By Laurie Jo Miller Farr
Don’t leave home without these five utterly essential items and accessories when planning your next jet-setter jaunt or an impromptu trip. And of course, your passport makes six! Do use your phone to take a photo of your passport and/or keep a photocopy of it in a separate place. An emergency trip to the US consulate in case of theft or loss will go a lot more smoothly when you can produce a copy.
Smartphone and Charger
Before popping your mobile phone and charger into your handbag or carry-on, contact your provider to make suitable arrangements for your overseas stay. You may decide to purchase an international data package of text only or call minutes because international roaming charges are still a price gouge. If you do have an international data plan, you can keep track of usage as you go. If you don’t have one, avoid heavy fees by disabling your cellular data in settings and only use email and messaging apps where free Wi-Fi is available.
Tips for the wise: Remember that Canada and Mexico also count as international and that receiving incoming emails, calls, and messages counts as data in addition to generating them. Close your international plan on your return, unless you’ve already arranged for an end date with your provider. Download a free flashlight app on your phone, a great help at night in unfamiliar places and for illuminating book pages, menus, and keyholes. Lastly, a paper list of family and friends’ telephone numbers is very useful in case your phone goes missing.
One of the most bothersome things to overlook is your electrical adapter for plugging in and charging at wall outlets while abroad. Nearly every country, even across borders in Europe, has their own two- or three-prong design. An all-in-one or universal worldwide adapter, some that even come with USB ports, can provide options for dozens of countries. Take more than one if you’re sharing accommodations or using multiple devices, as each adapter can handle only one appliance at a time. Better hotels often have spares to borrow from the front desk. Note that it’s quite tricky to find the right adapter once you’ve left the USA, because many stores abroad will only stock the kinds the locals will need for their own overseas travel.
Tips for the wise: An adapter is for pairing your electrical appliance with the wall outlet. A converter changes the voltage and is not needed for phones, computers, tablets. Items with a heating element, such as irons, steamers, hairdryers and styling rods, are best not used with a converter without a transformer as well. Otherwise, look for small appliances that can toggle between 110 and 220 volts.
Medications And Eyewear
Ensure that you have more than the required number of days’ medication in your hand luggage, not in your checked bags. You may want to carry pills in a handy dispenser labeled up with the days of the week. Do pack paper copies of your prescription as a precaution against loss or in the event that you extend your trip. A small first aid kit, handy wipes, and ear plugs are always a good idea. Travelers wearing eyeglasses should always have an extra pair with them in the event of breakage or loss, and contact lenses wearers should have backup lenses for the same reason.
Tips for the wise: Remember lens cleaner and solution in small TSA-friendly dispensers if you’re carrying them in-flight and don’t forget sunscreen as well as your regular or prescription sunglasses and case (and some for the children) for important skin and and eye protection.
Bum Bag/Fanny Pack
Whether you call it a fanny pack, bum bag, money belt, or hip pack, you won’t regret having one along to alleviate stress about theft on your trip. Carry cash, credit cards, passport, tickets, keys, and smartphone and earphones in a secure and comfortable hands-free zippered pouch with compartments. Adjustable around your body, they’re lightweight and great for every occasion from city sightseeing to sports and adventure travel and an organizational lifesaver for kids, too. Tuck in some antiseptic hand lotion or wipes.
Tips for the wise: No one near you can access your personal information on credit cards or passport when your bum bag pocket has a radio-frequency identification lining (RFID) to block scanning devices’ functionality.
Related: How To Stay Healthy When Traveling
If you’ve ever experienced that awful sinking feeling when the last piece of luggage finally appears on the carousel and it’s not yours, you know why suitcases are sold with an identification tag. Increase your chances of getting your belongings found and re-connected to you faster with a name badge. Furthermore, anyone with standard looking popular brand luggage (especially in the ubiquitous black) should take the extra effort to secure a bright belt strap or to attach colorful ribbon, stickers, or tags to avoid a mix up of two lookalike bags.
Tips for the wise: Make sure your luggage tag has a secure flap to cover your personal information from prying eyes. Include a cell phone with country calling code (+1 for USA) and email address, since a home or office landline telephone number and home address is useless until you’re on the return leg of your journey.