Top 12 Travel Items

Packing for long-term travel is something of an art. You'll want to be prepared for all sorts of situations, but you also don't want to lug around your entire house on your shoulders.

Finding a perfect balance is difficult. I am still working on it, but I've learned a lot through trial and error.

Hopefully after reading my advice below, you won't have to learn the hard way like I did.

I want to add that we are not getting paid by any of these companies. These items have been good to us, and we want to share the love!

*See our full longterm packing list here.

1. Steripen

Oh my goodness, I have professed my love for this little device to countless travelers I met along the way. Now it's time I share my feelings in writing.

This magical hand-held "pen" will purify a liter of water in a matter of seconds... 90, to be exact. It has been an absolute game-changer.

Many other filtering systems require you to "pump" rigorously or they make you wait more than an hour before you can drink the water. And those little dissolvable tablets? Ewww. It tastes like you're drinking from a pool.

The Steripen uses UV light technology, and I can attest that it does actually work. Check out Steripen prices on Amazon.

We used it several times a day while we were in South America, where most of the water is off-limits for drinking. There were even times we used it on hikes to purify stream water when we had run out.

During our three month trip we rarely had to purchase bottled water, saving us well over $180. This baby easily paid for itself, and will continue to save us money in the future.

Travel Tip: There are two versions - one that is chargeable (more expensive), and one that takes AA batteries. We opted for the battery-operated pen since we already have so many devices that need charging. This way, we can carry back-up batteries with us. And if we are ever in dire need of water, we won't have to wait for it to recharge. 


These are a dream for any type of traveler.

Whether you prefer suitcases and hotels or backpacks and camping, these cubes will organize and compress your belongings into a manageable size.

We use them for clothes, toiletries, and even small electronics. As you can see, the proof is in the pictures below:

These are all the clothes I packed for 3 months in South America...

...and they all squished down into three packing cubes!

I was actually really against the idea of e-readers when they first appeared on the market. I truly love turning the page of a book, and I think I will always prefer reading print on paper to that on a screen.

However, e-readers have so many benefits (especially for travelers) that I finally gave in.

Ben and I each bought a Kindle Paperwhite before our three month trip to South America, and it was such a good investment.

On all my previous travels, I lugged around several books. Not only are they heavy, but I usually finished reading them before the trip was over.

My Kindle solves both of these problems. Now I can bring as many books as I'd like in my backpack without adding bulk. Plus, if another traveler tells me about a book I must read about the country I'm visiting, I can have it in my fingertips with a few clicks of a button.

Travel Tip: Purchasing guidebooks in electronic form will save you a backache. Although we own a hard copy of Lonely Planet's "South America on a Shoestring", we downloaded the electronic version to our Kindles so we didn't have to lug around that 1,112-page brick.

4. GoPro

This is seriously one of our favorite belongings. We actually registered for a GoPro for our wedding, and have been having fun with it ever since our honeymoon. There are so many amazing features, and we are constantly learning new ways to use it.

GoPros are great for capturing action shots and videos. While they are perfect for so many activities, they do not take photos in low-light situations. I guess you can't expect it to do it all! 

I am still baffled by the quality of pictures this tiny camera can take!

Our favorite GoPro accessories:

  • Selfie Stick: This allows the person holding the GoPro to be in the picture or video. There were so many times we wished we had one of these in South America that we bought it as soon as we returned home. We have already gotten a ton of use out of it. They're super cheap on Amazon.

"Selfie stick" picture!

  • Skeleton case: The waterproof case that comes with the GoPro is great, but you will miss out on all the audio. After a few months of completely soundless videos, we decided to get a skeleton case. It is not, I repeat, NOT waterproof, so you can't use it for water activities. But it is great for any situation where you will be staying dry.

  • Extra battery: I would suggest getting an extra battery right away. The battery life of the GoPro is not all that great, and there is nothing worse than having it die right in the middle of an exciting adventure. This happened to us multiple times.

5. REI Microfiber Towel 

These towels pack up small, but don't let their size fool you. The super absorbent micro-fiber can dry a sopping wet, full-grown man in a few seconds.

Yes, we know this from experience.

It dries quickly as well, so you won't be trekking around with a damp and smelly towel.

Travel Tip: There are many sizes to choose from. If you are looking for a full-size towel that you can wrap around yourself after a shower, the extra large is what you want. I returned my original purchase and exchanged it for this size. Shop around and find the right size for you.

6. ENO 2-person Hammock

Whenever anyone asks what our favorite wedding gift was, our ENO hammock comes to mind. Made of parachute material, it packs down to a ball just about the size of a grapefruit. Though it is not a travel necessity, our ENO hammock has brought us many good times.

It's not just for longterm travel - you can bring it on camping trips or string it between trees in your backyard. And yes, it really does fit two adults!

7. Amazon Cloud Account

This is a must for anyone planning on doing longterm travel. It doesn't have to be Amazon specifically - Dropbox or Google Drive are essentially the same. Just be sure you have some way to back up your pictures and important files.

But I have an external hard drive that I save everything to, isn't that enough? Hopefully it is, but I have known many people who get their entire backpacks stolen. Now you've not only lost your camera, but the hard drive it is backed up on as well.

Even if it is for sheer peace of mind, I will always have my files backed up somewhere on the infinite Internet "cloud"... though I still don't really know what that means...

Update: Amazon Cloud changed their pricing plans that better our needs. You can get unlimited photo storage, and 5 GB for videos, only for $11.99 a year. That's buck a month for unlimited photos, it's too good to pass up.

8. Collapsible Cups 

We have gotten a ton of use out of these guys. You'd be surprised by how many impromptu glasses of wine we've drank out of them. Well I guess if you know us, you won't be all that surprised...

We even made guacamole in them once when we had nowhere else to prepare a meal.

The best part is they fold up so small that even the most minimalist of travelers will find space to pack them. They are a great staple for longterm travel as well as camping.


9. Headphone Splitter 

You can pick these up for under $5, but they are pretty valuable while traveling... if you are lucky enough to be traveling with a companion who shares the same taste in music, that is. 

We used these on overnight buses when we wanted to save the battery life on our devices. It also allows more than one person to watch a movie on your laptop, so as not to disturb an entire hostel dorm room.

10. PSI Bands

Bus rides along windy roads sometimes make me a little queasy. Add sketchy street food to that and you don't have a very good situation on your hands.

These bands are great for anyone who easily gets motion sick. They use pressure points to relieve your symptoms, and unlike medicine, they don't have any side effects.


11. Buff

Though it may not look like it, the buff (made famous by Survivor) has many uses. It can be worn like a scarf in the cold, used to wipe away sweat when it's hot, and can tame your hair like a headband. My personal favorite way to use it though, is to cover my eyes when I am in need of some shut-eye on a bus or in a hostel.



12. ASUS Laptop

We bought this laptop specifically for traveling. I have a MacBook Pro that I am crazy about, but there is no way I would want to lug around my heavy, 17-inch baby. Plus, I simply can't bear the thought of having it lost, damaged, or stolen, which are all quite likely whilst traveling.

We needed a computer that was lightweight, cheap, and had a large amount of storage. We did a ton of research and decided on this one

We use this computer for blogging, watching movies and backing up our pictures. It's worked really well for all of those purposes. The touch screen is a nice bonus as well!

On Our Wish List: These are things we wished we had while traveling, and will be purchasing for future trips.

1. Charging Port 

Between our phones, GoPro, DLSR camera, and Kindles, we have a lot of devices that need charging. A multi-charging station will allow us to charge our devices even when we don't have electricity, making it perfect for treks or even long bus rides.

2. Packable Daypack 

My parents actually just purchased this as an early Christmas present for us, and it's on its way to Korea at this very moment!

During our three months in South America, we used an old drawstring bag until it was fraying and coming apart completely. We saw other travelers with bags that had compartments but also stuffed down into nothing, and we knew we too needed one!

We are pretty darn excited for this to arrive. It will be perfect for hikes, weekend getaways, and longterm travel.

*See our full longterm packing list here.

What are your favorite travel items? 

This picture has three of these items listed, can you spot them?