Moleskin Notebook (closeup)

Travel 101: 9 Forgotten Items to Pack on Your Next Trip

The scene repeats itself as reliably as Groundhog Day: As the clock ticks down to wheels-up at the airport, I find myself scampering around my house finishing laundry, gathering various sundry items and throwing everything I may or may not need into an overstuffed suitcase. There’s usually a last minute run to the 24-hour Wal-Mart or Walgreens. After several exotic excursions and their attendant late nights of last-minute packing, I have the circus act down to a fine art.

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Whether you are a light packer or need to sit on your suitcase just to get it to zip, there are a few indispensable travel items that are often overlooked. Below are some helpful hints for making your next get-away just a bit more civilized.

#1: Never Neglect Your Feet!

When exploring a new location you are likely walking a lot more than you do during your day-to-day routine. As opposed to taking your entire collection of shoes, take one pair of comfortable and versatile shoes that can move seamlessly from a cathedral to the beach, to pounding city pavement en route to a nice dinner.

In addition to that perfect pair of shoes, consider minimizing the stink factor. If you are hopping around town from sun up to sun down in tropical heat or in puddles of rain you will want to keep your shoes from announcing your presence to everyone in the room (or serving as aromatherapy in your hostel bunk). Odor-Eaters foot powder is my best friend when I am on the road. It keeps my dogs cool, dry and worry-free when I finally peel my shoes off at the end of the day— an especially polite flourish when traveling in mixed company.

#2: Notebook & Pen

Moleskin Notebook (closeup)
Moleskin Notebook © Tim Boyd

The second item I never go anywhere without is a small notebook and pen. With so many new experiences at hand there will inevitably be favorite dishes, tour times, or contact information that you will not want to forget. Having these two old-school implements in your purse or pocket is a no-batteries-required solution to keep your critical data in one place.

They can be especially handy in a location where you do not speak the native language. Say for example you need to give a driver directions and your grasp of the native tongue is unclear””a written address or simple map can save the day! I am reminded of a late night in Colombo, Sri Lanka when we took a tuk tuk back to our accommodation (in truth, we should have spent the extra Rupees and taken a proper taxi). It was soon clear the driver had no idea where the address was located ”¦ given the severe language barrier, the hand-drawn map our hosts had sketched in my notebook saved the day—as did having their phone number easily accessible.

#3: Battery Operated Alarm Clock

Do not miss a minute of your precious time in your new location. Bringing a battery-operated alarm clock with you will ensure that jet-lag does not slow you down.

Relying on a wake-up call, your own circadian rhythm, or an unfamiliar alarm clock may mean missing a continental breakfast or morning tour. Avoid this uncertainty by bringing your own alarm clock to wake you up from a poolside nap or afternoon snooze.

#4: Keep Your Contacts’ Info Handy

Sending postcards home is a thoughtful and inexpensive way to let people know that you are thinking about them while you are away. But, it’s unlikely you’ve memorized the addresses of all your contacts. Having their addresses with you, either electronically or physically, will save you precious time and eliminate paying to look them up online.

Additionally, having phone numbers and email addresses can put your mind to ease if you randomly remember halfway to Greenland that you left a light on in your apartment, or your ride home from the airport just informed you that they can no longer pick you up.

Tiny figure on top of a suitcase (macro)
Packing Up For A Little Adventure © JD Hancock

#5: Pack a Shopping Bag

Many countries, especially in Europe, are very environmentally conscious, a phenomenon which manifests itself in many places. Packing a canvas or nylon grocery bag can save you a few pennies in the check-out lane, and come in handy for carrying other items found in local markets. When it is time to pack, it can be rolled up compactly, or can help wrap a newly purchased souvenir.

#6: Treat Yourself with a Travel Pillow

Sleep””a vital component of any day can be aided in an unfamiliar bed by having a familiar pillow. I do not go anywhere without my favorite travel pillow which I purchased for $2.99 on my way to the airport about 10 years ago. It is still cozily holding its own.

Not only is the right pillow a bonus on the plane or in a car, it can be the difference in being comfortable or uncomfortable in a strange bed. If the pictures of your accommodation were a bit deceiving on the website, having a clean pillow to rest your head on in the midst of squalor can save the day. There is nothing quite like laying down to the familiar smell of April Fresh Downy softness.

#7: Stay Fit!

Morning Jog, India
Morning Jog, India ©

Another important factor in feeling your best while on the road can be maintaining a physical fitness regimen. This advice may not apply to everybody, but if you are conditioned to working out, a week without running or crunching your abs can put one in an inexplicably bad mood.

It’s worth packing your tennis shoes to ensure you can take advantage of an hour of down time and pound the pavement. For longer trips, packing a resistance band can also prove helpful. This compact and lightweight tool is great for a wide range of exercises and can help maintain your tone while you are busy indulging in local cuisine.

#8: Prescription Meds / Eyewear

While it may seem obvious, packing along an ample supply of any prescribed medication or eyewear is a must. Proper contacts or glasses and your prescription medication are items that are a bedrock necessity to enjoy any activities away from home.

Because weather is unpredictable (remember the Icelandic ash cloud that halted European travel?) and navigating the medical systems of far-flung destinations can be a complicated and a horrible time burglar, taking along an extra pair of contacts or a few extra days worth of your prescription meds can make the difference between an unexpected hiccup or a minor catastrophe.

Prepare for less vital medical moments as well: Keeping a stash your favorite pain killer like Advil and Tylenol on hand, can provide relief without intensifying the headache by trying to find their foreign equivalent.

#9: Tending to Your “Monthly Gift”

And finally (sorry gents, this one’s for the ladies), do not let Mother Nature make you uncomfortable on an otherwise fantastic trip. Your monthly gift already makes you feel unnecessarily icky, and not having your usual arsenal on hand to combat the curse, can put a real damper on your adventurous spirit.

Every country has its own selection of products to choose from, but be fairly warned; they may not be what you are used to. I learned this lesson firsthand in China, where applicators are viewed as an unnecessary burden to already overflowing landfills.

Making room in your suitcase for your own light-weight solution is well worth the effort, and means you will have built in a little extra room for souvenirs on the way home!

  1. An important one to mention about medication though aswell is often the quality and quantity of what is in medication can be a bit concerning abroad. I know its a gripe a lot of the older people have here in regards to heart medication as the strengths of the medication are lower.

    The shopping bag is a good one and another reason I carry one is I often travel by motorcycle meaning I can wrap my camera bag in it to help keep it from getting wet in a heavy downpour.

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