The Small Necessities for Traveling Abroad

You don’t need a backpack to carry all the really critical items on a trip overseas. Check our list, use small containers, and be assured of having it all.

Barbbytes PoppinsOne of my friends has a purse that seems to be a clone for Mary Poppins carpet bag. Whatever you need, it is in there. She is an experienced traveler and everyone’s favorite person when a moment of desperate need occurs. Pack carefully and you can join the ranks of the “person who has everything.”

There is a secret to filling your purse or bag with all the essential travelers tools. Keep the amounts of each item small and have a larger stash available in order to refill your supply. It is what any journeyman carpenter, electrician, or other expert would do. For instance, with headache or pain relievers, put six in your purse, and the rest of the package safely stored in a suitcase.

My sister, a seasoned traveler of France and Italy, swears by very small plastic zip-lock bags. These are half the size of a snack bag and oh, so handy for all the small items you may wish to carry. If these tiny bags are not available, opt for the snack size. You can fold Barbbytes smallziplocksseveral snack size bags and seal them in a sandwich size bag, so that you do not have a lot of little bags floating around in your purse, fanny pack, or back pack. Each of the larger bags should hold similar items so that they are easy to find when the need arises.


  1. Headache tablets or pain relievers – Depending on your medical needs, these may be Tylenol, Advil, or aspirin.
  2. Medications – Have a day or two’s worth of your medications with you at all times.
  3. Diarrhea medication – Imodium, Pepto-Bismol, or something similar. In countries where travelers are more likely to come down with the Tangier Trots or Montezuma’s Revenge, a stronger medication may be called for. Check with your doctor.
  4. A small vial or tube of antibiotic cream for bites or scratches.
  5. Small packets of insect wipes, both the kind that will soothe bites and the kind that discourages insects from biting.


  1. Small packet of tissue – For use in all the usual situations.
  2. Several packets of hand-wipes – You never know if there will be soap available.
  3. Several bandages – Great for blisters and other minor injuries.
  4. Several little alcohol swabs in packets – You wouldn’t believe how handy these are.

Make-up and Personal Care

Barbbytes holding-travel-beauty-products1

  1. Eye-brow and eye-liner pencils – I save all my short pencil ends for travel. They are the right color but do not take up much room.
  2. Smaller sized lipsticks or lip pencils – Again, size is everything.
  3. Tiny hand cream container – My favorite size is about an inch across and 3/4 of an inch deep. I bring several on a trip, but put only one in my purse.
  4. Barrette, scrunchy, or hair pins. Sometimes you want your hair off your neck.
  5. Nail file – Men love having these, too, whatever they say.
  6. Comb or folding brush – The folding brushes can be found in any travel section.
  7. SPF cream in a tiny container – Any travel section will have plastic containers. SPF cream will keep you from returning home looking like a old leather bag.


  1. Travel sewing kit – These are the size of a condom packet and far more useful.
  2. Condoms – No comment.
  3. Cell phone with a local SIM card.
  4. Change for taxis and buses.
  5. Carry most of your cash, your passport, and your credit cards in a hidden travel wallet.

So often travelers bring a lot of clothing and few of these really important, but small, lifesavers. Remember Mary Poppins, when she unpacked her bag, clothing was waaaaay at the bottom. To really enjoy your travels, you need to stay healthy and comfortable. Having the items listed safe in your bag will enable you to breathe easier as you take in all the wonders of a new and exotic land.

Originally published on Suite101, August 30, 2011 with changes made March 29, 2016


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