Traveling as much as I do there are certain things that I have grown accustomed to carrying with me to make my travel life more comfortable. Most of these things have proven useful so many times I wouldn't think about traveling without them. Others such as the soap leaves are of theoretical value and have yet to prove themselves in the field.
This list has changed as my travel needs have evolved and I'm sure that it will continue to evolve as I discover new items that can make my travels more comfortable. The below list is in no particular order.
Travel journal: I am fairly dedicated in writing in my travel journal. It is not only a record of things I've done, places I've been and people I've met but it also helps me plan for the adventures I'm going to have in the future. I've had strangers draw maps to a favorite pub (I didn't find it by the way) and I've jotted down local phrases for future reference. I've also pressed leaves and other flat things that I've found along the way.
It aids my memory by holding onto all of my frequent flier numbers and remembers where I parked my car two weeks ago. I'm on my third travel journal right now and I like a medium/small sketchbook as they are about $5, just the right size, easy to find and are unlined.
3 ball point pens: A primary and two backups because if you only have one backup that one will explode on you and you won't have a pen to write with when your primary runs out of ink. Not to mention that your hand will be covered in ink.
Pocket knife: This doesn't really belong in this group as it's an everyday life gear item but I'll include it for completeness. True I have to check it in my suitcase but I use it everyday for any number of things. I prefer the Tinker by Victorinox.
Reusable water bottle: Nalgene bottles are quite handy as you can just use a drinking fountain instead of buying a $3 bottle of airport water. Three of those bottles of water buys you a Nalgene bottle that you can use over and over again. You are also reusing over recycling which is better environmentally. You'll also need a bottle brush to keep it clean but if it's only water then that isn't every day that you need to wash it. You can even brew tea in these, just get a couple/four tea bags and pop em in with some cold water. A couple hours later and you've got tea. I've used the free in room tea bags but it's always better to bring your own.
Ear plugs: Little foamy $2 earplugs. These are the best when you get stuck in a room next to an elevator because you checked in at midnight. Mine came in a hard plastic container which is handy for travel.
Comfy shoes: Shoes for walking and shoes for working, these are usually different shoes.
Snacks: My favorites are Cliff Bars, beef jerky (they'll take this at Australian customs), figs, peanuts, almonds and dried apricots. Basically anything that packs well makes good travel food.
Toilet seat covers: That only sounds strange when you think about it. Lots of places (whole countries even) don't have these. You can get your own from the camping section of your local mega mart, they come in 10 packs. Mentioning that you are carrying toilet seat covers is not as good a conversation starter as you may think.
Soap leaves: I found soap leaves at a local shop that sells fancy soaps. There are solid leaves of soap (they look like sheets of paper) in a thing that looks like an oversized matchbook. Fortunately it comes in a plastic sleeve otherwise mine would have melted in the last downpour I was in (Australia or Germany, Germany was worse, stupid bus). These haven't seen action yet but I'm sure they will some day.
$100 bill: A crispy one if possible. This I carry on international trips just in case my ATM card doesn't work. It can always be converted to local currency and buys me enough time to come up with a plan C or find a compatible ATM.
Local coins: For some reason I really like vending machines and carrying a few local coins helps me get something cold to drink even if I don't speak the local language. I keep a container of local coins with a value under 50 cents and those stay home, anything larger than that comes with me when appropriate. Having local folding money is also nice if you happen to have it.
GPS device: This has helped me out several times. When I get to a new place I'll waypoint my hotel. Then when I'm wandering around I can always find my way back. I used this to find my way home when I got turned around in London, it was very handy.
Distraction: For me this is usually a sewing project (I like to make sock monsters) but it could be my MP4 player loaded up with some Dr. Who episodes or an interesting podcast. I have started downloading podcasts to learn new languages but that aspect of the device is theoretical at this point.
Tiger balm: Good for sore muscles and really clears you up when you need it to. The power of menthol and the goodness of camphor, how could it be bad?
Pills: melatonin (resets your internal clock), anti-diarrhea pills, Tylenol.
Change of clothes: My carry on has a shirt, pair of pants, underwear, socks, comb, toothbrush and razor at all times. You never know when your bags will get redirected to someplace you aren't going to.
Well that's about it, I carry other things as well but these are the ones that I wouldn't want to be without.
If you've enjoyed this post please consider subscribing to the RSS feed.
Coming Soon: True story from a coworker