“What’s the one thing you always pack?” Go ahead and ask ten people…you’ll get ten different answers.
I’m not talking about basic items that are already part of your packing routine, such as a small power strip and outlet adapters for other countries. Duct tape is a given. And certainly you carry your own water bottle. Medications and band-aids? Of course!
I thought I was pretty clever when I wrote 5 Things Women Should Always Pack. It’s still a good list and I stand by it. Then I started asking other travelers. Wow! They have some brilliant ideas. None of the items take up much space or add weight to your suitcase. But they may be just what you need during your next trip. Pick what works for your travel style.
For all-purpose and re-purpose:
- Empty prescription bottle: Take the label off and you have a nifty way to store rolled-up money or to sort those foreign coins. Use one for your homemade sewing kit. Good for cotton swabs and tiny items, too.
- Large black garbage bag: Heavy-duty bags (for some reason, they seem to always be black) can go over the back of a chair to dry your laundry, sit on the floor for wet umbrellas and shoes, or actually become an impromptu rain poncho.
For your hotel room:
- Face cloth: Face cloths (wash cloths) aren’t common in other countries. If you like to use them, best to bring your own.
- Portable clothesline: As a light packer, you do hand laundry. Get the stretchy braided kind (no clothespins needed) with suction cups at the ends.
- Flashlight: Mentioned so often, it should probably be in the “basic items” category. You just never know when you’ll need it. But when you do, you DO.
- Flip-flops: Cheap rubber ones for walking around in your room, taking a shower, going to pools or saunas, and other practical reasons. They weigh practically nothing.
- Golf ball: Handy for stopping up drains of all sizes.
- Safety pins: Keep curtains closed, find a drawstring, replace clothespins, pin socks or gloves together, make a zipper pull. You get the idea.
- Drawstring backpack or shopping bag: I have a $5 nylon bag from Target that always travels with me. It folds into its own pouch. I even took it on the Camino de Santiago!
- External charger: Is there anything more frustrating than not being able to capture a photo because your phone has zero battery? These are common and inexpensive. Invest in a good one, for both photos and peace-of-mind.
- Safety pins: Secure your backpack or purse zipper to thwart pickpockets. Also for those emergency wardrobe malfunctions.
- Stain remover wipes or stick: Your travel wardrobe is limited, so keep it spot-free by using a stain remover as soon as you spill.
For nourishment and Happy Hour:
- Coffee: Some travelers actually bring a small French press. I’m happy with instant coffee “tubes” from Starbucks. I just need caffeine…
- Corkscrew: Enough said! If you’re doing carry-on, make sure it doesn’t have a tiny knife/foil cutter. TSA has no sense of humor about blades, no matter how small.
- Eating utensils: A simple plastic set will serve you well for picnics and in-room dining. Once you start to pack these, you’ll wonder why it took so long!
- Plastic flask with favorite spirit: This won’t work with carry-on. My sister-in-law likes a nip of Scotch in the evening, so she brings her own. No muss, no fuss…
- Snack bars: Hopefully, we don’t have to rely on these–or even eat one during our trip. But better to be safe than sorry.
For returning home:
- Vacuum packing bags: Compression = more space! I don’t like these for initial packing because they really wrinkle clothing. But for coming home? Super!
- Plastic bags: Handy throughout the trip, for sure. They sort and store brochures, tickets, postcards, small purchases, etc. For your return trip, use them for damp or dirty items.
Quite a list, right? I know you won’t want or need all of the items that other travelers bring along. But if even one or two seem worth a try, go for it! Packing is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to exploring the world. It’s impossible to know what we’ll encounter at our destination. But we can do our best to be prepared!
What’s YOUR one item? Please share in the comment section!
More travel planning and packing tips:
Packing–Fold or Roll? (Hint: It’s Really Up to YOU!)
Travel Tips from Experts: Learn from the Pros!
Solo Travel Safety: Packing Light