What’s in my travel junk drawer

The drawer is semi-organized with similar items grouped into plastic bags.

Looking through a junk drawer is like a scary version of sifting through your grandma’s sewing basket. Instead of vintage buttons and patterned fabric scraps, the junk drawer is usually filled with sharp tacks, eroding batteries, and pens leaking ink. At least, that’s how I feel about the small one we have in the kitchen. But there’s a large junk drawer upstairs that feels more like a treasure trove.

It’s the drawer I go to whenever I’m packing my bags for a big trip. When I first started traveling, I’d head to the store before every trip to grab an extra travel-size shampoo bottle, or an outlet converter or a flashlight. Now I head to my junk drawer, er, treasure trove. On my last trip, I never even had to make a trip to the store. Everything a traveler needs to keep on hand was in the drawer.

Some of the things you would find in my travel drawer:


1. Luggage tags, travel wallets and pouches

I use the wallets and pouches to organize travel documents, tickets, passports, etc. Plus a couple of extra luggage tags just in case.

2. TSA-friendly bug repellant, stain remover, nail polish remover, etc.

I love to pack wipe versions of what might otherwise be a liquid, such as nail polish remover and bug repellant—it saves room in my quart-sized bag for liquids, per TSA requirements. I stick some hand warmers in with this group just because it fits! Handy for when traveling to those cold locations.

3. Travel comforts: ear plugs, eye mask and nausea bands

After having an eardrum burst during landing once, I never travel without pressurizing ear plugs. Nausea bands almost always tag along too, though recently I’ve started bringing peppermint essential oils as my nausea remedy instead.

4. Travel toiletries and containers

I can never have enough of these! Mostly I use reusable containers, but having some extras on hand is always helpful.

5. Outlet converters and extension cord

An extension cord is so helpful! So many hostels or hotel rooms will have one tiny outlet, so having a power strip helps keep all of our laptops, phones and cameras charged. Plus a bag of converters—some we’ve bought for trips beforehand, others we’ve had to buy on the road after converters died along the way.

6. First aid kit, sewing kit, duct tape and superglue

The first aid kit stays packed, though I’m sure I need to update some of the meds in it now. A long piece of duct tape wrapped around the superglue makes a tiny but powerful quick fix kit.

7. Travel gear and safety gear: flashlight, locks, watch, carabiner and binoculars

A headlamp for that night hike in Costa Rica, an extra waterproof watch in case one has died, locks for luggage zippers or luggage lockers, and some other extras depending on the trip. Pro tip: never ever travel without a flashlight. You don’t want to be caught in the dark in a strange place.

8. Items not pictured:

Laundry items, such as a universal sink stopper and a rope for hanging up wet clothes; a travel towel; a couple of packing cubes and toiletry bags; and several sizes of Ziplock bags for organizing.


I love going through my treasure trove. It’s a reminder of trips that have gone by, and an inspiration for trips to come. It makes me feel like I’m starting to get the hang of this traveling thing. Is there anything I’m missing from my drawer? Let me know!


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