While we’re all starting to figure out how to travel again, albeit safely and regionally, during COVID, there are a few items I never travel without. Over my years of traveling, I’ve come up with this list of the absolute necessary items that I end up needing more than not and all of these items still make it into the bags I bring with me on a trip. Today I’m sharing, not only the items I never travel without, but some travel stories to go along with them to keep it real here on LOM because travel isn’t always as glamorous as travel bloggers would make it seem!
I learned many years ago that getting sick while traveling is not fun at all, but it happens! And after many trips when we’d get sick while traveling, I learned that the only thing that makes it any better if you can medicate yourself while on the go and get a long night’s rest to help your body heal quicker. I always travel with NyQuil Gel Tablets, no matter where I’m headed in the world because if I get sick, I want to at least be able to sleep through the night!
I’ve been sick on so many trips I can’t even keep track anymore, from a horrific flu on the way home from Stockholm to having a horrible cold and bloodshot eyes on our first trip to Iceland years ago. I swam with dolphins in Hawaii when my parents first moved there 12 years ago with one of the worst head colds of my life and had strep throat (without knowing it at the time) while whale watching in the San Juan Islands. So let’s be real, getting sick while traveling happens. Keeping NyQuil Gel Tablets in your bag will at least allow you to be able to medicate yourself while on the go.
From blisters to other injuries, a little first aid kit with Bandaids and Neosporin is a must to keep in your travel bag. You never know what lovely adventures await you when traveling and having items to keep you safe and protected is definitely a must. Funny story… in December when I was coming home from Myanmar, I was in the Beijing airport after a really rough travel day when I had to go out of each airport I was connecting in (4 airports) and then go back through security in each one for some odd reason. So by this point, I had already taken 2 flights and was in my third airport of the day, going through security for the third time when I looked down as I put my bags on the conveyer belt and saw blood all over my white carry-on bags. I immediately started looking around for the source and realized that at some point in the last half hour I had cut my hand on something and created a huge gash in my knuckle and blood was just pouring out. Still being 2 long flights away from getting home and in a foreign airport, thankfully I had bandaids and Neosporin in my carry-on with me and could at least stop the bleeding on the go. So long story short, always have bandaids and Neosporin with you when you travel.
To be completely honest, I’ve had worse food poisoning in the US and at home here in Portland than I’ve ever had abroad, but I am of the belief that I’d rather be safe than sorry and Imodium is one of the things I keep in my luggage just in case. The honest truth is that you never know what might make you sick when traveling and having something to help in that case is really important.
Chargers for All Devices
When we started traveling really regularly, I found out really quickly that it was way easier to buy duplicate chargers for all my devices and keep them in my luggage instead of using the same ones I use daily at home. I basically created a travel packet of all my chargers and that way when we’re leaving for a trip, that packet is already in my suitcase and I don’t have to do anything with it. I have an extra charger for my laptop and a few extra chargers for my phone and I love a plug in like this with multiple USB ports.
We’ve gotten pretty used to always having enough chargers for all of our devices now, but when we first starting traveling there were definitely times when we would get to a destination and be running all over cities trying to find chargers for our stuff!
You never know what you might encounter when traveling, whether getting sick or spilling something, I always have several packets of travel Kleenex in my bag at all times. When I cut my hand in the Beijing airport, it was Kleenex that I used to wipe away all the blood and clean my hand up. In Hong Kong, when restaurants weren’t giving out napkins, I used Kleenex. When you’re sick and can’t stop sneezing, Kleenex are going to be your best friend. In short, stock up on travel Kleenex and keep them in your bag always!
2 different credit cards
I try to travel with as few credit cards as possible, mostly for the reason that if my wallet ever got stollen it wouldn’t be so bad. I usually travel with my debit card and 2 different credit cards for a few reasons. My debit card is necessary so that I can get cash out if I needed to. And I always take at least 2 different credit cards because if one doesn’t work, the other probably will. I also find that abroad, certain cards are easier to use than others. For example, my Barclay Arrival card has a pin with it, which is what the rest of the world uses these days and that card is really nice to have to buy train and metro tickets as most of the kiosks around the world require a pin and chip card. Unfortunately you can’t get that card anymore, but it’s worth looking into what the options are for pin and chip cards available for use around the world. I also always take my Chase Sapphire card with me when I travel as I get double points for anything travel related.
Years ago when we went to Europe with Nick’s parents and Grandma, we landed in Paris and headed to the kiosks to buy metro tickets into the city and none of Nick’s parents’ credit cards would work for some reason. I ended up using one of my credit cards and it went through. Sometimes there isn’t really a rhyme or reason why they work or not, but in that moment, it was so important to have multiple people with different cards as they wouldn’t have been able to buy tickets at the kiosks because their cards weren’t working.
I never travel without cash, period. If I’m traveling within the US, I bring less cash but I still always have some cash with me no matter where I’m going. If I’m going abroad, I bring more cash and usually pay for almost everything with cash. I do this for a few reasons, first, it’s easier to stay on a travel budget if you know how much money you have for the trip and can count your cash as a way to figure out how much you’re spending and how much you have left. Second, a lot of places around the world still use cash as their primary mode of payment and a lot of places, especially smaller destinations, prefer to get paid in cash. And third, sometimes it’s just easier and quicker to pay cash rather than deal with credit card issues.
My tip for bringing cash is to get the local currency for wherever you’re going at your bank before leaving home. You’ll pay a lot less to do it this way than you will doing it at the airport or on arrival. The only time you wouldn’t be able to do that is if the country doesn’t have cash available internationally. For example, when I went to Myanmar in December, you can’t get the Myanmar currency outside of Myanmar so we had to get it on arrival. What’s particularly important about that situation is remembering to cash out that local currency back to USD or Euros or something interchangeable before leaving the country!