There are thousands of travel accessories and gadgets out there but most are gimmicky and a waste of both money and precious space. That’s what I wanted to talk about some of the best travel accessories that I believe are worthy of a spot in your luggage.
Local European SIM Card (For High-Speed Mobile Data)
Having reliable, high-speed mobile data on your phone is essentially a requirement for traveling in Europe these days because so much of everyday European life revolves around smartphones.
- Train and airline tickets/bookings have gone digital.
- Museum tickets, concert tickets, event passes, etc. have gone digital.
- Restaurant menus and payments have gone digital.
- Hotel and rental apartment bookings have gone digital.
- Everyday comunication has gone digital.
- Navigating cities and checking out bar/restaurant reviews with Google maps has gone digital.
All this requires high-speed data that actually works — i.e. assuming you can find free wifi hotspots is a disaster waiting to happen.
But don’t rely on your domestic mobile carrier’s international data plan because it will be expensive and it’s often barely usable. For example, on my latest trip to France, I used my U.S. T-Mobile plan that offers free international data and it could barely load email and Google maps took ages to load (and often didn’t even work).
That’s why I pre-purchased both the Orange Holiday Europe Prepaid SIM Card and Bouygues Telecom Vacation Prepaid Plan from SimOptions.com. I literally just popped in the SIM card and my data started working in 30 seconds. My data was super fast the entire time.
Read more on my guide to using SIM cards and mobile data plans in Europe.
External Battery Pack
Your mobile phone usage skyrockets while traveling — that’s why an external battery charger is a must-have accessory because constantly hunting for somewhere to charge your phone is a true pain.
There are multiple types of external power banks but I suggest sticking to something small that can easily fit in a bag.
Most external battery chargers cost around $20-$35 on Amazon and a fully-charged power bank should give your phone 1.5-3 full charges.
iPad (With Keyboard)
I hate traveling with my laptop (even my Macbook Air is a hassle to haul around) but there are times where I want to have more than my iPhone.
That’s why my iPad is one of my favorite travel gadgets. It makes on-the-go travel planning easier, it’s awesome for web browsing, and it’s great for watching movies. It’s also light and portable so I can easily throw it in my backpack without worrying too much about it. You can also add an external keyboard if you’re someone who needs to type.
You can find affordable previous-generation iPads if you don’t want to buy a brand new iPad (mine is a few years old and still works great).
These days I consider travel apps to be just as important as many physical travel accessories. Notably, I’ll also download offline Google maps and TrainLine to book train tickets. I’ve written more about the best travel apps if you want more recommendations.
Watch With 24-Hour Time
I still randomly get tripped up by 24-hour time so having a watch that simultaneously shows both 12-hour and 24-hour time helps me keep things straight.
You can also set your phone to a 24-hour clock but I find having the time easily accessible on my wrist to be very helpful.
There are multiple styles of watches at all price points:
Electronic Plug Adaptor with USB Charger Ports
You’ll need a plug adaptor so you can power all your electronic devices.
There is no need to buy anything expensive/fancy but I recommend getting one that also has USB ports since many modern devices are powered via USB.
Extra-Long Charger Cable
Do yourself a favor by packing an extra-long cable for your phone because you’ll often find yourself dealing with oddly located electric plugs — especially at hostels and airports. I find 6ft-10ft to be a good length.
I also recommend packing an extra charger cable since they have a tendency to get lost.
Small Packable Backpack
Bring a packable backpack that can hold your daily necessities but is small enough to not get in the way while wearing it on public transport or in museums. REI has plenty of daypack options but I personally use the AER Go Pack.
Compression socks help increase circulation and reduce swelling in your legs while flying — which ultimately helps you feel better during and after a long flight. I wore them for the first time on a recent transatlantic flight and I could truly feel the difference.
Compression socks can also help your legs recover faster after a long day of walking so many travelers wear them for a few hours at the end of the day.
Compression socks come in different compression levels — 15-20 mmhg is light compression and 20-30 mmhg is medium/heavy.
Wireless (Noise-Canceling) Headphones
Wireless noise-canceling headphones are a gamechanger on flights and long train rides. I’m personally a huge fan of wireless earbud-style earphones since they’re small but over-the-ear headphones have better noise-canceling and they’re generally more comfortable.
Wired Headphones (For The Plane’s Entertainment System)
I typically use AirPods but you’ll need wired headphones if you want to watch your airline’s in-flight movies — make sure it has the standard headphone plug. The airline will often give you a super cheap pair for free but they don’t sound very good and they’re not comfortable.
Sunglasses W/ Protective Case
Travel can wreak havoc on your sunglasses so I recommend picking up a protective case to prevent damage. If you have expensive glasses, you might consider buying a cheap pair that you won’t mind losing/breaking.
Pen + Notebook
The world may be going digital but having a small pocket-sized notebook and pen can come in handy while you’re on the road.
I use a notebook to write down addresses, confirmation numbers, recommendations from fellow travelers, or even just random thoughts.
Your feet will take a beating while traveling so a nice set of insoles can add some much-needed comfort. Test your insoles first to make sure they fit into your shoes since some can make your shoes feel too tight.
Anti Chafing Powder or Gel/Cream
Tons of walking can lead to chafing — especially during the summer. I’m personally a fan of Body Glide because it helps prevent rubbing that causes irritation, rash, chafing, blisters, and raw skin. Some people think it feels a little greasy so give it a test run while at home.
Any experienced traveler will sing the praises of packing cubes (especially backpackers) because they help keep stuff organized and offer some compression. Once you start using packing cubes you’ll never want to go back.
Personally, I use packing cubes mainly for socks and underwear but I often also use them for things like t-shirts. Check out my guide to the best packing cubes to get my top picks.
Pedialyte Electrolyte Powder
Travel is dehydrating so adding electrolytes to your water can give you a much-needed boost. I’ll drink something like Pedialyte AdvancedCare Plus Electrolyte Powder before a flight. It also comes in handy for hangovers.
Travel Guide Books
Despite the amount of travel information you can find online, a trusty guidebook is still an excellent way to access a lot of curated information about a destination in a short amount of time.
There are multiple guide books and each caters to a different niche. My favorites are:
Leak Proof Bottles
Humangear GoToob Travel Bottles are probably the best travel bottles for shampoo and other liquids/gels because they don’t leak. There are multiple sizes of the GoToob Travel Bottles so check Amazon to see what works best for your needs.
I like to bring my own pillowcases when I stay at any kind of budget hotel, Airbnb, or hostel — especially since these kinds of accommodations tend to use cheap, scratchy fabrics. It’s a little thing that adds extra comfort and I find helps me sleep much better.
More Travel Packing Lists
I’ve written extensively about what and how to pack for your trip to Europe. Check out a few of my articles below:
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Thanks For Reading! — James