I bought a new bottle of Tiger Balm the other day. My first was purchased in Kathmandu, Nepal in 1997 for the grand price of $1 USD. My new tub was purchased here in Saigon, last month for around $1.50. It is one of my top ten travel items on any trip.

Co-incidentally, that same week, a friend asked me what my number 1 travel essential was. After thinking for a total of about 2 seconds, I replied SMECTA; my new wonder cure for most minor tummy troubles. Anyway, that got me thinking about what my top ten travel gear “must haves”. These apply for any trip whether we are in Australia or overseas, cycling, hiking or just sightseeing. All of them have proved themselves useful in some way many times over.


Top ten travel items - SMECTA

My new best travel friend

First up I AM NOT A DOCTOR and I am not advising you follow my lead. I am merely telling you what I do. This product is widely available in most countries we have visited, except Australia. I have no idea why not. It is a powder, in individual sachets, which you mix with water and drink. It is apparently so safe it is used for colic in babies. It is extremely cheap at around 25-30 cents per sachet from pharmacies all over the world. I now use it as a first point of call for all my minor tummy troubles where before I might have reached for a Blocker (Immodium or Lomotil), an anti-nausea tablet, or an antacid. For me, it relieves diarrhoea, nausea, reflux, and hangovers (to a certain extent! A combination of SMECTA, Tiger Balm and a couple of Paracetamol provides a more comprehensive cure). It takes effect in about 20 minutes or less, depending on my symptoms. Of course for more serious issues or when symptoms persist I see a doctor where possible or start going through my medical book for alternative treatment.

2. Tiger Balm

Top ten travel items - Tiger Balm

Tiger Balm – for all manner of ailments.

I use this wonderfully heady ointment for so many things. Here’s just a few:

  • To relieve nasal congestion
  • As a chest rub for colds,
  • As a hot rub for aches, pains and headaches (rub a little on the temples),
  • As an odour neutralizer in stinky loos or other smelly places (put a little under your nose before entering and
  • To alleviate motion sickness (rub a little Tiger Balm on the temples and dab under your nose.) Be careful not to get it in your eyes!!

3. A Sarong

Top Ten Travel Items - Sarong

The only thing providing protection from swarms of biting midgies

These tips are as relevant for guys as girls. There are dozens of uses other than just a wrap around skirt. I won’t even begin to name them all here are a few.

  • A Shawl, leg covering and head gear for temples or other places where baring flesh is not advisable nor polite. Naturally you can’t use it for all three at once but you get the idea
  • A bath towel. It’s not perfect but is entirely adequate in emergencies
  • A Beach mat/towel. Dual purpose cover up and sand protection
  • A Curtain, for rooms that either don’t have them or are too thin to maintain your privacy or any level of darkness.
  • A privacy curtain on lower bunks in hostels, trains and sleeper buses
  • A pillow. Rolled and stuffed under your head on trains, planes and buses, or simply as a “lift” for ordinary pillows that don’t meet my comfort requirements.
  • A modesty cloak for shared bathrooms, flitting from room to shower and getting changed in public.
  • A shower-curtain for dodgy shared bathroom doors and windows
  • Occasionally it’s the only thing between you and evil hoards of black, biting bugs in deepest darkest africa.

4. Flip flops

Top ten travel items - Flip flops

Flip flops,thongs or Jandals. Whatever you call them they’re an essential part of our packing list.

The iconic Australian “Thong” is definitely a must have on any trip. As well as the usual casual and beach wear I use them for:

  • Wearing in showers to protect from Tinea and other foot disease,
  • Slip-ons to wear around your room where the floors are not quite pristine or are freezing cold.
  • Low mileage days, especially in cultures where footwear must be removed before entering buildings e.g. temples, restaurants with floor seating. There is minimal chance of them being stolen (relative to expensive walking shoes) and very little cost if they are.

5. Neck Pouch

Top ten travel items - neck pouch

Handy, discreet, secure.

A small neck pouch, usually, a colourful souvenir from our travels has been a must have travel item for me from the early days. I often don’t wear clothes with pockets. I don’t want to dig through my pack or money belt for small change. I hate handbags, I don’t wish to be a victim of opportunity crime and I’m notorious for losing and leaving stuff around. A neck pouch tuck inconspicuously into my bra solves all these issues.

6. Multi-function Knife

We love our Swiss Army Knife, but I guess any multifunction tool will do. The most used item is definitely the bottle opener, followed closely by the corkscrew, screwdriver, hole punch and can opener.

7. Ear Plugs


Top Ten Travel Items - Earplugs

Cut the noise and sleep peacefully.

Noisy neighbours, the bar downstairs, traffic noise or church bells early in the morning. A good set of Ear Plugs will take the edge off disturbances and ensure you get a good nights sleep.

8. Day PAck

Top ten travel items - daypack

So strong yet so compact Sea to Summit Sil Daypack

Where others might have a funky bag, I prefer a daypack that can be worn in different positions, depending on the contents and the security level. My latest super light, super tough Sea to Summit SIL Daypack that weighs a mere 68g and folds up to less tahn the size of a pair of sports socks. It’s been great for our cycling tour, in suburban Brisbane and here in Saigon.

9. Panty Liners

In my opinion, one of THE essential travel items for women. Being able to stay somewhat “fresh, in even the most basic conditions makes a real difference to comfort levels and mood. Sometimes we just don’t know when the next shower or opportunity to wash “undies” will arise. Long journeys, major delays and simply being out there with no facilities has meant we’ve gone very long periods without either of these.

10. An Open Mind and Positive Attitude


Top ten travel items - postive attitude

Stay positive and have fun no matter what the circumstances

Our favourite saying is “a bad day travelling is still better than a good day at work”. Not everything is fantastic, beautiful, great fun and exciting all the time. But there is always a story, if not a lesson to be learnt, from even the worst encounters. There are many places we’ve turned up in that bore absolutely no resemblance to our expectations. That wasn’t a bad thing in many cases. We are continually learning, not only of the world and it’s people, but about ourselves as well.

That’s just our opinion, but we’d love to know yours. Can you add anything to our Top ten travel Items or do you agree with our list?  Leave a comment below.

We’ve also listed out Top Ten Bike Bits and the Top Ten Items we carry for Convenience and Comfort while cycling. Take a peek and let us know what you think.

Note: I do not receive any payment for this post (or any others on the site for that matter!). I do receive a small amount of money by allowing advertisements on the site and any purchases made through those links.