Packing List: My 19 travel essentials

LIKE MOST PEOPLE I OVER PACK WHEN I TRAVEL. But hauling my bags onto buses and trains and through airports got me cutting back. If I can avoid checking baggage I will, so I’ve had to distill my essential items down as much as possible. I’m sure I could trim this list down a bit more, but right now this is the bare minimum – not including clothes, of course – I have in my luggage and camera bag when I leave the house.


1 – CAMERAS: I’ve used a lot of cameras in my career, from film to digital, and I recently switched to Fuji’s mirrorless cameras trying to cut down on weight and space. My new X-T2 is my main camera, while the trusty little X30 is my backup. (Professionals always carry a backup.) I’m in the market for a good wide angle lens, but the 18-55mm kit lens that came with the X-T2 covers pretty near every situation.

2 – POWER BAR: There’s never enough power outlets in any hotel room, and I’ve found myself crawling behind beds and under desks to charge my cameras on the road. This Belkin travel power bar, with its three outlets and two USB ports, has been a godsend. I have a collection of voltage transformers and plug adapters for international destinations, of course, but having a power bar keeps your precious wires in one spot in your lodgings. Which brings me to…

3 – CABLES AND CHARGERS: You’ll end up with a collection of these for your phone, your cameras, your laptop and tablet. Leaving one at home or behind at your last hotel would be a disaster, so it helps to keep them together in a bag like this one. Yeah it’s a bit anal, but it helps to be anal when you travel.

4 – FLASHLIGHT: Useful in dark places of course, but I also use mine – a powerful little LED number – to fill in shadows or highlight areas in photos.

5 – iPOD: I need music to get me through long flights or unwind at the end of a long day. My iPod is an antique – my kids make fun of it – but it still works, and I pair it with a little Motorola Bluetooth speaker to make a hot bath at the hotel even more relaxing.

6 – EXTRA MEMORY CARDS: It takes a lot longer to run out of memory than it did running out of film, but you will run out eventually. Keep at least one extra set of formatted cards for each camera, clearly labeled.


7 – SMARTPHONE: I used to bring along a laptop on every trip, but it took up too much space and I barely used the thing. A good smartphone will do almost everything you need to do on a short trip, including back up photos to cloud storage if your camera is WiFi enabled. And considering the quality of the latest models, it’s basically your third camera.

8 – HAND SANITIZER: There are no sinks with towels and soap in the woods, and nobody wants to get sick when they travel. Which brings me to…

9 – MEDICINE: A toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant will get me through most trips, but it still helps to be prepared. Besides the travel standbys – sunscreen, bug spray and pain killers – there’s Melatonin to help with jet lag and Imodium because, well, I don’t think I have to tell you why. Pray you never need it.

10 – GLOVE LINERS: It’s hard to hold and work a camera if your hands are frozen, so I bring along a set of these Thinsulate glove liners for whenever I think it might get a little chilly. Added features include rubber grips and conductive mesh on the finger tips to work touch screens.

11 – LIGHTWEIGHT RAINCOAT: Mine barely weighs a couple of ounces and folds up into a tight little package that can be stuffed underneath a lens in the bottom of a camera bag. I hate getting wet.

12 – BANDANA: For mopping up sweat or covering your mouth on a dusty day, a cheap cotton bandana can’t be beat.


13 – NOTEPAD & PENS: Where did you go on that particularly busy day and who was the person in that amazing photo? There are a hundred details you’ll kick yourself when you can’t remember them a week after you get home.

14 – CELLPHONE CHARGER: Remember what I said about how useful cellphones have become? Well, it’s just a brick when it runs out of juice – which it always does near the end of a long day – so it helps to have some power in reserve. And don’t forget the USB cable!

15 – BAND-AIDS: Besides smaller ones for the usual cuts and scrapes, bring along the big ones for blisters – a lesson I learned when I made the rookie mistake of putting on a brand new pair of hiking shoes just after getting off the plane in Dublin, and ended up with a bloody sock at the start of the trip.

16 – SNACKS: Sometimes the pub was closed for lunch or you got back to the hotel too late for dinner or you don’t want to eat the airplane food. I pack some energy bars and make up a few bags of mixed nuts from the bulk store before every trip just in case.

17 – WATER BOTTLE: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. You’re an adult – I don’t have to remind you about this, do I?

18 – LENS CLEANING CLOTHS: Nothing ruins a great sunset or sunrise shot better than that streak you didn’t notice on your lens, or the smudged remains of that bug that met its end when you were shooting out of the train window. I try to keep a cleaning cloth in every bag, and a spare in a coat pocket.

19 – A GOOD BOOK: Maybe you can keep 1,000 books on your e-reader. Welcome to the future, spaceman. I’m still pretty old school, and while I’m lucky if I can get halfway through a book during a trip, it’s nice to fish it out of my bag on the plane or before drifting off to sleep in a strange bed.

Useful things:


Photos and story © 2018 Rick McGinnis All Rights Reserved