On a trip to Egypt, many years ago, I was separated from my hold baggage for 4 (yes 4!!!!) days. It’s an understatement to say it was not fun. Egypt. 40+ degrees. No deodorant.

No spare undies.Β  No handy supermarket to nip into to buy some basics from. Plus I was traveling solo, so no one to beg for spares AND I’d run out of things to read. I was underwhelmed. I swore I’d never be caught out again, so now I make double sure the things I can’t travel without are safely tucked in my cabin bag. And I check everything off a list – I’m a list person!

On short trips I take a carry-on bag only. Longer trips take more planning (and lists) though. I try to travel light but by the time I’m ready to travel, I always reach for my luggage scales to check my bag won’t exceed the bag weight limit. Then it’s ‘bag pruning’ time – taking out anything that’s not 100% essential. My golden rule is not to take more than I can carry – by myself.

The top 12 things I can’t travel without

Obviously I won’t get far without my tickets or ID! They go without saying. These are my other absolute travel essentials.

My Smart Phone

It sometimes feels like my whole life is tied up in my phone! It’s so much more than just a phone – it’s my mailbox, alarm clock, tip calculator, currency converter, translator, news source, back-up camera, long-journey entertainer and music store. It’s also where I manage all my social media accounts from too. It’s definitely my #1 ‘can’t travel without’ item. Funny to think I went to Australia and back without one when I was 21 and survived!

My trusty phone is my #1 thing I can't travel without
My trusty phone is the #1 thing I can’t travel without. I’d be so lost without it.

Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are the #1 best way to organise everything in your bag. Do you remember the days of painstaking ironing (who has time for ironing?) then carefully folding your clothes and packing your bag, only to find crumpled wrecks in your bag at the other end? Did you fall for the ‘a few hours hanging up in a steamy bathroom will sort out the creases’ line too? Not true.

Packing cubes make my life easier and save so much precious time. I can easily see what’s in each one so no more fossicking in the depths of my bag to find things anymore.

When you’ve used them once, you’ll never go back to the dark side again. I promise.

Packing cubes are exactly what you need for perfectly organised travel
Packing cubes are exactly what you need for perfectly organised travel

Speed Charging Power Banks

The very idea of my phone dying while I’m travelling fills me with horror! I rely on it so completely, it’s vital that I can charge it up when I’m on the move. I love my squid power banks as they charge quickly, stick to the back of my phone and I can charge 2 devices from them (phone and Kindle sorted!)

My Crossbody Bag

My Kipling crossbody bag is more than 20 years old. Seriously I will weep when it has to retire. It’s been on more trips than I can count and it’s still my go-to bag. With Kipling’s trademark attention to detail, it has tons of little zippy pockets. I have a place for my phone, wallet, keys (I am so bad at losing keys) lippie, sunglasses and my Kindle. The littlest pockets are great for tickets and I can stash a small bottle of water in too. You’ll probably see ‘Old Faithful’ crop up in lots of my travel photos. Yes, I know I’m a saddo.

Entering the Forbidden City - trusty little Kipling bag on another trip!
We’re about to enter the Forbidden City – my trusty little Kipling bag on another trip!


Much as I love my crossbody bag, there are times when a rucksack is called for (day trips, long-haul flights etc). Thick padded straps, waterproof fabric and side pockets for a water bottle are what I look for. And lots of internal pockets! If I’m going somewhere that will be really crowded, I want a backpack I can wear the wrong way round (on my chest) so the straps need to be comfortable for that too. I love my Cath Kidston backpack – I’ve had it for more than a year and it looks like new after almost daily use!

Hand Sanitiser

There are so many places you can pick up nasties on your hands on your travels! One squirt of a good hand sanitiser can kill 99.9% of germs and bacteria, and your hands will smell good too! I always have some in my bag.

Baby Wipes

Baby wipes are great for a clean up after eating juicy fruit or street food. You’ll also come across places on your travels where tables/seats need a good wipe before you use them or there’s no toilet paper. I need say no more. Never forget the baby wipes – they are definitely things I can’t travel without.


I’m in my 50s now and I don’t need any extra frown lines from squinting at the sun. I need sunglasses. I rest my case.

My usual choice is plain black, but something about these dotty little red beauties from Cath KidstonΒ  said ‘buy me!’ I obeyed. This is something that happens in Cath Kidston shops…

Sunglasses: Definitely one of the things I can't travel without! I love these funky red Cath Kidston ones
Sunglasses: Definitely one of the things I can’t travel without! I love these funky red Cath Kidston ones


After the ‘nothing to read in Egypt’ saga, I got a Kindle and I loved it. Stupidly I left it behind by mistake in our hotel in Xi’an, before flying to Guilin. Aaaargh! I read the in-flight magazine cover to cover twice on that flight but was able to stock up with paperbacks once we arrived in Shanghai. There was no way I would survive the 12 hour flight home without reading material!!

I’ve just treated myself to a new Kindle Oasis with a whole load of whizzy new gadgetry I’m still getting my head around. The world is at my fingertips again and I will NOT leave this one behind in a hotel room!

First Aid Kit

My late mum told me to always take a mini first aid kit in my bag on trips away from home. It’s a bit like the travel equivalent of the ‘mum bag’. Mine always includes tweezers, blunt-nosed nail scissors, plasters, imodium, rehydration sachets, ibuprofen, paracetamol, a crepe bandage, vaseline and aloe vera gelly (for bites, stings, scrapes and grazes)

The essential travel first aid kit

The essential travel first aid kit


Black flats are things I can’t travel without. They look pretty during the day and dress up well at night. They’re comfy and they take up next to no room in my rucksack when I swap them for my ‘airplane socks’. As soon as I land, I slip my flatties back on and I’m ready.

Snack Bars

Travel can be unpredictable with delays and missed meals. I stop myself from reaching the hangry stage with a supply of snack bars and there’s usually a banana in my rucksack too.

12 things i can't travel without

12 things not to travel without
12 things not to travel without

Now you know the things I can’t travel without – what can’t you leave at home? Please share in the comments below.


Coralie is the Sparkles at Sparkles and Fizz. A 50-something mum and blogger, a wee bit obsessed with sparkly things and fizz. Coralie writes about her real-life and travel adventures. She's not averse to gin and she lives life to the max.

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