I have done quite a bit of traveling with and without kids in the recent years. The reaction I get most often when my friends and family are scrolling through my travel photos is, "How can you travel with so little?" Well, after numerous trips across the globe, I kind of figured a few things out. My packing philosophy is "pack items that are multifunctional". Here is a list of items I never travel without.
Safety pins are great as makeshift locks. I use it to pin the zippers of my bag together. Although not a sturdy lock but at least it would make it a tiny bit harder for pickpockets. I also use it to pin my money pouch onto my bag to prevent it from pickpockets or slipping out. Safety pins can be used as a broach. Not the prettiest broach in the world but it serves a great purpose in holding my scarf in place. Using safety pins is a smart way to dry loose items and save money on laundry. I always wash delicates by hand when I travel. But not all hotels and apartments are equipped with a clothes line. I use safety pins to pin socks, undies, bras onto the window curtain to hang dry. But if you do this, make sure to remove these items before having guests over to prevent an embarrassing situation.
I love bringing a light cotton scarf when I travel. It's great as a blanket on airplanes, trains, buses, cars, air conditioned rooms...etc. It's lighter than a jacket so I can keep it in my day pack. There were times when I used it as a bath towel. It's multifunctional in that I can use it as beach wear. In warm climates, I have used it as a wrap skirt, a halter dress and a beach cover up. On sunny days, I drape it around my shoulders to prevent sunburn while sightseeing.
I remember the days when I used to fill up half my suitcase with maps, travel guides, and novels. Thanks to the invention of smart phones, I can now cut down the weight of my travel pack. I just download what I need as I go. There are several essential travel apps I love to use. I use Skype to stay in touch with family and friends, ebook and music apps that help fill the mundane train and bus rides. The best part is the offline maps! It's a life saver for a person like me, who has no sense of direction. Another convenience of traveling with a smart phone is the development of car rental apps. Relayrides offers airport rentals across America and the app can easily be obtained through its website.
Zip lock bags
Zip lock bags are useful on a trip anywhere in the world; not to mention very budget friendly. I use it as a doggie bag for unfinished snacks/food, car/air sick bag, bag for storing delicates, waterproof bag, and packing cubes. It's also perfect for storing and organizing loose items. I had stored my cell phone in a ziplock bag on a rafting trip in Cesky Krumlov and it was the smartest thing I had done! My phone fell into puddles of water multiple times and it was banged around in my bag but the zip lock bag was sturdy enough so that not a single drop of water got on the phone.
With these few items in my travel pack, I haven't found the need to bring a whole lot on my travels. To ensure a safe and comfortable trip, I always check to make sure I have these items with me before departing.