We’ve been to Antarctica, the Arctic, and everywhere in between, so you can trust that our packing advice is hard-earned and road-tested.
And since we’re typically light packers, we always ask the question, “Is this necessary?” before packing anything. Though these items may seem like surprising or unnecessary additions to a well-packed bag, they actually deserve a place in your suitcase. They’ll keep you safer, saner, and more secure, without taking up much space.
When you find yourself without electricity (Cabo Polonio, Uruguay), without street lights (San Pedro de Atacama, Chile), summiting a mountain at 2 a.m. (Mt. Kinabalu, Malaysia), or simply in a situation where you want to be a considerate roommate, a headlamp is worth its weight in gold.
Hooded Silk Sleep Sack
A silk sleep sack, which folds up into itself and can fit inside a quart-sized zip-top bag, feels luxurious … especially in budget hotels. Bonus: At higher altitudes, a silk sleep sack can provide you with extra warmth. And it easily doubles as an airplane blanket.
Compression sacks are perfect for consolidating less-needed items, or items you only need for part of your trip. And when you’re flying from cold-weather places to warm-weather locales, the sack reduces the extra space taken up by bulkier items like fleeces and jeans.
You can create a “sleep” playlist for overnight bus rides and when sharing rooms with snorers. Or, to build up a little anticipation for your trip, you can create a playlist with popular and current music in your destination. When you return, you’ll have an instant souvenir with music you likely just heard on the road. Pre-downloading podcasts or audiobooks is another way to help the time pass on long flights or road trips. Here are some of our favorite podcasts and audiobooks.
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Go on, laugh. But don’t take TP for granted, even when you have to pay to use a toilet. In many parts of the world, you’ll need to provide your own. Pack a few dozen sheets in a reusable bag and take with you. Or keep travel-sized tissue packs on hand. Because toilet paper is only funny until you don’t have any.
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Picture this: You’re in an area known for mosquitoes and don’t have any malaria medication. Upon checking into the hotel, you discover a hole in the window screen. Or, your hiking shoe splits when you’re miles from the nearest store. Or, the curtains of your hotel room won’t stay closed. Enter duct tape. You never know what you might come across in your travels that duct tape can solve.
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A scarf is not only a scarf, but a cover-up, beach towel, pillow, pillowcase, sarong, and blanket. Pack your favorite scarf and you’ll be prepared for everything from cold weather to picnics. And you’ll never be without an accessory.
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Quick-Dry Travel Towel
A quick-dry travel towel gives you a viable alternative in destinations where bath towels are the size of washcloths. It’s also useful at the beach, and easily doubles as a travel blanket. Bonus: Sunshine really speeds up the drying process.
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Cleansing Facial Cloths
There’s no easier way to refresh after an overnight flight, train ride, or bus journey than with a facial cloth. It’s a simple way to arrive at your destination feeling ready to tackle the day ahead.
Hopefully, you never have to use it, but it’s always a good idea to travel with a whistle. Keep it in your day bag so it’s at the ready if you encounter a stray dog or you need to signal for help in an emergency.
If you’re traveling in a destination known for pickpockets or robbery scams, you’ll want to travel with a decoy wallet in addition to your actual wallet. Keep the decoy wallet in an easier-to-reach spot, and use it as a change purse. That way, if you do ever need to hand it over, it’s heavy enough to be believable.
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Environmentally-Friendly Plastic Bag
More from SmarterTravel:
- 10 Best Travel Day Packs
- 10 Stylish Hiking Boots (That Don’t Look Like Hiking Boots)
- What to Do If You’ve Lost Your Bag, Wallet, Everything
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Lori Sussle contributed to this article.