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There are countless gadgets out there in the world that are designed to make travel easier. Some of these are great, and some of them are a big waste of money. But this article isn’t about any of those things. This is a list of my must-have unconventional travel items. These are things that were created for a purpose other than travel. Yet, I can’t imagine traveling without any of these items. Every one of them make our trips so much easier!
Over the Door Toiletry Holder
For years, my husband and I had a battle of wills when it came to travel. He prefers to unpack everything, especially toiletries, when we check into a hotel room. I, however, would rather leave all of our stuff packed and only take out what we need when we need it. I finally found a solution to this problem about 4 years ago while walking through Target. In the aisle containing college dorm items, I found an over-the-door bathroom organizer. I snatched it up, and we have traveled with it ever since. It is the best idea ever!
It folds up flat, so it is easy to pack. When we arrive at our hotel, I take it out and put it on the bathroom door. It has enough pockets to hold almost all of our toiletry items. This handy organizer keeps all of our bathroom essentials contained, and organized, in one area, while making them all visible so my husband can easily find what he needs. I don’t know how we traveled so many years without this!
Ziploc bags are one of the most versatile items ever invented! For me, they are so essential to traveling that I pack 1 or 2 boxes of them for every trip! They are great to use for so many different things. I use several different sizes in my packing.
I pack all of our liquid or gel based toiletries in Ziploc bags before putting them in the toiletry bag. This way, if something busts open, the mess will be contained to just that bag. I also pack snacks such as Cheerios or animal crackers in them. They are great to store wet or messy clothes inside. I pack small items, like bandages, safety pins, and cotton swabs in them.
They are useful, too, because they are waterproof. When caught in the rain with my point-and-shoot camera once, I put it inside of a Ziploc bag to protect it. You can do the same thing to protect your cell phone or other electronics.
On almost every trip, I pack a cloth drawstring laundry bag. While traveling, I will put all of our dirty clothes into it. By the time we’re heading home, I usually have at least one empty suitcase. I normally just put the laundry bag with the dirty clothes directly into the empty suitcase. Then, when we get back home, I can take the entire bag out and put it in the laundry room. It saves me from having to separate clean from dirty clothes or question whether something is clean or dirty. It makes the unpacking and laundry easier to do when we get back home. Both Target and Amazon carry these laundry bags.
A spray bottle is another handy little item that I refuse to travel without. We, actually, use ours a lot at home too. I pack it empty, and then when we arrive at our destination, I fill it with water. Then, I can use it to get the wrinkles out of cotton clothes. I also use it to get my son’s hair to lay flat in the mornings. It also is helpful for things like cleaning kids’ hands and cleaning up spills, especially on clothing.
Plastic Desk Organizer
If you have read my post on essential items for a road trip with kids, you know what I use this desk organizer for. Basically, this organizer serves as a food box for my son. He is only 6, so when we are eating in the car, he has trouble juggling all of the different things that he has to hold. This organizer is divided into compartments, so he can put his french fries in one section, his chicken nuggets in another, and his apple slices in yet a third. It makes it easier for him to hold all of his food while eating. And, because it is plastic, if something spills in the organizer, it is a cinch to clean up! For anyone road tripping with kids, this is a must! I bought mine at the Container Store.
A lapdesk is another crucial item to have if you are traveling with kids, especially on long road trips. The one we have is one that I made for my son. I made a small pillow and then attached it to the bottom of a small cookie sheet. It is the perfect size for him to hold in his car seat. Because it is metal, magnets will stick to it. The lip on the tray keeps cars, crayons, and other things from rolling off of it. It is great for kids to draw on, use as a table for playing with toys, or to hold a DVD player or other electronic device. I recently made one for my niece for an upcoming trip. Best thing I’ve ever made!
Trash bags are another thing that I pack extras of because you never know when you will need them. They, of course, work well to use to gather up trash while in the car during road trips. They are also handy to store wet or messy clothes. You can turn them into ponchos in a pinch. If you don’t want to sit on wet seats, you can put them down to sit on. On those occasions that I have forgotten to pack the laundry bag, I use a trash bag to hold dirty clothes. They are also nice to have in the car in the event that someone gets sick.
A flashlight is something that I always pack, but don’t always use. But, it’s so good to have it if you need it! Once, we arrived at our hotel very late at night. When my husband was getting our stuff out of the car, he lost his wedding ring. He knew that it fell off in the car, but he couldn’t find it due to it being so dark. Luckily, I had the flashlight, and we were able to quickly find his ring! It’s also great to have if you have a child who is scared of the dark. It’s also a lifesaver if you are in an unfamiliar hotel room when the electricity goes out!
Wet wipes are one of those things that most people who are not parents never seem to have, but most parents never seem to be without! They are a wonderful travel item because they are compact to carry, and they are so useful. They can clean up a spill quickly, help cool off a hot face, and slow a nose bleed. I’ve also used them to wipe off a dirty stadium seat, apply a temporary tattoo, and wipe my hands when I didn’t have any napkins. My son tends to get car sick, so I always make sure I have them when we are on road trips, just in case!
For those who don’t know, a receiving blanket is a small, lightweight baby blanket. I believe that every parent should carry one at all times, regardless of how old your children are. I feel so strongly about this that I wrote a whole article on the uses for receiving blankets. My mom laughs at me every time she sees my receiving blanket that I carry. However, it is the #1 most versatile item that I know of. I can use it for so many things! It can be a blanket, a pillow, a sun shade, or a napkin. You can even use it as a sling or a bandage in a medical emergency. Plus, because it is small, it can roll up tight and takes up very little space. I usually carry mine in my purse. You can find these at Target or any other store that carries baby items.
Sirius XM Radio
This one isn’t a “thing” like the others, but it is just as valuable as everything else on this list! We have Sirius XM radio in both of our cars. It is very important for keeping my husband, Chris, entertained while we are on long road trips. It becomes even more important during the fall when we are traveling for football games. Chris and I are able to listen to all of the other college games that are on while driving. It allows us to stay up-to-date on what is going on in the college football world. I don’t know how we ever survived road trips without Sirius XM in the car with us! If you don’t have Sirius XM, I highly recommend it if you ever travel by car!
So, there you have it: my top 11 must-have unconventional travel items. These things are all very useful, both for planned and unplanned events. Most are compact and easy to pack. While I don’t always use every one of these must-have items on every trip, I rarely travel without them. Part of having a successful trip is being prepared for the unexpected. These items help me to be better prepared when things go awry! I hope you will be better prepared for your next trip with these must-have unconventional travel items. Happy travels!