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There are many things I’ve learned since becoming a professional travel writer nearly 20 years ago; like the importance of saying “yes” more often to experiences that initially seem scary or daunting, but also how to be prepared for anything. Both lessons have slowly trickled into my daily life, whether on the road or not, and the proof is in my purse. 

Upon first glance, the contents of my purse may seem a bit strange. I mean, who carries a mini slab of duct tape with them? Me. I do. And this Samantha Brown-approved trick has come in handy more times than not. I carry some obvious essentials, too — like a personal safety alarm and scratch-resistant sunglasses (because I constantly forget to use a sunglass case) — because I like to be the girl who’s ready for anything, but does so with minimal bulk. 

 My travel purse isn’t huge, and I often just resort to a roomy crossbody or sling purse, but the few items I bring with me daily have purpose … many have multiple purposes. It’s important to me to always be ready, so I rarely carry anything with me that wouldn’t be allowed through TSA. Like me, my purse is always ready to go, whether I’m walking the sidewalks of my hometown or dodging mopeds in Hanoi.  

She’s Birdie Personal Safety Alarm


Safety is key, which is why you’ll never find me without this personal safety alarm that solo travelers swear by. When activated, it flashes a strobe light and emits a super loud siren to deter attackers. I sleep with it near my bed in hotel rooms, but when it’s not on my nightstand, it’s within easy grab-access in my purse. Bonus: it’s TSA-friendly.

Charmast Portable Charger


I’m the type of person who gets stressed out seeing someone walking around with 15 percent battery left on their phone (or seeing someone with thousands of unread email notifications!). I don’t take chances on staying connected, so I always have this charger with me to hand off to friends or use myself. The bonus is that it’s not exclusive to Android or Apple, so I’m able to charge my Samsung and then hand it over to my iPhone-using parents during a dinner out. 

Bellroy Travel Folio RFID-blocking Wallet


I started using this RFID-blocking wallet while traveling, though I’ve found it’s just as handy for everyday use. It’s spacious enough to hold two passports and eight cards and small enough (7.3 inches long) to fit easily in most of my purses. I really like how bills can lay flat — a factor that matters when exchanging currency in some countries. It zips for safety and includes a micro-pen, which is a way better solution than digging to the bottom of my purse to find the last hotel pen I snagged. 

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II


My husband raved about the sound quality in his Bose noise-canceling headphones at the exact moment I lost the inexpensive earbuds that came with my phone, and that’s when these luxury earphones entered my life. The sound quality is incredible (and customizable), but what I love most is how comfortable these are. I have yet to have a “bud” slip out while in use.  

Twelve South AirFly Pro Wireless Audio Transmitter


I first fell in love with this little Bluetooth transmitter when I discovered it would let me use my own earbuds to watch seatback movies on airplanes. Only recently did I find out that it actually works for cars and at gyms as well. I specifically love using it in rental cars so I don’t have to sync my entire phone to the car’s system; I just plug it in and play either audio or directions from Waze. 

Otis Eyewear Omar Sunglasses


For a period of my life, I only bought cheap sunglasses because I knew they were going to get scratched, scuffed, or chipped through my travels … and then I discovered the genius of scratch-resistant eyewear. This beautiful pair is made from mineral glass (which is reportedly 12 times more scratch-resistant than traditional lenses) and features color-enhancing tech that makes even the most mundane seem vibrant. 

Hekyip Half Moon Cosmetic Bag


Packing a cosmetic bag could be a story in itself, and I always have one in my purse and/or carry-on. It’s an easy way to make sure I have all my basics, plus a few handy items for emergencies. Mine is stocked with two hair bands, a small pill tube with antihistamine and pain relievers, lip balm, a moisturizing hand sanitizer, antiseptic spray, Band-Aids, a brush/mirror combo, a pack of tissues (which comes in handy for more than just blowing my nose), feminine products, and some dental floss. I love that this bag has compartments for everything I need, but also that it’s waterproof and small enough to easily stash in my purse. 

SY Compact Mini Umbrella


My umbrella collection at home once consisted of what I call “tourist shop specials,” a visual reminder of my failure to pack an umbrella while traveling to places like Venice, Quito, and Mumbai. It took an impulsive Amazon purchase to change my forgetful ways. I now always carry this pocket-sized umbrella with me. It’s sturdy enough for use as my emergency umbrella, and small enough so I can stash it in my purse or pocket (yes, pocket!) so I’m never stuck in the rain without it.

RediTape Travel-size Duct Tape 


I started traveling with duct tape because of a viral Samantha Brown video. The world-traveling TV host uses it to cover annoying lights in hotel rooms, mark her luggage, and more. I found this purse-friendly pack a while back, and I’m glad I did because it’s helped me patch clothing and repair a shoe while out and away from home.

Tide Stain Remover To Go Pen


Many adults have long since mastered the art of wearing an outfit and not getting coffee, ink, chocolate, or wine on it in some capacity, but, alas, I am not that adult. I never leave home without a Tide Pen for this reason, and it couldn’t be easier to throw into a purse and forget about it — until you need it. I’ve used it on my shoes, pants, shirts, jackets, and even on my purse itself. 

Tweezerman Nail Clippers  


I like to travel with nail clippers, but not for the reason you may think. Sure, a chipped or sharp nail can be annoying, and these can ease that frustration in one swift clip. But the real reason I have these is because they are a TSA-approved way to cut something in a pinch. I’ve used these for everything from clipping zip ties off a kennel when traveling with my dog to trimming stray strings off clothing. It’s a super handy little tool, and it doesn’t take up much space at all.

Zoku Pocket Straw


What’s ironic about this addition to my purse is that I’m not even a big straw user. I started using this reusable straw when traveling with my kids — who are very much straw users — but I’ve found it comes in handy as a stirrer for coffee, and it’s really nice for smoothies or drinks from establishments still reliant on plastic straws. 

Moleskine Classic Pocket Notebook


Contrary to pop culture references, many travel journalists actually use their phones to take notes while traveling, so this may seem old-school of me. The truth is, I actually rarely use my pocket notebook for note taking (I prefer the “Notes” app myself). Instead, I keep a list of numbers I would need in an emergency. Embarrassingly, I don’t even know my husband’s number from memory (c’mon, who knows anyone’s numbers anymore?), so if anything happened to my phone while I’m out I wouldn’t be able to call him even if I were able to find a phone to borrow. Of course, it’s also handy for the occasional note or inspired prose, but really it’s a glorified emergency number sheet … which would also work if you’re really looking to save space. 

Apex Glasses Repair Kit


It’s hard to count how many times this tiny screwdriver has come in handy in my day-to-day life, but it’s easily one of my most frequently used tools. Its obvious purpose is helpful (i.e., repairing sunglasses), but it’s also great for cleaning out fingernails and pressing that teeny tiny button on devices that require a pin-point tip.

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