The best travel items for under $20.*

I am not the most well-traveled individual in the world, however I have taken enough trips to have figured out a few things. In the past 10 months I have flown around the world completely, across the Atlantic two more times, and over enough states to keep me satisfied for awhile. But even with all the travel around North, Central, and South America, Europe, Asia, and a smiggin of Africa, I still discover ever trip that I forgot to pack something.

Here are some of the things I have forgotten over the years, but now try to make sure I have them on every trip.

– Earplugs. You don’t want to forget these. I normally wear mine on the plane, in the hotel room, wherever I am trying to sleep. But on a recent trip to Chicago I found I needed them just to ride the metro.

– Buff. I actually cannot even count all the legitimate uses for this “tubular bandana.” I use mine for cold days, makeshift face mask, eye covering while trying to nap, running, and everything else.

– Camping spoon/fork. The number one way to save money on a trip is bring your own silverware. It can save you hundreds of dollars. Try it.

– Chopsticks. I actually didn’t start traveling with chopsticks until my epiphany moment in an airport lounge before a flight to China. People were eating noodles for breakfast. I had eaten way too many packages of ramen while doing my studies, but I had never had them for breakfast. A whole new world has opened up to me, one untainted by graduate studies. Pack your own chopsticks and the world is your bowl of noodles.

– Yeti thermos. This is probably over $20, but find one on sale. I thought it was all hype until my brother gave me a Yeti thermos he had laying around. I am sure there are other excellent thermoses, but I have not found any. Mine doesn’t sweat, holds its heat for too long, and has a magnet slider on top that works fantastically. This is perfect for every beverage or package of noodles.

– Packable backpack. Growing up we had two little backpacks that could be zipped up into a small package. I think my dad carried one of them on nearly every hike we took in the Rockies. I have one that goes with me nearly everywhere now. I use it to keep my electronics in as I go through security. Then I keep everything I need for the flight in that bag so I don’t need to be getting up and down into my luggage above. When at my destination, I carry this around instead of my 40L travel backpack.

– Extra USB chord. They go missing at the absolutely worst time.

– Hand sanitizer. Thank you, COVID19.

– Extra Mask. Thank you again.

– Earbuds. I have my noise canceling headphones for nearly every flight, however earbuds that plug in to your phone are essential. They weigh nearly nothing, need no charging, and the microphone on them can be used as your shutter release for your camera app.

– Notebook and pen. I think drawing things out is worth the extra effort. I prefer to take notes in my notebook while I am watching a video course or reading a book.

– Mesh laundry bag. There is a peace of mind which comes from knowing that no dirty socks are going back into the clean compartment of my backpack.

– Aspirin. A few tablets appropriately consumed during a series of flights makes sense. Blood clots are real and they change lives.

– Universal sink plug and elastic clothesline. I picked ours up at REI and have used them around the world. I like to pack my clothing by the mantra, “One on, One ready, and One hanging up to dry.” If I have those two items I can pack a whole lot less.

What would you add?

*I didn’t realize all these items were under $20 until after I had written the entire post. I was originally going to label it, “Things not to leave behind”.