17 Cheap, Easy to Find, Must-take Travel Items (You Probably Already Have at Home)

Source: Vhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/hitchhaiku/
Source: Vhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/hitchhaiku/

Before going away on a long-haul trip, it’s easy to get bogged down browsing extensive packing lists, and torturing yourself with visions of your impending shipwreck in the middle of some God forsaken hellhole, without even a toothbrush to entertain yourself.

But fear not. Packing doesn’t have to give you a coronary.

Some items are necessary in an obvious way – think passports, money, backpack – while others will be there to make your life easier. Things with multiple uses will be worth their weight in gold (even better if they’re inexpensive and durable!). Similarly, good light-weight equipment you enjoy using (that doesn’t scream “Here comes a cashed up ad for the North Face”) should come along for the ride.

Not sure where to start?

Check out these 17 Cheap, Easy to Find, Must-take Travel Items (You Probably Already Have at Home)

1.    Shampoo bars
Full shampoo bottles take up too much space and are always either too heavy or too empty to work that space well. To keep squeaky clean on the road, buy natural shampoo bars (Lush has some great ones). Good for up to 80 showers, they work for your bod, hair and clothes – and being chemical free, you can even take them camping for a good old river wash. Win-win-win.


2.    Hand sanitizer
Do you really want to not wash your hands after touching that bus toilet seat?  ‘Nuff said.


3.    Leggings
A go-to item. Use them as PJs, comfy clothes for hanging around your hostel, put them under dresses or long sweaters, use them for extra warmth under your trousers in winter or as an exercise or hiking option.
4.    Multi-purpose dress
Choose something that’s designed to be worn crushed, letting you shove it into your pack and take it from the beach to a bar in no time.
5.    Thongs
Umm, these are flip flops to you non-Australians.  Easy footwear for the beach, campsites, to hang out in or for short walks. Choose a waterproof pair – as they’re a particular God-send to keep your tootsies untarnished when faced with a questionably dirty shower.
6.    Sarong
Apart from at the beach, sarongs come in handy as a makeshift shower curtain, toilet door, beach towel, sheet, picnic rug or temple-visiting covering-device.
7.    Sheet bag
For a spot of warmth, or to provide a barrier between you and a less than ideal hostel sheet or rented sleeping bag, silk sheet bags are ace. Camping stores sell especially quick-drying, light-weight ones that scrunch down into almost nothing – but for a cheaper (or free!) option, roll up an old single-size cotton doona cover and use a pillowcase as its stuff sack.
8.    Cotton shorts
These are the summer time leggings alternative: use them as PJs, to lie around/exercise in, throw them over your bikini or wear them as hiking gear…
9.    Pashmina shawl
Wrap up on a cool plane or long-haul bus ride, use it as a scarf, to get a casual dress party-ready or to block out the glaring sun on a long car ride.
10.    A book
If you’re not taking a Kindle or similar, hostel or café book exchanges are amazingor when you’re hankering after something to read. But as their name suggests, you have to exchange a book to get a book. So don’t be left without a little something to leave.
11.    A headscarf
Use it to hide unwashed hair, wipe your brow on a long hike, wet it for a quick refresher on a hot day, to clean your sunnies with it or wrap it around your wrist as a quick accessory…


12.    Safety pins
You might only need ‘em once, but it will be the time to end all times (think: your bikini strap rips off, fly breaks loose, backpack strap fails or you just have to roll up those insanely long pant legs before you stack it horribly…).
13.    Head torch
Because it sucks rummaging through your pack with one hand, mobile phone held aloft.
14.    Fast-drying travel towel
An oldie but a goodie, regular towels take up a world of valuable backpack space and dry more slowly than paint does.
15.    Ziplock bags
The major secret to packing quickly and not strewing lost belongings across the country?  Keep all your bits and pieces away from each other. Enter ziplock bags: keep together small items like to coins, medicines, cables etc.
16.    Duct tape
Truly the tape of one thousand uses, you’ll find it serves you well when you backpack rips, shoes fail or well-jotted it notebook finally gives up the ghost.
17.    Foldable shopping bag
Don’t go collecting plastic bags as you travel. Stash away a cute calico bag for your grocery shop, trips to the market, beach days or to use to collect dirty clothes on wash day.


Over to you…
What other items are inexpensive, easy must-takes for travellers?

5 thoughts on “17 Cheap, Easy to Find, Must-take Travel Items (You Probably Already Have at Home)

  1. Shampoo bars are the best! I love the Lush two-in-one bar as it’s all-natural, ethical and means no more lugging around huge shampoo and conditioner bottles.

    I would add a small, sharp pocket knife to this list. My family gifted me one just before I headed o/s last year and it’s worth it’s weigh in gold, especially when preparing dinner in hostels where the knives are so blunt they couldn’t cut butter…

    1. Yep! Lush bars are the best – I’ll never look back. And you’re right about pocket knives. I never did have one, and so made do with a lot of those hostel knives. But for sure, the time you waste uselessly sawing away really makes you jealous of all the pocket knife owners…

  2. Nail file — I don’t even like to leave for the grocery store without one. Also, ear plugs for less-than-quiet hostel/pension (or snoring sister) scenarios.

    Flip flops are soo important for some shower stalls! And Ziplock bags…. How often have I had breakfast because I had a baggie to put last night’s sandwich in?

    Very informative post!

    1. You’re so right about those bonus sandwiches acting as tomorrow’s snack. Excellent!

      And good point there with the nail file tip. It’s one of those things that doesn’t take up much room, but can really work its magic later on…

      And yes, LONG LIVE shower flip flops!

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