Travelling these days is not a simple business. Airline regulations and heightened security have made sure of that. Ever-restricted luggage allowances have compounded things. Gone are the days when I could travel with my Swiss Army knife and a full bottle of water. But there are still things—beyond the obvious like passport and credit cards—I never leave home without.
The first of these is eyedrops. Something about air conditioning on planes and in hotels makes my eyes resemble a pair of fried tomatoes. As a teetotaller, looking like I’ve had a very heavy night on the beer is not the best thing for me, so I always travel with a (tiny, of course) bottle of Visine.
A square scarf. Not what you might immediately think of, but it has so many uses. Not only does it keep my neck warm when the plane ventilation system seems uncannily accurate at squirting icy air down the back of it, but it’s also useful for keeping the sun off slightly scorched shoulders, and would even double as a sling. Should that occasion ever arise, I realise things will have already gone Horribly Wrong. But you have to bear it in mind.
A rubber doorstop. I know, you were expecting me to say lip gloss and moisturiser, but you should know me better by now. Some hotels have locks on the doors that are disengaged by a housekeeping master key, without an independent bolt arrangement as well. Not that I’m casting aspersions on any housekeeping personnel, of course, but on anyone with nefarious intent who happens to get their sticky mitts on that master key. A doorstop, kicked firmly under your side of the door will keep just about anyone out unless they’re prepared to make a hell of a lot of noise in the process.
A flashlight. I used to carry one of those little Maglites, but since I swapped to a new smartphone, one of the features is a three-brightness flashlight app. I’ve been in hotels where the power’s gone out, and also in a ladies’ restroom when some joker thought it would be fun to turn off the lights on the way out, despite knowing there was somebody else inside. I stayed in a hotel on the outskirts of Tokyo where there was a flashlight clipped to the wall in case of earthquake.
An empty metal water bottle. Again, this sounds like a weird one, but since they stopped you being able to carry a bottle of water through airport security—and also since people keep telling me that plastic water bottles are really not good for you—I’ve carried an empty container when I travel. Get through security and fill it from a water fountain and you’re done. It also clips to a belt or slides into a bag and I know it’s not going to leak.
Breath mints. Travelling seems to do something to your mouth, and talking a lot does a whole lot more. As conventions are all about travelling and talking while standing close to people, I usually take a pack of Extra Strong mints with me. Just sayin’…
And the final item—the key on the chain? Well I’m not going to tell you what that’s for, on the grounds that I may incriminate myself!
So, ‘Rati, what do you never leave home without?
As I write this I’m in Cleveland Ohio for the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, and I have all of these items with me, as you can see. The only one not pictured is the flashlight app, because that smartphone also means I don’t need to carry a pocket camera. (Don’t you just love technology?) If you’re attending Bouchercon, please come and say “Hi!”
This week’s Word of the Week is a total blank, so help me out here, would you? What’s your favourite word of the moment?