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.

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