12 Travel Essentials

While I was packing for our week in the sunny Riviera Maya, I got to thinking about the things I always take on a trip no matter where we go. So as I unloaded my bags last weekend, I documented those 12 travel essentials…

1. Maps
Whenever possible, I try to find destination-specific guidebooks and city maps to help us get around. For Mexico, I lucked out by coming across Map Chick’s extensive collection of travel maps, which came complete with restaurant and sightseeing tips. They were great in supplementing all the nuggets I gathered from blogger friends, but most helpful in identifying streets as we drove and walked and biked around.

2. Travel Journal
I never leave home without a Moleskin journal and Sharpie pen for noting our favorite places, meals, and sights. Sometimes many days of adventure can blend together afterward, but a journal helps me remember the little things that I experienced along the way or things I want to try once back home.

3. Passport
An obvious necessity for travel abroad and a memento in of itself. I love seeing my pages fill up with stamps from our adventures all over the world.

4. A Good Book
My husband has converted to a Kindle, but I still love the feel of a real paperback in my hands. I always pick up something new right before vacation and dig in the moment we hit the air. Vacation is often the only time I make time to truly sit down and enjoy a good book, so I really  savor those quiet moments during travel or on the beach when I immerse myself in a good read. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald was completely engrossing.

5. Mini Jambox
Our friends brought a mini Jawbone Bluetooth speaker on our trip last fall to Greece (such a smart buy), and we picked one up before heading to Mexico. Nice design, great quality sound, and super portable, it’s insanely easy to slip into your carry-on and perfect for playing tunes from your iPhone in your hotel room or on the beach.

6. Sunglasses
Another obvious need. I’m loyal to Ray-Ban sunglasses and switch between classic wayfarers and equally classic aviators.

7. CamerasPhotographs are the very best kind of souvenir. A love of photography runs in our family–a passion I picked up from my dad and a skill I have honed with the help of my father-in-law. I always take my DSLR (not shown) and 1-2 lenses, but a polaroid-style camera is my new favorite essential for the instant gratification of fun, pocket-sized snaps.

8. Scarf
Versatility is key when traveling. An airy scarf doubles as a blanket on the plane and a wrap for cool evenings at dinner. I love the fringe tassels and gauzy linen of this Love Quotes scarf.

9. Refreshing SprayPacking Caudalie’s Beauty Elixir is really a travel ritual at this point. A spritz of this is the best way to refresh after a long flight or at the end of a full day of exploration, plus it doubles as a toner in my pared-down morning routine. It comes in a travel-sized version.

10. Sunscreen
I love this super-gentle, organic SPF 30 face sunscreen from Coola, and at 1.7 oz, it fits into my carry-on toiletry bag. It was the first and only thing I put on my face for six days in Mexico.

11. Healthy Snacks
I like to pack a few snacks for travel or in between meals. KIND bars are a favorite, as are dried Turkish apricots, and raw almonds.

12. Headphones
Headphones are a must, and I go as minimalistic as can be with a basic Apple pair. Noise-cancelling options are great and other versions may produce better sound, but to me the most important aspect is that they hardly take up any space in my carry-on. I try to put together a travel playlist and download some new music from Spotify on my iPhone before we go–music can really bring your trip to life. Quick tip: If you’ll be renting a car, be sure to bring an auxiliary cable so you can connect your phone and listen to your music instead of being confined to local radio stations!

And not pictured: An open mind. Perhaps the No.1 travel essential. Be curious not fearful. See, do, taste things you can’t anywhere else. Savor the moment, get out of your comfort zone, and have fun!

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  • I swear by our jambox. I brought mine to playa last december and it was awesome on the beach!

    – jaime

  • Kellie

    Love this list!

  • PerpetuallyChic

    So perfect for the beach! So glad we finally got one.

  • PerpetuallyChic

    Thanks, Kellie!

  • Love all these travel items. Such a smart idea to bring your jambox, I have never thought of that before. Kind bars are my new favorite, such a perfect snack and so yummy.

  • Sara Mueller

    So many great things here! I heading to Morocco in a couple of months and will definitely remember this post. Thanks for sharing!

  • PerpetuallyChic

    Definitely pin/bookmark it for later! Morocco is on my travel wish list…can’t wait to see your photos!

  • Renee

    How do you feel about the Polaroid camera? Is it worth the investment for an amateur who scrapbooks? Thanks!

  • Laura McFarlin MapChick

    Wow! Thank you so much for the map recommendation! 🙂

  • Hannah

    What dslr do You use?