5 Things NOT To Pack (But You Shouldn't Live Without)

Posted by   Annette on    October 28, 2013

24306336539_67e3ab4797_n.jpgThese are items you almost certainly won't be packing for your trip...not even in your checked bag. However, the quality-of-life boost they deliver is way worth the effort.

Usually, your best bet is to pick them up as early as possible on the timeline of your trip, in the hub city in which you first arrive. Buying early will amortize the (totally worth-it) expense over more days of use. Buying in the hub city will maximize the likelihood that you'll get exactly what you want and not its wonky backwoods counterpart.

Here's the shopping list:

1. A great pillow

Most guesthouses, hostels, flat-shares -- even serviced apartments -- have crappy pillows. OK. Maybe they're not definitively crappy, but pillow preference is an incredibly individual thing. Get yourself a full-sized pillow that you love. Excellent sleep is worth the trouble.

While you're at it, snag two cases that fit your new pillow. Not only are frequent pillowcase changes good for your skin, but you can use the alternate case to store your laundry--or act as a super-effective, super-fun salad spinner. Pro tip: satin pillowcases have knock-on benefits you're gonna love.

2. A humidifier 

If you're heading up into high elevations (as I often do for a few months at a time), be aware: your mucous membranes are gonna pay for it. For most folks, sleeping in dry air means a parade of nosebleeds, persnickety sinuses and often-papery skin. The solution, as you may already know, is a cool mist humidifier. (Read up on the benefits here.)

Note: you'll need to keep it clean. I run mine with several drops of antibacterial tea tree oil in the water (which is as good for my skin and airways as it is for the mechanics of the machine). A once-weekly soak in cheap white vinegar takes care of the rest.

A full-size humidifier is by far the best way to go. That said: travel-sized humidifiers exist, and can work for small spaces. Air-o-Swiss makes a teeny version. These generally pop into water bottles and you'll need them as close as possible to you as you're sleeping, so word to the wise: If you're a restless snoozer, keep a towel by the bed for the times you flail and knock it over.


3. A better-quality knife (or two)

Similarly, most LIP living situations have understandably basic kitchen facilities. If dull, low-quality chopping tools drive you as crazy as they drive me, you'd be well advised to pick up at least one knife you'll love using -- especially if eating in is an important aspect of maintaining a financially sustainable LIP situation in your destination. It's worth a few dollars to kit out a kitchen that doesn't make you cringe.

4. A water filter, depending on where you're going

If the water in your destination is dirty, questionable or highly mineral, there will likely be filtration systems for sale in expatty places in the hub city. These may or may not be more expensive than those you pick up at home and carry along in your luggage.

Weigh the difference between the baggage charges for hauling in a high-quality water filtration system you trust and in-country pricing for a similar version. (Either will be less costly and less trouble than a run of sick days -- or, worse yet, a trip to the emergency room.)

If you don't need physical filtration but need to prevent against pathogens, you may not need the big guns. Personally, I prefer physical filtration to clear mineral heaviness (and for extra security); if you don't, consider a SteriPEN instead. If you go that route, be absolutely certain that you travel with rechargeable batteries and a charger that works with the power you'll be using -- SteriPENs are power-hungry, and you don't want to be caught out.

5. High-quality toiletries.

Get full-size versions of the stuff that makes you feel put-together, whether that be salon hair products, poshity organic sunscreen, big-city makeup or natural-foods-store skincare that doesn't exist in the back of beyond. If it makes you feel like a million bucks, it's worth a little effort. It'll make your home on the road that much lovelier to live in.


photo credit: CJS*64 Shut the door behind you !! via photopin (license)