11 Must-Have Travel Accessories
As someone who has spent a considerable amount of time on the road as a digital nomad, I thought I’d offer a list of my “tried and true” must-have accessories. There is a longer list that I encourage you to look at in the “Start Your Adventure” tab, but these were honestly lifesavers for me. I couldn’t and wouldn’t want to travel without them.
Staying Powered-up: Surge Protected Combination USB Charger and Powerboard
I’m convinced that this little gem saved me a ton of money and heartbreak. With the fluctuating currents and ill-planned outlets around Asia and South Africa, this travel board kept my tech safe and provided extra charging ports for all of my devices while on the road.
It’s an absolute must to make sure yours is surge protected and it’s super helpful to have one with extra charging ports, or multiple power sockets for various devices.
Staying Fresh: Travel Towel
I got some bad advice from a travel blog advising me not to pack a towel because most places would have them. WRONG. There is really no way to know whether the towel you are being issued is fresh and most hostels didn’t provide a towel at all.
I have recently discovered the ChakyaGo™ from a Kickstarter campaign and it’s awesome. It is anti-microbial microfiber, quick drying and huge. I use it for the beach and also for the shower (separately). It is marketed as a meditation mat, but it doubles as a blanket or towel and zips up into a travel pillow with backpack straps. It’s a little on the pricey side at $149, but the multi-functionality of it makes it a winner in my book.
I love it so much that I’ve worked out a deal with the owner to give The Startup Seed users 10% off. You can get yours here, www.chakyago.com Promo code: The Startup Seed
You can also find travel or camping towels at outdoor retailers that are quick drying microfiber for around $50, but I prefer the larger circular one as it has more functionality as a blanket and pillow.
Staying Secure: Travel Money Belt
I know you’re going to think I’m a loser for this next suggestion, but a money belt is just smart. They are compact and less noticeable than a neck pouch. I knew that Barcelona was the pickpocketing capital of the world and yet I still put my money and phone in my backpack. I had it slung to my side and protected it with one arm and I was still ripped off by a pack of dirtbags. Fortunately, my passport and the majority of my money were in my money belt.
I would recommend that you get one with multiple compartments, zippers and a reliable clasp. Obviously, be sure it’s big enough for your passport but still sleek enough that it’s fairly undetectable under your shirt. Go ahead and call me a loser, but at least I didn’t have to spend 12 hours at the Embassy getting new identification.
Staying Entertained: Earphones and A Spare
You know what’s the worst? Settling into a 6-hour bus ride, turning on your computer and being greeted with crackling headphones. Even the best ear buds die unexpectedly. Yes, you can pick up new ones almost anywhere, but that bus ride is gonna suck without a backup pair. So, as my nomad friend, Richie, says “Have a pair…and a spare.” They are lightweight and compact – you won’t be sorry.
Staying Warm: A Large Bit of Fabric
I am a wimp when it comes to being cold. Carrying around a large bit of fabric or a pashmina is key for any traveler regardless of age or gender. While living in Mozambique, I learned how to manipulate the fabric by folding and tying in various ways to generate unlimited uses. I have used pieces of fabric as blankets, headscarves, a shawl, a skirt, a picnic blanket, a pillow, a towel, a top, an umbrella and a backpack.
You definitely need to start your trip with a pashmina or piece of fabric, but I guarantee while traveling, you will come across ethnic fabrics that will blow your mind. I am currently using a Jordanian Kaffiyeh as my travel fabric.
There are a couple of helpful things to consider when choosing your travel fabric:
Weight – You want it to be lightweight, but substantial enough to provide coverage, warmth, or in some cases, the ability to dry you off.
Warmth – Think some sort of cotton or pashmina wool blend. You want it to be warm, but not heavy. Also, I prefer a material that is washable because you will use this fabric everyday either for warmth, modesty, sun protection or to clean up spills.
Wrinkle-Factor – Wrinkles don’t really bother me, but for some, they prefer it to be wrinkle free, or hold a deep wrinkle if that’s the style.
Width – Like many things in life, wide and long is best. Aim for a size that you could wrap around your chest and would also fall to your knees or longer.
It’s important to wash this fabric frequently as well. Make sure you choose something that dries in a suitable amount of time in case you need to hand wash it. When I started out traveling, I chose neutral colors so that I could use it at the beach or as an evening cover-up, but as I continued my journeys, I found pleasure in embracing the cultural designs and fabrics around me. Upon return, I turned my textile collection into pillows and placemats to remind me of the rad places that I’d visited.
Staying Dry: Disposable poncho
Being wet is THE WORST. When I left for my trip, I had an awesome wind-proof and rainproof jacket with a hood that kept my body dry. What it didn’t keep dry, was my backpack and my bags. Which meant that all of my stuff was wet…for days.
I have found that a disposable poncho is an awesome solution. They are big enough to cover your body and your bags, particularly in a Costa Rican monsoon-like downpour. I would absolutely recommend bringing both. After all, a $1 disposable poncho takes up no space at all and is way more fashionable than the garbage bag I sourced to cover my computer bag.
Resealable Sandwich Bags: Travel handy sandwich bags
If you haven’t already read my post on why digital nomads should use resealable sandwich bags, that should definitely be your next stop.
Not only do they keep your stuff dry, but they are also sand proof! They are great for storing dirty clothes, jewelry and your phone. Resealable bags are great because you can access the touchscreen through the plastic and like the ponchos, they take up very little space in your bag. This one is a no-brainer, folks.
Rest is super important when you’re traveling. If you’re exhausted, your work will suffer and so will your health. And, that’s no fun at all. Here is a trifecta of travel essentials to make sure that you’re mind, body and spirit are in check.
Eye masks are key for frequent travelers. While you can use a bandana or scarf, eye masks are cheap enough and compact enough that you don’t really have an excuse not to have one. In addition to blocking out all light, they are also a subtle cue to others that you’re not to be disturbed.
The eye mask’s fraternal twin would have to be earplugs. They will block out snorers on a plane, street noise outside your hotel room and again, provide a subtle hint to others that you’re not interested in engaging with them.
A travel pillow is not just great for planes. It also makes a great companion for the beach, sitting in a park, a lap pillow to deflect the heat of your laptop or folded in half to create lumbar support in a crappy chair. I’ve mentioned earlier that the ChakyaGo blanket/towel zips up into a pillow, but I also like inflatable travel pillows. Inflation firmness can be adjusted, they fold flat and can be packed away easily. Plus, if you’re going to look like a loser with a money belt and poncho, the least you can do is spare yourself the horseshoe pillow around your neck in public.