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pack suitcaseMost of us have that one treasured item we just can’t live without — even when we’re headed away on vacation. We make sure our “can’t live without” item finds its way into the bag, even if something more essential has to be left behind.

We here at IndependentTraveler.com have a theory, based on our collective years of experience: that the compulsion to pack the “can’t live without” item crosses all boundaries of personality type, race, gender and creed.

Maybe you’re sentimental and chuck out the spare pair of shoes in favor of your favorite childhood plush toy … or you’re superstitious and won’t board a plane, train or boat without your trusty good luck charm.

Even the more practical travelers among us — we who make our lists and organize our hermetically sealed suitcases alphabetically, cross-referenced against a color-coded spreadsheet — are not immune. We remember the passport and the tickets. We have twice the socks and underwear we could ever need and clothing for any occasion and eventuality. And we have it, too. The “can’t live without” item.

Readers Share Their Must-Pack Items

Copy editor Ashley Kosciolek brings at least three garbage bags — “one for dirty laundry and a couple extras in case it rains (can use ’em as ponchos or to keep wet/dirty clothes and shoes separate from everything else).” Senior editor Sarah Schlichter never leaves home without her travel journal, where she’s scribbled down years of notes about her favorite restaurants and most memorable experiences around the world.

And IT.com contributor Erica Silverstein doesn’t get on a plane without her husband’s lucky Christmas moose, even when she’s traveling alone: “I’m not a great flier, so I need something to clutch when it gets bumpy. If Adam’s around, I clutch him. If he’s not, I have a soft, cuddly moose.”

Quiz: What’s Your Packing Personality?

Now it’s your turn: What is it that you always pack when you when you travel? Tell us in the comments below.

— written by Jamey Bergman

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14 Responses to “Don’t Leave Home Without It”

  1. Sara says:

    For me, it has to be a camera! Besides tickets and passport (obviously), it’s the one thing that if left behind makes me feel like the journey will be incomplete.
    Garbage bag(s) is a good one, useful for so many purposes and yet they are usually forgotten while packing! :)

  2. LavishChic says:

    Converters for your personal electrics (like phone/ipad or camera chargers!)

  3. Aside from the obvious things, I like to have a compass on me. I know it sounds ridiculous, but my sense of direction is so bad it’s necessary all too often.

  4. Colleen says:

    A snap of my dog (now in heaven) who was always hard to leave – though I think she had plenty of fun with either my neighbor or mother.
    Ordinarily my Swiss Army Knife….truly helped w/almost everything BUT ironically it was confiscated at JFK last May after the tragic Boston bombing & measures were tightened back up. Yes, I’d bought it in Switzerland.

  5. doreen smethurst says:

    I always put a large blck garbage bag in the bottom of my suitcase and one on top of all my items. This not only keeps things dry – I have had luggage left out in the rain between ‘plane connections, but also I have a ready to wear raincoat should it rain.

    • Jane Long says:

      I use the garbage bags to line my luggage, too. I learned that lesson after watching my bag sit on the tarmac in Miami during a downpour. When I arrived in my destination south of the equator and it was winter, I didn’t have the warm, dry clothes I needed. As others have pointed out, the bags can have other uses once you have arrived.

    • Mary Glynn says:

      I do the same think I also put every thing in plastic zip bags or those you let air out. Not just rain. But bottles that might break in some ones eles luggage. be it wine, wiskey, perfumne, A meet a person that whole luggage was drowned in Scotch where the bottle broke in some one else luggage. I also label each bag. On top of my bag I put where I am going and my brother’s home address when coming home.


  6. JAG says:

    Something I’ve enjoyed bringing along is an electric (lighted) alarm clock, as the illuminated display helps as a night-light during the night, along with seeing the time. I used to pack a small travel alarm, but even the lighted ones were hard to see in the night sometimes. Another thing we always keep close to us in hotels or cruise ships is a small flashlight in case of a power shortage.

  7. KathyMac says:

    I like to take a multi-outlet extender. I have found that hotels and particularly cruise cabins have few available outlets for phone chargers, blow dryers, curling irons and laptops. So this helps a LOT! Turn one outlet into three. The don’t take up much space, either.

  8. KathyMac says:

    Also, on my phone – city guide apps, (speaking) language translation apps and currency converter apps for international travel. Plus, of course, my phone GPS. Could not live without it.

  9. Teresa says:

    I always put a sheet of bubble wrap in the bottom of my suitcase. Then,
    if I see some fragile souvenir/treasure that I just cant pass up, I can wrap it in my bubble wrap and keep it in my carry on or tote bag for the trip home.

  10. Mathduster says:

    For cruises, 2 magnetic clips for holding the daily events and lots of other things. Every ship I’ve been on has at least one metal wall for the magnets.
    2-5 clothes pins that hook over the shower rod or keeps the drapes closed. For longer trips, Tide hand wash packets for small laundry items.

  11. sun elko says:

    NEVER PACK MORE THAN ONE CARRY ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! if you can’t fit it in one bag DON”T take it!!!!!!! yr better off to do without than to loose anything important.
    must haves; money, passport, camera, lap top or smart phone, then (sota depends on where beach vs ski trip obviously different but) my standards for a week to 10 days are-black leggings, 2 dresses, jacket/sweater, chuck taylors, always wear heals or high heal boots on the plane saves packing room, and extra small bag just in case you buy things to come back with. sure undies, socks… but i personally can function without, liquids are too much trouble so i find i use hotel soaps shampoos and lotions and of course part of travel is to purchase. i like clothes that’s why i don’t take much, as far as real treasures purchased have shipped back home from purchase site. anything else forgotten or spontaneously needed you can buy. you’ll find if you’re really having a good time there are so many things you can go without! i mean really sooooo much is unnecessary!!!

  12. SPEEDLADY says:

    My kindle!!!

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