Ten travel essentials; don’t leave home without them

16_thingstopack_1Special to the I-O by Cindy Habets Peterson

I often get questions about what I pack when I’m headed on a trip.

When you travel for 14 months with a maximum of two pieces of luggage – in my case a daypack and a larger traveling backpack – you quickly learn what is dead weight and what items you simply can’t live without.

I thought I would share the latter with you - my top 10 essential travel gear list.

Coming up with my list was easy.  I sat down and scribbled out the list of gear that would cause the most panic if I were to lose them while on a trip.  The list also consists of, with a few exceptions, items that are difficult, if not impossible, to replace while in a foreign country, hence the panic.   I can guarantee each of these items has thousands of miles behind it and a special place in my travel heart:

#1    The TUMI Power Adaptor: This little piece of hardware is absolute genius, if I do say so myself.  I used to lug around a bag full of 7 or 8 different adapter plugs plus a heavy power converter just to have the ability to plug something in overseas.  It weighed a ton and was a pain in the backpack.  TUMI’s awesome design sports all the plugs you need to work in 150 countries, engineered into an all-in-one device that fits in the palm of your hand, is lightweight, and has its own carrying case.  More than worth its $50 price tag.  www.tumi.com/electronics/electric-adaptor-with-leather-case/

#2    Passport: Hey, you need at least a US ID card just to drive to Alberta, so go ahead and pick up your passport.  What are you waiting for?  You might think this a “duh” item on this list, but it’s really not.  I carry my passport with me now on every trip I make, whether overseas or to the next state.  It has a special compartment in my favorite travel backpack, and I feel better knowing I will always have an ID that can get me home, in the somewhat likely event I’ll misplace my driver’s license. (It’s the blonde in blonde wanderer that causes this to occur).  Learn how to apply for a passport at:  travel.state.gov/passport/get/first/first_830

#3    A Pack Towel: A towel is something you simply don’t want to find yourself without when you need one.  Drip-drying is no fun at all.  And thanks to quick-dry towel technology, a towel that folds up to the size of a small book and weighs practically nothing will become your best towel friend.  Lots of sizes to choose from at most sporting goods stores or at REI.com: http://www.rei.com/product/783079

#4    Earplugs: One of the reasons I love coming home to Montana is the quiet.  But anywhere else I travel, I always have several pairs of earplugs with me.  Whether it’s the sound of thousands of motorbikes whizzing past your hotel room window, or the locals herding their goats at 5:00 in the morning, you can pretty much guarantee there will be noises you aren’t accustomed to when you travel.  You’ll be glad you have them.

#5    Emergency Medicine Kit: I always keep a small makeup bag stocked with useful over-the-counter medications for any trip:  ibuprofen, antacid, allergy medication, eye drops, cold tablets, Airborne, and any specific needs you might anticipate (which for me means sinus headache medication).  There is nothing more frustrating than attempting to mime your symptoms in a foreign pharmacy and ending up with a box of tablets for which you can’t even read the ingredients. Oh, and in my experience they usually don’t work, possibly because they gave you pills for back spasms – likely due to the quality of the miming – when what you really had was a head cold.  While you can’t predict all possible ailments, it is nice to have a few bases covered.

#6     A Clothesline: Yes, there will be a time you are washing your undies in a hotel room sink, or need to dry your socks after walking around in the rain all day.  You can pick these up at pretty much any travel store, but for a mere $6.50 (a steal!), REI’s clothesline is the MacGyver of clotheslines. An overkill adjective for a clothesline? 
In this case, no way. It wraps around anything, the elastic material stretches to accommodate any length and the handy coils hold pretty much anything to dry.  http://www.rei.com/product/765732

#7     Walking Shoes: Never, ever, underestimate the need for good walking shoes while traveling.  And by this I mean the kind of shoes you could walk miles in every day and still have happy feet.   Leave the stylish but uncomfortable shoes at home, or they will soon become that item in your suitcase you start referring to as dead weight.

#8     Combination Luggage Locks: My habit is to carry anything and everything valuable in my carry-on backpack (#10 on this list!).   And I keep it locked.  With 37 countries under my belt and never having anything stolen, I believe in luggage locks.  I snap them on even when leaving my hotel room.  It’s simply a good habit to get into and can save your stuff in the long run.  There are cool locks now called “Wordlocks” that can be programmed with a word instead of a number combination so it is easy to remember. http://wordlock.com/luggage_locks/

#9:    A Dry Bag: I got one of these as a gift from a friend before we left on our around-the-world trip.  I thought it would be mildly useful and shoved it in my backpack.  Boy was I wrong.  All too often you have a wet swimming suit or towel, and a train to catch.  This handy little pouch keeps the rest of your luggage from smelling like an Indonesian hot spring.  http://www.flight001.com/f1-go-clean-wet-suit.html

#10:    A Versatile Daypack: There are lots of options out there – what is important here are the features:  comfort, size (I prefer one that zips out to expand if you need the extra space), compartments that lock easily, inside pouches for items like passports that you want safely tucked away, durability, and lots and lots of pockets and compartments.

Hmm… even giveaways haven’t brought out the travel questions, so instead this month let’s try something different.  Ask me the best question about traveling or the places I’ve visited – What country did I find most challenging?  What was my stickiest travel situation? etc.  The most creative question (judged by yours truly) will win “1,000 Places to See in the U.S.A. & Canada Before You Die.”  I’ll provide the answer or story to go along with the winning question in the I-O.  Email me at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Follow our wanderings at www.theblondewanderer.com. Happy traveling!