Unusual top 10 items on our pack list

Last Updated on July 5, 2023 by Ellen

Last Updated on July 5, 2023 by Ellen

Some of the top 10 items on our pack list are a bit creative, and might surprise you. As retired budget travelers, we use carry on bags and we are always looking to save money. So these things are small and inexpensive.

To be clear: we realize ‘budget’ is subjective. We are not ‘extreme’ budget travelers, and we have previously disclosed our spending. See examples of our spending here. On more background, we mostly live in month-long Airbnb rentals. For more on that, go here.

And remember, this is an independent travel blog. We do not work with any brands or affiliates, and we do not get any kickbacks, freebies, or discounts — ever.

Products in our list are independently reviewed. We are beholden to no one.

Unusual top 10 items on our pack list

1. One-cup coffee maker

  • Outside the U.S., automatic drip coffee machines are not always provided in Airbnb rentals.
  • We each drink at least two cups of coffee a day each. The average small “cafe Americano” (espresso and water) costs at least $2. We save $8 a day or more with this handy small item. That’s a minimum savings of $240 a month!

Update! We lost our coffee maker! Ellen accidentally left it in a Thailand rental. We have different models now.

There is an entire blog post on this coffee issue here.

2. Top bed sheet

  • Not all Airbnb rentals have top sheets. London, Croatia, one place in Barcelona, many places in Asia, immediately come to mind. But we like a top sheet, and that’s why this is one of our unusual top 10 items on our pack list.
  • Tedly found a full-sized top sheet in the bedding section of a used clothing store in Barcelona, and so it cost just a couple of dollars.
  • It’s compact, weighs little, and is easy to wash and go.

3. Turkish towel (Ellen’s favorite)

  • A thin, absorbent cloth that packs up to nothing. It’s not as absorbent as a traditional towel, but it sure works well in a pinch!
  • This can be used as a blanket or scarf on travel days, or as a beach wrap or beach blanket (pictured below). All of these uses make this Ellen’s favorite of the unusual top 10 items on our pack list.
  • Ours is starting to fray. It’s been on the road with occasional to heavy use, depending on where we are, since 2015.
Turkish towel spread on out on sand as a beach blanket

4. Cleaning supplies

  • Anti-bacterial wipes, scrubbie-sponges
  • We like to give places a once-over before we settle in — regardless of how clean it looks.
  • These small, inexpensive items save us an immediate trip to a store, and provide piece of mind.

5. Bluetooth travel-sized speaker

  • Lightweight and compact.
  • Often, budget travel accommodations don’t include music setups.
  • Sounds better than laptop or tablet speakers.
  • Beach ready, like us.
  • This has been with us since 2015. The sound isn’t the best, but it’s size is perfect, and if we lost it, it’s so cheap we wouldn’t miss it.

6. External hard drive, flash drives

  • These are for backups. (I had a laptop die two years into our adventure.) These may not be so unusual for long-term travelers, but we bet they are for the casual vacationers!
  • We also pay for storage on Flickr, but sometimes the WiFi isn’t great at some of our rentals, and fast WiFi is needed for Flickr.

7. Bungee cords, clothes pins, thick rubber bands

  • Handy items for a million uses. For example: bungee cords can secure the makeshift sunshade cover Tedly designed on the terrace of our Airbnb rental in Croatia (picture below); rubber bands compact items like my sandals on travel days; clothes pins for wash or as chip clips.
  • These items are cheap and small and weigh little, and with all of their uses, they all make our unusual top 10 items on our pack list.

8. Travel pillow

  • Lightweight, compact, inflatable.
  • Good for those times when we have a large, fluffy pillow in our rental. (We prefer flatter pillows.)
  • Inexpensive solution to a common Airbnb problem – no pillow selection.

9. Self-packable day packs

  • Lightweight, fold up to small items.
  • Easy to use for grocery shopping or day trips from our temporary home base.
  • We use New Outlander – but there are several other brands. They are made of seemingly indestructible nylon, although, after three years of use, the water-resistant coating inside on one of our bags is heavily peeling off. Also, the large size is a bit too big for shorter people like me, so my day pack is the small size.

10. A small plastic bag filled with rice

  • An essential item for Tedly’s photography. A must-have to keep the camera still during night shoots at slow shutter speeds. Out of all the unusual top 10 items on our pack list, this might be the most unusual.
  • Costs practically nothing, weighs next to nothing.
  • Instead of a large and costly, tripod, he plops down his small bag of rice to steady his camera. He came up with this resourceful idea after he left a beanbag at some Maya ruins back in Mexico.

We like our budget travel solutions – even if they seem a bit unusual. Resourcefulness and adaptability are two keys to making long-term, retired budget travel a successful journey. This unusual top 10 list of items on our pack list may shift over time, and we’ll add or subtract as needed.

What clever items do you carry? We’d love to know!

Our situation is always changing in different countries, and so we may yet be challenged in ways you’ve already conquered. You can always contact us or leave a comment below.

Happy trails!

This post was updated October 2019.

Other travel information:

Earth Vagabonds Newsletter

9 thoughts on “Unusual top 10 items on our pack list”

  1. Ryan Biddulph

    The 1 cup coffee maker has been noted Ellie. We house sit tons for coffee nuts it seems but when renting or doing the hotel bit it helps to have one lined up. I am good for 1-2 cups daily. Heading back to NJ and a glorious K Cup in a few days. Time to stock up at Walmart.

  2. As a tea drinker, I have to carry my own mug and a single-cup size electric coil. Also black tea bags when in green tea country like China or Central Asia.

  3. Thanks for the list.One question, I assumed you use uncooked rice in the bag, but in the picture it looks like it’s cooked sticky rice, or the precooked heat and eat type. Which do you use?

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