Going Out of Town? What to Bring, What Not to Bring & Tricks of the Trade

by SharonKurheg

Joe is definitely the points and miles person in our family. Me, I enjoy the benefits of his hobby but really don’t care about which plane is newer, bigger and better, how many cents a point is worth at any given moment, or what hotel gives you feather pillows and a personal concierge. As long as we get from Point A to Point B in a reasonable amount of time, and as long as our room is clean and relatively quiet, I’m good.

However if there’s one thing I’ve gotten really good at for all these trips to all these different places, it’s how and what to pack. For those of you who travel a lot, you probably already know all the ins and outs of this stuff. But for those of you who only go out of town here and there, here are some things to consider:

What To Probably Not Bring With You

  • Hairdryer. I’ve stayed in 2-star hotels and I’ve stayed in fancy schmancy ones. I’ve been to places around the world. Although it may be different for privately own places, hostels, etc., nowadays just about every hotel has a hairdryer in the room (if you want to double check, you can always call or email the hotel before you go). Hairdryers can take up a lot of space and weight in your luggage; unless you’re particularly attached to your hair dryer for reasons, why bring one if you don’t have to?
  • Workout clothes. I’ll be perfectly honest…I’ve brought ‘em with me many times and I have yet to ever use ‘em on vacation. Now granted, Your Mileage May Vary (you see what I did there?), but I bet you won’t use ‘em either, so just don’t bring ‘em ;-).

What To Bring In Your Carry On

  • All of your prescription medication (and if you’re going out of the country, all of your over-the-counter stuff, too, cuz they may not carry your Advil or Imodium where you’re going, or the box may be written in a language you don’t understand). This goes for any medical devices you use, as well. The last thing you want is not to have your meds or CPAP machine because they’re in your checked luggage that mistakenly got sent to the Congo (EWO) while you and your carry-on arrived as scheduled at Newark (EWR). By the way, want to learn how to prepare for airport security when flying with medications?  This is an excellent post about it.
  • A full day’s worth of clothing & supplies. Again, if your luggage gets lost, you want to have everything you’ll need for the next 24 hours. Again, Your Mileage May Vary,  but for me that means PJs, a full set of clothes (including a coat or jacket if I’m going to a different climate), a bathing suit if I’m planning to go in the pool or to the beach the next day, my toiletries, chargers for my phone, iPad (with adapters and converters if I’m going out of the country), etc. And yep, I’m saying this from personal experience.
  • Our reader J.K. recommends bringing a fully charged power bank for your phone. If you and your carry-on are delayed somewhere and you don’t have access to power, you’re going to want to be able to charge your phone if needed. I wholeheartedly agree!

Tricks of The Trade (things to consider bringing that you may not think of)


My travel night light, which allows me to choose green or blue light, has an on/off switch so I don’t have to rely on available light.

  • Night light for the bathroom (I have a small LED one so I don’t have to worry about a glass light bulb breaking).
  • Chip clip to keep the window curtains together so morning light doesn’t peek through (our friends Eric P. says he uses the clips on the pants hanger in the closet. That’ll work too, if you can afford to give up said hanger).
  • Portable scale so you can ensure your suitcase weight doesn’t go over (and if you’re going overseas, make sure you know what the limitations are; in the U.S., it’s 50 pounds but that’s not the case in other countries. Other countries may also limited the weight of your carry-on bag(s).
  • Use an electric toothbrush? Pack it well. Here’s why. True story! 😉
  • A small bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer (or as my friend’s 3-year-old calls it, “hanitizer”). We were recommending this even before COVID: when you get to the room, wipe off the telephone, the remote control for the TV, the pens, the doorknobs, the light switches and anything else that many hands might have touched. Housekeeping rarely cleans those well, and they’re excellent places for germs to hang out.
  • Power strip (some hotels are awesome at giving you enough plugs. Some not so much. Bring a power strip and you should have as many outlets as you need from only 1 plug. Bonus points if you use one that has both plug and USB inputs). It wouldn’t hurt to bring a short extension cord, as well.
  • If you’re traveling internationally, make sure you have everything you need in terms of plug adapters and converters so you don’t fry your electronic equipment (click here to learn more about what you’ll need).
  • Stuff rolled socks into your packed shoes to save space and stop your shoes from getting squished.
  • Tide pen or another portable stain fighter (it’s your first day and you got tomato sauce on your white shirt. It will set in BADLY by the time you get home. Pre-treat it and it might help get the stain out).
  • Small flashlight (you’re in a room that’s unfamiliar to you. If there is a power outage or any sort of emergency where you need to evacuate, a small flashlight on your nightstand can turn into your best friend).
  • Washcloth (if you use one). It could be that housekeeping ran out of them. Or maybe you’re in a place where cultural or social norms suggest they just don’t use them. But if you’re used to using a washcloth and suddenly don’t have access to one, well, better to bring your own because using a face towel as a washcloth is a pretty big substitute (and yep, I’ve done it). I bring a bright pink washcloth so housekeeping knows it’s not theirs and so I don’t forget it when I’m packing to leave. Bring its own quart-sized ziplock bag so it doesn’t get other stuff damp if it hasn’t dried yet when you’re ready to go back on the road. Our friend Mary Lee C. says she buys bulk washcloths at Ikea, uses her own and “trades them in” for a dry one from what’s in her hotel room (which I thought was just genius).
  • Going somewhere where you may bring home a lot of souvenirs? Either intentionally leave room in your suitcase, bring a small, closable, collapsible bag as a piece of secondary luggage on your way home (stuff it with your dirty clothes so there’s more room for the souvenirs in your suitcase, which will be sturdier) or go to the nearest post office and ship stuff home (NOTE: Shipping can become expensive. Look at 4th class mail, UPS Ground, etc.).
  • Laundry. If you’re just going away for a weekend, you probably won’t have to do laundry. But if you’re out of town for a week or more, consider either giving up half a day to do laundry (see if your hotel has a washer/dryer, or look up where/email ahead of time to see where there’s a self-service laundry place nearby – that’s the cheapest way to do it) or have it done for you (it costs more but saves you time to have a laundromat just wash/dry everything for you. Or you can use the hotel’s service…expect to pay an arm and a leg for that one) so you can re-wear stuff during your trip and save room/weight in your suitcase.
  • “I always pack some gallon size and sandwich-sized ziplock bags,” says our reader Carol B. That’s a great idea – besides having a spare quart-sized bag for your liquids, you never know when you’re going to need something to hold lots of things in one place, or if something is wet.
  • Carol B. also suggests to bring, “a kitchen trash size bag to put dirty laundry in,” which I think is very smart!
  • Our reader Sue S. suggests spreading your belongings between your suitcases. “That way if they lose one, you still have some things in the other. My husband and I both put things in both checked luggage.”
  •  “I keep the disposable shower caps from the hotel and put them over my shoes in the suitcase,” says our reader Mary Lee C. “It keeps the dirt and yuck off your clothes when they’re packed.” (if you don’t have shower caps yet you can also use plastic bags from the grocery store).
  • Mary Lee C. also suggests bringing a small umbrella, not only for the event of rain, but also for sun protection (we Floridians already know that, but it’s good information for those of you who live in areas that are not so sunny).
  • From David P.: ” If bringing a laptop, take an Ethernet cable. You never know when a hotel will have a jack, and hard-wired is always better than wireless.
  • It’s 3:30 am. You’re hopefully asleep,” says Andrew H., “The fire alarm goes off. Depending on how you sleep, your fellow guests might not appreciate what you’re wearing (or not LOL) when you dash out of the room. I keep a pair of long athletic shorts and a t-shirt handy. Track pants would work as well, particularly in colder climates.” “For similar reasons, I always pack a pair of flip-flops or Crocs or something similar,” he continues. “If I need shoes in a rush, I can step in. If I hit the pool or a similar public area, I’m not barefoot. If I lose them, meh.”

Your turn. What did I miss? Tell us what works best for you and we’ll add it to the list and give you credit!

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Marie LaPerna February 14, 2017 - 11:04 am

One trick I have used in the past – instead of a small bottle of alcohol based hand wash, packets of individually wrapped sanitizing wipes. Unlikely to pop open in transit and leak all over, with the added benefit of not requiring you to find the tissue dispenser in the bathroom. I wipe the door handles, phone, light switches and commode handle.

sharonheg February 14, 2017 - 11:13 am

That’s good, too! For me, I always have a small bottle of hand sanitizer (or as my friend’s daughter calls it, “hanitizer” – she’s 3) in my pocket anyway (I throw it into my liquids bag when going through TSA, then back into my pocket it goes) so the bottle works for me. But if I didn’t always do that, I think the individual packets would be awesome! Thanks Marie!

Carol Marie February 14, 2017 - 1:38 pm

Great tips! Power strip is a great idea. I agree about the workout clothes, but now I pack light sweatpants and soft T-shirts as pajamas – these can double as workout clothes or just quick duds to throw on to go down to the lobby for a cup of coffee before dressing for the day (plus you are sort of dressed if you do have to evacuate). I wear sneakers on the plane – Yes, they take the extra 30 seconds to do up the laces if I must take them off, but comfy for travel and worth saving room in my suitcase since they are bulky. Toiletries still vex me, despite lots of travel. Any tips for those is greatly appreciated!

sharonheg February 14, 2017 - 1:46 pm

I’m so lazy that most of my shoes are slip-ons anyway…even my lace-up sneakers, LOL! So I just make sure I’m wear comfortable shoes.

As for toiletries – I cheat and have a folding carryall that is affectionately known as “The Wall of Toiletries.” I keep 95% of what I would usually bring on a trip in there all the time. That includes deodorant, shampoo, nail clipper, Q-Tips, etc. that I only use for travel. That works if I’m traveling with checked luggage. If it’s only carry-on, I use sample/travel-sized liquids in my quart-sized bag.

I’ll take a pic of TWOT (as it’s called) and post it on FB in a few minutes (can’t add photos in comments). I’ll tag you, OK?

Brandi February 15, 2017 - 11:06 am

What about those people that need a fan to go to sleep at night?

joeheg February 15, 2017 - 11:28 am

Sharon here (even though it says Joe) – I am most definitely not the person to ask – I am SOOO anti-fan! I hate the feeling of the air moving on my skin when I’m trying to get to sleep, LOLOL! But for those who prefer one, they do make small, portable mini fans that fit in a suitcase or carry-on. Some even work via USB. I just did a search for PORTABLE SMALL FAN and saw a bunch of options. 🙂

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Cathy E Mathews March 11, 2018 - 6:31 pm

While a power strip is helpful, cruise ship travelers need to be aware that power strips or multi-outlet hubs with surge protectors are not allowed, and will be confiscated if found in your luggage. The electrical system on a ship is very different than the one in your home, and using a surge protector can actually result in a fire.

SharonKurheg March 11, 2018 - 6:33 pm

Didn’t know that. Thanks Cathy!

derek July 6, 2021 - 9:35 pm

Save large toothpaste box for the electric toothbrush

SharonKurheg July 6, 2021 - 10:16 pm

Oooooo, that’s smart!

Brett July 7, 2021 - 2:25 pm

Use a electric toothbrush at home bring a manual disposable one for vacays…Smarter

SharonKurheg July 7, 2021 - 2:28 pm

Yeah but my teeth don’t feel as clean with a manual toothbrush 😉

Maria July 7, 2021 - 2:45 pm

Wrap your rolled up socks in dryer sheets then put them in your shoes.

Huy August 13, 2023 - 2:12 pm

We are big fans of scalloping bags for laundry instead of plastic trash bags. They are super lightweight compress down very well and are reusable. They are easy to hang from the closet using the hotels’ hangers.

Dena August 13, 2023 - 2:43 pm

I’ve always brought my own washcloth. Problem was because I used it the morning we’re leaving, I’ve left a couple there. And they were my favorite red ones. Now I buy them from Dollar Store and leave them purposely. Far as electric toothbrush I leave it home and bring a new manual one. Far as shoe bags I grab a few extra nice sized strength plastic bags from my local grocer that is for Corn on the Cob. Yep. Strong and Good size.

Karen August 13, 2023 - 6:39 pm

I bring a small roll of duct tape, couple zip ties, a little parachute cord, and a couple small bungee cords. Have used all of them on international travels for some unexpected reason or another. Very light and gives you a lot of extra tricks up your sleeve.


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