We LOVE to travel – car trips, cross-country and international air travel, and we travel a lot. Since we are well-known for our travel disasters (which do happen to give us the best stories – who wants to hear about someone else’s perfect vacation), here is 7 travel essentials that we have learned not to leave without and some stories of how the lessons were learned.

1. Deck of Cards

When we lived on the West Coast, we went to Cabo San Lucas for a vacation many years ago. It was before kids, and we scraped the money together to get this vacation of a lifetime. It was the most exotic location for a vacation I had ever taken at the time. We get there, and it is absolutely beautiful – there is a pool on a cliff overlooking the ocean, and we just were so happy to be there. When it rained that night, we weren’t concerned and thought it would be fine in the morning.

Little did we know that a hurricane had moved in that night. This was back in the early 1990s so the early warning information wasn’t as available, and it wasn’t a huge hurricane, but it was enough to knock out power and water to the hotel and wash out the main road to the town Los Cabos (where the airport was). So we were stuck spending our vacation in the main room of the hotel. The hotel staff was amazing – the fed us what they could (lots of rice, papaya and mango), and were trying to make things easier for us, but we were definitely bored. We would have paid $50 for a deck of cards since there is a lot you can do with cards.

After that vacation, we pledged to bring a deck of cards to any vacation we take. It takes up very little room, but can be so useful if you need it.

2. Charger Cord Keeper

Hynes Eagle Travel Universal Cable Organizer Electronics Accessories Cases for Various USB Phone Charger and Cable Grey

While this seems obvious and not quite a disaster story, we have forgotten many chargers over the years, and since our list of chargers keeps growing (used to be just computer and phone – now we have eReaders, watches, Wi-Fi hot spots, car adapters, cameras, tablets, computers, Bluetooth headphones and more), we had to develop a system to cut down on the chances of left behind chargers.

We purchased a charger keeper pouch from Amazon and put in an extra (or bought if we didn’t have an extra) charger in there and (most importantly) permanently leave them in there. It makes packing so easy, and we can be assured we have everything we need, and they are not all tangled like they would be if you just threw them in bag.

3. Fan

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

OPOLAR Clip Fan with 5200mAh Battery and Timer

Lodging accommodations (especially in other countries) whether is a short term rental, hotel, cruise cabin, or other type of lodging can be a shock to the available level of cooling in the room. In our Europe hotels, the rooms would be close the same temperature as the outside, and this was in the summer where it was definitely uncomfortable. It can also make sleeping difficult if it is hot and the air is stagnant.

We now bring a couple of small fans to each of our trips. It doesn’t take a lot of room, but can make sleeping so much more comfortable, and it provides some white noise to block out some unwanted outside sounds.

The big lesson we learned here was buy a decent quality fan. We had a little cheap plastic one that I bought in a drugstore since I didn’t bring one to Rome (thought I would just buy one there and save on the suitcase space). We were in Rome and plugged it in and started smelling smoke. As we were walking around the room trying to figure out where the smell was coming from (or determine if I had turned on the heat instead of the A/C), we started seeing smoke flowing out of the fan. As we moved toward it, we actually saw flames shooting out as the fan was blowing them forward. Doing some quick thinking, we unplugged the fan and ran over to the open window with it before it set the alarm or sprinklers for the whole hotel.

Our flame throwing fan that we almost burned down our Rome hotel

Now I only travel with a rechargeable fan that was a much better quality.

4. Hand Wipes

Traveling especially by air travel is a germy activity. There are a lot of people carrying a lot of who knows what and touching things that then we touch. The airplane seat rests, seat beat, tray tables and entertainment system are examples of things that we can pick up illness from. We have learned that hand wipes are one of the best travel accessory to keeping you healthy, and we have learned the hard way by picking up some pretty bad illnesses, which either can ruin your vacation or make it hard when you get back. I have had to seek medical attention to get antibiotics on a trip due to a horrible cold I picked up (I believe from the plane with the estimated incubation period) that then turned into a sinus infection. It was not a fun trip or plane ride home with my ears and sinuses already clogged.

Hand wipes are better than hand sanitizer since you don’t need to pull them out of your bag during security, they can be used to wipe surfaces down before you touch things, wipe kids (or adult) faces, clean up spills, and a lot more uses. I carry them in my carry one and another pack goes in my suitcase. They are flat and take up almost no space. It is definitely in the category of better safe than sorry

5. Empty Water Bottle

s an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Thermoflask 50054 Double Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle with Chug Straw Lid, 24 oz Cobalt

We always carry large 24-32 oz (1.21 kg) water bottles for each of us when we travel by car, air or ship. When you are flying, they are nice to take empty through security and fill up with water from a fountain after you are through the security lines. They are also nice to fill up wherever you are since it keeps you from buying disposable bottles, which is more environmentally friendly and costs less money. Since they are usually holding just water, they are usually easy to clean (just rinse them out). On cruise ships, they worked great to just fill with the water dispenser before we left the ship on an excursion or to take to your lounge chair near the pool.

If you are in an area that you shouldn’t be drinking the local tap water, you can buy large bottles of water fill up water bottles from that. We learned this one not really from one of our disasters although we did go to an area that did not have bottles of water for sale, so we were pretty thirsty by the time we got to a place to get a drink. Having a larger bottle filled would have allowed us to be a little happier in that location.

6. Granola / Protein Bars

We always travel with a few granola / protein bars since you never know when you will be stuck without food available. You could be stuck on the plane with a delay, sightseeing in a location that doesn’t have stores or cafes around, traveling to a distance location on a bus, or any other time that food is hard to obtain at the time. We usually travel with about 1 bar per person per day we will be gone. Some of these go in our carry-on and some in the check in bag. These are great not just for emergencies, but can be used for breakfast to reduce your travel costs as you trip goes on, and you have the extra ones you haven’t needed yet. We also always carry one in our day pack for each person for those non-food locations issues.

7. Extra Necessary Items (Glasses, Hat, etc)

This one was added due to a craziness happening on a vacation. I actually lost both a hat and my glasses on a boat ride (not the same one). On one, we were going really fast, and I turned to talk to my husband, and the wind just picked up my glasses, and they flew off my head. I could almost see it in slow motion as the glasses were flying away and into the water. Luckily, I travel with a backup pair or else the rest of the vacation would have been really really blurry.

The same exact thing happened with my hat, I was holding it during the fast parts, and we stopped to look at something, and all of a sudden we started up again and jumped to speed, my hat stayed in where we had stopped and I went forward. I did not have a backup hat and had to buy one that I didn’t really like or want to use again. I travel with an extra hat now since they pretty much fold flat, and it is an easy thing to lose.