Travelling takes you out of your comfort zone – and that’s a good thing. But sometimes you just want a few extra bits and pieces to make things easier. Aside from the obvious things like chargers, power banks, and toiletries, here are some of the random things our teamsters pack when they travel that you may never have thought of before.
Pack a knife, fork, and proper size spoon. This may not be necessary if you’re only away for a night but it really does come in handy if you prefer not to order room service or would rather just buy a tub of yoghurt or pot noodle at the supermarket to nosh on (saves money). Carry it with you during the day too – it’s better than using plastic throw-away cutlery which is environmentally unfriendly.
Note: do not put the knife in your carry-on luggage or it will be confiscated!
A lightweight insulated travel mug is a useful item and doesn’t take up much space (put things inside it when packing). Hotel cups are notoriously tiny and, if you’re someone who likes a proper mug of tea or coffee, or want to make yourself soup-in-a-mug, they may just be too small for you. You can also take a travel mug with you for the day instead of getting take-away cups (not eco-friendly plus many places charge extra now if you don’t bring your own). Don’t have time to finish your coffee at breakfast? Put it in your travel mug and away you go. And they’re great if you’re getting onto a tour bus and will be sitting back and watching the world go by.
Pack a small sponge or dish cloth for washing your travel mug and cutlery, and anything else that needs a wipe down, be it spilled make up or leaked shampoo.
Some hotels have them on hand, some don’t. If you might be enjoying an evening tipple in your room or are thinking of taking yourself off for a picnic, you’ll be glad you packed a bottle opener. Alternatively, you can take along a multi tool that has scissors and a bottle opener on it.
Just remember not to leave corkscrews or multitools with knife or corkscrew attachements in your carry-on baggage.
Reusable shopper bag (or two)
They’re lightweight, fold down to almost nothing, and are super useful. Take one out with you during the day for shopping or carrying warmer clothing, great for the beach, or just to keep clothes separate in your suitcase.
They’re also great if you’ll be using facilities like a gym, pool, or sauna, or spending the day at the beach – just to put a few items in.
Most of us travel with multiple electrical devices that require charging at the end of the day – phones, tablets, cameras, laptops, etc. Not all places have several power outlets which can make it pretty tedious when you need to charge several things.
Pack a small power strip to plug into your country-appropriate adaptor and charge everything in one go. Look out for one with a surge protector.
Bandanas or neckerchiefs are great. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve seen them everywhere as face masks but they’re also useful for your travels.
Aside from a fashion accessory, you can wet it to wipe your face and neck if you’re hot or need to clean your hands, use it in a pinch if you cut yourself, tie your hair off your face, put ice in it for a bruise, put loose items into it as a makeshift bag, or tie onto your bag as an identifier.
Blow-up pillow and pillowcase
One of our team members dislikes using hotel pillows for hygiene reasons and swears by a little camping blow-up pillow covered with a nice cotton pillowcase from home. They are on the small side but it’s worth it knowing that it’s germ free.
‘Bedside’ box or bag
A plastic box with lid (aka tupperware) or drawstring bag that opens out is very useful for all the bedside paraphernalia. This is where you put your watch, spectacles, medicine you need to take when you get up or go to bed, charger, etc. that you may not necessarily want to leave out all day when you’re out of the room but you do need it.
If you put all those bits ‘n’ bobs in the box/bag, you won’t risk accidentally leaving something behind when you check out, plus you don’t need to go ferreting around in your suitcase when you need things.
Plastic box with lid (aka tupperware)
Especially useful if you’re staying in self-catering accommodation and if you want to save money on food by taking a packed lunch along for the day (if you’re in a hotel, you can pop in a pastry from the breakfast buffet to nibble later).
The bonus is that, when you pack to go home, the box is great for packing small, fragile things.
Zip seal bags
These are indispensable for travel and should be reused (and, of course, placed in the recycling when they’re done). The extra-large ziplock bags function perfectly as lightweight packing cubes and are transparent so you can find everything speedily. The tiny ones are great for jewellery. Put bottles of liquids into larger ziplock bags. And the sandwich-sized ones are perfect for, well, sandwiches or other snacks. Pack a few in your carry-on luggage to put liquids in when travelling through security.
Don’t underestimate the usefulness of the humble plastic shopping bag. If you have a few lying around from shopping trips where you forgot your reusable cloth bags, take a few along (and remember to put them in the recycling when you’re done with them).
They can be used to keep dirty shoes, laundry, and damp items separate from other items in your luggage. Many countries charge for bags at the supermarket and, with the exchange rate not favouring South Africans, you’ll save some money by taking your own bags (think about it, 10 pence in the UK for a shopping bag is over R2.00). Keep your liquids in a bag too as an extra layer of protection in case of leakage.
Small, foldable cooler bag
This is brilliant if you’re visiting a hot country and want to take your food and drinks along for the day. Also a must for those travelling with insulin or other medication that needs to stay cool.
And, if you don’t need it during the day, it’s a great place to store small items that you don’t want floating around in your suitcase.
Strong clear packing tape
(Sounds random, we know, but bear with us…)
- Opened a pack of sweets or crisps and didn’t finish it? Seal it with tape.
- It’s a great lint remover. Tear off a piece, wrap it around your hand, and dab away.
- Instead of sticky tape if you need to wrap a gift.
- Seal parcels that you want to send home.
- Broken spectacles? Tape will fix them until you can get to an optician.
- Seal bottles of liquid like shampoo or shower wash. Place the tape over the lid and then wrap around the neck of the bottle.
- Hotel room curtains leaving a gap? Use the tape to stick them closed.*
- If there’s a small light in your hotel room that bothers you, take a scrap of paper and stick it over the light using the tape.*
- Bag handle coming loose? Use the tape to fix it until you can get it sorted out properly.
- If your hem is coming out and you don’t have time to stitch it, stick it from the inside until you can fix it properly.
- Fix a tear or crack in your bag temporarily to get you where you need to go.
- Some hotels and cruise/ferry ships have those annoying shower curtains that billow into your space. Use the tape to stick the edges to the outside of the bath/shower before it gets wet.
*NOTE: if using tape on curtains, lights, etc. in hotel rooms, please be careful not to stick to wallpaper or anything else that might rip/be damaged by the tape, and remember to remove it carefully before you check out.
Next time you get take-out food, hang onto the salt sachets and add them to your travel kit. They take up almost no space and could come in handy for ‘hotel room picnics’ to add a little zing to your food.
Salt is also a good addition to a first-aid-kit. Dilute the salt in some lukewarm water and use it to gargle with for sore throats, rinse your mouth for inflamed gums, or clean cuts and scrapes as a disinfectant. Cheap, space-saving, and non-toxic.
A coat hanger
Yes, we know most accommodation has coat hangers but they tend to be the type that can’t be removed from the cupboard or, if they can, they don’t have the hook part (this is discourage theft).
You may want to hang an item of clothing in the bathroom while you shower/bath to get the creases out, or perhaps there just aren’t enough hangers provided, or you don’t want to hang something inside the cupboard lest you forget to pack it when you leave. A hanger takes up very little space and is really useful.
Rubber warm water bottle
Wonderful for all sorts of aches and pains like stomach cramps, back ache, tense neck and shoulders, and even sore feet. And, of course, if your room is frostier than you’d like, it’ll warm you right up. They take up little space, aren’t very heavy or expensive, and are useful.
A cheap pair of rubber/plastic flip-flops are perfect for travel and you can usually pick up a pair for next to nothing in most supermarkets. Wear them in your hotel room and in the shower (to protect your feet from dirt and athlete’s foot).
If you’re going somewhere with a pool, sauna, or hot tub, or are in accommodation with shared bathroom facilities, a pair of flip-flops is indispensable.
There are lots of tiny flashlights available, many of which you can clip onto a keyring or bag. Take it with you on the plane in case you need to find something in the dark without having to switch on the overhead light. It also makes it easier to find things in your suitcase or under the bed, especially in those hotel rooms with dim lighting.
You’ll save on phone battery if you use a torch instead of your phone.
Hand-washing laundry power
You can wash socks and undies in the sink (heated towel rails are the best as they’ll dry your washing speedily) instead of travelling with dirty items. It’s also really useful if you’ve messed on something or gotten dirt on an item of clothing – just do a quick spot clean. There’s no need to send those items out to be laundered for you (which is usually pretty pricey).
We recommend put it in two ziplock bags in case one fails – you don’t want washing powder all over your luggage.
TIP! Pack items that you don’t mind leaving behind so that, if you need the space when you are heading home at the end of your trip, you can jettison the things you do not need. Instead of chucking out old socks, undies, PJs, or cutlery that look a little sad, just keep them for future travels.