Unusual Items in our Suitcases

Obviously, packing for long-term travel is a bit different than when going on a short holiday. For our first 2 years of travel, we were very minimalist. I was surprised and proud of the fact that we had such few things considering all the crazy stuff we found in our US condo when we were getting rid of our stuff. Three-year-old grocery store receipts? After being on the road for awhile, though, one begins to “need” some simple but unusual things.

Food and beverages

Surprisingly, good coffee can be extremely difficult to find in many places, especially in countries known for producing excellent java (they export all the good stuff). I suffered through Nescafé for 2 years and finally cracked in Thailand. I just couldn’t drink it anymore. Actually, seeing the name or packets of instant coffee always produced a disgusted look on my face. I picked up a press pot in Vietnam, but it’s awfully slow. In Romania, I came across a single-cup French press and decided it was worth the investment. Now I get real coffee everywhere we are!

Unusual things for long-term travel

Then I discovered coffee cups can be quite rare when you’re in hotels and such, so I kept one of my gluhwein mugs from our time in Vienna. I am sorely tempted to start carrying an electric kettle, but I haven’t gone over that edge yet, thankfully.

I love spicy food, and there are only a few countries that share my affinity apparently. I’ve had challenges finding chiles to make my own salsa, and the store-bought stuff is barely stronger than water. When I found crushed red pepper in Romania, I bought it. And I also acquired a bottle of Tabasco. Now I have a little kick with me everywhere we go.

Are you shaking your head at me yet?

Unusual food items

If I could figure out a way to keep bagels frozen, I might have to get another suitcase just for that purpose.


When we have an apartment or a room in someone’s home, we have access to a kitchen. I love to bake, and Tigger is always pretty happy about that. So far I have managed to do a good job of guestimating measurements, but some recipes are just more finicky than others. After making flat hockey pucks biscuits, I decided it was time to get some measuring spoons and cups.

And since a garlic press makes life a bit easier, and weighs practically nothing. . . yeah, that ended up in my suitcase as well. The board is only for decoration.

Unusual items for travel

You already know about our cheese fetish. Two things are in rare supply or nonexistent in most apartments we’ve been in—a cheese grater (for cheesy eggs and mac & cheese) and a cheese slicer.

Yep, we did. *blushing*

Other unusual stuff

Another new addition from Romania was clippers for haircuts. I always get my head shorn. Mostly because I’m lazy when it comes to my hair, and I don’t want to have bother dealing with an afro when my hair is longer. With a clipper cut, I can get out of bed and be on my way. No muss, no fuss. When Tigger isn’t growing out his hair, he likes a clipper cut as well. He says it’s mostly because it’s cooler, but I know he shares my hair styling laziness.

In most places we’ve been, haircuts have been super cheap. However, after figuring out that after two uses the clippers would pay for themselves, a set went into the suitcase.


Yes, I’m slightly embarrassed, but unless you’ve been on the road living out of a suitcase or backpack for a long time you may not be able to appreciate how much these small items add to your life. Yeah, we can live without them, but they add such little weight and bulk to our luggage while making day-to-day life more comfortable, so why not?

Do you carry any unusual items in your luggage? Come on, fess up!

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  1. I find it really interesting to see which items bring you and Tigger comfort. Nescafe is awful stuff. If we were RTW travelers we’d probably bring a french press too!

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  2. Sorry… meant to say… … …
    If you get stuck somewhere without those crushed chillies – let me know and we’ll post you some! We can get them easily enough nowadays and they’re pretty cheap… so we can send you a little present x

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  3. Absolutely with you on the chilli!! When we lived in Lanzarote, we struggled to get anything hotter than a capsicum for a while. Occasionally we’d get a hot padron pepper, and we also tried pickled guindillas. So we used to get them posted to us… or a friend who grew his own would keep us supplied. Now we’re in mainland Spain it’s much easier.
    My other half (Alan) did some work in the Middle East a while back, and came home with all manner of spices and this amazing chilli sauce. Apparently it’s on all the tables in cafes over there… just like ketchup is in other countries. It’s mega spicy but has a slight sweetness to it too. Lovely sprinkled over food as a condiment – but it’s not for the faint hearted!
    What good is life without a bit of spice eh?
    I don’t think I pack anything really unusual… but when we eventually do our road trip, I think I’ll be matching some of the items you have.
    Elle x

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  4. Nothing would ever induce us to drink coffee from Nescafé, those notorious Third-World criminals. Also, we have a coffee plantation on the island. But we can see where you’re coming from with Tabasco.

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    • I’ve always avoided it as well, but sometimes when you order coffee you think you’re getting a brewed pot and it’s really just that instant crap.

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  5. My husband would probably forfeit one of the kids for that bottle of tabasco-we have the same bottle in our cupboard!

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  6. I love this! I’m not a full-time traveler, but living in another country calls for asking friends and family to bring or ship things over!

    Since moving to Spain, most of my requests for visiting friends have revolved around food – a garlic press, potato masher, American measuring cups, brown sugar and vanilla extract have proved difficult to find or wildly expensive. As souvenirs, I always get a patch for my boyfriend and a lapel pin for me. Nice to know I can work at TGI Fridays with all of them!

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  7. WE also carry a garlic press and have since day 1 as well as a veggie peeler (they are NOT created equally) . I have never regretted it at all. They take up such little space it’s worth it!

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  8. Great ideas! The next time I see a set of collapsible measuring cups, I’ll get them for you. You may some already, but if not, they will pack even smaller than what you have now.

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    • I don’t have any. I was looking for them, but you wouldn’t believe how hard it was just to find these! LOL

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  9. Diatomaceous earth…an all natural solution to bed bugs and other nasty critters you may come across while traveling. And although it doesn’t taste very good – excellent for the nails and digestion. I never leave home without it!!

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  10. sauces and seasoning are super necessary. Nothing sucks more than bland food.

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    • Amen to that. Really need my spicy stuff, too. Europeans just don’t seem to be too interested in that type of flavor, though.

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  11. The garlic press is a brilliant idea! I don’t know how many times on the trip we’ve said “this would be perfect with a little garlic”…we always have some crackers and peanut butter/nutella just in case we end up in the middle of nowhere without any food!

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  12. For long term, we take the travel trailer. But a separate set of hair clippers is in there. I’ve cut Mr. Fred’s hair for many years. Both sets have long since paid for themselves. I make sure I get a good short cut before we take off on a trip. If it starts out short, I can go about 3 months with only trimming the bangs. But for short term, the only really unusual thing is a couple of scented candles. Even in no-smoking motel rooms, there’s often some odor, even if it’s just kind of stale from the room being closed up for a few hours without the AC going.
    And no matter how or where I’m going, I pretty much have a tote bag with patterns and crochet hooks and knitting needles and some yarn and thread. I can always pick up more thread or yarn almost anywhere. For a long car trip, and definitely with the travel trailer, my sewing machine and fabric for at least one or two projects goes along.

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    • I like the convenience of doing it myself as well as the savings. I can do it in the bathroom and hop right into the shower to rinse it all off. So much easier.

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  13. No embarrassment necessary, I think those are great items! We try to travel minimalist too and on this road trip we are to the point of being absolutely sick of our few items of clothing, but it’s better than schlepping a big suitcase. Because of the nature of our business we “have” to carry a small portable office with us so that’s our unusual.

    Abi loathes not being able to find a “good” cup of coffee while traveling, even in the USA he has his preferences and will drive miles out of the way to get the better cup. It’s his fix!

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    • I had been OK with crappy coffee for quite a while. I just figured it was the nature of the beast. But no more. I just can’t do it. I’d rather have no coffee than instant these days.

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