21 Items to Make Commuting to Work Way Easier, Because It's Good to Be Prepared for Any Possible Emergency

Whether you take a train, bus, or just have a nice long walk, commuting to work can be hard. Like, really, really, hard. Not only are you battling weather, time, and traffic patterns, but you are also surrounded by a bunch of strangers who are just as unhappy with the whole process as you are. The best thing you can do is be as prepared as humanly possible for any and all emergencies with all the right essentials for commuters

I've been commuting from New Jersey to New York City on and off for more than two years now. My current commute involves driving over half an hour to where I grab the bus, then a 30 to 35 minute bus ride, followed by a brisk 20 minute walk to my office building because taking the subway gets expensive, and it takes almost the same amount of time as walking at peak hours. Usually when I tell people this, I get a vacant stare and a confused, "Why?" 

I may still get lost in Port Authority, but what I do know is what I need to carry with me every day, and let me tell you — it ain't light. But it will absolutely pay off. The most important essential we don't list (and shouldn't have to) is a big ol' bag to help you carry all this stuff.

Image: Fotolia

Entertainment

You’re going to need to distract yourself somehow, especially if you don’t like the idea of falling asleep on public transportation. Obviously there is always your smartphone, but why not spend the time progressing through a new show on Netflix from a tablet, or maybe, you know, reading a book? 

Try reading something funny like Amy Poehler’s Yes Please to wake you up, or pick up a fantasy series you’ve never had the time to try like Game of ThronesYou’ll have plenty of time now thanks to the wonders of morning traffic. 

‘A Game of Thrones (Book 1),’ $11 Paperback/ $7 Kindle, Amazon
Yes Please, $14 Paperback/ $11 Kindle , Amazon

Water Bottle

Water is essential when traveling any distance, especially if part of your morning journey includes a brisk walk. This cute but very functional CamelBak will do the trick.

CamelBak Eddy, $14, Amazon

Snack

You left work at 5 o’clock, but you couldn’t get onto a bus until nearly 5:45. Now, you’re stuck in heavy traffic and have no idea what time you’ll make it home for dinner. Instead of digging in your bag for the crumbs of something left behind, make sure you always pack a healthy snack that’ll keep you happy, even amidst a sea of grumpy fellow commuters. KIND Bars are great for this because they’re small, filling, and they don’t get crushed easily at the bottom of your purse.

KIND Advantage Subscription, $90, Kind Snacks

Ibuprofen

A baby is crying three rows behind you. The screech of the train on the tracks sends a biting sensation through your head. No one wants to get stuck on a train with a pounding headache. Commuting can be painful enough without it.

However, please don’t be that person who sticks an entire bottle of Advil into their bag and sounds like a pair of maracas as they sashay through the street. I stick two or three in a mini sandwich bag that I keep inside my spare glasses case.

Advil, $14, Amazon

Mini Hairbrush

It’s raining. It’s pouring. The whole train is snoring. And your hair that looked perfect over an hour ago is now a hot mess and you haven’t even gotten to the office yet. This sturdy hair brush is great for any hair emergency. 

The Big Mini Hair Brush, $7, Amazon

Mini Planner

Instead of lugging around your massive planner back and forth from work and risk leaving it somewhere, jot down the super important things in this cute pocket planner. I bought this exact one at Barnes & Noble, and I don’t go anywhere without it. 

Weekly Pocket Planner, $20, Amazon

ChapStick

Never underestimate the importance of carrying chapstick.

ChapStick (3 pack), $3, Amazon

Portable Phone Charger

You’re stuck in traffic and didn’t notice you’ve been zoned into Candy Crush for more than 25 minutes. Now your phone is at 11 percent, and you don’t know what to do. These emergencies (and actual emergencies) call for a portable phone charger. There are so many of these being sold now that you can even get one in a fancy print like the one above.

Printed Portable Phone Charger, $24, UrbanOutfitters

Mini Lint Roller

Repeat this with me: Miniature objects are your friend. That aisle of mini toiletries in the drug store is your new BFF. Trust me.

This particular mini item is especially handy. If you own pets, or even if the person who sat in your bus seat before you owns pets, this mini lint roller will help keep those black pants looking pristine.

Mini Lint Roller, $2, CVS

Pocket Pack Facial Tissue

I actually think I’m in love with these pocket packs of tissues. I don’t buy any other kind. The designs on the package are pretty, and they fit perfectly into the pockets of my bag.

Kleenex Pocket Pack Facial Tissues (pack of 16), $7, Amazon

Bobby Pin Set

You never know when you need to make a last minute hair change. Those wispy bangs from this morning might feel greasy and gross by the time you exit your terminal. These are especially great because they come in a little plastic container instead of on that awful piece of cardboard that is A.) difficult to cram into a bag, and B.) always seems to get wet somehow.

Bobby Pin Set, $2, Forever 21

Mints/Gum

It is common practice for commuters to tote around a toothbrush and toothpaste, but what if it isn’t kosher to brush your teeth wherever you may find yourself? Pop a quick mint, or keep some gum around as well for a quick solution.

Altoids Smalls Curiously Strong Mints (9 tins), $8, Amazon

Lunch Bunch

If you’re already spending all that extra money commuting to work, it might be wise to bring your lunch at least a few times a week. I have a similar Vera Bradley lunch bag to the one above that I love. It’s better than wasting paper bags, and this one hasn’t leaked on me once. Plus, it’s adorable.

If you ever shop Vera’s site, you will also know that they frequently have sales, and I got mine for nearly half the price listed below. 

Lunch Bunch Bag, $24, Vera Bradley

Makeup Bag

If you have room for it, this five inch polka dot bag is perfect for all your cosmetic needs. 

Bon Voyage Makeup Bag, $6, Forever 21

Compact

A compact is an absolute must-have for any kind of traveling. And how can anyone resist this darling little Kate Spade one?

Enamel Darling Compact, $30, Kate Spade

Pen

You may think, I don’t need a pen. I have my smartphone. I’ll just write anything I need to know in there. But trust me, it’s always a good idea to go old school and carry a pen around. Any pen will do, so long as it has a cap. You definitely don’t want one of those awful clicky pens that’ll magically click open and leak ink all over the bottom of your bag. These poppin’ pens are a cute choice.

Ballpoint Pen Set, $11, Amazon

Band-Aids

Always a necessity, and so easy to just shove a few anywhere just in case. I also keep a few of these in my spare glasses case.

Band-Aid Bandages, $5, Amazon

Sewing Kit

So your skirt ripped and it’s 7 o’clock in the morning. What do you do? Suffer? Nope! Just whip out your sewing kit. You’ll feel impressively handy, and you won’t have to wrap your cardigan around your waist and waddle into the nearest store to buy something you don’t even like that much.

Mini Sewing Kit, $11, Amazon

Tech Touch Gloves

You’re standing on the train tracks waiting. And waiting. And waiting. It’s January. You could be texting or scrolling through your Newsfeed, but your hands are already aching from the cold. Not with tech gloves! They’re sold pretty much everywhere now, so you can even get stylish with them.

Knit & Leatherette Trim Touch Screen Gloves, $15, Amazon

Extra Pair of Socks

So it’s raining, and you could have sworn that your new knee-high boots wouldn’t let any water in. And yet, your feet are soaking and cold. Now what? This is why you should always throw in an extra pair of socks, especially on a rainy day, and especially if you refuse to wear rain boots like me.

Boston Terrier Ankle Socks, $2, Forever 21

Micro Umbrella

Speaking of rain, you never know when it might come out and surprise you. Always pack a mini umbrella.

Totes Micro Umbrella, $18, Amazon