After my trip to the Cannes Film Festival in 2011, I decided that I must travel more. To that end, I compiled information from travel blogs, and even the FEMA evacuation website to put together the best travel/Go-Bag possible.
I was ready (and did) travel more for work and pleasure after that, and I didn’t need to worry about packing. Here are the contents of my all purpose travel bag, for local, national, and international trips.
If you have any recommendations, or see something missing, let us know in the comments.
Start with a durable and reliable travel bag. Wheels and pockets are a must. If possible, avoid plastic container type travel bags, because while they may seem sturdy, they can crack when abused by baggage handlers.
Technology has drastically improved since I created my own travel bag, and you can now buy one plug adapter that will cover many territories. It’s always good to include one so you can be ready for an international trip, and they can be purchased at any electronics or hardware store.
Safety pins might raise some concern. For example, the Chinese airport security was hesitant due to some instances at local airports, and forced me to throw away these. That being said, safety pins are still a great way to take care of torn or ill-fitting clothes, or take care of other last minute emergencies.
You can find many of these online, but a good cheat sheet with common phrases in multiple languages is always useful.
A good luck charm is always helpful. In Turkey the evil eye talismans or amulets are created to protect against the evil eye curse, and are also frequently called “evil eyes”.
Gloves are useful for cold weather, but also for emergencies, including handling materials that may be toxic or dangerous, including jellyfish.
A plastic bottle of water can be useful in emergencies, including instances where you may be driving through a desert and your car breaks down. Two things to remember; 1, keep your bottled water in a large ziploc bag in case the cap comes undone and there’s a leak; 2, American TSA will always ask to remove liquid bottles from your bags and throw them out, so keep the bottle of water close to your zipper, where it’s easy to reach for, otherwise the American TSA will force you to unpack your entire bag in order to throw out one bottle of water.
A sustainable bottle for carrying liquid is very useful, particularly in tropical climates. What also may be useful is a collapsible cup.
A small flashlight that can operate on AA or AAA batteries can be useful in the event of an emergency or a blackout, and can even save lives. The one shown in this photo has a rubber poly grip and a string to hold on to or wrap around your wrist.
You may laugh, but not every trip goes according to plan, and bringing toilet paper with me when I travel has saved me (or the person I was traveling with) a couple of times.
When packing a Go Bag, you’ll want to make sure you have items for at least 5 days. That includes 5 pairs of clean socks. Keep in mind that if you’re using your Go Bag for an emergency evacuation, those 5 days may need to be stretched to 2 weeks. Wearing the same socks 3 days in a row is not the worst in the world, but it’s much worse to wear the same socks 15 days in a row, which can lead to all sorts of nasty toe health problems.
The same goes for other foundation garments. When packing a Go Bag, you’ll want to make sure you have items for at least 5 days. That includes 5 pairs of clean underwear. Keep in mind that if you’re using your Go Bag for an emergency evacuation, those 5 days may need to be stretched to 2 weeks. Wearing the same underwear 3 days in a row is not the worst in the world, but it’s much worse to wear the same underwear 15 days in a row, which can lead to all sorts of nasty problems… down there.
When packing a Go Bag, you’ll want to make sure you have items for at least 5 days. Keep in mind that if you’re using your Go Bag for an emergency evacuation, those 5 days may need to be stretched to 2 weeks. Now, this may be revealing too much information about me, but I am very comfortable wearing the same pear of jeans for a full week. Most people I know are. Two pears of pants should be enough, and for my own travel bag, I used the old guide, something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.
When packing clothes in your travel bag, a nice variety of things will do. For me, I selected 3 shirts; a dress shirt; a polo shirt; and a T-shirt. That way I would be prepared for all eventualities, and if needed I could buy something at the hotel gift shop. Keep in mind, these examples are of a baseline. If you know you’re traveling for work, you can include multiple dress shirts and a suit. If you know you’re traveling for leisure, you can throw in some shorts. What I’m showing are just items you can include for a sudden departure, to cover most bases.
Most people shy away from single-use devices, especially when your phone can be used for everything. However, what if your phone dies, and you can’t easily recharge it? A small alarm clock that operates off a AA battery can help you figure out when to take your medicines, and other useful activities. This particular alarm clock belonged to my grandfather, and he would take it everywhere, including when he traveled to Las Vegas.
Economy hotels, particularly in Europe, don’t always have the same amenities. I have traveled to hotels in the UK, and the Middle East, that did not have wash cloths (one didn’t have towels or soap either). Also, in addition to a potential worst case scenario where you are stranded or in an emergency situation, some people just don’t feel comfortable using a hotel washcloth and towels, because of germs.
A bandana can be used to block the sun, or wipe up something.
When traveling, office supplies aren’t always the first thing that you think of, and that’s why we’re including it in our list. There are plenty of convenient pocket packs of office supplies that can be thrown in a convenient zipper bag, and easily rested in your suitcase. When investigating these, make sure to ask for the travel size items, otherwise, an overzealous TSA agent may throw out your glue stick.
Sharpie, never leave home without it.
Floss, this is important. Taking care of your teeth is not only important to your health, but also makes you feel better. Don’t short change your hygiene just because you didn’t think about it.
Just as taking care of your teeth is important, so is taking care of your hygiene for the rest of your body. Even though most hotels you stay at will carry soap, it’s an easy thing to pack that won’t expire, and may be needed in a pinch.
You should have a separate toothbrush for your travel bag. It’s an economic purchase that you don’t have to worry about.
Travel size toiletries can be a lifesaver. Again, they are small, economic purchases that you don’t have to worry about, and yes, hotels you stay at will most likely have these, but what if you’re not staying at a hotel, due to an unexpected emergency?
Over the counter medications can often come in handy, and have a long shelf life. Which ones you frequently use vary from household to household. However, I’m willing to bet that you have half-empty boxes of cold medications and other pills that you could siphon off to fill your travel bag. Whatever you choose, make sure you check the expiration date.
Make sure all of your over the counter pills are kept in secure Ziploc bags.
Mosquito repellant can be a lifesaver, and absolutely necessary when traveling to tropical destinations. You never know when you’ll get attacked by mosquitoes.
This is too large, but you get the point. Get a travel size toothpaste. Take care of your teeth.
Make sure you keep all your toiletries in a secure Ziploc bag.
Some people would choose to include a small first aid kit, you can definitely make that choice for yourself or your family. I chose to follow the old boy scout motto, better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.
Recommended by FEMA, face guards can help prevent the spread of illnesses.
Recommended by FEMA, a few rolls of gauze can make a huge difference to someone who is injured. While no one is expecting you to be a battlefield medic, the availability of gauze can make a huge difference, provided it is sterile, and kept in a secure Ziploc bag.
Theft happens, and it’s best to be prepared. If you are traveling, make sure you keep a xerox copy of your passport and drivers license. The US State Department says the chance of having a passport lost or stolen while traveling is the reason why travelers should always keep a photocopy or digital picture of their passport so they can prove US citizenship.
Similarly, keep a second printed copy of your itinerary available.
Envelopes can be very helpful, and used for all sorts of things. However, if you’re traveling on a business trip, you’ll want to retain all your business receipts. If you travel a lot, or for long periods of time, you’ll want a larger envelope, like the one shown here.
If you love all things analog (as I do) you’ll want to maintain your photos in a more tangible method. Again, having a one-time use camera helps you save energy on your phone, and if you drop it, it won’t shatter the screen.
Whenever you travel, you’ll need at least one good book to pass the time on the airplane, or during other moments of travel. Here are some of my favorites.
A notebook can be used to help journal and reflect on your travels. Scientists have discovered that journaling can boost happiness by 20%. The size of the journal is up to you, and there are pocket diaries that may be less cumbersome than what is pictured. Also, when preparing to go to a specific city, try to bring a physical map. This can be useful because while cell phone carriers offer international plans for travel, they can sometimes be unreliable.
A travel size lint roller can be incredibly useful, especially when traveling for business.
Any electronic I’ve mentioned above should have there own set of batteries. However, in addition to that, I (and FEMA) recommend bringing an additional set of batteries, just in case.
You never know when you’ll have to make a good impression. Therefore, try to pack a small comb, or if you have long hair, a travel hairbrush.
Again, you never know when you’ll have to make a good impression, so pick your favorite mint, and bring some with you. Also remember that if you get nervous when flying, chewing gum can help with anxiety.
FEMA recommends that you carry meal bars with you in the event of an emergency. Go to the store, and purchase some, then pack them in a place in your bag that will prevent them from being squished.
Plastic bags are an environmental menace. However, if you’re looking for a way to reuse your plastic bags, you can pack a couple in your travel bag, and use them for convenient activities, like carrying wet or dirty clothes.
Cutlery can be surprisingly useful, whether you need to eat your food, or MacGuyver some other activity. This isn’t even something you need to buy. You can swing by your local fast food chain, and pull some off the condiments bar. The only warning I will mention is that American TSA will not allow you to bring cutlery (especially knives) onto a plane, so place the cutlery close to the zipper, so you can easily remove them from your bag.
No matter where you go, and no matter what you do, be safe, and check the expiration date.
A poncho (single-use or regular use) can make a huge difference in rainy climates. When visiting the rugged forests of Oregon, I used my poncho, but then found the single-use aspect made it limiting. So, I kept a poncho, but switched to multi-use plastic.
FEMA recommends a roll of travel-size duct tape because it is so versatile. If you have an emergency, duct tape can help you hold together something broken.
Ties are an easy, lightweight item to pack, so I usually include two in my travel bag. You never know when you may need to make a good impression.
The right shoes for the right event can always be a hard thing to gauge, but if you have the space in your bag, some comfy shoes will save an evening. I write this knowing that shoes are often the most difficult thing to pack, so if you don’t have room, don’t worry about it.
A sheet of photos can come in handy, whether you need to get a passport replaced, or if you need special identification such as the French rail system. These photos can assist in the most unlikely of scenarios.
Thank you for coming on this journey with me. Now that you have your travel bag packed, I wish you Bon Voyage on your many adventures.