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What did you not pack that you now consider essential?

This is the opposite question to "what did you pack that you didn't use"! I now take a light Target sweater in addition to my LL Bean fitness fleece (which I take for unexpectedly cold weather-by that I mean in the 60's) The sweater can be easily stashed in my purse and looks better in a restaurant, as well as being lighter. It is great in air conditioning.

Also plenty of Tylenol PM. I had a muscle issue in London that really impacted my ability to sleep and thus energy for sightseeing. It was at the end of my trip so I only had one left and nothing I could find in their drugstores worked.

Also a fold-up bag that I can use as one of my two carryon items on the trip back when I usually check my regular carryon.

Posted by
544 posts

I usually feel the onset of a cold at the beginning of my trip or, end of my trip. Bringing a handful of packets to boost immunity would've been helpful. Next time...

Posted by
27 posts

Bag clips (can get them at the dollar store). If we bought snacks like chips or cookies for our room we didn't have anything to do up the bag with to keep them fresh. A little thing, but a nice thing!

Posted by
166 posts

1) Shout strain remover packets that fit in your pockets (saved many shirts and pants while traveling)
2) Small multi-outlet strip (because there are so few outlets and usually many devices to plug in)
3) Rick Steves Super size microfiber towel (I have used this for a blanket, picinics, and rolling washed clothes in)
4) Bose noise canceling ear buds
5) Davek mini umbrella
6) Clothing Arts Pick pocket proof pants (best investment in travel I ever made!

Posted by
3263 posts

A sewing kit, shape wear and a 3rd pair of slacks.

Posted by
11368 posts

Blow up hangers that dry your hand washables so much faster and a Fels Naptha bar that dates back to my grandmothers’ day that removes any stain. I break the bar in half, put it in a baggie.

Posted by
2017 posts

Band-aids. Walking all days usually rubs my feet up against my shoes, I found I got blisters easier and there's nothing worse than not having any bandaids to help. Ditto with paper cuts as my skin usually dries out after a long flight.

Posted by
1194 posts

My list has changed since I first started one bagging. I now include the following:

  • filament weight scoop neck long john top
  • Benadryl
  • dual port USB charger (instead of single port)
  • dual port auto USB charger (for iPhone)
  • magnetic iPhone car mount
  • iXpand drive for phone
  • I substituted a puff jacket for fleece
Posted by
2788 posts

noise canceling ear buds - very helpful on tours where voice transmitters are used that only have one ear piece.

Posted by
11494 posts

Benedryl and Advil (ibuprofen) as both are expensive even if you can find them.

A truly warm layer (wool sweater) except in July and August. I had to buy one last year and it was bulky and expensive.

Gloves except in July and August.

A lingerie bag so I can throw delicates in a washing machine.

Posted by
4012 posts

Nothing that I could not replace easily like bandaids, cough drops, and black socks.

Posted by
5697 posts

Cooling scarf for hot days. Soak it in water, wrap it around your neck. Repeat as needed.

Posted by
4598 posts

Tensor bandage, enough extra strength Advil, something big enough for a sling (scarf will do), and ample bandanas. I have needed them and been days away from any of them, or unable to obtain them at all due to being in developing countries. Even in Europe, a twisted ankle in a short let apartment means I am on my own and could take some time to hobble to a store to get what was needed.
I sew as a hobby, but keep forgetting a sewing kit with safety pins included.

Posted by
2349 posts

I take an ankle brace and an elbow brace, just in case. I don't need the knee brace since I got them upgraded. I do take a Thera band that is great to work out leg cramps and swelling.

Posted by
472 posts

Extra camera battery & memory card. And OTC cold meds, maybe even prescription; when you need them, you NEED THEM, & you don't want to have to search for a pharmacy at 2 a.m.

Posted by
2924 posts

As sick as I’ve been this week at home, I won’t leave home without Sudafed and EmergenC. Also an Ace ankle brace and knee brace for walking trips.

Posted by
1311 posts

Aleve and Advil. Benedryl and a cough suppressant with DM. (IF you can find these in Europe they will be very expensive.)
Band-aids and callous cushions for blisters.
My own bar of soap (because I have sensitive skin.)
Tide to go for quick stain removal.
My knee brace, just in case I need it.
My orthotics, which I don't need these days, again, just in case.

Posted by
302 posts

Since the posts have sort of morphed into essentials, I agree with the personal medical supplies. Over about 10 years of travel I have it down to a very small number, but personally vital items. For example, just 6 in their blister pack of anti- diarrhea tablets and 2 packets of electrolyte powder- never have had to use them, but Murphy's Law dictates if I leave them home I will wish I didn't! I always use most of my supply of bandaids and blister treatments. I wanted to share that I take a threaded sewing needle wrapped around one of the various blister packs and a very tiny pair of scissors- I have used these for splinters and repairs and even with carry on only it hasn't ever been questioned. I think once you have a system it is easy when time to travel- just replace anything that has expired, and add in any new requirements and I don't need a list anymore.

Posted by
3521 posts

Prescription meds.

When I started taking RS tours, I had no medical problems (I was aware of) requiring drugs. Now I feel like I am dragging an entire pharmacy with me. But at the present time, I can't survive a day without all of it. I always took a good selection of OTC meds because I was never sure if I could find anything in Europe similar enough I could take. A lot of those I no longer carry because I have found things in Europe that I can take that even work better than the item available in the US.

Posted by
15686 posts

Definitely meds, vitamins, first aid supplies. While they are available in Europe, they are usually very pricey or a completely different quality (band-aids especially) and it's a waste of sight-seeing time trying to find them. My hands get cold in chilly weather, especially since I take a lot of photos. I've learned to take a pair of good gloves that I can wear while using my camera whenever I anticipate any cold evenings or early mornings.

Posted by
4481 posts

@Mark-please tell us specifics about the OTC drugs you found that work better than their American counterparts.

Posted by
980 posts

Not physical items but it is now part of my essential packing list:

  • International Phone/Data plan
  • Install/update travel apps on your smart phone (airline, rail, local transport, download offline google maps, etc)


Posted by
3249 posts

A first aid kit.
In it are:
Cold medicine in powder form that you make into a hot drink
Sinus meds for day and night
A small packet of table salt for gargling
A tensor bandage
A couple of gauze dressings, bandaids, and tape.
I was alone in Paris two years ago in February, and came down with a terrible 3 day flu.
My apartment was very cozy, and I managed to get some groceries in before it really hit me.
I used all the meds I had brought with me, and was very glad to have them so I didn't need to go out in the cold to find a pharmacy.

Posted by
3 posts

Leukotape for any blisters. My son learned about it hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Its better then band aids or moleskin because it really stays on even in water! They also use it to tape up sore muscles-I've not tried this one yet. They also use it on wounds and even to do repairs on holes in sleeping bags, backpacks etc. I now pack it by putting different size strips on parchment paper. Packs easily and i have different sizes ready to go. I recommend it now to anyone I know doing any kind of hiking or walking a lot on vacations.

Posted by
503 posts

I noticed a number of posters included something for blisters - however, the best blister "fix" I've found is actually sold in Europe.
Compeed. These gel like bandaids are incredible and truly better than anything you can in any drugstore in the U.S. They absolutely stay where you put them - even on the soles of your feet. My DH is prone to blisters on his little toe (regardless of shoes, orthotics, etc., etc.) and now never travels without Compeed. We've found them in the UK, Spain, Italy and France - and now you can even order them on Amazon. Had a friend hike the Inca trail with a group and I'd suggested she take some Compeed with her. She was the hero on that trip! Of the 50 "bandaids" she took, she came home with 1! So no harm in taking a U.S. brand but if you are prone to blisters, pick up a pack on Compeed when you reach your destination.
So, what do I now consider essential? Compeed!

Posted by
7 posts

I agree with Nancy about Compeed! I brought new socks with me and they didn't cover to the back of my sho and after one day it was rubbed raw. I used all the band-aids I had brought with me and then I found these. They are excellent.
also the next time I go I will bring a small bottle of hand sanitizer. I felt like my hands were always full of germs from touching handrails and the like.

Posted by
1450 posts

I also endorse compeed pads.
About a yr ago on a trip, I dropped my blue tooth in my hotel room, and broke the ear hook. Now I won't travel without a spare ear hook.

Posted by
768 posts

My research shows that Band-Aid Hydro Seal blister bandages are in fact the same as Compeed. Both are made by Band-Aid and they each have the same green packaging and photographs. You can find the Hydro Seal at a much cheaper price in the US (I found some at Target for $4). So I bought them. And yeah, it's Compeed, just rebranded under the Band-Aid brand - same packaging and the strips themselves are identical. I don't know how long these Hydro Seal bandages have been available here and this might be old news. Now you can have the magic of Compeed right away when you start out, and you don't have to worry about finding a pharmacy your first day.

Posted by
676 posts

Immodium or lomotil

I'm a nurse so I've always carried bandaids, Neosporin, pain relievers etc. But when you need the two above you need them available in your room!

Posted by
1243 posts

I purchased Compeed last year at Walgreens. I was delighted to find them. They truly are essential.

Most important thing not to forget? My extra eyeglasses - a few contac lenses would be ok, but the extra specs are vital to peace of mind.

On a tour? Important to take more than 1 form of alarm clock and/or watch - with new batteries if they use them.

Important for when your luggage does not arrive with you: an extra pair of shoes in the carryon. Even flipflops will do. This happened to me one trip. I did not want to pay the price for the designer flipflops at the Frankfurt airport - misery for the next few days till my suitcase arrived. Were I in this situation again, I would pay the high price and have fancy designer flipflops as a souvenir.

Posted by
25 posts

Here are a few things to add:

  • Zpak antibiotics from Doctor - Female here, I ended up with a bladder infection on the 2nd day of my England trip and had to take time out to find the nearest walk-in ER in Bath to get antibiotics.
  • small, round magnifying mirror with suction cups that sticks on mirror. So far, I haven't left it in a hotel bathroom.
  • 2 small, battery tea lights, used a night lights in bathroom at night.
  • Constipation Meds - I use Swiss Kriss, ordered from Amazon
  • Compression Socks for plane and long days of walking
  • various sizes of ziplock bags
  • Ex-Officio underwear and Smartwool Socks are a must
Posted by
1126 posts

A pocket knife with a corkscrew. Even if I can't pack one it's on my "must buy ASAP" list. I do too many meals with stuff purchased while walking around; meat, cheese, fruit, bread and wine...that's how we roll.

Posted by
3342 posts

I always took a good selection of OTC meds because I was never sure if I could find anything in Europe similar enough I could take. *A lot of those I no longer carry because I have found things in Europe that I can take that even work better than the item available in the US*.

I couldn't agree more with Mark. We were in Paris when, in the middle of the night, I got the worst case of food poisoning I've ever had. I was worried about my ability to take a train to Amsterdam in three days, let alone get out of bed while in Paris. In the morning my husband walked into a Pharmacy in the Rue Cler neighborhood and the Pharmacist selected the most effective nausea/diarrhea medications you could imagine. Plus, he wrote out detailed instructions in English.

I regained my will to live in a few hours, and by the next morning I felt absolutely human again. I deeply regret not keeping the packages so I could try to find American equivalents (if any) of these wonder drugs.

Posted by
742 posts

1) Zinc tablets (Cold-Eze or similar). I came down with a cold in Lecce, Italy, and I couldn't find zinc tablets at the pharmacy. I will never travel without zinc tablets again.

2) I agree about a fold-up bag. I usually pack a tiny (2 oz.) Sea-To-Summit duffel. Once, I forgot to pack it, and I wasted a lot of time shopping for a second bag the night before my return flight. Never again.

3) Camera batteries. I have never failed to pack them. I try to be extra careful to double and triple check that they are packed because it would be such a time-consuming pain to try to replace them on the road. One time in Sorrento the housekeeper put my camera batteries and charger in the bedside table drawer. I was in full fledged panic until I found them.

Posted by
111 posts

Band-Aid Blister Stick. It's easier to put it on in the morning before you go out than spend your time running around German drug stores looking for a blister pad type remedy.

Posted by
136 posts
  • Ziploc bags - for rebagging snacks, protecting new purchases, and even making an ice bag on a plane for a twisted ankle. Someone on here suggested using one for handwashing clothes, which is a neat idea.

  • Sudafed - can't get pseudoephedrine in Europe, so I've been told, and it's thr only thing that helps when I'm sick.

  • A length of duct tape wrapped around a piece of a plastic straw - always comes in handy.

Posted by
97 posts

I agree with many of the suggestions posted! I would also add wash cloths! When we traveled throughout England, Scotland, and Paris last summer, none of our hotels or apartments had any.

Posted by
59 posts

This is such a helpful topic! I agree with the posters about the Compeed bandages.... and the BandAid ones work fine! They stick anywhere!

Having worked with a few people from Lyon, I agree that sometimes the Euro version of meds is better, I know for OTC pain meds they are, but the quandary is always WHERE to get them and our limited time touring, so an ounce of prevention is well worth it! Paracetamol is said to work better than our Ibuprofen or Naprosyn.

Since I am blind as a bat without glasses I always pack a second pair. Completely agree with everyone's must haves.

The other thing I will suggest is feminine products...never assume it is not near, and they will have them somewhere close... spent a horrible cruise and 2 sea days on a newer ship once that had failed to order boxes of them for the gift shop.... I learned where all the bathroom dispensers were though!


Posted by
3249 posts

" Paracetamol is said to work better than our Ibuprofen or Naprosyn. "

Paracetamol is acetaminophen, which is Tylenol.

Ibuprofen and Naprosyn are Non Steroidal Anti- Inflammatory Drugs, or NSAIDS; a different type of drug to acetaminophen.

Posted by
107 posts

Great topic! I saw several of my essentials on other lists, but others that will make the cut. (Fels Naptha!)

However, you asked for things we hadn't packed that are now essential
I've got three.

One I packed on a whim (OK, so this is an "almost" didn't pack):
Body Glide anti-blister & chafing stick (the kind marathon runners use) I rubbed it over my feet in the morning and it prevented blisters. No blisters. at. all. Husband got a hot spot on one foot then started with the Glide. He's a convert. Now it's an essential. Kerri, it is probably similar to the Band-Aid anti-blister stick, though I've never seen that.

One we went shopping for in Italy with limited Italian (now that was an experience!):

One we suffered without but wish we'd had:
NyQuil and DayQuil Liqui-tabs.

Posted by
531 posts

We now take what we call our "run like hell" envelope that we keep on our body when in major cities. This came after being in Paris a few years back during an tragic emergency. If anything happens we want to be able to just run (forgetting backpack, purse, coats, etc). The envelope has some USD cash, meds for 24 hours, copy of our passport, our children's phone numbers, the nearest embassy and a credit card that we normally don't need. Yes I know one could need the same thing at home in major cities but at home we speak the language, are in our home country...etc. This may seem like overkill to many (so if that's you it's ok that you disagree with me) but it gives my elderly parents a feeling of peace, doesn't hurt anyone and requires minimal effort.

Posted by
47 posts

Allergy travel cards, in the language of the countries we're traveling in - they're the size of a credit card and work way better than trying to explain an allergy with my limited language skills.

Lightweight gloves and a merino wool neck buff (which can also be wound into a hat or headband).

A heroclip carabiner to hang my bag in the bathroom, on a table in front of me, or clip it more securely to a rail.

A packable tote bag so I don't have to pay to buy bags at the grocery store when we pick up basics as we travel.

A small amount of duck tape wound around a straw or one of our little bottles.

An xDrive for my iPhone.

A European iPhone charger plug with two usb ports.

A car vent clip for the iPhone so I don't have to pay for GPS in the rental car, or fumble with my phone using it as the GPS.

A car USB plug to charge phones while we're driving.

Posted by
713 posts

Marie posted these things, which have also been packing fails for me that I will not repeat:

Zinc tablets (Cold-Eze or similar). I came down with a cold in Lecce,
Italy, and I couldn't find zinc tablets at the pharmacy. I will never
travel without zinc tablets again.

Camera batteries.

In my case, I got a sore throat in York and couldn't find zinc lozenges at the pharmacy there. The worst part was, that I had actually set out my Cold-Eze lozenges to pack for the trip and overlooked them. Aargh. I swear, they are now the first thing I pack.

Camera batteries: several years ago I failed to recognize before a big trip, that the proprietary rechargeable batteries for my Nikon point and shoot were way past their prime. Yes, I had a couple of extra off brands and the original OEM battery, but they were all on their downhill slide and didn't hold a charge very long. And since the camera was a few years old by then the batteries were kind of an obscure item. This was a 26 day escorted tour Down Under, and although I went into some camera shops as time allowed, none of them had that type of battery in stock. I only had a single battery charger so I couldn't even recharge all 3 at once at night, just one by one. Since then I've become a better-informed photographer, and have moved on to more sophisticated equipment, but have never forgotten that shoestring-and-a-prayer situation with old weak batteries.

Posted by
1626 posts

A king size flat bed sheet. For whatever reason, many hotels in Europe do not offer a 2nd top sheet to sleep underneath. They have a comforter inside a cover, but often those comforters are way too warm. So we have 3 options 1) boil under the comforter 2) sleep without and get cold 3) take the comforter out of the cover (usually in the middle of the night.)
Now that we are living in Europe, we pack the sheet in the bottom of the backpack. Part of the reason is that we protect the bedding with our dog. But it's completely resolved the too hot/too cold issue at many hotels. And on our every trip packing list.

Posted by
7 posts

Travel size Vaseline: I put on my heels and other places where I might get blisters. This is a preventative that has never failed me.
Stool softener pills. I always need them.

I take old underwear that I can throw away at the end and make room for purchases.