Favorite Travel Items

I’ve made a couple of big trips lately, and although I’m (almost) home for a while, I’m not really a good traveler so I take a few things along to make traveling easier and more comfortable. Here’s a list of things that I don’t leave home without, to make life a little more pleasant on the road, and in the air…

Tempur-Pedic Eye Mask

My whole travel life changed with the Tempur-Pedic eye mask, which is the only one that blocks out all light and doesn’t hurt your head and make you feel like you’re recovering from brain surgery. It also doesn’t press on your eyes, which is said to discourage REM movements, necessary for good sleep. It takes a few moments for the memory foam to conform – and you look like a robotroid wearing it – but when you’re blissed out in total darkness, who cares if others on the plane think you look funny having a puffy black band around your head.

They used to sell them at Brookstone but replaced them with another eye mask for whatever reason. (Amazon seems to be habitually out of them as well.)

And there is a Rick Steves Travel Dreams Sleep Mask that is said to block all light, but with all those dark angles and pleats, it might make your face look like the batmobile.

Noise-Canceling Headsets

I once lost my noise-canceling headsets and I refused to get on an airplane without them. Okay, that’s not completely true, but I was really not looking forward spending eight to ten hours listening to the drone of airplane engines, which are actually a lot louder than you imagine. How much louder? Put on a pair of noise-canceling headsets and you’ll see. I just upgraded to a pair of Sony headsets and while I was considering the Bose ones – and they probably are that much better – I wasn’t sure if they were $200+ better.

The Sony ones I use work well, are less than half the price, and I’ve been happy with them. But don’t forget to bring a few extra batteries, and not just one. Because once I dropped my only battery sitting in seat 27E and it went quickly rolling down the length of the plane, under all the seats, and landed somewhere up in first-class.


For someone who gets up in the middle of the night (ie: man over 50), stumbling around in a strange room (no, it’s not what you’re thinking) can be problematic. Having a small flashlight handy really helps keeping your toes unstubbed when walking around an unfamiliar room in the dark. I like these flashlights because they are slim and are pretty rugged but I’ve learned to buy ones in vivid colors, since the black ones tend to get accidentally left behind on nightstands. There are now LED flashlights that are supposedly more effective, but until my regular Maglite fails – or I leave it behind, again – I’m taking it with me.


Question: What’s worse than trying to get a good night’s sleep when the sun is filtering into your room in the morning? Answer: Nothing. A lot of hotels don’t have light-blocking curtains. And worse, some have bright streetlights or signs outside, which I am certain are there to keep me from sleeping. In order to close any gaps in the curtains, I bring along a few clothespins to seal those vexing curtains shut. (Tip: Clothes hangers with clips on them in hotels work just as well.)

Tiny Notebooks

While I like my Moleskine ones, I go to drugstores in the US or bring along the Rhodia ones I find at paper shops and some grocery stores in France. Each tiny little notebook cost around $1/€1 and are easier to slip in a pocket than a Moleskine. Plus I don’t feel so bad ripping out pages if I need to hand someone an address or a note, like I do with my larger notebook.

Click-Style Pens

This may seem kind of trite but I bring click-style pens, rather than those with caps, which can come off and get lost. Or worse, the cap comes off and scribbles your dress shirt. I’m a big fan of Uni-Ball pens at home, but be aware that many are not intended for travel and can leak due to cabin pressure on airplanes. Some newer ones apparently don’t do that.

Swiss Army Knife

The Swiss Army Knife with a wine opener is the one I bring along. Of course, you can’t take it in your carry-on. But it has so many functions that I always slip one in my suitcase if I’m checking a bag.

French Train Mix

Because you never know when you’ll be stuck at some airport (such as Charles De Gaulle, which has a poor selection of food choices), I never go to the airport without a bag of trail mix or some homemade combination of dried fruit, toasted nuts, and chocolate. Even if my flight is just an hour, by the time I leave for the airport and arrive at my destination, it can be half-a-day (if you’re lucky!) and because I get cranky when I’m hungry, as a courtesy to my fellow travelers, I bring along a little bag of “train mix.”

Silicone Ear Plugs

I like my noise-canceling headsets just fine, but they’re hard to sleep in. I’ve had a lot of trouble with foam ear plugs, which hurt my ears if I wear them for a while. The flexible silicone putty-style ear plugs, made by Mack’s, work the best for me and stay put. I buy them in drugstores in the US. Always follow the instructions that come with earplugs, and use as directed.

Bucky Neck Pillow

Even though this takes up a lot of space, I always feel like I’m going to pass out when I blow up one of those inflatable pillows. If I’m going on a trip longer than eight hours, I bring my Bucky neck pillow along for the plane.

Razor Case

I don’t know why these are hard to find, but I got my Radius razor case at Flight 001. It’s odd that drugstores often carry plastic travel accessories but not shaver cases. There’s a list of places that carry them on their website, as well as on Amazon.

Soap Case

I stopped using hotel soaps in the little plastic bottles because it just seems like a waste to me, all that plastic. And sometimes those little bars of soap they give you are so over-scented, they make my skin itch. (And some stink to high heaven.) So I bring along a reusable soap dish with my own soap in it.

Coffee and Milk Powder

I’m not so big on those little cuplets of non-dairy creamer, and as much as I like black coffee during the day, in the morning, I need milk in my coffee. And before you get irked that I suffer through powdered milk, I’m a lot more insufferable when I haven’t had my café au lait in the morning. I get dosettes in France, but others can buy powdered milk in boxes and pack it in smaller reusable containers. (If you want to see how powdered milk is made in France, here’s a video, in French. Although is it just me, or that guy at the beginning look like he’s up to something else with that cow?)

I bring a few Via coffee doses along, made by Starbucks, which do depend on your having access to hot water. I know people are pretty high on their Aeropress coffee makers, and other gadgets, but as much as I love good coffee in the morning, packing along a coffee press seems obsessive. (Although I bring clothespins. So what do I know?)

Timex Alarm Clock

I like this clock because it’s flat, it’s easy to use and to read, has a snooze button, and doesn’t tick all night like some other travel alarms. Which for a sensitive sleeper like me, is like having a grandfather clock chiming all night next to my bed. And it’s also not so bright that it illuminates the entire room.

(For some reason, an online search keeps bringing me to this Elgin model, which looks similar. But the Rick Steves site seems to carry the Timex alarm clock that I have.)

There’s a large snooze button which doubles as a way to illuminate the time, which is written in large block letters, so for those of us with aging eyes that can’t see all that well in the middle of the night, it’s nice to be able to see what time it is. Or how much longer I have to sleep.

What are some of your favorite travel items that you don’t leave home without?

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  • Thanks David! Nice advice during the right time – attending Food Blogger Conference in SaMo in November and thinking of the flight – time (Frankfurt-Dallas-LA) isn’t a good thought at all. Me, the bucky pillow and a well fitting eye mask is a nice imagination.

  • My favorite? (Almost) all of the above, but since my 10 hour flights are usually to visit family, I don’t have to worry about fending for myself when I arrive. But on the plane, I need pillow, plugs and mask, and if I don’t have some needlework to keep my hands busy I go nuts.

  • Sharon: On those long flights, I’ll try to get a television series on DVD and watch it on my laptop, which makes the time pass a little easier. Unfortunately with the laptop, often the seat back in front of me comes zooming down, and a few times I’ve almost lost my computer screen (!) I do have an iPad but haven’t figured out how to download movies and DVDs on it – I think those things are easy from the US, but in Europe, downloads are a different story.

  • First, I try to think of every possible bad thing that might happen and what object could prevent it.
    Then I say to myself “Stop being paranoid!” and pare everything down to Ziplocs, large regular sandwich bags and scotch tape.

  • I travel quite extensively, and discovered my new latest must have while traveling. Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t work for Apple, but I have found the ipad indispensable when traveling. I’m sure other tablets work just as well. First of all, it fits in a small purse or “murse”–you can watch movies you want on planes or read a book/magazines of your choice without having to lug the bulk (batteries last 10-hours), you can scribble notes, check restaurants, get directions. And, I just arrived from Israel last week, and some Hebrew did not have English translation, so I simply took a photo of it and used a “script” translator. If someone can’t speak English there’s also apps for voice recognition translation. And, if I didn’t know where I was, I’d do the same, take a photo of the landmark and it would tell me where I am and what it is.

    And, for a foodie comme moi, it was great to pull up a dish in it’s foreign name and translate it for you, even give you ingredients or the recipe. Granted, it can’t make you coffee or tea, or act as a pillow, but what a great traveling tool/companion.

    As for jetlag, I was told many years ago swimming, or using jacuzzi’s helps. I found this to be true, to try it out!

  • Fantastic list! I’ve been thinking about noise canceling earphones but haven’t made the plunge. Good to know that Sony’s are good. Thanks! Looking forward to meeting you at the book signing this Saturday.

  • Rebecca: I had a pair of Sennheiser ones, which were really compact, but the foam wore out and I opted to upgrade to a better pair. Although there are cheaper – and more expensive – headsets out there, I think the ones I got were a good middle ground.

    Randy: Yes, I’d love to get more use out of my iPad. Two things I’m always cautious about it 1) Leaving it in the seat pocket by accident (I should’ve got a brighter-colored cover, I think…) and 2) Theft. I know in Paris, I would never use it on the métro or even on a public sidewalk. (A friend had his iPad pulled out of his hands when he was exiting the Louvre métro station.) If I have to take it out, I do it discreetly and make sure of my surroundings.

  • I am surprised, I don’t take a single item that you listed. Sometimes I take a pen but thats not priority since the air hostess always has extra to lend. My priority is to take food items that are hard to find where I am going – could be flax seeds, good muesli…

  • Moleskines… sigh. I love mine. they make tiny ones now that I don’t feel bad ripping apart…
    Just got my Ipad this month specifically for travel. I opted for non-phone wifi though so taking photos and then translating wouldn’t work until i was back at the hotel room with wifi internet… but now I see how that would be handy! I phone could work well for that.
    but i did get the ipad because i tend to take a Ka-gillion photos and like to back up. but like you, i can’t figure out how to download movies or even copy dvd’s we already have to it. sigh. the older i get, the less techno-geeky I become. A sure sign of age. Probably why I love my moleskines… I didn’t know that about Paris and Ipad thievery. Frightening! I’d be seriously bummin if mine were stolen. I already heart my ipad almost as much as my husband who bought it for me.
    Thanks for the tips. i’ll probably buy that Tempurpedic pillow! sounds like heaven. and who gives a hoot what people think?

    • Yes, smartphone theft (especially on public transit) has become a vexing problem in Paris and it’s estimated that around two-thirds of all items stolen on the métro are smartphones. So much so that there are now warnings signs on public transit. I know four people who have had theirs stolen – often they grab them and run, but in some instances people have been injured (or worse.) So like anywhere, it’s best to use caution when using anything of value in a public place. I was really surprised when I went to New York City last summer and saw people using iPads and Kindles on the subway.

  • My phone (with an extra charged up battery) and earphones.
    They’re not noise canceling but they’re the “in-ear” silicone type that are very comfortable and low profile enough to use as earplugs. I load up a couple of films and a book or ten, plug in my earphones and don’t take them out until we land.
    Nasal congestion spray and chewing gum are both necessities to; I once had an eardrum blow out because of a stuffed nose when landing in Brussels. Very painful and very disorienting, but at least it heals quickly.

  • Love the list, adn I think I carry most of them as well. My addition is an iPad, especially for long-distance travel. If you use the VLC app, then you can load any format movie in and watch it, great if you’ve ripped a DVD but not sure of the format!

    The only other 2 things I use are a little red leather bag (because my mum gave it to me one time), where I keep my house keys, some lip balm, and if I take them off, my watch and any rings. I keep this in my handbag, and NEVER in the seat pocket, that way there’s never any mad scramble once I’ve left the plane/train/boat to check I’ve got keys etc. I also carry a vapeur refillable water pouch, especially when travelling by plance, so that I can refill at a water fountain as I go.

  • I have to say my Kindle is a must. But being Irish to the core and fast turning into my parents, I have found that I can’t travel without Barry’s tea bags in my case. I do drink local beverages I swear but I need proper tea. There, I’ve said it. I’m officially almost middle aged.

  • I would hate those light-excluding eye-shades – I’m a little claustrophobic and tend to sleep with the curtains open, i it’s at all possible!

    What I do always take is an e-reader- that way, you can have hundreds of books with you and still have room in your suitcase for clothes and shoes. And a neck pillow – I don’t mind the inflatables when travelling, although the one I use for car journeys is non-inflatable.

    For long car trips a good selection of CDs, ideally sing-alongs, is a must. And my knitting, for when I’m not driving. And a travel-kettle, mugs and tea-bags (I never take milk, and my husband can live without it in his morning tea if he has to) as European hotels so seldom provide courtesy trays and I do like a cup of tea while dressing! Plus if the hotel breakfast is extortionate, one can at least head out the nearest café with a cup of tea under one’s belt! We also always take our picnic hamper, which is a cold-bag on one side and contains plates, cutlery and glasses on the other, plus a corkscrew and bottle-opener! Useful for picnic lunches en route. On our trip to Germany, Italy and Austria last Easter we regretted not taking a network cable, so took one on our slightly later trip to France and didn’t need it! Still, if there’s room in your laptop bag, it’s worth putting it there

    If flying, I make sure I have a good selection of calming music on my iPod, and those in-ear silicone headphones are very useful and noise-cancelling – I did have noise-cancelling over-ear ones, but they broke. And a pashmina or two – you can get very cold on long flights, I find. The neck pillow is even more indispensable, as you can then put the pillow they give you in the small of your back, which is comfortable.

  • Did you ever try the flash light app on your Iphone? It will save you having to carry one more thing for travel. And I have to add, I have never seen more pick pockets anywhere than at the Palais Royal metro stop, line 1. They stand at the back wall of the quai looking for targets then quickly push onto the train to pick pockets and there are also “deaf people” at the top of the steps as you exit to the street with clip boards which they ask you to sign while they pick your pockets-or comrads who grab Iphones or Ipads. Never seen such volume.

  • Living in Paris, there are 2 things I don’t whip out, OK maybe 3, but most importantly Iphones and Ipads. There are some countries where I feel safe whipping them out, e.g., Israel, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand etc. I did a blog about the rise of theft in Paris, and can be applied to the list of 10-top most pickpocketed countries, if anyone’s interested. http://parismissives.blogspot.com/2011/04/is-theft-on-rise-in-paris.html

  • A cheap LED headlamp I picked up for £2.99 at the local Texaco petrol station and a Swiss Gold individual coffee filter.


    When I lose the headlamp, I’ll probably replace it with one of the Petzl compact headlamps with a red LED, then I can go all “Hunt for Red October”. You get strobe lighting for when you want a one-person disco in that little room at the back of the aircraft and you can even program it. How cool is that?

  • we always pack bubble wrap and extra large ziploc bags. And a first aid kit. I’m kind of accident prone.

    My biggest airplane issue is sleeping. I have sleep apnea and snore like crazy without my cpap. So, I never sleep on planes out of guilt for other passengers. I’ll sleep fine, but my snoring will keep everyone within 15 rows awake.

  • wow – my list is so different but I guess that’s because I’m usually traveling with kids in tow. However, I did go to NY in the spring alone (!) and I packed a book (a real book!) and the aforementioned eye mask / ear plugs. The one (maybe it’s a girly thing) I need is something to wash my face. Somehow washing my face at the end of a long haul flight makes me feel so much better and more presentable.

  • Agree on the eye mask, earplugs, maglite & alarm clock (amazing how many European hotel rooms don’t have them and you CANNOT count on wake-up calls).

    A few years back I bought some software on line, AVEX DVD to Ipod Converter. I am sure there are others out there as well. It converts DVDs to files you add to your desk top Itunes. The movies can also be shared with my Ipad just like your music can be shared between Ipod & Ipad.

    We took our Ipad to France last May when they hadn’t been introduced there yet. It was quite a curiosity! A young fellow at a cafe in Beaune asked how we were making that work!

    I have metro & bus routes, Velib locations, etc, etc! There are a gazillion aps to use while traveling. By the way, great blog post you had on aps! You are a great resource David…

  • You can make Via with cold water – AND stir it with the packet you just poured it from. (You can wash it first if you’re fussy.) No, it’s not ideal, but it’s effective. Also, adding my voice to the chorus re Ziploc bags.

  • For long haul trips where I know shopping will be excellent, I pack an empty duffel bag in the bottom of my suitcase. That way, the night before you leave and you are repacking your suitcase, you aren’t near tears wondering how all that good stuff is going to make it home.

  • THIS IS IS AWESOME! I always travel with Via because I’m up before most coffee shops or lobby restaurants open AND I WILL NOT FUNCTION WITHOUT COFFEE!

    My list:
    1) Additional ipod charger
    2) eye glass wipes (they are like wet naps but for your glasses since I hate dirty lenses…they work for my cameras and ipad screen too)
    3) Noise-cancelling headphones, yes.
    4) Lots of ziplock bags too
    5) Various apples
    6) Moisturizer (I never realized how great this makes me feel after flying, it wakes me up)
    7) Ipod with Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand movies and music. SOOOO GAYYYYYYY.

  • Following up on Karin’s comment, my favorite travel tip (I forget where I read this) is to take a few square cotton pads and soak them with toner (alcohol-free, non rinse face cleaner) and keep them in a ziplock bag. It is so nice to wipe my whole face clean right before I get to my destination!!

    Other must haves are breath mints, advil and flip flops so I don’t have to walk bare foot in the hotel.

  • When I travel for business, I almost always go for a week or more, and just to one place so I check a bag and if I’m going to check a bag, why not a big one so I can take my travel french press and my own coffee? (Confession: I have even taken a small coffee grinder and beans). I also bring along a spoon (for stirring). Packing cubes are a must. My iPod as well. I can listen to music, watch videos and it’s my library – in addition to other useful apps. My Shure ear buds which, while not noise cancelling, are pretty good at blocking out most of the noise and they double as a headset for my phone. I can sleep anywhere and light doesn’t bother me so eye masks aren’t needed. I, too love large ziplock bags – they come in handy for a variety of uses. A squeeze bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap takes care of any interim washing needs of dainty unmentionables. Or socks. Or both.

  • I have that travel clock and love it. I’ve dropped it so many times and it still works!

    • I’ve dropped mine too (a lot) and yes, it still works! The only minor flaw is that the door holding the battery can slide off easily in a suitcase. So I put the clock in a little ziptop bag so I don’t lose the battery : )

  • A refillable water bottle for really long flights. Buying water at the airport seems wasteful and expensive. I bring it empty through security and fill up on my way to the gate.

  • I take a night light to plug into the bathroom outlet. That way, I can always find the bathroom, and when I go in, I don’t have to turn on those awful strong lights that wake you up, plus if I accidentally see myself in the mirror, I look real sexy in that dim light!

  • Long haul flights: cashmere slippers. Any flight: a pashmina shawl..super light, and warm and you can wrap it around your head and pretend you are somewhere else.

    I had the same Timex clock, with the same battery problem. It finally died (probably of abuse) and was given an honorable burial.

  • I made this decidedly low-tech purchase on impulse, but then ended up using it quite a bit! Mirror was handy for dealing with my contact lens.

  • Those black binder clips are perfect for the curtains and a myriad of other uses (e.g. closing up half eaten bags of nuts and snacks….). Also, lots of ziplock bags…..

  • I travel almost every week and spent 3 weeks in the South Pacific recently and my go to travel items include:
    -SOCKS!! Airplanes are cold enough, I want happy feet
    -Temper-pedic eye mask– it’s heaven, you’re so right
    -Sony ear buds, I find they are almost equal to noise canceling headphones, but are very easy to sleep in
    -Trail Mix– it’s a must, but I do put in extra M&Ms :)
    -Power converter — most airplanes now have power converters in the seats so if your laptop runs out of juice, you can plug it into the converter
    -Tolietries — Fredric Fekkai Shampoo and Conditioner, your own soap (hotel soaps dry out your skin terribly), MAJOR eye cream – I use Armani but Olay works really well too, also, EYE DROPS — they help tremendously when you first wake up and have red eyes, lastly a really good facial moisturizer is necessary.
    -2 large water bottles– gotta stay hydrated.

  • A Petzl head torch. We don’t leave home without one. But actually we use them in the house a lot too, and keep one in the car. That’s how indispensable they are. Better than a maglite or those tiny LED keyring torches because a) they are completely hands-free, and b) they automatically point where you are looking. Perfect for blundering about in planes, walking home in the dark, dealing with powercuts, doing DIY in awkward places, crawling under the bedside table in hotels looking for sockets, poking around inside computers …

  • Don;t forget a compact umbrella and I always take along a heavy duty collapsible bag for shopping and it can be used as a carry on for the return flight if the items will not fit into your checked bag(s).

  • I am frequently on red-eye trips. I’m still looking for the perfect travel pillow. The bucky looks nice but I prefer something the folds up flat and helps me sleep. I’ve tried the long one from Amazon that you blow up and wrap around your body, but I just couldn’t get that to work for me. Any suggestions?

  • I always take moisturiser/makeup remover and other liquids in “bagettes” which are teeny tiny 2″x3″ ziploc bags. Even if you need multiples for long journeys, they are so much more space-efficient than bottles. I get them at michaels or other craft stores in the US. I also have a solar-powered flashlight I bought at Costco a gazillion years ago – it does 10 hours of being on after one charge of sunlight – brilliant ! It’s only identifier is http://www.hybridlight.com.

  • Hardware stores carry very small night lights that plug into wall outlets in the states. They are about the size of a quarter and are almost flush. Saves banging your toes in the night when headed to the bathroom and take up no room at all in your suitcase. Just remember to take them with you when you leave! Buy several….they’re inexpensive but last forever.

  • David, run to your nearest “pharmacie” or “para-pharamacie” and buy a botte of “Inhal-Rhume” . It is a blend of essential oils that help unclog your sinuses as well as an anti-microbial. I spray it on a tissue pre-take off and to freshen up hotel rooms that smell closed in. It is a lifesaver when you are stuck on a plane with someone who has not bathed in a few days too. (I received compensation once – along with my seat mates – on a flight where there was a gentleman that smelled so bad we were nausesous. ) Apologies to the non- European readers, I have only seen this in France and Switzerland. It is miraculous!

  • The Tempurpedic eye mask is amazing — it’s like a pillow for the face, hah! I often wear them even at home, no need to wait until the next trip…

    For coffee lovers, my friend just introduced me to Key Coffee ‘Drip On’. These Japanese packages come with a convenient filter to brew single servings of coffee. I tried the Hawaiian blend and really enjoyed it. Plus, the ‘origami’ is just so fun!
    Here’s a picture: http://www.japanesegreenteashops.com/coffeeselection.html

  • Gina and Sheri: Doesn’t the night light keep you awake all night? (Although I’m all for looking sexy when I get up…)

    Georgia: oof. I’ve heard that if someone smells bad, they can deny them boarding on a flight. That would be my idea of hell, sitting next to someone like that.

    genevieve: I used to bring Burt’s Bees carrot cream along since it smelled nice, although it was kind of thick. I try not to bring liquids on the plane anymore because I have so many things to take out at security (laptop, watch, iPad, camera, belt, shoes, lenses, iPhone, US cell phone, etc…) that one more thing would put me over the top!

  • I am a food/beverage spiller/dribbler. I always take along some stain removal pads made by “Shout” . They are like those wet wipes in individual flat packets. They get the stains out immediately from your clothing. Love them.

    • I know people that like those, but I haven’t found they get out grease stains. I tried a Tide stain stick and it left big white blotches on a blue shirt of mine. I think I need a travel bib!

  • My iPhone 4 is a must … even though I don’t use it as a phone when I’m traveling overseas. But, with all the apps I have loaded on it, it’s like a Swiss Army Knife. I have subway maps, city maps, translators, guide books, music, books, an alarm clock, my Hipstamatic Camera (which is so good that I often find myself leaving my BIG pro camera behind) and, with WiFi, I can get email and surf the web.

    I also never leave home without Sudafed (after catching a cold during an overseas trip and finding out, the hard way, what happens when you fly all congested), a few granola bars, travel packs of tissues, a few safety pins, and aspirin.

  • Tweezers. Because most hotels have those cool magnified mirrors. It’s my only chance to properly pluck my eyebrows by myself since I can’t see them close enough to pluck in the mirror at home. #sucksgettingold

  • I bring sudoku, a trashy magazine, a couple of New Yorker magazines (lots of text, good for long flights), granola bars and a Tempurpedic neck pillow.

  • Packaged alcohol swabs for the axilla.

    Usually, on along flight, there will be enough females complaining about being cold, that the pilot will adjust the thermostat up to, “sweatsville” for me.

    Deplaning while smelling like a skunk isn’t pleasant for anyone–no to mention the erstwhile seatmate.

  • Having spent 20 of the last 30 days traveling I can definitely empathize with you. I always travel with ear plugs and noise canceling headphones. Like you, I won’t leave home without them.

    I always bring a bottle of hand sanitizer with me. Between the planes, trains and automobiles I do whatever I can to stay healthy when I travel. Cuz there’s nothing worse than being sick and not being in my own bed.

  • Thanks for all the great tips! I travel every week for business in the US. Ziplocs of all sizes, including those small Bag-ettes, are essential. The iPhone 4 flashlight is very handy, plus the clock app. has an alarm (for my daily wakup) as well as a timer (for steeping my tea). In addition to using the camera for taking photos of people and places, I use it to take pictures of recipes from cookbooks I’m browsing through (yes, I also buy them, including yours!) I pack a Cuisinart immersion blender to make my morning smoothies (I’m diabetic, so hotel breakfasts don’t always work for me) and pack protein powder and other dry ingredients in Ziplocs. I also bought a very large carabiner clip (@ The Container Store) that hooks onto my suitcase handle and I hang my refillable water bottle from it.

  • Ikea makes a small battery operated clock for $1.99 (looks like a Timex). I’m getting several the next time I go there. Harbor Freight has specials on those colorful little LED flashlights (sometimes free).

    I always include Airbourne. If traveling in US also an emersion water heater for hot drinks (hard to find – I may have the last one in existence). Also a decent wattage light bulb and a “universal” sink plug.

    Thanks for the clue on the eye masks. I, too, hate the foam ear plugs. They really do hurt. Travel bib is a GREAT idea. If your clothing is washable, contrary to “conventional” wisdom, reasonably hot tea water often dissipates grease – then blot well.

  • Toilet paper. Seriously. Charmin has 3-packs of small rolls that you can carry in your purse/murse/backpack. For some odd reason, lots of public toilets in Tokyo don’t have TP.

  • The only thing I can add to everyone’s wonderful ideas are my indispensable travel slippers for the hotels I stay in. You never know the degree of yuckness of the carpet you are going to encounter, and negotiating cold bathroom tile in the morning is not my favorite. I got great travel slippers from Crabtree and Evelyn several years ago, that now qualify for a gold card in frequent flier miles – they pack flat, in a zipped, slipper-shaped bag, and are slim, but comfy. They are usually the first thing I put into my bag. I also always travel with a zip-up fleece. That plane air-conditioning can get real cold.

  • I love this post, “the things we can’t live without”, I am a snacker too….. mainly because I eat a very strict organic diet, I pretty much assume there won’t be anything I can eat, and like you I turn ill when hungry.
    My other half can’t live without his KIEHLS soap, he takes it everywhere…
    we are all just a little funny…..aren’t we?

  • I travel to Europe and China on a regular basis. I always fly in a fleece sweater, cardigan. I am invariably cold on flights. I take my Nook e reader, my 500G external hard drive, my IPOD, my Sennheiser headphones, eye drops, Thermal cup (nothing more unappetizing than your favorite bev changing temperature), travel socks for the hotel, face cloth, travel rain coat,and my always loaded dop kit. (yes I am that generation) It is loaded with the usual; moisturizers, nail clippers, tummy calmers, aspirin, shampoo, razor, corkscrew, pens, shower cap, comb, etc.

    My laptop bag is loaded with power cables, all labelled for my addled brain, two three way plugs or a power strip to plug everything in at once, and a solar charger for the field.

    And lastly, if I am arriving late (read midnight) I will go to the dreaded duty free and buy whatever liquid gold (generally bourbon) so I don’t have to get into the fridge etc.$$$

    thanks again for your blog, David. It truly is wonderful.

    • Ah, all those power cables. It really is a lot to remember to bring all of them (lord knows if you forget one…) plus the power chargers, and so forth. Thank goodness a lot of stuff is now USB, but I often have to remember adapters for everything since I’m usually traveling between other countries – even in Europe. I wish they’d standardize all the outlets in the EU. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

  • I love my Bucky! I bought it when I was traveling to Japan 10 years ago, and it has been my faithful travel companion ever since. Also good as a supplement to those squooshy feather pillows hotels always seem to have.

    Your list is great, and made me laugh out loud a couple of times, as your posts often do. My number one additional suggestion for readers would be 3-4 plastic bags (you know, the kind you’re forced to take at the supermarket when you forget your reusable bags). They’re invaluable for separating dirty laundry, wet bathing suits, things in your toiletry kit you thought didn’t leak until you opened your suitcase in the hotel, etc.

    • I wish it wasn’t so bulky as it takes up a lot of room in a carry-on. But I haven’t found anything better. The memory foam ones are interesting, but they’re pretty bulky as well.

  • Great list! I always bring an empty water canteen that I can fill up at a water fountain once I’m through security. I tend to get dehydrated on flights so that way I’m not asking the attendants for water every 15 minutes. Also, when I travel with my husband, we bring an assortment of charcuterie, cheese, crackers and fruit on the plane for our meal. They keep well until time to eat and we always seem to have the friendliest flight attendants who want to sit with us during dinner!

  • 1) Eye cream. Sadly, I always get seated next to a pack of teens on a school trip or have the person in front of me who reclines their seat SO far back that their head is in my lap. I’ll never sleep on a flight, but no one has to know this.

    2) A compact travel toothbrush. Sigh:( Does anyone remember when we still got good stuff during international flights…even in coach?

  • Favorite Travel Item: Nyquil, as it cancels out all other travel items.

  • I’m not a big traveler but my only essential is my travel-size Scrabble game! It’s soooo fun to play in a foreign café, airport, hotel, park, etc. I’ll even play “against myself”, as pathetic as that sounds! But it passes time when I’m delayed, and it creates great memories such as “Oh yeah, that café in Prague where I played Scrabble in French with a an elderly lady”.

  • What a great post! I agree with so many of your suggestions – I travel with large binder clips for the curtains, Mack’s earplugs, my Bose headset for long flights, small alarm clock, my Samsonite eye mask (after reading all the posts, now I have to try the Tempur-pedic one). For me, my snack for the plane is an apple and cheese. I don’t always pack my Swiss army knife since most hotels have a wine opener, although it’s handy to have the tiny scissors.

    I love reading everyone’s suggestions – I also travel with an abundance of ziplock bags (I pack my vitamins in snack size bags for each day, then re-use them for various things including bottles of toiletries I worry might leak). I also always bring eucalyptus and geranium essential oils in tiny bottles. I toss a few drops on the sheets before sleeping, and it helps me breathe and sleep better. I think the familiarity of the scent helps me relax (the oils don’t stain the sheets).

    Lately I’ve also been traveling with my kindle. I prefer real books, but it’s so light and if I change my mind about what I want to read it’s so easy to get a new book (and not heavy!). The only thing that annoys me with the kindle is that the airlines make you turn it off on takeoff and landing, which you wouldn’t have to stop reading if it were a real book.

  • The clothespin is BRILLIANT.

    The light peeking in through curtains that don’t quite close makes me crazy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve moved chairs around to place in front of curtains. I’ve tried to pile up pillows so I can’t see the light. I’ve hung up clothes and towels that usually fall in the middle of the night.

    But now I have a simple fix. Thank you!

  • Steve-Anna: I didn’t think I’d get into e-books, but when I was on the QE2, I downloaded a few books onto my iPad and reading them wasn’t so difficult (although I still prefer books, too. The Tempur-pedic eye mask is pretty great. I just wonder why Brookstone stopped carrying them. It was so convenient to pick one up since they’re in so many airports.

    Dianne: Yes, it drives me crazy as well. I often stay at a lovely hotel but they have a lighted keypad on the wall next to the bed, that lights up the whole room. I try draping something over it but since it’s on the wall, and pretty flat, I haven’t found a way to block it out. But I do love the hotel.

    Madeleines and Marathons: I bring an over-the-counter sleeping pill, like Excedrin PM or something, which seems to work better than the prescription ones, although they make some people feel goofy afterward. I tried Rescue Remedy Sleep spray that another reader recommended, but it didn’t do anything for me, unfortunately.

  • In addition to the aforementioned items (eye mask, ear plugs, book, iPod, Ziploc bags, etc.), I always pack a big fluffy towel to wrap the more fragile souvenirs (like wine). For food, I like to bring jerky, because whole peanuts and I don’t mix well and I hate raisins. And lately, I’ve been packing Wet Wipes which are versatile for bathroom trips and just wiping dirty, greasy, sticky hands. In a pinch, they also are good for wiping off sweat from all parts of bodies (i.e. waterless ‘shower’).

  • David, thanks for you travel list. H are a few other items that I Always carry (and after 5 extended trips to La Belle France in the last 6 years, I’ve got this worked out a little.)
    SLEEP MASK/PILLOW -I agree with a sleep mask – though I just use one that I got from TWA years ago. Not perfect, but very small, and I don’t need it on the Westbound (daytime) flights so I don’t want to carry anything too large. Same with the neck pillow: too big. I”ll stick with the inflatable from Brookstone.
    MAGLITE – absolutely. However, I bought one of those very cheap ($2.99), very light led lights from my local electronics store.
    CLOTHESPINS. Damn, I wish I had them last month in Paris.
    TINY NOTEBOOKS – been traveling with them for years. (Office Depot Memo books $2.50/3pack)
    CLICK STYLE PENS – absolutely. – And – I try to find short ones.
    SWISS ARMY KNIFE – Great idea, but I’ll get one of those multi-tools, because the tools on the Swiss army knives are nearly useless. Though some have a really neat toothpick built into them.
    WINE OPENER – You’ve got to be kidding! It’s like my credit card. Never leave home without one. Although I’ve never been at a loss to open a bottle without one. No, I don’t use my handy sabre (imagine trying to get that through security), I use my thumb. Works every time, though there is a moment where you have to be careful about wine squirting out, just before the cork drops into the bottle.
    ALARM CLOCK – never need one – every mobile phone I’ve had in 6 years has had a built-in alarm clock,
    OK – To MY list. My list keeps getting adjusted to minimize space and weight, so even though you may carry some of the same items, I’m constantly looking for improvements.
    ELECTRIC ADAPTERS. Lots of them. I usually bring a half dozen. I’m usually charging something or another and I often forget and leave them behind. And where is BHV when you need it?
    IMMERSION WATER HEATER (Multi-voltage). Sink water isn’t hot wnough for your VIA coffee.
    MONEY BELT. When I go out I usually carry everything I need in a money belt except for an ID (copy only), one credit card (of the 3 I bring), and a small amount of cash. (I lost a wallet on a trip many years ago. Since them, I never carry much in my pockets)
    PHOTOCOPIES of my Ids. Speaking of Ids – I bring photocopies of my ids: passport, driver’s l.c., insurance cards, just in case the originals are lost. When I go out, one original ID is in the money belt, and a copy of it is in my pocket.
    TRAVEL BRUSH – You can buy a fold-able rubber travel brush, and some even have a mirror built into the fold-out handle. Saves space in my travel kit.
    SOAP – Yes, I bring my own soap – but I just use a small slide-lock baggier. Lighter, and doesn’t leak.
    SLIDE-LOCK BAGGIES. (not zip-lock) LOTS of them. Several sizes. Unlimited uses. One use is as a filing system for everything. i.e., travel documents, receipts, etc. On everyone’s list.
    WOODEN HANDLE. You know, the ones you used to get at the departments stores so you can carry a package that is wrapped with string. VERY useful many times when trying to navigate whike travelling with purchases.
    THERMOMETER. When you’re gone for a month, it can be useful.
    SMALL TRAVEL LOCKS.(2-3). For sealing luggage when in hotels. Not a huge deterrence, but keeps the honest people out.
    DUFFEL. What, he says? This is one of my MUSTs. When I travel on longer trips or where I expect that I may be accumulating things, I have a tough, light, thin duffel bag that I put inside my suitcase. This will give me a second suitcase if I need to expand when returning. I put unbreakable stuff like clothes in the duffel and items that meed more protection in the suitcase. The one I bought was less that $100. (Eagle Creek). Although it is light, it is still a bit heavy-duty. I’d like to get something thinner like rip-stop nylon, but I’m still afraid of the luggage handlers ripping the thing apart. So this is one time when I give up space. My goal before my next trip is to find a duffel that is strong enough to survive the airlines, but lighter and smaller than the superb duffel that I’ve been using.
    EXTRA CAMERA BATTERY – You can then charge the extra battery when you go out. I never seem to remember to charge it overnight. Might be because of the wine. Bad thing to be on a trip with a dead camera battery or one that dies in the middle of the day. (Don’t trust those ‘fuel gauge’ battery charge icons on your camera.)
    BAND AIDS with antibiotic already in them, and some antibiotic ointment. (Careful – some only brands only have antiseptic in them.) We all have this stuff at home, but never thing we’ll need it on the road.

    I think that’s most of my list. When I get home, I note my travel inventory and adjust for the next trip. I keep most of the travel items in one box so I don’t have to go on a hunt the night before I leave for a trip. (Which, unfortunately, is when I usually pack. I sound organized, but I’m not.)


  • David, which Bucky pillow do you prefer… the buckwheat one (“Utopia”) or the Fuzzy Wuzzy? If it’s the buckwheat one, do you hear the buckwheat moving/scratching around inside the case when you turn your head? I have looked at these several times, but each time, when I hold the pillow up to my head, I think the ‘noise’ would drive me crazy trying to sleep. But I know people swear by them.

  • I have several “don’t fly without it” items. First, my cheapo Timex plastic-case wristwatch. You can go through security with it on. Has a 24-hour dial, which is helpful. They are about $25.

    I just got hooked on fiber-web belts. You just remove the metal buckle to go through security. They are cheap and come in a variety of colors.

    I have a pair of Sennheiser earbuds that I prefer to noise cancelling. They fit snuggly in the ear and basically keep out the noise. Another item I use is a small amplifier for my laptop, as the sound is never quite loud enough on some movies or music. The amp is called a “Boosteroo” and I think is available through Radio Shack.

    I always wear slip on shoes and they are so convenient when going through security and on the plane. Slip them off, slip some comfy “plane friendly” shoes on.

    I prefer using those baby wipes (or something similar) to using hand sanitizer, which contains alcohol which dries your hands out. I put the wipes in ziplock bags. They are great for a quick face cleaning, too.

    I use a netbook, rather than a laptop, and it’s small enough so that the reclined seat in front is not an issue. Battery use is, however, even though I have a long life battery. They way to go would be to have two long-life batteries and change mid-flight.

    There’s a way you can download movies off the internet in a compressed format that are available world-wide. They are called torrents and there are many sites available for them.


  • David, thank you! This is a perfectly timed list, as I’m leaving for France next week (and just received a purchase from Flight 001 today).

    Outside of your suggestions, I always carry a small Siig or BPA free reusable water bottle with me – once I get through security I can fill it at an airport water fountain or sink. It saves me from spending money on bottled water while in first world countries. It’s been ages since I’ve been anywhere where the water’s dodgy, so disregard if you’re headed to such a destination!

    Oh, and melatonin/sleeping pills. The combination helps me adjust to the time a bit better going east, though it doesn’t help so much on the return west. Go figure.

  • The memory foam pillows are great and they squish very flat, so long as you put them in something to contain them. Since I never check luggage, I always put mine in the outside pocket of my overhead bag. Just remember to take it out before you stow the bag. I also always use an eyemask and Mack’s earplugs; they help me to doze even if I don’t fall asleep completely.

  • Eucalyptis drops (or some other not very sweet hard candy) to suck – avoiding ear ache from cabin pressure. A pencil, pencil sharpener, eraser and blank A5 Visual Diary on which to sketch, draw, doodle or write.

    I also highly value my lips – so I ALWAYS take a tube of Eight-Hour Cream by Elizabeth Arden – it actually lasts eight hours. Living in Australia it usually takes up to 24 hours in a plane to fly to Europe or East coast USA, so there’s a lot of time to fill apart from just snoozing.

  • David, I bring my own teabags, coffee press, coffee, pillow, rolled oats and dried fruit measured out in individual serves for breakfast for stays in serviced apartments, all my own shampoo and conditioners, my own hairdryer and electric toothbrush, hand cream, everything I need for a manicure, electric water pick for teeth, flower essences and sprays to assist with travel stress and fatigue, a roll of moist towelettes, brilliant for getting spots off clothes, I will definitekly take my roll to Sydney when I fly to Sydney to eat at Sepia restaurant for dinner on 1/11/2011.

  • I bring my Acquis Super Absorbent towel when going anywhere outside of the US. I have long hair that takes forever to dry and the towels in non-US hotels aren’t always that great. This helps enormously. And then if I buy anything fragile I can wrap it in the towel for the return flight.

    And I bought a hair dryer the last time I was in Milan so I now have one that works on the EU current. I can’t stand those hotel room dryers.

    I have the Bose headset. The one benefit of buying Bose is that when you need a new pair you can send your old one in along with $100 and they will send you a new pair. It’s in the fine print on the website. I did this when the padding on mine started to rub off and get all over everything when I used them. They work really well. I have tried the ones they give you in business on Delta and they are hardly a comparison. I am always shocked when I take them off and realize just how loud the plane is.

    I too use an old eye mask from a delta flight many years ago. I have been thinking about getting a good one but I like how thin the airline one is.

    I tend to download a season of a show to my ipod. That avex dvd to ipod is a great idea.

  • We never go anywhere without our french press (plastic now after one broke in our bags), coffee and a grinder. Really. Morning coffee is really important to us and we like to have it in our rooms/apartment while getting ready to go out. Started doing this when I used to go visit my mother in a town that never heard of french roast let alone coffee that wasn’t see through. It became more important when, after menopause, I couldn’t take the caf anymore. Try to find decaf in Turkey, Egypt…..even Italy or anywhere else in Europe.

  • p.s. yes, bought the grinder in Europe like Kelly with her hair dryer.

  • Just came back from a short business trip to the USA with in my handbag: smartphone with charger (multiple use: alarmclock, flashlight, ebooks, music, copies of traveldocs, camera), a book, a vest (against the cold, as a pillow, to cover stains), mints (preferably Fisherman´s Friends), toothbrush and paste, chapstick, lotion, my contacts and liquid (I wear my glasses on the plane), makeup, jewelry (don´t want to risk loosing it) and a fresh pair of panties. Wearing: simple black long sleeved shirt with pink tshirt over it, black loose fitting dress pants, socks, easy fitting black sneakers and afore mentioned black vest.

    And all worked well: spilled a glass of wine over my pink tshirt but could cover it with vest. The entertainment set didn´t work, but I had a book (although I was looking forward to seeing Bridesmaids :() and when my suitcase didn´t show up I had my toothbrush, makeup and fresh undies and I was wearing all black that was acceptable for work too….unfortunately my suitcase has still not been recovered…

  • Don’t laugh,..a compass. The mister and I were lost for three days in Paris (really not that bad a thing) when he reached into a pocket and found a compass. From then on we were less lost and always knew which way was north. Gave one for the holidays that year to all the fellow travelers!

  • As silly as this may sound, a pen. More than once I had found myself stranded without one. I always travel with hand sanitizer and Handi-Wipes and carry them on the airplane to wipe down the airplane fold-down tray, recently rumored to have been one of the more infectious areas on an airplane. And as I work in a library, I always bring a good book and some magazines and newspapers.

  • When I lived in Paris in the early eighties I had a walkman stolen, was pick pocketed and flashed by old men on the metro weekly…I was nervous about moving to New York City where it turns out none of those things happened to me. I found Paris dangerous compared to NYC. I was harrassed continually by con men, followed home and on another occasion attacked by a man who emerged out of the bushes when i was hitch hiking to St. Tropez! It’s surprising how little of this stuff taints Paris’ image abroad nad NYC still has a reputation

  • If you happen to take the Roissey Opera bus, you could hit it lucky and find my Bucky neck pillow. Still kicking myself for leaving it behind.
    I love my Timex travel clock – it has a tiny radio -handy for French listening.
    My newest best travel trick is a Metro dish towel in my bag. I did the same thing in London. So much easier to read than those tiny printed maps.
    L’Occident has nice lavender sachets that fit inside your shoes perfectly and refresh them overnite pleasently.

  • So you prefer looking like a “robotroid” than a “Batmobile”? What criteria did you take into consideration when choosing?

  • Ziplock bags in all sizes. Small umbrella. Chewing gum. Those foam handles for putting your shopping bags together and making them easier to carry. For longer trips where I know I will be shopping, clothes that I won’t mind tossing before I fly back home, to make room for everything else I bought!

  • I love this. I am totally neurotic about the specific stuff I have to have with me, despite the amount I travel (a lot, playing concerts!). I’m a tea person, not a coffee person, and the one thing I absolutely cannot live without, as far as my tea habit goes, is the Tuffy Steeper made by The Tea Spot: http://theteaspot.com/tuffy-tea-steeper-steepware.html. I have ‘em in a bunch of colors and always carry a little bag filled with Tuffys, a few kinds of loose tea, and a tiny jar of honey (TSA-sized…!). When I’m on a plane and they offer drinks, I just get them to bring hot water and then sit there brewing up my tea. I get weird looks when I’m sitting next to somebody other than just my cello (ha), but it is totally worth it.

  • David, what a list! Thanks for sharing.

    I recently got a digital travel weight scale. Saves having to worry about overweight luggage – a godsend for someone like me who packs to the brim. If weight permits, i’ll usually shop for local groceries I can bring home. I don’t like to waste my baggage weight allowance :)

  • Admittedly, my list of “favorite travel items” is extensive, but these items make the I-would-go-back-home-even-if-I-was-on-the-way-to-the-airport-already list. It excludes all of the “obvious” (i.e. digital camera, my FLiP camcorder, etc.) and includes only the items that MUST be in my handbag before boarding.

    – EarPlanes (My ears hurt like Hades during landings and sometimes during take-off; they actually serve well to cancel out noise during shorter flights – also, if you’re an adult with small ears, the child size pairs work like a charm!)

    – Ziplock bag with Q-tips (Great for quickly fixing up makeup after you’ve been drooling with your face smashed against your partner’s shoulder for the entire flight), a few cotton squares, a handful of BandAids, Neosporin, and an emery board.

    – Extra Ziplock bags (They’re amazing)

    – Spearmint Wisps (Q-tips also help wipe up the weird film that develops on teeth after eating snacks, then falling asleep; the Wisps do until I can get to my toothbrush and a sink)

    – Travel-packaged Always wipes and/or to-go Charmin toilet paper (So handy! Especially for rest stops, and really, I find that everyone asks if they can borrow from my supply once we get to a restroom – including my boyfriend!)

    – Kiehl’s lip balm (This is admittedly one that I won’t leave home without, even when I’m going to the store)

    – L’Occitane hand cream (flying dries my hands out – and face, for that matter – HORRIBLY)

    – Evian Mineral Water Spray (travel-size)

    – Pashmina and a pair of socks

    – a book (Flying is a superb time to re-read an old favorite or check an item off of my Books-I-Should’ve-Already-Read-Or-Have-Really-Wanted-To-And-Haven’t-Yet)

    – a Moleskin

    – a few Muji pens

    – and last, but not least, an empty rolled up tote or eco-friendly bag for using as a carry-on with souvenirs on the flight back :)

  • I always bring my own green tea leaves in my suitcase. Fragrant jasmine or a Sichuan bamboo tip can be very refreshing in the hotel room after a long day on the road. I do stake an immersion heater when going to countries which don’t provide tea kettles in hotel rooms.
    On the plane I take tea bags for convenience with a travel mug/tea jar. Airline staff will usually have no issues with providing hot water any time on the flight, and it doesn’t create extra garbage of styrofoam cups (besides tea doesn’t taste very good in styrofoam cups).
    No sign of the sock knitters in these comments! Bamboo needles can get through security in most countries. If you start a new sock on a flight, even a 14 hour one, no scissors or needles likely required along the way.
    Can’t liven a flight (or even the subway) without the loaded ipod!
    Thanks for the lively discussion.

  • I always bring my own instant espresso when traveling–got addicted to Nescafe Espresso (it even has the crema) while working in Moscow, and now have to special order it off Amazon–regular stores in the U.S. don’t carry it (although it’s in Canada).

    • That’s interesting about the Nescafe Espresso because I scoffed but I met the person who developed it and he said that he was a committed coffee drinker (he patronizes a well-regarded coffee joint in the San Francisco area) but swore that the instant espresso was pretty good. I tried it and it’s fine for travel (and baking). I do see it on Amazon, however it might be imported. I also noticed, like Via, they sell individual “sticks to go” of powdered coffee.

  • Kiehls lip balm, a Chanel compact w eye makeup, lipstick and concealed cleverly contained, tiny spray bottle of Evian water for a quick spritz to the face. And those little mentholated shower tablets you can throw in and have your own head-clearing sauna when you get to the hotel. A small roll of duct tape because you never know. And the noise-canceling headphones, amen brother.

  • Goodness, almost everything on your list. I shall have to throw a Mag Lite in this next trip, however.

    Plus a well stocked travel bag, heavy on the Benadryl (hotel rooms always make me congested, perhaps I am allergic to mauve?).

    Oodles of lip balm.

    My own loose tea, “make your own tea bags,” a mug, and an immersion heater as America is so forlorn a place it does provide decent hot water or tea bags.

    Fennel tea for occasional nausea.

    Flat pack slippers and a travel robe because I NEED a robe and occasionally am stuck somewhere that doesn’t provide one.

    Cheap socks for the airplane.

    A hilarious but useful pair of “travel pants” for long flights. They are made of nylon but are cut like regular pants. They don’t look THAT bad. They are more comfortable than jeans and I refuse to wear sweats. They have an interesting feature that allows one to cinch up the ankles in what are presumably extra filthy bathrooms.

    I broke down this year and purchased a foot rest for longer flights. Sadly, I cannot always afford upgraded seats when flying internationally and they make the limited space in coach more bearable.

    A bottle of liquid castille soap. Works on about anything

    While I wouldn’t call them indespensible, my husband and I bought took our iPads on our last European trip and they were quite handy. I still read real books, however.

    Most importantly, a boatload of Ambien. It’s in everyone’s best interest.

  • I love your blog! I’ve read the other comments and took notes of what to bring on my next International flight. What I love about Paris/London, is that if you forget to bring your toiletries, it’s much more fun to buy new items there at the pharmacies and a good time to try new brands.

    I like your idea of using clothespins or clips to tie the curtains together and block the sunlight. I need to find that eye mask you recommended.

    One thing to add is that I love bringing pastries and candies back home so to I usually pack X-large ZIploc bags and a plastic shoe box ($1) that could store my pastries like macarons. I’ve done that several times. From NY, I pack a dozen bagels in a ziploc bag for the trip home. You can also use the XL ziplocs for storing dirty clothes.

    I’ll check this blog again later for more ideas.

    • One thing that was recommended to me by a friend who travels a lot is to keep everything you are bringing on board, that you will be keeping in your seat area, is to get one of the XL ziploc bags (clear ones) and put all your stuff in there, so you don’t forget it. Whenever you are landing, there is always that semi-panic to get off the plane and I think it’s a really good idea. (Even though I haven’t done it yet, mostly because we don’t have XL ziploc bags in France..)

  • Most of what I bring is already mentioned, either in your post David, or by other people. I am not fond of strange smells so one thing I always carry with me (it’s always in my toiletries bag) is a small scented travel candle in a little tin (‘ginger’ from Origins, comes in a package of three). usually there’s no need to burn it, I just leave it open on my nightstand, and it gives just the right amount of comforting smell. by all means do burn it if you want more.

    In all my bags and suitcases I have one of these tiny bags you can buy to refresh your closets. I just keep them in the plastic pouch they come in and they make my suitcase and what’s in there smell fresh for a long time.

    I will pick up on some of the tips here (like the over the counter PM cold medicines that make you sleep).

    One thing I never bring enough of…PATIENCE…;-)

  • Clothespins! Great idea, how come I haven’t thought of this before. It happens with my new curtains so I cross them over each other (they’re very long) and put my aerobics weights on the bottom to ground them haha!

  • I love the internet! Where else could I get an idea for the pack of binder clips that seemed like such a great idea at the japanese dollar store? All the travel tips are much appreciated. One thing though, which sony ear buds are you recommending? I looked on amazon and there are so many to choose from. Details please. I bought that 3-pack of tp for rmy first trip to europe but it came home with me unopened. I think I finally tossed it recently.
    I agree with the pashminas and of course cashmere socks would be wonderful as well.
    Here is my tip: I love the disposable no water needed toothbrushes http://www.colgatewisp.com/wisp/HomePage. It’s nice after a long flight to have a fresh clean-feeling mouth.

  • The $10 travel clock from Radio Shack is great and $5 cheaper. It is a little bulkier, but includes time/date/temp functions, and the time and temp functions are switchable between Euro and American. It also has a large time display that is NOT bright. The previous version of this clock was slim like David’s and had all the same functions as the current one, so I don’t understand why they changed it, although the back battery cover was on the fragile side.

  • My Kindle, in its self-lighting cover. The light works well for those bathroom trips. It runs off the Kindle itself and recharges. Plus, I then have reading material for the bathroom!

  • Is it not an option to wear your tempur-pedic eye mask when sleeping in the hotel room to block out the annoying light through the curtains, lighted keypads, etc?

    I always take medications with me….allergy pills, immodiumAD, and travel sickness pills. Not a very happy notion to pack them, but such a relief if you end up needing them. I also always make sure I have a change of clothes for each family member traveling with us in my carry on just in case any luggage gets lost or someone spills something or heaven forbid, throws up.

  • Oh my goodness. Everyone commenting here is so organized. I could do a whole article on what I bring and never use, or things I need and forget to bring. I often bring some nice loose-leaf tea, thinking how nice it would be to have some tea while watching a movie on the plane; but can’t get out of my mind the time there was some turbulence and I spilled a full cup of hot water on my seat mate. I always pack at the last minute so always, always forget something essential like socks or underwear or weather-appropriate shoes. I’ve finally accepted that I’m bound to forget something no matter how much time I spend checking that I’ve got it all, so now I just check that I’ve got my passport and hope for the best. Besides, it’s fun to have a shopping project when I arrive.

    I do like to pack a lunch and try to get to sleep before the meal is served, but the last few times half of the plane swiveled around and glared at me when I pulled out the smoked fish (oops) and the very fragrant korean dumplings (whoa, garlic!).

    Pocky (those chocolate dipped cookie sticks, also called Mikado in France) are a godsend for traveling with kids. Books, games etc are a waste of carry-on space since there is so much fun stuff to do on a plane, like play peek-a-boo with fellow travelers.

    One thing that has changed my life are Muji travel pouches http://shoponline.muji.fr/product_info.php?cPath=170_146&products_id=533. Now at least my luggage is organized.

  • Thanks for the Sony headset tip. I have a noise-sensitive friend I’ll pass it on to. When I travel, I take as little as possible. If for no other reason than I tend to lose things. But I am devoted to my little $12 REI alarm clock. It is VERY lightweight, slides/rolls (hard to describe the motion) into its own lovely brown leather-like, but much lighter and certainly not cheap-looking case, and does its job very effectively. Also, because I love its beautiful, efficient design I tend to NOT lose it. One caveat: light weight has it’s downside. The plastic-y knobs on the back if handled too roughly can come off. I’ve already replaced it once (no cost to me) and have learned to treat it with TLC. Bought it last year, can’t guarantee they’re still making it.

  • All one really needs is a handsome traveling companion who is more resourceful than you, an interesting conversationalist, and worth waking up to each morning in your hotel room.

  • Binder clips, ipod, kindle are essential for me. I’m going to check out the Bucky because I do hate the blow-up pillow that I’ve used for years. The very best thing about this post is the tip on Via coffee! Hotel room coffee is godawful and I must have a cup in the morning. Thanks for turning me on to a good alternative (to begging my husband find a coffee shop and bringing me a decent cup of coffee).

  • For delays and waiting-at-the-gate, the most recent 3 BBC 4 “In Our Times” podcasts. They make delays significantly less hideous. Also, having a couple of books (the trashier the better) on my kindle app, maybe a tv show or two, and a charger for the phone are all a very good thing.
    After that, it’s all about the small creature comforts: heavy-duty moisturizer, lip balm, tooth brush & toothpaste, edible food (and yes, I’d even choose protein powder over plane food as currently served on Air Canada).
    And for long-haul flights, travel pillow, eye mask, extra socks and comfy clothes that can be treated horribly without leaving me looking like an unkempt street person. Also a pen, for filling in customs and immigration forms. Don’t you hate when you have to ask to borrow?

  • Although Jeffrey C is right. Bringing along someone lovely is MUCH the nicest option.

  • I usually do about 3 or 4 trans-Pacific flights each year plus other travels. I’ve found that in addition to the usual iPod, digital camera, Kindle, blackberry and other mobil phones and other electronic gear, I needed a huge selection of chargers, etc. — that is until I found IGO chargers. They are BRILLIANT! You can get an ac/dc plug in with back up battery (which allows you to charge without even plugging it in!) and then select the tips for the equipement you have. Thus all you need is the one charger and 2 or 3 tips which fit on the charger cord. Some of the plug-in chargers even enable you to charge 2 items at a time. So it is all light, compact and works beautifully. Each tip is made for the specific device you have so that you don’t over-charge your device. The IGo web site makes it easy to select your correct tips. And NO, I don’t work for them even though my endorsement of their product is quite over the top.

    Another item I usually bring is a small travel multi-outlet strip. With all the electronic equipment we travel with I have found that often hotel rooms don’t have enough outlets where you want them, so if I am using my IGO to recharge something and my husband is using his and our computer is plugged in we are short of outlets. I got my strip on Amazon. It is smaller and therefore lighter than the usual multi-outlet strip that you get and the cord snaps into place on the strip so it is compact. Between this and the IGO we are always able to use our gear and have it fully charged.

    That and small bottles of Purell!

  • Plastic zip ties to put through the lock holes of my checked baggage. That way I know immediately if they have been opened. Real maps because they show the big picture in a way that apps can’t.

  • I have always travelled as light as possible, except when my kids were younger and I had to have half the house with me. However, reading this makes me think that I need to seriously rethink the whole travel lark. Thanks for sharing.