I’ve been on enough trips to figure out what works best for me. Here’s the list:
Either a DK or a Fodor Citypack guidebook. Best sights, great maps, awesome pictures, fits in a pocket. Perfect.
A Chargepod. Use one outlet, one converter, one adapter, to charge half a dozen different electronics. I want to give big wet sloppy kisses to the people at Callpod. (And they owe me some for how many I’ve sold by raving about it.)
Comfy tiny underpants jammed into the toes of your shoes. There’s never enough room in a suitcase, so save it where you can. But not at the cost of uncomfy underthings. Never that.
Travel candle and matchbook. I brought this one to Spain last month. They make a hotel room feel like home.
Noise-reducing earbud headphones. Because children are miraculous creations of God. Until they get on an airplane and cry for seven hours straight, at which point different words come to mind. Better than noise-cancelling headphones because those are too bulky, and can’t double as sleeping earplugs, which is a second necessity when you find yourself with a traveling partner who snores like a diesel truck or your room is next to the elevator or above the after-hours club. (Yes, all three have happened.) My Shure earbuds save my life (or at least my sanity) on a regular basis.
Camera. I bring my Rebel on personal trips, but the PowerShot is tiny and takes pretty great shots.
Something that reminds you of someone who loves you. Some trinket, the sight of which reminds you that someone far away cares about you: when things go wrong – as, life being life, they do – that’s what I need.
Vitamin C. You’re going to spend time jammed into small, stuffy, dried-out areas, and at least one of your neighbors is going to be drippy and snurfly and infectious. Do your immune system a favor and grab some chewables.
A big pashmina-style scarf. To get comfy, I have to have some sort of wrap to curl up in: nice for a daytime flight, essential for a red-eye.
Your passport and two credit cards. Because in a pinch, with these, you can figure everything else out. Except for:
Glasses and extra contacts. When you are legally blind, these things matter.
And the stuff I always try to convince myself to bring, but never actually should:
More shoes. If you have seen my closet, this is self-explanatory.
More books. If you have seen my house, this is self-explanatory.