12 Top Things to Take When You Travel

Posted by on April 7, 2015 in Advice + Tips, Packing | 11 comments


Following are 12 items that you might not think to pack, but that I find indispensable:

1) Pack towel – They’re a little bit of an investment, but well worth the price as they’re super absorbent, anti-microbial, and take up a fraction of the space of a regular towel. Most hostels don’t provide towels, or charge extra, and camping you need to bring your own as well. Staying in hotels? These pack towels still come in handy, from laying over your pillow if the fabric softener smell is a bit too strong, or to throw in your beach bag to dry off if you don’t want to lug a big terry towel around.

2) Battery charger – This is something I use almost daily, as I take a lot of photos and use my phone for email, Facebook posts and more, and I don’t ever want to miss a good photo opp due to a dead battery. It’s smaller than my phone, and will give me a complete phone recharge or partial computer one. Hide it though, or your travel companions will want to use up all of your juice!

3) Zip lock baggies – They’re not just for sandwiches! Even if you can’t think of any possible use, bring a dozen or so anyway, both in the gallon and quart size, and make them the freezer bag strength. I’ve gone through them way faster than anticipated and always wish I’d packed more. From storing tiny souvenirs, to keeping jewelry from getting lost, zipping up smelly laundry items or wet ones you’ve washed that aren’t quite dry, wet bathing suits, sandy flip flops, that bag of snacks you didn’t quite finish, leaky shampoo bottles, and more, they’ll come in handy.

4) Door stop wedge – This will cost you next to nothing, but bring worlds of feeling secure wherever you stay, be it hotel or hostel. (Sorry, won’t work in your tent!)

5) Universal drain plug – This little flat rubber disk will take up no room, but save you a ton of trouble should you want to wash something in a sink and find that the drain cover is missing or not working. And this isn’t just for budget hotels. I’ve stayed in nice hotels in Europe that have no way to plug the sink. Right now  in Thailand, I have a huge sink with no drain plug, so my handy disc is allowing me to do my own  laundry here.

6) Packing cubes – I thought these were a waste of money and space, but after reading several world travelers sing their praises, I decided to give them a try, and have to say they’re fabulous! They keep your items organized and compressed in a small space, and save you from having to dig through layers over and over. I put all of my tops in one, bottoms in another, and socks, underwear, bathing suit, etc. in smaller ones. Mine are Eagle Creek, which I really like, but check around for a brand that works for you. A clerk in the store where I bought them showed me the best way to pack – roll each item instead of folding them, then pack them side by side so it’s easy to find what you’re looking for and clothing isn’t creased.

7) Base layer – Long underwear even if you’re going somewhere warm? I planned to follow the summer, but wanted to hike to the glaciers, so bought a thin light-weight pair. Thought I’d ditch them after the ice, but have worn them numerous times, as pajamas on chilly nights, for hiking when “summer” turned out to include hail, and on a ship on the ocean when the wind whipped up. So I think I’ll keep them in my pack a little longer.

8) Ear plugs – This is a no-brainer, even if you’re not traveling with someone who snores, as you can’t control the volume of the person sleeping in the next room, or the night club that you didn’t notice across the street, or the night time construction work on the road out in front of your room, or the planes over your airport hotel.

9) Wet wipes – No need to explain, just a reminder. Although I will mention that besides washing your hands before a meal on the road or after an accidental slide down a muddy mountain, I’ve also used them for a mini-bath to freshen up when a shower just wasn’t available or I had too little time.

10) Kindle – I love books, real paper ones with pages that you turn, however after lugging a Lonely Planet Europe on a Shoestring guide the size of a brick in my pack for 3 months several years ago, I have to say that it’s the only practical solution. Now instead of trying to choose one or two books to bring on a trip, I can take thousands if I wish, and buy new travel guides as I go. And the new versions are even 3G outfitted so you can download books without wifi. Yes, I’d still rather buy real books from my local bookseller, but in a travel pinch, this for me is a necessity.

11) Synthetic rope – Bring a length of synthetic rope, about 3 yards give or take, and a few clothespins as well. It’s a great way to dry your laundry you rinsed out in a sink somewhere, but the rope also comes in handy for things you can’t think of yet. I was provided mosquito netting in Thailand, but one of the strings was missing and my rope came to the rescue!

12) Pocket flashlight – I’m talking tiny here, about the size of a brazil nut. It’s something I end up using almost every day, to find my way to a bathroom at night, or a keyhole when unlocking a door, checking under a hotel bed for lost items, and reading on an overnight bus. A regular flashlight is great but takes up a lot of space, and the new tiny ones give off almost as much light and fit in your pocket with your change.

A few added extras for women:

A sarong – They’re lightweight, fold up small, and I’ve used mine for everything from a beach cover up and beach towel, to a skirt, dress, and nightgown. Oh, and a sheet and blanket!

Pashmina – This little shawl will make you look oh-so-Parisian, and also keep you warm in that too-chilly air-conditioned restaurant or plane.

Silk scarf – Again, a super small, lightweight fashion accessory that will dress up even a casual outfit, and keep your neck warm on a cool day. Pick something that will add a little fun & color to your travel wardrobe.

Hope these hints help! What are some of your favorite items you never forget to pack when you travel?



  1. Great list!

    • Thanks Ginny!

  2. Thanks, Lynn! I travel the world but haven’t thought of some of these. Your list may even help me pack for meeting you in Croatia!

    • You’re welcome, Beth, start packing!

  3. One of the best pack list advice I have ever seen. Thanks Lynn! Hope you are well!

    • Thank you Michele! Yes, I’m very well, hope you are too. Maybe you should come join me 🙂

  4. This is so useful, Lynn. Thank you!!

    • You’re welcome Sue, I hope you get to put it to use sometime soon!

  5. good ideas even if you just go up north. Even hitch hikers guide to the galixys recommends you bring your own towel.

    • Thx Tracie – 2 days or 2 years, it’s the same list!

  6. An addition to my list – Make sure you bring Pepto Bismol tablets!! Hopefully you won’t often need them, but when you do, you’ll be glad they’re in your bag of tricks. And also, there is a homeopathic product called “No Jet Lag” and they really work! I’ve used them for years & have recommended them to numerous people who also sing their praises. They are made in New Zealand, are all natural, and have no side effects, and you can find them in the States at health food stores as well as travel shops.

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