Nobody ever wants it to happen to them — you arrive at your destination with dreams of adventure, reach your hotel or hostel and then you realize you forgot something that you didn’t even think of packing.
Attempting to scour a foreign city for bandages or a warm jacket isn’t just an unneeded setback but it could be incredibly difficult, costly or frustrating. Even a well-crafted checklist could leave things off so prepare them closely and remember these eight things that you didn’t think you would need.
1 – Expandable Bag
It’s very easy to forget to bring an expandable bag — after all, you likely already have one, stuffed to the brim with your clothing, laptop, toiletries and everything else on this list. Why bring another bag?
Lugging a heavy backpack through the crowded streets of Rome or up and down the Mayan ruins is tiresome and cumbersome. A nylon drawstring bag that collapses or rolls up is just enough to carry your camera, laptops, notebooks or anything you need for a day trip or stroll through the city without any additional stress.
Many travelers may get away without bringing an additional bag because they don’t take anything with them on day excursions. While that is an option, nobody wants to carry back that souvenir they found in a bazaar for their mother or carry their lunch back to the hostel — not everywhere is going to offer their customers a bag for their purchases and depending where you are, you’ll probably get a weird look if you ask for one.
2 – Quick-drying Towel
Taking your own towel, ideally a quick-drying one, is essential if you plan on staying at hostels, camping or couchsurfing. Oftentimes towels aren’t offered or guaranteed (and the quality or cleanliness of them questionable) and the alternative to a towel is probably the outfit that you wore that day.
Even if you plan to stay a hotel, it may still worth bringing your own towel if you’re finicky about hygiene or plan to take excursions to beaches, springs or just get caught in a rainstorm. A traditional cotton bath towel would do the trick but they take up more space and take longer to dry. Damp towels will quickly musk up your pack. Lightweight, microfiber towels take up a quarter as much space and dry quickly, making them the perfect option for most travellers.
3 – Flashlight or Headlamp
Not everywhere you go will be brightly lit and trekking in the dark is dangerous for more reasons than one. In a world where many have a flashlight app on their smartphone, some travellers think they can skip on a flashlight or a more-convenient headlamp.
Don’t make the mistake that other travelers have. Conserve your phone battery and pack a flashlight or headlamp. Not only are they easier to hold (or hands-free like a headlamp), they have a wider range, brighter view and stronger battery. A light may not save your life, but you’ll be glad you have one when you’re trying to relieve yourself at midnight in a mountaintop campsite or to make it back to your hostel at 3 a.m. through dark streets. If you’ve ever been stuck at home during a power outage, you know it’s a nuisance. Hundreds to thousands of miles away in an unfamiliar place, it is a lot more than just a nuisance — be prepared.
4 – Reusable Water Bottle
Traveling with a water bottle and refilling it whenever you find a safe source is key. Although most places in the world sells bottled water, there is no guarantee and reusable bottles will save you some money and are better for the environment.
One of the absolute worst things that can happen when you travel is to drink dirty or tainted water. In some places this is obviously more possible than others, so read up ahead of time on your destination and its water quality. Nothing will ruin your trip more than being stuck in the bathroom in complete misery.
Avoid the uncomfortable questioning of water quality by bringing your own bottle with you wherever you go. Refill it in places you are sure the water is safe, possibly at your hotel, hostel or government building.
5 – Small First Aid Kit
This is a must-have regardless of where you’re going. Nobody ever anticipates getting hurt on a trip and injuries, however minor it is, in a city outside your home country makes for a stressful situation.
Everybody falls now and again, but trying to find bandages and antibiotic cream for a scraped knee at a pharmacy or convenience store (which is likely overpriced in tourist destinations) is a hassle — especially if you’re the one hurt! Small or travel first aid kits are sold at a lot of different stores and websites for much cheaper than they would be in most travel destinations. For the savvy wayfarer, make one yourself by tossing a couple of bandaids, bandages, over-the-counter painkillers and antibiotic creams into a ziploc bag. If you need or are prescribed any medications, you can pack them together for ease.
6 – Copies of Important Documents
One spilled drink, misplaced bag or sly pickpocket could put a severe damper on your trip. The loss or theft of your visa or passport is near the top of the list of worst things to happen when traveling.
Mitigate the harm of a potential crisis by packing photocopies of your visas, passports and any identification cards. Hide your copies separately from your originals, either in a different bag or hidden in another pocket. In the event should something happen, a couple copies will do a lot to help with customs or authorities. For an additional measure, also save them to your smart phone or email — you can never be too prepared.
7 – Flip-Flops
Saving space in your travel bag for flip-flops or a pair of cheap sandals could seem like a waste, especially if they’re not your style or you’re traveling Scandinavia in January. If you’re staying in hostels, campsites or even some hotels, there will probably be times that you don’t want to be barefoot.
Nobody wants to wait till their standing on the edge of a shared shower after a long day of exploring to realize that it may not be the most hygienic place to be barefoot. Aside from the potential safety concerns, the added peace of mind of knowing you’re not stepping in anything unpleasant is well worth the space that they take up in your bag.
8 – A Warm Jacket!
No matter where you’re going, always bring a warm, rain-resistant jacket. Always. It doesn’t matter if you expect the trip to be nice and warm throughout, don’t leave home without one. Even the hottest places on earth could have cold nights or stretches of bad weather.
Travel is all about the adventure and for the spontaneous wayfarer, your plans could quickly change to a hike or mountain visit where the temperatures could drop. Don’t miss out on the opportunity because you packed carelessly — or be stuck buying a poor-quality or expensive jacket in a tourist town. The type of jacket doesn’t matter as long as it keeps you warm, but the ideal jacket would be conservative in space and, like your towel, dry quickly.