Even when I'm not traveling, I feel almost naked when I realize that I've left one of my essentials out of my purse (like going to Great America with friends, spilling my Hazelnut Mocha on myself during the car ride there, and forgetting #2 on my list). I have to laugh, I'm forced to carry one of the largest purses or backpacks out of any other woman I know, but it's by choice. I have no idea how women have SMALL purses! I saw an old family friend of mine that I hadn't seen for eight years recently, and she had A CLUTCH. It was a glorified wallet, and it had all of her necessary cards, some paper money, and even some lip gloss. She had her phone in her pocket, and that was all she needed. Part of me was thinking, lucky girl. The other part of me thought, you traitor to woman-kind. At any rate, with my packed-to-the-brim totes, I'm always prepared for nearly any situation, and I've found that a lot people like keeping me around as a pack mule, if nothing else.
This list has my Top Ten essentials for a woman on-the-go (especially one abroad), and I've found that a few of them get me points from a lot of different women, from moms, to college girls, to teenagers, you name it. Some of the items will keep you safe, others sane, others looking your best at all times, whatever you need to be at your best, all the time.
#10 Hicural Hiccup Relief Stick
I don't get hiccups all that often, but I'll get them whenever I eat spicy or hot food. For some people, getting rid of hiccups is as easy as holding your breath or chugging some water (and only water), but for others, it's a little harder. I first heard of this stick after my big sister told me her adventures about selling it. I'll admit, I was very skeptical at first, but since I ordered it, I've had the hiccups twice, and this little gadget cured them within 30 seconds, just like it promises. My sister told me she came across a couple surgeons and post-operative nurses that said they wanted to get the device in hospitals, and having had some serious surgeries myself, I can tell you it's a wonderful idea. When you've been split open from stem to stern, everything hurts. It hurts to cough, to sneeze, to laugh, and the hiccups make you wish your surgeon had nicked a key artery and you bled out on the table sometimes... The only relief a doctor or a nurse can give you when your hiccups won't go away is some kind of heavy duty medication (usually an anti-psychotic or pain medication), and they don't like giving that out for hiccups, which is reasonable. It's a great tool to have when you'll be around children, or if you're prone to hiccups. I think it's definitely unique, and when someone near me gets a bout of hiccups, they probably won't expect me to pull out that little device and tell them to use it. Plus, it's washable, so it's relatively sanitary.
There have actually been studies - Chapstick is addictive. My lips chap terribly, so I carry Chapstick in a few different forms with me in my purse at all times. It's usually not good to share if you're prone to cold sores (or if the person who wants to borrow it from you is prone to cold sores), so keep that in mind. There are other products on the market that probably treat chapped lips a lot better than things like Chapstick do, but for something that's easy to carry in your purse or your backpack, you really can't beat it. For something to treat your severely chapped lips on the go, stick with something in a tube instead of a pot (and if you're prone to acne like I am, look for a petrolatum-free product) like Cover FX's MintGlaze Lip Balm but for something that tastes good that, ahem, someone else might enjoy just as much as you, try Philosophy's Lip Shine products. The flavor at the end of that link is the flavor/shade I have in my bag, and it's very tasty. The boyfriend thinks so too.
#8 Discreet, Purse-Proof "Emergency" Tampons
Once you get to be in the co-ed/college student age, most women you're around that are in that phase of the month will ask for a tampon, not a napkin or a maxi-pad. Some will, to which you make the "ooh, I'm sorry" face and say "I have a tampon?" and see if they'll take it. Until recently, I only required the tampon in my bag four times a year, but any woman around me knew I had at least one on me at all times. I make sure I have one in every bag I could possibly have with me at any given time, that's a purse, a carry on, my gym bag, my rehearsal bag, you name it. Sometimes you never know when Mother Nature will come knocking on your (or your BFF's) door, so it helps to be prepared. Tampax Pearl has "purse-resistant" wrappers, but I prefer Kotex U tampons because the tampons themselves are more compact, and the wrappers have the same kind of purse-resistant quality that the Tampax ones do.
#7 Fill-You-Up Snack Bars
In the past, some of my medications would make me have debilitating hunger pangs to the tune of being out shopping, I'm fine, we're walking, we're talking, that's on sale, this comes in my size, I would love- PUTAIN DE MERDE I NEED FOOD NOW I CAN'T MOVE. But the food court is all the way over on the other side of the mall, and I've magically been transformed into a 90-year-old woman with a hunched back who is unable to lift her feet off of the ground. Things have changed a little bit since my medications have been switched up, but I still carry snack bars in my purse in case I get hungry, or if someone I'm with needs a snack. When I say snack bars, I don't mean things like Nutri-Grain bars that get all smashed up to heck from being bounced around in my bag, or overly-sugary candy bars either. Considering the fact that I can't eat Nutri-Grain bars anyway... I digress. I carry things like KIND Bars or LÄRA Bars with me. KIND Bars are heavy-duty, more like nut brittle bars than a snack bar, so they hold up great in purses, and they don't spoil quickly. They're gluten-free, so most people (like me) can eat them. Because they're nut-based, they "stick to your ribs" and one bar can keep you going at least from one meal to the next. My favorites are the cranberry almond, the dark chocolate cherry cashew, and the almond and apricot. The LÄRA Bars are similar to a Nutri-Grain bar, but they're definitely dense. They're primarily made of dates, so it's not an "empty carb" as if it were made with flour (they're gluten-free, so we know they aren't). These are VERY "stick to your ribs" and I feel like they stay with me longer than the KIND Bars do, but they don't give me as much energy. I'm not one for the processed nut flavor that these have (I prefer a handful of peanuts to peanut butter), so my favorite flavors here are apple pie, cherry pie, and chocolate chip cherry cookie.
#6 Blotting Papers
You can pick up blotting papers at most drug stores, your local Sephora, or a place like Target. They're used for removing excess oil and sweat from your face (and other areas) during the day. They usually don't remove your make up along with them, so they come in handy. Sometimes they'll come infused with vitamins, or essential oils. I use ones infused with tea tree oil, since tea tree oil can be used as an acne remedy.
#5 A Copy of Your Passport
This one isn't so vital if you're not out of your home country, but if you are, and you get into some kind of trouble, a student ID or a driver's license from your home country isn't going to work too well. Like your social security card, you aren't going to want to have your passport on your person while you're out and about, only when you absolutely need it (like when you're crossing borders). Granted, a copy of your passport isn't a valid form of ID, but if you can explain to whomever you're dealing with (like the police) that your actual passport is at your place of living and you will gladly show it to them when you have it, that should be fine. When you're out of the country, you should leave a copy of your passport with one or two loved ones in case you lose your passport, or if anything else happens to you. Having multiple copies of your passport is a good thing in case you lose your passport and you need to apply for a replacement while you're abroad.
#4 Manicure Kit
My nails are freakishly brittle, and they break all the time. I have to have a manicure kit with me just to keep my nails in check while I'm out and about, since they always seem to break at the worst time possible. The kits I buy always have to have at least a nail clipper and a nail file. I'll usually have to replace them once a year since the metal files and the clippers get worn down and don't work as well. Not everyone carries these on them all the time, so a few people have been near me and said "man, I really wish I had a nail file" and I've handed them mine, much to their delight.
#3 OTC Pain & Nausea Relievers
When you're me, you carry a bag typically used for makeup within your purse that's FULL of medication, some OTC, some prescription, all of it for some kind of pain or nausea that could strike anytime, anywhere. A lot of my friends know this, and have texted me telling me that they have some terrible cramping and could use something for it, which I've given them (the OTC, of course, the prescriptions are for me only) out of the kindness of my heart, and because I know they'd do the same for me. I've known women to carry a few of their prescription pills that they take every day in a very small Tylenol container in their purse in case they realize they've forgotten to take a dose while they're out and about. I've also known women to carry a mix of OTC pills in one small bottle. I think it's important to have some type of at least OTC pain medication on you in case you encounter a headache or a strange bout of cramping, or someone close to you does. My top picks for medications that should be in a woman's purse would be Tylenol (Acetaminophen), Motrin (Ibuprofen), Aleve (Naproxen), and Pepto-Bismol tablets (Bismuth Subsalicylate). NEVER EVER GIVE SOMEONE ONE OF YOUR PRESCRIPTIONS. The reason why you're not supposed to do that is because that person might have an allergy to the medication, or they might already be on a different medication that will react with the medication you want to give them. If something happens to them because you gave them something you were prescribed, you could be liable. Not a good thing!
Maybe I'm just a messy eater, but this is definitely one of my top picks for a purse essential. Tide-To-Go is a stain-remover that comes in a pen, and doesn't require immediate washing. P2P turned me onto this product way back in 2004, and I've been carrying them ever since. It's easier to use than a wipe, and it's more effective than the wipes I've tried. This is easy to lend to people, which I've done a lot. All you do is unintentionally spill on yourself (hopefully not as frequently as I do), wipe off what you can, blot the stain with the pen, rub it with the pen, let it dry, and the stain should disappear. Magic!
#1 Discreet Pepper Spray
There's this "Through the Eyes of A Rapist" post going around Facebook now that details how rapists select their targets, and how to fight off an attacker, etcetera. I'm one step ahead of it for the most part. As the article says, it's better to be safe (and somewhat paranoid) than hurt or worse, so carrying pepper spray is a good thing. Double check if it's allowed in the country you're traveling to, as some of the ingredients in some brands of the spray may be restricted. When you buy pepper spray online, double check the restrictions on your state. Some states won't allow more than a certain amount of pepper spray to be shipped by mail. My boyfriend has told me that the foam types that turn into water on contact work the best, and the ones marked "OC" are the most potent. His favorite brand is Inferno. Pepper spray is supposed to distract your attacker so that you can book it and get help. Because it's a spray, they don't have to be that close to you for it to be effective, which is the opposite with something like your keys. While it's good to make yourself a horrible target by being obvious, carrying a full-size can of pepper spray, whipping it out, and screaming "I HAVE PEPPER SPRAY" at your would-be attacker, carrying that full-sized can takes up a lot of room in your purse, and sometimes being a bit more subtle is a good thing. This site offers a variety of choices, from practice kits, to pen sprays, to keychains, to (my favorite) lipstick sprays! Most types of pepper spray will also repel dogs to a certain extent, though there are types that are specifically made to repel dogs. I started carrying pepper spray after Noah was attacked by a pit bull.
You never know what things you'll come across in life, and they could be as minor as the hiccups, as annoying as a headache or a coffee spill, or as serious as a potential attacker, but with these items in your trusty tote-bag (and not one of those silly clutches), you'll be ready for just about anything.