13 long term travel essentials you won’t want to forget

13 items to always pack - long term travel essentials
Which items do I consider long term travel essentials? Read on to find out! I hate leaving things behind when I travel it vexes me. I once left my house without pants on, not even joking, it wasn’t until I caught a glimpse of my reflection in nearby a shop window that I realised I had walked into the street in a pair of red jocks and my shoes on.. not my greatest moment. What I had forgotten was apparently quite obvious (special thanks to the guys who honked at me) but it’s the small things you forget that aren’t immediately apparent that will drive you absolutely nuts abroad when you need them and they’re not there.

Long Term Travel Essentials

Here’s my list of long term travel essentials I now ensure I take for any long term travel I embark on (each of these items I’ve left behind in the past, with results ranging from the inconvenient to the painful).

Dental Floss– I’ve used thread, bits of torn up plastic bags, straws, knives (don’t use knives) and skewers as replacements for dental floss after a particularly carnivorous meal while abroad. I thought this essential element of oral hygiene would be universally accessible, mistake, which led to days of painful swollen gums till I found a small enought bit of thread to substitute.

Needle and Thread – I like to keep my costs down by repairing my clothes as I travel as opposed to buying new things, thread has also been really handy as I’ve previously substituted it as dental floss, shoelaces and I’ve heard some travel disaster stories where its been used to close wounds.

Lip Balm/Chap Stick – This one I really do consider probably one of the most important long term travel essentials. Obvious one that can leave you with a very uncomfortable mouth if left behind, i’ve had lips that have been so chapped I looked like Tom Hanks in The Castaway.

Sunscreen – depending on your destination it might be cheaper to buy there, but i always bring a small tube/bottle as sometimes it can be surprisingly expensive in some countries.

Packing Tips - long term travel essentials
When packing, always use your head

Plastic Bags – The environment and most hippies hate them but they are actually pretty useful when you travel. The best tool ever for keeping wet stuff separated from dry stuff and they take up next to no space. Use them to suffocate border officials or just keep stuff in them when you’re walking around. No matter how you use them plastic bags are really quite handy to have up your sleeve.

String – Really handy for things like makeshift clothes lines, DIY belts, bag ties, hair ties, measuring distances on maps, shoe laces etc.. the list goes on.

Pillowcase  & Sheet – The oldest travellers trick in the book. Fold the sheet in half and sew it up on two sides so it’s like a giant pillow case. Great makeshift sleeping bag liner that saves you the trouble of having to wash the whole sleeping bag. Also, some places linen might be less than clean and it’s nice to sleep in something you know has recently been washed.

Pocket Knife – Really handy for cutting stuff, like the string you already packed.

Flip-Flops – Otherwise known as ‘thongs’ depending on where you’re from. Cheap, easy to carry, never need to dry and my choice of footwear 90% of the time (temperature permitting). They take up very little space and can also save you from picking up uncomfortable and gross things in the scummy backpackers’ shower like Tinea.

Travel Towel – written on the front of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, not forgetting your town applies equally even when you’re just travelling around the earth. I would add that I use a Travel  Towel as these pieces of genius take up far less space, are lighter and ultra absorbent. Towels come in handy as blankets when you’re stuck on those buses you get in Asia for 15 hours that seem to always have the aircon stuck at the ‘Liquid Nitrogen’ setting.

Padlock - long term travel essentials
Padlocks keep your stuff safe

Locks & Keys – Ensure they are TSA approved, otherwise US or UK customs officials will cut them when you enter the country to open your bags. Locks are actually pretty great at keeping you bag shut too. When it comes to bag security I use the mantra that if my bags harder to get into than the next one, my shit is less likely to get stolen. If someone really wants your bag there’s little you can really do about it but hopefully as long as your bag is harder to get into than the next guys you’ll be less of a target.

Torch/Flashlight – I like the mini maglite types for durability and power. Really useful for camping trips or dark hostel rooms.

Lady Products – I don’t use these as I’m a man, but on behalf of all the women out there they’re included. Tampons or pads can actually be quite hard to find in some places particularly in more conservative countries outside the major cities, best to just take some along just in case.

Not an exhaustive list of long term travel essentials but these are the top of mind stuff that I have found really annoying when I forget it. Add to my list in the comments if I’ve forgotten anything!

About Author


Hi, I'm Pete, an ex-cubical slave and corporate love monkey currently writing my way around the world. My background is in branding, digital marketing, media and I'm probably about a level 10 at moustaches.


  1. An excellent list. I would also recommend a cork screw/bottle opener.

    1. Added to my list! – thanks Nancie

    2. Thanks Nancie, added to my list 🙂

  2. Wonderful list. Have never heard of the pillowcase/sheet trick. I’m sure to use this in my upcoming trip to Asia!

  3. connor

    FYI, in terms of lady products, the Diva cup, or other menstrual cups, are obviously the most travel-friendly type of lady products out there. It’s a single piece of silicone and you never have to worry about tampons or pads again. They will chance your life!

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