Eight Great Items You Probably Don’t Pack (But Should)

By Jamie Pearson

As much as I like traveling light, I also relish the feeling of being well prepared.  That’s why there’s always room in my suitcase for a lightweight piece of travel gear that eliminates a hassle or makes my life easier.  Here are eight nonessential items to throw in your suitcase the next time you take a trip. 

1.  An extension cord

A 6-foot extension cord with three outlets will end the usual bedside outlet power struggles and bring electricity where you need it for your phones, laptops, and tablets.  Many hotel rooms have plenty of outlets in convenient places, but unfortunately an equal number do not.  Better to be prepared.

2.  Powder sunscreen

I never understood how wonderful powder sunscreen was until my son and I flew to Phoenix for spring training.  Because we had only an hour between landing and first pitch, we decided not to check bags.  Do you know how we simultaneously protected ourselves from baggage delays, the TSA, and the Arizona sun?  Powder sunscreen.  It’s amazing stuff.

3.  Dry shampoo

While dry shampoo is definitely having a moment, it’s been around at least since Victorian times when frequent bathing wasn’t exactly de rigueur.  I was skeptical of the no suds method too, until I tried it and liked it.  After an overnight flight, bus ride, or train trip, massage the powder into your roots, wait two minutes, and then brush it out.  Goodbye oil, hello illusion of cleanliness!    

4.  A nightlight

At home, I’m happy to sleep in a room as dark as a crypt.  In an unfamiliar hotel room (or rented apartment), however, it’s a little trickier to find the bathroom in the middle of the night.  That’s why I keep a nightlight tucked into the side pocket of my suitcase.  It’s worth bringing a spare too, because they’re very easy to leave behind.

5.  White noise app

This isn’t something you pack so much as download, but it has changed the way I sleep when traveling.  My family and I recently stayed at a hotel in Washington, DC, right across the street from the George Washington University Hospital.  Many of the online reviews I read cited all-night ambulance noise, but I didn’t even hesitate to book.  Why?  Because with my white noise app, we can sleep through anything.

6.  Socks

Even if I am traveling somewhere tropical, I always pack at least one pair of socks.  Not only can hotel air conditioning be a little frigid and volatile for my tastes, I also prefer not to walk barefoot on hotel carpets and in hotel bathrooms.  Since I’m not willing to pack slippers, socks do double duty.

7.  Binder clips 

Sometimes you find yourself in a hotel with blackout curtains that don’t seem completely clear on the concept.  I’ve found that even a tiny gap can let in a lot of light.  Throw a couple of binder clips in your luggage, and you can easily arrange the window coverings more to your liking.

8.  Cell phone car charger  

If you’ll be renting a car on your trip, bring along a cell phone car charger – it’s worth picking up a few cheap ones since, like the nightlights, these are easy to leave behind.  You’ll like being able to use GPS and listen to audio books on the road without worrying about draining your batteries.


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Don George, Editor

Don George is Editor in Chief of Wanderlust: Literary Journeys for the Discerning Traveler. He has been Travel Editor for the San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle and Salon.com, and Global Travel Editor for Lonely Planet Publications. Don has published eight books, including Travel Writing, A Moveable Feast, The Kindness of Strangers, and Tales from Nowhere. E-mail him at [email protected]

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