The Essential Item Our Travel Editors Never Go on a Summer Vacation Without

Traveling offers an escape from daily routines, an opportunity to explore new horizons, and the chance to create lasting memories. However, the experience can be greatly affected by what we pack. Our travel editors have traversed the globe and with every trip, they learn more about what to bring along to enhance their journey. There is one particular item they all agree upon as indispensable for summer vacations. This essential goes beyond mere preference; it’s about combining practicality with pleasure to ensure an enjoyable and trouble-free holiday.

The Unplugged Versatility of the Smartphone

While it might seem obvious, the smartphone remains the unrivaled champion of travel utility. Regarded as not just a communication device, its multifunctionality covers almost every aspect of modern travel. Our editors cite several reasons why they would not leave for a summer vacation without their mobile devices. Firstly, the smartphone serves as an all-in-one entertainment center. Long flights or unexpected delays become more bearable when carrying a personal library of music, e-books, games, and streaming services. Not to mention the ease of taking quick snapshots or lengthy videos, the smartphone doubles as a camera, capturing moments with decent quality without the bulk of additional gear.

Secondly, the smartphone is an essential tool for staying organized. From storing boarding passes and hotel bookings to acting as a GPS during road trips, the device’s capability to consolidate crucial travel information in one place makes for a stress-free trip. Moreover, the wealth of apps available caters to every conceivable travel need—from language translators and currency converters to local guides and restaurant reviews. The smartphone has evolved to be the ultimate travel companion, and when equipped with a robust, waterproof case, it can withstand the sand, sea, and sun that are often synonymous with summer vacations.

Protective Sunscreen: A Must for Healthy Travel

Skin protection cannot be overemphasized, making sunscreen the second non-negotiable item in our editors’ suitcases. The importance of a high-quality sunscreen extends beyond avoiding sunburn; it is about protecting against the harmful effects of UV rays including premature aging and skin cancer. When selecting sunscreen, our editors opt for broad-spectrum products, which shield the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. They also look for water-resistant versions, ensuring continued protection while swimming or sweating—a common scenario during the hot summer months.

Furthermore, they emphasize the need for a sunscreen with an appropriate Sun Protection Factor (SPF) for their skin type and destination’s solar intensity. As protecting the environment is also a concern, our editors are increasingly turning towards reef-safe sunscreens, which are formulated without oxybenzone and octinoxate—ingredients believed to cause coral bleaching. Beyond personal health, choosing the right sunscreen has broader implications for the ecosystems we visit, which is why sunscreen earns its place as an essential item in our travel checklist.

Stay Hydrated with a Reusable Water Bottle

Hydration is crucial in hot climates, and carrying a reusable water bottle ensures that access to water is always within reach. Our editors have found that possessing a durable, insulated water bottle is essential for both health and convenience while traveling. This not only reduces waste, thereby benefiting the environment and often saving money compared to repeated purchases of disposable bottles, but it also keeps water cold for hours, providing relief from the summer heat.

Investing in a water bottle with a built-in filter allows for greater flexibility, giving them the confidence to refill from various sources while avoiding waterborne illnesses. This is particularly beneficial when traveling to areas where potable water is not readily available. Moreover, staying hydrated helps mitigate jet lag and maintain energy levels, making those long exploration days more manageable and enjoyable.

A Versatile Scarf or Pashmina for All Occasions

The versatility of a simple scarf or pashmina should not be underestimated. Our editors tout its multipurpose functionality, serving as an on-the-go blanket during chilly flights, a makeshift towel, a privacy screen when needed, or even a sarong for beach visits. This essential item also adds a touch of elegance and can easily update an outfit, which is useful when trying to pack light with a capsule wardrobe. The lightweight nature of a scarf or pashmina ensures that it takes up minimal space in luggage yet provides maximum benefits throughout the trip.

Additionally, a scarf or pashmina can provide essential protection from the sun’s rays, whether draped over shoulders during a midday tour or worn as a headwrap while strolling through outdoor markets. The cultural sensitivity it affords—covering shoulders or legs when entering religious sites or traditional communities—is another reason our travel editors include this item as a staple in their travel gear.

Reliable and Comfortable Footwear

A pair of comfortable, sturdy shoes can make or break a vacation, especially one filled with walking, hiking, or city tours under the summer sun. Our travel editors swear by investing in high-quality footwear that provides both comfort and style. For them, the right footwear means fewer blisters, better posture, and more endurance while traversing diverse landscapes, from cobblestone streets to sandy beaches. They recommend shoes that are already broken in, offer good support, and have breathable materials to keep feet dry and cool.

In addition to practical roaming shoes, a pair of flip-flops or sandals is also a necessity for summer vacations. Ideal for beach days, quick jaunts to the hotel pool, or communal showers in hostels, these provide both convenience and relief after a long day on the move. The combined utility of these two types of footwear ensures preparedness for both impromptu adventures and planned excursions, cementing their place on the list of travel essentials.