Explore. Experience. Engage.

Home Travel Tips Travel Deals Destinations Trip Reviews Blog
The IndependentTraveler.com Blog

packing listFor months I had been preparing for my eight-week trip to South America. As I bought new gear, I would toss it into my backpack without a second thought. It wasn’t until the morning of my flight that I dumped everything onto the living room floor — with less than six hours to determine what would make the final cut.

Space was at a premium because whatever I chose, I’d have to haul around on my back for two months. I’m typically a light packer, used to asking myself, “Is this necessary?” The items below answer that question with a resounding yes!

When you find yourself without electricity (Cabo Polonio, Uruguay), without street lights (San Pedro de Atacama, Chile) or simply in a situation where you want to be a considerate roommate (someone WILL be sleeping before you set out your toothbrush and pajamas), a headlamp is worth its weight in gold. Mine proved its worth by day three (of 60).

Hooded Silk Sleep Sack
My silk sleep sack, which folded up into itself and fit inside a quart-sized zip-top bag, felt luxurious … especially in hostels and budget hotels where the alternative was a sheet that was the texture of sandpaper. Bonus: In altitude, it provided me with extra warmth when the temperatures dropped.

Compression Sack
Compression sacks are perfect for consolidating less-needed items; when I was in warm-weather locales, the sack eliminated the extra space taken up by my fleece and jeans.

iPod with Customized Playlists
I created a “sleep” playlist that served me well on overnight bus rides and when sharing rooms with snorers. To build up a little anticipation for your trip, you can create a playlist with popular and current music in your destination. When you return, you’ll have an instant souvenir with music you likely just heard on the road.

The Ultimate Guide to Travel Packing

Toilet Paper
Go on, laugh. But don’t take TP for granted, even when you have to pay to use a toilet. In many parts of the world you’ll need to provide your own. (See Five Tips for Bathroom Preparedness.)

Duct Tape
I was in an area known for mosquitos and I hadn’t taken any malaria meds. Upon checking into my hotel, I noticed there was a hole in the window screen. I whipped out the duct tape, covered the holes and hoped for the best. (For other uses, see Top 10 Travel Essentials You Can Find at Your Drug Store.)

Or as I call it, a cover-up, beach towel, pillow, pillowcase, sarong and blanket. Oh, and yes, a scarf.

Quick-Dry Travel Towel
This was a good alternative in spots where bath towels were the size of washcloths. It also proved useful at the beach. Bonus: Sunshine really speeds up the drying process.

Biore Cleansing Facial Cloths
After an overnight bus ride or just a few days sans shower, using one of these made all the difference. I will never travel without facial cloths again.

Thankfully I never used this, but it took up permanent residence in my daypack. It was at the ready if there was an abundance of stray dogs or if I was walking alone in the dark.

Decoy Wallet
I never had to use it as such. Instead, it doubled as a change purse. Had I needed to hand it over, it was heavy enough to be believable, yet it didn’t hold enough to impact my travels.

Money Safety Tips for Travelers

Plastic Bag
Again, another multi-purpose item: a laundry bag, wet clothes bag, muddy shoe bag, beach bag, shopping bag, snack bag, trash bag … you name it.

And finally, don’t forget your sense of humor and patience.

The Carry-On Challenge: How to Pack Light Every Time
4 Signs You Have a Packing Problem
Quiz: What’s Your Packing Personality?

— written by Lori Sussle

Shares 0

39 Responses to “14 Things You Might Not Think to Pack — But Should”

  1. Lori Smith says:

    Great article!

  2. cheap car hire UK says:

    Wow! Some of these are really weird! A whistle?! Seriously? Now, I have to rethink my entire packing list!

  3. Suz Trolinger says:

    Wrap the tape around a Bic lighter [if checking luggage] or your mascara wand or pen. Saves much space. & a flat sink stopper takes up no spellnas andace & can be useful.

  4. Bill says:

    I had a roll of duct tape in my carry on / hand luggage ( only case ) and it was taken from me at security check prior to boarding a plane.
    I think security thought I would have used it to tie up aircrew.
    Any thoughts on this ?

  5. Suz Trolinger says:

    takes up no SPACE AND can be useful…

  6. Julie says:

    Excellent list for where she was going, especially backpackin, but also good to consider for “normal” travel. Had similar stuff with us for a 2 week visit just outside Kiev, Ukrain. We also took a few yards of bridal tulle to attach to open windows with our duct tape (they had no AC and no screens and mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds). Small flashlights, extra batteries were essential; a headlamp is a great idea…would have served well in Istanbul, too, when cab driver insisted we get out on a one-way, totally dark street a block from our hotel in the civilized embassies area! A whistle is good wherever you go.

  7. Cheryl says:

    Love it. Some already I pack. Others will add. Awesome!

  8. travelqueen says:

    Another essential-ear plugs for sleeping to deafen snoring,traffic noise or music from a nearby disco.

  9. Cherie says:

    When we had to spend our vacation in a hurricane shelter (Hurricane Wilma, Cancun, 2005) I wished I’d had earplugs, a flashlight (the wind-up kind) and cards or a game to play (cribbage?) Never travel without those things now.

  10. If you haven’t any tape and need some in an emergency, peel off the long luggage barcode (put on your bags by the airline)…did you know all it is is just one long sticker!

    Another “essential” is a fold-out and sectioned toiletry bag with a velcro strap to hang it up. Hook it over a door handle/towel rail etc…there is never enough room in accommodation bathrooms and this keeps your toiletries IN the bathroom, and all in one place!

    • Mabel says:

      I have a bag like this that I take everywhere I travel–it has a hook in it that hangs on doorknobs, towel racks, etc. Keeps my toiletries handy just like you said. I love that thing.

  11. Dan says:

    Hotel rooms are becoming more and more populated with electronics, each with its own pilot light – they can really light up a room at night. You can cut 1-inch pieces from a small roll of black electrical tape to cover them without doing any harm. Remove when leaving or leave for the next person.

  12. sharon blackwell says:

    I always pack a scarf( the kind that goes around your neck in case it gets cold, some baggies of different sizes for all kinds of uses, some sticky notes, and light sarong I got in Thailand that becomes a blanket, cover-up, a top if necessary. I liked some of the great ideas previously posted too.

  13. Janet says:

    I always – always – always pack a Swiss Army knife and/or Leatherman multi tool which includes: Needlenose Pliers, Wire Cutters, Knife, Scissors, Saw, Misc Screwdrivers, Diamond-coated File, Wood/Metal File, Bottle Opener, Can Opener, and most important a Corkscrew!

  14. PattieJune says:

    Wonderful list, this is a keeper.

  15. Carole says:

    We always take an extension cord. I travel with my husband and our iPhones, iPad, MacBook Air, curling iron, etc, never have enough wall plugs available. Put cord into adapter (or convertor when necessary) and all can be charged at same time. We also each pack a tightly folded waterproof parka. Find it helpful too many times!

  16. Sandy B says:

    Small spray bottle – spray wrinkled clothing at night, hang up, dry and no wrinkles in the morning. We have been doing this for years and even at home with rolling at edges with denim.

  17. Judy A says:

    One of the best things I ever pack is my pillow case. It’s light and takes up almost no space in my bag, but putting my head down at night on my own pillow case provides an invaluable feeling of comfort.

  18. Paige says:

    Rock on I love this!

    Here’s my addition-travel pack of wipes. Can be used for so many things including the biore face cleansers, clean hands before/after eating on the go, helpful in bathroom if you, uh, “drink the water,” removes stains/prewash for clothes, clean off icky surfaces in hotel rooms.

    Happy Travels

  19. Sandy B says:

    We always take a 4 point power cord then only need one electrical adaptor, also resealable sandwich bags of various sizes – always good if someone has the need to vomit while on the go (held a few when the kids have overdone the drinking the night before and then feeling a bit seedy when going up the mountains in buses)
    Acticoat (burn dressing) and hyperfix (adhesive dressing) duoderm (adhesive padded dressing) – duoderm and hyperfix to cover blisters and acticoat and hyperfix for minor burns/scalds or infections.
    sudocream for any rashes or moist areas on skin.

  20. Edgar says:

    I think that depends on the nice Home Land Security Agent, and what kink of day she/he is having.

  21. Gladys says:

    Great list. I’ve always carried all these items except duct tape. Security has not been known for the most critical thinking as I have had cocoa butter sticks the size of lipstick taken from me for no reasonable reason. When I asked what’s the difference between cocoa butter and a lipstick tube, the answer was, it’s greasier. I assume there is some way you might be able to grease someone to death, even though I’ve never heard of it.

  22. Carol says:

    I always pack a couple of chip clips to clip the curtains closed. Although many hotels have blackout curtains, many don’t close properly, and there is almost always a bright light just outside the window.

  23. Ann says:

    A few strong clothes pins and/or metal binder clips–can be used to keep papers together, hang wet clothes on lines or hangers, hold curtains together to keep out the light, seal snack bags, hold your earphones to the back of the airplane seat in front of you when you aren’t using them so they don’t slide down into the pocket or the floor, secure an airplane blanket to the seat (or your clothing) so it doesn’t slide off, keep a jacket, purse, etc. closed when you lose a button or break a zipper, clip cash or passports to secure sites (under bed, inside a curtain, carry-on, etc). I never travel that I don’t find multiple ways to use them!

  24. Carol in Denver says:

    We, also, always carry wipes. However, we use plain old baby wipes in the refill packages, about 3 cents each. If you think they weigh too much, just open the package and let them dry out–then re-moisten as you use them.

  25. Mya Campbell says:

    Clips and wipes and 3-way extension cords. Great ideas! Thx.

  26. Judy says:

    Command hooks are great. You can apply to almost any smooth surface, then remove with no harm done. I have used them to hang a clothesline for drying all kinds of things, or just for more hanging areas on cruise ships, in hotels, etc.

  27. Cheryl says:

    duct tape in black, check; TP:squash the roll flat, even take out the cardboard, carry in shoe; add a coffee can – or other plastic – cover – can serve as a sink stopper,or plate; I also take along an insulated cup/bottle and a baggy with prepackaged tea bags, instant coffee, creamer, and maybe some instant oatmeal -you can almost always get hot water, and on the road or in the air this can just tide you over when there are long delays. Extension cords – i like the curled ones.
    finally baby diaper pins: they can be used: to hold clothes together, OC — but can also be useful to hold things to dry in places where they might otherwise fly away ( it’s happened), to hold keys safely, and I keep a baby size nail cutter on one in my bags.

  28. Mary Durkin says:

    Thanks for all the great tips. I pack duck tape too but use the flat 3M strips. It even fits in my purse. Other things I pack: nightlight (helps getting to the bathroom in dark rooms), carabeener (attach extra bags or water bottle), bandana (attach to your bag for easy spotting then use it for multiple uses-hanky, hair, dew rag etc.), travel size febreeze (refresh clothes or use as bathroom spray), and my luggage tag is a bottle opener.

  29. Dan says:

    Great List. Some of these will be really useful for my next backpacking trip.

  30. Nancy says:

    I travel with assorted zip ties to fix things, example hand bag strap, flipper strap movement. Re member small toe nail clippers to cut ties when needed

Leave a Reply