Several years ago when I was visiting Cusubamba, a remote village in Ecuador, one of my fellow travelers carried plastic bottles of bubbles in her backpack. When we exited our tour bus, many Ecuadorian children ran toward our group, clamoring to see the American tourists. My friend pulled out one of her bottles and blew a myriad of bubbles toward the children. They were enthralled – laughing and jumping up and down. This broke the barrier between our crowd and the children and their parents. And it was such an easy, clever idea.
It got me wondering: What other simple items do travel experts and frequent travelers slip in their suitcases/backpacks to make their trips smooth and easy? So I asked. Here’s what they told me.
Mitch Glass, a travel blogger from Cali, Colombia, swears by duct tape. Whenever he travels, he wraps several layers of duct tape around his deodorant stick; this takes up less room in his backpack than toting a whole roll. “I cannot tell you how many times this has come in handy,” Glass says. “I’ve used it to fix broken flip flops and to patch up a leaky tent. I once used it to splint my dislocated finger when there were no hospitals nearby. When the stick runs out of deodorant, I use it as a hiding spot for emergency cash.”
Jared Nusinoff, the “chief adventurer” with outheretravel.ca, also carries duct tape when he travels. “It can save you in a pinch,” Nusinoff says. “You can use it to fix just about anything. Lost your wallet? Make one with duct tape. Lost a tent pole? Use a stick and duct tape. Strap broke? Use duct tape. It is the best.”
Jonathan Rodriguez, a tech executive who travels often, uses a clothespin as a holder for his toothbrush in the bathroom (to clip the bottom of his toothbrush so it stands upright and doesn’t touch anything) and as a bookmark. “I clip it on my used towel in my hotel bathroom so as not to confuse my towel and that of my travel companion,” Rodriguez says.
Frequent traveller and public-relations agency principal Kristie Aylett also puts clothes pins in her overnight bag. She uses them to clip snack bags closed, to pin clothes on a line to dry (of course) and to close gaps in drapes. “It never fails that hotel-room curtains don’t quite close, leaving an annoying gap that lets in a beam of light into an otherwise dark room,” Aylett says.
Aylett always packs a whistle as well. “It provides a sense of safety, knowing I could use it to attract attention on a dark street, in a natural disaster or other crisis,” she says. “If asked about it, I jokingly respond that I’ve seen the movie Titanic.”
Janice Holly Booth, a team building expert and National Geographic author, sticks panty liners inside helmets (biking, riding, climbing) against her forehead to catch sweat before it runs down into her eyes. “They work great and are absolutely worth the dork factor,” she says. “No one has ever pointed out that I’m wearing an article of feminine protection inside my helmet, and I wouldn’t care if they did.”
A beach ball
Keith Lang, founder of travel blog Nomad Flag, takes an inflatable beach ball with him on long flights. The fold-out table is uncomfortable when he needs to change position, so he inflates the beachball, puts it in his lap, wedges it against the seat in front of him, and rests his head on top. “It takes the load off my neck, and upper and middle back. The beauty of it is that the ball packs down to almost nothing,” Lang says.
Patricia Hajifotiou, owner of the Olive Odysseys, a travel agency catering to small groups, mostly in Europe, was trying to wrap a breakable gift she bought for a friend while traveling in Italy. Luckily, she found a small piece of bubble wrap in a recycling bin. Since that time, she always travels with a clean piece. “There are countless way to use it,” Hajifotiou says. “It takes up very little space in the bottom of your suitcase and weighs practically nothing.”
Traveling from California to South Africa, Evan Rubens, a photographer based in Southern California, observed his wife pack dryer sheets in her suitcase to help reduce static and keep her clothes fresh. “I realized it would be the perfect fit for my backpack on long trips and I’ve used them ever since,” he says. “A single sheet is usually enough for a trip and can be used for laundry when I get home.”
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