Here’s a list of travel accessories that I carry with me when I’m away on travel writing assignments. For anything that I carry I try to find the smallest, lightest thing available, especially for air travel. I rarely travel with anything except the things I know I will use and recommend you do this, too. Travel is fun but carrying too much stuff isn’t much fun at all. I’ve already covered travel bags and clothing on a different page, so this page is about everything else.
Travel Accessories: The Necessities
Photocopies of Guidebook pages. Guidebooks are heavy. I make photocopies of pages that I need and then discard them when I don’t need them anymore. If you’re traveling with an iPad or other tablet, you can save them electronically and save the paper and the extra weight.
Notepad and several pens. Keep the notepad as small as possible, but big enough to be useful for note taking while you are out and around. As an alternative, use a recorder (see technology below).
Maps of the city and/or country you are visiting.
A highlighter for marking guide book pages and maps.
Magnifying glass with light. My wife has a credit card sized light with magnifying glass that is great – I borrow it all the time for reading maps. It works well for reading menus in dark restaurants, too.
Travel neck pouch for your wallet and passport. In my experience you can encounter pickpockets just about anywhere. Losing your wallet to a thief tends to ruin your trip – at least for a while. Always wear a neck pouch or other pickpocket-proof accessory. In addition to this, I usually keep most of my valuables (cash, credit cards, passport, travel documents) locked in a safe back at the hotel. I only carry one credit card and enough cash for the day on me, so that if these things are lost, I haven’t lost it all.
List of credit card numbers and contact phone numbers to call in case your cards get lost or stolen.
Sunblock and sunglasses.
Earplugs – for air travel and noisy hotel rooms.
Eyeshade – for air travel and hotel rooms that aren’t dark enough for a good night’s sleep.
Sample size toiletries. Bring only the bare minimum. Depending upon where you’re staying, some of these things will be provided in your hotel. You can also do a little shopping once you arrive at your destination, if needed.
Prescription medications in their original containers. I also carry a small container of aspirin or Tylenol with me for general pain relief.
Travel Accessories: Technology
Camera, batteries, memory cards. Download a copy of the camera manual to your computer or iPad so you don’t need to carry it with you.
Small recording device (the smaller the better). For recording interviews as sometimes it’s difficult to write while you’re touring. Maybe your phone has this capability – if so, learn to use it in advance so you’re comfortable with it.
Mobile phone. Besides using your phone for communication, it probably also comes equipped with a calculator, alarm clock and navigation features, so use those features instead of bringing extra stuff. Your smart phone is rapidly becoming one of your most useful travel accessories.
Computer. As small as possible for air travel, and only bring it if you intend to get some work done on the road. An iPad may be adequate if you’re just checking emails, or if you don’t have large numbers of photo files to download.
Small Flashlight. Great for exploring caves and tunnels, on dark streets, and for navigating your hotel room in the middle of the night when you can’t remember where the light switch is located. There’s a smart phone flashlight app you can also use. Just make sure your phone is always charged so that this feature is available when you need it. Otherwise, carry a separate flashlight.
Noise reduction headset for air travel. You’ll find you’ll arrive more refreshed after a long flight if you are able to shut out the noise from the aircraft. This is one of the travel accessories I can't live without. For a long time I simply wore earplugs, and then one day my wife loaned me her Bose headset and I became a believer.
Travel Accessories: International Assignments
Passports and Visas. For all international travel you’ll need a passport, and for many countries, a visa. Sometimes you can get a visa upon arrival in a country. Other times you need to apply for a visa in advance. For some countries where you have to apply for a visa there is a delay of several days to several weeks so be sure to know what you need a few months before your trip so that you allow enough time to acquire the visas needed in advance of your trip.
Immunizations. Always check whether you need immunizations for your destination. The last thing you need is to get sick and have extra medical costs or hospital stays while you’re away or when you return home.
Electrical adapters. So that you can plug your dual-voltage device (like your laptop or phone chargers) into a plug that is different from the one in your country. Often the hotel can provide this for you, but don’t depend on it - it's one of the travel accessories that is critical if you're going to be charging your phone and camera batteries.
Phrasebook – if you’re visiting a country where they speak something other than your language, a small phrase book is invaluable for simple things like learning to say please and thank you, and for more critical things like booking a hotel, finding a bathroom, or dealing with an emergency. Your guidebook (the one you photocopied before you left) probably has a good list of important phrases. Copy those pages, too, and you can leave the phrase book at home.
Travel insurance. For major trips it’s a relatively inexpensive way to achieve piece of mind in case things go horribly wrong.
First Aid Kit. Pack a small first aid kit for third world countries. It’s not as necessary for developed or westernized countries, where it’s easy to find what you need in a pharmacy or chemist shop.
Voltage converter. You’ll need this if you have electrical devices that are a different voltage than the country you are visiting and aren’t dual voltage. My recommendation here is to leave that particular device at home so that you can also leave the converter at home. Voltage converters tend to be heavy. With more and more dual voltage devices available today, it's one of the travel accessories that is not as likely to be needed if you plan well.
Nice to Have Travel Accessories
Sewing kit – these days not all hotels offer a sewing kit. It’s nice to have a small one tucked away for that button that pops off at an inopportune time.
Small pair of scissors. Only pack in checked baggage. You’re likely to lose these if you try to carry them on the aircraft. I have found that the front desk at your hotel is happy to loan you a pair of scissors for short periods of time if needed.
Binoculars. For viewing animals, sports events, far away sights, depending upon what you are planning to do while you’re away.
Finally, make sure you leave enough space in your suitcase to pack the plethora of travel brochures, books, and other reference materials that you will inevitably accumulate on your trip. If you are being hosted by the local tourist office, they might even give you small gifts that you will want to carry home, adding to the problem despite their good intentions.
Either leave space in your main suitcase for these items, or pack a collapsible bag that you can use for the trip home. The alternative is to mail these items back home. If you’re traveling in the U.S., using UPS or FedEx to ship bulky and heavy papers works very well. Often your hotel concierge can help you with this.
Internationally, however, shipping something home can be expensive and can take months, which only holds up your writing schedule, so you will be better off carrying these items in your luggage.