8 Items You Never Pack...But Should
By Sean O'Neill, Thursday, Oct 13, 2011, 5:00 PM
Chances are, you already own most of the things on this list (or can pick them up for as little as $3)—you just never realized how useful they can be for navigating unexpected travel snags.
No matter where you're traveling next, there are a few things you can add to your grab-and-go bag that will make everything run a little more smoothly. Meet eight items that will turn you into the MacGyver of the vacation set.
Power Strip Outlet shortage at the airport? A multi-socket power strip helps share the juice from a single public outlet. Forgot your charging iPod in your hotel room? By plugging all of your electronics into the same place, you'll be less likely to leave one behind. One catch: Abroad, you'll need to use an adapter and a converter. Belkin Mini Surge Protector with USB Charger, $12.
The list of obvious uses for a bandanna is long—hand towel, lens cleaner, eye mask, hair tie, headband, scarf, cooling device (when dampened)—but this versatile carry-on can also work in a pinch as a pillow when you tie it around a bundled-up sweater, as a sling for a sprained arm, and even as a hobo handbag to tote your belongings.Duct Tape From bandaging up exploded luggage to removing lint from clothing, duct tape earns its all-purpose reputation. Carry a small roll (about $5) with you to patch tears in shoes, bags, or clothing; baby-proof your hotel room by covering outlets and securing
drawers shut; hold together a well-worn guidebook when the spine gives out; and more.
Travel Mug To prevent damage, transport sunglasses or delicate souvenirs in an empty travel mug with a wide mouth—just make sure it's got a secure screw top. During your trip, the mug can be an ecofriendly to-go cup or a great decoy for stashing valuables in your hotel room (a coffee-stained thermos is an unlikely target for thieves). OXO Good Grips LiquiSeal Travel Mug, $20.
Moist Towelettes They aren't just for babies! Not only can you sanitize your hands and kill germs on tray tables, doorknobs, tabletops, and other public places, you can also use them as a refreshing face cloth after a day spent in transit. The alcohol in many wet wipes helps remove ink stains in a pinch, too. (For guaranteed stain-protection, pack a few Shout Wipes, about $6 for 12.)
Silicone Travel Bottles TSA-approved mini bottles are old news to an experienced traveler like you. But their rigid plastic shells waste expensive moisturizer, sunscreen, and hair products that can't be squeezed out. Enter squishy travel bottles made out of transparent, soft silicone: easy to clean, more flexible to pack, and good 'til the last drop. GoToob bottles, from $5.
Safety Pins The safety pin: a multifunctional travel tool. Clasp the zippers of your day pack together to deter thieves; use in place of a missing button, zipper pull, or to mend other wardrobe malfunctions; tack kids' pant legs up when hiking through mucky terrain; even prevent static cling in a dress or skirt by slipping the safety pin into the seam of your slip (the metal has repelling properties).
Tote Bag Many shops abroad charge extra for single-use plastic bags, so BYO bag with an expandable tote like the Baggu, shown ($8). Bring one that's tough enough to toss around as a carry-on and handle farmers market, picnic, and beach items, too. At trip's end, cordon off the dirty laundry inside your suitcase to preserve the freshness of any clean clothes that are left.