It’s in the Bag: 6 Essential Items I Never Travel Without
Leah Walker September 7, 2016

Whether a staycation in Paris, a quick trip to Italy, or extended time in the USA, there are certain things I won’t travel without. In fact, they’re packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice. All I need to do is grab my passport, and I’m out the door. Other than my MacBook Pro and iPhone, here are the six essential items I never travel without.


I still remember the day that I discovered the Tumi Alpha Bravo Lejeune Backpack Tote. I’d spent three weeks in the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Korea, and was flying back to Texas through Beijing. Killing time before boarding, I wandered into the Tumi store. I’d been looking for a stylish and streamlined backpack for months without any luck. The ones I found looked like they belonged on a hiking trail or to a 25-year old Silicon Valley CEO. The moment I spotted the Lejeune, I knew it was the one.

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I love this bag because my computer fits nicely and is well protected. There’s plenty of space in the main compartment to hold my large camera bag and room for other items to sit on top. My slippers slide into the side pouches, without taking up valuable space inside of the bag. There are two zippered pockets and one snap pouch on the inside for organization and an outside back compartment perfect for paperwork or a notebook. The front zippered pockets are perfect for easy access to things such as my iPhone charger and adapter. And like all Tumi bags, there’s a bar code for registering in the event its lost.

I’ve lost count how many miles this bag has traveled in the last three years. I carry about 40 pounds worth of stuff inside and it still looks as good as the day I bought it. Quality over quantity is key, and the Lejeune has been worth every penny I spent.





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Since moving to France, I’ve become devoted to products from NUXE, so their travel kit with five deluxe minis combines some of my favorite products into TSA-acceptable sizes. A facial cleanser and moisturizer, hand cream, shower gel, and the best product in the world–Huile Prodigieuse dry oil—come packed in a little pouch. Just grab and go. It’s perfect for a weekend get away or for a transatlantic flight. You can read about the dry oil and other products from NUXE in my post, “12 Beauty Products to buy from French Pharmacies {or Amazon}.”




Noise-Canceling Headphones

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In four years, I have never flown without my Bose noise-canceling headphones. For me, these miracle workers are as essential as my passport when going to the airport. Not only do they block out all of the nonsense from my fellow passengers, they’re comfortable. I also pop these babies on when I’m writing in a café or riding on a train. They help me focus on work or just simply block out annoyances. I have the older version with a cord, but now Bose makes a Bluetooth version.





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I am not, nor have I ever claimed to be a photographer. I take pictures. A lot of pictures. On occasion, there are some that turn out quite well. Others, well, they just get deleted. Yet, I’m often asked which camera I use. In fact, I use several different ones. I always have my iPhone 6 handy, which will do in a pinch, but when working, I use one of two cameras.

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My newest camera is the Panasonic LUMIX DMX-LX100K. I love it for three reasons: it’s lightweight and small; I can send photos immediately to my iPhone for editing and uploading to social media; and it takes really good photos and 4K videos. Equivalent to about a 35mm camera, it shoots wider and better quality than an iPhone, but isn’t that much larger. Even just walking around Paris, the Panasonic is always in my purse. I highly recommend it for a traveler, casual photographer, or as a good point and shoot for a more serious photographer. It has lots of bells and whistles, most of which I’ve never even used.

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As for my DSLR, I shoot with the Nikon D7100 24.1 MP DX-Format CMOS. Basically, I have no idea what all that means, but I’ve been happily using it for about three years. I have several different lenses, including a 35 mm and 50 mm for food and portraits, a sub-par zoom, and an ultra wide lens for shooting hotel rooms, landscapes, and the occasional ancient narrow alley. Carrying all of those is a huge pain in the ass, especially since I don’t make a living as a photographer, so I bought an all-purpose lens that adequately fills my needs: the Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF auto focus-S VR DX zoom. I bought it a year ago on the advice of a professional photographer and have been pleased. It’s not too expensive, but takes nice pictures.





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Although I am never without my MacBook, there’s no substitute for a pen and paper. Whether scribbling down a to-do list or article ideas, I like not having to power something on in order to record my ideas. I’ve been using Moleskine notebooks for twenty years and have never had to stand in line at the Apple store to get one repaired. I have a large version that stays in my Tumi and a small one that goes in my purse.





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Any flight longer than four hours requires my shoes to come off. However, don’t think I’m without my feet covered; I’m never without a pair of slippers. Not only is it cold at 36,000 feet, but it’s just plain gross to subject other passengers to my feet, no matter how fresh my pedicure. Plus, a trip to the toilet definitely requires something between my socks and the nasty bathroom floor. These slippers keep my feet warm, don’t scream house shoes, and can be thrown in the washing machine after each trip.




Space Saving Travel Bags


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While others use packing cubes, I prefer space saving travel bags. I put a change of clothes in a travel-size bag and pop it in my backpack. Since the air is removed with rolling, the package doesn’t take up much space. I also use the larger ones in my suitcase, which helps keep me organized and my clothes in pristine shape. Plus, I replace the clean clothes with dirty ones for the trip home. The space saver bags keep odors and dirt away from my remaining clean clothes.




Add to this list a scarf, toothbrush and adapters, and I’m ready to go in the blink of an eye. Is there anything you never travel without? I’d love to know!

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Note: There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I make a small commission if you make a purchase through my links. It costs you nothing more, but helps keep me stocked in French wine {and a roof over my head}.

Another Note: Photos of products are property of the respective brands.

Leah Walker

Leah has a marketing management company specializing in strategy, content creation and implementation for luxury brands and destinations. She's also a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. Leah documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. She sometimes freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, USA Today 10 Best, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel and wine ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's lived in Paris for five years, and was awarded additional time with a Passeport Talent visa. Though, her talent for speaking French is abysmal.


  1. Hello Leah,
    Great to read all about your exciting life. Also fun to share with some of my students. I am the Yearbook sponsor now, along with my career-long job of being a Special Ed. teacher.
    I have a terrific yearbook editor who loves to travel. He last went to Sweden (alone at 17) and plans to travel Europe after graduation. He has read some of your posts as I thought he should see what fun you are having.
    Just thought I would say hello and let you know some folks from Spur still keep up with you!!

  2. Great list! I really need to invest in noise cancelling headphones. I think about it every time I fly. Maybe a Christmas present to myself…

  3. I love that backpack you have!! It’s not your typical backpack and looks incredibly stylish. I always feel so dressed down or casual when I have to wear our current backpack! Also, never tried NUXE before, will have to check it out. I love finding new good skincare!

  4. Oh my goodness, I love that Tumi Backpack! I am going to have to look into that–I’m always struggling to find a backpack that is functional but still cute. And I really like those slippers, too! Great list!

    1. Yes, me too! My Tumi is a dark green. It wasn’t my first choice, but was the only color available in the store. I wasn’t going to let this find pass me by, so I settled on green.

  5. The headphones are my vote. I have a pair and never travel without them. Love the look of that backpack too. Nice idea to do a roundup of the things you take with you on your travels Leah.

  6. I cannot travel without packing cubes as it saves me unpacking everything to find my cables. Likewise IPAD and my eye pad have to come too! I definitely need to buy some more noise cancelling headphones though.

  7. Totally agree with you that there’s no substitute for pen and paper – I travel with a notebook too even though the majority of my work gets done on my computer. It’s a lot more subtle pulling out a pen if you’re jotting down your thoughts or feelings in the middle of an activity or sacred space too 🙂

  8. This is a great list and one that I follow and agree with The one thing that I have is warm and wooly socks. After reading your post, I should consider slippers instead…that bathroom floor on the flights does get murky at times. I also need new headphones, will check out the bose ones as well. Great list!

  9. Everyone always recommends noise cancelling headphones – but I’ve never tried them out before! Are they really worth the money? Do they not get in the way when you’re trying to sleep?

  10. Great list! Would definitely never travel without my camera, phone, sunglasses (I’m rubbish without them), a hair bobble and some sort of snack to re-fuel my energy levels. I never really take headphone anywhere but there have been a few occasions where I regretted not taking them.

  11. I always take my Kiehl’s Cactus Spray with me. It has a beautiful scents and a few sprays can refresh you immediately!

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