So, you’re off on a trip. You’ve done your research and found countless lists and suggestions of what you should take with you. You’ve chosen which bag and clothes to take, packed your camera and your toiletries and you’re ready to go. But you’ve still got a bit of space left in that well-chosen bag of yours, and while you don’t want to chuck the kitchen sink in, you think a couple of small extras could lubricate the journey nicely. That’s where this list comes in – ten little items to tuck into a pocket that’ll come in handy perhaps when you least expect it.

1. Business cards

It sounds a bit pretentious, but having some business cards handy can save you a lot of hassle when you want to exchange addresses with a new acquaintance. Vistaprint will give you more than enough for free, and you can make changes to a basic design for a small charge. Plus they make great bookmarks.

2. Gifts

When travelling, you’ll meet some amazing people, some of whom will go out of their way to look after you. Maybe they invite you for dinner, or let you spend the weekend at their house – either way, a gift is a nice way to show your appreciation. Buy a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates, then personalise it with a small item from home – magnets, keyrings and lapel pins are all small tokens that will fit nicely in a side pocket of your bag.
It doesn’t have to be big.

3. Earplugs

Hostel dorm rooms can be a noisy place to sleep, especially if you’re sharing with a group of Polish soccer supporters. Earplugs also come in handy if you’re trying to sleep in a vehicle or if your travelling partner suddenly develops a snoring habit.

4. Torch

Don’t do what we did and pack a full-sized Maglite – though one of the smaller-sized Maglites might well be just what you’re after. You never know when you’ll need a torch, but if you’re sharing a room with other people it can come in handy late at night. Even if you’ve got your own room, not all travel destinations have the most reliable electricity supplies, and a torch might be a crucial element in your late-night toilet-finding mission.

5. Dental floss

In addition to doing its part in keeping your teeth healthy, dental floss can be pressed into use in all sorts of other situations. Notably, as a replacement shoelace or hairtie with added minty freshness. You can use it as a clothesline or to keep your clothes together if you lose a button. It’s the new string.

6. Pocket knife

Having a pocket knife is usually worth the extra hassle of always having to check in a bag, especially if you get one that has all the features you need. Don’t bother with the little dinky ones, and don’t fall into the trap of getting one with a hundred functions, since you won’t use them all and it’s just extra weight. Make sure you’ve got a large (preferably locking) blade, corkscrew, bottle opener, can opener, tweezers and toothpick and you’ll be sorted. Being able to open that bottle of wine everyone’s looking at longingly – priceless.

Love padlocks on bridge
They're more useful on your bag

7. Sewing kit

Even though your dental floss is doing a great job of keeping things together, having a sewing kit on hand to fix minor rips and reattach buttons can be really useful. And you can use the needle to pop blisters if necessary (make sure you sterilise it first).

8. Universal power adapter

You’ve probably got a lot of electronics with you – everyone seems to. And you’ll probably pick up more stuff while you’re travelling. A good way to prepare for the inevitable is to buy a universal power adapter – one that will accept all types of plugs, and also has prongs for different countries. Then, you can power up all of your appliances wherever you are, regardless of their origin.

Playing cards
Bringing out a pack of cards can be a great ice-breaker in a hostel lounge.

9. Entertainment

Choose something small and portable to keep you occupied – a pack of cards is usually a hit in a hostel common room. A chess set or a book could also be good options.

10. Padlocks

Don’t leave home without padlocks. Get the combination kind so that you don’t run the risk of losing the key, but make sure you don’t forget the code! You can use padlocks to lock your bag, or to lock it to the railing of a train, or to lock lockers in a hostel.

Your thoughts on "Top ten small items to travel with"

  • Couldn't agree more about #8, the universal power adapter. Unfortunately, I didn't think of this the first trip I made abroad, so I had to buy one overseas. It was quite pricey! Now I recommend them to all my traveling buddies, and getting one online is much cheaper!

    on January 13, 2011 at 11:50 am Reply
    • Yes Chuck, finding them online is much cheaper! We've linked to our favourite style on Amazon in the article. There are lighter options if you're only going to be changing plugs once but as we've bought items with different plug styles and constantly change country, it's important to be able to plug anything into anything.

      on January 13, 2011 at 7:33 pm Reply
  • I found myself more then once without a can opener when I was starving and only had canned food. Never travelled without a pocket nife ever since :) Earplugs are also high on my list of things not to forget, you can forget about sleeping when lots of people are snoring.

    on January 14, 2011 at 11:01 am Reply
    • If the security for you particular country for flying won't let you take a pocket knife on the plane, there are a few options that don't require you to check a bag. For a can opener, you can always use a P-38, which can go on the plane. For a bottle opener, there is a technique that involves using a shoe. You always have your shoes with you and they always go through airport security. Finally, for pocket knife check out the product called Utilikey. I have never had mine siezed as I think it appears as a key. I carry it for the glasses screwdriver, but have found the knife handy more than once.

      on January 14, 2011 at 1:26 pm Reply
  • Great ideas, J - thanks. I'm not sure how that wine will taste after all that shaking, but it'll do in a pinch!

    on January 18, 2011 at 9:36 pm Reply
  • Good suggestions as ever! I'd add that I believe in the torch being a good quality wind up one. An iPod and a Kindle 3G (Free internet almost anywhere!) are great too, if you're planning on taking electronic items. Also, some way of keeping notes on people you meet, places visited, experiences etc.

    on May 2, 2012 at 11:09 am Reply
    • I always feel the problem with electronics is cutting down... cables and batteries are SO heavy. But I must admit, I can't imagine a city-based trip without my iPhone now. With the GPS, I'm even relying on it for short hiking trips. ~Craig

      on May 2, 2012 at 12:18 pm Reply

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