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).

Which is why I wanted to make a list of my absolute favorite things to bring on a long-term trip. Some of these selections are controversial- for example, I prefer to check my bag rather than carry-on. (And even worse, I have a rolling backpack- the horror!)

But 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 twelve travel essentials for long-term trips.

1. A Rolling Backpack

I absolutely love my Osprey 60L 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.


2. Packing Cubes Eagle_Creek_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 are Eagle Creek- they’re super sleek, durable and surprisingly spacious.


3. Comfortable Flip Flops


Wearing my extremely comfy Reefs as usual.

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.

4. An Eyemask

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.

5. A 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.

For my body, I swear by Sun Bum Continuous Spray. It smells like a Piña Colada so it just reminds me of vacation. The only downside is that it runs out fairly quickly.

6. An Unlocked Smart Phone

Having an unlocked smart phone 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.

7. Comfy Sweatpants and Hoodie


My friend Jen modeling my TenTree sweatpants on a hike in Boulder!

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.

8. A Kindle with 3G Kindle_Voyage

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.

9. Lush Solid Shampoo Lush_Solid_Shampoo

Like packing cubes, solid shampoo is another one of those products that seems unnecessary but actually works. 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.)

10. 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.

11. Tieks

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.

Tieks are pricey, but well worth the investment.

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.

Honorable mention: Cheap H&M costume jewelry, a BCBG bandage skirt, Mac Studio Fix (a lifesafer 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?

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I will earn a small percentage if you purchase through these affiliate links at no extra cost to you. 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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Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.