10 Cheap Items that Should be in Every Travel Bag

Got your boarding pass? Your neck pillow? Your carry-on? Sounds like you’re good to go, except – what about duct tape? It might come in handy. See my list of ordinary items you might want to include on your next packing list.

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1. Small roll of duct tape.

Why you might need it: Temporarily repair a flip flop; mend broken luggage; securely wrap newsprint-covered souvenirs, and much more.

2. Plastic zip bags.

Why you might need these: Operate possibly germ-laden hotel TV remotes through the plastic; store wet bathing suits; keep coins/currency on multi-national trips separated; protect business travel receipts; store dirty laundry; keep wipes and quick clean-up cloths damp; keep earrings and other jewelry together; and so much more.

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3. Portable luggage scale.

Why you might need this: A hand-held scale can cost around $10 and save you $100 or more in overweight charges (and overweight charges are on top of the regular bag fee). Be sure to use it before your return trip home in case those souvenirs have packed on some pounds.

4. Noise-canceling headphones.

Why you might need these: Prices range from $29 to $350 but even on the high end it may be worth it to drown out the sound of screaming babies on planes.

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5. Empty toiletry bottles.

Why you might need these: They’re cheaper than trial-size shampoos plus you get to use the good brands from home, unlike the no-name hotel freebies.

6. iPod.

Why you might need this: Cheap entertainment, and no Wi-Fi required. And I know you already have one of these (if not, borrow one).

7. TSA-approved bag lock.

Why you might need this: Just an extra layer of security. While it’s true that the TSA has a universal key for these (and there have been reports of theft), it may deter a thief at a carousel or elsewhere. Best advice: do not pack anything you don’t want to lose.

8. Loaded phone.

Why you might need this: In case of delays, a phone loaded with free airline apps makes sense, since whoever contacts the carrier first is more likely to get on the next flight out.

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9. Laptop security gizmos.

Why you might need this: Again, another extra layer of security, but check these out carefully – there are physical locks and software security programs that emit ear-splitting alarms which may be more than you need.

10. Wrist or ankle belts for valuables.

Why you might need this: Everyone needs a place to put cash, cards and keys at the beach; works anywhere a bag is an encumbrance.

More from Rick Seaney:

10 Cheap Gizmos and Ordinary Items Every Traveler Needs

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Published: May 23, 2012