20 things to put in your travel essentials kit


Yes, we’re all guilty of packing too much stuff. We’ve all read the stories and hacks about how to pack light. But my travel essentials are well worth the tiny bit of space required. At the size of a paperback novel, and half the weight, a travel essentials kit will save you time, money and stress. When you get to your destination, you can toss this little bundle in your day-pack so you have them with you when you need them.

And much of it you have kicking around the house. Well, almost.

What’s in my travel essentials kit?

I take these travel essentials with me on every trip. They’ve saved the day more than once.

Keep it clean

1. Laundry supplies

Laundry soap, dryer sheets, a Tide stain stick and clothes pegs. Travel essentials all. If I can do a quick refresh of… you know, those things that need regular refreshing… I can pack less and be adventure-ready. I bring powder detergent, not the pods, just in case they break. You can use the prepackaged version or you can just as easily put a little powder in a zip-lock bag. Double-bag it just in case.

2. A length of string

Some hotels have a retractable clothes line in the bathroom, but what if yours doesn’t? Bringing your own clothes line makes for better ambiance than socks hung over lampshades. You don’t have to limit your imagination to clothes line. That string comes in handy in so many ways. I once had to figure out how to get a carpet back from the Souk in Tunis. Rolled it like a bedroll and tied it with the string I just happened to have, and carried it on the plane. Easy peasey.

3. A flat rubber stopper

Ever get to your accommodations only to find there’s no stopper for the sink? I know you have. I’ve tried stuffing a face cloth in the drain. That only slows the water down, it doesn’t keep it from draining. But a flat rubber stop? Fits any and all sizes of drain. It also doubles as a grip if you find yourself fighting with a jar lid.

A foody’s got to eat… and drink

4. A corkscrew

Most accommodations will provide you with one if you ask, but you don’t need to ask if you bring your own. Some European countries are not as uptight about drinking wine in public as we are here in North America. So you’ll need your corkscrew for that picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower.

5. Utility knife

These are handy for picnics. I’ve cut baguettes, cheese, even meat with my folding utility knife. There are way too many uses for a decent utility knife. Just don’t make the mistake of putting this in your carry-on. Keep your travel essentials kit in your checked luggage.

6. Cutlery

I bring one full set. Two might be better, but how romantic when you have to feed each other on a picnic. You’ll appreciate this if you’ve been to the corner grocery and bought yogurt for the morning. Or a salad from the deli to go with your picnic.

7. Collapsible mug

This one is optional but really convenient. I find that no matter where I travel, its pretty easy to come by a disposable cup to put into service. But if you happen to have a collapsible cup (like I do), and it folds down to nothing (like mine does), its one less thing you have to go looking for, for your picnic. Yes, I am not above drinking wine from a mug. You can also make yourself a mug of soup, or eat your morning instant oatmeal from the mug.
This is one piece of the travel essentials kit that you probably won’t have kicking around. You can find them easily on line.

Ready-to-go essentials

8. Electrolyte powder

When you need this, you most certainly don’t want to have to search for a pharmacy and, in a language you don’t speak, try to explain that you’ve got diarrhea. While you’re at it, throw in a couple immodium. You don’t want to plan your day in Sienna Italy around where the closest washroom is. Trust me on this.

9. A tenser bandage

This is a travel essential, particularly if you’re going to be walking a lot or if you’re prone to sprains. It has a lot of alternate uses as well. For example, it can be pressed into service as a regular bandage as well.

10. A mending kit

Yes, most hotels supply these, but I’m not always in the hotel when I need it.

11. Safety pins

Throw in a couple safety pins and an alligator clip or two. These take up absolutely no space, and they are so handy.

12. A small flashlight

Be sure to check the batteries before you pack it.

‘Macgyver’ essentials

13. A few zip lock bags

These are great for things like putting around your phone if you’re going out in the rain or in a boat and taking lots of pictures. There is never a shortage of uses for a zip lock, even if it’s just to put your laundry packets in, just in case they spring a leak. Or what if you open that scrumptious cheese to have with your wine, but you don’t get around to eating all the cheese? You with me now?

14 & 15. A sharpie and duct tape

Wrap a length of duct tape is around the body of the sharpie. The sharpie has its own myriad of uses. You might visit a ball park or see a celeb, and want an autograph. You might need to label the box of Italian wine you bought but need to ship home. Hey, the duct tape might come in handy with that too. It is also a lifesaver if the airlines are a little less than gentle, say, with your suitcase, and you need a repair that will just get you home. Ask any man. He’ll come up with a thousand reasons to put a length of duct tape in your travel essentials kit.

16. A multi screwdriver

The one in my travel essentials kit is a mini all-in-one screwdriver. If you don’t use it for its intended purpose, you can always use it as a pry-bar or lever.

17. Zip ties

I love whoever invented these. They’e right up there with Velcro. These are great for a lot of things, but I’ve used them to zip tie my suitcase closed when I don’t have a luggage lock. It won’t necessarily keep anyone out, but it will certainly let me know if anyone has been in my bag. And so far that’s been enough of a deterrent. We’ve also used them to ship things in plastic action packer boxes. Punch a hole in the lid and the container in all four corners (utility knife comes in handy here), and zip-tie it shut. Ready to ship!

Real trip-savers

18. Adapter/converter

The one I have in my kit is a multi-tool, which can handle a lot of different countries all on one cube. It is a converter as well as an adapter. Be careful here. Adapters and converters are not the same thing, and you may need both. An adapter allows you to plug in a two-prong appliance in a foreign country. It’s all about the shape of the plug in matching the shape of your plug end. You may also need a converter, which converts the voltage that comes out of the outlet into something that won’t fry your appliance. These days, a lot of chargers for electronics like phones and computers can take 100 – 240V, 50/60 Hz, which covers the spectrum, and means you’ll be ok. But don’t take my word for it. Check your own sources.

19. A rubber band

If you leave everything else behind, at least take this in your travel essentials kit. In fact take two: they’re small. A rubber band can keep you safe from pick-pockets. Put the rubber band around your wallet before you put it in your pocket. It creates enough friction to thwart a pick-pocket, who would otherwise try to slide that slippery leather treasure trove out without you ever feeling it. Kind of like the difference between a leather-soled dress shoe and a rubber soled deck shoe.

20. Canada pins

I’m proud to be a Canadian, and generally, Canadians are welcomed around the world. This is my small way of bringing a little piece of home with me. And when I meet a fellow traveller, or when we encounter a particularly friendly local, I can share a little reminder of the Canadians they encountered, by giving them my pin.

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Written by Leanne Tait the Travelling Foody
I’m Leanne, the Travelling Foody. My blog, travellingfoody.com is for gastronomic adventurers who love to travel but who put away the backpack long ago.

Thoughts? Questions?

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