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.

  • Steve writes: When I first set my eyes on the outside of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral in Barcelona, I was unimpressed. In fact, I thought it was plain ugly. Construction continued, and I returned several times over the years, each time finding more to like about it. Finally, on a visit with Ann, the inside of the Cathedral was open for a visit. So we went inside.⁣
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Architect Antonin Gaudi's creation is brilliant. The way he uses stained glass to bring color to the stone inside, combined with the shadows created by the shape of the stone is breathtaking. Truly, this cathedral might be the most impressive one I've seen anywhere. This place should be on your bucket list. It's worth a trip to Barcelona to see it.
  • We've been going to the @PWMercantile for a couple of years now, especially since we bought a house in Pawhuska. Over that time, we've seen a number of changes both to the restaurant and to the merchandise they have in the store. But one item has remained constant: these turquoise beads.
  • One of our favorite stops on our hosted food tour of @visitkansascityks was the @403club. Sure, they offer a great selection of locally crafted and larger production domestic beers. But they also have pinball machines. In fact, they even have a pinball league.⁣
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We spent about an hour in this fun spot, sipping, playing, and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. It will definitely be on our list of places to go again, someday. Beer and pinball are a pretty good mix.
  • On our visit to Italy, we visited the Prosecco region. While we toured a number of wineries, we actually stayed at an inn run by the Roccat winery. ⁣
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Prosecco is a sparkling wine, and people often see it as intergangeable with champagne. This isn't the case at all. Champagne is made from the Chardonnay grape, while Prosecco comes from Glara. Because of this, the two wines are completely different.⁣
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We enjoyed a tasting at Roccat, where they served us glasses of crisp, clear, delicious wine alongside some crunchy breadsticks that were just the right thing to enjoy with the wine.⁣
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If you ever have the opportunity to go to Italy, make sure you include time to head to Valdobbiandene and try some Prosecco.
  • Located in @clearlakeiowa, the historic Surf Ballroom has hosted some of the biggest names in music. It was on this stage that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and JP "The Big Bopper" Richardson performed their final show on February 3, 1959. After the concert, they boarded a plane for their next town on their tour. That plane crashed shortly after takeoff, and the date has been remembered ever since as "the day the music died."⁣
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@traveliowa
  • Set in Millennium Park in Chicago is one of the city's most iconic art installations. It's a giant, shiny bean which reflects everything in sight. It's fun to walk around (and under) the bean and see how the shape distorts what it reflects.⁣
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Folks come from all over to see this art installation and take it in. Children love running around it and gazing into it, not realizing they are learning about convex and concave shapes. ⁣
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Standing here you'll hear a multitude of languages and see people from all walks of life there to enjoy the art. And that's why we love public art so much--it brings people together.
  • On our cruise from Italy to Greece, we made a stop in Mykonos. There, we had the chance to take part in a Greek cooking class in a woman's home learning from her.⁣
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We spent an afternoon with lessons about Greek cuisine, and how they waste nothing, not even excess juice from a cucumber. We also saw how to make incredible dishes like this spanakopita, or spinach pie. Sitting in her dining room, enjoying the light, flaky crust and delicious filling is an experience we won't soon forget. ⁣
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While traveling, we try to find opportunities to experience local culture. It's amazing how similar people in the world really are if you just take some time to see what life is like.
  • Do you remember that song from "The Music Man" about trouble? You know the one about the kids in the knickerbockers, shirt-tail young ones, peekin' in the pool hall window after school. ⁣
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Well, we got to peek in a replica of that pool hall on a recent visit to The Music Man Square on our hosted to Mason City, Iowa. It's the town where "The Music Man" creator Meredith Willson was born and raised and his legacy lives on. ⁣
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Before you go see @thehughjackman and @suttonlenore in this Broadway favorite, consider a visit to the real River City.⁣
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Click on the link in our bio to see our latest blog post about why fans of "The Music Man" need to visit Mason City, Iowa. ⁣
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@themusicmanbway

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