Twelve Essential Items at Virtually No Cost Which I Carry With Me When I Travel
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Twelve Essential Items at Virtually No Cost Which I Carry With Me When I Travel

inter will arrive in the Northern Hemisphere before you know it, which will most likely bring — amongst other things — winter storms; and chances are very good that you will experience flight delays as a result if you plan to travel frequently over the next few months.

I thought that a list of twelve items I carry with me when I travel at virtually no cost might be useful to you regardless of weather conditions — but perhaps could be helpful to you during a bad storm. The best part is that many of the items on the list will be of little or no cost to you.

Here is what I carry with me when I travel:

1. Snacks

Whenever I stay at a hotel property which offers a continental breakfast that is included in the room rate — such as a Hampton Inn or a Fairfield Inn — I will often take a snack which is filling and has some modicum of nutrition and store it in my bag. Examples are single serving boxes of cereal or bars of fruit and grains, which will last for several weeks; or fruit such as oranges, which can last for as long as several days when not peeled. A packet or two of cocoa also suffices when you need a hot beverage in the cold winter. Of course, do not be greedy about it.

Cost to me: $0.

2. Empty Water Bottle

Whenever I finish drinking from a small bottle of water such as Dasani, Evian or Aquafina — usually 8.5 ounces or similar — I will save the empty bottle to refill later on with the beverage of my choice. This way, I can bypass the prohibition of no liquids allowed past a security checkpoint at an airport; yet the bottle is light and small enough to carry in my bag — and I never have to worry about spillage, as the screw-on cap has never failed for me. I usually get the bottle either from the airline or the hotel property at where I am staying as a guest.

This tip is especially important as airports such as in Atlanta and New York have been installing water fountains specifically designed to refill empty water bottles.

Cost to me: $0.

3. Shampoo and Other Bathroom Toiletries

Why purchase one of those little trial-sized bottles of shampoo where you pay a premium by the ounce for its contents when compared to a typical larger bottle of shampoo?

After using the miniature shampoo bottle found in the bathroom of a hotel room, I will put it in my bag — whether it is partially empty or completely empty — for use during future travel. If the bottle is partially full, I will simply use it next time I travel. If it is completely empty, I will fill it shampoo from the bottle I use at home for use on my next trip. These little bottles are compliant with the liquid restrictions imposed at airport security checkpoints; plus they are small enough to carry effortlessly.

By the way, this idea also works well for me with conditioner, moisturizing cream and mouthwash — just do not mix the uses of the bottles by putting mouthwash in a shampoo bottle, as the results will be less than pleasant. Also, I replace the mouthwash — typically intended to freshen your breath — with an antiseptic version such as Listerine.

Razors can also be included on this list.

Cost to me: pennies when you consider the minuscule amount of liquid those small plastic bottles are capable of holding.

4. Clothing to Be Used More Than Once

I admit it — I will wear the same shirt more than once; and it is not as disgusting as you might think. If you plan to be away for ten days, do you really want to carry ten days worth of clothing with you? I recommend packing five days worth of shirts or blouses with five days worth of pants or skirts where you can mix and match them for a different look each of the ten days.

If you are really squeamish about wearing the same article of clothing twice, laundry services are usually available in many lodging establishments — or you can find a laundromat nearby if one is available to really save on funds.

You might also consider bringing clothing items which you plan on using one last time anyway; and either donate them or properly dispose of them during your trip.

Cost to me: the cost to do laundry at home — perhaps a couple of dollars at most — not including the cost of the items of clothing when they were purchased.

5. Portable Electronic Device

I despise the idea of carrying around something larger than a “smartphone” when I travel. However, I find that for most purposes, a “smartphone” will do what I need — whether it is to access the Internet; listen to music; call someone; or entertain myself by playing games. After all, you never know when you will be delayed at an airport or when the in-flight entertainment system aboard the aircraft will have malfunctioned or be inoperable.

This item is included on the list because — more likely than not — you already own and use a portable electronic device whether or not you travel.

Cost to me: depends on device and contract, if any — let us estimate it at $200.00 per month on the high side, as you can come up with ways to lower the overall costs.

6. Puzzles and Reading Material

Batteries do not last forever on a “smartphone.” To conserve battery power, I will take a copy of an in-flight magazine and place it at the bottom of my bag. If it is thick enough, it creates a “floor” of sorts as a foundation on which I can pack and protect my belongings. These magazines usually contain puzzles — such as a crossword puzzle or a word search which I usually enjoy attempting to solve when I have a moment — and due to weight reasons, I rarely ever carry greater than one magazine.

Cost to me: $0.

7. Pen and Paper

When I need them, I will usually take a pen and small pad of paper from a hotel room at which I am staying. Again, these items are compact enough to carry in my bag; and I use these items more often than I would believe — especially when using down time to jot down some quick thoughts and ideas to be considered at a later time.

By the way, the hotel property typically encourages that you take the pens and paper due to the free — or, more accurately, low-cost — advertising printed on them whenever you use them outside of the hotel property.

Cost to me: $0.

8. Plastic Laundry Bags

These items — usually found in the closet of a hotel room — are incredibly versatile. Use them to keep clean clothes isolated from other belongings in your bag. Use them as garbage bags. Use them to help keep your suit from getting wrinkled. Use them to temporarily store durable items from your bag in case your bag exceeds the weight limit permitted by an airline…

…and — of course — use them for your dirty laundry, which can then be used to protect fragile items in your bag. If I intend to use the plastic laundry bags again, I will mark on the outside of the bag the purpose for which I originally used them — so that I do not place clean clothes in a bag previously used for dirty laundry, for example.

I only properly dispose of these plastic laundry bags when they are literally no longer usable.

Cost to me: $0.

9. Shower Caps

I do not usually carry shower caps with me; but they have been known to be quite versatile as well. One use is to wrap your shoes and protect your other belongings from them; but I usually use laundry bags for this purpose.

Kendra Collins of Points & Pixie Dust wrote this article pertaining to five easy tricks on using shower caps; and Carol Margolis of Pearls of Travel Wisdom wrote this article lauding the ever-versatile shower cap.

Cost to me: $0.

10. Zippered plastic bags

I will use these for my toiletries and for personal clean clothes such as undergarments and socks. I have not seen them lately, but some airports give away bags such as these at the entrances to security checkpoints.

If you do not see them available at airports, you can purchase a box of the store brand or generic brand at your local supermarket.

Cost to me: $0 — or minimal cost if I need to purchase a box of them.

11. “Booties”

I despise having to walk on the floors of airport security in my socks or bare feet, so I carry “booties” with me. Although they are disposable, I pack them in one of the aforementioned zippered plastic bags and keep them in a pocket of my bag which is readily accessible.

Cost to me: $0, as they were obtained from the entrances of airport security checkpoints where they were complimentary to passengers.

12. Sewing Kit

I do not know how to sew; but those little sewing kits — which usually contain several different colors of thread, at least one needle, and a button or two — that are one of the amenities of staying in a room at a higher-end hotel have saved me on the rare occasion where an article of clothing of mine would unexpectedly tear.

Cost to me: $0.


Because of the tips listed above, it is rather easy to be prepared for delays, flight cancellations, malfunctioning equipment and minor emergencies without significantly decreasing the amount of space in my baggage — and at little to no cost. You might be able to achieve similar results.

Some of the items can be obtained as part of the list of the 8 free things for which you should ask on your next flight; and some of the items on that list can be on this list as well.

By no means is the list of items shown above all-inclusive; rather, I encourage you to add your own list in the Comments section below, as not everything is for everyone. Am I missing anything from that list? What do you carry with you when you travel — and why? What are your costs for the items you take with you?

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

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