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Noise-reduction headphones

“I would rather go economy class with noise-reduction headphones than business class without,” says Rick Steves, the popular travel-show host and author (his latest is an updated version of Travel as a Political Act), when asked what he can’t hit the road without. “Mine are Bose. They’re great.”

Sleeping pills

“I hate to promote pharmaceuticals – and I know pills you can use and abuse and get hooked on – but they are my godsend,” he says about prescription sleep aids. “When I am getting rundown or sick I need my beauty rest.”

Mechanical pencils

A notebook and writing tool are essential for Steves, who spends a third of his life on the road, researching and filming. “I have to say, I’d be really bummed out if I didn’t have this particular brand of pencil. It’s just a Paper Mate but I like everything about it. I steal them from my office.”

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Sleeping bag

“I used to take a sleep sack – my own sleep sack – and then I could sleep on the floor of a train and not be all scuzzy,” says Steves, recalling his early days of budget travel, using money earned from piano lessons. Of course, he’s come a long way since then. ″I don’t sleep on floors of trains any more," he adds with a laugh.

Backpack

One thing that hasn’t changed: “I’m still a backpacker. It’s so much easier." Not surprisingly his favourite is his own brand of bag. “It costs [US]$100 and I always say if I could find a better bag for $500 I would buy it in a heartbeat because I’m living out of it. It’s my home for four months of the year. It’s very low key, very rugged with beautiful pockets.”