8 Incredibly Useful Things You’ll Forget to Pack for Your Next Trip

The more you travel, the more you learn about travelling comfortably. There are enough difficulties inherent in the vagabond’s lifestyle. Any little bit of gear that simplifies a difficult task or adds to your quality of life on the road is naturally a good thing.

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Every item on this list is simple and inexpensive, yet brings the comforts of home to a life spent drifting between far-flung ports and distant cities.

#1: The Airplane Headphone Adapter

For most longer airline flights you’ll have the option of paying to watch a movie, usually followed by an assortment of TV shows. As part of a cost-cutting measure, the airlines that still offer this service now charge for headphones. There’s no 3.5 mm jack on your seat so your options are to pay a fee or go without entertainment.

Unless you’ve got your Airplane Adapter. This $3.95 adapter lets you use your normal headphones while in flight. Don’t step into the terminal without it. And a pair of headphones, of course.

#2: The Targus Universal Power Adapter

It’s 6:30 A.M. in Philadelphia, and I’m waiting outside the gate of my connecting flight to Tokyo. Ahead of me is a 15 hour plane flight. Normally I’d pop a hearty spoonful of Kanna into my airport tea and drift to sleep listening to Styx for the bulk of my journey. Alas, I’ve got a full work-day ahead of me.

There’s a problem. My laptop battery lasts only six hours and this flight doesn’t have any sockets I can use. SkyMall offers a $120 power adapter, but even if I buy it now I won’t be able to use it on this flight. Am I doomed to sink into a raving, media-deprived madness?

Not with the Targus Universal Power Adapter. This kit comes with different heads for a variety of notebooks and works in most cars, planes, boats, and RVs. If you don’t mind shelling out close to a hundred bucks, this should handle all of your airplane power needs.

If not, there’s a wide selection of other airline power converters built specifically for certain brands of notebook, or made for different plane connections. Before buying anything, check to make sure it’ll work with your gear AND work on the flight you’re taking.

This site explains everything you need to know about finding out what power adapter will work on your flight. This link has recommendations for a bunch of other adapters. Buy what works, and enjoy your mile-high unlimited access to pornography and torrented episodes of Family Guy.

YoGen Mobile Travel Charger
YoGen Mobile Travel Charger

#3: The Yogen Mobile Charger

Unfortunately, reliable power outlets aren’t everywhere you want to be. Whether you’re hiking through desolate wilderness or touring the third world, every world traveller eventually ends up somewhere without power. Life ‘off the grid’ is one of those experiences that’s genuinely good for your soul. A few days without blaring electronic media or the Internet helps to put things into perspective …

But sometimes you aren’t up for an amazing new experience. Sometimes you need power, otherwise you’ll be unable to call and change your travel arrangements or use your GPS or contact medical help in the event of an emergency. For times like these, we have the YoGen mobile charger.

It costs $39.99, and it allows you to give all your handheld devices a working charge no matter where on earth you are. It’s small enough to slip inside a side pocket on your laptop bag, and useful enough to earn a place in your travel kit regardless of the destination.

#4: The Devotec Solar Charger+Battery

Solar power is another elegant solution to the ‘no reliable electricity’ issue. Unfortunately, most solar arrays are clunky or require a fair amount of set-up in order to get working. Only a few are manufactured to be easily portable, simple to set up, and durable enough for travel. One of these few is the Devotec solar charger.

Their solar panels are tough and efficient and the company provides fantastic customer support. For less than $80, you can own a high-capacity 4000 mAH battery and an extended solar charger set.

Need something a little bigger? This $136 foldable solar panel can keep your laptop trickle-charged during more intensive trips.

#5: Personal Filtered Water Bottle

These bottles cost just $26. They’re portable, well-made, and conform to EPA protocols for Microbiological Purifiers. Wherever you are, this will make the water safe (or at least much safer) to drink.

Grab a bottle of Iodine pills if you’re worried about exceptionally nasty water. The iodine will kill EVERYTHING and the filter will remove that nasty ass-and-death taste from your now clean drink.

If you intend to travel in the third world or extensively in the wilderness, you need this product. No matter where you go, a travel-cup with a water filter is indispensable if you value your intestinal tract.

Pacsafe TravelSafe 100: Anti-Theft Travel Bag
Pacsafe TravelSafe 100: Anti-Theft Travel Bag

#6: PacSafe Anti-Theft Bag

The wise traveller never carries all of his valuables on his person when he can avoid it. Leaving an extra credit card and/or some cash hidden behind at the hostel is a great way to ensure you’re not SOL in the event of a mugging or severe pants-catastrophe (pantstastrophe). But where to leave your filthy lucre and valuable documents?

The PacSafe TravelSafe 100 is damn near bulletproof and easy to secure. It costs $44.99 and takes up next-to-no space in your backpack.

Sarong Dealer, Bali
Real Men Wear Sarongs

#7: A Sarong

It doesn’t matter if you’re a dainty little princes who sweats perfume or a 400 pound construction worker with a glandular disorder; your travel towel is going to get disgusting, fast. This is especially true during the winter and throughout all of Central and Eastern Europe. You can wash your towel thoroughly every couple of days, or you can nab a few sarongs.

Aside from being useful as make-shift scarves and clothing, they also make great towels. The material dries out super fast, which is something terry-cloth can’t claim. Take a bottle of anti-bacterial spray or sanitizer with you. Every other day, wash it out, wring it out, and leave it in the window or in front of the fan to dry. Within an hour or two, it’ll be dry and ready to go.

Online, you can find just about any color of sarong you want for $20-$25. If you want to save a ton of money you can pick a few up on your next trip to India. Get ’em now, while the exchange rate is still favorable.

#8: Space Bags

I hate to endorse anything advertised in an infomercial, but in this case the product is actually pretty damn cool. Space Bags are little plastic sacks with an airlock. You stick your clothing in, hook a vacuum up to the lock, and suck all the air out. Nothing does a better job at cutting down on clothing bulk. I’ve seen these in action, and they’re a life-saver for the space-conscious traveller.

Don’t worry about bringing a vacuum with you. Any hostel or hotel worth staying at will let you borrow theirs. It only takes a minute or two and it makes packing way less of a headache. $19.95, plus S&H.

What essential travel gadgets do you never leave home without? Let us know in the comments below!

  1. I have to completely agree with #7 the Sarong is an amazing tool it can be a beach towl, dress, extra bag to carry stuff. I’m also checking out the yogen charger – looks pretty amazing.

  2. @Tom: I definitely second that flexible clothesline thingamajig. Do you have a link to the no-vacuum-required space bags you mentioned? I’d love to take a look. Thanks!

  3. A good length of nylon cord is handy for a plethora of reasons. I find space bags to be little more than an annoyance, but swear by the safepak.

  4. The sarong. Yes!! I’ve filled mine with sand, tied it up and used it as a pillow camping on the beach. Soo many uses.
    And Thanks for the sanitizer tip. It’s always hard getting stuff clean when you’re tramping!

  5. Zip lock bags, rubber bands and pill bottles…The bags come in handy for anything from packing away stinky socks to keeping pieces of a broken souviner together. The rubber bands keep clothes nice and neat in your bag or the sole of your shoe on after a few weeks of trekin’. The pill bottles hold anything and everything you really truly need. Q-tips fit perfectly, loose change is always at hand and hey, you might actually have pills to bring along.

  6. My DLO Jumpstart. I was in Melbourne on my way back to the States through Sydney when I realized that my iPod was completely dead. In the airport I found this handy device, which you plug into the wall or your computer (it has a USB) and it’s fully charges a battery pack in 30 minutes, which was exactly how much of a layover I had in Sydney. Plug the battery pack into the iPod and 30 minutes later, it was fully charged. Just in time for me to block out the sounds of the screaming children on my 14 hour flight. You can keep the battery pack charged for whenever you might be wanting your iPod but unable to charge it directly.

  7. If you buy drapes, sheets, throws, anything in big zipper bags, use the bags to group clothes, undies, nylons, socks, scarves, whatever, to keep your suitcase un-jumbled. For bulky things like sweaters, zip the bag almost closed and roll it up to squeeze the air out. It’s not airtight, but it stays pretty flat.

  8. Tip #5 – the personal filtered water bottles is a great idea! I always hate having to buy a new water bottle when traveling and this is definitely something I will have to purchase for my next trip abroad. Thanks for the tip!

  9. This is a great article–I wouldn’t think of half of these on my own. Especially liked the idea of a solar charger and the multiple uses for sarongs. Great ideas!

  10. Extra large metal clamp clips (nick a few from your desk right before you quit your job to go traveling). They’re perfect for clamping together curtains that don’t quite close on trains, buses, hotel rooms, etc. for increased darkness and privacy.

    A flat rubber/plastic sink drain cover. NOT the type that fit into the drain but the type that are the size of a saucer and sit on top of the drain. Invaluable for stopping up sinks with any size drain so you can do a bit of hand laundry. Also great for tossing over shower drains in dodgy rooms to keep out plumbing stenches and any critters (roaches, scorpions) that may be thinking about crawling up the pipes and into your room.

  11. Not to be a cynic, but in my opinion, the only thing that might be worth it’s salt is the water bottle (which can save you money long-term). The rest is basically luxury — if travel is about trimming down the fat of life and getting to the real meat of it, buying more stuff is only going to be a barrier to your experience.

    If you want to keep your valuables safe, don’t go with Pac Safe. It might look tough, but if it’s strapped to your backpack, a knife can easily cut it off. If you attach it to something more solid, a metal bar or a thick wooden rod can easily snap the cable. It’s only provides moderate protection against theft-of-convenience.

    If you want real security, keep your passport and one debit card on your person, next to your skin, in a hidden pocket. You can also get ones that attach to your leg. Bring it with you everywhere. Take it into the shower stall with you, sleep with it on, etc.

    Plant money in your socks, in a money belt (the kind that’s a real belt with a hidden zipper), under the soles of your shoes, etc. Go for at least 5 places on your body.

    Have a copy of your passport and visa page stored securely in your email so you can still prove your identity and accelerate the process of obtaining new documentation given a loss.

    Use a pistol lock and sturdy zipper locks to anchor and seal your bag. This can still be foiled with a knife, but you will definitely know someone messed with your stuff IMMEDIATELY.

    Security is an illusion. Shipwreck theory — the only things you can protect are things that would still be on you after a shipwreck. And don’t travel with anything you wouldn’t mind losing.

    Just my two cents.

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