Whether you’re a hard-core backpacker, a duffle queen or a bag-rolling traveler, you’ll need to slim down your stash of personal items when you head out for a day of sightseeing and adventures. Bring too much, and you’ll be worn out by lunchtime with all the excess poundage; bring too little and you risk getting cold, hungry or sunburned – while your jacket, snacks and sunblock sit unused back in the room.
Start with the right size bag: a messenger satchel, tote bag or small, school-size backpack. Every morning before you leave the rest of your belongings behind, look through your bag and replace anything that you’ve used up the previous day. You may also want to compartmentalize your daypack by using sealable plastic bags to group together items, especially if your bag has no interior pockets. Freezer-style plastic bags tend to hold up longer than regular ones.
Consider these essentials for your daypack on vacation. Most are lightweight and take up little space, but can help you big time during your travels.
1. Bottled water. Crucial in hot, tropical climates, water is easiest to carry in a crushable or foldable bottle that slims down once it’s empty. Even grocery store bottles can be rolled up tightly, capped and used again and again.
2. Tiny bag of pills. Find a tiny plastic bag that seals and pack one dose of any meds you might require: pills for motion sickness, headaches or diarrhea. Illness often strikes when you least expect it – and when your first-aid kit is buried at the bottom of your backpack on top of a bus. A tiny pill pack takes up virtually no space and no weight, but can be a total lifesaver.
3. Sunblock. If you burn, you know who you are. Many sunburns are caused when you forget to reapply, or when it’s not convenient. Pack a small, trial size tube of sunblock in your daypack. Super pale people can also crush a packable sunhat in their bag as well.
4. Extra contacts. Lens wearers know that sometimes contacts can be scratched, ripped or snatched out of the eye randomly. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. Bring along an extra set and don’t be blindsided by a lost contact.
5. Extra camera battery. On a trip you never know when you’ll come across something amazing that you want to photograph or video over and over and over. All that zooming and shooting can run your battery down. Bring along a fully charged battery, and you’ll always be ready to shoot.
6. Phone with headphones. Your smart phone is a no-brainer, but don’t forget to pack a pair of headphones as well. If your train is delayed or your bus gets stuck in the mud, you’ll have a diversion to pass the time.
7. Bandanna. A bandanna has a million uses: it can tie things, hold things, dry things, clean things, decorate things, mop things, shade things, cover things… a supremely useful bit of travel gear.
8. Wet wipes or antibacterial gel. Clean your hands before you eat or after you handle the plastic scoop in the squat toilet. Please.
9. Snacks. If you tend to get grumpy when you don’t eat for a while, make sure you always carry a back-up snack. Granola bars, protein bars, small packages of nuts or chocolates work well to combat the unpredictable eating schedule of the road.
10. Sleeves or a jacket. Depending on the destination and the climate, you might need an extra layer once the evening descends – or to make yourself more modest to enter a temple or a family home. A long-sleeved, button-down shirt can often function as a lightweight jacket, and it packs down to take up very little space.
11. Sunglasses. Don’t forget to put your sunnies back in your bag after going out in darkness the evening before.
12. Coin purse or small wallet. You don’t want to pull out your entire wad of cash every time you want to buy a drink. Bring a secondary wallet for daily petty cash. In foreign countries you may find that you’re carrying more coins than you do at home, so a zippered coin purse may come in handy for this purpose.