As many of you know, I’ve spent months, if not years, living out of a backpack. By the end of my year-long RTW trip, I had gotten packing down to a science and could pack and repack in thirty seconds or less (thank you, packing cubes).
After many years of trial and error, I’ve found what works best for me. When I travel I prioritize both looks and comfort- let’s just say you’re more likely to find a pencil skirt in my bag than a roll of duct tape.
Without further ado, my top travel essentials for long-term travel:
1. A Rolling Backpack
I absolutely love my Osprey rolling bag. While in the past I used a traditional backpack, a few years ago I upgraded (and yes I say upgraded) to a rolling bag.
I prefer a rolling backpack because it’s so much easier on my back. I specifically love the Osprey rolling bag because it’s durable, easy to maneuver, and attractive. Furthermore, it does have backpack straps, so if you need to carry your bag you’ll be good to go.
Check current prices on Amazon here.
2. Packing Cubes
Packing cubes seem like one of those travel products everyone says you need but you really don’t. Newsflash- you do need packing cubes. They make packing and unpacking something that takes seconds rather than minutes, and overall keep your bag so much more organized.
I’ve used several brands of packing cubes, but my favorite kind is Eagle Creek- they’re super sleek, durable and surprisingly spacious.
Check current prices on Amazon here.
3. A Kindle with 3G
If you’re a bookworm, having a Kindle is a lifesafer. A Kindle makes downloading English-language books painless and inexpensive all over the world.
I currently have the Kindle Voyage, a birthday gift from my bookworm father. It’s expensive but considering how much I use it, well worth it. Regardless of which Kindle you choose, I’d recommend buying one with 3G as you won’t have to rely on fickle wifi connections when abroad.
Check current prices on Amazon here.
4. Tieks Foldable Travel Shoes
My absolute favorite travel footwear is Tieks ballet flats. They are made with beautiful leather, look chic, and fold up neatly, taking up zero space in your bag. They’re perfect for Europe, as they make you look polished but are comfortable for walking.
Read my full review of Tieks ballet flats here.
How do I love thee, eyemask? Let me count the ways.
I used this extremely soft Lewis N. Clark mask on my year-long trip but still use it in my apartment in Denver. Frankly, now it’s hard to sleep without it. It’s the best $6 you’ll ever spend.
With the help of an eyemask, I can fall asleep basically anywhere, including a noisy hostel common room in the middle of the day.
Check current prices on Amazon here.
6. High-SFP Sunscreen
I’m a nut about skincare as melanoma runs in my family and I don’t want wrinkles. But seriously, pack a good sunscreen- there’s nothing worse than a second-degree burn when you’re on vacation.
I use a facial sunscreen every single day called Eltamd SPF 40. It’s the only sunscreen I’ve ever found that doesn’t smell like sunscreen- it goes on just like lotion.
Check current prices on Amazon here.
7. GoToob Refillable Containers
In addition to solid shampoo, I put my body gel, face wash and conditioner in these three-ounce GoToob refillable containers. So handy.
Check current prices on Amazon here.
8. An Unlocked Smartphone
Having an unlocked smartphone is a total gamechanger. It allows you to use local SIM cards and use data anywhere in the world- perfect for fellow Instagram and Spotify addicts.
9. Comfy Sweatpants and Hoodie
Somehow the one thing I always forget when I’m traveling is sweatpants. Sweatpants are the unsung hero of the travel clothing world, as they make long-travel days so much comfier. I rock them on everything from flights to bus rides and to cold nights camping.
The sweatpants above are a new favorite- they’re from TenTree, an environmentally friendly clothing brand that plants ten trees for every item purchased. So far they’ve planted more than 5 million trees around the world.
Also necessary for travel comfort- a great hoodie. I like hoodies because you can use them to comfortable press your face up against bus windows, and create your own cozy little cocoon.
10. Flip Flops
When I’m traveling in tropical regions, I more or less live in flip flops. But I count flip flops as essentials no matter the weather- hostel showers can be sketchy in any part of the world.
I’ve worn Reef flip flops since I was 14 and swear by them- they mold to your feet and are so comfy.
Check current prices on Amazon here.
11. Lush Solid Shampoo
For years, I shrugged off solid shampoo. Have you ever seen my super thick, tangly, color-treated hair?
But finally, I gave in and now love Lush Solid Shampoo. It lathers up better than you’d think and is super compact. (Though frankly I hated the Lush solid conditioner and threw it out at after a few weeks.)
12. KIND Bars
One of my least favorite things when I travel is being stuck on a bus absolutely starved, without a snack in sight. Which is why I bring KIND bars traveling. They’re seriously delicious and healthy as they are a good source of both fiber and protein, and each bar has 5 grams of sugar or less.
My favorite KIND bar collection is the Nuts & Spices collection. My favorite flavors are the dark chocolate chili almond and dark chocolate nuts and sea salt, as I love anything spicy or salty.
View current prices on Amazon here.
Honorable mention: Cheap H&M costume jewelry, a BCBG bandage skirt, Mac Studio Fix (a lifesaver in humid Southeast Asia), Differin if you suffer from acne, and Almay eye-makeup remover pads. Oh, and a Packtowl travel bathrobe– I’m obsessed with mine and use it at my apartment.
13. You tell me! What’s your #1 favorite travel accessory?
Eagle Creek provided me with these packing cubes for review but I had a set already, Kind sent over a box of their Nuts & Spices bars and TenTree provided me with a pair of sweatpants. As always, all opinions are my own.
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67 thoughts on “12 Travel Accessories That Drastically Improve Long-Term Travel”
I have a special pair of flip flops I save only for the most special of occasions…..the hostel shower. They are the difference between feeling clean and dirty sometimes!
Unlocked phone is wise too – a SIM per country….I have a stash of them in my backpack (which does not roll….but is Osprey!).
My addition is odd. Sandwich bags. I carry around a lot of them (in my tiny bag) and I put all sorts in them. You’d be surprised how handy they are!
Osprey is great! They make products that last forever. Plus, I got my bag half off on Amazon :). That’s awesome you have a whole stash of them in your backpack- so international :)
Eyemask and refillable containers are a must! I also always need a power bank to be able to charge my phone during long journeys.
I actually just bought one and can’t wait to try it out! I always need one on the road so I imagine it will be super helpful :)
I LOVE packing posts. I wish I would’ve brought a rolly backpack with me to Europe this summer. I never travel without face cleansing wipes (I love Boots brand the best) and an external battery charger for my phone!
I also love having face cleansing wipes especially on the plane! And I just bought the Jackery charger you have :)
Completely random and almost a year after your original post, but juuuuuuust in case you happen to have email notifications turned on – baby wipes > cleansing wipes. Theyre practically the same thing. I add a little bottle of eye makeup remover and Im GTG. Theyre literally half the price of any other makeup wipes, can be used for a quick cleanup when there’s no immediate shower available, and you can buy them in packs of 10 and toss the empty packaging instead of carrying around a half full one.
Lovely post! I always forget to bring flip flops and a kindle in my trips and they are both pretty useful things. Thanks for the great list! Kisses,
http://theflashwindow.weebly.com (The Flash Window)
Those are so essential, especially for a beach vacation! :)
You really have traveling down to a science! I will not be using your information, but I am sure if travelers follow it, it will make their travels much more comfortable and efficient!
Thinking of you , missing you .
I do hope after all these years I’m fairly good at packing :). I will call you tomorrow as I got your email- thanks for sending along all the photos of the cousins. It looks like you had a great time! :)
Although I am not a long-term traveller – I usually travel between 4 and 6 weeks – I can totally relate to the rolling backpack, the packing cubes and the Kindle, Ashley. Like you I upgraded from a “normal” backpack to a rolling backpack two years ago and that has been one of my the best decisions in regards of packing. I also use packing cubes and wouldn’t want to travel without anymore. I bought them for my Mom as well who is as thrilled as I am. After years and years of carrying around “proper” books I bought myself a Kindle one and a half years ago and I just love it. It’s amazing that you can download as many books as you like on this small device. Other things I can’t travel without are my Canon EOS 70D DSLR with my 18 to 250mm Sigma lens plus my Sun Sniper camera strap, my Smartphone and my laptop. I have a netbook, but it is four and a half years old and in the meantime very slow plus programs like Adobe Photoshop Elements and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom don’t work on it. That’s why I started taking my “proper” laptop with me last October, and although heavier I like being able to edit my photos already while being on the road.
I forgot to mention my camera but of course that’s one of the most important things I bring :). And also a smartphone and laptop are essentials for backpackers these days! It’s great being able to edit photos on the go as well- makes blogging so much easier.
Packing cubes are right up there. So great for staying organized and for unpacking quickly at your destination. I also have to have flip-flops for pools, hotel rooms and apartment rentals. For me, a must have is a “snack bag” to carry me over during travel on planes and upon arrival before I can get to grocery store or restaurant. The bag usually contains nuts and cereal bars. I am no fun to be around (and I make poor decisions) when I’m “hangry”.
I couldn’t agree more- sometimes I get so hungry traveling I feel like I’m going to pass out. A KIND bar or two can be a lifesafer :)
Great list. For me right now, it’s my laptop and my wifi device. I need both of those!
I tried the wifi device but it didn’t work for me- bummer. I imagine it would be super useful if I could just figure it out, ha.
I use the Osprey as well and I’m so so happy I bought it. It’s the best luggage to travel with. As well packing cubes are a definite must as well as a Kindle.
Packing cubes are so essential. I couldn’t function without them!
I had to laugh when I read that the first time you used a local SIM card was in Jordan. I am the type of person who is perpetually behind with the times. The first time I used one was in Thailand in 2013, so I have you beat. BUT it was also the very first time I traveled with a cell phone. So really the questions is what is wrong with me? It WAS a total game changer. I always get a local SIM card when I travel now :) They are especially cheap in SE Asia, which makes me happy.
I never traveled with a cell phone either! I just relied on wifi. Not making that mistake again, haha.
fantastic post! i just got myself some packing cubes and am wondering what in the world i did without them. pretty excited about taking them to sri lanka at the end of this month! and a huge yes to the sweatpants and hoodie — people always ask me if i’ll actually wear them and never believe me when i say that they are necessities. so glad to know someone agrees with me!
fyi — the link for the travel bathrobe took me to the gotoob containers on amazon. i’d love to have a proper look at that bathrobe, it sounds spectacular.
Thanks for letting me know, I’ll change that link. It’s actually an amazing bathrobe- so soft and lightweight :)
I used to wait forever, sometimes weeks, to unpack things when I got home from trips, but packing cubes are a life-changer – now it’s like “okay I’ll just do one cube… eh wait, nevermind it’s not so hard to do all three – oh, I’m done already.” I do have one “clean/dirty” cube from Eagle Creek which I love to keep sometimes gross stuff separated. Also, I bring a cheap (etsy) bathrobe that I got as a bridesmaid on trips and it’s great. Hate getting dressed while damp!
Oh I’ve seen that cube- it looks really cool! I usually just put my dirty clothes in a grocery bag- so elegant ;)
I bought my first ever packing cubes this past June for my European adventure and yes, I am sold on their all-around awesomeness. It was so nice having stuff actually organized in my suitcase both coming and going. And I agree about the Eagle Creek ones being top quality!
Otherwise, my Nook is my favorite travel accessory these days (so terrific being able to have multiple books on a tiny little device!).
I know, I would die without my Kindle! Seriously such a lifesaver when you want to download English-language books abroad. And yes to Eagle Creek- so worth it!
Packing cubes are my newest purchase and I’m obsessed. They seem more tediuous and cumbersome, but they solve pretty much every problem ever. At the bare minimum I always use them for underwear because that the last thing I want to fall out when I’m digging around looking for XX in my bag at the airport.
My must-have item is an extension cord. It never leaves my suitcase because you never know when that one dang plug is behind the bed or in the hallway outside of your compartment on the train.
Ooh that’s genius- I had never thought to bring an extension cord! One may need to come with me on my next trip :)
All of the above and ear plugs!!!
I want to love ear plugs but I never find them comfortable :(. Maybe I need to keep trying!
Hello! I am strangely also a part of the club who is fascinated by what other people pack. I confess I take note while in hostels or trains of what other people bring with them. However, I am of the school of less is more in many cases and am very aware of not overpacking as I know I am going to have to carry it around. I use a 55(+10) Deuter women’s pack which I got 10 years ago and I love it. I prioritize by spending money and packing space on things I know I will have a hard time getting abroad like the right bras, bathing suits, footwear, my electronics and accessories and specific skin & hair care products. I purposely don’t take a lot of casual daywear, jewelry and knick knacks because those are the types of things I enjoy buying in the countries I travel to. A few of my essential travel items are…1. sarong, this can be used for so many things from a towel, scarf, curtain, sheet, skirt or beach cover-up. They come in all different colors and patterns and are traditional and easy to buy in many coutries. 2. moist towellettes, a must when traveling. Sometimes you don’t know when your next shower is going to be. I always have these as well as my toothbrush and toothpaste on hand to help feel fresh while on the road. 3. pack of cards, they are just fun and a good way to connect with people. Love the article and happy travels everyone!
Couldn’t agree more on the bra thing- I once had to cut out my bra underwire in a hostel because it had started poking me. Funny enough, my male travel buddy helped me get it out, lol.
I couldn’t agree more about sarongs, moist towelettes and cards- I usually bring all of those traveling!
Ashley, what great tips, thank you! You’ve inspired me and I will definitely go for Towel bathrobe (cheaper version in EU shop Decathlon), Lush solid shampoo & packing tubes. I already use eye mask to help me fall asleep, hoodie is my friend for flights and colder weather as well. Flip flops – I am still OK with my Crocs (I basically lived in them when travelling two times in Sri Lanka) and as a second pair to warm destination hikes I love Keens. When cold, I just wear short socks in them ;) I will think about sweatpants – currently I have yoga pants from H&M with high waist (soo comfortable), but I miss pockets…
Love reading your blog when planning my trip to Belize & Quintana Roo! So inspiring :) Greetings from Prague, Europe!
Oh, and I forgot to add some tips: I will try Lush tooth(paste) tabs! Another liquid to eliminate. I also take 100% silk sleeping bag (light & useful in odd places). Ear plugs/good ear plug headphones. External battery charger & sarong (already mentioned, very useful). From devices I take just Smartphone (I have dual SIM Lenovo – one SIM personal & second SIM local) & GoPro HERO camera. I’m lucky that my co-traveler is a professional photographer so I do not need to take anything else. This time I will try a challenge to travel with just carry-on luggage and I am going to purchase Tortuga backpack.
I actually just got a GoPro for my birthday and I can’t WAIT to try it out! It looks like so much fun! :)
I’ve heard really good things about Keens, I’ll have to look into them. Also have fun in Belize and Quintana Roo! :)
Great post! I was recently tipped off to the solid shampoo secret, and can’t believe I never thought of it before, will definitely be buying some from Lush for my next trip. I also second the Kindle, at first I felt like I was cheating on my paperbacks, but I save so much space in my bag, and love the comfort of knowing my next read is only a click away, as long as I can connect to wifi. I usually just download a dozen books before I leave and rarely get through all of them!
My newest beauty packing tip is bringing one of those tiny little tubs of tinted Vaseline. Smaller than a tube of chapstick, it can be used to moisturize lips, add a little color as a lipstick/gloss, and can also be swiped onto your cheeks as a blush/highlighter. It has definitely helped pare down my travel cosmetics bag!
Ooh I would love to have a lip balm like that! Tinted balms are amazing. And I think I would break out like crazy if I put Vaseline on my cheeks but I bet it works for those with dryer skin!
I cannot travel without a sarong! It’s a blanket, skirt, bathing suit cover up, sheet, pillow, towel… the list goes on. And it’s lightweight and can cram into a tiny pocket of a backpack!
(I also hated the Lush solid conditioner. Come on Lush!!!)
I know right? Their shampoo is amazing so they really need to step up their solid conditioner game.
An unlocked smart phone really makes the difference in my experience!!! I also love to travel with some clothe hangers since that way I can iron my dress shirts with the steam of the hostel showers!
That’s really smart! I use steam too but try not to bring clothes I have to iron traveling. Those are such a pain!
I’ve never used Osprey before but you and Alex are such fans, I really want to try one. To be honest, I’ve never found a suitcase I’m truly in love with…yet…
I can’t live without my quick dry, compact towel. It is truly a life saver. My other thing is a light weight rain coat – always comes in handy.
Those are essential in Europe. I brought one to Asia and never used it- the rain was pretty warm there!
Thanks for sharing the mind blowing travel to long-term journey. I love travelling to be inspired to get famous Sweatpants. This is awesome trip to attracts the camping in the outsides.
I just took a look at the bathrobe on Amazon, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be investing in one before my next trip. Maybe even before. I love the bathrobe I have right now, but it is sooo unpackable. Takes up way to much space.
This is a great article, BTW. Lot’s of good info. :)
Glad you liked it Hannah! That bathrobe is awesome- I still use it in Denver and take it traveling. Some might say taking a bathrobe traveling is kind of ridiculous, but I guess they haven’t tried it :)
I like your list and many are very, very useful. As a book geek, I’d have to say the most important thing that I travel with is my kindle oh, and my red or pink lipstick. I can’t even leave the house without some lippy, not to talk of travel!
Sadly, I dropped my kindle a few weeks ago and now I have to use my husband’s iPad to read my stuff instead. ‘Hopefully, I get an updated fancy one for my birthday. Hint! Hint!
Agreed, I always pack a wine-colored lip stain of sorts! I really like the Kindle Voyage, so maybe suggest that :)
I still have never used packing cubes…they’re really that life changing?!
Honestly, YES. They make repacking take about 30 seconds rather than 5-10 minutes. You no longer have to repack each item of clothing, it’s awesome!
Excellent post! Also you may find this post helpful if you are traveling this year. http://bestluggagecenter.com/best-luggage-brands-2015/
This is such a good list! I can’t live without a neck pillow… some places provide awful pillows, it’s also a god send on long journeys!
I just bought a neck pillow the other day at the airport and now I’m kicking myself for not buying one sooner. They really make Frontier flights soooo much more bearable!
Thanks for the tip about packing cubes, I think I’m going to buy those for my next trip :)
They’re THE BEST.
I agree with you on the Kind bars! I take them for the airplane and any layovers. On flights, I always seem to be one of the last people served food, and on layovers, who wants to pay $5+ for a snack??
Airport food is the worst because it’s not tasty AND it’s overpriced! Packing your own snacks is so much smarter :)
great list .
Burt’s Bees makes nice lip gloss in several shades of pretty. Some are flavored. Good for not only color, but also an awesome alternative to blah waxy lip balm.
These travel accessories seem so practical and helpful, Ashley! Thanks for introducing them!
No worries, Agness! :)
Great post! My current favorite travel accessory is my infinity scarf with a hidden pocket, perfect for storing a phone/passport/money when on an overnight train or plane ride.
I have this one in the constellation pattern.
I’m always on the look out for new travel accessories that’ll make long term travel a little easier! Whole heartedly agree with you that cheap flip flops and an unlocked smartphone are a must, but I manage to save space, weight and the expense on books (or a kindle) by just using the kindle app on my phone too. If someone bought it as a gift for me, it’d probably be a different matter all together though.
I never had much luck with the solid Lush bars either. I bought it for a two month trip in America and threw it away after two weeks because it got stuck in its container. It’s a shame, because it’s much smaller to pack and causes much less worry than bottles of shampoo in my only bag.
My must have travel accessory probably has to be portable chargers. I can’t travel without music, so my phone battery always drains quickly. A wind up torch also comes in handy during a power cut and waterproof trousers/jackets are essential, just in case. And a book of matches, because they aren’t easy to come by everywhere in the world and you can’t make a rocket with a lighter.
I never travel without my portable charger these days! Running out of battery when you’re traveling can be so stressful.
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