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You have your passport, you have your toothbrush, What other things are essential for any overseas trip?

This isn’t a list of the most essential accessories for overseas travel. You’re going to need a passport, money, a toothbrush, a suitable bag and a towel, but you already knew that, right? The accessories that we explore in detail below are all essential in that they will save you time, money and effort and will generally make your overseas trip a far more pleasurable experience.

1. Travel Journal

Photo: kikijames

As any seasoned traveller will no doubt tell you, a notebook is as essential as a clean pair of undies when you’re abroad. Any old jotter will do, but if you’re willing to splash the cash, you can’t do much better than a leather journal.

Italian and oilcloth covered, Moleskine were the favoured notebooks of Picasso, Matisse, Kurakin and Hemingway, and you can’t argue with the weight of that collective opinion. Oh yeah, don’t forget to bring a pen too!

2. Netbook

A netbook is a small, lightweight, portable laptop that can do almost anything a larger notebook can. Cheaper than their larger cousins, netbooks are particularly suited to web browsing and emailing.

The MSI WIND U100 is among the best on the market. Weighing in at just 4.4lb and measuring 12.3 x 8.7 x 3.4, it has an ample 120GB of memory, an Intel Atom N270 processor, Windows XP Home and an in-built high-resolution web cam, all for just $330. Perfect for staying in contact with friends and family via email, IM and Skype while you’re on the road.

3. 3G Mobile Internet Dongle

A small, inconspicuous 3G mobile internet dongle can be a lifesaver when there’s no wifi signal or internet cafe within range, and let’s face it, that’s usually the case. Although the connection speed might not be up to your usual standard, 3G coverage is very good across huge swathes of the globe.

Most cell phone operators sell 3G dongles these days, and they’re all very reasonably priced. Some are sold on a pay-as-you-go basis, while others are tied to a monthly charge and a download limit (typically 15GB per month).

You’ll just need to be wary about using data roaming on a frequent basis (especially if you are on a monthly contract) as the minutes and megabytes quickly stack up and many people have come home to staggeringly large bills.

4. Digital Camera

Photo: Panasonic

Every great trip deserves to be documented for posterity, gloating and/or boring your friends at home. Digital cameras are cheaper than ever and you can buy a very decent one online for under $200. Choose a camera that’s lightweight, pocket-sized and able to take a bit of a battering.

Any of the smaller cameras from the Panasonic Lumix range will be ideal: they all come with a top-quality Leica lens and an Intelligent Auto function to guarantee great pics.

5. USB Flash Drive

A USB flash drive is essential for backing-up and storing the hundreds of photographs that you’ll no doubt be taking on your travels. You can also store music, videos, maps, documents and any other files which might be of use. With a flash drive you can easily share files with the people that you meet abroad and, more importantly, steal music from them.

6. International Cell Phone

For social and emergency reasons, a cell phone is an essential item to pack, but do not make the mistake of taking your phone away without first checking with your network operator that it can be used overseas. Your phone itself must be capable of operating on various radio frequencies (most modern phones are) and your network operator must have established a roaming agreement with an operator abroad.

Some network operators insist that you contact them before travelling to ‘set up’ roaming capability. This is an ideal time to enquire about roaming charges, which can often be extortionate. If you’re going to be away for a while, it might make economic sense to buy a local pay-as-you-go handset or switch operator completely.

In the UK, Vodafone, for example, has abolished roaming charges in over 35 countries. If that’s not an option then you might want to try out an international cell phone rental whereby you get reduced international rates on calls and data.

7. Voltaic Solar Charger Bag

Photo: Voltaic

Handheld solar chargers are widely available for as little as $20. They generate free and renewable electricity from sunlight, which can then be used to charge any electronic device that you’ve brought with you. They contain in-built batteries, which store generated power for use whenever you want – perfect when you’re miles away from a plug socket.

The ultimate portable solar charger is the Voltaic Solar Bag, a rucksack covered in lightweight, waterproof solar panels. Larger bags can fully charge a laptop from one full day of sunlight, while smaller bags can power an MP3 player for three hours from just one hour of sun.

8. Hammacher Schlemmer Auto-Detecting Travel Adaptor And Converter

Assuming you can’t power everything with your solar charger alone, you’re going to need a travel adaptor for all your lovely electronic devices to work. Look no further than the 150-Country Auto-Detecting Travel Adaptor and Converter, the definitive travel adaptor by Hammacher Schlemmer. This beast of a gadget can charge two devices at once and can be used in over 150 countries. It even has an in-built USB port for charging small iPods and other USB-only devices.

9. LED Torch

Whether you’re camping out in the Amazon basin, backpacking ’round Thailand or five-starring it in San Tropez, an LED torch is an absolutely essential item to take with you. Modern LED torches are not only small and lightweight, they are super-bright and go on shining for hundreds of thousands of hours. They are really cheap, too: a good one will cost you under $10.

10. Swiss Army Knife

The Swiss Army knife has been an essential travel tool ever since the first one was made in 1897. There’s nothing quite as handy for chopping food, mending a broken suitcase and opening an ice-cold bottle of beer. The Wenger Giant Swiss Army knife has 87 implements and 141 functions, but at $1,400 and 2 pounds in weight, it might not be the most suitable for road warriors. The most basic of Swiss Army knives will do, but remember not to pack it in your hand luggage if you are flying anywhere.

  • Metalchick

    What a great article! i personally can’t go anywhere internationally without my international cell phone that has google maps on it. Great work!

  • David Jeong

    120gb memory is sure a whole lot of RAM

  • Powered by Tofu

    I say skip the netbook, and use internet cafes. I use the Moleskine mini planner while traveling, hipster PDA style, to keep important flight info etc. Oh, and I have a combo Swiss Army Knife/USB that kills 2 birds with 1 stone ;) It’s pretty awesome! Here’s my list:

  • Colin Wright

    Great list! Too bad I can’t bring my Swiss Army knife while I’m traveling, though: all carry-on :(

  • Hal

    I’d like to see a picture of the dongle.

  • Christian Haugen

    I’m currently travelling with several of the tools above. Great guide btw! To add my own suggestions here are my pics:

    Instead of the Swiss army knife I would go for the Skeletool from Leatherman, exactly the tools you need and none of the ones you don’t.

    As a netbook I would rather get the Acer Aspire One with built in 3G which is smaller in comparison to the MSI Wind and then you don’t have to lug the extra 3G dongle around!

    Instead of a LED torch I would get a cheap LED headlamp as there are plenty of toilets I have encountered on the trip with faulty lights.. It’s convenient to have your hands free! :)

    For a travel journal I’m a real fan of the rustic Renaissance Art collections at

    To save the environment and yourself some money I would also suggest this amazing travel size bottle with included water filtration capable of cleaning the dirtiest of water you can find! I’ve used it through India, SEA and SA and it works!

    If you’re a real tech geek like me I would also add a GPS tracker for tagging your pictures, buy one with changeable batteries! :)

  • joshywashington

    I need to get me a Dongle!
    Dongle, I love to say it and type it dongledongledongle!

    and the new swiss army is incredible!

  • Kurt

    I see how these items would make travel easier for some people, but I prefer to leave my cell phone and computer at home when I travel. Instead of using your iPhone, you can ask for directions from other people. Some people like human interaction when traveling. I take a journal, a camera with some spare rechargeable batteries, and a flashlight, but not the rest.

  • Christian Haugen

    It’s not about making travellin easier really, it’s actually making it a lot harder! To keep the blog updated as well as doing image editing to get the best images online it takes time! Then again I wouldn’t travel without the computer as it has improved my writing and photography a lot. It’s all about what you want with your trip. Some people want to travel basic and flashpackers like me want to travel with our precious gadgets. That’s the beauty of it, we’re alle different :)

  • Adam

    Loving the feature photo for this article…I recognize that hallway. It’s in O’Hare in Chicago…it leads to the terminal that United flights depart from…When I was little, they actually had crazy starstream-type music playing there all the time too, but they ended up getting rid of it when they realized it was just making passengers depressed.

  • kevin

    Cool advice, i’ve never heard of the backpack looks cool and going to pick out a netbook now

  • Margaret

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  •,0,0,0,14 Gareth Sear

    Interesting list! Very technology biased though. But I’m guessing this is aimed at the more hotel type holiday traveler than a hostel type back packer!

    Have to admit – leather travel journal, adapter plug, swiss army knife are perfect travel accessories and indeed I take my netbook now (hotel holidays only!) but not a solar charger – need to look into this, but if you are in hotel/hostel you should have access to electricity.

  • Ryan James

    According to their site, this is no longer available. Pity!
    Hammacher Schlemmer Auto-Detecting Travel Adaptor And Converter.

  • Masai Mara Marathon

    Many THANKS for this post!! I’ve shared it on our Masai Mara Marathon FaceBook page for our overseas visitors coming to run on 19-Nov-2011. :-)

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