What is your essential travel item?

As a regular traveller, packing is still not a smooth task. I think I have it all together: duffel bag for safari trips where a bag has to be thrown on top of a truck; large suitcase for a cruise more than six days because I can pack lots and only have to unpack once; a neat carry-on for a weekend or a three-dayer. My fave is a medium-size suitcase, packed carefully to manage all garments and hope they last the distance. (Without getting into packing, has anyone else had the experience of trying to repack after wearing clothes and notice that they have doubled in size? What’s that all about?)

Aside from the appropriate piece of luggage I find a backpack an essential these days. I have invested in a classy backpack, just big enough to carry the essentials onboard: iPad or laptop, camera, extra wrap and stuff. Also a small shoulder bag that holds the minimum that can carry over to be an evening bag if needed.

All that is essential but also necessary, what are the things that I can’t leave behind and why?
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For years I have carried my Swiss Army knife, the big daddy one with every tool imaginable. (Pre the Swiss Army knife I had a Chinese Army knife – a copy – because it was cheaper). These days it has to be carried in my suitcase as I have had a couple confiscated – I forgot and left them in my handbag . . . my bad.

As well as having a handy nail file, scissors, bottle opener and knife and screwdriver it was the Phillips head that gave me some status as wonder woman a few years back.

I was waiting in the office of the Thai Tourism office in Bangkok and was watching four staff members trying to fix the photo copier – light bulb! I jumped into action, drew out my trusty Swiss Army Phillips head saviour and proceeded to take all the screws out of the back of the copier. A winning moment.

And there are the usuals to carry: basic toiletries, conditioner (some hotels in Europe don’t supply conditioner), my own water bottle, a keep-it cup, and a few little treats to give away – pens and pencils for the Pacific islands and PNG, and India; macadamia nuts in gift boxes for Middle Eastern visits – and I always carry a couple of packets of jelly snakes to share with kids along the way.

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The obvious, travel insurance (if you don’t have it you’re crazy); charger and universal adapter, sunnies and a laundry bag. And if you wear glasses, carry a spare pair – I once had a prescription pair snatched off me by a thieving monkey and had to spend the rest of my holiday wearing prescription sunglasses at night.

But as well as the usual suspects, everyone has a little something, either practical or sentimental that they travel with – what’s yours?

 Writer, Bev Malzard passed on a handy tip a few years back on the subject of jelly snakes. She was ensconced in a rather nice cabin on a ship with a TV on a stand sitting on a cabinet. With the motion of the ship and the sea, the damn TV rattled constantly. So, out came a jelly snake, warmed it in her hands, and rolled it into sleeping snake position and gently squeezed it between the TV stand and the surface it was rattling on. Problem solved. You’re welcome!

Photo by Cynthia del Río on Unsplash

Photo by Paul Felberbauer on Unsplash

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14 thoughts on “What is your essential travel item?

  1. My essential travel item – summer or winter – is a sarong. So useful for so many things: a curtain, a sheet (under or over), a privacy screen, a towel (hot weather only), a tablecloth, a scarf. I use it to wrap around fragile things in my packing, and I also wear it! There are other things I take – many the same as yours – but the sarong is always one of the first things laid out to pack (usually in hand luggage).

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  2. In an ideal world, I remind myself that all I really need is my passport and credit card, but in reality, more and more, it’s creature comforts such as my purple pashmina (similar to your sarong), lip gloss (travel is a drying exercise), and a basic medical kit (you will always get sick in the middle of the night no where near a chemist). Oh, and a notebook and pen of course, we travel writers need to record the world in all its glory!

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    1. Yes, the days of packing in five minutes with a passport and credit card and s change of undies are gone. Comfort and practicality are the go to. Perhaps I should rethink my medical kit; Panadol and bandaids.

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  3. Running shoes are my non-negotiable travel essentials. There’s nothing I love more than hitting the pavement for a 5km run before breakfast to get my bearings in a new place. Other things that always get a gig are panadol, tea tree oil, ear plugs, a cube power board with some usb charging slots and a black cotton sarong that has delivered well beyond its pay scale.

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  4. Travel iron. You could die waiting for a hotel to deliver one to your room. And at the high end, they definitely frown on supplying them. I once had to have a jacket pressed in Paris and it cost 40 euros. (And they lost it…but that’s another story.) One caveat – cruises will confiscate it.

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  5. Thanks very much for travel tips. Others may know more, and a small travel compass for walking around a new place. Plus, and, maybe this is not for everyone, a lightweight high resolution camera for any special photos; (also in case phone battery is running low, or have neglected to charge it; tough when camera isn’t charged either though, and that’s a separate tale.)

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  6. I always take a small spray bottle with Febreze (decanted from the original packaging). Very handy for freshening up jackets and other tops if washing isn’t an option. And I like using those packing bags so beloved by backpackers (I bought mine at Kathmandu or one of the other adventure shops) to keep teeshirts etc tidy. I actually find if I hand-wash my shirts and other tops, then fold them up carefully in the fold-up-satchel-thingy, they look quite presentable without ironing the next time I need to wear them.

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  7. I always bring a dry bag – which often doubles as my toiletry bag. Great to keep my things together by the pool, take on a last-minute boat trip, and it hangs nicely by clipping over the towel rail in the bathroom the rest of the time.

    My other, most-loved item is my solar-charged lantern, which not only provides light when camping, rifling through my bag or just in a silly hotel room without a bedside light switch, but it also has a USB output so I can charge my phone even in the outback, just by leaving it in the sun or on the dashboard of a car/bus/tour van.

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