Literally The Only Three Things You Need To Travel Anywhere In The World

One of the 3 things you need to travel
One of the 3 things you need to travel
The impetus for this post comes from a discussion I had with my assistant Amy over 10 years ago.

I commented to her that there were only 3 things that you really needed to travel. If you had those three things, then you really didn’t need anything else. Moreover, all three of those things could fit in your pocket.

A few days ago I was having a conversation with someone about packing light and I repeated those same three things. In 10 years, my opinion of the absolute minimum necessary to travel hasn’t really changed.

When you strip everything down to the barest of essentials, there are only 3 things you need to go anywhere in the world (other than the clothes on your back). Those three things will fit in your pocket and take you anywhere. They are:

#3 A Smartphone

Clearly people traveled before the invention of smartphone or even mobile phones, so an argument could be made that this is the least essential thing on my list. However, given how useful a smartphone is while traveling, and how small, I consider this to be one of the three essential items.

My iPhone can serve the following functions for me:

  • Alarm Clock
  • Watch
  • Camera
  • Video Camera
  • Map
  • Music Player
  • eBook Reader
  • Airline Boarding Pass
  • Phone
  • Email client
  • Web Browser

This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what you can do with a smartphone if you start including apps.

You might need a power cord to compliment your smartphone, but that can fit in your pocket as well.

#2 Passport

Believe it or not, this is not the #1 item. If you are in a foreign country and lost all your stuff and could only keep one thing, the one thing I’d keep would not be my passport.

The reason is simply that I can always get a new passport issued at an embassy.

That exception aside, you do need a passport to travel internationally and if you should lose it, it will be a giant pain in your ass.

If you don’t have one, you should get one and do so as soon as possible.

#1 Credit/Debit Card

If you have access to money, you can solve all your other problems.

You can find a place to stay, food to eat and transportation. You can get cash at an ATM machine. You can buy a suitcase and the clothes to fill it. If you have access to your money you can even purchase the #2 and #3 items on this list.

Having access to your funds is so important that you should probably carry two cards with you when you travel just as a safety precaution.

In addition to having access to money, many cards will provide travel insurance and other perks that will help you when traveling. Some even will provide concierge service and will help you find places to stay and things to do.

When you begin to break things down in to their essential parts, you realize how little you really need to travel. Most it comes down to having the desire to travel and having some money to fall back on. That’s it.

What are the three essential things you think you need to travel?

23 Replies to “Literally The Only Three Things You Need To Travel Anywhere In The World”

  1. Unfortunately I need some extra thing: medication. I have to take it until the day I die, but hasn’t stop me from travelling the world -and write about it- :)

  2. Another wrong use of the word “literally”… You may as well have a credit card, but that’s not of big use, if you don’t have any money. And well if you have money, then, as you said, you can buy anything you want. You do obviously need more than just those 3 things, and what’s the point of making a list, where you list the essentials to travel, when one of the points is: money, to buy everything you need like clothing, tooth brush, etc.

    1. You can walk out the door of your house with these three things and travel around the world. Hence, it is literal and I stand by what I said.

  3. I carry a Kodiak 30 litre. It has a top compartment, outer slash zip, two mesh pockets for water bottles, a hip belt and sternum strap. Works well and even has a pocket for a hydration pack.

  4. great post! i would add a pen and a journal, though. Pictures taken with your smart phone are wonderful for remembering and keeping memories but you cant tell from a picture what else you saw and experienced between each happy snapshot. with a journal you can write what you saw, smelled, felt, how it impacted you, etc. A journal it an absolute necessity!

  5. 1. Passport to get there
    2. Willingness to live as humbly as needed
    3. Camera or vivid memory to inspire others.

    My most amazing memories have been receiving hospitality from the homeless. Give always and receive gratefully.

  6. I would add a little business card size card, laminated, in your wallet with your name, passport number, blood type, any (or no) allergies, and any (or no) medications you are taking on a regular basis. This is invaluable if you’re ever in an accident, and unconscious or otherwise unable to speak. You might also add an ICE name/phone/e-mail. Also, carry a card from the hotel/hostel where you’re currently staying, in case you get lost and can’t remember the exact name or street. This has happened to me :)

  7. This is great Gary. Many people obsess so much over what to bring that they overpack to the point of seriously making their trip worse because they are lugging around stuff they never use “just in case”. And worrying about people stealing stuff so they can’t just enjoy where they are.
    Pretty much anything you need is available wherever you’re going and it can be quite entertaining to go buy some essentials in a country where you don’t speak the language.

  8. I have told my kids you need two things to travel. One thing is the ability to communicate. If you need help you can call. The second is access to money. You can buy whatever you need. Your idea is consistent. I never thought of the passport. Of course, I wasn’t thinking international. GO PACK!

    1. The ability to communicate is a great one. Just got back from Jamaica and had I not communicated with the other guest in my resort I would have missed out on many great conversations and been bored out of my mind after the first day. Also good typo have to find tips on what typo do that might not be advertised or known to non locals.

  9. If I had to pick three items independent from your three I would say:
    A tablet. similar to the idea behind the phone but with a bit of a bigger screen. You lose some features but gain others.
    Travel Insurance. This really isn’t something you need, until you need it.
    A backpack. This could be a day pack, a messanger bag or a backpacker bag. Either way what typically separates the traveler from the tourist (at the most basic and aesthetic level) is what you are transporting your goods in. Its all about durability, being transportable, and the right size for your adventure.

    1. Backpack is a good one too! I can’t believe I didn’t think of that. What kind do you use?

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