What should you take travelling? A packing list with a twist

There’s so many guides out there telling you what to take travelling. They recommend to take a favourite rucksack, pack a water bottle (see my post from January), don’t forget your flip flops and packing cubes are great (yes yes I know I did the exact same earlier this year). But what no-one tells you is those random, ad hoc additions to your rucksack that you might not have thought of that will enhance and improve your travel life in a different way.

Based on my last few months, I’ve compiled this short list of what you should take travelling; some of it you can even pick up along the way, perhaps cheaper than when you’re at home. You should of course pack the essentials as mentioned in my January post or use Ellie’s guide here too, but this is your unexpected packing and shopping list. 

what should you take travelling: a flatly of playing cards, notepad, bandana, moon cup, dry bag and soap

Here’s what you should take travelling too:

Playing cards

Whilst travelling alone there’s no better way to entertain yourself and find new friends in a hostel than with a pack of cards. Learn new international games, teach others and bring people together for a relaxed afternoon or some drinking games. A favourite addition to my rucksack and something you should take travelling for sure. 

Bottle opener

Another great addition to the solo social essentials list is a bottle opener, as recommended by travel buddy Rach. Ideally on a keyring is a good way to keep it handy and avoid losing it. Get those beers open and make some travel pals.


This might seem like a weird one, but I found having a lighter handy for making friends with smokers at hostels who were looking for a light. I’m sure it has many other handy uses too but I did find that was it’s main purpose / role during my trip. Solo travelling can be daunting, especially if you’re a little shy, so it’s a good idea to take a few things that can make it easier to meet and speak to people (playing cards included)


I picked up a big scarf one day in Chiang Mai as I wanted to visit a temple and I was dressed in shorts (you can see it as a background of my flat lay in the photos). One of the best purchases I made during my trip. Perfect as a skirt or a shoulder cover, use it to lay on the beach (to avoid your towel getting sandy) or wrap it around you on a chilly air conn’ed bus ride – the options are only limited to your imagination! Ideally grab one once you’re away as they’ll be cheaper and more authentic.

Dry bag

As you might know these come in loads of different sizes. I opted for a small 3 litre bag which I picked up in Koh Tao when I started diving. Handy for your valuables when on board a boat and it worked a treat when I wore it for stand up paddle boarding and fell in! I chose the smaller size which meant I could keep it in my day rucksack if I needed to. Also easy to fold up and carry around when it’s not required. 

Notepad and pen

Might seem obvious to many, but if you’re not a note taker / writer then it might not cross your mind to pack. Definitely worth while for any planning notes, ideas from people, doodles etc etc. 


I got obsessed with bandanas when I was away – it was the perfect accessory that wasn’t breakable, easy to carry around and also doubles up as a cloth for all sorts of purposes. Keep your hair out your eyes, the dust out your mouth or wear as a cute wrist accessory, the choice is yours. 

Soap bars

Not ONLY are they reducing your plastic waste, they’re actually better for hand luggage as they don’t eat into your teeny liquids allowance – to me it’s a no brainer. Try a shampoo bar and normal body soap to start with if you’re feeling dubious! 

Metal Straw

In the interest of reducing plastic straw use, it’s relatively easy to BYOS. They don’t take up much room and can be found in eco-friendly stores for around a pound. Alternatively, try to refuse straws wherever you go, they’re not an essential item in our lives.


A new addition to my sustainable travel kit. Whilst travelling in SE Asia there is a lack of tampons and to me, sanitary towels are a/ gross b/ desperately bad for the environment. The Mooncup (or similar product) can be easily cleaned and reused. Once you get used to the insertion and removal it’s a light, easy to store and pack alternative to stocking up on traditional sanitary options. Check out this full post I wrote about using a mooncup whilst travelling.

Mooncup box against a leafy background

Are there any random things you can’t travel without? Let me know in the comments!

Sarah xx

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  1. July 29, 2019 / 2:01 pm

    I see a lot of packing lists and, to be honest, don’t see why there’s so many of them out there. It surprises me that there’s a demand for them.

    • Sarah
      August 5, 2019 / 8:18 pm

      It is a surprise but, a lot of people haven’t travelled as much sometimes need some guidance on what to take especially if they’re an anxious traveller!

  2. July 30, 2019 / 5:31 pm

    Very helpful list. I always forget something and I can’t relax until I know what it is (unless it’s my passport!). I’ve recently started buying soap bars to save space over shower gels but not taken them on a trip yet. Hopefully it works out. I always need reminding about playing cards. That’s why I have about 4 different packs!

    • Sarah
      August 5, 2019 / 8:18 pm

      It really helps, especially for cabin bags!!

  3. August 4, 2019 / 3:53 pm

    You’re right, there are some great tips here and different from the norm.

    • Sarah
      August 5, 2019 / 8:19 pm

      Thank you!

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