Shopping list of “trip first-aid” items
1. Pack this on your next trip: Duct Tape
On my first long trip with my just-graduated-high-school daughter, we were temporarily locked out of our charming AirBnB Montmartre maisonette when the antique and not-so-charming front door lock broke. The host couldn’t come let us into the flat until the evening. Meanwhile, our laundry was in the washer needing to dry. And we had cafes to visit, charming rues to explore, and friends to meet for dinner. What’s a woman to do? Luckily I knew how to pack.
We followed the owner’s directions to find the man at the bar across the street to help out. Nabil managed to open the door after 10 minutes of increasingly desperate wiggles and jiggles of the key and doorknob. Then declared the lock definitely dead.
But we still needed to leave the flat before our host could come to meet a locksmith if only to walk our wet clothes to a nearby laundromat for drying. Duct tape over the door jamb meant I could come and go while my daughter took a much-needed nap.
Duct tape can also be used to patch a hole in your shoes. You can tape up your bag when the zipper blows mid-trip. Maybe you need to temporarily repair clothing (don’t you hate it when your hem suddenly unravels?). No need to carry a big roll or purchase a travel-sized one- merely roll a bit onto a short dowel, crushed paper towel or toilet paper core, or even onto itself. If you prefer to get a travel-sized roll, RediTape sells a 2-pack – in all sorts of great colors even.
2. Pack this on your next trip: Moleskin Blister Tape
Even the most seasoned walker with perfectly fit shoes can develop blisters. Moleskin cushions the blister (or proto-blister) while the fluid resorbs. Just cut a piece out of the fabric, and trim a hole in the middle the size of the blister/damaged area. Then stick it on your foot to cushion it while you shop for new socks or shoes.
3. And this: Scissors
Scissors are so handy they’re practically a no-brainer addition to any packing list. And they can be carried onboard aircraft as long as the blades are 4-in or less. Folding travel scissors are perfect to carry along. You will need them to trim and shape the moleskin and cut the duct tape if for nothing else. You can also trim strings from clothing, open blister-pack purchases, and more.
4. Safety pins
Use a trusty safety pin for emergency clothing repairs- shore up that suddenly sagging hem, close that gap in your shirt seam. When I was in Budapest, my boot’s zipper pull (the only footwear I carried for this weekend trip) broke. Of course, it came off when I was taking my boots off for screening before my return flight. Fortunately, a wicked large safety pin saved the day, functioning as an ad-hoc pull.
You can also close gaps in your accommodation’s draperies so you can sleep through daybreak. Safety pins also function as antitheft devices. Pin bag zippers together to make it difficult for pickpockets. And if you get bored, you can make a safety pin daisy chain and wear it like a crown.
5. Sewing kit
And while we’re on the topic of safety pins, instead of creating your own sewing/repair kit, you can just purchase a travel sewing kit with scissors, needles, thread, pins, measuring tape, safety pins, and more. Use the needle and thread to sew buttons back on or permanently fix that unraveling seam. The needle is handy to lance blisters and remove splinters. You can use the enclosed measuring tape to check the dimensions of any souvenir.
6. First-aid kit (antibiotic ointment, indigestion tablets, and more)
This seems pretty obvious as well, I’m sure. For a great small first-aid kit start, I love the sturdy tin, colorful cloth bandages, and medicine packets of the Welly Human Repair kit.
And with any prescription medications you want to carry – take them along in their prescription containers, or carry paper copies of the actual prescription sheet, in case you lose some or run out. And don’t assume that a medication that is available over-the-counter in the US will be available in other countries. In some countries, antibiotics are over-the-counter, while in others common supplements, like melatonin, require a prescription.
7. Resealable bags
If a bottle of something breaks in your bag when you’re traveling, you’ll wind up with sudsy clothes, brewery/distillery scented clothes, or worse. I pack various sizes of zipper bags to keep all my belongings in their own lanes.
Small bags can keep your favorite travel shampoo from leaking all over your other toiletries (and then throughout your bag). Larger bags can protect dry clothes from your wet swimsuit, dirty clothes, or shoes. I especially love my silicone zipper bags for other items, like electronic wires in my carry-on.
Whistles call people to you when you’ve lost your way on a ramble or hike. In the city, you can whistle to scare off a would-be attacker (or someone who is just aggravating you). Plus, you can take it to your next festival or sports game to join in the soundwave. The Heimdall emergency whistle comes in different colors, doesn’t rattle (no pea), is silicone-coated (a plus in cold weather), and emits a 120 dB sound which will get attention rapidly, no matter when and where you blow it.
I know you have a flashlight app on your mobile, but do you really want to wear the battery down to 0% if you’re uncomfortable and it’s dark? Yes, you can use a pocket or keychain flashlight, but it’s often helpful to have both hands free.
Yes, flashlights worn on your head are pretty adorkable. But they light the way- crucial when you’ve mistimed or misjudged a walk and the sun sets before you’re back in familiar territory. In an unfamiliar city, use it to provide a comforting glow when out and about after dark. And if you drop a piece of jewelry or other small items, a headlamp will help you find it. This LE LED Rechargeable Headlamp is rechargeable, so you won’t need to carry (or find) extra batteries on your trip.
10. Screwdriver or Multitool
A small or multitool comes in handy constantly on my solo travels — and even group trips. You can tighten the screws on your suitcase’s telescopic handle before the handle falls off, for instance. This snowflake-shaped mini screwdriver can fit easily on a keyring or in your carry-on bag and offers multiple types of screwdriver head-types.
Prefer a multitool? Carrying a multitool on an airplane is trickier since many of the individual tools might be considered a weapon. Either pack it in your checked luggage or carry a self-addressed envelope and enough postage with you in case the TSA officer at security deems your specific multitool banned from carry-on luggage. Multitools are useful, though. If you opt for the right multitool, like this Victorinox Swiss Army Knife Explorer you can open a bottle of wine, tweeze out splinters, trim threads, cut fruit, and more.
11. Eyeglass Repair Kit
On one of my last pre-pandemic trips, I had to rockstar it in my shades for a day and night. Why? A screw fell out of my eyeglasses and caused the lens to fall out. I normally love to be mistaken as a rockstar, but not because I’m wearing sunglasses after dark.
Thankfully I found an optician who replaced the screw for me quickly. I had forgotten my repair kit, which now lives in my current bag, daypack, or pocket at all times. Even if you only carry sunglasses or reading glasses, a small eyeglass repair kit can be a life-saver. This eyeglass repair kit, from Weico, includes several sizes of screws, curved tweezers, and a micro screwdriver.
12. Finally, don’t forget to pack this: Paper Copies of Travel Docs, IDs, and Cards
And remember your sense of humor too!
Yes, you have all the reservations, paperwork, travel package, and more stored digitally. But phone batteries die and wifi/mobile signal disappear at inopportune times. And even worse, mobile phones get dunked in the toilet (back pockets in women’s trousers and iPhones don’t play well together, trust me). Sometimes they get smashed on the ground, or even left behind (or stolen).
So carry a printout or paper copy with you. And do the same with your ID and credit/debit cards. I once lost all my cards from a pocket with a new (and large) hole at the bottom. Mercifully I found them by retracing my steps the next day but had copies, which kept me from panicking while I searched.
Be sure to keep your first-day paperwork and ID and card copies in your carry-on bag, in case disaster befalls you during the flight. When I flew between Atlanta and Paris on an Air France flight, we were given champagne at the beginning of the flight, which my seat mate immediately spilled all over me. Luckily my phone didn’t drown, but thankfully I had my paperwork with me.
And that sense of humor? Travel is about adapting and exploring – so be sure you keep your sense of humor because no matter how prepared you are, there are always times you’ll need to laugh!!
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