Want to experience Asia like a local? Read our latest tips here...

Travel With Bender

Uncovering the best family holidays

Travel Experts

World’s Best Travellers Reveal What You SHOULD Pack In Your Suitcase

We have the art of packing luggage down to a fine art. But we can always use more help. Currently we aim to travel with a maximum two large bags. And our two favourite at the moment are these new American Tourister Star Wars bags.

Occasionally we get it wrong. You can read about that here.

But most of the time we get it right.  

These essential items make travel so much easier:

Universal power board – so you can buy electronics anywhere.

USB multi-charger – because you’ve got plenty of electronics, right?

Packing cubes – to keep everyone’s clothes separate.

Electronics – including laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Toothbrushes – electric is best, but only carry one charger.

Two pairs of shoes – sneakers and thongs/sandals/flip-flops.

But that’s not all.

I asked some of the world’s best travel bloggers for advice on what 1 item they must pack when travelling. And what 1 item they should NEVER pack! 


Johnny from Johnny Jet

I almost always bring a Scottevest jacket since it has 20+ pockets for keeping my valuables safe and accessible. More importantly it also carries so much stuff that it essentially acts as a piece of carry-on luggage so I don’t have to check a bag and wait around for an hour for it to come out on the other end.


Dave & Deb from The Planet D

Our number one item for packing is our Belkin Mini Surge Protector. It has 3 outlets and 2 USB adapters so we can charge several electronics at once. Plus, there is a surge protector so our expensive camera and computer gear is protected.


Alex from Travel Fashion Girl

The best thing to pack is the right amount of clothing. Research your destination, packing lists, weather, and your activities. Choose 10-15 clothes that mix and match based on your research.


Anne & Mike from HoneyTrek

SteriPEN! We’ve been on the road for 1,720 days, through 420 regions of the world, 48 countries and seven continents... and guess how many plastic bottles of water we have consumed? ZERO, not a single one. We estimate this has saved us $6,880 and most importantly kept nearly 7,000 water bottles out of the world’s forests and waterways. No matter if you travel for a week or a year, you MUST have a SteriPEN in your bag.


Alesha & Jarryd from NOMADasaurus

Having travelled the world for 8 years there is one item in our backpacks that gets more use than any other: our Leatherman multi tool. We use this wonderful tool almost every single day and have cut fruit, chopped firewood, realigned broken zippers, repaired motorbikes, and fixed countless objects over the years. We'd be lost without it.


Rob & Nat from Love and Road

There is one item that we don't travel without, a swiss army knife. Doesn’t need to be a fancy one from Victorinox -  a “Made in China” one does the job. A Swiss knife saved us a couple of times, from fixing broken plugs to opening bottles of wine on the deck of a boat.


Keryn Means from Walking On Travels

I’ve found my portable sound machine to be the best thing I have packed while traveling with (and without) my kids. It creates a consistent setting anywhere we go in the world, blocks out noisy neighbors, and gets us through our jet lag. 


Paul from A Luxury Travel Blog

My must-pack item would be my iPhone. I can actually get a lot of work done using just my phone so if it's a short trip, I may even leave the laptop behind and manage emails, social media, etc. for a couple of days with just my phone. Plus of course I can use it to take photos which are easy to share.


Patty Monahan from Our Whole Village

I travel light, especially since you can get pretty much anything anywhere these days, but I'd say my Kindle is my must-pack item. It accompanies me everywhere. When it comes to the kids, we never travel without my daughter's inhaler. Her asthma is under control, but you never know. 


Cacinda from PointsandTravel.com

I must never forget to bring my Motorola 3000 Ah Power Pack charger because it keeps me charged and has a built-in cable that connects my iPhone directly to the charger without having to find my USB cables.


Gemma & Craig from Two Scots Abroad

The past 17 months of travel would have been tough without a phone capacitor. It is your cellphone, your music device, reading book, budget note taker, lifeline to friends and family back home? You need one!

Gemma from Two Scots Abroad


Shobha from Just Go Places - Family Travel Blog

I always pack our extra battery pack which can hold up to 5 extra charges for our iPads and iPhones. If there are any delays on a plane, for example, we can avoid cranky, tired children fighting with each other so long as they have their individual electronics to keep them busy. 


Allison from Eternal Arrival

My biggest must-have packing item for a trip is my portable phone charger! Using location services and Wi-Fi drains my battery fast, so it's great to have back up. 


Chris from One Weird Globe

An external battery for your smartphone – beyond being a great way to keep your device(s) charged, it's like a security blanket if you'll be away from power for days (think camping, long bus trips, etc.). An extra cord never hurt anyone, either!


Bec from Wyld Family Travel

The best thing we pack is our power board. We can be charging numerous things at once and we don't have to worry about not having enough power outlets and adapters to get everything charged.


Lisa from Mom Voyage

On our multigenerational trip through Portugal and Spain our ability to communicate quickly with my parents as we navigated narrow roads and unfamiliar roundabouts was a lifesaver. The walkie talkies also saved us expensive cell phone charges we would have incurred if we had to repeatedly call each other.


Paula from Contented Traveller

The best thing to pack is a sarong. A sarong can be used as clothing and as a blanket, towel or even a sling to carry things.


Virginie from Travel With My Kids

A pashmina: light and useful for all the family. I’m always glad to have one in air-conditioned places: airplanes, trains, restaurants… It can also be used as a blanket or a soft pillow, and my kids loved to use mine as a security blanket, because it got Mom’s scent!


Stefania from Every Steph - Green & Glamorous Travel and Lifestyle

My must pack item is a sarong, and not just for Asian trips. It’s super light and so versatile! I used it as a towel, beach towel, beach cover-up, scarf (especially useful on buses when the AC is blasting on!), and a skirt.


Eileen from Pure Wander

No matter if I’m going to a tropical island or some blustery destination, I pack an infinity scarf. It’s my security blanket on long flights, can cover up shoulders in sacred spaces and liven up any outfit. 


Gia from Mismatched Passports

A scarf. To provide extra cover-up or to keep me warm during a flight a scarf is always a handy accessory. Whether I am off to a beach holiday or to explore the city, it's an essential item in my packing list.


Gina Dunklebarger from Vacation Maybe

We never leave home without petroleum jelly or Aquaphor. Prevents chaffing - think skirts and chubby thighs, chapped cheeks and lips when skiing, and swim trunks and sand. Ouch! 


Bryanna Royal from Crazy Family Adventure

My must pack item for family travel is my fanny pack! Don’t laugh, it really is a super handy thing to have. It allows me to have the essentials (phone and wallet) while being hands free when we are hiking or visiting an attraction.


Inga from Coolkidzcooltrips

A few years ago on our way to Singapore I took the small pillow the airline companies provide for transatlantic flights. It proved to be the best thing and we've been carrying it with us on every trip ever since.


Marta from Learning Escapes

The one thing we never leave behind is kids headphones! We bought them before a long haul flight but they came in handy every time we had to wait in line, on road trips and even just when reading a book. 


Megsy from Food Fun Travel

My must-pack item is earplugs. You never know what might happen while on vacation. Noisy neighbours. Unplanned construction at your hotel. These will help you block the noise and ensure you catch a few winks.


Lance from Travel Addicts

My must-have travel item is a pair of earplugs. I’m kind of a light sleeper. Without them, I get no rest whatsoever.


Inma from A World to Travel

Earplugs for sleeping. Being a light sleeper, I can't live without them and they come with me everywhere I go. Planes, festivals, hostels or even nice resort rooms become a sleep sanctuary once I put them on.


Stefan & Sebastien from nomadicboys

The best thing to pack for a vacation is obvious - sun block and mosquito repellent. Sunburn is not fun!


Natasha from The World Pursuit

I never leave on any trip without a quick drying travel towel. Before having this towel, I had been in many situations where either I didn't have a towel, had to buy (or rent) a towel, or my towel never dried. I never have to worry about that now as I always have this small and lightweight backup in my bag.


Lillie from Around The World “L”

The best thing I pack (because I use it every time and wish I had it anytime I don't) is at least one cute dress that's wrinkle-free and rolls up small. My favorite brand for this is Leota. I literally own 20 Leota dresses, and they make up the bulk of what I pack on trips because they transfer perfectly from hiking (yes, I hike in them with leggings or shorts underneath) to a romantic dinner. Dresses like this make vacation photos prettier, too!


Dana from Dana Freeman Travels 

I never travel without Clarks shoes. Have a pair of slip-ons, a pair of wedges and a pair of sandals. My mother always told me that when I travel I should own a pair of shoes that I “could walk across Rome in”, and these are it! They are the most comfortable brand of shoes ever. 


Mar from Once in a lifetime journey

I never leave the house without my lip balm, I think I am addicted to it. If it's sunny, cold or dry I can't help but slather it on non-stop. If I realise I forgot to pack it I must buy one as soon as I can! 


Charles from McCool Travel

Refillable water bottle with charcoal filter. I currently bring a Camelbak model on every trip but am not in love with it. Looking for a better solution, but I love this so that I do not have to buy plastic bottled water and ruin our planet. 


Patti from The Savvy Globetrotter

My must-pack item is my trusty Klean Kanteen.  This unassuming water bottle is leak-proof and double-wall vacuum insulated, meaning no condensation or unexpected spills.  Even when haphazardly tossed upside down in my bag, it has never failed me.


Naomi from Roaming the Americas

Healthy Human water bottle. Whether biking in Vermont or hiking in Maine, this insulated water bottle is super convenient to carry, and it keeps water refreshingly cold all day.


Jo from frugal first class travel

The one thing I never forget to pack are my packing cubes. I always thought packing cubes were a gimmick until I read how much other travel bloggers loved them. I tried them, and was completely sold. 


Elizabeth from Peanuts or Pretzels

Carabiner - one (or two) come in handy for clipping so many things like: dirty shoes, clothes to hang, water bottles, even a travel pillow on the outside of your carry-on.


Kevin from Wandering Wagars

Baby wipes. Sure they are bigger and heavier than Kleenex (facial tissues), but when you have a son whose nose is a constant river of goo, and another who likes to play with everything he sees, nothing keeps the whole family cleaner.


Edwina from Traveling German

My must pack item is a little black leather waist bag. If I worry about safety or am very active, I wear it around my waist, but it also works perfectly well worn over the shoulder with an evening outfit.


LiLing from Trekaroo

When flying and renting a car, I always pack mounting tack. Yes, the stuff you use to stick posters to the wall. They make the perfect "fit all situations" cell phone holder. They don't break during travel and can double up as a toy when the kids get restless.


Bret from Green Global Travel

One thing we never travel without is snacks. Because our travels take us to remote destinations, there's not always a restaurant around when hunger strikes. So protein bars, granola, nuts and chocolate are always in our backpack! 


Your Turn

So tell me, what is one thing YOU always pack? Is it missing from this list? Share it in the comments below.

And do you want to know what to NEVER pack? Click here!

Here's what you have to say...

"I respond to every comment by private email. So please leave me comments, I love chatting to you" -
Posted by virginie - Travel With My Kids on
What a great list! Thanks to include me in, Erin :) Interesting to discover what is essential or useless for each traveling family!
Posted by Natalie Deduck on
Great List!!
It's incredible how little things that most of us never think about packing, can actually be a lifesaver on the road.
Happy Travels,
Nat
Posted by Jane on
I always take a pacsafe 'TravelSafe'. Big enough to put the phone and kids ipads in, secure them when needed and also keep them in there safe when charging in public areas.
Posted by Leezett - Blended Family Road Trip on
I agree with Power Packs, having kids on long haul flights and bus's etc its a godsend being able to recharge those Ipads, phones etc when they are in the middle of educational games or movies while they wait. And our new packing cubes,, OHH how did we ever do it before with out them.
Posted by Lillie - @WorldLillie on
Love this list! Thanks for including my tip!
Posted by Simone on
Great list. We took almost all these items on our last two trips to Hawaii and the UK. One thing I would add is plenty of ziploc bags in various sizes, and also some ziploc containers. They came in very handy for various situations. You can put your phone in a ziploc bag and hang it from the back of the seat in front of you in a plane if you want to watch movies on it. The ziploc containers came in handy for preventing squished muffins the kids wanted to save from their free breakfast buffet. The carabiners can be used for hanging a water bottle from the tray table in a flight. Sometimes the pockets in the seat in front of you are not large enough to hold a water bottle, and storing it in an underseat bag is not always the best option since you are thirsty so often while up in the air.

We find white noise therapy machines essential, instead of getting a travel one that would use up tons of batteries I ended up buying one online that would work with the UK plugs and voltage. It was so worth it. I'll probably use it again on a future trip.
Posted by ILoveSpeakers on
A good item to take along could be a portable speaker. Besides the obvious use, you can also use it to recharge your phone.
Write a comment...
(Your email will not be publicly displayed.)
Find more posts by tag:

Reader FAQs:

Question: How do you get reliable Internet access when travelling overseas?

Answer: We use Tep Wireless. Read our review for more details...

More FAQs...

38-airplane2x.png

Get The Latest Blog Posts

There are a number of convenient ways to get the latest blog posts and news from Travel With Bender.

Need Internet access while you travel?

We use Tep Wireless. Save 15% with our code: tepbender
Find out more... Our full review...

tep_wireless_sidebar_3-comp.jpg