I love travelling: the low-budget, adventure-filled backpacker kind. That means travelling light. I do however like to be prepared for (most) things, and be comfortable (when I can). After many trips, I have learned to always bring the following items with me. They are not absolute necessities, but they help to make my trip nicer. And they are light and take up very little space.
I can't really rest when I am wearing shoes and I like to put my feet up when I'm sitting. I'm normally shameless about taking my shoes off, but I have encountered buses with a no-shoelessness policy (hello Spain!). So I always bring a pair of ballet slippers that I can slip on and pretend they count as shoes. They are also great for walking around the hotel or going to your hostel shower. I always put them into a side pocket of my carry-on, so that I can slip them on when I'm in the plane / train / bus.
I have two pairs of slippers: one is completely made of fabric; the other one has a rubber sole (the gymnastic kind) and happens to be bright pink (and thus admired by hooper friends -- I always wear them to hoopdance workshops). The rubber-soled ones are slightly heavier, but sturdy enough to even walk outdoors if necessary. The fabric ones can be rolled tiny and are lighter.
I don't drink coffee, and I find teas on the road really cheap-tasting (I'm spoiled by my interesting tea collection at home). So carry a couple of tea bags secured with a rubber band and I get hot water from coffee machines. A cup of intensive and aromatic tea is bliss. My favourite right now is the Sweet Chili Yogi Tea.
I learned this from Germany's Next Topmodel: you should sleep on flights and bus / train rides, so that you arrive fresh and rested. And inflight movies aren't that great anyway. I don't know about you, but I found neck pillows to be the only way I can sleep when sitting upright.
Get the inflatable ones, and find one that is made from a nice fabric. Bonus points if it looks as cute as this froggy one. Check it's weight before you buy --- I returned the one from Ikea because it was three times as heavy as another one I found in a store (tip: the ones advertised for car travel tend to be heavier than those for air travel).
* Sleep mask and ear plugs
I used to scoff at people who used them (ninnies!) but after having to sleep in a brightly lit train compartment with insomniac teenagers on the corridor outside, I changed my mind. Now I bring them with me, and have been known to use them in a blindfolded hooping workshop.
I recommend satin sleep masks (satin doesn't dry out the skin like cotton). Gel inserts are a bonus. Some sleep masks gently press on the eyes and other don't -- it depends on what you like. As for ear plugs, I like way ones the best. And don't forget to bring spares.
Modular packing ! Even though I can see what is inside, I love to label mine. They also prevent stuff from getting wet in case of rain / cosmetic leakage. They keep smelly stuff from smelling all over your clean stuff. They will prevent your food from getting all over your other stuff. For more ziploc raves, read this.
* Clear plastic envelope
It's a life saver at the airport. In it I put the family's passports, boarding passes, and all the other little scraps of paper they hand you at the airport. I can carry in my hand as I go through check-through, and I can immediately fish out the right scrap of paper. (Later on I transfer the stuff into a better-hidden place.)
Mine looks a bit like the one above but is half the size, and I don't remember where I have it from. A zip-loc could serve the same purpose but I prefer my envelope because it is sturdier and closes with a snap button.
I prefer them to books because I can dump them once I've read them. I don't like to carry book around because a) they are heavy (I read fast), and b) they get damaged (I
I usually have a bunch of magazines at home that are interesting and actually have a lot to, well, read. (Currently I like Neon, Öko Test, Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin and Wysokie Obcasy). After I'm done with them I like to leave them in a place where somebody else can find them.
This is the only item on the list that is bulky and not so light. But it is also the only one that counts as a necessity for me. I tend to be cold a lot of the time (blame the low blood pressure) and often shiver under the warmest down duvets. So I always bring my hot water bottle with me. Again, check the weight -- some are much heavier than others. Oh, and I just realised that you could use an empty water bottle (plastic disposable or reusable one like SIGG) wrapped in a towel or T-shirt just as well.
Just a sniff calms me down and refreshes me. Also used to perfume me / bag / clothes / pillow. Some essential oils can also ward off insects, heal stings, lessen headaches, and perform many other wonders. I usually pour a tiny biz of the essential oil into the tiniest bottle I can find (perfume sample bottles are great). Which oil I choose depends on my mood, but favourites include sandalwood, rose and pine.
I'd love to know what special items you pack when you travel. Do our lists overlap ? How do you feel about a shoeless-less policy in buses ?
Photo by Eternal*Voyageur