It’s easy to focus on the big things when packing a suitcase for your next vacation. Choosing the right shoes, dresses and electronics, making sure you've got travel insurance, remembering your passport for overseas trips and much more.
Those are all important, of course, but don’t forget that sometimes the little things can make a big difference to your trip. Here are nine tiny travel accessories under $20 that will definitely improve your time away from home.
It won’t win any fashion awards, but an eye mask can easily be the difference between a good night’s sleep and none at all.
When traveling you’ll often find yourself in situations where you don’t control the lighting – planes, trains, buses and shared accommodation, for instance, or hotel rooms with low-quality curtains – and an eye mask helps deal with that.
There’s little to choose between different models, although those with thick or dual elastic straps tend to move around a little less during the night, and soft material on the inside blocks out more light and keeps you more comfortable.
One of the cheapest and smallest, yet most useful, travel accessories you can buy is a set of earplugs.
Whether you’re taking an overnight flight or bus ride, have a hotel room next to a busy street or are in a hostel dorm room full of snoring strangers, the few dollars you spent on earplugs will feel like a fantastic investment at three in the morning.
Wax or silicone earplugs tend to block out the most noise, while the foam type can often be used a few more times before needing to be thrown away. A few models are made shorter in length specifically for sleeping more comfortably on your side.
Whichever version you buy, it’s worth picking up several pairs and ensuring they come with a plastic case for transporting them around.
Nothing puts a dampener on exploring a city like being rained on for hours, or getting heatstroke after too much time in the sun.
Avoid both of those problems with a small travel umbrella – it packs down to fit in a handbag or day pack, meaning you’re prepared for most eventualities without even having to think about it.
Just like normal umbrellas, look for those with good reviews and rated to withstand decent gusts of wind.
If you’re not traveling with a smartphone or other device with a built-in light, considering carrying a small flashlight or headlamp. I prefer the latter, just because they leave both hands free while moving around.
Whether you’re reading in a darkened room, trying to find your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night or hunting underneath the bed for the earring that you dropped, you’ll get more use out of it than you’d imagine.
If you're carrying an older smartphone that don’t have a flashlight function built in, there are dozens of free apps out there that do the same thing.
Sometimes old-school technology is the best, and a notepad and pen fall right into this category.
When you need someone to draw you a map, note down the name of a restaurant or give you their phone number, or you just need to write the hotel’s address to give to your taxi driver, a piece of paper is far more useful than an iPad or smartphone.
It really doesn't need to be anything fancy -- something small, with a cover for protection and tear-out pages, is probably a good idea.
Not every hotel or guesthouse door has a bolt or security chain, meaning that anyone with a key can enter your room while you’re sleeping. If that’s a concern, remember to pack a rubber doorstop in your luggage, and slide it under the door when you’re in your room.
It’s one of the simplest security methods out there, providing peace of mind for just a few dollars.
Nothing ruins that romantic picnic alongside the Eiffel Tower or beers on the balcony more than not having anything to open your drink with.
Pack a travel-sized corkscrew or bottle opener in your bag and solve the problem. Just remember to keep it in your checked luggage if there are any blades or sharp edges, so it doesn't get confiscated at security.
If you’re traveling overseas, don’t forget to check what kind of power sockets are used in your destination and throw a plug adapter in your bag if necessary.
They take up little space, and can be combined with a power strip to let you charge up multiple devices at once. If you plan to travel to several places with differing socket types, be sure to buy an adapter that can handle them all.
It’s cheaper to buy these before you leave than at the airport, and look for one that’s as small and light as possible – in some countries, the weight of a heavy adapter can cause it to fall right out of the socket.
While major medical emergencies on vacation are thankfully rare, minor bumps and scrapes are less unusual. From blisters after walking around town all day to insect bites and stings, it's worth packing a small first aid kit to deal with little issues as they arise.
Look for those that are well stocked with band-aids and bandages of different sizes, along with antiseptic wipes, burn ointment, and tweezers. Anything else is just a useful bonus!