While it is very easy to imagine yourself jetting away to an exotic location, in reality, a stress-free, successful trip needs far more organization than just a few clicks. Especially in today’s world, where we carry more devices than we can count (not to mention the charger for each of these devices) and where going through security is nothing short of nerve-wracking.
The packing list below reflects the type of traveller that I am: orderly, urban, non-adventurous and stylish, who enjoys visiting metropolises like Paris, New York or Berlin. Nonetheless, I think the list provides a good base for every type of traveller, in the sense that an optimal suitcase is a combination of efficient packing and climate/activity-appropriate clothing. And regardless of where you go, only the latter changes. The list works whether you opt for hiking boots or heels, a sturdy rainjacket or a trendy trenchcoat.
Let’s see what I don’t leave home without whenever I leave for a new destination.
PACKING & LUGGAGE
- Packing cubes are the best thing since fire was invented. Literally. I am a very neat, orderly person and I like having each of my clothing categories (underwear, sweaters, dresses, tank tops, etc.) sorted in the same place. No need to go through the entire suitcase –and unfold everything in the process– for that one item of clothing that I so desperately need.
- I really like my Delsey suitcase, because it is incredibly light (100% polycarbonate), meaning that I get the most out of the precious space the TSA allows me to carry around the world. Not one inch is wasted, and the hard shell means I don’t have to worry about my precious possessions being crushed or broken in transit.
- Laundry Travel Bag is essential, especially when travelling in hot, humid climates.
- Zip bags of all sizes, because the contents are instantly recognizable and because they’re quite useful to sort out the odds and ends (they can also make up for a cheaper alternative to packing cubes, although not quite as sturdy).
- Luggage scale to avoid pesky (not to mention costly!) surprises at the airport.
- Hanging hook travel toiletry organiser for semi-to-high-maintenance girls like myself. Because a girl needs to have her make-up, hair products, toothbrush and deodorant at the ready.
- TSA-approved quart-size toiletry pouch to make the security check process much smoother, and therefore that much more enjoyable.
- Last but not least, a medium-sized cross-body handbag in lieu of a day-time backpack. I prefer leather bags than can fit my camera, my survival kit (see below), a water bottle, my sunglasses and my wallet.
CLOTHING & TOILETRIES
I won’t go and list every single item that I usually pack when I visit a new city, but the operative word here is practicality. Mix and match clothes, so that each item can be worn at different times with different pieces of clothing for maximum versatility. Here are a few items that, I think, are indispensable for city travel:
- One or two pairs of skinny jeans
- Tieks by Gavrieli foldable flats: definitely the priciest pair of shoes I own, but the Italian leather has two major things going for it: breathable fabric means no sweat, and extensible means the shoe will be a perfect fit after just a few times wearing it. The padded heel also does wonder to ankles and knees as it absorbs most of the shocks, even on uneven European streets. I own the leopard print flats, and I get compliments every time I wear them!
- Sturdy, waterproof leather boots
- One or two pairs of black tights
- Sweater dresses (can be worn with the jeans or the tights) and one semi-fancy dress
- Two or three cardigans, in varying lengths and colors
- Two or three light t-shirts or sweaters in varying patterns or colors
- Two or three feminine blouses in varying patterns or colors
As for toiletries, travel sizes are a girl’s best friend (I have small bottles that I simply refill with my own products every time I leave). Not only are they easier to get through security, they are also lighter and take much less space. One of the most important things I’ve learned while traveling is that whatever you do, DON’T skimp on facial care. Skin is a sensitive organ and can react very strongly to change, either in sunlight, in water or in air pollution.
- Gentle foam face wash/makeup remover
- Face scrub
- Paraben-free body wash, shampoo and conditioner
- Moisturizer (with FPS)
- I barely ever leave home without my beloved camera, the Canon T3i. It is definitely not top of the line as far as DSLRs are concerned, but I feel it’s the perfect pick for travellers who want to play around with manual settings without having to fork out thousands of dollars for a professional-level, super heavy camera. I frequently switch between the standard 18-55 mm and 50mm lenses for maximum versatility.
- And while I do love my DSLR, no words can describe how much I hate regular photography bags: not only are they unaesthetic, they are also a big advertisement for what’s inside your bag. Which is precisely why I love ONA bags so much — pretty, sturdy and most importantly, anonymous.
- Because DSLR cameras, even the lightest of them, can be quite bulky and heavier than point-to-shoots, I always preferred to have a neoprene neck strap as opposed to the basic one. More comfortable!
- GorillaPod, for non-selfie-portraits as well as night-time or activity shots.
- olloclip, for those who prefer to shoot with iPhone only and who want to have more options when it comes to wide angles or macro shots.
- Because I’m such an avid Instagrammer, the iPhone battery case is kind of like my best friend. Not only do I use my iPhone for photos, I also use it for maps, staying in touch, travel apps and so many other things, I simply cannot fathom the thought of not being able to use it. Definitely one of my best purchases.
- Grid-it Organizer, so every wire, charger and device stays in place when I’m on the go.
- Noise-Canceling Headphones. Plane + wailing children. You do the math.
- Travelling without a portable external hard drive is simply not an option in my case, since my photography is part of my job and therefore my income. I backup every photo and video on there for an additional backup in case my computer crashes.
- 3-Outlet Mini Travel Swivel Charger for charging all those devices!
- My 13.3 inch Apple MacBook Air, because it’s the lightest computer there is on the market, and allows me to do my regular work even when I’m thousands of miles away from home. Definitely more of an investment than just a steep expense, especially since it means I don’t have to carry or buy a tablet.
- Kenu highline so I can safely use my phone everywhere in the world without having to worry about pickpockets.
I don’t typically carry books around because I find most of the useful literature can be downloaded on a tablet or a phone via an app. I prefer to keep the valuable space for things I simply cannot leave home without, and travel just a bit more light.
- My MOO cards, so I can connect with fellow travellers, bloggers and industry members whenever I’m on the go. I like to use the photographic business cards, first and foremost because I can showcase my photography skills but also because these cards make for excellent conversation starters. Use my affiliate link and get 10% off your order!
- One or two scarves, that can be used to cover shoulders when visiting sensible buildings, as a pillow, as a tablecloth or a blanket. Or, you know, as an actual scarf when it’s chilly out.
- A survival kit: not nearly as extreme as it sounds, but vital nonetheless. I carry ibuprofen, band-aids, Purell, SPF lipstick, dramamine (motion sickness), a nail file, alcohol wipes, anti-blisters moleskin, anti-histamine pills, eye drops and dental floss at all times, wherever I go.
* Disclaimer: some of the links above are part of affiliate programmes, but rest assured that I would never endorse a product I don’t personally use and truly believe in.
** For more handy travel tips from seasoned travellers, check out my “Travel Tips & Resources” page.