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(10) things we always pack for trips

Traveling is wonderful. I love discovering new places. I love making a home in a hotel room, tent, or other temporary dwelling. I love planning, executing, and recording all the wonderful things there are to do. But traveling can also be stressful. When all your usual items of comfort and ease are not at your fingertips coping with unusual situations becomes difficult, and even on a good trip, often on the best of trips, unusual situations abound.

So, whether flying, driving, or hitching a ride on an elephant, there are a few non-essentials that we always try to bring with us. I'm not talking the usual clothes or toiletries, but things you might not think of automatically yet will likely find useful along the way.

A checklist of small items. I don't list everything, mind you, but I try to keep track of chargers, tiny electronics, and definitely stuffed animals or other toys. And if not a detailed list, then at least a count (5 cords, 12 stuffed animals, 47 books...)

Ziplock bags. I'm not usually a proponent of expendable plastics, but it is surprising the number of times a good ziplock back comes in handy on a trip...for bring home rocks, for keeping wet bathing suits separated from dress clothes, for toting snacks or leftovers. Especially on long trips we generally conserve space by packing our clothes in the bags with the air sucked out. Not great for wrinkles, but hey, it's only vacation.

Camping silverware and a multi-tool. I've heard that there is a trick that uses the chain on a hotel door top it a bottle of wine or beer? I can't remember because it seems ludicrous, and because we always pack a multi-opener for beer and wine. Also, we have these neat camping tools we always pack, too—a cross between a spork and a knife. I call them Sknorks (with a silent "k", like in knife, of course), or sometimes spifes.

Backpack. Not a lot of people think to pack a bag in a bag, but a lot of our trips include trail hiking, museums, or long days on the town, and having something other than a purse or suitcase to lug your sunscreen, camera, and travel guides is pretty handy. When flying we'll use a backpack as one of our carry-ons, or on occasion we'll fill it with clothes before throwing it in a suitcase.

water bottles. That thing I said about hiking and long days on the town? Long days get long, and depending on what you're up to, water isn't always easy to get, or it costs a fortune. Plus I try to avoid every buying or using water in plastic bottles. On drives we obviously take filled bottles, but on flights we stuff them with packed items and slide them in the suitcase or the carry-on

journal and tape. This might sound like two totally different items, but it's not really. I usually try to pack a journal or other notebook to commemorate our trip. We take turns writing about our days and reviewing things we've seen it in, and I use the tape to secure ticket stubs, maps, and other ephemera we can't seem to part with. It's true, though, that tape could come in handy in other ways.

Book light(s). Fairly self-explanatory, these insanely helpful for keeping passengers occupied while driving after dark, but it's also handy for reading or playing a game in the hotel room after the kid has fallen asleep.

At least one travel game. Standard playing cards are a never-fail, but sometimes we'll throw in a couple of other games that are small not only in physical size, but playing size as well. Love Letter, Oz Fluxx, and Frog Juice are some of our favorites.

Sewing kit. I started carrying one of these with me on trips after I read it in a list of things to pack for camping. It's especially helpful then because a tear in a sleeping bag or tent could be catastrophic, but a needle with thread has lots of uses and I try not to go far without one. 

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