Five Essential Items For Full-Time Travel

In July 2023 I gave notice on my flat in New Zealand, sold all my stuff, hugged my friends and family goodbye, and moved overseas with only carryon luggage: one 35L travel pack and one 19L laptop totepack. (Full review upcoming!)

I’ve been on the road for a month now. In that time I’ve been in four different countries, or five if you include the one I left: New Zealand, USA, Canada, the Netherlands (transit), and Scotland. I’ve walked and biked, used cars, trains, and aeroplanes. I’ve moved through nine different airports… and slept overnight in one of them.

A month isn’t long at all. But it’s long enough to know there are now five items I would never travel without. We’re not talking obvious things like your passport, and for the purposes of this post, we’re excluding the Big Three categories of luggage, clothing, and tech. These five essentials are smaller, more specialised things. As a bonus, they’re all carryon friendly.

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My Five Small Essentials For Global Travel

Where possible, I’ve included links to the same model I use. In no particular order, they are…

A Packable Bag

Groceries. Extra shopping. A book. Jackets, phones, wallets. Blueberry bagels and several litres of Powerade. A giant box of doughnuts. The dog’s leash, water bottle, and water bowl.

My packable bag has held all of these and more within the last month. In fact, my friend in GA started saying, “Can you bring your Mary Poppins bag? It’s so handy for shoving everything in that we might need when we’re out.”

I love it so much, I’ve made space for not one but two packable bags: an 18L packable backpack for daytrips, easy hikes, and bike rides, and a 19L packable tote for everything else. The tote was even my underseat personal item for the first leg of my travels!

Macpac 18L Pack-It Pack in Hawaiian Sunset
Number One Shoes 19L Packable Tote Bag in Black

A travel essential, Macpac packable backpack in Hawaiian Orange.
Pack image from
A travel essential, packable tote bag in black.
Tote image from

Mini Sewing Kit / Tenacious Tape

Okay, you got me. These are two different items. But they’re in the same category of Fix Its. If you don’t have one, you’d probably be fine with the other, but I like the versatility offered by both.

The thing about not having much (see: selling all my stuff and moving overseas with only carryon) is that you treasure the little you do have so much more. I have very limited resources; of course I’m going to make the most of them. Why would I throw an item out when I can just patch a hole and carry on?

I’ve sewn up a splitting seam in my favourite shorts (linked below.) I’ve whip-stitched a quick repair job for a damaged zip on my airport-friendly fleece. Thankfully I haven’t had to break out the tape yet, but it’s there for heavier-duty items like my travel pack or rain jacket.

Macpac Women’s Boulder Shorts in Black
Mountain Warehouse Travel Sewing Kit
Gear Aid Tenacious Tape

Travel essentials showing a compact sewing kit and tenacious repair tape.

Refillable Water Bottle

Without my water bottle, I would be chronically dehydrated and incredibly thirsty. Whether battling 38C/100F heat and drenching humidity in the deep south of the USA or waking up parched at 4am in Canada, a reusable water bottle has been a lifesaver.

Any cons? On a 12-hour long-haul flight, the attendant told me she couldn’t refill it as she wasn’t allowed to take my property away from my seat. And I once got a whopping bruise from the very full metal bottle leaping out of the side pocket of my bag to impact my leg. Barring those occasional incidents, I haven’t had any issues.

Just remember to empty any liquid out before hitting the security line at airports.

Sistema 500ml Stainless Steel Bottle
The Warehouse Sistema 500ml Stainless Steel Bottle

Digital nomad working setup with laptop and stainless steel water bottle.
A typical working setup: laptop, water bottle, and a hot cuppa. Yes, the sticker on my bottle does say Pack Lighter, Go Further.

Mesh Laundry Bag

I bought this on a whim at a $2 Shop a few days before I flew out. If nothing else, I figured, it would make a good delicates bag for my laundry. And it’s great! As anyone who’s ever opened the washing machine to find their favourite, very expensive bra wrapped around the centre column will know, a mesh bag is indeed an essential. But that’s not all.

It’s also been: a stash bag for muddy items, a store for unmentionables, a hiding place for small gifts, and my overall laundry basket. No more digging through packing cubes, trying to remember what needed washing! Just dump it in the laundry bag and zip it up. Done.

No exact link, however similar products are:
Kmart Set of 3 Washing Bags
Briscoes Home Living Laundry Bag

Mesh laundry bag and washing machine.

Mini S-Biner

I bought these S-Biners at the hardware store the same morning I booked my flights, which was approximately 24 hours before I left New Zealand. The Mitre 10 website said they were stocked in the doors-and-handles department. They were, in fact, in the keys-and-padlocks department.

A little S-shaped carabiner with a spin-lock mechanism, they’re used for exactly what you’d think: locking things. I find TSA padlocks bulky and heavy, not to mention they practically scream I own things worth stealing. S-biners are far lighter and more subtle while still being a deterrent to casual theft. I especially appreciated them when the overhead bins near my aeroplane seat were full, and I had to stow my pack halfway up the aisle where I couldn’t see it.

Plus, they’re cheap — and look at all those colours!

Nite Ize Key Ring S-Biners

Travel pack with Nite Ize S-Biner.
Multipack of colourful Nite Ize S-Biners for travelling.

And that’s a wrap! What’s your most essential item that you could never travel without? Flick me an email or leave a comment here or on Facebook to let me know.

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