Let me start by saying I believe in packing light; your back and your nerves will thank you. I usually get by with a single backpack or smallish bag.
That said, there are a few everyday things that might not seem essential, but I can’t imagine not having along. For instance, my husband and I love to sample local wines, but we rarely finish a whole bottle in one sitting. So we always pack a good bottle stopper. A few more things that we or other seasoned travelers can’t do without:
- Duct tape: What list is complete without it? Repair luggage, clothes & hotel shower heads, tape luggage to discourage theft, hide valuables under hotel bed or table, child-proof hotel rooms, remove lint, make a bandage with tissue. To save space wrap some around a pen.
- Plastic ziploc bags: for food, seashells, keeping money/electronics dry. Invaluable to hold liquids and prevent messy spills.
- Safety pins, rubber bands, twist ties, clothespin: for quick repairs, closing window drapes or snacks.
- Dental floss: incredibly strong, works as heavy-duty thread for repairs (make sure you have the right needle) or to tie just about anything. The cutter works for regular thread, too.
- Small flashlight: a must-have in an emergency, but also great for reading maps, finding lost items and checking for bed bugs.
- Small tape measure: helps with foreign sizes if you’re shopping for friends.
- Wire coat hangers: hang clothes to dry; run over clothes to remove static cling; hook to retrieve items lost under or behind heavy furniture or pull down hard-to-reach branches of fruit; bend into circle for a giant bubble blower, or cover with old pantyhose for a fishnet; skewer for an impromptu marshmallow / weenie roast (cover handle with duct tape to prevent burns).
- Blister bandages and blister stick: life-altering if your feet are prone to blisters. Rub the stick on problem areas to reduce friction and prevent blisters. Blister bandages are waterproof, last for days, and have extra-thick gel cushion to protect you after (or before) a blister forms. Or use duct tape!
- Small pack of tissues: keep some with you at all times. Good toilet paper substitute.
- Wet wipes: great for clean-ups; indispensable to cool off in hot climates.
- Small inflatable beach ball: pillow, cushion, lumbar support or foot rest, or to play with any children you meet.
- Window screening or sheer curtain: if your hotel isn’t air conditioned you may need to keep a window open, but much of the world lacks window screens. If you’re like my husband, that means every mosquito within 10 miles will be drawn to your room. With a lightweight fabric screen, duct tape or safety pins, the existing curtains and a little ingenuity, you can cover just about any kind of window.
- Rubber doorstop: for security, push as far as possible under hotel room door (near handle, not hinges).
- Sleeping mask & earplugs: good for crying babies, thin hotel walls, and inadequate curtains.
- Color copy of passport, driver’s license, credit cards, etc. Also email yourself a copy.
- Plastic utensils or small metal spoon
- Water bottle: carry empty through airport security and refill at a water fountain or bathroom sink.
- Flip-flops or light waterproof shoes for shared bathrooms, on the plane, or wet weather.
- Sarong: towel, beach blanket, sheet, sunshade, tote bag, rolled or folded as a pillow or cushion, or of course worn as a beach cover-up, dress, skirt or shawl.
- Bandana: scarf, sweatband, small bag, washcloth (dampen and carry in ziploc bag for on-the-go cooling), napkin, bandage.
- Business cards or calling cards: for friends you make along the way.
- Lavender oil: DIY spa in the bath or shower; sniff as sleep aid.
- Playing cards: great for bad weather or when you just need a break. One of my best memories is a rainy day card game with friends in a New Orleans laundromat!
What can you absolutely NOT travel without? Please share in the comments!
Image source: flickr (mellow cat)