Mexico, Morocco, Milwaukee—it doesn’t matter where I’m headed, how long I’m staying or how high- and low-end I’m traveling. There are some things I simply don’t leave home without. Ten things, actually.
What makes these items carry-along must-haves? They’re multi-faceted, ever-useful, easy to carry and not often readily available in foreign locales. These are ten items that earn their sliver of suitcase space—and that no woman should travel without.
10. Pocket lint-roller
H&M turned me on to these on-the-go lint removers. Cheap and compact, they’re an easy way to spruce up less-than-fresh-pressed travel clothes. Plus, the sticky tape can serve all sorts of adhesive purposes—for instance, leaving a note taped to the hotel room door of that hot guy you met.
9. Tide To-Go Stick
When you’re on the road, you don’t always know when you’re next opportunity to launder your clothes will be. That’s where the Tide To-Go stain remover stick comes in. A quick fix to hold you over till your next laundrymat (or hostel sink), these are a god-send for anyone living out a suitcase and wanting to look fresh. I especially like the mini-size stick.
8. Hair Ties
Every woman knows how darn useful a hair tie is. A rubber band, a sling shot, a child-proofing solution for hotel room cabinets and, oh yeah, the quickest way to pull your hair back—throw one around your wrist and watch the ways it comes in handy.
7. Lip Balm
Changes in climate—and that darn airplane cabin air—can have a serious drying-out effect. Lip balm soothes and hydrates, and gives you a little no-fuss sheen. To double the utility, get a lip balm with an SPF in it; you can dab a thin layer on your nose in the event you’re caught outside without sunscreen. In a pinch, you can also use a melty lip balm as heavy-duty hand salve.
6. Face Cleansing Wipes
If you’re going rough-and-tumble, you may not always have access to a sink—or running water. Cleansing wipes are your stand-in for face washing. They can also be used to freshen up during long hikes, or remove chlorine and sunscreen after getting out of a pool. Bonus: they can double as sanitizing hand wipes and baby wipes.
Unfamiliar showers, salt water, hotel sample shampoo: the chances of a bad-hair increase exponentially on the road. And sometimes there’s only one solution—a hat. I’m a fan of slouchy beanies and hip berets, but there’s also practical uses for a hat. A thick beanie will keep you warm in cold locales, while a floppy, Jackie-O sun hat will shield you from beach rays. And you’ll look so glamorous, no one will notice what you’re hiding.
4. Bobby Pins
They’re not just for pulling your bangs back! Even ladies with short dos should be sure to never leave home without a couple of these oh-so-useful pins. Alternative uses: clothespin, bookmark, lock picker. Need more? Check out 50 uses for the almighty bobby pin.
Unless I was headed snow-ward, I used to never bother packing a scarf with me—until a Matador article changed my life. A towel, a sarong, an easy cover-up in Muslim countries: I used a scarf for all these things on my last trip, and I’ll never go scarf-less again.
Not so much for nose-blowing, but for toilet paper. Unstocked bathrooms can make for uncomfortable situations, while restrooms in many third-world countries charge for toilet paper—and if you’re out of coins, you’re out of luck. There’s no reason to be caught unprepared. Plus, carrying tissue will remind you of your grandmother—mine kept a sheet tucked under her watchband for quick access. Now that’s quick thinking.
1. Period supplies
The most obvious must-bring is also the most important. Changes in food and sleep habits can cause fluctuations in one’s cycle—so even if you’re not due to menstruate, you should still be prepared. The availability of more Western period supplies like tampons and menstrual cups vary in availability overseas. Women who use super-plus or organic tampons can find themselves especially out-of-luck on the road. Many woman travelers laud the reusable wonders of DivaCups and washable LunaPads; I prefer to pack plenty of applicator-less tampons, as they’re easy to carry and don’t require rewashing. At the very least, a couple of individually packaged pads and panty liners are sure to come in handy.
What about you, ladies? What items can’t you leave home without?