Packing Essentials for Traveling with Friends: The Ultimate List

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Packing Essentials for Traveling with Friends: The Ultimate List
If you're planning the ultimate vacay with your friends, you're probably in the honeymoon phase of excitement—but soon you'll be faced with the dreaded reality of having to make a packing list. Don't fret! We've got the ultimate guide for helping you figure out all the travel essentials you'll need to pack for your trip.
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Ever plan a trip with your best friends, only to find you’re so excited that packing (properly) is the last thing on your mind? Me too.

Over time I’ve learned which items are must-haves in your luggage. Whether you’re a digital nomad working on your next big gig while on an adventure with your besties or getting away on a relaxing vacation with your mates, there are some things you don’t want to leave at home.

If you haven’t already, pick one of the best places to travel with friends. Next, dive into the top travel tips and essentials that will enhance your travel experience, from someone who’s both traveled extensively and lived on three different continents, too.

The Most Important Essentials for Traveling

Before we get into our lists of packing essentials, there are a few things you should always do:

  • Check that your passport has at least six months’ validity left on it. If you need to renew it before traveling, you’ll want to do so well in advance. Peak vacation seasons can cause serious delays to processing times.
  • Book in advance and check in ahead of time, too. Booking ahead of time can save you serious cash. Checking in early means you’ll get first pick of seats and, when traveling with your besties, will get a better chance of sitting with them.
  • Insurance is important. You don’t want to be one of those awful, if rare, news stories of someone who got hurt on holiday only to have to crowdfund thousands to pay back their medical bills. Make sure you and your friends are insured.
  • Plan ahead. Tools like the Pilot app will help you figure out exactly where you’d like to go, and connect you to local resources for free.

Top 5 Travel Must-Haves for Traveling Anywhere

There are some important items that should always be on your packing list. Whether you’re traveling to a hot beach destination or going skiing, here are some things you’ll want to bring along.

1. Headphones

Headphones are your best friend for long layovers and plane journeys. The Beats Studio3 Headphones are a popular choice. They’re great for listening to some favorite audiobooks or travel playlists.

Noise-canceling headphones can also double up as sleep aids when you’re room-sharing with your besties. Just make sure you get cordless ones.

2. Emergency Kit

Emergencies happen, and usually at the most inopportune times. Say you’re hiking with your friends or exploring cobblestoned streets in the middle of nowhere.

Enter the mini emergency kit. You’ll want to carry an array of antiseptic wipes, band-aids, gauze pads, adhesive tape, pain and allergy meds, insect repellent, and aftersun with you. The aftersun is particularly important. Hello, lobster.

3. Toiletry Bag

A good, well-divided, hang-able bag will keep your things hygienic and clean, ensuring that you always have your toiletries at hand when you need them most.

Your own toiletry bag will also mean you can keep your things out of the shower, so your friends don’t use up all of your fave shampoo. Some specialty toiletries, if you do need them, include: allergy nose spray (very classy), eczema creams, and hand sanitizer.

4. Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are ideal when you’re traveling with friends as well as on your own. They’re particularly good for those of us who love to travel but hate to pack. You can use them to separate clean and dirty laundry, types of clothing, and essential items.

Top tip: Keep aside a cube for traveling essentials you only use when you’re traveling, such as EarPlanes (more on those later), eye masks, adapters, your emergency kit, travel wallet, and so on.

5. Travel Adapter & Portable Chargers

Trust me, as I sit in an airport once again while writing this, you want to get a decent travel adapter. Travel adapters are vital, because we keep so much on our phones and devices.

Top tip: Buy a set of good quality adapters and keep them with your other essentials for traveling, ready to grab when you set off again. And if you can, buy more than one, because you’ll have at least one unorganized friend who will want to borrow your charger all the time.

Top 5 Travel Must-Haves for Traveling Off Grid

Here are my top 5 items for traveling with your friends when the destinations you’re covering are a bit more unkempt. If hotels and all-inclusive resorts aren’t your thing, you’ll want to pack a couple of extras that see you and your friends through.

1. Waterproof Speaker

Studies have shown that music helps encode memories in your brain, so add a speaker to your list of essentials when traveling. If you’re camping or staying somewhere remote, you’ll doubly appreciate the little bit of pocket-sized civilization.

Waterproof speakers such as the compact SoundLink Flex Speaker and the pocket-sized portable Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 make partying with your friends a blast. Plus you’ll be able to bond with locals over shared favorites and new sounds.

2. Luggage Tags

Most people tend to go for neutral-coloured bags, so a lot of them can look same-y. My dad’s resolved this issue by making a Christmas tree bow a permanent ornament on his black suitcase. You may wish to opt for a more stylish tag to avoid things getting lost.

Luggage tags range from durable to cute and funny. If you’re ok with spending a little more, electronic tags such as the Apple AirTags, Samsung SmartTags, or Tile Pro are also excellent.

3. Microfiber Towel

Have you ever stayed somewhere only to find that there isn’t a single dry towel left? Yep, me too. If you’re traveling with friends you’ll be particularly glad to have a microfiber towel of your own. Hide it, if you can.

Microfiber towels can double up as a beach towel, gym towel, bathroom drying sheet, and sweat towel to use on hot hikes. Microfiber is quick-drying, lightweight, and compact, making this one an essential.

4. Earplugs

Earplugs are a must-pack, especially if you’re room-sharing or even tent-sharing with friends. If your friends snore or you’re staying in a noisy location, or you just like absolute silence, these will be vital for you.

For flights, earplugs double up as noise-canceling devices as well as alleviating the pressure experienced during take-off and landing. So they’ll not only drown out the midnight chatterbox, but also add comfort to your flights.

5. GoPro Camera

GoPro cameras are the ideal globetrotting accessory and the footage is often instantly recognisable. Modern GoPros feature high-definition images and stabilized footage.

We have a great review to help you decide whether a GoPro is the right travel accessory for you, because, yes, they are expensive. But trust me, having that kind of footage of your travels with your friends is worth it. Just make sure you pick the best places to film ahead of time, using a planning app like Pilot.

Top 5 Travel Must-Haves for Traveling as a Digital Nomad

The beauty of working as a digital nomad in this day and age is that you can see the world with your friends while also earning some money. It’s wonderful to know that you can visit family or friends with your “office” safely stored in your backpack.

1. Wireless Mouse

If you’re a digital designer, using a touchpad for extended periods of time can be a pain — even more so when you’re traveling abroad for longer periods of time. This is when a wireless mouse becomes one of your packing essentials for international travel.

Brands such as Logitech offer some great, travel-friendly options. A compact wireless mouse will make your work a lot easier, while not adding any bulk to your luggage.

2. Battery Pack

Battery packs, or portable chargers, are especially important if you’re traveling to remote areas or backpacking. They should always be among your essentials to bring when traveling.

Brands such as Anker and Mophie offer reliable portable chargers/battery packs that don’t cost the world. You don’t want to be out of charge while traveling, especially if you keep your travel plans, details, and payment options on your phone.

3. Safety Alarm / Luggage Locks

Personal safety alarms to attach to your keys are a great deterrent for potential threats, as they make a loud, high-pitched sound. They’re great for attracting attention if/when you need help.

Luggage locks are good for when you’re staying in a semi-public place or camping. The one downside is that someone could make off with your entire case, but at least they won’t be able to rummage through your stuff.

Lastly, there are portable safety cameras such as Amazon’s Ring cam that are ideal for keeping an eye on your belongings while you’re out. If you’re using one of these while traveling, make sure you tell your friends so they’re aware of it.

4. Kindle

I don’t want to travel anywhere without myKkindle. It’s ideal for passing the time in a boring airport or taking a relaxing break on the beach.

It’s also useful for research or for including in your digital nomad packing list. Or sharing books with your friends. I love the Kindle Paperwhite, which only needs charging every few months or so, making it perfect for traveling.

5. Laptop

You should always bring along a reliable laptop if you’re going to work while traveling with friends.

I love Apple laptops for their portability, sleek design, and sheer unbreakable-ness. My laptop is a second-hand Apple M2 I purchased a few years ago, and it still works beautifully and rarely needs charged. It’s ideal for working on the go and getting a few hours of writing in while I wait for my next flight.

Top 5 Travel Gadgets

I’ve already covered a few key ones in the lists above. But there are some more you’ll want to consider if gadgets are important to you. These can really enhance yours and your friends’ adventures.

1. Cable Organizer Bag

If you’re opting for the travel cube route to packing effectively, you’re already half-way there. Add an extra cube or organizer bag for your cables and chargers. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did this.

It’ll be much easier to find any needed chargers or cables without having to go through your entire suitcase. Also, if anything leaks in your bag, your chargers won’t get ruined. You’re welcome.

2. Gimbal

A gimbal is a crafty little piece of tech that’s perfect for filming Instagram reels and travel videos. Gimbals are pivoted supports that help stabilize your phone as you move it.

This results in videos with no shaking or jerking movements, capturing whatever you’re filming with a near cinematic smoothness. The DJI Osmo Mobile 6 gimbal comes highly recommended as a great all-round device. It’s compatible with both iPhones and Android devices, portable, and foldable—perfect for traveling with your friends.

3. AirTag

I’ve mentioned luggage tags before, but AirTags offer so much more. The AirTag can help give you peace of mind when it comes to tracking your checked luggage, as well as keeping your hand luggage extra safe.

It’s not exactly recommended, but the AirTag can even help keep your younger travelers safe. If you’re traveling with kids, giving them Air Tags in a concealed location may be very useful. An AirTag may make the difference in finding children quickly and before they get into actual trouble, though I would never rely on one on its own.

4. Money Belt

If you’re traveling to remote locations, money belts can help keep your possessions safe. Money belts are thin and crafted so you can easily conceal them under your clothes.

The DAITET Money Belt is cheap and big enough to hold your money, passport, travel docs, and even your phone, while still having that much-wanted slimness factor. It includes an added RFID blocking feature, providing added safety for your debit and credit cards.

5. Water Bottle and Filter

Most airports have safe and clean drinking water available in specially-made water fountains. A reusable water bottle is a great way to cut down on cost while staying eco-friendly—you can even personalize your bottles to make them a nice item to remember your trip by.

Opt for a reusable water filter. I like the Membrane Portable Water Filter, which is small and convenient to carry around. Pair it with a wide-mouthed reusable bottle such as the Nalgene Sustain Tritan for ease of use.

What Else Should You Pack on Your Ultimate Trip with Friends

So now you’ve packed pretty much everything under the sun, what are the essentials for traveling you’ve not thought of yet?

Start with clothing essentials, such as underwear and socks, weather appropriate trousers and skirts, some basic tops, and layers. Layers are your friend when traveling. Don’t forget swimwear and any specialty gear on your list of essentials for traveling abroad.

Toiletries and personal items should be in your toiletry bag, with any liquids being packed separately in a clear Ziploc.

Make sure you have all of your vital documentation, such as your passport, any visas, driver’s license, international driver’s permit, and cash. Bring a printed itinerary, emergency contact information, hotel info, flight info and tickets, car rental receipts, and any other bookings.

When Should You Start Packing?

Make a travel essentials packing list a week before you leave. Use this article as a guide to start figuring out what you should bring and what you can eliminate from your suitcase to save space.

Pack everything a day or two before leaving. If you’re traveling with friends, packing a little ahead of time allows for a lovely pre-travel evening of toasting to adventures to come, without worrying that hungover you will have zero idea what a gimbal even is, never mind packing it.

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Make Sure You Pack the Essentials for Your Next Trip with Friends

Packing for your next holiday with your friends should be easy and, ideally, fun. My lists of vital travel essentials will help you prepare for the perfect holiday.

Meanwhile, trip planner apps can help you ensure you’ve got an itinerary that suits you and your friends. The Pilot app can help you plan a trip with friends that includes activities for everyone to enjoy. 

Pilot is a social trip planner to discover and build travel itineraries connecting you to resources everywhere, for free. Pilot makes it easy and fun to create and share your favorite travel moments with your friends and travel companions.

Disclosure: Pilot is supported by our community. We may earn a small commission fee with affiliate links on our website. All reviews and recommendations are independent and do not reflect the official view of Pilot.

Julia Gallacher Blog
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Julia Gallacher
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