Favorite extra items to pack
March 15, 2006 5:08 PM   Subscribe

When you travel is there something you pack other than clothes and toiletries to make your stay more pleasant?

I love planning my vacation AND being prepared so sometimes I pack extras. I like packing smelly candles for atmopshere and possibly to make the room smell better than mold/smoker-that-was-last-inhabiting-room, etc. I pack chalk to leave messages for traveling companions (when there can be no cell phones). Regular kit with first aid/earplugs and the like. Baggies for leftovers to feed birds/stray dog. Small blow-up float just because. A couple nips in case I want Baileys in my coffee. What is your favorite item to pack??
posted by beccaj to Travel & Transportation (56 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
A compass.
posted by airguitar at 5:10 PM on March 15, 2006

A copy of The Great Gatsby, and a Swiss Army Knife.
posted by matthewr at 5:11 PM on March 15, 2006

Always a book.
posted by bonehead at 5:12 PM on March 15, 2006

Fresh ground coffee, a small French press, a small bottle of single malt whiskey and - whenever possible - a guitar.

This way you have fresh coffee first thing in the morning, don't have to raid the minibar for a nightcap, and can entertain yourself during the dullest of moments.

(I once spent six months living in the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool. I would not have survived it without the above).
posted by unSane at 5:14 PM on March 15, 2006

Oh, and a camera.
posted by unSane at 5:16 PM on March 15, 2006

If I'm staying in a hotel where Pepsi is served, I pack Coke.
posted by Kwantsar at 5:16 PM on March 15, 2006

Small individual serving snacks--baggies of wheat-thins, granola bars, raisins, etc. If you have special food-needs (as I do) this can help you from struggling with hunger from less-than-adequate meals in a strange place.
posted by divka at 5:19 PM on March 15, 2006

A decent pillow.
posted by mckenney at 5:22 PM on March 15, 2006

always: notepad, pen, pleatherman, camera.
if im flying: PSP & a book.
posted by juv3nal at 5:31 PM on March 15, 2006

If you're not bringing your cell phone (eg. traveling from CDMAland to GSMland), bring a battery powered alarm clock. I have been using my phone as alarm clock since forever, and some times I traveled abroad (and left the phone at home) I found myself with no way to be "alarmed" outside the hotel (or even in some hostels). Wristwatch alarm is just too weak.

Of course, having a desk analog alarm clock wake you up in the train makes you look some 60 years older...
posted by qvantamon at 5:39 PM on March 15, 2006

There are not many places like this anymore, but outside major centres where you don't speak the local language and can't get English newspapers and magazines you will enjoy a shortwave radio.

Also, this is a big problem in SE Asia and I would see western tourists make this mistake all the time. Keep your appearance respectable, and your clothing modest. Do you really need that huge backpack, walking stick, and canteen in the middle of a city?

((former international development worker))
posted by Deep Dish at 5:47 PM on March 15, 2006

I love to grab a few good books, since i never know what kind of reading mood i'll be in.
also a video ipod (always with a charger!) works wonders for those lonely nights.
hope ive helped!
posted by Building at 5:50 PM on March 15, 2006

knitting, book, and ipod. I could survive with nothing else, but my god I need the boredom-killers.
posted by kalimac at 6:14 PM on March 15, 2006

A book, absolutely.
posted by nuclear_soup at 6:34 PM on March 15, 2006

Teabags. Damn foreigners can never get them right.
posted by blag at 6:51 PM on March 15, 2006

I second what divka said: Lots of little snack bars that you like, because you never know when you're going to be hungry, and since travelling throws your rhythm off a bit, you'll be set if you need to eat when nothing's around/open.
posted by davejay at 7:07 PM on March 15, 2006

Playing cards and a kite. I always bring a kite on beach vacations. It's great, relaxing fun and an automatic conversation-starter.
posted by bonheur at 7:13 PM on March 15, 2006

Gesswein slippers. Extra bandannas. Plastic bags for dirty laundry so it don't stink up a place.
posted by docpops at 7:21 PM on March 15, 2006

My pillow!
posted by punkrockrat at 7:27 PM on March 15, 2006

I take a thin down comforter that packs down to nothing, mindless stuff to do in the evenings, like a pedicure kit, and sometimes a blow-up balance ball.
posted by crabintheocean at 7:29 PM on March 15, 2006

Books, notepad & pen, music, excellent snacks (something beyond just chips or candy), wine & opener, massage oil.
posted by moira at 7:29 PM on March 15, 2006

A book or several. A walkman/ipod with speakers.

And as another said, if possible a Guitar....
posted by gergtreble at 7:30 PM on March 15, 2006

I always have a problem trying to get my heroin through customs. Otherwise I just settle for my MP3 player.
posted by sjvilla79 at 7:32 PM on March 15, 2006

My knitting. Not only does it give me something to do, whether I am stuck on a long bus-ride, watching TV in the hotel late at night, or standing in the never-ending line at a post office, but it is the greatest conversation-starter ever. Little children will stare at you, old ladies will come up and start stroking your arm, and strange, pimpled young men will attempt to start awkward conversations in a language you don't understand. I worry that, as a young woman, American-style exuberance is likely to be misunderstood, so having something around which encourages other people to come to me is really good for meeting people on my travels. Also, knitting is kind of a universally acceptable thing for a woman to be doing. I have never been anywhere where knitting marked me as a tourist.
posted by posadnitsa at 7:41 PM on March 15, 2006

Leatherman multi-tool, duct tape, flashlight, bandana. 10 or 20 books on my Palm.
posted by signal at 7:57 PM on March 15, 2006

Take your favorite pillow! I roll mine super-tightly and use three thick rubber bands to keep it rolled like a "hot dog." It slips easily into a suitcase or backpack and provides a great night's rest especially in "foreign" beds like most hotels, hostels, planes, and even the relative's place. :-)
posted by thebarron at 8:22 PM on March 15, 2006

A sarong: Its a beach towel! Its a skirt! Its a shawl! Its a head covering! Its a wrap! Its a barrier between me and icky pillow cases! Its oh so so useful!
posted by Kololo at 8:25 PM on March 15, 2006

I also like to take my towel with me, since I'm such a hoopy frood.
posted by matthewr at 8:33 PM on March 15, 2006

The already mentioned ear plugs, and a small portable fan. The fan can help with rooms that don't cool well, and more importantly, provides a good source of white noise.
posted by alikins at 8:41 PM on March 15, 2006

- Books
- My pillow
- Cribbage board
posted by deborah at 9:10 PM on March 15, 2006

When there's not room for a guitar, I take a mandolin. It took a few days to learn to play it, but it's a fun change from the guitar and it's much easier to travel with, especially on a plane. And as a bonus, I get to meet lots of interesting folkie and bluegrass people that I would probably never meet otherwise, because they see a guy with a mandolin case and just have to chat me up.
posted by JekPorkins at 9:13 PM on March 15, 2006

This may sound odd, but I bring fabric. I have a few pieces of fabric that I really love, and that make me feel comfortable. I drape/arrange them over the 'uglies' I find in my hotel rooms, or over a lamp or the television. They pack lightly and conveniently, and I always feel a bit more 'at home' wherever I am.
posted by trip and a half at 9:43 PM on March 15, 2006

Small bottle of Febreeze and a couple of dryer sheets stuck in a suitcase pocket to keep things smellin' nice. And, lots of ziploc bags in various sizes -- great for dirty laundry, organizing the suitcase, or to store snacks.
posted by Miastar at 9:49 PM on March 15, 2006

Tea. Some bags of good tea that I love can make the difference between a good trip, and a great one.

Also, Dr. Bonner's Baby Soap. I use it as laundry detergent when travelling. Been useful many, many times.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:58 PM on March 15, 2006

Deck of playing cards, dried fruit, Purell, my Archos GMini 400, a flask with something, water bottle, iodine tablets, and heaps of books.
Also, I always travel with a random assortment of shit: string, rubber bands, bags, a mini salt & pepper shaker, paper clips, toothpicks, napkins, little pens and tiny notepads, etc. I always end up needing something like that.
posted by shokod at 10:44 PM on March 15, 2006

If I'm traveling by air, I bring all the back issues of the New Yorker that have piled up, so that I can have interesting things to read but not have to carry it around with I'm done with it. I never check baggage when I fly, so otherwise my comforts are limited to an iPod and earplugs.

If I'm traveling by car, I'll bring my own pillow, and sometimes even my own down comforter. And, if I can swing it, I'll bring my dog.
posted by ambrosia at 10:51 PM on March 15, 2006

matthewr beat me to it.

so a towel. and my ipod. and mini-portable ipod speakers.
posted by ab3 at 12:59 AM on March 16, 2006

Above all else, as with many others above, at least one book.

For enjoyment: A stack of blank index cards, bound together with a rubber band (for everything from note-taking to improvised art and games.) A deck of cards and a couple six-sided dice.

For preparedness: I second those who carry a Leatherman--I started carrying it while travelling and camping, now I have it on my belt every day; funny looks be damned. A small penlight. A couple extra batteries. For a while I took duct tape, but I have since traded down to a small roll of electrical tape.

One thing I haven't seen anyone else mention: I keep a pair of headphone splitters in my bag no matter where I go, and I've used it everywhere from on the plane to in museums, allowing me and whomever I'm with to jack into the same audio source.
posted by Inkslinger at 1:10 AM on March 16, 2006

I take a comfort book - one of my favourites that I know really well. I've almost never read the one I've taken, but it's just comforting to see it when you're all alone in a strange place.
posted by pollystark at 2:42 AM on March 16, 2006

posted by thirteenkiller at 3:49 AM on March 16, 2006

My Mom always used to bring a frying pan because they usually don't have good pans on those holiday apartments.
posted by bloo at 3:54 AM on March 16, 2006

I'm imagining someone reading this thread and turning up at the airport carrying a compass, a copy of The Great Gatsby, several other books and pile of old New Yorkers, a Swiss Army Knife, leatherman, rubber bands, duct tape, fresh ground coffee, a small French press, several bottles of liquor and cans of Coca Cola, a guitar, mandolin and mp3 player, camera, some baggies of wheat-thins, granola bars, raisins, etc, a pillow, notepad, index cards, alarm clock, PSP, a shortwave radio, teabags, knitting, assorted pieces of fabric, playing cards, a kite, some Gesswein slippers and bananas, a pedicure kit, a blow-up balance ball, wine & opener, massage oil, flashlight, sarong, towel, a bottle of Febreze, string, rubber bands, bags, a mini salt & pepper shaker, paper clips, toothpicks, napkins, headphone splitters --

-- and balanced on top a vibrator and frying pan.
posted by unSane at 5:24 AM on March 16, 2006 [3 favorites]

For my last trip of four days, I packed a printout of one of Cory Doctrow's books that he releases free, a Gameboy Advance with a flash cart full of games (with a USB charging cable) and one of those cheap Polaroid cameras that prints onto stickers. I have a phone with a camera now, so I probably wouldn't bother with the latter again. The book I finished on the flight out and left on the plane.
posted by krisjohn at 5:56 AM on March 16, 2006

www.onebag.com is an excellent resource for not only making sure you bring everything you need for your trip, but making sure you don't bring too much.

The only other thing I bring is a small, foldable, magnetic chess set. It's about 3"x5"x.25" folded and I found it at one of those cigar/pipe/lighter shops in a mall somewhere.
posted by cactus at 6:20 AM on March 16, 2006

If you are bringing any electric equipment, take also a female connector of your own country kind (preferrably with multiple outputs), connected to some loose wires. From what I can gather, there are dozens and dozens of different electric connectors around the world, and in some places adapters aren't easy to come by. If that is the case, you can just buy a local male, and build your own adapter, or just stick the loose wires in the two holes in the wall you think may work.

Needless to say, if you travel abroad a lot, most if not all of your portables should be bivolt. If they aren't, check beforehand for your destination country voltage.
posted by qvantamon at 6:30 AM on March 16, 2006

sleep sack and inflatable pillows.
posted by nimsey lou at 6:57 AM on March 16, 2006

If that is the case, you can just buy a local male, and build your own adapter, or just stick the loose wires in the two holes in the wall you think may work.

It's not just the physical part of the plug that is different, but often the voltage is different as well. While this advice might work in many situations, in other situations it could be very dangerous.

Just to stay on topic: I always pack my Maglite, a Leatherman, and Moleskine for writing down addresses, notes, and the ten million other useful bits of information one needs to write down while traveling.
posted by bondcliff at 7:26 AM on March 16, 2006

I always take flip-flops for walking to the shower on suspect hotel carpets. For extended trips, I have a couple of cheap plastic things that are like a hanger at the top (the hook part) connected to a clothes pin. Very small and packable, handy for hanging things to dry from shower curtain rods, plus a variety of other tasks.
posted by CiaoMela at 7:44 AM on March 16, 2006

Duct tape, ziploc bags, chocolate bars and smokes (except I just quit smoking, so I guess I won't be packing those next time).
posted by dripdripdrop at 7:56 AM on March 16, 2006

My small am/fm radio w/ headphones, small fan, flip-flops, i-pod, and definitely something to read!
Now I'm off to check out that one-bag site, seeing as I was just getting ready to post a question about how to pack light for a 4-day get away!
Lastly, Congrats, dripdripdrop, on giving up the smokes! Keep it up!!
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 9:06 AM on March 16, 2006

In addition to what others have said, I like to bring a face mask - helps me sleep on planes and trains and in bright hotel rooms. Ear plugs sometimes too.

I second the sarong - so versatile. Often served as a sheet when I used to backpack.

A journal - I'm always much more inspired to write when I'm traveling.
posted by Amizu at 1:13 PM on March 16, 2006

If I'm being practical, a COMPASS. If I'm traveling to Europe and being practical, TOILET PAPER (preferably Charmin Plus).
posted by JudgeBork at 2:13 PM on March 16, 2006

I buy 2 or 3 of those cheap puzzle books you find in the magazine displays. I prefer the kinds with a bunch of different types of puzzles over those with only one (I don't like strictly crossword or wordsearch books.)
posted by IndigoRain at 5:34 PM on March 16, 2006

Electronic yahtzee
posted by azuma at 7:49 PM on March 17, 2006

sandals. nail-clippers. q-tips.

and if your suitcase isn't waterproof (i.e. it's a canvas bag, duffelbag, etc.), pack everything inside garbage bags, in case careless baggage handlers leave your bag out in the rain too long, or drop it in a puddle... saving that experience just once on a vacation is worth many times of unnecessary prevention.

of course, pack any bottles of shampoo, etc. that could "explode" inside plastic bags to protect them from getting all over your clothes. again, a little preparation can prevent a lot of grief.

so I guess the most important thing I pack other than clothes and toiletries is plastic bags.
posted by jeffmarx at 8:08 PM on March 17, 2006

Trusty lip balm...headphones...neck pillow...shortwave radio...earplugs...books...stitching project...soft nightgown...a good assortment of socks
posted by macinchik at 10:06 PM on August 9, 2006

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