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10 Handy Travel Essentials which Are Probably Not on Your Vacation Packing List

Are you familiar with the gods of travel? You know....the roguish and quite often exasperating forces which decree things will become awkward just at the most inconvenient times?

Well, whether you're a hosteler or a hotel guest and no matter which corner of the globe you're intending to explore there are a few items – which are almost certainly not on your vacation packing list - that can help divert the potential calamities caused by travel god high-jinks.

Each of the 10 items listed here take up little to no room but are beyond value for their usefulness.

1. THE GODS OF TRAVEL DECREE - a tiny tear in your mosquito net will always be big enough for at least one mosquito to get in – guaranteed to keep you awake all night with its droning in your ear.

Essential pack item – DUCT TAPE

Other uses: - You're either one of the duct-tape devoted or yet to be converted but the bottom line is once you've packed a reel of this traveler's life-saver you'll never again leave home without it. It's super-tough, waterproof and has a multitude of to-the-rescue uses including:

  • a waterproof dressing which can also be used as a temporary binding support for ankles and knees – a great first-aid kit addition
  • reinforcement for inadequate waterproofing on kit and clothes
  • holding together burst seams and tears or broken zippers, clips, handles and straps on damaged backpacks, luggage and other kit
  • a twisted length makes a washing line
  • taping money and valuables to the inside of clothing for those dodgy border crossings or bus rides
  • plugging leaks in water bottles
  • a fly paper which also snags mosquitoes

…....and that's just the tip of the ice-berg.

In most cases the duct tape fix is a temporary one but it can turn possible disaster into a 'getting through' scenario until you arrive somewhere to replace or properly fix the problem.

For travel-sized rolls click here.

2. THE GODS OF TRAVEL DECREE - the afternoon rainy-season deluge will kick in half an hour earlier than usual when you've just nipped out to the shop with your MP3 player in one pocket and your camera in the other.

Essential pack item: WATERPROOF POUCH

Other uses: – It's not just the instantly-drenched-to-the-skin rainy season downpours you can guard your electrical gadgets against though. Waterproof pouches are also life-savers should you go kayaking, tubing, rafting or trekking (complete with stream crossings), be in Asia for the water festivals or get involved in any other kind of watery adventure – planned or otherwise.

3. THE GODS OF TRAVEL DECREE - renewing your visa at a country's embassy is possible but whereas the guide book told you the process took 2 hours you've already been waiting 5.

Essential pack item: A PACK OF CARDS

Traveling means all sorts of unexpected and prolonged waits and delays – most typically with regard to transport - which can be tedious and frustrating in the extreme. A pack of cards is great for idling away an hour or two and what's more will get you interacting with fellow travelers easily – there are loads of card-game addicted nomads out there. Who knows - you might even get a local to teach you how to play something new.

4. THE GODS OF TRAVEL DECREE - you will get a tear in the seat of your pants when every other single item of clothing is in the laundry.

Essential pack item: MINI SEW KIT

Having the means for a quick fix is essential for avoiding embarrassing situations such as the one above and, in combo with the duct tape, will make sure you're ready for all sorts of repairs to clothing, footwear and kit.

You can make up your own teeny-tiny kit or buy one of the ready-made ones which weigh next to nothing. Make sure you add in a safety pin or two – another tiny essential multi-functional travel tool.

5. THE GODS OF TRAVEL DECREE - when your phone is down to one bar of power and you've promised to call your mom, the one power point in the hostel dorm room has a queue for its use.


Unless you find one of those wonderful hostels which provide a power point for each bunk you're going to be fighting it out so a multi-way plug means you can share nicely with your fellow hostellers. Or, you can charge several gadgets at once because the travel gods typically decree all of them will give out at the same time.

They are dirt cheap and last ages - for more information on the one pictured, click here.

6. THE GODS OF TRAVEL DECREE - when you've left it until the last minute to cram your backpack and race for that bus ....... there is a sudden power blackout and you can't see a thing.

Essential pack item: HEAD-LAMP

There will be plenty of times you'll be glad of a flash-light and a hands-free option is even better. Whether you are going to be finding yourself in pitch-black places without street-lighting or booking into a dorm at 3 am where turning on lights is likely to make you enemy number one with your fellow roomies, a head-torch is worth its weight in gold.

7. THE GODS OF TRAVEL DECREE - hanging onto one pair of sunglasses for the entirety of your trip is almost impossible - sunglasses pair number 1 got left on a bus somewhere in Vietnam – sunglasses pair number 2 got sat on – sunglasses pair number 3 were last seen hanging off your backpack.......

Essential pack item: SUNGLASSES HARD CASE

Save yourself a fortune in sunglasses and invest in a hard case.

8. THE GODS OF TRAVEL DECREE - the gap in your room’s curtains will be just enough to give everybody else in the building an eyeful of you in your birthday suit as you get ready for bed.

Essential pack item: A CLOTHES PEG

Other uses: If you've gone down the duct tape and safety pin route you might find you can dispense with the peg but this item is so tiny and lightweight it won't hurt to throw it in. It's a sturdy and instant back-up clip for all sorts of things from traditional peg uses to sealing where your mosquito net edges don't quite meet.

9. THE GODS OF TRAVEL DECREE  - THE best shot for that photograph will always be from the exact place/angle you can't rest your camera/phone.

Essential pack item: FLEXIBLE MINI TRIPOD

Never find yourself saying again 'that would have made a great shot' because the super-flexible

octopus arms of this kind of tripod will wrap around tree limbs and stones or hang off the edges of otherwise impossible surfaces. Selfies are great but tend to be limiting unless you have 6 foot arms.

Amazon has plenty of choice such as this little beauty!

10. THE GODS OF TRAVEL DECREE - no matter how well you think you have organized your backpack the exact item you want will always end up in the bottom of your pack.


Other uses: A great alternative to zip-lock bags or anything which rustles if you're intending to stay in dorm rooms, travel cubes can also be used to isolate your dirty laundry so it doesn't transfer its smells and grime to your lovely clean laundry.

Available in all shapes and sizes travel cubes may seem a bit gimmicky but will help organize your pack in a way you never dreamed possible.

And a few more handy little items:

  • Split key rings for your backpack/luggage zippers and bindings - – not unbeatable security but thieves are typically opportunistic and looking for a quick grab and go so this will act as a deterrent.
  • Lip balm – chapped lips are painful and while traveling you will be exposed to dry airplane environments, air-con buses and rooms as well as the effects of sun and wind. It can also double as a lubricant on stuck zippers.
  • Merino layer – super-light, folds to virtually nothing and with thermal properties as high as it gets, a merino layer is a great back up for those chilly nights in mountain places, the freeze on air-con buses or other situations where you need a bit more warmth.

Which often-omitted travel essentials or travel god mischief-busting essentials go straight to the top of your vacation packing list? We all know about the first-aid kit, the gadgets, the travel-adapters, the sarong and so forth (or perhaps we don't?) but what unusual inclusions can you add?

About the author


In 2003, after a too-close-for-comfort brush with the Grim Reaper, I decided life was for living. So I sold my house, gave away my business as a professional gymnastics coach and divided most of my worldly possessions among family and friends. With my trusty surf board tucked under my arm and hefting my backpack I set out to explore the planet. I have been doing that ever since - the last few years as a go-it-alone female. My work as a freelance writer allows me to make my 'office' anywhere – from the middle of the jungle to a beach hut; sometimes I take on voluntary work too. No surprise that I now have a vast collection of adventures and travel experiences hard-wired into my memory bank. Hardly in the first flush of my youth I am often asked 'isn't it time to settle down?' That would be a resounding no! Never knowing what is around the next corner and choosing whichever nook of the planet I am in to call home, feeds the permanent nomad in me.