The Unforgettables

At Across the West, we’re always ready to get on the road. At a moment’s notice, we’re ready to go. It’s a lifestyle. We embrace it. Of course with every trip, no matter how short the notice, there will be some packing, but veteran Road Warriors often have a bag or two that never gets unpacked, a kit of essentials that gets stored at home in a travel-ready state. The items in those bags are the subject of this week’s discussion. I call them the Unforgettables.

You obviously have to bring along a change of underwear and socks, but that’s not what this discussion is about. This is about the dozen or so little items that may not get used on every trip, but always go on every trip, because when they are needed, they’re needed right now. I carry mine in two separate bags, a backpack and a toiletry bag which I have mentioned elsewhere. It’s the contents of those bags which I will be examining today.

Fingernail clippers.
I can’t count how many times I’ve used my fingernail clippers for clipping things other than my fingernails. But I’ve used them for my fingernails even more. Buy a Trim brand Deluxe Fingernail Clipper with file. It’s well-made, and will last for years. It’s available for about a dollar or two, and is about the best value in personal care you’ll ever find.

Back-up lip balm.
Whatever your brand of preference, keep a second tube in your travel bag. I don’t want to think about how many times I’ve lost my pocket tube of lip balm, without which I never leave the house, and have been unable to find my preferred brand while out on the road, and had to buy a cheap tube of flavored wax from a gas station. It’s a small annoyance, but small annoyances add up on the road. My brand of preference is Dermatone Medicated with SPF 23. It’s available from Amazon in a 2-pack, one for my pocket, and one for my travel bag. I also carry a small tin of Dermatone Z-Cote facial sunscreen with SPF 30.

A clothes pin to keep hotel curtains closed.

Clothes pins.
Old-fashioned wooden clothes pins or their modern metal counterparts have a simple but important purpose in my kit: keeping the curtains closed in the hotel room. I have a couple in my bag, and I also carry a half-dozen thumbtacks. It’s hard to overestimate the importance of quality sleep, and one of the best ways to enhance sleep quality is by improving the darkness of your sleeping quarters. If I’m fortunate enough to be waking up after the sun, I try to ensure I’ll get to enjoy that extra time by closing up that curtain gap with a clothes pin or two, and sometimes even tacking the sides of the curtains flush with the walls. It’s a small step that can make a big difference in your sleep quality, and they take up almost no space in your bag.

Dental care items.
You’ve finally found a use for that tiny little dental floss you got from the dentist. Throw it in your travel bag! Of course if you’re one of those special human beings who flosses every day, you’ll want to have a full-size floss in your bag, but for the rest of us, a small one will probably do. The point is, have a dedicated floss that never gets unpacked. It’s a small item that’s easy to forget if you’re constantly having to pack and unpack it, so just throw it in your permanent bag, and forget about it… until you need it. And speaking of dedicated travel items, have a dedicated travel toothbrush of the same brand and model as your home one, along with a dedicated tube of toothpaste. Just get the full-size one. The small travel-size tube is going to run out exactly when it’s least convenient. Forget about packing and unpacking those items. That’s for weekenders. Leave them in your ready-bag and be done with it.

Medical care items.
I keep small bottles of Ibuprofen, Meclizine, and chewable antacids (calcium carbonate tablets) in my bag at all times. And a few Band-Aid Tough-Strips. I am not a medical professional. This is not medical advice. Consult a physician before taking any medication. The Ibuprofen and Meclizine come from Costco, one I take for pain, and the other I take for travel sickness, which I usually only get on boats. Meclizine is generic for Bonine, which is available in a box of 8 for $7 from Amazon, or a bottle of 100 for $4 behind the pharmacy counter at Costco. Seriously. $4 for 100. Just go to the Costco pharmacy and ask. A side effect of Meclizine is drowsiness, and I’ve heard, though I do not recommend, that some people use it as a sleep aid. Use only as directed. Meclizine, not mescaline. Be specific about that.

Phone charger.
Pony up and get a dedicated travel copy of the wall charger for your phone. Never take it out of your bag unless you’re using it on the road. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s easy to leave behind, either at home if you take it out of your bag, or at a hotel, if you forget to grab it from the nightstand before you check out. If that happens to you, don’t despair! Just ask the front desk at your (any) hotel if they have a spare charger you can borrow (keep). They will probably have a box full of them, left over from other poor saps who left them behind. Like a penny in the tray at a convenience store, it’s always there when you need it.

Portable power bank.
While we’re talking about our mobile devices, grab yourself a portable battery charger. One of the best is the Dulla M50000 portable power bank. Its solid construction and 12,000mAh of power ensure you’ll have plenty of juice to charge even your most power-hungry device, anywhere, any time.

Laundry bag and portable hamper.
This is an odd one, I’ll admit, but I always travel with a laundry bag, and if I’m staying in a place for two or more nights, I also bring a pop-up mesh hamper. I hate looking at dirty clothes piled in the corner of a hotel room, and I don’t want my filthy, stinking socks mixing in with my clean items, so I bring a little bit of home with me on the road, in the form of a portable hamper. Why both the hamper and the bag? I store the dirty stuff in the hamper over the course of the trip because it’s more convenient to use on a daily basis than the laundry bag by itself, but at the end of the trip, I just dump it all into the laundry bag, cinch the top, and cram it into my luggage. Fast and easy.

Flushable wipes.
A small comfort of home. ‘Nuff said. I occasionally bring my own toilet paper, too.

Most of these items aren’t do-or-die items, but they do make travel a little more civil, a little more manageable for those of us who live on the road. They’re comforts, conveniences, or in some cases, inconveniences if you don’t have them. Obviously any seasoned traveler will have their own list of Unforgettables, but whatever they are, take steps to make sure that you never leave them behind. For me that means leaving them packed and ready to go at all times. That ensures that I never get on the road without all of my Unforgettable items.