We all know that the Boy Scout motto is “Be prepared.” But after 5 years of scouting, I couldn’t tell you what the Girl Scout motto is. I think it’s something like “Be nice and sell cookies.” So, I had to learn the whole “be prepared” thing on my own. When I’m traveling, being prepared means carrying objects that have enough uses to balance out their weigh. I carry a pretty small pack, and I’m not trying to haul something around for weeks or months and only use it once.
Besides ziplock bags, these are the most useful things in my pack:
10. Hairbands. Of course you can use them to put your hair in a ponytail. At this very moment, I am also using hairbands to hold a bag of pumpkin seeds closed, keep my chargers from tangling up, and as a zipper-pull on my now overstuffed backpack. Can also be used as a keychain in a pinch.
9. Safety pins. Good for wardrobe malfunctions, popping blisters, and opening the SIM card slot on an iPhone.
8. Binder clips. I saw this brilliant idea on LifeHacker a few years ago and have been wrapping my headphones in a binder clip ever since. They are also awesome for holding together curtains so you can sleep late.
7. Dental floss. Keep your dentist happy…or make emergency clothing repairs (maybe stay away from mint).
6. Duct tape. Everyone knows how awesome duct tape is. I’ve seen it used to repair luggage, shoes, and…cars.
5. Notebook. Yes, it’s great to be able to jot down brilliant ideas without turning to a device. Yes, it’s nice to just rip out a scrap and hand someone your phone number. But in the land of BYOTP (bring your own toilet paper), aka most of the world, it’s nice to always have extra paper on hand.
4. Tote bag. I loooooove my reusable tote bag. Not only do I save a cool 5 centavos on plastic bags at the store, I can schlep my laundry in something a little more solid, avoid taking my messenger bag to the beach or to yoga class, and never worry that I’m going to buy too many souvenirs to carry home. Mine folds up to about the size of a pair of socks.
3. Tweezers. Fix jewelry, keep your eyebrows in shape, or get a grip on illegal substances, if that’s what you’re in to.
2. Altoids box. I have seen these used to hold money, condoms, first aid supplies, and chargers. They’re like the traveler’s file cabinet. (Mine has my SIM card collection in it.)
1. Swiss Army Knife. I don’t actually carry this any more because I hate hate hate to check my bags, but back in the day it was THE BEST THING EVER for opening cans and bottles and giving impromptu hair cuts. I actually often wonder how I get by without it.
What else should I not leave home without?