Travel Essentials for the College Student

I really don’t know why I decided to write on this topic because if I could, I would literally pack my entire life. But, it cost too much money to check in your bag at the airport and I got too many liquids. But, my college budget dictates my suitcase and my travels. Anyways, here is my list of my travel essentials as a college student.

My Personal Items

My personal item is always a large purse or a backpack that can fit my laptop and my purse if I need to consolidate a small purse into my backpack.

A personal item is anything that can fit under the seat in front of you. Usually, that is 9 inches by 10 inches by 17 inches. Although, I usually nix the small purse and go with a cute backpack that doubles as my school bag. It’s better for your back in those long security checkpoint lines.

adult backpack blur business
Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on

What goes in the backpack?

  1. My laptop – For entertainment and plane safety reasons? I think it has something to do with lithium batteries? I don’t know. They’re always announcing something about not checking in lithium batteries. I could study at the airport or on the plane but, usually I take this time as time to catch-up on my pleasure reading. I always treat myself with a new ebook before I travel.
  2. My black scarf- It matches everything and can keep me warm when it gets too cold on the plane. You could also bring a jacket but a scarf takes up less space.
  3. Earbuds/Headphones- Great for avoiding conversation, passing the time listening to music and watching the movies provided by the plane if you get lucky enough to be on a plane with screens or movie options.
  4. Cellular Device- Duh! That should have been the first thing on my list but, I digress. I always try to download a couple of free books if I’m not treating myself to a book on my wishlist before a flight and some new music. This ensures that if there is no wi-fi or movies, you can still have a pleasant flight. This is something I got from my 6-hour bus travels back home in undergrad. The bus said they had WiFi but, we all knew that was a lie.
  5. Fuzzy socks- One time, I was on a bus and it was so cold that my feet nearly froze. I was so miserable. From then on, I always kept a pair of fuzzy socks especially if I am wearing sandals to travel which is practically always.
  6. Headscarf – This is a black girl essential if you want your hair to stay in one place and you want to take a nap or just lean on the window. I usually bring the cute one that looks more like a neck or a bag scarf.
  7. Wallet, ID, Keys- Self explanatory. You need to live, get on the plane and get back into your house once you come back from spending all your money. Always double-check to make sure you have these things.
  8. Menstrual pads/ cups- You never know when she might pop up on you or one of your traveling companions. Share pads, not cups!
  9. Ibuprofen- If she pops up on you, cramps might be right behind her so, be prepared. This is necessary for me. This might not be a problem for some people.
  10. Water bottle- you can take an empty water bottle with you pass the security checkpoint and fill it up near the gates at a water fountain. This prevents you from spending $2 on a bottle of water at the airport.


This is just your regular carry on. Most airlines define a carry-on as 9 inches by 14 inches by 22 inches. You are also limited to 3.4-ounce liquids, creams, aerosols, gels and 12-ounce (350 mL) powders by TSA. There are exceptions for medications though. These should fit into a quart sized bag. 

I try to stuff all these things into the standard carry-on suitcase or duffel bag. My packing skills have greatly improved since I began college. Every crevice is stuffed with something. Even my shoes are stuffed. Packing skills are a part of your travel essentials. It will save your life and your money.

Check-in’s cost $30 with Delta now so I am definitely taking advantage of my carry-ons. Spirit Airlines is another story with fees for everything. I traveled with them once and I will only so it if I have to. I prefer Delta or Southwest Airlines. Then, American Airlines if I can’t find a good price with the two former airlines.

woman walking on pathway while strolling luggage
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on
  1. Hair juices- My hair needs oil and moisture to live. I have my own special concoction that lives in a 3-ounce bottle which is perfect for traveling.
  2. Makeup- My face doesn’t need it but, I like it. So, it’s essential especially if I am traveling for a special event.
  3. Shoes- No shoes, no shirt, no service. Depending on my plans for the trip. I may have some sandals, one pair of heels, and one or 2 flats. I hate traveling during the winter time because boots take up the most space. In that case, I try to wear my bulkiest shoe to the airport. I also make sure that shoe matches the most clothing so I don’t have to pack multiple boots.

red suede pointed toe stilettos on white surface
Photo by Luka Siemionov on
  • Clothes- You can’t go around naked. There are usually 1 pair of jeans and maybe a dress every now and then. A casual dress saves a lot of space in a suitcase versus pants and a blouse. It’s also very easy to throw on.
  • Contacts- I usually bring this along with my contact solution. I also carry extra eye drops for dry eyes and red eyes because anything can go wrong with contacts. You lose them or your eye gets infected.
  • Glasses+ Case- Just in case I lose my contacts or something else. More recently, I prefer to wear my glasses. I got diagnosed with astigmatism last year and the contacts are not as comfortable as they used to be.
  • Eye mask- I like to sleep in complete darkness. Any sunlight will wake me up. Also, it helps if you are traveling with others and they are not going to sleep at the same time as you.
  • Toothpaste + Toothbrush- Personal hygiene is essential.
  • Lotion- Don’t be ashy. It’s not pretty.
  • Face wash- With all that makeup, you may want to wash your face or you may wake up with some unpleasant friends on your face when you wake up (acne). I also carry makeup wipes.
  • Deodorant- I’ll say this again. Personal hygiene is essential.
  • Pajamas – Nothing too fancy but, you can’t be in your clothes all day.  I usually pack 1 pair. Although if I am traveling to return home, I don’t pack pajamas. I can always find something old lying around.
  • Plastic bag- This is where I put my dirty clothes so the clean and the dirty don’t mix.
  • Fabric Softener sheets- It gives my clothes a nice smell after being confined to a small space for so long. You can even get the scent-less ones if you are allergic to fragrances. I just throw them in-between my clothes.
  • Headscarf #2- This is for real sleep. The one that can stand all my tossing-and-turning without falling off during the night and losing my trust. Nothing is sadder than waking up to bad hair because your headscarf fell off while you were asleep. This is the travel essential of all travel essentials.
  • Shower caps- I bring multiple disposable plastic caps so that I don’t have to put a wet cap back into my bag.
  • Well, I guess I really don’t have that many travel essentials. Clothes and shoes take up the bulk of my suitcase and the makeup too. My makeup brushes have their own bag so… yeah. Anyways, that’s all I can think of so I guess those are travel essentials.

    What are your travel essentials? Is there a reason you need it? Let me know!

    Too lazy to make your own travel list? Purchase one on my Etsy store, Digitally Downloaded!

    Thanks for Reading my Rant,

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    Shika Tamaklo is a pharmacist who graduated from Mercer University (2020). She is a college lifestyle blogger who writes on fitness, health, life struggles, creative side hustles and, occasionally dabbles in creative writing.

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