6 Things You Don’t Need When Traveling (and 1 You Absolutely Do)


Written by Duke Stewart on

Duke Stewart is a recovering American expat who writes about life through travel—and wants you there with him—through captivating stories and guides at Travel Through Life. In the meantime, you can follow his adventures on Instagram @travthroughlife.


6 Things You Don’t Need When Traveling (and 1 You Absolutely Do)

For some travelers, figuring out what to pack is tricky. For others, figuring out what not to pack is even harder. But don’t worry, we’re here to help you narrow down that packing list for your next trip!

I’ll be honest: I have overpacked for many a trip, wasting space and adding unnecessary suitcase weight. (If you’re traveling light with just a carry-on bag, you’ll need to save all the space you can!) But after traveling for the past five years through multiple countries, I’ve learned there are many items that I just don’t need when I’m on the go—and I would bet you don’t need them either. If you want to make your pack just a bit lighter, leave these six items at home on your next trip. However, I have one go-to item I’ll always bring with me—and it actually prevents me from overpacking. Read on to find out what not to pack and the one thing you absolutely must pack.

What Not to Pack:

1. Excess Gadgets

Unless you’re a professional YouTuber, photographer, or writer documenting your travels, you really don’t need to pack more than a smartphone and perhaps a camera. With your phone, you can look up whatever information you may need (and stay up-to-date with social media, if you so choose), as well as capture seriously impressive photos and videos. Honestly, with the latest improvements in phone cameras, even avid photographers are ditching their DSLRs. One optional additional gadget? An e-reader. If you like to enjoy a good book (or even a few) while traveling, this device is a great way to save space and weight.

2. Hairdryer

If you’re traveling for business and need to look your best, chances are you’ll be at a hotel that comes equipped with a hairdryer in each room. If not, think about whether or not you really need one. If you “rough it” and tie your hair back or let it air dry, you’ll not only save space but also not have to worry about blowing a fuse in a foreign country if you don’t have the right voltage converter. If you’re planning on traveling for an extended period of time—say, a few months or so—and you really can’t last without a hairdryer, consider buying a cheap one in your final destination, so at least you can be sure you’ll have the right voltage.

3. Soap and Shampoo

Chances are these basic toiletries will be available at your accommodation. If that’s not the case (perhaps you’re staying in a vacation rental that you have to stock), you should be able to load up on toiletries at a local convenience or grocery store. Perusing other countries’ shops is a fascinating activity, too—you never know what interesting new products you might find!

4. Travel Iron

As with hairdryers, a travel iron is really only necessary if you’re traveling for work or another purpose that calls for business (or refined) attire. And even if that’s the case, most hotels have irons in each room or ones you can use. Otherwise, you can probably go out with a few wrinkles. And if you want to minimize them, you can do things like pack clothes made from wrinkle-free fabrics, keep folds neat in a garment folder, stock up on a travel-sized wrinkle release spray when you arrive at your destination, or hang garments in the bathroom while you shower—steam really works magic on minor creases!

5. Multiple Pairs of Shoes

If you’re going to be climbing mountains, running marathons, or traveling through snowy conditions, you may need some extra footwear. But if not, chances are you can get by with one or two pairs: For a warm-weather trip, pack a pair of sandals for the beach or casual strolls and a pair of close-toed, supportive shoes you can wear for the long-haul. For a cold-weather trip, bring one pair of versatile (and waterproof, if possible) boots and one pair of dressier shoes (if you need them). Keep your shoes contained in an anti-microbial shoe locker that keeps any dirt and unpleasant odor away from the rest of your items.

6. Multiple Clothing Options

Unless you’re headed to Fashion Week, do you really want to spend your precious travel time deciding on what to wear? Minimize the choice and make it all about simplicity and layering. Bring basic clothes in neutral colors that you can mix-and-match. Pack a few t-shirts, one cardigan or sweater you can layer on top if you get cold, one pair of versatile pants, and one pair of shorts or a skirt (if it will be warm). Need something dressy? Look for an option that can also be dressed down so you can wear it more than once. Pack as little as possible: Chances are, you can find a laundry service if need be, or you can grab some detergent and wash a few things in the sink or shower.

7. A Fluffy Towel

As luxurious as a big, plush, warm towel is, it takes up far too much room inside a suitcase. Hotels will obviously have towels for you to use—including beach towels—but you might be out of luck at a hostel or campsite. We suggest either buying a cheap one upon arrival or packing a super lightweight towel that doesn’t take up much space at all, like the Travellite Towel XL, which is super absorbent but also quick-drying.

But DO Pack This:


Packing Organizers

If there’s one thing you should absolutely pack, it’s a packing organizer—or even two or three. Versatile packing systems have transformed the way my wife and I travel. They keep our bags organized and prevent us from having to dig through suitcase chaos to find what we need. Compression cubes are perfect for maximizing luggage space, garment folders keep clothes neat, toiletry kits contain leaks, and clean/dirty cubes, well, keep the clean and dirty clothes separated.

The bottom line: If your trip is approaching and you’re staring at a full bag with more things to add, just stop. In fact, go through and see what you can take out now that you have some perspective. Once you lighten up your suitcase and stuff your essentials into your packing cubes, you’ll be ready to hit the road!