Overlooked but worthwhile products?

As we dream about our trip to Europe next summer, are there products to pack that are commonly overlooked but worth considering? For example, I recall a reference to toothpaste tablets in a post, a product that escaped my attention until then.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

Elastic ankle brace, ibuprofen, bandannas, laundry detergent pods, knee brace, kleenex, wrist brace, small traveling cases for cellphone and camera, tiny flashlight, compass for the easily confused, detailed map of the city you will visit, moleskin for foot problems. My list has a lot to do with "when things go wrong and you can't find what you need." You will need an adapter for your plug-in devices. There is a different version for different countries. Sometimes hard to find once you are there. If you will visit several countries, get one that is "universal." Of course, you will have your charging thingy with you. You just need the adapter to connect your charger to the outlet where you are staying.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1960 posts

Bruce: Just carry along your regular personal care products. And if you run out, they have the same items available in any grocery or drug store. Just beware of the Homeland Security list of what sizes you can take. Target has a whole isle of travel size items. If you're going in the Summer, I hope you've been saving all your pennies. You're going to need a couple of hundred pounds of coins for the flight.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7675 posts

If something is "commonly overlooked" it's probably a safe bet that you don't really need it. I have found over the years that many of the nifty travel gadgets and products I bought have ended up unused, and left in a drawer on subsequent trips. I always pack multi-use things, like ziploc bags, or shampoo that you can also use for body wash, but I no longer pay much attention to special travel stuff.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7675 posts

"If you're going in the Summer, I hope you've been saving all your pennies. You're going to need a couple of hundred pounds of coins for the flight." Huh?

Posted by James
Frisco
1783 posts

We travel quite a bit and at times go to some pretty obscure places. In the last decade at one time or another we have come down with the anticipated ailments one would expect to contract at home over the course of time. The difference is when you are on the road they can really mess up a good (and expensive) trip. So, I would leave home with one pair of underwear if need be but I will not leave home without the medicine bag. Keep in mind that I am nearing retirement age and that time in life when more goes wrong. Granted I did have fun in Budapest one time trying to explain to a pharmacist who spoke no English that I needed a certain medicine so I could sit comfortably. Haven't needed it since on the road or at home but I carry them now. I also carry a antibiotics as a result of an illness in Romania and a doctor that spoke no English. I also carry the usual things for upset stomachs, sore throats, cuts, etc; and a spare pair of glasses. The whole it fits in a pouch about 3 x 3 x 6 inches and while it rarely gets used I know I have it. Geee, i wish i were young and indestructable again.

Posted by Randy
Minneapolis, MN, USA
1507 posts

Perhaps like you, I find the long list of travel-related products naturally appealing. In reality, however, nothing we bring (except our Rick Steve's carry-on bag and several 3oz liquids bottles) is specific to travel. Everything else is just the stuff we normally use, though in some cases we use less of it or simply go without. Generally speaking, the simpler and more familiar your items are, the better.

Posted by Southam
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
910 posts

Those zipper-style plastic kitchen bags can deal with moisture. Zip up a damp washcloth for easy packing (and, by the way, European hotels may not supply face cloths.) Or preserve that bottle of perfume. A short length of twine and a few clothespins will help emergency laundry. A little tube of disinfectant ointment and some band-aids may come in handy. All cheap and light (perfume not included.)

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
962 posts

Nancy, I believe David was referring to the high cost of summer airfares to Europe. At least I hope that's what he was referring to.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7188 posts

I like the packs of laundry sheets I get at REI. They come in a plastic case, not much larger than a box of matches, and contain 50 dry sheets of laundry detergent. You use 3 or 4 for a full load, so usually one for a large ziplock bag with some socks and underwear. I like that it doesn't need to take up space in my liquids bag. When I first tried them, I wasn't thrilled; then I read the directions. You put them in a small container, add water to disolve the sheets, then pour it in like a liquid detergent. I brought an Ipod touch for the first time last trip and was really thrilled with it. I added Documents to Go to create and store itineraries, reservations, notes, phone numbers, etc; Jibbigo Spanish, as a translation app; Skype for nearly free wifi calls back to the states (using a set of ear buds with a mike to eliminate background noise); and music. I also used the travel alarm, access to maps, weather, and other local information more than enough to make it worthy of my very light pack list.

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1376 posts

I have gotten my liquids bag down to a small bottle of shaving oil and several bottles of liquor. Everything else is either solid or powder. I will never go any here with out a flashlight, a spare pen, a pocket notebook. There are a number of little flashlights and the one I have now is a Pak-Lite (www.9voltlight.com). I always have a pair of Slip-N-Snip scissors, and usually two. The Wenger Clipper AT is a small Swiss Army knife looking tool without a blade so it has gone through security checks in several countries. If anyone is interested I can give a more detailed list of what I take.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2464 posts

I used to seriously consider some of those commonly overlooked items that seem unique for travel, but eventually I realized that I was just fantasizing about the trip, and these specialty items helped me daydream better. I never used the few things I bought - Target stuff is good enough.

Posted by Emily
Chicago
256 posts

Visine. Especially if you wear contacts. An absolute essential.

Posted by D.D.
England
375 posts

I like to pack dry disposable washcloths with the soap imbedded in them. You just wet them and they suds up, then you throw them away after use. I like these for washing my face because the hotel soap is often too harsh. These washcloths don't take up too much room in a suitcase, and I prefer it to carrying a plastic baggie with a damp washcloth that never dries out.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7820 posts

I am not big on special "travel" products,, I find many are simply overpriced and gimmicky( and I still feel burned by giving into pre travel excitment and getting the RS cutlery set,huge and bulky) . BUT ,, there is this soap called "Forever New" that I found a few years ago in the lingerie department, its for hand washing, its a powder comes in a great container , it washed great, rinces out easily, and lasts a long long time. I also always pack ziplock baggies, both some big ones and small ones. Great for so many things, packing up snacks or leftovers for picnics etc, wet clothes, and just to keep little things together in suitcase. I also always take my own little medicine kit. Yes, they have pretty well everything there that we have , but having been in Florence years ago with a friend, and neither of us speaking a word of Italian and pharmacist speaking no english, and everything was behind the counter, well lets just say it was majorily awkard trying to find a certain cream for what ailed my friend... And then there was the mystery med we got from a pharmacist in Amsterdam for our bad colds, that had us both completely stoned, and trust me that was not our intention !

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9102 posts

The only non-luggage travel products (ie, something designed specifically for travel that I would not use at home) that I regularly take are a toiletry case, a travel tooth brush, and an outlet adaptor if I'm going to a country that uses different sockets. And sometimes, compressor bags when I'm taking bulky clothes in the winter. That's it. Not even a moneybelt.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11266 posts

Several things I find indispensable for light packing are implements for drying clothes, specifically inflatable hangers and drip-dry hangers (www.germantravel-info.com/graphics/clothesline_&_pins.jpg). The inflatible hangers are great for drying shirts, keeping the sides apart for better ventilation. The clothespins are great for drying underwear on the towel rack. The twisted clothesline in the picture I have only used once in 6 weeks of travel, but because of the section cups, I can stick it on tile walls when there is no attachment point handy.

Posted by Diane
Ottawa
1154 posts

About 4-5 trips ago, I discovered the "pill-size" disposable washcloths at a dollar store. I don't travel without them anymore.

Posted by Daniel
Ocean Shores, Wa, USA
71 posts

A few newer items that I find that I won't go without: My iPhone. I used it in place of a moleskine notebook...used the "notes" section every day to keep track of places we had been and what we did. Also had preloaded this section with important phone numbers, addresses, reservation numbers etc....easier than carrying a notebook or paper notes. Also used my iPhone, not for a phone, but to get free or paid wifi numerous times to check email, do research, check flight availablility (due to being stranded by Hurricane Sandy). I was able to let the Aer Lingus reservation agent in Dublin know which connections were available in the US...saving him much time searching on his computer! Also used my iPhone for a flashlight, calculator to calculate tips, currancy conversion, used like a wristwatch to tell time, as well as an alarm clock. Has become my most valuable travel tool! Also took a "zpack" or "azithromiacin" a strong antibiotic along, as my dw gets sinus infection...which she did, and it worked great. Also wouldn't go without amodium AD in case of diarrhea. Have always used the RS triple chord clothesline...even for just a few socks and underwear that we sink washed. And last but not least, my fairly new Garmin GPS...with the appropriate sd- card for where you you will be traveling....if you are renting a car. It was well worth the extra room it took up in my carry-on luggage. A GPS that you own and know how to use, will likely be much more functional than one you rent with the car. Dan

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4758 posts

Download the free Flashlight Ap on your i-phone. Saves carrying around a flashlight and it comes in handy. There are maps and GPS aps to download too.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
399 posts

I plan on going book free this trip - I am the free tour books for Kindle - no internet connection needed and they have great interactive maps of each city showing lodging, restaurants & sights. I keep hoping Thomas Cook comes out with an e-reader version of the rail timetable if not I will have that one book. I am also a proponent of ziplocs. Traveling by train, picnics are very necessary and baggies are a very helpful with picnics. I also carry an assortment of OTC meds - you never know when you might get a bug. Although I do have "down-sized" versions of pretty much everything I use I wouldn't say I use travel specific products. I will be looking for the laundry sheets though - that will save precious "real estate" in my 3-1-1 bags!

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8740 posts

Christi Why haul around the whole heavy Thomas Cook book (part anvil as I remember and really really thin paper) when you can use the knowledge of the DB (German Bahn) with no need to use the internet? It is easily available for Windows and, as DB Navigator, for iOS. I don't know if you can get apps for the Kindle but if you can and if it is available in Android for Kindle, it does everything related to European trains really quickly and accurately. And weighs nothing.

Posted by Christi
Whitsett, TX, United States
399 posts

Thanks Nigel - I'll have to look for it. Does it have all of Europe or just Germany? The one thing I like about having the book is sometimes when looking for one thing I'll something else that I'd rather do.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

I've been traveling with a super-lightweight store shopping bag (1 oz) for years. I can use it for groceries or carrying clothes to the laundry. I think it is made from recycled plastic bottles and came from Trader Joe's. For hand-laundry I use a few drops of shampoo. I have one of the super-absorbent towels; I blot most of the water from my just-washed clothes in this towel. The towel and the clothes dry quickly. The hotel towel can be used this way, but then you have a wet towel. Plastic shower caps, like the ones some hotels provide, are handy for wrapping around the spare shoes/sandals in my bag. This helps keep my bag clean. I always travel with a backpacking-type knife (serrated edge) and spoon. These are very light and durable. The knife will cut cheese and fruit. Sometimes I take one of the light plastic cups, as found in hotels. These are useful when you have drinks in your room and there is only one cup provided by the hotel. Of course, you can always ask for an extra at your hotel.

Posted by Suz
Denver, USA
223 posts

Monte, I have a "slip n snip" scissors (in a small leather slipcase) that I was given years ago. Have been afraid to pack them in a carry-on for fear of TSA confiscation. Will the TSA allow them as carry-ons?

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1376 posts

Suz, I have taken those little scissors through TSA and security in about half a dozen countries and they have never even been looked at. I take two pair, one in my shaving kit and one in the small plastic bag in my shoulder bag that holds coins, pins, keys, and the Wenger Clipper. You can buy the Slip-N-Snip scissors at Smokey Mountain Knife Works for five dollars each. I usually buy four or five pair at a time and give them away to people who need them. The last pair went to Romania so its time to buy more.

Posted by Suz
Denver, USA
223 posts

Thanks for the info, Monte, on both the airport security issue and the name of those scissors. I'd never shopped for them, but really have liked the ones I was given. Now I know what they are called and how to get more.

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1376 posts

You are welcome. Now, do you know about Lush solid shampoo? One more thing to take out of the paranoia bag. I buy several bars online at a time and they come from Vancouver, B.C. in four days. It is expensive but its all I use at home and traveling. The company that makes Goo Toobs also makes a round plastic box that is just right for holding the solid shampoo bars.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3505 posts

Moleskin - if my feet are happy, I am happy. And when you're walking a lot, especially in warm weather, you never know when you'll need it, even with well-worn shoes. Stain remover wipes The disposable shower caps are also handy to cover up your camera if it starts to rain. I always have a canvas tote bag in my day-pack, just in case I find something to buy.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8740 posts

Christi it covers the same trains that the online version does - all of Europe.

Posted by Karen
Santa Rosa, CA
605 posts

With all the electronics we all seem to travel with, the charges start taking up quite a bit of room. Someone recommended a ChargePod on this site about two years ago. It allows you to charge up to 6 devices at one time, which could be six different type of plugins (your choice), but only one charger to plug into a wall. We travel with a IPod, Kindle, Garmin, Camera, Blackberry, all of which would have needed a different chargers. We use it a home to charge the electronic devices, and my husband gets annoyed when I take with me on business trips. We also purchased the car charger, but ended up never using it. A well spent $50 or $60.

Posted by Brad
Charlotte, NC, USA
214 posts

You certainly won't need them in summer, but right now I'm in Berlin and hand-warmers have come in very... well, handy. You can get them for a buck a pair at Walgreens and they will make you very happy for several hours of outdoor touring.

Posted by Paula
Arlington, TX, USA
278 posts

I love the smaller version of zip-lock bags that can be purchased at
craft stores. They are great for medication and handy for other items. They come in assorted sizes.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7675 posts

I often carry single-serving Crystal Light or other beverage packets. You can always find a bottle of water, but with the packets, you can have lemonade or iced tea or even orange breakfast drink (with caffeine!) anytime.

Posted by Ron
southwest, Missouri, U.S.A.
1359 posts

Hello Bruce. I am glad the T.S.A. now allows small scizzors to be in the passenger compartment in an airplane.(I do not do check-in baggage). Scizzors can have various uses, including cutting out a photograph or article in a magazine or travel brochure in Europe. A travel-specific accessory that I bring with me to Europe is an electronic travel alarm clock (very small, and very light weight). But beware : some electronic travel alarm clocks emit a sound (alarm) that is not loud, it does not awaken a person. And I bring eye shades for sleeping in an airplane at night or in the day time. Rick Steves' eye shades are the best that I have seen. I like the compact Toiletries kit from Rick Steves (advertised in "Travel Store" at this website). I put it in a big suitcase, when I used a big suitcase. But now that my primary travel bag is a carry-on size bag, I think the Toiletries kit is too big for being put in that bag. I stopped bringing that compact Toiletries kit bag. I really do not need it. I put personal grooming and hygene items in a small transparent bag that is similar to, and slightly smaller than, a pencil bag. And I bring a Nalgene bottle (blue color) for drinking water. I carry that Nalgene bottle, filled with water, in my small shoulder bag when I am sight seeing. People can easily become dehydrated when they are sightseeing. Like some of the other repliers here, the number of items that I bring when travelling is decreasing with my travel experience. I did not ever bring any computerized item, like a Smart Phone, with me to Europe. I never will. And I do not bring any electrical item that needs to be plugged in to a wall socket for electric current.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

Starbuck's VIA Ready Brew (aka instant coffee). Indeed, I would rather drink an excellent cup of coffee from a local café first thing in the morning, but that's not always possible, the lodging may not have in room coffee, or the breakfast room won't have any for another hour. So, I started taking these little single dose packs on trips last year and have found them to be somewhat of a lifesaver (massive headache akin to an aneurism if no coffee right away in the a.m.). All you really need is warm/hot tap water and a glass or mug from your room. It's actually a decent cup of coffee and tastes nothing like the old instant crap from yesteryear. A little pricey and supporting a massive corporation, but, hey, it works. The packs are tiny and weigh nothing, so you can easily pack them just about anywhere, even just in a shirt or jacket pocket. I take these on every trip now just in case and can have a fix right there when I wake up. A tiny bottle of aspirin, Advil, or whatever (10 count tube). Nothing will ruin your day like a headache from lack of sleep on plane, super early flight/train, lack of caffeine in morning, etc. Personally, I carry both coffee and aspirin in my day bag...never know when either might come in handy.

Posted by bronwen
maplewood, new jersey, usa
750 posts

I like those "compression bags". We travel in winter and I bring a light weight down jacket which I can compress down to nothing and pack away if its not needed.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11266 posts

Karen, I used my SOL's iPad charger for my non-Apple phone a few month ago. The charger used a USB port. (All I needed was a USB to USB mini cord.) So I'm sure you could charge your Apple devices, and others, from the USB port on a netbook/notebook. I also have a AA/AAA battery charger that plugs into a USB port.

Posted by Kia
Toronto, ON, Canada
112 posts

Ziploc bags and some sturdy tape - duct tape only comes in big rolls, so if you don't have the tail end of a used roll, throw in a small roll of electricians' tape.

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1376 posts

Kia, Duct tape does come in smaller rolls and in colors too. You might be able to find it in Home Hardware stores. I buy these small rolls and use a pocket knife to unroll the inside cardboard roller to the point there is anly one layer left. Then I stomp the roll flat. It takes up very little room.

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1376 posts

kThis is what I use to recharge whatever we have with us that needs recharging. Lenmar ACUSB4
Lenmar PPUCLIP The ACUSB4 is the charger and it comes with enough adapters to take you around the world. It is very sturdily made. It has 4 outlets for USB cords to plug in up to four electonic devices. Know however, that the more that are plugged in the longer the recharge takes. We use it for our iPod Touch. The PPUCLIP is a neat little device that plugs into the ACUSB4 to charge camera and telephone batteries. It has moveable contacts to accomodate different batteries. We use it for camera batteries and cell phone. The neat thing about this device is that when the proper contacts are made a little light comes on so you know you are doing it right. I bought both these from Amazon. Another note. A number of people have said you should take more than one adapter because they get lost or forgotten. We are still using the same ones for fifteen years. As far as that goes, we have never lost or forgotten anything on our journeys. We have never forgotten or lost an adapter. Whomever says take more than one should use the qualifying phrase "if you are forgettful.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4869 posts

I think Lee mentioned this, but I never go without my inflatable hangers. Clothes dry faster because the fabric is separated. I have loaned them to several friends and they all told me how useful they found them.