Never leave home without …

Zoë Sharp

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?


14 thoughts on “Never leave home without …

  1. LesleyK

    Hey, Zoe, didn't make B'con this year but I hope you have a great time! Are you offering a trip to the gun range for auction again? 😀


  2. David Corbett

    Ditto on the breath mints and eye drops and flashlight. The doorstop never occurred to me. And I look a bit fey in a scarf.

    Word of the day: I was at a wedding this past weekend and one of the women who was also there had this fabulous coinage, a cross between pasta and possible: pastable. As in: That's just not pastable. I have no clue what it means. It's just fun to say.

    Have a great Bouchercon, Zoë.

  3. Alaina

    Blood donor card. Right behind my driver's license. If an emergency happens, one glance through there and they know my blood type and (written on it) that I'm allergic to bleach.

    I also have a very cheap, very useful item that I wear whenever more than 20 miles from home: a flashdrive lanyard. It's just an old, black lanyard with a black container that velcros together on the end, about the size of my thumb. Last time I was in a plane, that thing held a flash drive and $200 in very tightly folded bills, tucked under my shirt where no one was getting at it… while looking like the most inconspicious thing ever.

    There's a flashlight on my keychain (my bedroom is in the basement and has no windows, so.) Cell phone, fully charged– I'm the only one I know who's never had their cell phone die on them. Lip stuff, I'm not picky about brands but the wind tends to strip my lips of moisture in any season. Add in a couple hair elastics (lots of uses) and a reusable water bottle (empty /or/ full) and I'm set.

    About the same as yours, in a lot of spots.

  4. Tammy Cravit

    Flashlight, for sure – mine is a Surefire P2X that one could use quite handily for self-defense purposes if need be. I've taken it on aircraft, into court facilities, etc. with no issues. I just got one of those metal water bottles and love it, but haven't quite ingrained the habit of remembering to always bring it with me.

    I generally also carry or wear a hat, and wear one of those bracelets made of braided paracord (because you can unravel it in a pinch, and 4 meters of paracord comes in handy.)

  5. Zoë Sharp

    Hi David

    I love the word 'pastable'. Sounds like something that becomes more likely if attempted in an Italian restaurant.

    And I'm sure you'd look fabulous in scarf, darling.


  6. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Alaina

    My blood donor card is always in my wallet anyway, so I didn't think of making special mention of it, but a very good point!

    I carry a memory stick, but not on a lanyard, and not with money inside. Good thinking!

  7. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Tammy

    Good point on using a flashlight as a kubotan, although a cellphone or a pen will do at a pinch 🙂

    Hadn't heard about the paracord bracelet, though. That sounds very cool. You'll have to post me a link!

  8. Lisa Alber

    I need to write these items down because I'm a haphazard packer. 🙂 However, I never leave without ear plugs, eye cover, and blow-up neck support so I can sleep through the flight (hopefully)…

  9. Zoë Sharp

    Hi Lisa

    I can sleep just about anywhere, so I'm not too fussed about the eyeshades and earplugs, but some kind of neck support is vital for me or I put my neck out horribly. I find a rolled-up towel or blanket seems to suit me better than a neck pillow, though.

    And I agree – I always have a packing list which I modify and refine for each trip. One of these days I'm hoping to get it right … 🙂

  10. KDJames

    What is this "leave home" concept of which you speak? 😉

    Traveling now is so much different from when the kids were little and you had to pack everything that wasn't nailed down. Even a day trip to the beach was an ordeal in provisioning. So now I've sort of gone over to the other extreme — my one necessity is Advil. Oh, and I do always bring my own tea bags.

    Have a great time at B'con, Zoë!

  11. Zoë Sharp

    LOL, KD. Teabags would be a great idea, but fortunately i really like Tazo Earl Grey and that seems to be one of the brands offered in hotels etc over here. And you're right, i carry the brand of paracetamol headache tablets I know work best for me.

    (Am having a great time in Cleveland.)

  12. Sarah W

    After last night, I'd say never travel without an app that leads you to great Japanese restaurants . . . and after today, I'm never forgetting my umbrella!

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