What to pack when travelling is determined by where you’re going and what your plans are once you’ve safely arrived at the destination. The strappy heels you’ll wear to a bistro won’t work for a hike on the mountains around Pemberton, British Columbia, and there’s no call for a winter sleeping bag if you’re staying at the Hôtel du Petit Moulin in the Marais district of Paris.
It doesn’t matter if the accommodations are a five-star hotel or a motel lost in time, there are basics every traveller needs. Besides money, a passport, tickets, clothing, and toiletries, here are fifteen additional items you shouldn’t dream of travelling without:
Fifteen Summer Travel Essentials
CAMERA AND CHARGER
You don’t need to have a National Geographic-worthy camera to capture summer memories. There are quality, affordable DSLR and point and shoot options that allow the amateur photographer to take beautiful photos. Ensure you have your camera gear packed and charged, and don’t forget extra SD cards because if you’re anything like me you’ll come home with 1000s of photos. Most phones have passable to very good cameras, too, so there’s no reason to miss snapping that photo of a bald eagle skimming over the water or the cute crêpes maker as he prepares lunch.
Henry’s Canada has a wide range of options.
A deck of playing cards provides entertainment for adults and children, and offers a welcome break from electronic devices. Card games are a universal language, can easily be taught, and are a fun way to bond with fellow travellers or the people you’ll meet at your destination.
Cards are sold everywhere, but I like this Game of Thrones set from Etsy.
No matter the season a scarf is always handy. They’re not just great for keeping warm during frigid winters, but double as protection on windy and hot days. In the evenings a scarf converts to a shoulder wrap to ward off the chill. I have a bit of a scarf thing and bring home new ones from most trips even though there is always one or two in my suitcase.
Chapters Indigo has beautiful selections each season.
Think of this bag as a catch-all that’s also comfortable to carry for long periods of time. It should go from markets to country walks, and can double as a camera bag. Totes are a great option. They’re large and usually come with a cross-body strap to relieve the pressure on your shoulders. There are no shortage of attractive options everywhere.
REFILLABLE WATER BOTTLE
In some countries it’s preferable to buy bottled water from a trusted brand, however, in most cases the best option is to travel with a refillable water bottle. Choose a bottle with a wide mouth for easy cleaning. Camelback bottles are BPA-free, quick to open, and spill-proof. They’re available in the sporting goods sections of many stores. Try Mountain Equipment Co-Op or Target.
Since you’re bringing a refillable water bottle, you’ll want a water purifier. I initially began using a SteriPEN Water Purifier to go backcountry camping, but I quickly realized it was just as valuable in the cities of China and the mountains of France. Safe drinking water is a necessity and the ultraviolet light of the SteriPEN makes the bacteria, protozoa, and viruses that can be found in clear water harmless by disrupting their DNA. This one is a non-negotiable travel item.
I bought mine at Mountain Equipment Co-op.
On my most recent trip, my travel companion went through three pairs of sunglasses because he forgot his first pair on the plane and then lost the next two pairs he bought while we trekked through rural Laos. Pack your sunglasses, especially if they’re prescription glasses. And don’t leave them in the plane seat pocket in front of you. In fact, as a general rule, don’t put anything you don’t mind leaving behind in the plane seat pocket. Select sunglasses with a lens that wears just as easily in harsh sun as on a cloudy day. The best options are rose or amber/brown tinted lenses. Look for UV protection, too.
While you might be heading to places where a dress seems unnecessary, it’s best to be prepared. What if you stumble on a restaurant run by a Michelin starred chef, tucked away down a dirt lane? A light, jersey dress takes up little space and can be pulled out if you need to make an evening appearance beyond the campfire.
Jersey dresses are sold in many stores. I liked this green, striped 4-in-1 from Gap.
Let’s be clear, I’m all for practicality, but shoes should also be cute. A good pair of sandals or flip-flops should offer some support, so spend a few extra dollars. One of my favourite brands is Reef, and the Reef Mayan Sunlight pair will work with shorts or a dress.
OPINEL OR SWISS ARMY KNIFE
It’s a well-known fact that nobody ever has a knife when they need it, so be the person who carries her own tools. A camp knife is not just for camping. It’s perfect for cutting dried salami, Brie, and baguette while on a picnic, as well as opening a bottle of wine. Choose one with a locking blade to avoid accidents and remember to pack it into your checked luggage if taking a plane. I never leave home without my Opinel, but some people swear by Victorinox (Swiss army knife).
Try any sporting goods or camping supply store for the one that suits your purpose. Mountain Equipment Co-op has a good variety to choose from.
This is a no brainer, right? You’d think so, except I’ve forgotten mine more than once and then spent time scouring store shelves for a sunscreen that didn’t sting or stayed on more than five minutes or wouldn’t leave me smelling like a greased up reject from a 1970s beach movie. Pack your favourite sunscreen and save your shopping time for food or handmade jewellery.
The local pharmacy has a wide selection to suit all skin types.
Because your phone will undoubtedly lose the signal at some point and how will the fancy, and monotone voiced, GPS help then? Check local book stores or sporting goods stores for real, paper maps. Some are even waterproof.
Chapters Indigo has a range of maps and map books.
Bring a paperback, hardcover, or top up your Kobo, but bring reading material. Some days call for lazing in a hammock under an olive tree with nothing but a cool drink and a good story. My favourite summer reads are full-out adventure stories; ones that combine archaeology, intrigue, and beautiful locations, so James Rollins — or someone with a similar style — is my go-to for summer travel reading.
Go book shopping!
It’s going to rain. Instead of trudging through Barcelona or Sudbury soaked to the skin, pack a light rain jacket and enjoy the day regardless of the weather. I like to pack clothes that serve double duty and this Bench jacket can be used on wet or dry days.
Try The Bay or other clothing retailers for one you like, which also matches the rest of your clothes.
This is the most important point. You’ve worked hard, made countless school lunches, lived through another winter, and now it’s time to enjoy your summer vacation. Make a plan, but let yourself go where the tide takes you. This is not simply a romantic notion, it’s the secret to enjoying a trip. Nothing ruins a holiday quicker than plans gone awry and the belief that the success of the vacation hinged on those plans. Things happen. You’ll meet people and see things or even need to stay in places — if your hotel burnt down the day of your arrival, like we had happen last year — that were not planned for, but if you are up for the adventure, you’re guaranteed the best travel memories.
Now that you have the list, get packing! And bon voyage!