From my personal experience, apart from your medicines and money, there are few things you should bring with yourself no matter the destination. Truly essential items for any trip.
Essential items for basic comfort
Cool clothes – one outfit will do. Even if you are going in a really cold place, you may spend some time in a warm or hot indoor place.
Warm clothes – the same as above but it goes the other way. Better to be hot than cold, right? This makes our first very essential item to bring. Climate change is a thing whether you you believe it being human induced or not. Countries with temperatures on plus (Celsius scale) have unexpected windy and cool days, season are often unstable, the best time for a summer vacation may be interrupted by cold rainy days with a difference of 12 degrees!
Receipt for your daily medication – this is obvious and tricky at the same time. When traveling abroad, you should always bring a receipt with you to prove the carrying of substances. Some Countries consider many common drugs normal (also in bigger quantities) but there are Countries where the most common substances are completely prohibited (!) and could get you in serious troubles. Even if just switching airplanes at a foreign airport, always check the list of prohibited drugs which can include antidepressants, sleeping pills or nausea medication. Write it down, hang on your fridge, it is truly essential when traveling!
A map – We are in the era of mobile devices. You can download your map offline (for example within the Google Maps app) or use the online version.
Not to be paranoid, adventure is a beautiful thing but only when you are safe. Smartphones can fail, internet connection is not always working and many areas are not covered, your battery could die or overheat. A map is definitely an essential item, especially if bought in the destination city/Country, can be a beautiful souvenir, it can teach you some local geography or city planning and it could make it easier to avoid Facebook, Snapchat or other social media and focus on the here and now.
A handful of emergency numbers – on your phone and, just in case, on a piece of paper 🙂 This is more than essential when traveling.
Enough money to book an emergency accommodation – this luckily does not apply to every stay. In my opinion it is really useful after booking a cheap room, maybe also in a hurry. Arriving at the place, what should have been a hygienic and comfortable room turns out to be a mix of cold, dirty (ew..) and unorganized.
I experienced a similiar situation while staying in Berlin a couple of years ago. Always check the structure kids! Even if it will mean to ask for additional photo by email.
If traveling without accommodation: Warm and soft blanket – Laying down on the cold hard tiles is a nightmare and turns to hell when you are already tired and waiting for the return trip. This essential item can make it far better than what it sounds like. On this list I would go for the lightest yet warmest of them.
Now that we’ve covered the general basic needs, we can go on with some more
Headphones – and with this I mean good travel headphones. We take them almost everywhere in our daily life, giving this essential item an importance somewhere between our wallet and sunglasses.
Even if your goal is to melt with the surroundings, I highly recommend to take them with you at least to cover chaotic or noisy situations on transport means like bus or airplane.
If you travel during nighttime, headphones will become your best friend, helping to isolate a bit your mind and relax, with music or white noise. Additionally to this, a magic experience could be exploring a forest with a sci-fi/adventure ebook on.
I’m not even going to list the pros for those of us who love the sweet passive relax.
If your actual headphones don’t isolate the sound very well or you are considering buying new ones, check this article from Your Best Picks on the best ones you can buy, it will make much easier to choose the right model.
Hat & Sunglasses – Sun is no joke, it can permanently damage your sight (something I convinced myself thanks to my own relentless choices). I know good sunglasses have much higher prices but they really make the difference in terms of comfort, colors and safety for your eyes. If you have a sight deficiency, you can buy contact lens and put on sunglasses 🙂 Now you can put a check on another very essential item.
For contemporary ‘impressionists’: a Good Camera – whether it’s your smartphone or the latest professional Photographic sensation. Obviously make sure you have the batteries or you charging cable in the luggage. Check always if you will need power outlets adapters at your accommodation place. If you are an artist, there are many alternatives to cameras. I will gladly list them in the next article.
What I personally recommend
Suitcase with turning wheels – easier to carry if you are fully loaded or for those who have back pain.
Backpack – It doesn’t matter if you are a pouch or a handbag person, backpack are spacious and easy to carry when loaded, during walks or hiking. There are plenty of elegant and fancy models available on the internet.
A Book – Reading is not my main passion so I personally take just one fantasy book with me.
What it is important is to not take pessimists, dark or obscure themed texts like Schopenhauer Philosophy (Yes, I did chose it once and never again :D)
Body lotion – for burns or dry skin. This is more important than you think. there are different water hardness levels around the world (it varies even in the same city as you may already know), every skin tolerates it differently. Why letting yourself feeling uncomfortable during your vacation? Especially when considering how much time and money travelling can cost these days.
Powerbank – definitely makes our lists of essential items. If you use online maps or you take photos with your smartphone, don’t risk losing a nice shot or an interruption just to run to charge your device. Carrying cables while exploring is less practical, sometimes it will require carrying also the power outlet adapter. If you don’t know where to start on this, have a look at this guide on portable ones.
Binoculars – something I often forget but I really appreciate. Many natural reserves are off-limits (which is good) so bringing binoculars gives you the big opportunity to see something rare.
Re-usable bottle – for water or vitamins. Ecologic and handy when it comes to drinking your favorite beverage not available in markets, like a nice cold tea (am I right Tea People?). Remember to try at least once some local specialties anyway.
Being ready to see new habits and manners.
Some behaviors may seem silly or weird to you but this goes both ways. Don’t (!) think of your culture as superior, treat respectfully and with humanity local people and don’t undermine their costumes. Nobody will attack your principles or believes to which you have the right, you will learn a lot 🙂