Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel weeks in America, so whether you’re scrambling to pack a bag for a quick trip to grandma’s house, road-tripping to see the big game, or flying out on a weekend getaway to an exotic island (don’t we all wish), I thought I’d share the 20 things I always take with me when we travel.

First, let me start with the bag — yes, my favorite small, clear, plastic bag that I never leave home without. I got it for a few bucks at our local Walmart and I take it everywhere. It is about 8×4 1/2 inches and fits nicely into a camera bag, medium/large purse, backpack, or glove box. It keeps everything in one place, so there’s no searching through pockets or compartments to find something and I can see it all right through the bag.

It’s amazing how much you can pack into this small bag. When we were riding the high-speed train from Barcelona to Madrid this summer, I emptied my “essentials” bag on the tray in front of me and was surprised to learn I had jammed 20 items into that small bag. Here’s what I had that day, and what I almost always carry with me whenever we travel.

1. USB/phone cord – I typically pack extra cords in my suitcase but I always carry at least one USB/phone cord with me at all times. I use it to connect to my computer or an airport charging station and need it to use my portable phone charger. Don’t forget the electrical outlet plug, as well. Mine must have been in another bag/backpack.

2. Portable phone charger – This was a gift last Christmas from Steve. He knows I’m not the best about keeping my phone charged and truth be told, it has come in handy more than once, especially when we’ve been traveling.

3. Pen – I always accept free pens when a hotel or doctor’s office is giving them away. I keep one in my purse pocket and an extra this little bag just in case I lose the other.

4. Hair pick/comb – Great for long days spent touring. Things like wind and humidity mess me up and nothing feels better than running a comb through my hair to freshen up.

5. Medications – Of course, I pack all of my meds in their original containers when I travel. But when out and about, I take extras (things like Tylenol or Ibuprofen) in these small, disposable bags I got at a local pharmacy. These also come in handy when you need to take pills with a meal and don’t want to take the whole bottle or a pill case.

6. Hand sanitizer – I use lots of hand sanitizer and always have some sort of scented bottle with me at all times. Comes in handy after touching dirty restaurant menus, shaking hands, or holding onto railings on well-used escalators. I love the small, scented ones from Bath and Body Works. In my opinion, the two best scents are Eucalyptus Spearmint and Dazzling Diamond (which has just a hint of glitter for the girly girl in me).

7. Blistex – My favorite lip balm is this Blistex Lip Protector and Sunscreen. Steve prefers the original medicated lip balm in the green tube and keeps it well stocked at home.

8. Nexcare  – My new favorite adhesive bandage. These are water resistant and great for small cuts on my fingers.

9. Eye drops – I have lots of issues with my eyes and keep a small bottle of eye drops with me at all times.

10. Gum – Great for takeoff and landing when flying, peppermint flavor soothes and upset stomach, and comes in handy after eating onions at lunchtime.

11. Eye glass repair kit – Don’t use this often, but when I need it, I’m glad I have it. Tightens up the hinges on my sunglasses, and I’ve used the magnifier for other things, like removing splinters from my hand.

12. Cash – Always nice to have an extra small bill for things like housekeeping tips.

13. Nail clippers – Use these all the time. Hate long/broken nails on fingers or toes. Also good for cutting off loose threads.

14. Extra camera lens cap – Even when I’ve used those lens cap keepers (or leashes, as I like to call them) I inevitably lose a lens cap now and then. I ordered a few extras from Amazon and keep one in my little bag just in case. I have spent way too much money on my camera and lenses to risk scratching a lens because I didn’t have a $5 cap.

15. Elastic hair band – OK, this is really a must have for me. I buy these black hair bands in bulk and use them everywhere. I use them to wrap up all my cords (phone, camera, chargers, etc.). I put them around decks of cards. They hold bag tags on my bags better than most other holders, and are an excellent tool for adding additional security (latch it around the hooks) to my backpack and prevent it from being opened by a thief. Oh, and occasionally, I use one to keep my hair up.

16. Lip gloss – Just the little touch of minty, shine a girl needs. I love the Mentha Supreme 2X from Bath and Body Works.

17. Back scratcher – This one is seriously one of my favorites. Steve and Meg “bought” this for me a few years ago with the tickets they won playing skeeball and wack-a-mole at an arcade. They thought it was a silly, little gift. Little did they know that 5 years later, it would be one of the “essentials” in my travel bag. I love this one because it it metal (doesn’t bend and has a strong scratch) and it adjusts to about 3 feet long like a car antenna. Love, love, love.

18. Dental floss – Obviously, great for after dinner, but also comes in handy when you need to tie something together.

19. Zofran – Not everyone needs this, but I take medications that often make me nauseous. I also get car sick at times, and Zofran (a prescription medication) is a lifesaver. They come in small, detachable foil containers and I always keep an extra in my bag.

20. Lens cleaner – We buy these disposable lens cleaners at Sam’s Club and use them on our glasses, sunglasses, cell phones, computers, camera body, rear view mirror, etc. They are small and easy to carry and we use them often.

 

I also carry a few other things that sometimes do or don’t fit in my clear, plastic bag, including: Kleenex, a rescue inhaler in case I have an asthma attack, and my pulse oximeter that can show my heart rate and oxygen levels, in case I need to check those. So there you have it, my travel essentials, most of which fit in a small, plastic bag.

We’re curious, what are your “must haves” when traveling? Let us know by clicking on the “comment” link at the top of this post. We’d love to hear from you.

  • What a privilege to be in @visitbentonville this weekend to celebrate the opening of @themomentary and our friend, @addie_roanhorse. Addie’s Osage ribbon work- inspired design is featured on this tower at the Momentary and it is just fabulous! 
This new space opens to the public Feb. 22 and general admission is free, thanks to the generosity of the @waltonfamilyfdn.
  • In @visitmasoncityiowa, you'll find the boyhood home of famous composer Meredith Willson. Perhaps best known for his musical, "The Music Man," Willson based the show in large part on his experiences growing up in his hometown.⁣
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Mason City has kept Willson's memory alive through an extensive museum and convention space, which we got to see on our hosted tour of the town, called The Music Man Square. A part of the experience at Music Man Square is a tour through Willson's childhood home.⁣
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Now is the perfect time to head to Mason City for a visit. Hugh Jackman is set to play Professor Harold Hill in a Broadway revival of, "The Music Man." With that show opening in 2020, all eyes will be back on Mason City.⁣
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@thehughjackman @musicmanbway
  • When the @museumofamericanspeed invited us to come for a complimentary visit, we weren't sure what to expect. ⁣
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Yes, the museum is chock-full of race cars, engines, history, and car-related memorabilia. But it also houses other collections like one of old lunch boxes.⁣
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We had so much fun standing and taking in the lunch boxes, looking and trying to find the ones we had when we were kids. Ann had "Charlie's Angels" and Steve had "Super Friends." ⁣
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If you're ever near Lincoln, Nebraska, check out the Museum of American Speed. It's a true hidden treasure in the midwest. ⁣
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What kind of lunch box did you carry to school? Any kids of the 70s and 80s who had the ones we had?
  • Sometimes you find things in your own backyard.⁣
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Just up the road from our home in Crete, Nebraska, we found the National Museum of Roller Skating. Our curiosity piqued, we stopped in and took a look around. There we found the world's largest collection of historical roller skates, costumes, and memorabilia. ⁣
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It took us back to our childhood and spending time at the roller skating rink (do kids even skate anymore?). We remembered crossing over on the turns for the first time and bending at the knees for "Downtown" by Petula Clark. So many great memories. ⁣
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Sometimes, we focus so much on getting away that we forget that we have some really interesting places close to home, as well. The next time you feel a hankering to go somewhere, maybe try going down the street. You never know what treasure you might find and what memories it evoke.
  • This was our Valentine’s Day dessert last year. Chef Kurtess Mortensen at The Pioneer Woman Mercantile created this memorable dish he called “Fat Elvis.” It was a chocolate bread pudding, served alongside banana brûlée and caramelized peanuts then topped with marshmallow cream, homemade peanut butter ice cream, and a candied bacon garnish. We are giddy with anticipation to see what he comes up with tonight! We are budgeting our calories accordingly. 😉
  • “Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures.”
– Lewis Carroll
  • It's been a long winter. I need to see flowers again! Are you with me?Let's talk about these flowers. ⁣
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We are often asked about our favorite place we've ever visited. While that question is hard to answer, we almost always mention Tallinn, Estonia, as a contender.⁣
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Estonia has an interesting history. Conquered in 1227 by Denmark, it never again enjoyed independence until  1920. That freedom was short lived, however, as the Soviet Union occupied the country in 1940. Finally, in 1991, Estonia regained its independence and has remained free ever since. The country joined NATO in 2004. ⁣
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Visiting Estonia, we could see the remnants of Soviet control. Large block buildings dominate the landscape. They are of Soviet Communist design: utilitarian in nature with no thought given to design. They look just like the buildings you've seen in movies about the Soviet Union. ⁣
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Now free, Estonians have done what they can to erase the gray days of Soviet control. The Soviet-style buildings are painted bright colors, and flowers abound in the streets. The people are warm, cheerful, friendly, and welcoming. ⁣
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Yes, Estonia is a wonderful country, and we can't wait to return.
  • Each year from late February to early April, hundreds of thousands of Sandhills Cranes migrate through Nebraska on their way north to their breeding grounds. It's considered one of the greatest spectacles in nature, so thousands of people come to experience this incredible time.⁣
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We traveled to Kearney, Nebraska, one of the best cities for crane viewing, last year. Because the best times to view the cranes is sunrise and sunset, we found ourselves with some free time during the day. It turns out that Kearney has a lot to offer in terms of things to do.⁣
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Scroll across our highlights on Instagram, and you'll find the stories highlights we made during our time there. On our blog (link in bio) you'll also find a post we wrote with ideas for 20 things to do in Kearney while you wait on the cranes. ⁣
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Put crane viewing on your bucket list. It really is one of the most amazing experiences we've ever had in nature. And don't worry about being bored between sunrise and sunset--Kearney has too much to offer.

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