Suitcase, luggage, what to pack in a carryon
Travel Tips

Packing List: Odd Essentials I Can’t Travel Without

Dedicated to traveling light, I always create a detailed packing list so I don’t bring too much or not enough. I pack clothes I can mix and match in a basic color palette and we wash our clothes while on the road (well Jon does). I only bring toiletries that would be too expensive or time-consuming to replace—like make-up, special beauty essentials, medicine, and a few personal hygiene items I’m finicky about. Many travel essentials I just pick up when I get to my destination so I don’t have to cart them around (and fit all my liquids into tiny containers in a Ziploc bag). A penny-wise woman at heart, I don’t pay a fortune for them—anymore than I would at home. We just head to the local grocery store or pharmacy and pick up shampoo, body lotion, shaving cream, contact cleaner, etc.

I also don’t pack a bunch of “in case of emergency” items. If I need it, I likely will be able to buy it there. I pride myself on the fact that I can pack for a month in one carry-on (I’ve even used a large backpack and managed). Given my space frugality, you might be surprised at the relatively odd travel items I consider “essentials” for any trip, but after years of travel here are the items I bring on most every vacation. Maybe you will find the need to pack them in your luggage next time, too.

  • Corkscrew—I don’t travel without a way to open wine.
  • Microfiber large travel towels—These towels are great to have because they can be quite large in size, but due to the thin fabric will fold up very small. I generally don’t use them in the conventional way (to dry off after washing), but instead take one with us during the day to use as a picnic blanket or for relaxing in a park. Jon uses his to put on our lodging’s floors as a mat for stretching.
  • Foldable tote bag—I never travel without a large, zippered tote bag that folds into itself. These are great to throw in my purse for souvenirs or groceries I might pick up during the day. In a pinch, they have made an extra carry-on bag when I’ve needed more luggage coming home.
  • Soft-sided eye glasses case—These are great to use for holding ear buds, cords, and other small miscellany. They zipper shut and can easily fit in a pocket or purse.
  • 6×9 or 11×14 manila envelope—I carry a resealable one of these with me to keep track of receipts and other paper miscellany, like ticket stubs or museum brochures I want as souvenirs. It keeps me and my bag organized.
  • Ziploc bags—While discussing organization, I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss resealable plastic bags. I bring several different sizes. The snack sizes are perfect for holding vitamins and other small medicines instead of bulky bottles. The bigger ones are good to have for holding liquids and protecting against potential leaks when you pack up for the return home. They’re also invaluable if you have a wet bathing suit to transport from one location to the next.
  • Travel lock & travel belt—I always have a travel lock for use when a safe isn’t available. With a lock and my luggage, I can create a makeshift safe. We always bring a travel belt, too. Although we rarely use it, it’s nice to have in case we go to a place where keeping our money and passports under our clothes is a good idea.
  • Portable sound machine—At home we always sleep with a fan on, but finding one of those can be near impossible in many lodgings. Years ago, I bought a portable sound machine and we have slept like babies ever since.
  • Compression socks—To ward off deep vein thrombosis and just to help keep swelling to a minimum, I pack a pair of compression socks for the flight. I’ve found they can also keep my feet warm if hit with unseasonably cold weather I hadn’t packed for.

And lastly, I pack a card that I create with the names of every food Jon is allergic to printed in the dominant language of the country we are going to. This way, I can show the server the card and ask if the dish he is considering has any of those foods…avoiding any unpleasant anaphylactic shock moments on our vacation.

These packing tips have made our vacations as stress-free as possible. We travel light, yet want for nothing. Hope you do the same. What are your packing essentials? Tell me in the comments below. Happy travels! Amy

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