11 things to absolutely take with you on vacation

11 things to absolutely take on vacation

Heading out on vacation, I advise not packing too much. In fact, I've written about what you should leave behind to ease stress. But there are some things you definitely need when you're on vacation and I advise not leaving home without.

Here are 11 things to absolutely take on vacation …


(1) A refrigerated (also known as iceless) cooler.

Although these can be pricey (in the $80+ range), they are well worth it. A refrigerated cooler plugs into your car's power and eliminates the need for ice. Along with eliminating the need to buy ice, you avoid water-logged food, lighten the cooler's weight, and there is nothing to drain or worry about spilling. Although it's not necessary, I suggest chilling food and drinks you will take on vacation at the day before and choosing a spot in your vehicle that is out of the sun to help the cooler run more efficiently.

(2) Extra (external) phone battery chargers.

Inexpensive and lightweight, external battery chargers hold at least one additional charge for your phone. On a normal day, this might only save your ability to take more vacation photos but in the case of an emergency, it might also mean being able to make a crucial phone call.

(3) Just one credit card and plenty of cash.

Having an actual credit card for true emergencies is wise but be sure you're only using it as a last resort, not simply accumulating additional debt on souvenir t-shirts. And even with as common as card readers are these days, you'll need cash to take on vacation. Think fresh fruit stands or daily admission to state or national parks where you leave $3-$4 dollars in an envelope on the honor system.

(4) Spare set of car keys.

Accidentally locking your keys in the car can really throw a wrench in your vacation. Not only might it cost to get the door unlocked, it can seriously bite into your vacation time. Potentially it could throw off your plans and cause you to even miss entire events. If you don't like the idea of carrying an entire second set of keys, just get one plain, flat key that opens the car door. This doesn't add too much bulk or weight to your wallet or purse.

(5) Downloaded movies and tv shows.

Use a service like Netflix that allows you to download numerous movies and shows to your devices. You won't need to pack a whole library of movies or even need an internet connection. Netflix costs just $11.99 for 4 devices per month, with no commitment – so you can cancel if you don't need it at home. Not only does having choices make a long car ride seem faster, it can be a lifesaver if you arrive at your destination and the TV channels and/or show selections are poor or not family-friendly.

(6) Both home and auto phone charging cords.

You don't want to only rely on one or the other. If you don't have both, you may be forced to leave your phone to charge when you'd rather have it with you. And some vehicles won't charge a phone without the vehicle being turned on.

(7) Vehicle power inverter.

This plugs into your vehicle's cigarette lighter, allowing you to plug in regular electronic cords, like for laptops and gaming systems. Be sure you read the voltage and rating prior to purchase though. If the inverter is not rated high enough to run electronics with a higher voltage pull, you'll find it frustrating. When in doubt about the performance, read reviews and understand how it converts energy before buying. A good one will run you around $45 – although sometimes there are deals on them.

(8) Extra medications.

It's tempting to only bring enough doses for the days you plan to be gone but smart to bring a few extra. You could end up being gone longer than you planned due to travel complications. Canceled flights, weather delays, car trouble, or even an illness may extend your time away. And, of course, never leave home without emergency medications for things like allergies!

(9) Portable car battery jump starter.

This small device is reasonably priced at around $30-50. It can really come in handy if you accidentally drain your battery and it won't turn over. It has the connector cables to hook to the battery and contains the charge to get you running again. This can take the place of both regular jumper cables and the need to ask someone for help. Size-wise, they are no bigger than a large phone battery.

(10) A First aid kit, including sunscreen, bug repellent, and hand sanitizer.

A small first aid kit doesn't take up much space but can prove necessary for minor scrapes, bug bites, and more. Along with an actual first aid kit, invest in small bottles of sunscreen, bug repellent, and hand sanitizer that clip to a bag or slide into a pocket. Do not pay hotel or tourist prices for these items!

(11) Coupons to save.

You should always have coupons with you. Some restaurant coupons are valid nationwide. And if you have a smartphone – you always have coupons for restaurants and even activities or services, right at your fingertips through apps like SnipSnap and Retailmenot.

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