The Most Important Item to Take on a Trip

Yesterday, I left home on a work trip. When I arrived at our destination, I started freaking out.

I forgot them! This trip is going to be terrible! I always check for them! How could I forget? Why didn’t I stop for half a second to make sure I was all set?

Yes, there are a lot of important things to bring on a work trip. For me, my mental list include a minimal amount of clothing, my always-packed toiletry caddy, a book or three, my laptop and phone, power cords, ID, and money. (Leave your ideas in the comments.) But there is one item—or two depending on how you look at it—that I forgot this time. And my reaction to leaving it behind indicated it was probably the thing I needed most.

Sleep is important all the time, but while traveling, it rises even higher. And there are additional challenges while on the road—new noises outside, people in the hall or even sharing a room, different lighting inside and outside of where you’re sleeping, different energy levels due to the work going on, jetlag, and the bed and pillow themselves.

I have one silver bullet for making everything alright, one tool I use to solve all of these problems. And yesterday, I freaked out when I realized I’d forgotten them.


earplugs 31MdUH7OSELEarplugs have a psychosomatic effect on me. When I put them in and close my eyes, I know I’m supposed to fall asleep. Noises are shut out, and everything else is put in perspective. My earplugs tell my brain and my body, “Knock it off! You need to sleep now.”

I use the rubber kind with stalks that stick out. They block more noise than other types, in my estimation. I look like a weird alien with them in, but it’s worth it.

So as I panicked about never falling asleep last night, I ripped apart my travel gear in desperate hope they’d made it into my roller bag. No dice. But then, an idea flashed.

I reached into my bag for work that I’d also brought. Down in the bottom was a pair of earplugs I’d thrown in a week ago. “Yes!” Earplugs are my secret weapon as a travel ninja. (Click to tweet this.)

And it’s a good thing I did. I was sharing a room at a retreat center with a coworker. Watch the video, with your volume all the way up, and then mentally double the volume, and remember what time it is.

I was very glad I had the earplugs.

What are you always sure to have with you while on the road? Leave a comment.


  • Loafingcactus Mary

    I lived on the road for five years and my motto was that anything can be fixed with an ID and a credit card.

    My secret weapon? An earphone plug splitter to give to the family of four behind you on the plane who inevitably say, “Utoh, we have two kids and only one electronic do-dad.” “Here, borrow this!”

  • Jess Fick

    For that reason I use the white noise app on my iPhone for when I travel. Being able to fall asleep to the same noise of a fan no matter where I go or who I room with is golden. Though once when I was rooming with a friend she asked me why I liked to listen to “a scary ghost howling” to go to sleep at night.