If you’re a frequent traveler (especially the kind who likes to stay organized), I’m sure you’ve read countless articles about travel essentials. There’s a seemingly infinite number of lists out there, itemizing all the things travelers should make sure they’ve stuffed into their already stuffed suitcases. I’ve got my own lists, too. I’ve got my own personal list of fashion essentials, toiletry essentials, tech essentials … you know the drill. But I thought it was time to write a list of not so common travel essentials, those items that I always throw in my suitcase before heading to the airport but never seem to end up on any of those lists we’re always reading. Most of them take up very little room, which is always a bonus and all of them will come in handy. I hope this list is useful for you, too!

1 Extension Cord
I never travel without an extension cord. And I use it. Every. Single. Time. Newer hotels are doing a better job of making sure that there are lots of outlets, especially on both sides of the bed. But in older hotels, you’re bound to bemoan the lack of outlets or their lack of proximity to wherever you want to be. (I once stayed at a hotel in London that had no outlets in the bathroom, which is not uncommon, and no outlets anywhere near the one mirror in the bedroom. I had to plug my laptop in, sit on the floor and dry my hair using the PhotoBooth camera on my computer.) If you’re traveling with a companion, then that’s twice as many computers, phones and tablets that need to be charged. In my experience, an extension cord has always come in handy and now I never leave home without one.

2 Allergy Pills
I suffer from pretty severe seasonal allergies and when I’m at home, I know that August is when breathing get really tough for me. But when you’re traveling, you just never know what kind of air you’ll encounter and not being able to breathe in a foreign place where you can’t easily get to a pharmacy, is a nightmare. So in addition to any other first-aid items or medicines you may travel with, don’t forget to throw a pack of antihistamines in your bag. Even if you don’t normally suffer from seasonal allergies, certain things in the air can trigger them. Plus, antihistamines can ease the symptoms of all kinds of allergic reactions. Some antihistamines can even be used to treat stomach ulcers, insomnia and motion sickness. (Read all package directions completely and consult a doctor if you’re unsure about your symptoms.)

3 Spin Pins

Well, this one is obviously for the ladies. Goody’s Spin Pins are tiny so there’s no reason not to throw a few in your bag. Why? When I’m traveling, I don’t want to have to spend an hour drying and styling my hair (my hair is long, thick and time-consuming!) I prefer to wash and go, which isn’t always easy with my hair. But Spin Pins allow me to put my hair up easily and it takes less than five minutes. I’m a big fan of the Hair Donut from Claire’s as well, which helps me do the same thing. So when I’m on the road, I can throw my hair up stylishly, without wasting time to do it. And you know what that means: More time for exploring!

4 Ziploc Bags
I always stuff a handful of Ziploc bags (a combo of the sandwich size and the large freezer bags) into one of the pockets in my suitcase. They always come in handy for something. I use them to store flip flops (2 pairs can fit in one bag), to separate clean undies from worn and they can be used to store a wet bathing suit in a pinch. I also use the large bags to keep all my chargers in one place. Plus, it’s handy to have extra bags if your liquids leak. They take up no room at all and can be used in so many different ways.

5 Tea Bags
My husband teases me and says that I should travel with my own personal supply of mini maple syrup bottles. (Hey, I’m Canadian – it’s real maple syrup or nothin’!) And while that makes perfect sense is ridiculous, what’s not ridiculous is traveling with a stash of English Breakfast tea bags! My perfect morning starts with a large cup of tea. And these days, most hotel rooms have a kettle, so it’s easier and cheaper to brew my own cuppa in the room. I get my fix as soon as I’m ready for it and I can also brew a cup before bedtime. Most rooms have coffee makers as well, so if a cup o’ joe is more your speed, consider throwing a bag of your favourite beans into your suitcase. This way, you can feed the need anytime you want!

6 Safety Pins
Throw a few safety pins into your bag of toiletries, just in case. Naturally they’ll come in handy if you need to quickly hold a rip together but they can also be used to restart certain electronic devices. When my Kobo e-reader froze on a recent trip, I had to find a pin to push in the tiny reset button, located on the back of the device. A pen was way too big and even the end of a paper clip didn’t fit but the safety pin was the perfect size.

What are your not-so-common travel essentials?

{Image via Kate Spade}

38 Comments on 6 Not So Common Travel Essentials

  1. The Belle Voyage
    July 4, 2014 at 5:35 am (5 years ago)

    Finally – someone else who brings their own tea bags!! I love it. I took an entire box on our honeymoon and my husband thought I was crazy – but at that point it was too late 🙂

    • Natalie
      July 8, 2014 at 6:40 pm (5 years ago)

      Haha! Taking an entire box of tea on your honeymoon makes PERFECT sense to me! I think my husband finally got tired of the constant search for places to stop and get tea so now he’s fully on board with the ‘pack your own tea’ strategy. Do you take milk in your tea? This is still a challenge but of course, if there’s a fridge in the room, you can find a grocery store and pick up some milk … I wish hotels would stock the fridge with some milk … and not those creamer things.

      • The Belle Voyage
        July 14, 2014 at 12:11 am (5 years ago)

        I do! Tea without milk is just….not tea? And I totally agree – the little mini-moos that try to pass as creamer just don’t cut it either. I love traveling in the UK and Ireland where they make good tea a priority – those are the only places I don’t BMOT.

  2. CarolSue
    July 23, 2014 at 5:12 pm (5 years ago)

    Extension cord! You are so right-on. Like you, I used it Every. Single. Time. on my 5 month trip to Asia. I only had a carry-on bag and small backpack, and the thing was bulky, but it went with me-in the backpack so it was handy even in airports. Now, where can we find a “travel” extension cord that is not so bulky? You can read about my travels at http://carolsuestories.com. Love to have you with me.

    • Natalie
      July 24, 2014 at 2:13 pm (5 years ago)

      So glad you agree! My extension cord is quite long and I agree – it’s bulky and I wish I didn’t have to cart it along with me but it’s absolutely an essential. I’m always working while I’m traveling so I need to have juice for my laptop and with the extension cord, I can make myself comfortable anywhere I like. Since the ones we seem to travel with aren’t very travel friendly, I’ll do some research and see if I can find something with less bulk and easier to pack.

  3. Sue Reddel
    July 23, 2014 at 6:02 pm (5 years ago)

    Love your list, it is almost identical to my must-haves. I would add my sleep mask and sound canceling headphones. I wouldn’t dream of traveling without my personal tea stash. Can’t live without it.

    • Natalie
      July 24, 2014 at 2:15 pm (5 years ago)

      I love that so many people travel with a stash of tea! The only problem for me remains the milk (preferably skim haha) … but the tea bags are a first step in the right direction! And yes – a sleep mask is a good one, too.

  4. CaroleLee
    July 23, 2014 at 7:21 pm (5 years ago)

    Take snack size plastic bags. Perfect size for separating foreign currency, saving receipts as well as for your tooth bush & paste in your purse for flights.

    • Natalie
      July 24, 2014 at 2:16 pm (5 years ago)

      Great tips! Thanks!

  5. Nomad at heart
    July 24, 2014 at 3:13 am (5 years ago)

    Your last item on the list, “safety pins” reminded me of where I keep mine stashed: on the zipper handle of my cosmetic bag. A department store make-up artist gave me one of my best travel secrets, gather your product samples usually packaged in a foil-type packet, poke a hole with your safety pin into the sample packet and portion out the amount you need. Use one of the sandwich baggies to store the remainder sample product. The samples are usually good for several uses and then you can discard as you go! Genius!

    • Natalie
      July 24, 2014 at 2:17 pm (5 years ago)

      Ah, that’s such a great tip – thanks for sharing! I will have to keep this one in mind! 🙂

  6. DebbieT
    July 24, 2014 at 5:18 am (5 years ago)

    :::waving::: another teabag-taker here…. plus, I split them between caffeinated and decaf – so I sleep smoothly. Those foiled-packet ones seem to travel best for me and taste as fresh as a teabag possibly could, I think. And the extension cord is a brilliant idea, I will begin the search now for one that will work for us!

    • Natalie
      July 24, 2014 at 2:18 pm (5 years ago)

      Traveling with an extension cord will make a huge difference! And I love that so many people agree about the tea bags. Great idea to pack both caffeinated and decaf (I also drink decaf before bed).

  7. Amandine
    July 24, 2014 at 3:53 pm (5 years ago)

    I agree so much on the tea bags. My boy friend was first surprised asking “what are these? Don’t you think there will be some tea there?” Well, I’m not sure, and even is there is, it might be the Lipton Yellow I can’t stand anymore”. So no risk here: a day without tea is like a day without sun : depressing 🙂 I would add to the list, earplugs… either in a train, a hotel room, a tent or anywhere, you never know who your neighbourg will be! 🙂

  8. OneTassieDevil
    July 26, 2014 at 7:19 am (5 years ago)

    Not only do I take tea bags but coffee bags too! I buy small long life milk packs which can be used up along the way if I can’t get fresh milk. Nothing worse than creamer or powdered milk in tea! Also since we have multiple devices to recharge these days, I take a power pack so I can plug them all in and I only need one adaptor if the power supply is not compatible. The devices all stay together & you are less likely to walk out forgetting a charger tucked under a side table. A friend recently took their family of 5 to France and the power packs were a godsend for all their cameras/phones/ipods/laptops, etc – fewer arguments all round!

  9. Judy
    July 31, 2014 at 7:04 pm (5 years ago)

    Another tea-bagger here. I also bring plain, instant oatmeal packs, along with a snack-sized ziplock bag filled with raisins, cinnamon and stevia. My other “essential” is a night light for the bathroom, to lower the likelihood that I’ll break my neck in the middle of the night.

  10. Matthew
    May 27, 2015 at 8:50 am (4 years ago)

    As an Englishman, I always carry teabags when travelling because there is nothing more horrific than find a hotel with inferior tea bags. It’s good advice there.

  11. Jeannette
    November 12, 2015 at 11:40 pm (4 years ago)

    I love all the tea fanatics! I am also one, which includes keeping an assortment in my purse or backpack all day long (even when not traveling). I also keep a bag or 2 in my under-the-seat carryon when I’m flying so I can ask for hot water and have a cup! As for another travel essential, dry shampoo has gone a long way in making my routine much lower-maintenance. As someone who suffers from rather unwieldy curly hair, shampooing is always a bit stressful on the road. My favorite is One Love Organics, which also comes in travel size and doesn’t count as a liquid. For the win!

    Thanks to all for these great tips! I’ll definitely be putting these all to use!

    • Natalie
      November 13, 2015 at 10:54 pm (4 years ago)

      Hi Jeannette,
      Thanks for your comment! I get a kick out of knowing that I’m not the only one who can’t survive without her perfect cuppa! And YES re: dry shampoo – it’s definitely a life saver, especially when you’re traveling. I have long, thick hair that just takes forever to wash and blow dry so dry shampoo really saves the day and cuts hair styling time down (I mean, who wants to have to waste time on their hair when traveling?!) Thanks for the suggestion – will definitely check One Love Organics out 🙂

  12. Barbara Beauchemin
    December 31, 2015 at 2:45 pm (4 years ago)

    I always pack a night light for the bathroom…..no matter if I forget it when I leave as it only costs me $1 and the next guest will benefit…speaking of bathrooms I also bring a travel size lysol spray for my roommate and I to use as needed. Keeps room or cabin pleasant!

  13. Toni
    January 21, 2016 at 10:34 am (4 years ago)

    Love the suggestion of the extension cord! I always travel with tea, Starbucks Via packs, a nightlight, safety pins, and ziploc bags. I keep my travel make-up bag ready to go with a post-it note listing the few additions I often need but don’t have duplicates of. I do the same with my toiletry bag. The morning of the trip, I always do my make-up and hair from the travel kits so I know if I’ve forgotten any essential item. That also lets me eliminate anything I don’t need. Upon returning, I replenish and update my travel items so I’m ready to go the next time. I also tag clothes (or make a list) of the basics that always work no matter what. Saves time when you’re thinking about what to take.

  14. Paula H
    March 2, 2016 at 1:15 pm (4 years ago)

    I always pack bubble wrap and packing tape…it allows me to shop for fragiles and liquids without fear…and they go into the zip locks. In addition, Starbucks instant coffees.

  15. Vilma maddock
    March 2, 2016 at 2:04 pm (4 years ago)

    I take a small plastic hanger (the kind you get from dept. store underwear purchases) and use it to hang up wet bathing suit to dry. Also take small plastic bowl and spoon for instant cereal or whatever.

    • Natalie
      March 9, 2016 at 12:07 pm (4 years ago)

      Great ideas!

  16. Sharon
    March 2, 2016 at 7:59 pm (4 years ago)

    I’m often told that I’m a “tea snob” because I always have my favorite tea with me. So glad to hear I’m not alone. I also agree with milk, and that Ireland and the U.K., know how to do it right. ☕️

    • Natalie
      March 9, 2016 at 12:06 pm (4 years ago)

      YES! I’ve been called a tea snob too but it’s just that I know what I like – and what’s wrong with that?! And tea is so much more than a drink. It provides so much comfort to me and settles my often queasy stomach when I travel. The perfect cup of tea is a life essential for me haha

  17. Kay Tibbles
    March 2, 2016 at 11:36 pm (4 years ago)

    I take everything you mentioned except the accessories for long hair as I wear my hair in a semi-short easy-to-care-for bob. I would also suggest a small roll of duct tape (I roll some around a piece of card stock). It’s come in handy so many times. Being a fellow tea-lover I also take a ziploc bag of both reg. & decaf. I drink my tea with no milk so that’s not a problem. I also pack an immersion heater (got mine at REI) and a small mug so I can make tea wherever I am. I travel with Conair’s travel toothbrush (Container Store) that is about the size a large ball point pen so you don’t need a case. I pack the small size of Fresh Wave odor eliminator (Container Store) for musty rooms, or whatever. Thanks for this column!

    • Natalie
      March 9, 2016 at 12:09 pm (4 years ago)

      Thanks for your comment, Kay. I love knowing that I’m not alone in the tea department! And thanks for the other great suggestions!

  18. Kay Tibbles
    March 3, 2016 at 1:56 am (4 years ago)

    There is an error in my comment. I spoke of a Conair toothbrush. It’s actually a portable Sonic toothbrush. It has batteries and vibrates. You can also replace the heads as necessary.

  19. Jenny Smith
    March 3, 2016 at 2:44 am (4 years ago)

    I always travel with a power board so I can charge more than one thing at a time. The other thing I take is a bull dog clip quite often the curtains don’t close properly and I like my privacy.

  20. Carter Rosemond
    March 19, 2016 at 11:00 am (4 years ago)

    Going bareboat sailing in April and not sure of the coffee situation. My sister said instant and all I can think about it my mother’s Taster Choice. Ugh. Aha, I am taking Via as I need my morning coffee so no need for a coffee maker. And tea bags are a great idea. I’m actually taking a supply of the cold brew bags as I love iced tea. I also take several empty plastic bags, for similar use as the ziplocs, for dirty laundry, wet bathing suits, etc. If I am checking my bag, I always take my Swiss Army knife as well.

  21. Susan
    June 2, 2016 at 10:25 pm (3 years ago)

    We always take a small flashlight, a very long shoe lace that has several uses, clothes line, pajama cord and shoe lace.
    I use a contact lens case to hold foundation (one side) and loose mineral powder (other side) – fits in my pocket or smallest purse.

  22. Cris
    August 20, 2016 at 4:14 am (3 years ago)

    Allergy Pills and ziploc bags — always, always , always with me. Lately, I finally remember to take my motion sickness pills with me. I hear you on the extension cord but I still refuse to pack it. Every place I stayed at had some for those like me :))
    I buy tea bags when I travel. It’s one my “things”.
    @Susan: husband is the one to pack the flashlight and I always thank him for that once we need it 🙂

  23. Anita
    March 30, 2017 at 12:13 pm (3 years ago)

    Love all the ideas, and I do most. Here are 3 that I always do that are not mentioned:

    1. S type hook(s) to hook over door and have an extra place to hang things, especially in the bathroom. So many hotel bathrooms don’t have any hooks at all. (Love the idea of the small plastic hanger with clips–adding to my list.)

    2. A piece memory foam in a king size pillowcase, rolled up. Makes airplane seats bearable. Then, if the hotel or house doesn’t have good pillows, I fold it in half. It’s also been a lifesaver in (hard) business class lay-flat “beds” I put it under my back. I hang it from my carryon bag with 3. a large clip (carabiner or figure 8 clip), which also has many uses.

  24. Becca
    October 6, 2017 at 9:35 pm (2 years ago)

    wooden clothes pins!!

  25. Georgette
    October 13, 2017 at 12:03 pm (2 years ago)

    Hi Natalie

    I always travel with decaf Irish breakfast tea bags and mini maple syrups! Now I need to figure out how to bring fresh lemon juice for my tea! And ziplocs- one of Mama Jeanne’s essentials. Thanks for making me feel “normal”- at least in the traveling tea bag department!

    • Natalie
      October 14, 2017 at 11:04 pm (2 years ago)

      Haha – I totally hear you! I wish I could travel with skim milk wherever I go! 🙂

  26. Kathy Millard
    October 14, 2017 at 8:57 am (2 years ago)

    I travel a lot and I always take the only cold sore remedy ( made in Canada) that has ever helped. Luckily I only had to use it once or twice, but I would be lost trying to find a remedy in a new place!


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