The One Thing Every Traveler Should Pack But Few Do

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Scour the internet before your next trip and you'll find a bevy of articles telling you what to pack and what not to pack for any given vacation. You can go as narrow as you like and find a packing list for just about every destination, season, and travel type. You'll also find endless lists of travel essentials, those items you can't leave home without no matter where you're going.

Much of the advice is solid, some of it is overwhelming, but every now and then you find a trick that blows your mind. This is my space to share my own life-saving travel tip about the item I never leave home without.

A canvas tote bag.

Touting the Tote

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There are a lot of fancy, expensive tote bags out there, but I never leave home without a simple canvas tote that I picked up for 15 Euros at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin. Any canvas tote works, whether it's one you purchase at the grocery store or order custom online, these simple bags can be a real lifesaver on the road.

You may already use canvas tote bags as an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bags at the grocery store, but they can be used for so much more. They're inexpensive, lightweight, and are easily folded up and thrown in a suitcase to be used over and over again when you're traveling.

My tote has come in handy browsing Parisian street markets, where I picked up a baguette, cheese, pears, and a cheap bottle of wine for a makeshift picnic in the park. When I purchased six t-shirts in Shanghai as souvenirs, the bag helped me transport them back to the hotel in good condition. And when, on the rare occasion I browse a local boutique, I can splurge on myself without collecting thick shopping bags that I have to leave wadded up in the corner of my hotel room.

The Versatile Travel Bag

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But tote bags aren't just great for shopping. Reusable as a beach bag, a bag for the gym, or even a substitute for a larger duffle for a quick day trip, a simple canvas tote wears many hats on extended vacations.

They're also incredibly useful as you progress through your trip and start collecting dirty laundry. Whether you need to haul some smelly shirts to a nearby laundromat or just want to keep your dirty socks separated from your nicer clothes, tote bags work great for clothes storage. Bonus: they can follow your clothes into the washer and dryer when they need a quick refresh.

The one thing I don't recommend using a tote for while you're traveling is carrying any valuables. Canvas totes don't come with zippers or anti-theft features, and most don't even have pockets, so I don't recommend carrying your passport, laptop, or expensive camera in the bag while you're in an unfamiliar place.

But for a bit of extra storage for items you pick up along the way, this bag may just become your favorite travel accessory.  

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