My Travel Essentials by Marc Nelson

When getting ready for a trip of any kind, many people are hit with the dilemma of “Oh god, what should I pack?!?”.  It’s a pretty universal worry, as there’s an innate fear that we’re going to forget some essential piece of clothing or equipment that will somehow turn our vacation or business trip into a complete shambles.   Luckily, this is rarely the case (unless it’s your passport, ticket, wallet or girlfriend). That being said, after years of travelling the globe, I have speeded up my packing process by having default travel essentials that I’ll always pack. In fact, a lot of these are always in my carry on backpack, so that the only thing I really need to be concerned about is packing my toiletry bag and the correct clothes for my destination (I’m going to assume you know not to pack winter wear for a beach trip).   So without much further ado, here are my Travel Essentials:

  • Passport, Tickets & Wallet: Ok, just wanted to make sure you were paying attention earlier.


  • Hoodie & pen. Airports and planes get coooold! Perhaps airlines think that storing passengers in refrigerator-like temperatures will have them arrive at their destination more well preserved. All I know is that you’ll definitely need some extra warmth. I use a simple, thin hoodie from Uniqlo that has an internal pocket that can hold my passport & boarding pass on one side and my ipad mini on the other. This way I don’t have to block the aisle to pull things out of my bag when get to my seat on the plane. I clip the little pen onto the zipper so I can fill in immigration forms without leaving my seat to hunt for a pen.


  • Lifestraw water tumbler. Single use plastics are a big no-no for me, so I always carry my own water bottle. The only problem is that when you travel, you have to empty out water bottles when you go through an airports X-ray, and sadly some airports (eg. Most of the ones in the Philippines) don’t have water fountains to refill them. The built in filter of the Lifestraw tumbler means I can go to any bathroom and fill the bottle with regular tap water, and it will filter out any nasty bits so I can still hydrate on the plane to my hearts content, as well as save the environment. Added bonus: for every Lifestraw you buy, the company donates one to a community that needs clean water. (available here)


  • Boom Swimmer Bluetooth speaker. Watching movies in your room? Want to listen to music on the beach? This is my favorite travel speaker. Not only is it small and powerful, but it’s also waterproof and comes with a handy flexible rubberized hook so you can literally attach it anywhere. (available here)

  • iWalk powerbank. In this day and age of cellphone dependence and limited battery life, a decent powerbank is a definite travel essential. I personally love this one because it’s super thin, gives me a digital readout of available power, has built in fast-charge lightning and mini usb cables and enough juice for two full-phone charges. (available here)


  • Headware tube scarf. For the same reason as I bring the hoodie, these keep me warm on a cold plane/van/room/country, plus they take up almost no space at all. Its also easy to inconspicuously wrap around your wrist if it starts to gets warmer. Added bonus: you can turn it into a facemask, balaclava, skullcap and all sorts of other uses on your travels. Definitely one of the smallest but most versatile things I carry. (available here)

  • Earplugs, eye mask & neck pillow. Pretty self explanatory. They’ve saved me from screaming babies & bright open windows on a plane more times than I can remember. They work great in hotels next to construction sites as well. My favorite eyemask is one that says “Do not disturb” on one side and “Wake me up to Eat” on the other. Brilliant.


  • Sea to Summit Silicone expandable cup. For the same reason that I carry the Lifestraw tumbler, I always carry this cup because I loooove my coffee, but don’t want to use takeaway cups (even cardboard ones because they’re coated with plastic and are not recyclable). It folds up, takes almost no space and I simply wash it in a bathroom after I finish my coffee. (available here)

  • Steel straw & brush. Yep, you guessed it, another anti-plastic waste product. You never know when you might want a nice fruitshake or a fresh coconut juice. These Steel straws last forever and come with their own cleaning brush so you never need to use a plastic one again. (available here)


  • Iphone7. This should actually be my number one travel essential. It stores my tickets, is my camera, map, travel agent, GPS, communication, and so much more. It has honestly made travel so much easier and less expensive and its travel apps probably deserve a blog of their own sometime. (available here)


  • Lifeproof case for iPhone. The only case I use for my iPhone. Shockproof, waterproof, dirtproof, snowproof, these cases are indestructible and have saved my phone countless times. I’ve even jumped off boats and gone swimming with them. Just takes the worry out of having to handle a sensitive piece of equipment with care. Perfect for a rough and tumble, outdoorsy kind of guy like me. (available here from Life Proof)


  • Headphones & double adapter. I use Bang & Olufsen earphones for its awesome quality sound and tangle-resistent wires, coupled with a double adapter jack so my traveling partner can watch movies with me on the plane. (available here).


  • GoPro Hero 4, silver. Want to take some cool footage while scuba diving, climbing or do a cool night timelapse from your tent in the Himalayas? The GoPro does it all and can handle any environment. I like the silver version because it has a built in touchscreen that helps you frame your shots.


  • International multi-plug USB charger. It’s annoying that different countries use different electrical plugs, and I always hated having to plug in an adapter and then plug my phone charger or whatever into that, which meant I could only charge one thing at a time. This baby is an adaptor with 2 USB ports built in which means I can charge my iphone, ipad and laptop all at the same time without any additional attachments.


  • Rain jacket. Because weather is unpredictable no matter where you are in the world. In a pinch you can also layer it over your hoodie and scarf to keep warm (exactly what I did during the Amazing Race when we ended up in the winter of New Zealand and South Africa).


  • Nylon reusable shopping bag. It folds up small enough to fit in your back pocket and can be used for groceries, dirty clothes or a beach bag. I picked this one up in IKEA for about $2.


  • Tissues, alcohol spray, mints and eyedrops. Because not all public bathrooms are as clean as home. The mints and eyedrops are for long flights which can dehydrate you more than you know (looking haggard and red-eyed with bad breath isn’t going to help you impress an immigration officer).

  • Ipad mini 4. I’d like to pretend that I need to carry this with me for “work”, but in reality its my entertainment center. I load it up with all the e-books, TV series or movies I want to watch and that makes long flights just fly by (excuse the pun). I also bring an adapter so I can plug it into the HDMI slot of hotel TV’s in case I want to watch on a bigger screen.

  • 11” Macbook Air. Ok, this one IS for work. I’m all about carrying things that are as small and light as possible, and this is one of the lightest on the market, but packs all the memory, battery life and processing power I need to edit videos (or type up blogs like this) on the fly. It’s never let me down and is so small it’s a no-brainer to bring on trips.

  • Sunglasses. No matter what the climate, a decent pair of shades will always come in handy. I cycle through a few different pairs that I own, but they’re all from the Italian brand Rudy Project. The lenses are excellent, hardwearing and won’t break the bank.

  • A decent suitcase. You want something strong, light (so it doesn’t contribute too much to your baggage weight limit), dependable and with four wheels so its effortless to push around an airport. One of my favorites is the hardy polycarbonate case from Italian brand Piquadro. Super strong, has a built in TSA lock (so security doesn’t need to break your lock in case they need to access your case) and weighs next to nothing. (available from Piquadro stores in SM Aura and Century Mall.)

  • A smile and an open mind. THE most essential things you need to bring whenever you travel. Treat your smile like a Visa. It will open more doors and make you more welcome than anything else on this list. The open mind will make you appreciate all the experiences and people you meet, and that is what travel is really all about.
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