items that we have recently grown to love and were mentioned in the comments:

Plastic Bags – These were great when we weren’t traveling, but now that we are, it is perfect to carry goods like food/snacks as well as wrap up wet clothes.

Sun Screen – similar to sunglasses in purpose, you have to protect yourself when you are out all day. We always forget this but it is so important!

Sandals – Sandals, such as Havaianas, aren’t just for walking on the beach but also for walking on dirty shower floors in hostels.

What Are Your Favorite Travel Items?

If you enjoyed this article, join others and get free email updates!

11 Responses to Eight Travel Items We Can’t Do Without

  1. Totally agree! I would also add plastic bags – such a lifesaver for storing dirty clothes, saving food for letter or carrying around wet swimsuits.

    Liz | Traveling Liz November 8, 2012 at 8:00 AM Reply
    • ahh so true, we have a bunch of plastic bags/zip lock bags – I completely overlooked them.

      Dave and Vicky November 8, 2012 at 8:03 AM Reply
  2. More good insider travel tips! I’m a real book lover so I feel like a traitor for getting a kindle, but I know it’s just not feasible to carry a load of books around in my 25l pack. I hope that I grow to love my kindle the way you guys have!

    Amy November 8, 2012 at 9:51 AM Reply
    • You’ll definitely love it – just be careful and don’t sit on it like I did!

      Dave and Vicky November 8, 2012 at 9:54 AM Reply
  3. Oh no, that sounds disastrous – hope it’s still in working order!

    Amy November 8, 2012 at 9:56 AM Reply
    • Nope not really lol, luckily it was only $35 and Vicky’s parents are coming in January!

      Dave and Vicky November 8, 2012 at 10:04 AM Reply
  4. Hi Dave and Vicky, travel Mummy here, my secret weapon is baby wipes. Any brand, cheap supermarket ones are fine, they are the business for wiping hands, horrible looking surfaces, anything yukky. Good for big kids and little ones. I’m never without my hand gel either and I think using that and a bit of common sense has made my tummy bother experience extremely limited. No problems in India or Egypt but 2 members of my family had a slight run in with Bali Travel Belly, I must finish that blog post! Hope you guys did OK with the Google update today, I didn’t.

    Alyson November 8, 2012 at 8:06 PM Reply
    • Clean wipes/baby wipes is a good one – I think even we could benefit from those despite the lack of a baby thing.

      Oh did google update the PR? No changes here…

      Dave and Vicky November 8, 2012 at 9:24 PM Reply
  5. Water is another essential. Just a little bottle that you can replenish when there is source available will do. It’s very handy to delve in your backpack when you suddenly have the thirst.

    CreditDonkey November 22, 2012 at 8:56 PM Reply
    • Yes, water goes without saying! We always carry 1.5 liters, sometimes 3 with us.

      Dave and Vicky November 24, 2012 at 5:06 AM Reply
  6. Great list! I would add an iPad, but Kindle sort-a covers it. Sunglasses are a must for me, and I always seem to lose or break them…

    Adam Sommer November 26, 2012 at 2:07 PM Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.