Since I made my job travel, I find myself packing and unpacking my suitcase often. It probably averages out to once a month or more! Over the last year+ I came up with what I call my basic packing list. These are all specific items I bring with me on every trip no matter what the destination, activity, or season.
Now, keep in mind, this is my basic packing list, yours may be a bit different. Use this post to guide you, but also think about all the things you need to function every day and adapt from there!
Clothing & Shoes
An Comfy T-Shirt
This is for sleeping! I’ve got this faded spirit jersey from my sorority days and a giant pink one I got from New Orleans. This one from REI is always cute. They’re loose enough for warm weather paired with shorts, and I really don’t get cold that easily when it comes to fall/winter travel. Often when I stay with friends, they crank up the heat in the winter more than I would, so bringing anything heavier has been kicking and sweating at night.
A Comfortable Pair of Pants
This is also for sleeping, and more times than not it’s just a pair of cotton shorts. I have some old ones from H&M that still do the trick. If I’m going somewhere where I really think I’ll be a bit chillier, I’ll bring yoga pants or cotton leggings, but that’s kind of rare. I mean I still wore shorts to bed on the bus when we went van life-ing around Oregon in October, so…
I will say, I’ve also been loving these linen-blend pants I got from Old Navy at the beginning of the summer, but if I were to buy something similar again I’d get a higher quality, 100% linen pair.
I mean, I talk about my love of my Everlane T-Shirts here if you want to go in depth. But typically, I travel with a white and black box cut tee. They’re great for just throwing on in the summer and layering in the winter!
Slip on Sneakers
Living in Korea has really made me a fan of shoes that I can slip on and off very easily. It’s kind of funny because once upon a time I’d never imagine not wearing riding boots, and now I kind of can’t stand them!
Anyway, I always throw in a pair of tennis shoes I can slip in and out of easily. I have a white pair of Pumas that have surprisingly stood up well over the last 2 years of me wearing them. I can easily get them on and off without needing to bend down most of the time.
I even like having these in the summer because somehow my feet get real worn and torn, so I don’t always want to wear sandals. Plus for completely superficial reasons, I like how my legs look with white tennis shoes and denim shorts or skirts lol.
Again tied in with the tennis shoes. I’m not a fan of socks showing above shoes. But also ankle socks are just nice to wear around your hotel room or Airbnb if you don’t want to be barefoot. They’re especially nice when you want to show your feet some TLC. I usually throw in a bunch since they take up no room, but minimum I’d say 3 to 4.
2 Nude Bras
I usually take more than this but it depends on how long my trip is. Two comfortable, nude bras is a good minimum for any trip. You can always hand wash one and wear the other while it’s drying! Plus nude bras can go under anything while a black or colorful one can’t. I like the ones from Target.
Regular Black Underwear
This style from UNIQLO is the best. They’re highwaisted and seamless, so they go under everything. I have some Hanes ones as well, but these are definitely better. I have both black and nude.
I have this style. You an get them off the website, but they’re also available at Nordstrom. While I travel with a period cup now, sometimes I want extra protection just in case or I don’t feel like wearing it. This underwear is amazing! It really does hold everything in, and I wear it towards the end of my period when things are a bit lighter.
Accessories & Bags
I always, always have some sort of crossbody bag on me. For a while I loved my little basket crossbody, but the strap broke, so I’m back to my trusty Michael Kors one. I’ve had it for six years now, and it’s still my most practical one! It’s big enough to fit my wallet, passport, little knick knacks, and sunglasses but small enough I can take it with me out for the night and not worry about it. I don’t think it’s for sale anymore, but this one is similar in style and leather.
I too thought packing cubes were just a gimmick once upon a time. However, I got this Eagle Creek set when I returned from Korea, and got another set in a conference goodie bag, and I’ll never go back to a life without them! They really make things SO organized and easy to arrange! Definitely invest in a better quality one. The Eagle Creek ones are nice because the fabric is stronger and it kind of compresses and smooths things over better than the freebie ones I have.
I actually learned that I needed my little Gonex daypack on this recent trip! I was using it as a carry on bag, but it’s pretty flimsy so I was worried about how much weight I was carrying in it with my laptop and my camera. Before Italy & Morocco, I upgraded to this laptop backpack.
On my recent trip, I took just the laptop backpack and learned that it’s not really useful beyond protecting my tech gear! Trying to fit clothes in it for an overnight was almost impossible, and my daypack would have come in handy.
Daypacks are just so nice for quick overnights, hiking excursions, or times you need more than a purse but less than your suitcase. I like the Gonex Daypack because it folds up so much, it takes up next to no room when you don’t need it!
Now that I know I can wear earrings again, I never travel without at least a few pairs. I have a little earrings box, so I usually just take that with me and it holds all the earrings I want to wear. But for me, at minimum, I like to have some studs and hoops!
Bonus, you can use your earring back to open up the SIM card holder if you’re getting a tourist SIM!
Can scrunchies stay on trend forever? I’m so glad they’re a thing again! I know all of my photos have me with my hair down, but I actually have my hair up in a bun or ponytail 99% of the time. And I didn’t realized it until this last year, but I just don’t want to wear regular hair ties ever again.
If I wear a black scrunchie it blends into my hair just as much as a black hair tie, expect it doesn’t cause denting in my hair or around my wrist. Plus it’s a lot harder to lose a scrunchie than a little hair tie!
This should be a no brainer, right? I love this style from Amazon but I did buy this style of Raybans off my sister when she got new sunglasses, so I’ll let you know how they compare! If I’m going somewhere summery or fun, I also have a white pair of sunglasses that add a little twist.
Also a no brainer! I have an MK wallet I take with me everywhere, but it’s actually a bit longer than I’d prefer. I’m keeping my eye out for smaller wallets to keep everything together. Something like this wallet but I don’t really like the color.
I mean, it’s a given! Even if you’re visiting somewhere that relies heavily on bottled water, you can always get the biggest size possible and decant into your reusable bottle to help save on plastic waste.
I’ve always had pretty dry skin, so it’s never not been an option to have body lotion on me. While I like the idea of solid lotions, they tend to melt very fast in hotter climates. I always liked Aveeno or good old Vaseline lotion.
I know, I know I need to get LASIK! However, until I do, an extra pair of contacts (or five) and solution is always on my basic packing list.
Nail Serum/Cuticle Oil
Random, I know, but my nervous/bored tick is to push back my cuticles, so I irritate them easily. Some sort of nail serum or cuticle oil just keeps them from looking ragged all the time. I have this nail serum from Innisfree.
Clinique yellow cream all the way! They have travel sizes, but if you’re on a short trip, you can fill a contact case.
Can’t wear contacts all the time! I have these really dorky circle ones that I picked up in Korea back in 2017. I don’t like traveling in contacts since I fall asleep a lot, so if you see me at the airport, I’m probably there with my hair up and these suckers on lol.
Hair Oil or Serum
So, ever since I got my hair permed, I use conditioner quite sparingly. Instead I bring some sort of hair oil, serum, cream with me. I put it on when my hair is wet and/or when it’s dry depending on the product.
Nothing is worse than suffering through dry lips! My fallback is always Burt’s Bees.
I’ve learned that you never remember to pack nail clippers until you actually need them. And that’s usually when you’re dealing with a hang nail in the middle of the dessert, and you just want to tear the whole thing out. Trust me, bring them! And they’re TSA approved if you’ve traveling carry on only.
Relatively newer addition, and before I’d say pads and tampons. But ever since I got used to my Lily Cup Compact, I’m converted to period cups! I actually just got the Saalt cup while at Target because it holds more.
Trust me, convert! Not only are you saving the environment a tiny bit, but it’s just less room in your bag, less money out of your pocket, and the right cup will last you 12 hours. AKA no random public bathroom changes!
I mean, this is self-explanatory, right? Protect your skin while sightseeing!
Maybe it’s my age or because I take enough photos of myself that I can tell when I’m slacking on my personal care, but these days I can’t just do any old shampoo from the hotel. I have the type of hair that gets drier at the ends and really oily/flat at the scalp, so the effect is not cute. When using the wrong shampoo in the wrong climate, it just gets worse.
I have this fancy schmancy shampoo from my hair salon in Korea, but I also like LUSH’s solid shampoo for carry on only travels! Another trusty brand is Head & Shoulders, and even my hairdresser in the US says it’s the best for dandruff.
1-2 Sheet Masks
Just tiny indulgences to help spruce up my skin. I don’t actually use them a ton, once or twice a month. My favorite brand is always Innisfree, but I did pick up a bunch of Dr. Jart masks to try since they were on sale at Olive Young when I was in Korea. I also get gifted face masks a bunch from friends, so I have a mishmash of brands!
Gotta keep the brows neat! And, you know, they come in handy if you get a splinter (speaking from experience). Can’t go wrong with Tweezerman ones.
Toothbrush & Toothpaste
I mean… I don’t really need to elaborate, right? I’m all about the solid toothpaste trend, and I have an eco friendly toothbrush Trader Joe’s.
I actually don’t brush my hair all that much these days! But I do bring one of those mini travel hair brushes when I do.
Hey man, even the most outdoorsy, enlightened of us like a little oomph to our looks when we travel! I’m pretty minimalist when it comes to my make up because I never really got into the habit of wearing it regularly.
These days, when I know I’m doing something I’ll photograph, I’ll put on my no sebum primer, do my brows, put on a bit of shadow, bronzer, and maybe lipstick, and that’s it! When I’m hiking or just having a regular day, I don’t wear anything at all.
No Sebum Primer
So this primer from Innisfree is my favorite product ever. Even when I have a lazy day, I just put a bit on my forehead to keep any shininess at bay. I cannot emphasize how much it rocks. Plus it avoids feeling chalky and is actually a bit moisturizing!
Since I have monolids, I’ve never really gotten experimental with eyeshadow nor have I really worn it. I do like to dab on these shades I have from Innisfree that work well for everyday though. It’s basically a small thing of one tan, one brown, one sparkly brown, and one pinkish color to highlight.
Eyebrow Gel & Liner
Is it gel? I basically just use Glossier’s Boy Brow in dark brown. It’s just a little thing to feel a bit more put together even if I don’t use any eyebrow liner.
I swear eyelash curlers make all the difference! I don’t like using mascara because even the best waterproof ones just run with the way my eyes are shaped. However, I do like to curl my lashes a bit because it does “open up my eyes.”
My favorite for a reddish lip is the Etude House lip mousse, but I also like Lisa Eldridge’s lipsticks.
I can’t tell if I trick myself into thinking my bronzer does anything or if it does and I’ve just gotten used to it… Either way, it’s a solid product, so it’s not like it takes up much room! I don’t wear foundation, highlights, or contour because I like to let my skin breathe. I’m one of the lucky ones who has pretty good skin, so I might as well not suffocate it with foundation if I don’t need to!
I have the Two Faced one, which a lady at Sephora recommended, and I just put some on where the sun would naturally hit, plus a bit on my jawline. It feels like a good “final step” when I do my makeup.
My job is online, of course I always travel with my laptop! You obviously don’t need to if you’re following this list. When I go on a proper holiday, I leave it behind.
DSLR Camera & Lens
Another thing I always travel with is my DSLR. Yes, with the lens, it’s insanely heavy, but I always regret not having it. I’m looking into buying a Canon G7x to do more video and also have something small to carry around when I’m not trying to capture anything major. It’s kind of funny to think about because I also just bought an old film camera (a Canon AE 1), so I feel like in some situations I might be traveling around with 3 cameras!
As for the lens, my mainstay is a 17 to 40mm lens. It’s what I got my camera with, and it’s quite versatile for nearly every shot I want. I do have a 50mm because I wanted to do more portraits, but it’s too narrow for most of the travel shots I want. I may get a pancake lens, but I’m not sure yet.
And as for the last bit of tech I always travel with, my phone. I’m basically married to my phone, which I’m fine admitting because these days smartphones really do stand in for a lot.
I mean, sure I’m looking down at my phone on a bus, but for all you know I could be texting friends, watching a movie, reading a book, or mindlessly browsing Reddit! Plus, I frankly, don’t think it’s super safe to travel completely without the ability to call someone, especially if you’re on your own.
PS: If you’re having problems with your phone, like short battery life, take it into your nearby Genius Bar to see how much repairs are! It only cost me $49 to replace my battery, bringing it from 78% capacity to 100%. Plus they replaced my cracked screen for no extra charge!
And there you have it! All the things I include when I fill my suitcase. I start with these items and add in more based on where I’m going and what I’m doing. For example, you can see my Morocco packing list or my Orlando & theme park packing list to see what I added.
What do you always include in your basic packing list?