10 Tiny Things to Travel With 23


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?


About sarahinitalia@yahoo.com

Sarah Murdoch is a tour guide and guidebook writer for Rick Steves Europe. Her blog, Adventures with Sarah, focuses on packing tips, travel stories and advice for planning the best trip possible.


23 thoughts on “10 Tiny Things to Travel With

  • Joan

    I just returned from China where the airport staff took my beloved Tweezerman beveled tweezers because they were “too pointy.” I suppose if were really motivated I could use them as a weapon :-/

    I’ll need to see if they make a blunt end style.

  • Deb Correia

    I’m a big proponent of natural products, so I use essential oils that I wouldn’t leave home without. They can sooth blisters, cuts, sunburns, etc.; be used for bug repellent; freshen stinky shoes or clothes; are anti-bacterial so can be used in those nasty bathrooms or before you eat if there’s no place to wash your hands; can calm upset tummies; provide relief for sore muscles; provide relaxation in the bath or shower; help with jet lag and sleep; and so much more! I have a collection of oils that I take in very small bottles, since I only use a couple of drops at a time. And I still have plenty of room for my other liquids, especially when traveling with my husband since he doesn’t bring much and I can steal some of his space. 😉

  • DizzyLiz

    I take a 5 port USB charger for Kindle, phones, etc. I can leave the plug end of my chargers at home and take only the cords, and I only need one adaptor. I also take a very thin, light battery pack for my phone (which is also my camera) and my Kindle for long plane trips to Southeast Asia. And last but not least, my Rick Steves fast-drying microfiber travel towel for hotel room laundry without lint.

  • Kathy J.

    Instead of a large safety pin for resetting electronics, I keep a paperclip in my computer bag. A web site I’ve found very handy is minimus.biz. They have just about everything you might want in small travel size, including a small container of Vaseline and a small roll of duct tape. Also handy are little baby wash cloths for places that don’t offer those. I scan all my paperwork, including my passport, credit cards, etc. and put them on a password-protected thumb drive as well as emailing copies to myself. I have two files (one for me and one for hubby) that lists what meds we take, allergies, names and phone #s of doctors, and names/phone # of family to contact in case of emergency. I always have a copy somewhere on me in case of accident.

    • Tami C.

      Thanks for the website, love it! I scan all my stuff too and keep a copy on a tiny SD card, easily hidden/stored.

  • Kathy Noll

    I was always packing tiny rolls of duct tape to fix my black canvas suitcase. But at Walmart in the craft department I actually found individual sheets of duct tape. They are inexpensive and come in a variety of colors. They lay flat in the bottom of my suitcase (or you can add them to your travel documents) and they are the same size and light weight as a sheet of paper. With my tiny travel scissors I can cut as big or small a piece as I want for any number of things.

  • Kimiko

    An eye mask is essential for me. So many hotels have blinking lights coming through the curtains or from the bathroom (like a night light). I sleep so much better with a mask!

  • Victoria Emerton

    I always travel with “Compeed” blister plasters. Instant relief for foot blisters and sore back of heels rubbed by lots of walking

  • Tami Cero

    Sarah – I’m a huge fan since “discovering you” via your packing class a couple of weeks ago on an old YouTube. The Rick Steves books have never steered me wrong and I don’t check bags, but you’ve challenged me on the 16 lbs, I’m going to do it on my next trip! Thanks for the blog. My favorite tiny thing – I have a sign I made from card stock. I punched a hole in the top, slipped it into a plastic cover, and made a “hanger” with a large rubber band. The last night in my hotel room, part of my packing routine is hanging the sign on the door, the last thing I see before I leave in the morning. It says: Check the following – nightstand, closet, shower (for products), behind the bathroom door (toiletry bag), in the bed (socks), wall for cords and adapters, check safe. No matter how late I might be running, I do NOT open that hotel room door until I read every single thing on that list and mentally check it off. Then, the sign gets slipped into the front pocket of my bag, for the next hotel stay. This has saved me many times. I also have one I use at home the night before I leave for a trip, with things like “neck pillow” “leave a check for the cleaning service”, “grab the right eyeglasses”, etc.

    A not so small item that saves a lot of space is my smartphone. I have a Note 4 (not 7!) and since I can write in it with the stylus, it serves as my “moleskin” for journaling my trip. I use it for my camera, as my Kindle and the large screen serves as a perfectly good tablet if I don’t want to pack my iPad.

  • Laurel Barton

    Individually packaged WetOnes are in my purse, backpack and suitcase. They are useful for cleaning spots off of clothes (I’ve removed coffee from a white shirt in an instant), sanitizing hands, cleaning the tray on the plane or train, and spiffing up a dirty toilet here and there.

    I also pack ZipLocs in 3 sizes: sandwich, quart and gallon. Endless uses from 3-1-1 bag to storing something stinky or a snack. Especially great when we stay in apartments and have leftovers.

  • CMN

    Hmmm… I’m staring at my bag right this moment and thinking “what else have I got that Sarah didn’t mention??”… you pretty much nailed it! Ah, but there’s one right there. Fingernail clippers. Great for trimming nails and clipping annoying hangnails, of course, but also useful for clipping loose threads, plastic zip ties, or anything really that needs a strong little cut to get into or remove. Having one with a nail file helps too. And oh yes — I always stick 2 or three extra quart-size ziploc bags in my luggage. They’re just so incredibly useful when you’re on the road!

    Happy travels from Nice!

  • Barbara

    This would be too heavy for you, but for those of us who check in a bag, I take a power surge strip. They make them with a short cord 12-18″ long. I always travel with at least one family member; daughter, daughter and niece, a sister, or both sisters. Everyone has a iPhone and an iPad, plus two of us have Fitbits, that all need to be charged every night. There are never enough outlets in hotel rooms to plug in all of those devices. With the power strip we can charge 6 of the devices at once overnight. It has saved anyone becoming grumpy because their phone did not get charged before we hit the streets again in the morning.

  • Mary

    Duct tape in a little bitty roll. Bought it on a travel website. I keep one in every suitcase I won. A plastic fork, knife and spoon and napkin for picnics or snacks in the hotel room.

  • Suanne Pipping

    Great tips- one you may want to include next time is an ink pen (bid or similar work best) that has several inches of duct tape wrapped around it- works great to mend a tear in a suitcase or backpack, fix shoes, or to make a “handle” to help carry something. You even can put over hot spots on your heels, if you forgot the molesting.

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