Nowadays, overpacking can cost you a pretty penny if your luggage is over the weight limit. And, if you’re like me, I hate packing a ton of stuff that I’ll probably never use. So I’ve put together a list of things that don’t take up a lot of space, but can save your trip or at least make it more comfortable.
1. Documents - Old School
I keep a binder with hard copies of my passport, credit cards, health insurance, travel insurance, reservations, itineraries, driver’s license, emergency contact, nearest embassy address, medical info, itinerary, plane tickets, hotel info, even a marriage certificate if I think I’ll need proof. Pssst! And remember to let your credit card companies know you’ll be away. It can be really embarrassing if your credit card gets rejected. Yikes!
2. Now Do it Digital
Load a USB drive with the documents mentioned in number 1 in case the hard copies get lost, damaged or you get separated from your stuff. Just don’t lose the USB drive…
3. STEP It Up
Okay, so this is something you're not technically taking with you, but it might just be a trip saver. If you’re heading out of the country, register your trip with the U.S. State Department’s STEP program. The U.S. State Department website has a ton of useful information for travelers and the STEP program is one of them. According to its website, “The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.” Even if you are on an organized tour, it’s a good idea to register.
4. The Photogenic Suitcase
Take a picture of your luggage. Keep the picture on your phone and also print out a hard copy. If your luggage gets lost, you can just hand over a picture to the customer service representative so he or she will know exactly what your bag looks like.
5. Shine the Light
Flashlight(s) – I’ve been in power outages from Tampa, Florida to Chuuk, Micronesia. You never know when you’ll need it. I pack a travel alarm clock that is also a flashlight, in addition to a small purse size flashlight.
6. Avoid Directional Distress
Take a Compass – it helps you keep your bearings when you’re walking around in an unfamiliar area or if you don’t have a GPS in your rental car. Yeah, it sounds, dumb, but I’ve had to use one from time to time!
7. Boo-Boo Brigade
First Aid Kit – I load up a little plastic bag with bandages of different sizes, antibiotic cream, hand wipes, insecticide wipes, rubber gloves for icky jobs (you can also wear them when changing a flat bicycle tire so your hands stay relatively clean), various medications (diarrhea, constipation, anti-gas, decongestants, pain relievers, etc.). I’ve used everything I’ve just mentioned at one time or another on a trip.
8. Wash It:
If you need to do laundry in your room or at a laundromat, you'll need things like liquid laundry detergent in travel size, laundry pods, hangars, dryer sheets and clothes pins. Bringing your own can save you money. See, "How to Find a Laundromat in Croatia… " (You can also use a clothes pin to hold your toothbrush if setting it on the hotel bathroom counter grosses you out).
The double "F" stands for Flip Flops – you can wear them to the pool, to the beach, in the shower, to walk down the hall to the ice machine, or if you need to evacuate your hotel room quickly in case of an emergency.
Plastic bags and baggies are great to hold wet clothes, dirty clothes, etc. We even use plastic grocery bags to put on our wetsuits when we dive. See, "How to Put On a Wetsuit With a Plastic Bag"
11. Keep it Dry
Toss a lightweight, compact travel umbrella in a backpack. It's super valuable on trips not just on rainy days, but on days when the sun can unforgiving.
Take a multi-tool like a Swiss Army Knife or a Leatherman – you never know when you’ll need it. You can use a multi-tool to tighten a screw on luggage or to cut bread on an impromptu picnic. If you're flying, you’ll probably need to pack it in your checked luggage. According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website wrenches/pliers/screwdrivers less than 7" are permitted in carry on, but knives must be packed in your checked luggage. Check the TSA website for the most up-to-date and accurate information.
13. Fuel Up
Snacks – granola bars, nuts, hard candies – if you don’t like the plane food, snacks may just tide you over. If you arrive hungry and late at your destination, it’s easier (and cheaper) to reach into your bag then to go into the hotel mini bar, or have to find a store late at night.
14. Water, Water
Collapsible water bottles – They don’t take up much room and you can fill them at the airport. During your trip, if you buy a big bottle of water you can refill the collapsible bottles. There are a number of different types of collapsible bottles available. The ones I have are a bit floppy and look a bit like cylindrical bladders, but once you get used to them, they are real life savers.
I always take my tablet, MP3 player and phone for entertainment (don’t forget your cords, adapters and converters). I also usually take a puzzle book of some kind (the kind you buy at drug stores), because, well, you never know when you might not be able to charge up……
I like to bring my own pillow cases. Putting my head on a pillow other than my own creeps me out and bringing my own pillow case makes me feel less creeped out. I know, I know - What about your own sheets? I admit, I often think about it, but recognize that bringing my own sheets may be a wee bit over the top. I justify packing pillowcases by saying that they don't take up much space and I can use them to hold dirty laundry at the end of a trip.
Do you have other suggestions for things that can be "trip savers"? Let me know on Facebook!