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.

  • This is our Airbnb, Postcard Place. It's located right in Pawhuska, just a two and a half minute drive from the Pioneer Woman's Mercantile. It even has its own Instagram account, @postcardplce. ⁣
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Postcard Place can accommodate up to six people. With comfy bedding (including clean duvets for each new guest), USB ports by every bed, make-up remover wipes, comfy blankets for tv viewing, complimentary coffee/tea, creamer, full kitchen, soap, shampoo, hand lotion, and even a luggage scale, we've tried to think of everything you might want when spending a night away from home. Of course, we also provide stamped Pawhuska postcards so you can send greetings to those who couldn't come along on the trip.⁣
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Find Postcard Place on Airbnb and book it for your next trip to Pawhuska and come @visittheosage.
  • Perched high on a hill in Tuscany is the medieval village of Montepulciano. In the center of town is the piazza grande paved with bricks laid in a herringbone pattern in the 14th century. ⁣
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Standing in the piazza, looking at the bricks, we were filled with a sense of awe at the history these bricks have seen. They've been there for 700 years so have seen times of war and peace, celebration and sorrow. Generation after generation of townsfolk were born, lived and died, and all have walked on these bricks. ⁣
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This is one of the things we love most about traveling. It gives us an authentic feel for history, one we wouldn't have if we just stayed at home.
  • We were so tickled when @thechefandthedish reached out and asked us if we'd like to take a complimentary cooking class with them. They offer private cooking classes with chefs from all over the world that you can take right in your own kitchen. ⁣
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For this class, we Skyped with chef Paola who taught us to make strawberry risotto, traditional bruschetta, and a delicious poached pear dessert that blew our minds. ⁣
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Risotto always seemed like a difficult dish to make, but Chef Paola explained it so well that it wound up being pretty easy. We spent a great afternoon with friends, learned something new, and enjoyed a great meal after. A class with The Chef & The Dish is a great gift idea, as well. Follow the link in our bio, and you can read more about our class on our blog.
  • The world is a big place, and there's so much to discover. Go places, and see things. It doesn't matter if you don't have a detailed itinerary, either. Sometimes, it's more about the journey and what you see and experience along the way, than it is about the destination.
  • During our trip in Tuscany with @italyunfiltered, we stopped at a small family winery. After learning about the organic methods they use to produce high quality Chianti Clasico wines, we had a tasting. ⁣
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Wine tastings in Italy are nothing like those in the US. They are glorious affairs complete with delicious foods paired with the incredible wines. This particular winery brought us samples of homemade, organic jams made from fruits grown in the family's garden. We dabbed these on locally produced pecorino cheese. Yum!⁣
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We're so glad that we had a local driver and guide. Stopping here was a highlight of our Italian adventure, and we never would have found it on our own.
  • The village of Marsaxlokk, Malta, is famous for these brightly painted fishing boats. The design is rather ancient, possibly dating back to Phoenician times, though it's still used today because it is very strong and holds up well in rough weather. One feature of each boat's decorations, are eyes painted on the bow of the boat. These eyes are said to protect the people fishing while they are at sea.
  • The blue cobblestones of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, are actually part of a recycling project which started 500 years ago. Iron foundries in Spain produced huge piles of waste, called slag. Rather than throw these piles away, the slag was made into blocks which was placed into ships as ballast. The ballast was offloaded in Puerto Rico when they loaded products bound for Spain. The blocks were then used to pave the streets. ⁣
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Pretty good idea, and 500 years later, they are holding up well!
  • The Overseas Highway connects Key West and the Florida Keys to the mainland U.S. While the entire road is a marvel of engineering, the centerpiece is the Seven Mile Bridge, which runs over water for, well, seven miles.⁣
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The next time you're driving, reset your trip odometer and wait until it gets to seven miles. You'll see that's a pretty long distance. And then think about the fact that people built a bridge over water with no land to support them for that distance. Pretty incredible-especially since the first one was built in 1912.

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