Real life one bag travel: The 5 things I can’t live without on the road

Hi Frugalistas!  Anyone who travels regularly will have their own list of “must take” items that they won’t leave home without. Here are the things I can’t live without on the road (in no particular order):

1. A microfibre towel from a camping shop. Even though I never backpack I always take a microfibre towel with me. They come in handy in so many situations and take up almost no space or weight. I use them as a beach towel, as a picnic rug, a wrap if I get caught in a draught on the train or even as a towel if the hotel towels are a bit skimpy or I want to towel dry some washing for it to dry quicker.
2. A thermal top (unless I’m going somewhere where I know the weather will be reliably and consistently warm.  I use this as an alternative to a fleece or thick jumper (sweater).  It takes up far less room in my bag, and can be layered under thinner long sleeved tops and shirts.
3. A guidebook I love and trust. I rarely take the whole guidebook with me unless I know I am going to use most, if not all of it. Instead I photocopy the pages I want, or tear out the sections of the book I need for my itinerary. I do carry a Kindle download on my iPad, but rely on hardcopies when I’m out and about for security reasons. I feel very passionately about buying the right guidebook for me and spend a lot of effort in my research finding just the right one. I believe it’s really important to find the guidebook that suits you, the way you like to travel and that fits in with your personal travel philosophy. I travel mainly in Europe and also seek out specialist books for the activities I like to do, such as market guides, walking tours etc

4. A small wallet. If you are like me you have so much stuff in your wallet that are essential (or not!) to your daily life, but which are of limited or no use when you are travelling overseas.  I decant the limited things I need to take into a much smaller wallet, so it is easy to keep track of my credit cards etc.  I also like to take a brightly coloured wallet so I can always see it clearly in my bag at a glance to avoid rummaging.

5. Tinted moisturiser with built in sunscreen. Not necessarily one for the guys, but for me this is a must have. I love products that multitask to put in my little plastic bag of liquids (I only ever do one carry on bag, and never check luggage). A tinted moisturiser with SPF does triple duty and I use it every day regardless of where I am going.

Of course, I take more than this, like a camera, mobile phone, reading material etc as we all do, but these are things that are not necessarily on everyone’s packing list that I can’t live without!

What are your “must haves” when travelling?


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15 Comments on “Real life one bag travel: The 5 things I can’t live without on the road”

  1. Karen 18/04/2012 at 10:24 pm #

    Great advice. I have a “Europe” wallet that I love. I only use it when traveling to Europe, it holds two passports, has a zipped coin area, and holds the large Euro bills with no problem. The whole wallet zips closed for security.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 19/04/2012 at 2:43 am #

      Glad you enjoyed it! I use the bright yellow one in the photo. It is easily seen in my bag

  2. tropicalgal 20/05/2012 at 4:37 am #

    Good article. I especially like the tip about the microfiber towel. I’ll have to get one of those. It would have come in handy the time my friend and I check in and had only 2 washclothes in the room and it took hours to get real towels. 🙂

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 20/05/2012 at 7:21 am #

      Thanks. I don’t always use mine but because it takes up no space it doesn’t matter – its an insurance policy

  3. Penny 31/05/2012 at 11:19 am #

    I like your list even though I do not take a microfiber towel, I may in the future! I also do the stripped down wallet thing and have a pouch with multiple zippered compartments where I can put dollars, euros, documents and receipts. I also carry a small, colorful coin purse because I like to have quick and easy access to those. Coins get heavy! And I like to use them. If they’re not handy or easy to find I forget about them. That’s about all I can ad at the moment.

  4. Glenda 07/06/2012 at 11:20 pm #

    My Europe wallet has a little chain which attaches to the inside of my shoulder bag. So much safer and I can’t accidentally leave it behind onthe counter -or have it snatched like my daughter did!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 08/06/2012 at 7:13 am #

      What a good idea. I need to keep an eye out for something like that!
      Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

  5. Paulette @ Marginal Boundaries 15/06/2012 at 8:30 am #

    It is probably a given, but an ipod. Although I did lose it on a plane to Bogota (but the crew FOUND IT and I was able to get it back!), It was a priceless addition to long flights, bus rides, or even cab rides when in Colombia. I also always bring a small backpack, since I get nervous about carrying around money and personal items in a satchel or purse.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 15/06/2012 at 10:47 am #

      I think it’s really important to take things that help you feel safe – especially if you are traveling alone. Feeling insecure or unsafe sort of defeats the purpose of going, doesn’t it?

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

  6. Geek Goddess 22/07/2012 at 12:53 pm #

    “A towel, [The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.”

    ― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

    I also carry a clear vinyl envelope, available from office supply stores, to carry copies of my itinerary, reservations to hotels, cars, trains, my RailPass, pre-purchased Tube or Metro Passes, and the like. I throw away the pages as I use them, and can store postcards or other flat paper items that I might want to bring home. Or throw away the envelope on the trip, for less to carry home.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 22/07/2012 at 3:56 pm #

      I agree, even I have never and would never read the hitch hiker’s guide (sorry!) I also do the same with a plastic sleeve and toss paperwork as I don’t need it.

      Thanks for dropping by!

  7. Vanessa 02/01/2013 at 6:29 am #

    Love this – such great ideas! I have been holding onto my old, cheap, yet tiny and “just right” travel wallet for a long time, but I like your update ideas and I love the bright color. The less scrambling to fin d a wallet, the better.

    And if you’re looking for something to spend $4 on, Rick Steeves sells a special folder just to keep torn-from-the-main-book guidebook pages organized!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 02/01/2013 at 8:40 am #

      Oh, no, I didn’t know that! I just did a Rick order – problem for me is a $4 folder turns into a minimum $18 postage bill to Australia, so will have to wait till next time! In the meantime I use a clip and a ziplock bag to keep mine safe.


  1. The 2012 frugalfirstclasstravel year in review – my top 10 blog posts | frugalfirstclasstravel - 31/12/2012

    […] things other people couldn’t live without – so we all got to learn from each other!  Click here for the full post and […]

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