I’ve just finished doing my packing talk at the Rick Steves Travel Festival and am think about packing and tiny travel issues. I shared many of my tips, which, if you missed, you can watch here. I didn’t have time to get to the little things, though, and there are so many small details to share.
Being on the road about 4 months per year puts me solidly in the road warrior category. Being in foreign countries, particularly Italy, all of that time probably makes me a Road Gladiator. I’ve got a solid packing list I’ve developed, but there are a few tiny travel things that I treasure having with me that may not be on the list. They are weigh nothing but pack a big punch in a pinch.
1. Tweezers- I have a deep and abiding love of good tweezers. Plucking eyebrows or annoying hairs, pulling out splinters, grabbing small things that get caught in tight places. So many uses. A use you may not have thought of? Use them as a screwdriver for loose glasses or to pull fabric out of stuck zippers. Also useful if you’ve dropped something down a hotel sink drain, not that I’ve ever done that of course. My favorite tweezers? Tweezerman with an angled tip that’s good for little and big things.
2. Safety Pins- I always have several of these on hand, of different sizes. I use them for broken backpacks, pants that have gotten too loose (one can dream at least), blouses that are too tight in the button area or as a replacement for lost buttons. I keep a strong one in my bag to get the SIM chip out of my iPhone, since it fits nicely in the little hole. You can also use a tough safety pin to fasten your room key to your bag.
3. Spare Adaptors- The electrical sockets in Europe are different than in the US, so our electronics require the little adaptor with two round prongs. These are cheap from ricksteves.com, only $2, so I buy several for my bag. I bring them because it’s so easy to lose them, but I also bring extras to give away. You can’t believe how easy it is to make friends with a handful of adaptors.
4. Travel Tissues- A small pack of Kleenex in your bag is useful for sniffles of course, but also helpful as a shield when you run into yucky things you must touch, like sticky handles on the bus. The main reason to keep some in your bag, though, is for the, um, more primitive WCs that can occasionally be encountered in Europe. Good for wiping the seat or sitting on. You think all public WCs have toilet paper? Nope. Bring the Kleenex.
5. Gum- I don’t chew gum at home, but I always have it when I travel. It’s good for those moments when you have eaten a bunch of garlic but don’t have a toothbrush on you. Even more important for me, I chew gum on take off and landing of an airplane ride, or on a high speed train that goes through tunnels. The chewing helps my ears to pop. Also, if you have delicate teeth, chewing a gum with Xylitol in it apparently helps protect your teeth from cavities by disabling the bacteria that cause them. I don’t have my Sonicare toothbrush with me in Europe, so my dentist suggested this little boost to my poor teeth.
6. Breathe Right Strips– This is the time of year when everyone catches a little cold. Sniffles are no big deal to me but will ruin my night of sleep. I bring these plastic strips in case I’ve got a stuffy nose. You just stick them across the bridge of your nose and press down, like a stiff bandaid. This simple solution prys open your air passages a tiny bit, enough to allow for airflow, and consequently a decent night’s sleep without taking drugs. I also have these for my clients that have snoring roommates. It doesn’t solve serious snoring problems, but can ease minor ones, avoiding major travel conflict and frayed nerves. Genius!
7. Stain Stick– Bringing a small bag with few clothes assumes that you’ll get a few wears out of each thing before washing. Unfortunately, I’m a little sloppy. I try to pack mostly black clothes that won’t show stains, but for the light colors I bring a stain stick. These handy pens can erase just about any mess. This is another great way to make friends on the road, look for distressed diners in need and have the pen ready to loan.
8. Superglue– I can’t even count the number of things that I’ve fixed in a pinch with superglue. The tiny little travel tubes are a miracle. Broken glasses are the top item fixed with this marvel.
9. Floss- I remember a line from a movie once, an old man was asked what he’d do differently with his life if he could and he said “Floss more.” Sound advice. Keep floss in your day bag for those bits you can’t get out of your teeth. But floss has other uses. It’s really strong string for tying things together. It can cut soft cheese. You can use it to measure things. Endless possibilities!
10. Petroleum Jelly- A tiny jar of Vaseline takes up no space but can soothe. I don’t know of a better way to help cracked skin on lips, hands or feet. Skin gets angry in travel from a variety of sources like sunburn or wear and tear and Vaseline just makes it better. Some people use it on their inner thighs if all the walking is causing skin irritation. Besides body uses, you can use it on keys that won’t go into stuck locks or on squeaky hinges on your hotel room.
It’s the little things that save a trip sometimes. I used to joke (only half joking) that I could fix my VW with duck tape and toothpicks, maybe those should be on the list too, just in case the bus breaks down!
What’s your tiny favorite thing in your bag?