12 Multi-Function Items You Should Never Travel Without

Multifuction Items for Travel

Whether you’re planning a four hour road trip or catching a flight to the other side of the world, you have limited space in your suitcase.  So pack these practical, space-saving, multi-function items and you’ll always be prepared without the hassle of lugging around additional gear.

1.  Smart Phone with GPS – A smart phone is an information and communication portal that will likely save your rear end someday.  My smart phone has certainly saved mine a time or two.  Here are some of the basic functions of most modern smart phones:

  • Phone
  • Maps and GPS
  • Internet access (Google, email, etc.)
  • Camera
  • Can be used in the dark as a flashlight
  • Clock (with an alarm)
  • Calculator
  • Note taking (voice recorder)
  • Music and movie player (for entertainment)

2.  Hand Sanitizing Wipes – In my mind, hand sanitizing wipes are essential tools that prevent me from infecting my body with germs on a daily basis.  They have several practical functions:

  • Clean hands and other body parts
  • Disinfect small cuts and scrapes
  • Clean various surfaces (public toilet seats, gas pumps, windshield, etc.)
  • Remove small stains from clothing, upholstered furniture, etc.
  • Remove makeup

3.  Spare Wallet with Identification and Cash – Let’s recite the Boy Scout motto: “Always be prepared.”  If you lose your primary wallet when you’re hundreds of miles from home, it’s nice to have a back-up plan.  Find a safe, hidden place to stash your spare wallet when you arrive at your destination. While this isn’t a multi-function item in the traditional sense, it can save you so much grief when disaster strikes that it’ll seem like the most functional item in the world.  There are four things I keep in my spare wallet:

  • $100 cash
  • Spare photo identification
  • $100 prepaid visa
  • Emergency phone numbers (just in case I lose my phone too)

4.  Credit Card Size Survival Tool – It’s the size of a credit card, made of rugged stainless steel, and has several practical functions including:

  • Knife edge
  • Screwdriver
  • Ruler
  • Can opener
  • 4 position wrench
  • Butterfly screw wrench
  • Saw blade

5.  Large Zip-Lock Bags – A large zip-lock bag has hundreds, if not thousands, of practical functions when you’re on the go:

  • Keep leftovers fresh
  • Keep dry things dry when you’re around water (wallet, electronics, etc)
  • Separate dirty, smelly clothes from clean clothes in your suitcase
  • Lunchbox
  • Organize things like socks, toiletries, small electronics, etc.

6.  Rubber Bands – Rubber bands are simple, functional and versatile.  There is an endless list of practical uses for a rubber band including:

  • A simple wallet replacement – Just wrap a rubber band around your cash and cards and stick them in your pocket.
  • Keep any wires or small objects in your suitcase organized and untangled.
  • A bookmark
  • Use a rubber band to strap an injured finger to a firm stick or piece of cardboard until it can be properly casted.
  • A safety strap for eye glasses

7.  A Bottle of Water – Water is essential to life, so it’s probably a good idea to keep some with you wherever you go.  And similar to an empty zip-lock bag, water has hundreds, if not thousands, of practical uses:

  • Drink it when you’re thirsty
  • Cleaning/rinsing agent (lots of possibilities here)
  • Pour it into your rental car’s cooling system if it’s overheating.
  • Put out a small fire (non grease or electrical).

8.  Leatherman – It’s the all-in-one multi-tool you should never leave home without.  These little tools can handle a plethora of different jobs.  When traveling, I try to keep my Credit Card Size Survival Tool on me at all times (except in airplanes) and my Leatherman secured in my suitcase just in case I need it.  I personally own the Leatherman 830039 (linked above) and I love it.  Here are a few of it’s functions:

  • Screw driver
  • Bit driver
  • Pliers
  • Wire cutters
  • Knife
  • Scissors
  • Wood/metal file
  • Ruler

9.  Multi-Use Car Charger – Because a cell phone with no battery juice is useless when your car breaks down on the side of the road during a long road trip.  My multi-use car charger (linked above) allows me to charge up to four devices at once.  This unit turns one auto cigarette lighter port into two, has two USB charging ports, and provides a heavy-duty 20 amp capacity.

  • Charge your phone
  • Charge your camera
  • etc.

10.  A Lighter and a Candle – It’s always a good idea to have the capability to create fire just in case you need it.  This one is simple:

  • Light
  • Heat
  • Cooking

11.  Large Ace Bandage – Lots of practical uses including:

  • Compression on a injured limb
  • Bandage for an open wound or burn
  • Tie things together
  •  Scarf
  • Makeshift glove or grip

12.  Small Roll of Duct Tape – Duct tape solves everything.  😉  If you’ve tried using duct tape and you’re still having problems, you just haven’t used enough of it.  Duct tape may very well be the second greatest invention after the hammer.  I’m not even going to attempt to summarize the extensive list of practical applications for duct tape.

Do you think we left an essential item off of the list?  Let us know about it in the comments section below.

Photo by: Pragmagraphr


  1. says

    I think this is a great list! I also travel with a spare pair of eye glasses and a small first aid kit – tape, gauze, antibiotic ointment, aloe, needle & tweezers (these last 2 both good for removing slivers or plant thorns), small mirror and magnifier (both to help see awkward to reach spots if alone), advil, imodium, and tape sutures. Thanks for your suggested essentials list – I will add to my travel case. I especially like the ace bandage suggestion – it can even serve as a sling. Jennifer

  2. Poul says

    Great list, I think you’re only missing an small mirror or shiny surface. Not that common for a guy.. but good to have, even for communication in an emergency or just to look at something around a corner or fix your hair.. ^_^

    P.S a Big Smile, have always helped me out of a jam..

  3. says

    Haha, I liked the comment above, “a big smile.” That DEFINITELY helps!!! Plus, learning a couple of important words in the language of the country. Also, I never thought to bring a 2nd wallet. Great idea!

  4. Relentlessly Useful says

    I always carry Dental floss
    It’s remarkably strong and has many uses besides the obvious. I’ve used it to tie balloons, slice cake, repair a ripped seam in a shoe, fix a delicate earring and even hold eyeglasses together where the screw was missing.

  5. Whitney says

    Amen to the duct tape. A trick I learned in high school to make it flat and easier to pack: slowly unravel the cardboard center of a roll like you would a toilet paper tube. When it’s just the tape, cut off the paper part and squish the tape together. You should have a flattened roll of tape.

  6. says

    Nice list of things to carry when traveling. Some of the ideas were pretty creative like rubber band as a bookmark or large ace bandage as as scarf. It’s always good to be a little bit extra prepared before adventuring to some place else that we’ve never been before.

  7. Kevin says

    A couple of Large, Heavy plastic gargabe bags–if you keep them rolled up they take very little space. I use the heavy duty (3ml) yard bags. They can be used as an emergency poncho, tent, carry stuff. Whatever happens, at least you will be dry.

  8. says

    I have to admit, I’ve never traveled with any of these items and have never had a need for any of them either. Then again, I’ve only traveled around the majority of the United States, Canada and Central and South America…

    I’m sure these things would come in handy but I also think that majority of these things are commonplace enough that you don’t need to pack them ahead of time.

  9. Karen says

    I have to agree with Steven. I suspect “survival” type tools would not get through airport security.

    I traveled to Cambodia last year, and found that all these “just in case” items can be purchased for less than a dollar.

    I’m with you on the snap-lock bags and spare cash. Other than that, keep it simple!

  10. George says

    3)utility knife
    7)quickdry clothes
    10)poor clothing

    Any REAL traveling this is what you need to actually get the most of a trip and if you intend on going to exotic places. You kids have to learn how to be more resourceful.

  11. Beth says

    Great list!! Ziploc bags, duct tape, dental floss, and rubber bands have got to be the best travel multi-taskers ever!

    I also suggest a
    – copy of your passport
    – list of your essential contact numbers (in addition to what is stored in your phone, which could be lost, stolen, or damaged)
    – credit card company phone # (in case yours gets stolen & you have to report it)
    – list of all the medications you take including the dose (if you are going abroad, list the brand name & the generic name for each med)
    – list of any important medical issues and allergies (keep in your wallet),
    – if you have food allergies or restrictions and are traveling in a country in which you do not speak the language, make a list of these and get a competent local speaker to translate the lists for you. Then you can just show the list to the waiter when you order food.
    – pocket-size notebook and pen or pencil

    Most of these you only need to gather once and leave in your suitcase (updating as needed). Happy travels!

  12. jen says

    I like to take a large cotton scarf I picked up in the airport for $10. I use it to cover up when chilly, dress up a casual outfit, tuck under head as a pillow, put down to change diapers, lasso my toddler, and more. I picked a complementing color and just washed between diapers and dress up 😉

  13. Danita Vanish says

    Where have I been? I just found your website on Yahoo. Fantastic article! Thanks for taking the time to share this.

  14. Teresa says

    My daughter and I traveled 2 weeks in Italy. I will never go anywhere without a couple of regular plain handkerchiefs again. Uses: washcloth; tie knots in corners – simple hat to reflect sun off of head (saw this at St. Peter’s Square on a bald man); small purse (tie loose coins in a knot); tie things together, sweat band, tie loose things to belt loops or purse straps; bandage; ponytail holder; any many other uses – let your imagination run!

  15. Colleen says

    I haven’t found uses for some of these things in my travels, but I won’t go anywhere with a handkerchief (for the above reasons and to dry my hands, mop up sweat etc) and a sarong- because it works like a handkerchief but much bigger! It’s a spare bag, beach towel, sheet, skirt, shawl, privacy curtain, and when wet, can be draped over sunburns to take the heat out.
    And the double wallet idea is essential. We carry one to lose, and one to not lose. One has just enough cash for the day, and one piece of ID. When a pickpocket gets it (or a mugger, in our experience) you’re annoyed, but it’s not serious. The other wallet (or moneybelt) never comes out of its hiding place in public. And the trip goes on.
    Oh, and waterproof (Nexcare) bandages in various sizes, because not being able to swim due to sutures on a tropical holiday is no fun.

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