Don’t forget these essential travel items

Travelling can be a blessing or a curse depending how you approach things.  I’ve learned a great deal over the years from my international travel to South America, Central America, Europe and to many places in between.

In reflecting upon what’s worked for us when we venture far outside our home city, here are some of my favourite travel tips and travel items to make your next distant destination more enjoyable and fulfilling.

Don’t leave home without this mindset

Get up early

A warm cup of Costa Rican coffee, before a morning hike.

A beautiful sunrise on the beach, with barely anyone around.

A nice walk to the market for groceries, before it gets busy.

Simple but rewarding pleasures.  Morning can be a great time to enjoy your temporary home – if you get up early enough to enjoy it.

Hang with the locals

In recent years my wife and I stay at B&Bs when we travel.  We do this for many reasons and one of them is the opportunity to meet the locals and get to know them.  We find this enriches our travel experiences.  Sites and attractions are fun but you can learn a great deal from others, and yourself, if you hang with the locals.

Keep an open mind

Driving a dune buggy at 90 km/h on a highway before hanging out on the beach?  Sounds like fun to me.

Be impulsive.  Try something new.  Be open to saying “yes”.  It might make a great memory.


Don’t leave home without these items


Noisy flight?  Noisy accommodations?  No problem.  Pack a few sets of earplugs when you travel.  They are inexpensive and take up virtually no space or weight.

Polysporin and adhesive bandages

Cuts, scrapes and some minor burns happen.  Polysporin or a similar ointment can help speed healing by preventing infection.  It can be conveniently packed in your carry-on luggage along with your assorted BAND-AIDs®.

Tablet, old cell phone and international electrical adapters

Most accommodations around the world now have WiFi.  This means you can surf, research, read and watch anything on demand with your tablet.   Take an old cell phone.  Buy a local SIM card for it and voila! – now you have a cell phone to use for emergencies or navigating your way around the country or for anything else for that matter.  Consider packing an international electrical adapter so you’re never stuck with a dead-battery.

Extra cash

As part of your travel budget, add in extra money in the local currency of your destination before you go at a currency exchange centre.  In an emergency situation or in a desire to splurge a bit, you won’t have to worry about money.  Local cash remains king wherever you go.

Scarfs and bandanas

Need a temporary hat?  How about a temporary towel or hand cloth in a pinch?  Need some sort of modified rope to hang up clothing or gear?   Scarfs or bandanas come in handy.  Consider packing one of these weightless items in your carry-on.

Notepad and a pen

Electronics may run low on charge.  You may need to communicate in symbols.  You might want to make a map on the fly.  You might also want to keep a diary of your experiences.  Go old school – bring a noteplan and pan to document anything you want.

Travel insurance

Nobody plans to get sick or intends to get health care when travelling.  This is what out-of-country travel insurance is critical.  Get some before you go.

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Essential mindset and items

You can’t control everything during your travel but then again you don’t want to.  Travel should be fun, exciting, new and in some cases totally unpredictable.  Embrace it.  Bring a healthy mindset and a few simple supplies to prepare for that unexpected journey.

What are some of your best travel tips?  What mindset do you have when you travel?  What essential items do you take along with you?

My name is Mark Seed - the founder, editor and owner of My Own Advisor. As my own DIY financial advisor, I'm looking to start semi-retirement soon, sooner than most. Find out how, what I did, and what you can learn to tailor your own financial independence path. Join the newsletter read by thousands each day, always FREE.

6 Responses to "Don’t forget these essential travel items"

  1. There are a number of things that I consider essential, but it always depends on where I am going and for how long.
    Always bring a small flashlight–where I go, there are plenty of dark and uneven sidewalks and even deep holes in the sidewalks…..If I am back at my lodging before dinner time the sunglasses go out and the flashlight goes in, to my bag.
    A small clothesline for drying your handwashed travel clothing in the room. I made my own braided one (if braided you don’t need clothespins, just tuck the item in) from plastic tubing that we have plenty of from medical supplies. Works great!
    I always travel with a small hairdryer. Some may think it is an “extra”, but it is useful not only for hair, but for drying clothing and for warming up a room that is freezing!
    I travel light, never have more than I can carry myself. A good quality, lightweight travel bag is really worthwhile. We own two that are convertible suitcases to backpacks. At the airport they always comment “Is that all you have???”
    My tip would be to travel when you are young and healthy, before any aches and pains set in. I am thinking of that now, because my arm and shoulder have been killing me for a few weeks, I think the spring raking did something to me. I managed to get three trips to Mexico in between November and March, none planned now 🙁

      1. On one of my hiking trips in New Zealand, one of the women had packed a hairdryer. It hadn’t crossed her mind that we would be up in the hills for several days and away from such modern conveniences as electricity.

        I pack one of those head lamps. You can look a right fool in an urban setting, but having two hands free can be very useful.

        As for phones, we normally buy a cheap pay as you go phone wherever we are going.

        1. A head lamp is smart. We take a small almost bullet-proof flashlight when we travel. Great when we’re out at night, on hikes, other. A pay-as-you-go phone is very handy depending upon the length of your journey. Cheers Richard!

  2. Mark,
    Didn’t know you were a fellow traveller 🙂
    all good tips and suggestions
    here some of my suggestions gleaned from multiple decades of independent travel

    Tablet, old cell phone and international electrical adapters
    – make sure the cell phone you take is unlocked if you want to use a local SIM
    – most newer (<5 yr old) cell/tablet/laptop chargers are universal (110/220V) so you only really need a physical adapter i.e. make the plug fit – see something like to see if it fits – also carry the reverse adapter
    – I also carry a 3-to-1 adapter – can plug in more that one charger and you can share that single plug at the airport(etc.) with your fellow traveller
    -also a backup battery pack is invaluable
    -personally I prefer a cheap laptop (I have an ASUS that cost CAD200 new) to a tablet – also used to backup the photos I take to internal storage AND a separate USB stick – always copy in three's
    – if you are photographer carry a simple point and shoot camera as a backup should your "main gear" be compromised – at least you'll have something to take pictures with ( personally I don't like cell phone cameras but each to his own)

    Extra cash
    -rather than buying cash at silly exchange rates before you go use the ATM when you get there (doesn't apply to Cuba though – exchange cash and only cash when you get there – strictly a cash place); I have a debit card from TD Bank in the US which rebates any ATM fees incurred an gives very favourable exchange rates to boot – haven't found a CDN one yet
    – in a similar vein I use the Amazon Chase Visa for foreign credit card use – just heard it closed to new applications though
    – ditch your "wallet in the back pocket" habit – pickpocket's delight – carry only a small amount of cash (day's worth) in a front pockets (I prefer left front for coins (in a small coin purse) and left breast shirt pocket for bills) – also don't flash a lot of cash – just makes you a target
    – rest of cash along with that valuable passport goes into a sewn in internal pocket
    – I also carry $200 in USD (2 Benjamins tightly folded and glued with a leather patch into the inside of my belt) for real emergencies – if you're getting stripped of your belt you have much bigger things to worry about 🙂

    Scarfs and bandanas
    – I carry a length (10m) of paracord and a good hat along with that bandana
    – carry a penknife if you check luggage else purchase an inexpensive paring knife at the destination – useful on so many levels

    Notepad and a pen -YES! – take a couple of extra cheap pens to give away – kids love them
    also hardcopy of critical information and copies of passport, flight coupons reservation numbers etc – basically anything really need
    Travel insurance
    this depends a lot on where you are going – if the USA then absolutely essential – 3rd world maybe not so much as medical care is much cheaper than Canada and the local provincial health care plan will more than cover the costs (you are covered btw – you'd have to pay out and claim)
    – make sure you have the proper meds/shots for your destination – malaria pills, tetanus, cholera etc. etc.
    – that said I use a multi-trip plan/annum from TD Meloche Monnex that costs ~250 CAD for a couple/year – other plans are available in the $350-400 range..

    1. We travel for sure…trying to get up to 2 international trips per year. You think I sit and write posts all the time? 🙂

      re: make sure the cell phone you take is unlocked if you want to use a local SIM. Agreed!

      re: extra cash; we prefer to get some foreign money before we go. You never know when you need the cash and let’s be honest, if you can afford an international trip for $3,000 to $4,000, are you really worried about a few dollars? Doesn’t seem to make sense to me.

      re: Amazon Chase Visa for foreign credit card use – just heard it closed to new applications though. It did. There is still the Marriott Chase Visa which I will get again later this year.

      re: carry only a small amount of cash (day’s worth) in a front pockets – too agree and do this all the time. I prefer to keep cash in the safe when we travel (at hotel, B&B, etc.)

      re: Scarfs and bandanas – good hats are good too!

      re: hardcopy of critical information and copies of passport, flight coupons reservation numbers etc – basically anything really need. Smart.

      re: Travel insurance – it does depend where you are going but I’d rather have insurance than be thousands of dollars out of pocket, especially in the US!!

      Thanks for your detailed comments, great points.


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