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What non-essential item(s) do you pack?

Just curious what non-essential items you pack that aren't on the packing-light packing list. Packing light can be challenging enough but there must be something you pack for down time to relax or plane time. I always take a book and a knitting project wherever I go. To keep it light, I knit fingerless alpaca gloves when travelling.

Edit: I take my point and shoot Nikon camera too instead of just my phone for photos.
Also Plastic folding hangers to dry clothes worked really good when on vacation last month https://www.amazon.com/HonDo-Plastic-Foldable-Portable-Anti-slip/dp/B07DKZ2RD4?crid=1M016QHICTN6C&keywords=plastic+folding+hangers&qid=1536266429&sprefix=plastic+folding+hangers&sr=8-1-spons&ref=mp_s_a_1_1_sspa&psc=1

Posted by
2164 posts

Real books--carefully chosen, at least 3, and I leave them behind as I go. Problem is, I end up buying a couple of new ones because I cannot resist a book store :) Also a knitting project--again, a carefully chosen mindless one that I can just work on without following a pattern; endless rows of k2,p2 ribbing on a scarf that's now made 2 trips to Europe.

Posted by
378 posts

A Cowon Plenue D music player loaded with every episode of This American Life / RadioLab + 50% of my music library in OGG format and a pair of MEE M6 pro audio-isolating earbuds. A Nexus 9 tablet coupled with a bluetooth foldable keyboard.

10-hour flight to London? Bring it!

-- Mike Beebe

Posted by
21255 posts

Nothing is non-essential include the cork screw and plastic wine glasses.

Posted by
3789 posts

I sort of agree that some things are not non-essential to the person making the list.

My pillow that I cut down just for travel. Then small size binoculars for my bird watching habit (also great for looking at ceiling details). At least 1 real book to supplement e-books. I am a quilter so always used to bring a small hand sewing project, but not if it is a full on travel vacation. It comes for a week at a resort and I take minimal sketch supplies then too. These all still fit in carry on luggage but get a little heavy for in cabin storage.

Posted by
9834 posts

One person’s essential is another person’s extra baggage.

I insist on iPad, cell phone, AND laptop (a super light one) as they all have uses when we travel, and we travel for weeks at a time. I am willing to carry them all and they easily go in my day pack. I also have a point-and -shoot camera so rather loaded with electronics.

Also maps as necessary whether for city trips or hiking. Nothing replaces a good paper map, IMO.

I really like my homemade, small first aid kit. "Wet wipes". Flushable toilet paper packets is high on my list. Peanut M&Ms. Empty plastic grocery store bags - I always end up using these one way or another. I wish I could bring a Swiss Army knife or my Leatherman squirt - but not possible these days.

Posted by
6355 posts

Everything I take is essential (to me), otherwise I wouldn't bring it.

Posted by
1275 posts

Yup, frequently a small craft project, tho to Mexico i only took a plastic crochet hook and figured I could buy yarn if need be. My current gum/mint of choice is mentos gum and the 15 piece container fits perfectly in one pocket of my ebag.....and a spare 40 pieces goes in a zip lock sandwich bag. :) perhaps a couple of magazines that get left along the way.

Several years ago I looked at the labels I had set up for my Christmas cards and realized that there were several folks I only corresponded w in December, so I printed a spare set to use for birthday cards. And the balance of f folks get a postcard from a trip. I'm too cheap to buy all of those new cards at a gift shop upon my arrival, so I find "summery " cards and take along to write on the plane trip. Btw, Michael's had some great postcard books for this summer that are vaguely Italian, cince Terre looking villages and lemons and mosaic tiles. It's only a cheap pursuit for domestic trips, stamps get placed in the plane, too. Here's another choice in the rotation this summer, an adult coloring book about 6×8 with lines on the left pages, replaces a separate journal, about 30 pages, Design Originals brand.

Posted by
367 posts

I take a small knitting project, iPad and last year an iPhone. I download lots of amazon prime videos on to my iPad.
I also take a pair of yoga pants and an oversized t-shirt. They don’t take up that much room, and when I got a nasty sinus infection in my last trip, they were so nice to have when I was resting in the hotel. I also take all the otc I might need because if I need them I don’t to have to go searching for them. My personal bugaboo

Posted by
6758 posts

Wine bottle stoppers, always take two, one for red, one for white wine.

Posted by
7633 posts

Wine bottle stoppers, always take two, one for red, one for white wine.

You have leftovers????

Posted by
173 posts

I agree with Nancy. If I pack it, it's essential to me. That includes homemade trail mix, a yarn project for the plane and more yarn in my suitcase, ipad with games, ebooks and audiobooks, really good earbuds, iphone with international call and data plan, travel pillow, corkscrew (now I might include wine stoppers!). Meds include asprin, Imodium, Benadryl, Bonine, NyQuill and DayQuill. If I need any of these, I surely don't feel like looking for them in a strange place.

Posted by
11450 posts

What is left over wine ??? Lol

I always bring those big ziplock baggies and some small ones , great for picnic lunches etc ,

I always bring a stupid amount of books ( they are heavy ) because I love reading real books and prefer the larger paperbacks as opposed to pocket books . I used to bring an Kobo but I never really loved it , so it stays home and I haul at least 2-3 books per week , so on long trips it can be very heavy .

Posted by
2989 posts

I'm going to shock many of you, but I actually check my bag. So my Swiss army knife, with corkscrew gets packed. I bring a camera with extra cards (1 is never enough). Tablet, loaded with Netflix movies and books. My journal which I write in daily. A sandwich bag full of lemon drops. Noise cancelling headphones for the plane, trains, and watching movies if DH is sleeping. A couple of grocery bags and empty ziplocks- sandwich and gallon sized.

Posted by
10 posts

I too pack large and small zip-lock bags and athletic tape. I have always found a need for them some time on the trip. A pair of socks for each day of the trip and throw them out as I go.

Posted by
114 posts

Travel slippers. It felt so nice to put on slippers for siestas and at night after lots of walking.

Posted by
5689 posts

Skechers Go Walks for use as in-hotel slippers. Noise-cancelling earphones (not just earbuds) and eye mask for sleeping on the plane. OTC meds for "stop" and "go" so they're available when (if) needed. Binoculars for looking at ceilings. And for down time -- I check in here.

Posted by
3848 posts

For people who like to pack mints, we really like the Lifesaver larger individually wrapped ones. We can unwrap them without touching the mint when we’re out walking or on the train or plane.

This year I’m packing a turtl neck wrap “pillow” because my hubby’s shoulder won’t be next to me, and I’m going to a concert the first evening I arrive in Stresa. Hope I can stay awake!

I’m also packing some watercolor paint pens this year to try some small paintings.

Posted by
541 posts

As someone who’d doesn’t subscribe to the packing light philosophy I bring all my designer clothes/shoes/accessories ( best place to wear them for me) .
I find last minute reservations at fancy restaurants, some Michelin, are almost as easy to obtain as early ones. I’m always prepared!

Posted by
3551 posts

actually essntial to me are my anti bacterial
wipes, my nose mouth mask and packages of nuts and dried fruit.
Gotta stay as healthy as poss when traveling especially by air.

Posted by
6570 posts

How about a wash rag and a full size bar of bath soap?

Posted by
166 posts

I bring 6 dice and the scoring sheet for a game called “Farkle”, it’s easy to learn and I’ve had a lot of fun getting a group to play on one of the RS tours.

Posted by
2108 posts

I’m with you David, i always bring a bar of soap in a baggie. I hate liquid soap and that is all so many hotels seem to have these days.

Posted by
159 posts

I guess since you added your camera I will say mine. I have a Olypmus pen series SLR style camera with three lenses and that and my passport are my required things to have with me on my trips. I always say as long as I have my wallet, my passport, and my camera, everything else is superfluous.

I also take a travel blanket. It folds up to about the size of a airplane pillow and can be used as a pillow. It is nice to have the extra blanket especially on a long flight.

Posted by
21 posts

Kindle, phone, surface pro, Panasonic point and shoot. Used to bring my full on canon but I've decided that is too heavy. Surface pro is to upload photos, can't get too OCD about backing up those photos. And jewelry. Not my good stuff, mostly what I have purchased on my trips. Somehow I don't feel dressed without earrings, necklace, bracelet and ring. Ah but they don't take up much room!

Posted by
1952 posts

A real book, my travel size down pillow, my trail mix (made out of whatever seems to go together leftover in my cupboard before leaving), my iPad mini and my iPhone. Sometimes I bring my p/s camera but discovered on my last trip I do pretty well with my phone. I laughed at the comments about wine and the non-necessity of bringing a bottle stopper! Leftover wine has never been an issue with us, either. I'm going to look up the game of Farkle!

Posted by
1834 posts

I watched the packing video on RS website. She (Sarah) brings her pillow from home. I think if I could make that work, its a good idea. I generally do not like the pillows at the hotels I have stayed at.
I always bring my slippers (barefeet on hotel carpet, 🤢)
My hairdryer (I have very thick hair that would take a hotel dryer a half hour to dry)
My curling iron because I need to style my hair in order for it to look nice, and I like to look nice for pictures.
And this trip, I’m packing a few bottles of wine, plus plastic glasses and wine opener for our upcoming trip to Norway.

Posted by
303 posts

I second the packing of some plastic bags in a few sizes. We always have something leftover from our meals on the plane that we eat during a layover. I also pack maps and a yellow highlighter. That highlighter has been helpful in zeroing in on a location on a map. I also take a few rubber bands, safety pins and paper clips. I have used them all at different points. I ALWAYS take a small magnifying glass! (I'm old!) My husband has to have his little flashlight for those nighttime bathroom trips in a strange bedroom. We have been traveling for 18 years, and these always go with us!

Posted by
6732 posts

same as Nancy -- everything I bring is essential, else I wouldn't bring it!

Posted by
5 posts

One pair of shoes dress shoes for the one time we go to a Michelin star restaurant on a trip. I resent that they have heels and take a lot of space but the one time I wear them I feel so put together after days of wearing sensible shoes.

And, two plastic hangers. I use these to dry my laundry when I wash thing in a hotel sink. I could never get one of those twisted close lines to stay up using the suction cups.

I also take two bubble wraps for wine bottles so we can bring home wine if we're going to a wine region. We usually do.

And this year we're going to Spain and I may use those to pack some Luxardo cherries and sweet vermouth so I can have them in a Manhatten at one of our apartments. I think I can buy 'Jack'. Last time in Spain we were told that there are no maraschino cherries in Spain by a bartender (who had al the other ingredients and knew how to make the drink.) Okay, now that I wrote about packing them it sounds ridiculous!

Posted by
691 posts

Yes, there are things I take to Italy that I am a little embarrassed about. These are in order of how embarrassed I am about them, from least to most.

I pack light and carry on, but after eight 2 ¬¬– 5 week trips to Italy I do take:

Taylors of Harrogate decaf tea

Memory foam square to sit on on the plane and in the car (bad hip)

Scent-free bar soap (in a size carefully calculated to last the correct number of days)

Scent-free laundry detergent (haven't found any in Italy yet)

Individually wrapped hand wipes (they just fit so well in a pocket)

Ratty old washcloth (that I will throw away)

Homemade musesli with maple sugar for the first few breakfasts (then in a big enough supermarket I can usually find an OK untoasted muesli)

TWO cotton nightgowns (because it's what I wear whenever inside the apartment and what would I wear while one is being washed and hung up to dry? Yes, this 2nd nightgown is the extra item that I most feel like I shouldn't be taking, but I do.)

Posted by
1291 posts

Thanks everyone, I love your responses.
What I've learned from y'all:
1) plastic bags, wet wipes, TP/Kleenex, breath mints, I-phone, soap/washcloth, munchies, all possibly needed drugs fall into the essential category;
2) I need to pack a corkscrew, wine corks, plastic wine glass (would never have thought of that);
3) there are a lot of crafters/knitters in Rick World
4) a highlighter for the paper maps that I should pack;
5) I would have never thought of bubble wrap not just for wine but anything glass.

Keep the ideas coming...

Posted by
15 posts

I include a very small plastic cutting board, a small plastic one that I cut down. And a small knife to cut cheese, meats for our picnics. In addition to small plastic wine glasses, stopper and corkscrew. All of this gets packed in a small pouch in our checked bag then transferred to our day bag.

Posted by
3789 posts

Bandanas..... for everything from hanky to napkin, to hand towel if you don't like European air hand dryers to icepack or bandage.

Posted by
1275 posts

Maria, yup, and a damp bandana tied around the neck can cool you down.

For the vinofiles, I'm looking at a grocery store ad right now for a 2 pack of silicone wine glasses that can be frozen or folded. Wine2go stemless silicone wine glasses.... 2 for 11.99$

Posted by
3848 posts

Corkscrews and real glasses are usually readily available from the hotel desk or a local store, and they’ve always been available in apartments we’ve rented.

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks Karen! If size weren't an issue a travel bar would be great.
Also, I love the bandana idea. Good for napkins on a picnic too. Sometimes we picnic when we're between locations so have no hotel or apartment to get glasses and a corkscrew from. I always want to be ready if there's wine to open.

Posted by
125 posts

I am bringing a face hydrating mask.....leave on for 15 min, peels off, and any residue I can pat into my face. Feels so nice after a long trip in the dry, stale plane.

Have to have my kindle loaded with books with TV shows down loaded as well. Small cutting board and plastic ziploc bags.

Posted by
36 posts

doric8 My daughter bought those wine glasses for my husband and I for a trip we took to New Zealand last year. She thought they would be great as we were spending ten days camping and were packing super light (carry on only for 3 weeks). In theory they were good, but we just didn't care for drinking wine out of the silicone. I am not sure why, just something about the texture I guess. Anyway, we got cheap plastic glasses there and they worked very well for the entire trip.

Posted by
19208 posts

On all trips, foreign and domestic, I pack a non-brittle plastic top from a carry-out food container. It's about 8" in diameter. It serves as a cutting board for bread, cheese and tomatoes and as a plate for messy foods. There's no good way to totally protect something like that in a suitcase, but I've used the same one for over 400 travel days, and it just has some minor splits around the edge. I wish my travel clothes would last that long.

Posted by
197 posts

I try not to bring anything non-essential, but, well, you know.....

I have a flat magnifying glass that I got at an IRS seminar. Takes zero space, but it does the trick. Also, I take a flimsy plastic cutting board. It's a divider in my suitcase. It's a cutting board for cheese. It's a plate for pastries or sandwiches in the room. Sporks are a must for on-the-go meals, and mine has a knife edge. A very basic first aid kit.

But you can always go shopping. Lots of cities have Sephora stores -- go in and look around, buy a face mask, which is a terrific way to rejuvenate on the road. Same thing for L'Occitane. These may be exotic brands to us, but in Europe, they are run-of-the-mill. In fact, some variety stores sell L'Occitane, so if you run out of that essential foot cream (and it is essential, trust me), you can usually find an outlet for more. Really. Try the foot cream. It seems to cure blisters overnight and just applying it at night is so soothing.

Also, I don't bring home things that I can buy here. Luxardo cherries are available at Williams Sonoma and also World Market -- probably other places, too. I was going to buy pasta in Italy, but Williams Sonoma sold the exact same packages here, so why drag it back? The potato chips in Spain? Unbelievably good, and available at La Tienda and Amazon! I once (and only once!) spent a lot of money to ship wine back from Italy from the winery that we visited -- only to find it here at home at Binny's! (I was very happy to find it at Binny's!)

Plus one of my favorite things to do when traveling is to explore grocery, drug, housewares and hardware stores. Fascinating. Who among us hasn't flipped at City Pharma in Paris? Great gifts, too!

I'm beginning to collect address tiles from the countries I visit, and hardware stores are a good source. They are flat, easy to pack. (Think the blue enamel tiles in France and ceramic ones from Spain.)

I travel with a carry-on that I usually check because of the fluids, but this year, I'm ditching the non-essential fluids and buying them in Europe.

Posted by
22 posts

One thing I bring that I haven't seen mentioned are a couple of clothespins. I can use them for hang drying underwear but typically use them for closing drapes. I hate being awoken earlier than needed because light comes in from the gap in curtains that I couldn't tell was there at night.

Posted by
3175 posts

I always take a book and a knitting project wherever I go.

I don't think a book is a 'non-essential' item for a trip. In fact for the airplane, I think it's quite essential! With carryon travel, one of the things I learned from Rick Steves' travel programs and books is that everything that goes in my bag has to "earn" its space inside the bag. Thus everything I bring is essential. I travel with a paperback so when I've finished it, I leave it overseas.

Posted by
1178 posts

I don't think a book is a 'non-essential' item for a trip. In fact for the airplane, I think it's quite essential!

Except nowadays lighter alternatives are available, such as on a kindle or a smartphone kindle app. So an actual physical book is the heavier alternative. That puts it in luxury territory.

Posted by
138 posts

Some fashionista stuff (ha ha): scarves,jewelry, and makeup, small spray bottle to spray out wrinkles the night before. And a camera for me also. My laptop because I write a longer journal than most people, and a small notebook for writing down the answer to such questions as, "That music is great, what do you call that type of music, can you tell me who the artist is?" However, I have a few thoughts on that phrase, "if I pack it, it's essential to me", found in many comments to your post. Last year I was limited to 10 and a half pounds, including the bag! My friend had found a great deal on China Southern Airlines and wanted to go carry-on to India, and their kilo limit translated to ten and a half pounds! I wanted to go in the worst way, so I did it! It took a lot of weighing everything, jumping on and off the scale while holding the item and not holding it, etc. until I got my list paired down to that weight. (Each of us used a Rick Steves "Alpenzell" backpack.) I doubt I'll ever pack that light again, but now I regard it as a great learning experience. We had a great time, but I was glad she didn't mind checking bags on the way back!
.

Posted by
3175 posts

Except nowadays lighter alternatives are available, such as on a
kindle or a smartphone kindle app. So an actual physical book is the
heavier alternative. That puts it in luxury territory.

I disagree. Paperbacks weigh practically nothing unless one chooses to tote a paperback biomedical engineering textbook! The kindle is heavy and that stays home. My smartphone screen is too small for books and even if it were one of those large "phablets", I wouldn't waste the battery on an e-book. Plus I like leaving it behind at the hotel/inn for someone else to enjoy.

Posted by
1178 posts

Paperbacks weigh practically nothing unless one chooses to tote a paperback biomedical engineering textbook

A paperback weighs approximately 8 oz (1/2 lb). A kindle weighs the same but can carry more books. A phone weighs the same but I’m taking it anyway for other reasons.

My point is that a paperback book is 1/2 lb addition to what you are already taking.

The argument about batteries is also a bit moot. A battery lasts for hours for books. If needed, you could bring additional battery which would weigh the same as your book. So then you are bringing the same amount of weight as a book, but you can bring more books (and games etc. too).

If you want to bring a paperback that is fine. But please own it as a personal choice and preference. It is not a superior solution to a kindle or phone.

BTW - I find my smartphone screen superior because I can increase the font size if needed. You can’t do that with books. I can also read in the dark.

Posted by
2755 posts

I think a paperback or a magazine is often desired because you can read it during preparation and take off vs some other or larger devices.

My non-essential items are my DSLR, paper reading (for take off preparation, take off and landing) and sweat pants for lounging.

Posted by
1178 posts

I think a paperback or a magazine is often desired because you can read it during preparation and take off vs some other or larger devices.

I guess that’s why I prefer my phone. I put it in airplane mode and it is acceptable for prep and take off. And I can shove it in my pocket.

I admit I’m super focused on weight and try to avoid paper as much as possible. It’s so very heavy - and bulky too!

Posted by
2755 posts

Haha. I've never weighed a paperback vs an iPhone. I guess it depends on the size of the paperback! I don't have a smart phone in my travels...I know...I hear your collective gasps.

Posted by
10057 posts

I think there is confusion over a Kindle tablet and a Kindle ereader.

I have given up on physical books and take an ereader for a number of reasons....

1) The weight of the ereader is about the same as a paperback. ( A Kindle Paperwhite ereader weighs about 7 oz.)

2) I read a lot so the ereader holds dozens of books and the weight doesn't change.

3) I can change the font size to make it easier to read.

4) I only have to charge it about once a month.

5) it's fairly small and packs easily.

6) The ereader doesn't have to be turned off on the plane at any time.

I do some reading on my phone but I don't like the backlight. It tires my eyes even with a blue light filter.

Posted by
6082 posts

Frank II, re: #6. hmmm. I've been asked (rather, told forcefully) to turn off my e-reader at least twice during take-off.

Posted by
10057 posts

I've never been told that and have seen other people on them without a problem.

Posted by
242 posts

So I’m just trolling this forum and have now been kicked into this line of convo. Interesting all the comments on bringing books, and several books! Because people prefer them to a printed volume. Of course, nothing can replace the weight, the smell, the texture of a novel in your hand, but seriously,!!. When I travel, I re-read the same lousy pages over and over each night, because by the time I get to bed, from all our wonderings around whatever place we might be visiting, I can’t possible stay up long enough to actually absorb any intelligent reading. So for me, my KOBO and my ittty bitty book light are essential things to take. My KOBO is old!! And very well traveled.

Posted by
215 posts

A (small) cribbage board and cards and a lightweight stemless wine glass from REI.

Posted by
3175 posts

I took my copy of The Godfather to the Post Office this morning and weighed it. Seriously! 3.7 oz. Not a 1/2 pound. Most essential to have a paperback with me. Some people think packing their denim jeans is a necessity. I'd rather pack the lightweight black chinos and have my paperback too! :-)

Posted by
1178 posts

I’ve been weighing paperbacks. The lightest one I could find was a harlequin left at my house... 4.1 oz. I’ve been using a kitchen scale that goes down to 0.01 oz.

My 3 fl oz of sunscreen came in at 4.3 oz in the bottle.

just saying...

Posted by
10057 posts

My Kobo weighs 6.5 oz. It holds more than one book. It holds more than two books. In fact, it holds hundreds of books. The weight doesn't increase as I add more books.

I can read in low light areas as it has built in side lights, I can change the size of the font as I get older, and I can read more than one book at a time since that is something I like to do.

And should I finish a book, no problem, I have others waiting.

With just my Kobo and my phone I can be entertained for hours.

Posted by
3175 posts

My kindle has 100s of books; I will be taking it to Central Park today as the inferno heatwave is DONE and we'll have temps in the 70s with low humidity. HOORAY! But I digress -- I don't travel with a kindle overseas. That's not considered essential to me as I like turning the pages of a paperback. It's my tradition when I travel for pleasure.

Posted by
12 posts

We always bring a small game called Pass the Pigs. This trip we are traveling with our kids (8 & 12) and are also bringing a couple other small games- Quixx and Chupacabra Dice. We are going to Germany and saving room in our backpacks to pick up a game or two while we are there (at the end of the trip).

We are bringing some local postcards for the kids to draw pictures or write thank you notes on to give to people we meet along the way.

Kindles for all. Journals for the kids. More snacks than necessary so we can pacify the hangries easily.

Posted by
415 posts

Large laundry bag for our family of four. I can get by without it—we can use plastic grocery store bags. But travel is sooooo much better when I bring it along.

Posted by
32 posts

I thought I was the only one with a pillow! I compression sack it down to next to nothing and it goes in the bottom of one of our carry-on bags, coming out when we arrive and back when we're going home (we rent a car when we travel, even in Europe, so toting it around isn't an issue, it just gets tossed in the back between locations).

Other things some may consider non-essential that we take on longer trips (and manage to get into our carry-on bags): travel scrabble, uno, yahtzee and two decks of playing cards, clothesline, folding hangers (4-6 of them), a travel size lysol spray, tiny sewing kit, an assortment of OTC meds + a week of broad spectrum antibiotics, tide-free laundry soap, hand cream that I prefer, a hard Starbucks coffee cup with lid (it's really lightweight and easy to make instant coffee, tea or soup in at the airport since getting hot water is often easy, just ask), and a travel speaker (harmon kardmon makes a great compact speaker that we take with us).

Posted by
5 posts

I will be packing a Nintendo Switch and a book. Two things to keep me distracted/entertained during some of the longer bus rides.

Posted by
122 posts

Surprised no one mentioned a sarong. Its always with me - one in my carry on so I don't need to feel scratchy airline blankets and one in checked bag for beach or picnic or to cover a rental couch or chair.

In my checked bag I have : a small roll of tape and scissors so I can add items to my journal/ 2 small folding hangers and 2-4 small Japanese style plastic clothes pins plus a sink stopper/y rick steves travel alarm/ zip lock with Crystal Light packets to enhance bottled water/ MINTS/ high lighter and paper clips/ a magnet to put on rental refrig with local info/ a paper map/ a blow up "spa" pillow folds flat to later use on the beach lounger of if my hotel pillow seems uncomfortable/ a tiny sturdy shopping bag since many mini markets charge for plastic bags - large bottles of water weigh a lot! a spork or plastic utensils for picnics or in room snacks/ meals
**Something that is truly essential to pack **My sense of adventure and sense of humor as a solo senior traveler.

Posted by
122 posts

Surprised no one mentioned a sarong. Its always with me - one in my carry on so I don't need to feel scratchy airline blankets and one in checked bag for beach or picnic or to cover a rental couch or chair.

In my checked bag I have : a small roll of tape and scissors so I can add items to my journal/ 2 small folding hangers and 2-4 small Japanese style plastic clothes pins plus a sink stopper/y rick steves travel alarm/ zip lock with Crystal Light packets to enhance bottled water/ MINTS/ high lighter and paper clips/ a magnet to put on rental refrig with local info/ a paper map/ a blow up "spa" pillow folds flat to later use on the beach lounger of if my hotel pillow seems uncomfortable/ a tiny sturdy shopping bag since many mini markets charge for plastic bags - large bottles of water weigh a lot! a spork or plastic utensils for picnics or in room snacks/ meals
**Something that is truly essential to pack **My sense of adventure and sense of humor as a solo senior traveler.

Posted by
1453 posts

Just read on another site that a battery operated candle makes a great nightlight.
No need to plug anything in, and you can get them in lots of sizes.
I always have a flashlight with me, but putting it on in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom is just a shock to the eyes! ,
so I think I'll take a small candle with me next trip.

Posted by
5689 posts

S Jackson, you can buy night-lights in €1 stores in Europe -- and they will have the correct plug and voltage.

Posted by
1453 posts

That's true Laura.
I like the Italian Euro stores; I can always find the right plug, adaptor, corkscrew, etc., in there.
I once bought a E1 eyeshadow in such a store, and it was the best! I wished I had bought 3 or 4 of them after the fact.
I think it was made in Spain.

Posted by
52 posts

If I'm traveling where I'll have access to hot water-- and that's now most places, with a kettle in my room or a tea set-up shared among guest-house patrons-- I bring my simple old Melita cone, filters & enough coffee to last until I can get a bag of whatever's local, if there is such a thing. If it's not a coffee-drinking country & I expect to have a hard time finding it, I bring enough for the trip. Haven't bothered with a submersion heater in years because even the most dodgy & rustic hostels I've stayed in over the past 15 years had a way to boil water.
Can put up with many discomforts if I know I'll have coffee in the morning.

I also bring eau de toilet. I used it to cool off, to spray in my hair to buy one more day without a shampoo, and even on cuts & rashes in a pinch. My favorite is L'Occitaine Lemon Verbena, which really just smells like lemon, so it isn't overwhelmingly floral.

And before I leave, I pack or pick up enough moisturizing facial mask for the flight over, the flight back, and one night on the road. Preferably something clear, that doesn't make me look like a clown or a serial killer. My current favorite is Ren Evercalm, but I've simply gone into Sephora & asked for a sample of whatever they recommend-- Sephora is great for giving samples. I have to travel to Europe a minimum of 4 times a year, and I'm usually on the redeye to Shannon or DeGaulle. Earplugs, eyemask, a super moisturizing mask, and one glass of wine before we board, and I can bounce off the plane at dawn & go talk to a meeting if necessary!

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I also bring bubble wrap wine bottle holders as apposed to a piece of bubble wrap.
They safely pack the wine bottle & have great sticky tape that secure the bottle perfectly.
Amazon & Total Wine carry them.

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My empty water bottle serves the purpose for leftover wine. No need for stoppers. Can always buy screw cap wine to eliminate corkscrew. Not as romantic but serves the purpose if you lose the cork screw.

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137 posts

Duct tape: wrapped on the handle of a mini lint roller. It has been used to repair luggage on 3+ trips, hold windows open or doors shut, repair the hem on pants and a ripped hole, reattach a side view mirror, secure a frayed shoe lace, keep a plug in an outlet that was extremely loose, seal up leftovers, provide sleep when we were in a room that had a large, extremely bright Exit type light with no Off switch.

6 in one keychain tool: with a flashlight, compass, magnifying glass, reflective mirror, thermometer, whistle. Helped guide a group of us through a dark park when the streetlights went out and in a dark, windowless hotel room when the electricity went out; helpful to have the magnifying glass for tiny maps, thermometer to verify it's really as hot as you thought it was and compass to navigate.

Gourmet Leatherman Multi Tool: Sadly no longer manufactured and requires checking of my bag but the uses make it invaluable. Needle nose and regular pliers, scissors, serrated bread knife, pate knife, fork, corkscrew, Phillips head screwdriver and flat head screwdriver, can/bottle opener, wire cutters, toothpick or extra small screwdriver, ruler. Countless picnics, repairs have been made with it.

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ziploc bags, flashlight , knitting or crochet project, empty notebook for diary, 2 sporks.Tesco bag . I used to take TP. "Take TP to Nepal" they all said and just round the corner was a shop loaded with mountains of TP and way cheaper than at home !!

But my favourite is Sudoku. I sat next to a Chinese lady on a Bejing to Xi'an trip. She spoke no english but I noticed her watching. She made a little gasp when I purposely made an error so I looked to her and pointed to numbers till she smiled. By the end off the trip we were solving the things together. On the next trip a young man showed me how to convert my puzzle to Chinese, took his picture with me and introduced me to his parents at the airport. I will take a load as we tour the Mediteranean this fall

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1291 posts

Wow! Celeste, who would have thought! I love how many people have contributed their “non-essential” list. Just shows that what’s important to one person may not be important to someone else OR may be important to many. Ideas are a good thing.
What I have really enjoyed reading in the postings is that no one has criticized someone else’s list. Maybe the most essential thing we all pack is tolerance, respect and patience.

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1 posts

While some of these depend on the type and place of travel, my extras might include:

water shoes, safety pins, string, small waterproof fanny pack, thumb drive to back-up photos from iPhone, Dramamine, throw-away poncho, eye drops, Benedryl, blow-up neck pillow for plane, binder (with Rx info, passport pic and detailed itinerary info)

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1291 posts

Kenihajo, yes you can take knitting needles on the plane per TSA. I use bamboo ones, either short straights or circular. They were recommended on Ravelry instead of metal needles. I take folding scissors, a yarn needle, a copy of my pattern and small measuring tape. Because I knit small projects using one or two skeens of yarn away from home, every thing fits in a long flat makeup bag that easily fits in my tote. I usually use sport weight alpaca or alpaca/silk for fingerless gloves. To keep weight at a minimum, I don’t bead travel projects but use cables and other interesting stitches for decoration. Some people will knit socks but I don’t knit on double pointed needles.

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For long airport layovers, a deck of cards and a travel-size cribbage board pass the time. The plastic cribbage board folds in half and the deck fits inside along with the pegs. A magnetic travel backgammon board is also worth packing on a long trip.

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OK, a little off-topic, but once I'm there I don't remove the baggage claim stickers from my suitcase or, if I do, I put them inside. Little bits torn off can cover the annoying electronic lights that shine so brightly at night, plus they're good for removing lint or cat hair. Also, I carry a full sized can of hair spray, because it's hard to find unscented brands.

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23 posts

I always bring a small massage ball to work out the inevitable knots and kinks in my back. You can use a lacrosse ball or tennis ball and I think it makes everything better when your back feels good.

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86 posts

Nook ereader/tablet, corkscrew, knife for cheese, a few condiments, small roll of duct tape, small lint roller (I have long haired orange cats), camera, phone, back-up power source, travel journal and a few craft supplies so I can add to my journal and many of things other posters have mentioned.

Years ago on TripAdvisor I saw a similar thread and the most commonly brought non-essential item was a colander.

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23 posts

Duct tape! You will be surprised how often it comes in handy-ripped bag-securing liqiuds etc. not the whole roll just put a couple of strips on the inside of your luggage.

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1 posts

Bath salts. I love a bath after a long day of touring. I bring 2 baths worth, then buy locally.

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1275 posts

Keporter, I think our pets send those hairs along on vacation so we won't forget about them. I call those "hairs of remembrance

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28 posts

My journal and a pen. Each night I climb into bed and make notes about what I did and saw that day, including details such as names of great restaurants and what I ate, funny things that happened, great tour guides, etc. it’s fun to read later and comes in handy when helping friends with their travel plans.

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86 posts

droric8 - I'll try and remember the "hairs of remembrance" when I trying to brush off the cat hair!

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126 posts

I second the lint roller (in travel size, of course). I have 2 cats and they love to get inside my backpack before every trip. And because I stick with neutral colors, you can tell I have cats back at home.

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28 posts

Forgot to mention something I’ve just recently started packing - a small night light for the bathroom. Better than leaving the bathroom lights on all night which can really heat up the place.

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14 posts

A small pair of binoculars.

Laundry detergent. either pods or powdered. We are picky and have learned it can be hard to find unscented laundry detergent.

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10057 posts

Washeze

These are unscented laundry detergent/fabric softener/dryer sheets all rolled into one. A pack of ten weighs virtually nothing and no mess from liquid or powders. They come in a resealable bag so you can throw the box away. I use these off the road as well. I hate fragrances in detergents.

Lewis N Clark Immersion Heater

I like a cup of something hot first thing in the morning to help get the heart started and sometimes in the evening to wind down. This dual voltage immersion heater works well if cared for properly.

Microwavable Cup

This may surprise some but this is the lightweight cup I use with my immersion heater. It works just fine.

Nite Ize Gear Ties

My favorite cord managers. One side attaches to the cord so it never gets lost. They come in different lengths and colors.

USB Mini Fan

These tiny USB/micro USB fans have helped me to sleep in hot, non- air conditioned rooms. I plug one in to a backup battery, put it on the nightstand next to me and they help to cool the air around my face. Although small they are surprisingly strong.

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We always bring a portable coffee set up: packable silicone/metal hotpot, squashable silicone cups and cone, filter papers, ground coffee. Also, hair conditioner (since many hotels overseas just provide hair/body wash), antibacterial handwipes, cold medicine, individual packs of tissues.

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126 posts

I want to add I always pack (and not always use) sample packets of shampoo & conditioner. I use whatever they provide at the hotel or bnb, and haven't had any issues, but some places don't provide any, and these packets have come handy more than once. Some trips I come back and think "next time I won't bring it" but then when I start making my list again I can't leave my packets behind.

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5689 posts

Three plastic tube-style hangers and two clip pants/skirt hangers for drying laundry. Yes, some places provide enough hangers ... But some don't.

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2 posts

How about a night light? I got a black eye one time when I ran into a corner wall in the middle of the night. I found a night light in Italy in the baby department of a drug store. I always take it to Europe with me. Sometimes my phone is charging in a socket across the room and not right by my bed, so I can't use my phone light.

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43 posts

Coloured paper clips. Not only good for corraling loose papers and receipts but as bookmarks that won’t fall out. You can use them to access quickly particular areas of a book you are using. For example you can use a black one to mark the index, a blue one to mark the section that describes the city you are visiting, a red one to quickly find a relevant map, etc. Also a small plastic clothes brush that I picked up in India years ago; invaluable when hand washing clothing.

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I bring an IKEA “Molgan” motion sensitive night light for the room or bathroom ( with extra batteries). I’ve only ever stayed in one hotel that provided a night light.

I also keep a cheap carabiner hooked to my travel purse strap: I can hang all types of things when I need an extra hand - an extra tote bag, extra hair ties, a binder clip to clip on my sun hat, etc.
One of our RS tour guides had a wine and cheese party and provided flexible plastic glasses that are about 8 inches and 2 inches in diameter. They don’t crack, pack into tight corners and we can stuff our travel utensils and a few napkins in them to take on a quick picnic.

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1291 posts

I’ll second or third the nightlight recommendation. We just got home from Denver. My friend brought a nightlight. I would have never thought of packing one but now I swear by it. No walking into furniture or the wall.

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61 posts

In regard to nightlights, a small battery operated votive candle makes a great travel nightlight. It’s small, can be packed in your hanging toiletry bag, and gives just the right amount of soft light.

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41 posts

Since our first RS tour in 2010 (Venice, Florence, Rome) my wife and I have learned the travel-light lesson, carrying only a 22x14x9 bag (with expandable gusset) and a RS Euro Flight Bag ever since. Rick’s packing list has served us well for trips spanning 24 days. However, as a retired surgical nurse, my view of “non-essential” items has regrettably expanded.

Since Summer 2013, I now carry a homemade ankle pouch with: a SOFT-T wide tourniquet; a T-3 Israeli pressure dressing; 4 packages of QuikClot gauze; 2 rolls of 4”x6 yd. compressed gauze; 2 HALO non-vented chest seals; one roll of 2” surgical tape; a 28Fr NP airway with lube; one 5.5” EMT scissors; an emergency Mylar blanket; a clip-on Photon LED MicroLight, a CPR barrier mask and three pairs of 9 mil nitrile exam gloves.

The pouch, in my flight bag for security check-throughs, has never been looked at or opened - stateside or in European airports. It stays in the bag until we deplane and I can discreetly strap it back on my leg. The content list may seem “survivalist-prepper-over-the-top” but it’s basically an intermediate “Stop The Bleed” kit. The goal in many cities is to have these kits alongside every AED unit. School districts are also starting to place them in classrooms (depressing state of affairs for our nation but not unreasonable planning.)

My flight bag also has original prescription-bottled OxyContin, three broad spectrum antibiotics and my rarely-used albuterol inhaler. The frantic in-flight shouts of a mother with a child suffering an asthma attack was a lesson in unpreparedness. The poor kid put her inhaler in her check-through. I had forgotten mine but another passenger quickly came forward with her albuterol. As for the OxyContin, my sister’s Dublin-to-New York mid-flight kidney stone was six hours of excruciating pain, unrelieved by Advil or vodka. Another lesson learned.

My impression from chatting with our last five RS guides is first aid/emergency supplies on our tour buses are “minimal.” Whether the guides receive any basic CPR training is another issue. And “Stop The Bleed” kits don’t seem to be a big concern in the EU or the UK. (Maybe only compulsive health-care people worry about this stuff.)

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2349 posts

Damn. I'll be traveling with Tom from now on.

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9834 posts

Yes, Frank II, Washeze are fabulous! Expensive but irreplaceable.

Tom I haven't thought about stop-the-bleed kits since I left the U.S. Embassy, where I had one at home and one at work. Such a good idea, though, I may try to replicate your preparedness.

Bookmarking this thread for my next packing.

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357 posts

One thing we take that I haven't seen is a power strip with usb ports (3 foot cord). As you know sometime the one outlet is in the awkward place. Plus it helps us keep a bit more organized. I also like traveling with the stemless hard plastic wine glasses (that we use constantly-I don't trust hotel water glasses). I always seem to have something small and fragile to place it in for a safe return home.

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306 posts

I always pack my camping headlamp whenever we stay in any hotel. I leave it beside my bed if I get up during the night.
And sometime I take it with me if we are out at night. I know, my iPhone has a light, but my headlamp allows me to have my hands free. What if we had to evacuate the hotel in the dark?

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41 posts

I am also a “lighting enthusiast”, at one point packing an LED three-AAA-batteries mini flashlight and a battery powered, motion detector night light on every trip. These have been retired for a Photon Freedom LED Keychain Micro-Light (white beam.) This little marvel puts out an impressive swath of light for 12 hours plus on two CR2016 lithium batteries (which are a lot smaller than conventional batteries if you wish to tote along extras.). The necklace and clip-on unit are very helpful: for hands-free use, i’ve attached it to my glasses and once on my earlobe.

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1453 posts

I have a small personal alarm which is also a powerful flashlight, so I'm taking that next trip instead of a regular flashlight.
It can clip onto a lanyard or a keychain.

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1453 posts

I have a small personal alarm which is also a powerful flashlight, so I'm taking that next trip instead of a regular flashlight.
It can clip onto a lanyard or a keychain.

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1642 posts

I feel "everything I take" is essential to my comfort - even if I can purchase something in a grocer or pharmacy.

I can put a lot in my checked, some things in my carry on (in case) and my personal, personal stuff in my tote/purse. I decant things and pack pretty well - never too heavy and can still take my comfort and favorite items.

Oh, I think a mini LED flashlight can be invaluable when walking at night and you are unsure of the footing, street signs or even to alert a driver you are around - darkness and dark clothing. My hotel room is supplied with a tea/coffee/biscuits-honey tray. I take my favorite tea bags - pretty weightless.

The mini rolls of duct tape can come in handy. Last year, a man's suitcase telescoping handle broke. I had my duct tape in my tote. One of the employees working a bookstore in Termini cut some pieces and "repaired it" until he could get to the train and his destination. It seemed wobbly but okay. The bookstore employees thought the duct tape was an excellent idea.