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Most travelers remember the big stuff when they're packing for a trip. But what about those little things that could make your travels easier or more convenient — like a night light for your hotel room, charcoal capsules to prevent traveler's tummy or colorful sticky notes to flag important pages in your guidebook? These are just a few of the must-pack items that our travel-savvy readers bring when they go on a trip. Read on for more practical suggestions to include on your next packing list!
In the air
"When I'm flying, I always pack earplugs. Many times there is a poor child who is frustrated with being stuck in a tiny place for too long. Crying can be difficult to deal with for hours. Put the earplugs in and then the earphones. Find some nice music and voila! The sounds become relaxing. The other item is an inflatable neck cushion. It takes away the neck cramps when the music lulls one to sleep!" — Verna H.
"I always pack an empty water bottle to be filled once I cross over the security line." — Mae in San Francisco
"I have eyeshades with built-in speakers. I can plug in a CD player or my iPod. Great for long flights!" — Valerie C.
"Bring a camera if it's a daylight flight and you've reserved a window seat. You never know when you'll be over the Grand Canyon (yes, that has happened to me). If it's a digital, bring extra batteries and make sure they're name brand, not drugstore brand. And remember, film in checked baggage will be damaged by the scanners." — RichardNika
At the hotel
"A tiny LCD pocket light can be used to light stairways and walking paths at night, as a night light to find the bathroom, as a reading light on night flights or in hotel rooms, to light hard-to-read thermostats in hotels, to read maps when it's dark, to find something in your purse ... the list goes on!" — Fran G.
"I pack a small, portable, battery or plug-in sound soother machine from Brookstone with 10 different sounds. It weighs just a few ounces and ensures a peaceful night's sleep." — RVSkald
"Bring a breakfast 'tools' bag (size 20 x 20 x 20) containing: boiler, two mugs, tea bags, Nescafe, concentrated one portion milk, sugar. (You can find a packet of croissants anywhere.) You can have breakfast as you would at home — without getting dressed, no makeup, etc." — Fabio S.
"I have half of a sheet I bring when I travel. If the hotel does not enclose its blankets, I put it over the top of the blanket nearest to me. That way I never have to touch the blankets that have been used by who knows how many people before me." — Teresa Brecht
"Take a plug-in night light for those middle-of-the-night potty trips. A dark and unfamiliar room is not always easy to navigate when you're half asleep." — EPATFOX
Clothing and accessories
"I have a cute whimsical dress made of light fabric that I can scrunch into a ball the size of a tennis ball. I can always fit it into my bag, it weighs nothing, because of the whimsical pattern it actually looks good wrinkled, and if I decide to go out to a fancy restaurant or a show or something, I've got something pretty to wear." — Wanderlust28
"Pack a pashmina shawl for cold, air-conditioned restaurants, drafty planes or cool evening walks on the deck of a cruise ship." — RVSkald
"Shearling slippers with textured, rubber souls are great for padding onto a wet ship's deck or dashing to a motel newspaper vending machine. They're also great for plane rides. Also, try rubber flip-flops lined with those rubber-band loopy things. They stay cool to the foot on the hottest beaches and the sand washes right out of them." — Margot K.
"Pack a rain hat that fits in a pocket." — Fabio S.
"For women, one lightweight little black dress that you can dress up or down is all you need if you need to look a little fancy." — gypsychick
Safety and health
"Purel, Kleenex packets and moist towelette packs -- with those you can cope with any bathroom situation anywhere, plus clean your hands before eating when a sink is not available." — Sarah H.
"Charcoal capsules you can buy in a health foods store. Since charcoal is what they give in a hospital for food poisoning, taking one before meals in a foreign country usually guarantees you won't be sick from different food or germs in foreign countries like your fellow travelers, and you won't miss your tour being sick in bed." — Dr. Pat B.
"I bring along medical records (like a prescription list, EKG strip and info on any replaced body parts that might set off a security scanner) and insurance info — just in case — especially if traveling outside the U.S.A." — Noel B.
"If you're going to a country with a lot of street crime, bring a good money belt that goes inside your clothes. I'd have lost my wallet a dozen times over in Italy if I hadn't had that." — RichardNika
"Hand-sanitizing wipes -- you can get them at CVS or economy-sized at BJ's. Use them to wipe down airplane armrests and tray tables, handles of grocery store carriages, hands after portable toilet stops, etc." — Doris B.
"Plastic bags of various sizes, and a permanent ink magic marker. The bags can be folded small and stuck in any pocket, and come in handy when something becomes wet or dirty. Zip-lock-type bags are great for snacks, personal liquid items and small items to keep from becoming separated. The marker is great for labeling items you may buy and don't want to lose or misplace." — Lynn W.
"I like to travel with a hanging shoe bag, which is a wonderful organizer for small things such as hair brushes, sunglasses, sunscreen, shampoos and other miscellaneous toiletries, etc., especially on cruise ships, where space is at a premium. The convenient hook on the bag fits on the bathroom door and allows for easy and convenient storage, thus freeing up additional space for larger items. One need not spend a lot of money on shoe bags, since they are typically available at the many popular Dollar Store franchises. Another bonus is that the shoe bag will fold flat into a suitcase, thus utilizing 'next to nothing' space and weight." — Jennifer C.
"I always take a heavy zip plastic bag, such as those that blankets or sheets come in. I pack things that may leak in them and then use the bag to wash garments in since most sinks don't have stops in them." — Kathy D.
Odds and ends
"Pack a Tide stain stick; we traveled in China for three weeks and my stain stick helped out not just fellow travelers, but our guide too." — Marilyn P.
"My must-have is a portable clothes line and universal sink stopper. I try not to do laundry through hotels due to the costs. These items allow me to rinse out my socks, undies and other items as need be when away from home." — Catherine F.
"Mosquito towelettes: you never know when you'll need them, but when you do, you REALLY do." — Margot K.
"Post-It Flags, preferably in two different colors, allow you to mark tour books and brochures in the places you want to remember, make notes on the tabs, and move them to the next section after you've visited a place. They also make great bookmarks for recreational reading." — Janus M.
"I never travel without a small blow-up beach ball. It can become a pillow of any size, a back support or a soft seat on a long journey, and is a great connector with little kids around the world." — Eileen H.
"Aren't zip-lock bags the best? My favorite travel accessories are zip-lock bags, dental floss (which works to mend a ripped backpack in a pinch) and duct tape. That and clean underwear and I'm ready to go!" — CodeMonkey
"This tip can be invaluable. Don't forget to pack several clothespins. It is amazing how they can close drapes to keep out the light, etc." — marydallas
"I borrow a good guidebook from the local library and return it when I come home." —RichardNika
"A well-traveled friend advised me on packing for a trip and included this surprise: take a small zip-lock bag of rubber bands. I thought to myself, I never use rubber bands, but I packed them anyway. They don't take up much room in my toiletry kit — and I've used at least one rubber band every trip since!" — Sherry B.
Create your own list of must-pack items with this interactive packing list!