Best to Pack for Your Travels 2
A compilation of the best packing tips
from ourselves and our readers
Use this information not to fill your suitcase with
unnecessary things, but to be sure you have what you
and not what you don't need.
There's nothing worse than the
sick feeling you get, seconds after it has become too late, as
you remember something vital you forgot to pack in your luggage.
Following these strategies and
checklists will reduce the otherwise ever present stress as you
prepare for your future travels.
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Unusual things to
A word of warning before you
read through this section. As you see all sorts of great
ideas listed here, be careful you don't end up overpacking too
many things, few of which you ever use.
Use these ideas to improve
the way you resolve current problems, but don't use them to
solve problems you don't even have.
And consider creating kits
with themed collections of these items as a good way of keeping
them together and easily found in your bags.
Electronic and Electrical
If you're traveling with a
laptop computer, make sure you have a Cat-5 network cable.
It seems most hotels with ethernet broadband don't supply the
patch cable to run from their wall outlet to your laptop.
Get as long a cable as
possible so as to give you most flexibility about where in the
room you work. Not all hotel rooms have their network
outlets sensibly located (a room remodel may mean the network
outlet is no longer next to the desk).
A two or preferably three
way electrical outlet tap can come in handy if you're traveling
with lots of electrical devices.
If traveling overseas, make
sure you have the necessary phone and power plug adapters, and
also voltage converters for both low current and high current
Don't forget chargers and/or
batteries for all the electronic items you take with you.
Some people find it easier
to simply travel with a second (and sometimes third or fourth)
fully charged battery for each electronic item they have rather
than to take the extra bulk (and sometimes weight) of rechargers.
phone recharger units
are also very handy things, wherever you are - traveling or at
It is possible to get very
small Wi-Fi hubs that you can plug into a hotel's ethernet
outlet, or which can rebroadcast the hotel's own Wi-Fi, giving
you more range and flexibility and also allowing you to connect
multiple network devices to the one outlet (eg VoIP phone and
Always pack a
Food and Drink
High energy food bars are a
great thing to keep close at hand, especially when traveling
somewhere with questionable standards of food.
Other high energy food
sources can include dried fruit, fruit leather, and jerky.
A named water bottle for
each person makes it easy to simply refill rather than replace
water bottles, and gives each person a sense of responsibility,
reducing the number of forgotten/lost water bottles.
If you're traveling places
where the water is of questionable quality, consider taking a
Steripen with you.
Portable and quick and easy to use, even in a restaurant when
wanting to sterilize a glass of water.
Health and Personal Care
A chap stick helps,
particularly in the dry cabin air on long flights.
So too do eye drops, for the
You should carry a basic
first aid kit. Put as much or as little in it as you feel
comfortable with, and depending on your destination. Here
are some quick suggestions :
Neosporin with pain
relief...great for bug bites
Band-Aids in a variety of
Scissors (if not already part
of a Swiss Army Knife or otherwise packed)
Immodium or Pepto Bismol (the
tablets are so much nicer to take, and lighter/more compact
than the foul tasting thick liquid)
Gold Bond or similar powder
for heat rash and chafing
Anti-histamines if you have
Melatonin or other
anti-jet lag solution
A small package of
instant/wet and/or sanitizing wipes and anti-bacterial hand gell
are great to keep in your carry on.
Shout wipes are great for
cleaning stains off clothing.
If you anticipate the need
for such a product, consider some zip-lock bags for vomit.
Toilet paper - either the
last bit of a roll, or some sheets folded up - can be handy if
you're expecting to use public toilets in places where you can't
be sure there will be supplies of this essential product.
Spare change for pay toilets
is also very important.
If you're a light sleeper,
consider packing some ear plugs.
Many European (and other)
countries don't provide washcloths in hotel rooms. Bring
your own, just in case.
Consider making or buying a
small travel wash kit. Magellan's have four pages of
kits and components on
their site to choose from, with lots of helpful products to reduce your reliance
on expensive hotel laundry services.
If you have glasses, pack an
eye glass repair kit as well as your glasses prescription.
A commonly suggested
strategy is to pack a range of old clothing - outerwear and
underwear - that you're about to throw away. Wear these
items during some/much of your trip, then leave them behind,
using the space in your bag(s) for new things you've bought
Some ladies like to bring a
skirt hanger or two with them - many hotels just have very
generic hangers in their closets.
A few clothespins can be
useful for all manner of tasks, from pinning curtains shut to
hanging laundry that is drying.
Take a small amount of
washing powder or liquid and some fabric softener if you plan to
hand wash items while traveling.
Some people like to bring a
slippers with them, rather than walk on old carpet of
unknown cleanliness in hotel rooms.
Ladies find a shawl to be an
invaluable traveling companion, which can be used for many
purposes, ranging from a protective layer on top of bedspreads
to acting as a sarong/skirt, to towel/beach mat, to pillow, to,
well, acting as a simple shawl, too.
Duct tape - small mini
travel rolls of duct tape are available from Magellan's.
Ideal for emergency repairs of all types.
3M have come up with a new
clear duct tape, but this is not yet available in convenient
Ziplock bags can be used for
a wealth of different purposes. Pack lots - they're light
and inexpensive. Take some in different sizes, and get the
heaviest grade plastic (4 mil or thicker). Where
appropriate, label them for their contents.
Another multi-purpose device
for fixing things in a pinch can be plastic ties such as
Rubber bands are good for lots of things.
Here's a clever device
for traveling in countries where English isn't the first
Kwikpoint Visual Picture Based All Language Translator.
No-one should travel without
Swiss Army Knife or good quality Leatherman type multi-tool,
although if you take one of these, you'll need to keep it in checked
rather than carry-on luggage. It should include scissors, corkscrew,
can and bottle openers, and both regular and Philips head
screwdrivers as well as a knife.
A set of utensils - knives,
forks, spoons, perhaps as part of a lightweight camping set can
make it easier to enjoy fruit, bread, cheese, and deli foods in
your hotel room.
If eating outdoors, a
camping lantern can compliment these utensils allowing you
to see your dinner.
A small plastic dish for
keeping all your jewelry together when you take it off at night
makes it much less likely you'll lose or forget a piece the next
35mm film cans - use the
clear ones so you can see what is inside - are great for small supplies of meds like Advil,
sleep aids, Imodium, etc. For travel outside the US it
may reduce the possibility of Customs hassles to keep meds in
their original packages (especially if going to a place like
Bali or Singapore) although I've never had any problems myself.
A sewing kit with a small
collection of safety pins, needles and thread, and perhaps some
buttons too can really help you with emergency repairs to your
clothing. Some hotels provide these as a courtesy item.
Take one and stick it in your bag.
You can never have too many
pens, and make sure you have one in your carry-on too (for
filling out forms on the flight or at Customs/Immigration).
A small notebook can be a
useful source of paper for writing notes on.
A mini travel alarm clock loud enough to wake you up is a good
thing to have. Not every hotel has an alarm clock, or one that's
easy to set, and hotel wake-up calls, unless programmed through
a computer, can be unreliable and may not be on time.
Get a spare ATM card in case yours gets eaten by an ATM. Banks
often don't have access to the ATM machines in their own lobby,
and so if your card vanishes into the machine, you could
suddenly find yourself cashless for an extended time.
For foreign travel, unless
you know there will be a bank (not commercial money exchange
service) that will be for sure open and conveniently found,
and/or multiple ATMS (in case one or two are out of cash or
otherwise not working) at the airport upon arrival, pick up a small supply of the local currency
before you leave home. You should get enough to pay for cabs and
small items until such time as you can get to an ATM and
withdraw a larger supply.
For lovers of wine in moderation, and for those traveling
alone. At your destination, purchase a non-oily liquid in a
glass bottle or flask with a capacity of about 12 ounces (or
bring a similar bottle with you). If you see a bottle of wine
that you can’t resist, pour half of it into your bottle, until
it’s about to overflow, and then cap it. Because there’s almost
no exposure to oxygen, it will keep for at least several days
without deteriorating. (If carried in a car, it’s usually
illegal to keep within the passenger compartment.)
Other things to consider including in your bag :
Post-It Notes, for reminders to myself, hotel staff, etc
A length of Velcro, both the male and female parts with
adhesive backing. This is great for making small repairs,
binding things together, etc, and can be cut into small pieces
of any size and shape
Small and Large Butterfly Clips, for pulling together
curtains, keeping receipts in bunches, etc
Cross Ion pen, or any other small and comfortable pen that’s
great for carrying in your pants pocket. You'll want a pen that
can’t open and stain your clothing. Having your own pen
immediately available for signing receipts, etc, decreases
exposure to contact born viruses/bacteria.
Mini sized Permanent Marker, like a Sharpie, for labeling and
marking items; they’ll write on almost anything. The ink can be
removed from hard non-porous objects by the citrus solvents that
are available everywhere.
Dry-erase pen like those used for overhead projectors. Good
for writing on plasticized maps or any hard item that’s
washable. Also can be used creatively: at wine and appetizer
parties, imaginatively label your neighbor’s wine glass and let
her label yours; pass it around for fun conversation.
Twixit or other similar bag clips. Great for keeping snack
items fresh and neat in rental car, hotel rooms, etc. Has other
uses: can be used to clip drying clothing items to clothes line
Ultrasonic Dog Repeller for runs and walks. It only frightens
angry dogs. Can be purchased through many catalogs.
If you're artistically inclined, why not take a small
watercolor set and postcard size paper
collapsible travel vases make it easy for you to brighten
up your hotel rooms.
A string bag is handy and takes up no room in a suitcase.
Lastly, in addition to your
needs, think also about bringing some small gifts for new
friends and business acquaintances. Try and get things
that have some local flavor to your region - possibly calendars
or local food items.
Most people will agree on
the good sense of having a packing checklist as a way to ensure
you don't forget anything.
But there's a subtle danger
with a packing checklist. It encourages you to pack more
than you really truly need. Depending on your style
of travel and duration of journey, you can probably make do
without many of the creature comforts of home. The ideal
packing list (and packed suitcase) contains only what you need,
and nothing that you could do without.
Packing checklists can be
many different places. There are a couple of extremely
good web resources worthy of mention, however.
Universal Packing List site asks you some questions about
your journey and then dynamically generates a recommended
packing list based on your responses.
A website devoted to packing
only the minimum you'll need is
and they have an excellent pdf format packing list.
You're best advised to adapt
the various lists out there to build your own list, and if you
want to be very methodical, you might even have different lists,
or different sections of the list, for traveling to different
places. A tropical beach vacation list would obviously
read different to a mid-winter business trip to the midwest, for
Some readers are very
organized in how they use lists. One idea is to not just
have a list of items to bring, but also a space to write in the
quantity of each item, too.
Another idea is to have
columns to record the quantity to take with you to start, and
then extra columns to record you have successfully repacked the
items and not left them behind as you repack at the end of each
stay on your journey.
Build a Special List
In addition to a generic
packing list, you might also want to keep a small notepad and
pen with you 24/7 for the week or two before a journey. I
have several categories of entries in my notepad. One is
for things I must do before I leave, another is for things I
must bring, and the third is for things I must do while I'm on
my travels. As I think of things I need, I simply add them
to the respective list. This means, when I wake at 3am and
think of something obscure that I must do or take with me, I can
simply write it down then go back to sleep, relaxing in the
knowledge I won't forget about it in the morning.
Depending on the nature of
the things that go onto these lists, I might add them to my main
default list templates.
Prepacked Travel Kits
A close cousin of the
packing checklist concept is having already prepared travel
kits. I do this in two parts. I keep a box of phone
and power adapters, and other bits and pieces that I sometimes
need to travel with, and then I have separate travel kits.
Some of these kits (eg personal hygiene, medical) simply need to
be checked and topped up as needed, but others need to be then
mixed and matched to suit the destination, with some items being
returned to the big box and some big box items being added to
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2 Sep 2005, last update
30 May 2021
This article is
copyrighted by David M Rowell, The Travel Insider LLC.