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8 Must Have Travel Items To Turn You Into A Traveling Mary Poppins

by Tony · 14 comments

Or if you’re like Meg and lean more towards Harry Potter fandom, it’s more like “What Hermione Granger Can Teach You About Travel Packing.”

Mary Poppins vs. Penguin (308/365)

So what do Hermione and Ms. Poppins have in common?

An endless supply of goodies and surprises from a travel bag that seems bottomless.

While they both relied on magic to be the envy of every traveler, you only need to do your research. Focus on finding the absolute minimum size and volume of each travel item you pack and you can fit all kinds of cool extra things that will leave other travelers marveling at your very own magic bag.

Or save yourself some time and just check out these 8 tiny must have travel items that kept us well equipped on the road while ensuring we had maximum room in our bags and were the envy of other travels. Some of these items might seem unimportant from the comfort of your home, but they all will become invaluable when on the road.

1) The Mobile Foodie Survival Kit

We can’t take full credit for this one, because our friends Leah and Leanne gifted it to us while we were in Buenos Aires. But damn…


If we didn’t go through these spicy powders like we were Johnny Depp in Blow.

Small spice containers stacked one on top of the other and all connected by an ingenius screw top design. This skinny container slid perfectly down the inside of my bag and took up almost no room.

Having access to a variety of small spices took hostel cooking to a whole new dimension. Plus, when you whip out ginger and cinnamon from your backpack while cooking in a hostel kitchen, famished travelers will flock to you. No cheaper way to make friends then by sharing some spicy deliciousness in the kitchen. Probably the #1 must have travel item for any traveling foodie.

2) Rubber Sink Stopper

These next two might seem a little boring, but trust me, they were great to have.

Laundry can be done cheaply in many countries that you travel to, but sometimes you don’t have the time to wait around. Plus, if you’re packing lightly like we were (only 1-2 workout shirts), you just might need to wash your clothes more frequently.

For around $5, this little baby turns any sink into a wash basin. It works on almost any drain and will save you some dollars and stank. If you have quick dry clothing (which you should!), a quick sink wash and overnight hang is all you need to have a fresh shirt in the morning.

Might seem a little stupid now, but when you or your travel partner is taking 24 hour bus rides with little time to find a laundry shop, you’ll be glad you have this. Plus, you get big travel cred from the other travelers in your dorm… just don’t do this in the shared kitchen sink!

3) Sea To Summit Liquid Laundry Detergent

If you’re washing your clothes in your sink, you can use the regular hand soap that you find at your hostel. But really, that’s only in a stank emergency. We found that using regular hand soap left a soap mildew on our clothes and only masked the odor.

That’s why it’s nice to travel with a liquid soap detergent like this one from Sea To Summit.

It fits all TSA requirements for travel liquid size and will last awhile as you only need a few drops to get a good suds going. This detergent plus the sink stopper ensures that you will have clean clothes no matter how remote or in a hurry you are.

4) Aroamas Solid Travel Perfume

Bondi_Beach_b0ebaeb2-1c10-4f81-aa8c-5400039965c9_1024x1024This must be the stink portion of our list as this is the 3rd straight stink deterrent listed. But after you’ve been on a few South American buses, the last thing you want to be is the “stinky guy.” There are enough of those already!

We weren’t lucky enough to have something like this on our trip last year, but how perfect it would have been. A solid perfume that can be applied with a few simple rubs and that doesn’t come in a glass container. Maybe you’re in such a rush that you can’t even use the sink stopper and travel detergent, but you can at least use a little perfume. Or maybe throw it on before going to a nice restaurant to class yourself up?

These come in such a small container that it makes sense to buy a few and keep them handy for as long as you’re traveling. I know if Meg bought these during our travels, I probably would have stolen a tube more than once. I’d probably go with Almaty Apple… I always did dig me some green apple essence :)

5) Griffin Mini-USBs

31twgtI4PfL._SX385_This has got to be the one travel item that I was asked about more than any other.

Three 2-inch long USB chargers that will charge almost any type of electronic device you have. Anybody who has had to wrangle long charger cords or try to find room to store them in your already tightly packed bag would greatly appreciate these babies.

There were so popular when I pulled them out on the road, that I have received multiple emails from people I have met asking me where I got them. They just… make… sense.

6) Collapsible Water Bottle

We made due with using old plastic water bottles, but even they take up a surprising amount of room and get funky quickly.

That’s why having a collapsible water bottle that you can wash easily is the perfect solution. Bury it at the bottom of your bag when you don’t need it, but then fill it up at the nearest water fountain when you get past airport security.

You can never have enough water when you’re traveling and sometimes you don’t know when you’ll have access to clean drinking water, so it is a high priority that you have a backup.

7) Hand Sanitizer

Made infamous by modern helicopter parents, but a necessity for travelers.

Have you ever read how dirty bus and airplane seats are? Seriously, it’s disgusting. The last thing you want to do is eat food after touching these surfaces that are on par with the floor of a NYC subway car.

While not the sexiest recommendation, a quick splash of hand sanitizer will put your mind at ease and greatly reduce your chance of catching some weird germ. Hand sanitizers can be found in most stores around the world, but it is key to pack at least one with you before you depart.

8) A Smartphone – But Only For The Camera

This recommendation is only for the camera capability of a smartphone. Instead of packing a huge DSLR camera and worrying about getting it stolen, why not just pack your smartphone. The cameras on these are getting better every year and take some incredible pictures.

If you don’t have a smartphone or don’t want to travel with the latest model, buy a used one online that still has a good camera and don’t pay for a cell phone plan. Just use the camera function and upload your pics when you get a wifi connection.

Smaller than a high-end camera, a fraction of the cost, and all while still letting you take great pictures.  Plus, you’ll be able to use it as a smartphone whenever you get wifi access, which is way more common then you would imagine when traveling.

How About You?

What are the best tiny things that you packed that have become your must have travel items? What are the ones that became the envy of other travelers you met?

About Tony
Quit his job to try actually following his dreams for once... and is currently loving it. He is working hard to to make this life-style permanent by writing about his adventures and brainstorming money making opportunities with his partner-in-crime, Meg.

photo by: JD Hancock
OCDemon September 20, 2013 at 2:21 am

I’m a big fan of water bottles, and have gotten annoyed at the trend of backpacks with side pockets so tiny they can’t handle anything. So I found some flat canteen-style plastic water bottles for $3 each. I’m surprised flat or packable water bottles are still sort of a fringe thing. The big ones can’t fit anywhere in these new packs.

PS: Check out the Scrubba wash bag for road trip laundry needs.

Tony September 20, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Those side pockets are getting so tiny! Plus, sometimes they don’t have the best straps to keep bottles secure so they fall out easily. Great point!

I almost never saw anyone with a collapsible bottle in my travels, but it definitely would have been a really nice thing to have. Using old plastic water bottles was not ideal…

Thanks for the Scrubba wash bag tip!

Clint @ Triphackr September 20, 2013 at 2:24 pm

Great list. I love the mini USBs. I keep a mini iPhone charger on my keychain. I also carry a backup battery charger for gadgets in my backpack that is very handy.

Tony September 20, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Ahhhh the travel gear man gives advice! I feel vindicated that you back my mini usb use. People seriously would rave about them whenever I pulled one out to charge my kindle.

A backup battery charger is key. We didn’t have one and occasionally would have to scramble to borrow someone’s outlet adapter if ours weren’t working. Probably great for plane rides too!

Thanks, Clint!


Maria September 23, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Great list, Tony! I already bought a door stopper. The main reason is because I’m really afraid of not having the lock or door working at a hostel. At least the sound will wake me up and I’ll take it from there. How about a buying a whistle??? That’s a great safety tool for any occasion.

Tony September 24, 2013 at 6:40 pm

A door stopper is a great small item to have, Maria! Great call.

Maybe I should do a follow up post about the little safety things you can bring with you. I never had a doorstop, but it definitely would have helped me sleep better at some of the places we stayed.

Maria@InSearchofWonder September 23, 2013 at 10:57 pm

It is also genius to have a dual port cat charger! You can either use it at home or in your car. You can plug 2 electronics there, instead of only 1. I believe it is called the “dice charger”.

Tony September 24, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Pretty much anything to charge your electronics is a worthy thing to bring. There are more times that you’d expect when you don’t have access to an outlet.

Having an easy way to charge multiple electronics is a big bonus!

Morgan September 26, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Never heard of these mini perfume sticks or the mini USB ports. Great gadgets!

Tony September 26, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Those mini usb ports are AWESOME. Buy a couple packs worth & you will feel like James Bond when charging your gear.

The solid perfume is new, but ingenius. If only all liquid travel items could be made into solid form…

Lisa Niver Rajna December 29, 2013 at 10:06 am

Hello! The mini usb chargers look great. I want those. I cannot leave home without kindle! I agree on using the cellphone for photos. I am loving Nokia Lumia 925. It takes amazing video.

We’ve been on the road since July 2012. Hope to cross paths in Asia in 2014!
Lisa & George
We Said Go Travel

Tony December 29, 2013 at 11:19 am

You’ve been on the road for over a year… amazing! We did one full year, but are back in the states for now. Resting up for our next trip, perhaps?

Those mini chargers save so much space and are so great for charging kindles and apple products.

Happy travels!


Cyra @ Gastronomic Nomad February 12, 2014 at 2:51 am

Some great tips, but the spice idea is genius! I’m jealous I did not come up with that idea by myself.

There is a store in Europe called Muji which sells the perfect thing to execute the Mobile Foodie Survival Kit.

I was just complaining the other day to someone about not having enough condiments when I am cooking away from home. I am going to do this from now on!

Tony February 12, 2014 at 2:59 pm

You could totally make your own foodie survival kit! It really is incredible how easy it makes creating a tasty meal while on the road once you have great spices handy. And it fits right down the side of a backpack so you don’t have to make any more room for it!

Let us know how it goes once you have your own :)

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