1. Ziploc bags: these are so useful that it’s literally hard for me to imagine a world without them. I use them for keeping wet clothes separate from dry, keeping pens nice and tidy in case of leaks, managing ticket stubs, receipts and other small pieces of paper that don’t stay well in our brains and for collecting rocks, leaves, flowers or other such natural fauna I’d like to dry and take with me. And, they’re great for packing those picnics when you know you’re going to have a long morning and you want your food to stay fresh.
2. Travel size TP or tissue: just like in the States, getting stuck in a bathroom with no access to toilet tissue can be quite a problem. Keep a stash in your day bag. It doesn’t take much room and you’ll thank me later. I generally pick up a little roll of Charmin from the travel section of Wal-mart, but my friend Hillary gets even more bang for her buck by grabbing a 5-or 10-pack of Kleenex-type tissue. Both work fine and will undoubtedly come in handy.
3. Notebook: for recording everything from the address of a good meal, a tip you get from a stranger or a reminder to pay that pesky cable bill you forgot to take care of from home. I keep one notebook with me at all times and use it as a combination journal/datebook/record-keeping tool.
4. Rubber bands: there are very few things you won’t need rubber bands for. My personal favorite is to use one as a makeshift lock on my bag in high-theft areas. Twist it around your zipper and the nearest D-ring that holds your shoulder strap and tie it however you see fit (so long as it stays tight once your hands are off it). It may not be fool-proof, but it’s one more layer of protection. I also use them to keep small articles of clothing (like socks, etc.) together in our bags.
5. Band-aids: not only will these come in handy to take care of the inevitable scratches, bumps and scrapes you’ll get while traveling, they also work as tape! I’ve used them to patch shoe soles, hold papers together, seal a tear in my bag and more.