Whether you are a true minimalist traveler or not, space in your bag is at a premium. I’ve honed my skills over scores of trips and can now easily pack for six-months in a carry-on suitcase. Part of how I accomplish this is by using travel-sized items. I’m not just talking travel-size toiletries here, though there are a couple of them on this list. Savvy travelers cultivate mini, collapsible, and multi-purpose gear. But not all travel-sized gear is actually super useful or space-saving. Here are some of my favorite travel-sized items that are actually worth packing.
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I never really thought about how large a typical hairbrush is until I tried to fit one into a toiletry bag. Whether round or oblong, a folding hairbrush saves a lot of space and still works well. The detangling bristles collapse in and the whole thing folds in half. Make it more functional by getting one with a mirror to check your look on the go. Actually, I find the mirror most useful in conjunction with a full-size mirror in my hotel room to look at the back of my hairdo. Then I fold a couple of elastics and/or bobby pins inside and stick it in my day-bag for hair emergencies while I’m out and about.
Travel time is valuable, so you can’t let rain slow you down. A travel-size umbrella is much smaller and easier to carry than a typical umbrella or a raincoat, especially on days too hot to wear the coat. You can even stick one in a pocket! I have a small carabiner on mine to clip it to my belt or bag strap. This feature is fantastic when the umbrella is wet and you don’t want to put it back inside your dry bag.
As Douglas Adams tells it, a towel is the most important thing a hitchhiker (or any traveler) can carry. A savvy minimalist traveler carries a microfiber towel. This material dries you (and then itself) super quickly. Plus, it’s very thin, so even a larger microfiber towel packs up to a fraction of the size of a normal towel. Even though many accommodations offer towels, not all do and sometimes you have to pay extra to “rent” one. Plus, a microfiber towel can be multi-functional. Use one as a scarf or blanket on cold planes, to lie on the beach, as a sunshade, a sarong-style skirt or dress, or a bindle bag – anything you can think of! I’ve even stuffed mine into the hood pocket of my jacket as a make-shift neck pillow.
I am a hobby sewer, but even were I not, I would carry a sewing kit when I’m away. A travel-size one is super small and can come in really handy. I’ve used mine so many times. Things happen while traveling and it’s not always convenient (or desirable) to replace damaged items. I’ve sewn up hems and tears, replaced buttons, and, maybe most commonly, reinforced a zipper that was starting to rip out of a bag. You can do a quick fix on the go with a very minimal sewing kit. Definitely include a small amount of several colors of thread (black & white being most important) and a needle or two. An extra button is nice and a couple of safety pins are essential! Or you can opt for a more robust but still small kit with mini scissors and a measuring tape.
I’ve sung the praises of my spork multitool before. Since I often bring my own snacks or grab street food, I love that I always have an eating utensil handy. Plus, it also includes bottle and can openers, a screwdriver, and a multi-hex wrench. The wallet version doesn’t have the spork aspect but it has more tools. With multiple screwdriver & wrench options, plus features like a box cutter, ruler, nail file, fruit & veg peeler, and a phone stand, it’s like a travel-size toolbox! Small as a credit card, it can slip right into your wallet, hardly taking up any space. Or try the version with a money clip and use it as your wallet! Just be sure the option you choose is TSA approved if you plan to fly with it.
This is such a useful item! Whether for grocery or souvenir shopping, as a day bag, or if you overflow your suitcase, having another strong, good sized, and easily scrunched bag is a travel must. Totally travel-size when not in use, it opens up to a nice capacity when you need it. Choose the style that works best for you, from an open shoulder bag to a backpack, or even a duffle.
This tech is tiny, lightweight, and multi-functional. It turns any wired internet connection into a private wireless network. Or convert a public wifi network into a secure one, just for you and yours. This way you get better security and don’t have to share the same blogged-down wifi as everyone else in the hotel. Or use it as a wifi extender if coverage is poor in your room. It can also be used to wirelessly share files between devices, so is great for transferring and backing up travel photos. Or you can share your streaming service with your travel partner(s) on multiple devices. Plus, you can attach a USB drive or SD card to transfer files to or from.
I’ve done an entire post on collapsible water bottles. It’s also one of the 5 Things I Never Travel Without. Check out those posts for more info but basically – they are super useful and compact. Maybe the smallest when collapsed is the Hydaway. Super thin and travel-sized when fully collapsed, you can raise it to different heights depending on how much liquid to want it to hold. Easy to slip in your pocket or any bag then fill to stay hydrated while exploring your destination!
I also wrote an entire post on carry-on friendly toiletries (aka, not liquids). Toiletry sheets are the most lightweight and space-saving item on that list. They’re much more compact than most travel-sized liquid toiletries. You can get shampoo, conditioner, soap, body wash, shaving cream, and laundry detergent. Just add water and rub for foaming cleansing goodness. Or make your own with your favorite liquid products and water-soluble paper.
A power adapter is essential for traveling abroad with anything that requires charging. Instead of getting a different one for each region, get a universal one. This style has retractable tines for multiple plug options that aren’t visible when they aren’t needed. Plus, you can plug in a cord in any of those styles as well. And did I mention the 4 USB ports and 1 USB-C port? You can charge all your stuff only using one wall outlet, which can be super helpful when there’s just a single outlet in the room for multiple people.
- 5 Things I Never Travel Without
- 50+ Unique Gifts for Travelers
- Packing for 6-Months in a Carry-On Suitcase
- 5 Most Versatile Clothes for Travel
- Best Multi-Functional & Inexpensive Travel Bags
- 5 Goofy But Useful Travel Accessories
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