Guest Author - Janet Collins
Packing continues to be one of travelers’ biggest challenges. In addition to ensuring proper footwear and clothing is available for any unforeseen changes in weather or unplanned events, one can’t overlook the need to include personal hygiene items and other necessities into already overflowing suitcases. With constant changes in what items are permitted in carry-on luggage, the challenge gets even more, well, challenging.
Here are a few things that I always pack, and have found the effort worth the while. To ensure the stuff gets where I’m going, I always put it into my checked baggage.
For seniors – or anyone else – on a tight budget, they will also help cut many of the costs associated with traveling.
1) Zip-lock bags: These are the most overlooked items in a traveler’s arsenal. Thanks to a sandwich-sized bag, I’ve been able to take an extra muffin or other goodie from a breakfast buffet to enjoy as a light snack later in the day. Translation: I save a bundle on lunch. This tactic proved especially useful on a cruise shore excursion that ran overtime and the scheduled tea stop was cancelled. Larger bags are also handy for stowing a wet bathing suit after that last dip in the pool before heading home.
2) If only Starbuck’s coffee is worthy of caressing your palette, you might be in for a shock when sipping the brew offered in other countries. I take along a small package of chocolate-covered coffee beans for such emergencies. One bean or two each morning is enough to give me the kick I want, and the chocolate aftertaste is far more pleasant than some of the what-passes-for-joe I’ve come across on my travels. Bonus: it won’t spill on the tour bus.
3) Local drugstores and specialty cosmetic shops such as Crabtree & Evelyn frequently stock tiny booklets of soap leaves. The paper-thin soaps lather once water is added, but otherwise stay dry in your bag. The small size and light weight means they don’t take up much room. Most packs I’ve seen have 10-12 soap leaves each and cost around $2. Mini wipes (e.g. Wet Ones) are also a good idea, particularly if you’re going to be doing a lot of eating on the road. I always keep a travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer in my bag – especially if I’m taking a lot of public transit.
4) Blister-pack cosmetics: Reduce the bulk in your cosmetic bag by taking along some of the new blister-pack options. I found a few at my local drugstore (mostly lip gloss), but have seen several online as well. Small, light, and spill-proof makes this an easy choice.
5) Breath strips, such as those made by Listerine, are a great way to reduce the amount of toothpaste you need to carry.
6) LUSH cosmetic stores sell a handy shampoo bar that has replaced my bottles of hair-care products. A friend told me that outdoor stores such as MEC and REI also carry this type of product.
7) Another spiffy find from outdoor stores is a small, collapsible water bottle. It doesn’t take up nearly as much room in your bag as a regular water bottle, but once filled can help keep you hydrated without soaking your wallet. If tap water is questionable where you’re traveling, fill it with juice.
8) A kerchief is another multi-use item that I like to keep in my travel bag. In addition to keeping my head dry or cool as weather changes, it comes in handy if I decide to visit religious sites. At other times, it doubles as a picnic bag or a place to stow rocks, shells, or other mementoes I might collect along the way. In a pinch, it also serves as a washcloth or seat cover. A larger one can also work as a halter top or other wardrobe extender.
9) Bubble wrap can mean the difference between bringing home a fine find or fragments of something fantastic. Given that wine now has to travel in checked luggage, I won’t leave home without bubble wrap to protect my purchases. I also have a penchant for local handicrafts such as pottery, so the wrap is an inexpensive insurance policy. Pick it up at your local post office or dollar store. If you find that you packed more than you need, leaving the excess in your hotel room won’t break the bank.
10) Ear plugs. A real godsend whether you’ve booked a hotel room next to the tube, or have newlyweds in the next room, ear plugs will go a long way to ensuring you get a decent night’s sleep. I also like using them on planes and trains to block out some of the ambient noise when I’m trying to read or catch a few zzz.
It’s amazing how many times these little items have saved my holiday.
Let me know if you have other “must have” things in your own travel bag.