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Experienced travelers share their 'Why didn't I think of that?' packing essentials

Ziplocs and rubber bands? A Sharpie with duct tape wrapped around it? Here are some less common travel essentials people swear by.

man packing a suitcase

People who travel a lot have some solid insights into what's essential when packing.

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Have you ever been on vacation and realized you need something you wished you'd brought? Unless you travel frequently, it's inevitable that you'll have some packing regrets, either over things you packed that you didn't need or things you didn't pack that would have come in handy.

Someone who was planning a long trip to Southeast Asia asked in the /travel subreddit, "What do you regret bringing or not bringing when you have travelled? (so I can learn from your mistakes lol)" and experienced travelers delivered a goldmine of wisdom from their personal packing lists.

Here's a roundup of some of the most helpful things to bring along on any trip, and the one thing savvy travlers say not to pack.


A Sharpie with duct tape wrapped around it—yes, really

duct tape and a sharpie pen

Duct tape and a Sharpie may not seem like travel essentials, but they are.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

It sounds strange, I know, but Sharpies are always good to have on hand and so is duct tape. (Fixing a broken strap in a pinch, mending an unexpected tear in a bag, using a tiny bit to keep a chip bag closed, stopping the vent from rattling in the hotel room—so many uses.) No one wants to pack an entire roll of duct tape, though, so wrapping a length of it around the Sharpie gives you a usable amount without taking up any precious packing space.

A Ziploc bag full of Ziploc bags and rubber bands

ziploc bags and rubber bands

Ziplocs and rubber bands = no regrets

Annie Reneau

My family recently traveled to Europe, and on our way out the door, I grabbed a handful of Ziplocs and rubber bands, just in case. I've traveled enough to know I always want a Ziploc for something, and the rubber bands were just a whim because they were within eyesight and they weigh almost nothing.

We ended up using every single Ziploc and rubber band I grabbed during our travels. They're useful for so many things. Opened a packet of nuts or chips and want to save what's left? Ziploc or rubber band. Favorite beaded necklace broke and you need a place to keep the beads together so you can fix it when you get home? Ziploc. Your travel lotion lid suddenly leaks after never leaking before? Ziploc. Want to keep track of whose glass is whose in the place your rented? Rubber bands. Bought a fragile souvenir? Wrap it up in a piece of clothing and put a rubber band around it. So many uses.

Universal adapters and extra long charging cables or an extension cord for devices

woman on couch with extra long charger attached to her phone

Having an extra long phone charger makes a big difference.

Amazon

Along with a universal adapter (a must if traveling internationally—take two in case you lose one), it's a good idea to pack an extra-long charging cord for your devices in case electrical outlets are located in inconvenient places. An extension cord works too, but takes up a bit more space and weight in your luggage.

A waterproof bag (aka dry bag) that can be used for multiple purposes

waterproof dry bag

A dry bag can be used for far more than just water adventures.

Amazon

Not only does a waterproof dry bag handy keeping your stuff protected during water adventures, but it's also how you can keep the wet swimsuit you inevitably end up with from touching the rest of your luggage. It can do double duty as a laundry bag and you can even use it as a makeshift washing machine for a few small items you want to wash—just toss in part of a laundry detergent sheet, some water and your clothes, and shake. (These come in a variety of sizes, so decide which size you'll need.)

Laundry detergent sheets

Insogreen laundry detergent sheets

Laundry detergent sheets make travel washing so much easier.

Amazon

At some point in your travels, someone in your party is going to need to wash something, and it's super helpful to have your own detergent on hand. These laundry detergent sheets look like paper, take up practically no room and weight almost nothing, plus no liquid messes to worry about. Just toss a few into a Ziploc bag and you're good to go.

A clothesline—but not just any clothesline

two travel clotheslines

Hang your swimsuit and handwashed laundry up to dry.

Amazon

Theoretically, you could use any kind of string or cord for a clothesline, but these braided ones are ideal for travel for a few reasons. One, the suction cups make it easy to use in a shower. Two, the clips make it easy to use wrapped around poles or trees. Three, the braided cords eliminate the need for clothes pins because you can just tuck a bit of fabric in between the cords to hang things.

A small container of over-the-counter medications and electrolyte/hydration packets

liquid i.v.

It's easy to get dehydrated when traveling and it's not always easy to find OTC medications.

Amazon

Even if you're not someone who usually takes pain reliever or needs extra hydration, traveling can do weird things to your body, especially when you're visiting another country where everything is unfamiliar. Plus, a lot of over-the-counter medications we're used to may not be easy to find elsewhere, and you definitely don't want to be trying to figure out how to find antidiarrheal medicine when you desperately need it. As for electrolytes, people swear by powdered hydration packets like Liquid I.V. for getting over jet lag quicker, but they're also good to carry especially in places that are hotter than you're used to, where it's easy to get dehydrated.

Thin, compact, reusable grocery sacks

reusable grocery sacks

Thin sacks that pack tightly always come in handy.

Amazon

Specifically, ones like these BeeGreen sacks that fold down super tiny, taking up almost no packing space, come in super handy for shopping, laundry, beach, souvenirs and more.

Leave the extra sweater at home

What do people regret bringing? Too many clothes, across the board.

Sometimes it's a matter of being overly prepared, thinking you might need a sweater while you're in Indonesia, only to be met with the reality that it's always a million degrees and a thousand percent humidity there. Sometimes it's a matter of thinking you need more shoes than you do or that it will be harder to wash things than it is. Sometimes it's realizing that you want to buy the cheap, beautiful clothing you find at your destination but don't have room in your luggage to bring them home.

But pretty much everyone who said they regretting bringing anything said clothes. So pack light on the clothing, heed the "must haves" above, and you'll be golden wherever you end up traveling.

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