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13 Travel Essentials That Could Save Your Vacation

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Getting ready for a big vacation this summer? Before you go, read through this cheat sheet to create a list of travel essentials you absolutely don’t want to leave home without.

1. A Travel Credit Card

Even if you’re not habitually a credit card spender, it can be a good idea to take one with you on your travels. They’re a great backup in an emergency situation — although it’s probably more ideal to have an emergency fund to tap into instead so that you avoid going into debt. As long as you have some form of money with you, you don’t have to worry about losing everything else in your bags. Plus, using a travel rewards card to book your flight can net you better rewards for next year’s vacation and often some form of travel insurance or protection. (You can check out a roundup of the best credit cards for travel here.)

2. Essential Personal Documents (& Copies!)

Before you leave, be sure you have your passport (if you’re traveling internationally), driver’s license, itinerary, printed hotel reservations, airline reservations, contact numbers, and copies of any prescriptions for medications you might need. It’s best to carry original documents on your person. (If you’re worried about someone getting ahold of those papers, you can read these tips for preventing identity theft here.)

3. A Small Outlet Strip

Trying to charge your cell phone or iPad at an airport can be a challenge, especially if you need to charge more than one. Pack a small travel power strip, and you’ll be able to use a single airport outlet to charge multiple devices.

4. Basic Toiletries

Travel “essentials” in this area vary from person to person. But try to pack a travel-sized version of everything you use on a regular basis, from shampoo to lotion to makeup, in a well-organized bag in your checked baggage. It’s also a good idea to pack tiny versions of absolute essentials like contact solution, toothpaste and deodorant in your carry-on, just in case your checked bag is delayed for any reason.

5. Medications

If you’re on any medications daily or intermittently, be sure to take them with you. Just be sure they’re packed in their original prescription bottles in your carry-on. And be sure you’ve got more than you’ll need, especially for medications you absolutely need on a daily basis. If you’ll be within a day or two of running out of your supply by the end of your trip, contact your doctor or pharmacist to see if you can obtain an early or partial refill so that you have more than you need in case of delays.

6. Entertainment for the Flight

Don’t bust your budget by spending $25 on a paperback novel at the airport’s news stand. Instead, pack your own in-flight entertainment. Flights are a great time to catch up on books and magazines you’ve been meaning to read. Or you can pre-download your favorite movie onto your tablet.

7. Headphones

Even if you don’t think you’ll watch a movie on your flight, pack a pair of headphones anyway. They come in handy if you have a snoring seatmate, or if you just need some white noise to take a nap yourself on an international flight.

8. Extra Glasses or Contact Lenses

If you must have glasses or contacts to see properly, don’t just bring a single pair. That’s a recipe for disaster.! You risk missing the sights on vacation if your glasses break or you lose a contact.

9. Batteries & Chargers

These days, you’ll mostly travel with chargers for your electronics. But don’t forget extra batteries if you have a camera that takes regular AA or AAA batteries. If you’re traveling internationally, invest in a charger that will work in your destination country, or purchase one when you get to that country.

10. A First-Aid Kit

Hotels are great for providing a lot of things, but they don’t always offer bandages and other first-aid items. Pack a small first-aid kit in your bag, and you’ll be prepared for the occasional bump or bruise. In your checked bag, you can even carry some non-prescription medications like painkillers or Benadryl. It’s cheaper to bring your own than to buy them in a tiny two-pack from the hotel gift shop.

11. An Address Book

You should either bring a physical address book or set one up on your phone’s cloud storage before you leave. Sending old-fashioned postcards home is fun while you’re on vacation. But you won’t be able to do it if you don’t have your friends’ and family members’ addresses.

12. An Old-Fashioned Map

At home, you likely rely on your phone’s GPS to get you around to new areas of town. But you never know what reception will be like in an unfamiliar area. Play it safe, and pick up a local map of the area where you’re traveling. If you’re planning to use public transportation, be sure those options are covered, too.

13. Carry-On Clothes

Finally, even if you’re leaving on a multi-week European vacation with two huge checked bags, always pack an extra set of clothes in your carry-on. You just never know when you’ll be delayed at the airport, or if your luggage won’t arrive until the day after you get to your destination. It’s much better to be safe than sorry by having an extra set of clean clothes with you all the time.

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