Check out these items I bring with me on every flight or road trip:
1. A Plastic Food Container
A reusable, microwave-safe plastic container with a fitted lid has numerous uses on a trip!
On flights, it's my food storage container. I bring my own snacks on the plane so I can avoid paying two to three times the price of snack items at an airport. This container perfectly holds mixed nuts, dried cranberries, or pretzels.
Another option for flights: make your own oatmeal on the plane. Bring your own dry oatmeal mix with you in a plastic container. Ask the flight attendant for a cup of hot water, and make your own breakfast. (Don't forget to pack a spoon!)
When I stay at a hotel or a resort with a free breakfast, I'll grab some fresh nuts, fruit, or other items (like muffins, bread, dry oatmeal or cereal), and pack it to bring it with me for the plane or car ride home. This can also be your "to go" container for uneaten food at a restaurant.
You can use this container for non-food purposes as well, such as a waterproof container for valuables, or a holder for toiletries.
2. An Empty Water Bottle
Bottled water at the airport is expensive. Water fountain water is free.
You cannot bring a full water bottle with you through a TSA security checkpoint at an airport. You can bring an empty water bottle. I'll drink a bottle on my way to the airport to pre-hydrate for my flight, and take that empty bottle with me in my carry-on bag.
Fill up your water bottle at the airport water fountains, or at restaurants with soda fountains (look for the tab that ways "water"). I'll also refill my water bottle at highway rest stops.
If you don't like plastic bottles, get a travel water bottle, or use a free water bottle that you got at a race or an event expo. If you are concerned about water quality while traveling, get a portable bottle with a filtration system (such as Hydros or Brita bottles).
3. A Race Cinch Bag
If you do a lot of races, I bet you have a bunch of these cinch bags at home. Bring a cinch bag or two with you on trips to set aside items you want to find quickly and easily in your luggage, or to have easy access to items on the plane or in the car.
When I fly, I put all essential items I want within arm's reach in my cinch bag, and put this bag in my larger carry-on bag until I line up to board the plane. This lets me put the larger bag in the overhead bin, and keep this bag under the seat in front of me. Cinch bags easily hold a water bottle, snacks, reading materials, MP3 players and more, without taking up lots of space.
I put my race-related gear in a cinch bag in my checked luggage so I can easily find all items I need for race morning, such as Body Glide, bandages, a poncho, safety pins for my bib, my hat, race socks, and my Road ID.
Cinch bags are also great to take with you while walking around or hiking. They're a great way to carry a windbreaker, maps, souvenirs, or a water bottle.
4. A Clothing Drop Bag
Save the plastic clear drop bags you get from races- they have many travel uses.
Use the drop bag any time you need to separate or isolate clothing in your suitcase. For example, put wet clothing or dirty/worn clothing in the plastic bag to keep it separate from dry/clean clothing. Or, it can serve as an extra bag if you're coming back with more items than you traveled with. This bag may also become your trash bag in a rental car or at a hotel room.
5. A Throwaway Layer
I wear a throwaway layer to races when I need an extra layer to keep warm while waiting for an event to start. I bring a throwaway layer with me on my non-race travels to also have an extra layer of clothing in the event of unexpected temperature changes.
A throwaway layer is exactly as described- it's a piece of clothing you don't mind tossing with the assumption you'll never get it back. Going somewhere where you may get wet, dirty or muddy, as in a hike? Wear your throwaway layer. Staying somewhere to watch the sun set? Have this layer with you when the temperature drops after dark. Is your suitcase stuffed for your flight home? Then leave this unwanted shirt behind.
Another use for this extra layer of clothing- if you buy a fragile souvenir, wrap it in this shirt for extra padding.