A little advice never hurts. Unless it’s bad advice, of course. But I wouldn’t do that to you. First off, I understand that every trip is different and every person has different priorities when it comes to choosing their travel gear. However, there are a number of (nearly) universal truths I have determined over many years of travel, plus countless of those tense moments when you finally start truly thinking about what you may have forgotten. Which inevitably occurs five minutes after you leave for the airport.
Roll your clothes into a tight bundle – It may not be the best way to avoid wrinkles, but it will definitely buy you some extra space.
Money belt – If you plan to spend any time wandering around a strange place carrying all your cards and the only document that will allow you access back into Canada, you should definitely be thinking about pickpockets, not to mention simple carelessness. Just don’t hang your money belt around your neck outside your shirt because “it’s too hot”. It should contain your passport, health card, and at least one bank card and two credit cards, all of which should have 4-digit PIN codes as many foreign bank machines will not accept anything but.
Digital Copies – Take photos of all important documents and make sure they are accessible online in case you lose your phone. Email them to yourself, or save them in one of the countless apps designed for just such tasks, and you’ll be one step ahead if you somehow forget to retrieve the passport you so cleverly hid under the sink at your last hotel.
Phone apps – In 2018 it is safe to assume that a dedicated app exists for basically any task you can imagine wanting to accomplish. Hotels, airlines, hiking maps, train tickets, wifi passwords, earthquake trackers, you name it. Never forget that the wafer-thin phone hanging half out of your back pocket is equivalent to a 1990’s military super-computer.
Multi-purpose shoes – I find footwear the hardest thing to decide on when travelling. Carrying six different pairs just to make sure your feet don’t sweat quite as much when browsing for mangos in the local market just isn’t feasible. Finding a pair that works for basic hiking and full days of sightseeing, yet aren’t mortifying to wear out for dinner will kill several birds with one breathable upper and save room in your bag.
E-Reader – I understand many people still have a nostalgic attachment to dog-eared paperbacks that “you can hold in your hand” and “just smell like a book”. However, I’ve been using an e-reader for years now and I assure you that a) it can definitely be held in my hand, and b) I couldn’t care less what it smells like when I can leave for a 4-month trip and know I have enough reading material to last me anywhere from 5 to 10 years.
Ear plugs – I have been haranguing people about these for years now and I’m not about to stop now. You don’t have to be sharing a dorm with four overweight Spanish grape farmers to be concerned about night noise. That hopping dance club at your beach resort will seem a lot less fun pounding techno-pop at 2 am, as will the couple next door using their annual winter getaway to rekindle the romance.
Bluetooth speaker – Assuming you like music, that is. If you do, well, you probably already know how small, affordable and impressive Bluetooth speakers are these days. It will come in handy for almost any type of trip.
Sim card – This isn’t so much something to pack as something to buy when you arrive. If you make sure your phone is unlocked then you can pick up a sim card which gives you a local phone number and, generally, very cheap calls, texts and internet. In Italy, for example, you can get a sim card with unlimited calling, texting and 2 GB internet for about $25. And if you’re thinking, “Well, why does the same thing cost so much more in Canada?” I would say, excellent question.
Small daypack – No matter what type of trip you are on you probably plan to leave your room sooner or later. At which point you’ll appreciate having something small and unobtrusive with which to carry your extra hiking socks and personalized beer cozy.
Kazakh hunting eagle – This won’t come in handy on every trip, but when it does you’ll be really happy you came prepared.
Dean Johnston is the author of three travel books, including Roam: The 9 Greatest Trips on Earth. He once threw an axe at a log and got it to stick on his first try. You can read about all his travels at routinelynomadic.com.