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Travel Secrets!!

I have been traveling to Europe every year for the last ten years and 95% of what I've learned has come from this forum. I would like everyone to share a "travel secret" that made traveling easier and packing lighter.

Secrets:
1) Charlie's soap: this stuff is perfect for sink washing and is a powder so it's not in the liquids bag and now comes in individual packets for a single wash, so I toss 6 of these in my bag and that's got me covered for a 14 day trip.

2) Nylon parachute cord: I like the Rick Steven washing clothes line but there are times when it doesn't quite reach where it needs to so I have a 6-8' piece of cord that extends the line so I can use it anywhere!

Please share your "secrets"

Posted by
15887 posts

1) For keeping our rolling bags dry on a rainy walk, we pack trash/garbage bags large enough to slip over them and make a hole in the end for the handle to poke through. They do double duty for hauling clothes to-and-from laundromats.

2) Save the clear, zippered plastic pouches that new sheets and pillowcases come in: they make make nice (free!) packing cubes for toiletries/clothing. They can also be useful for packing damp/wet items - like swimsuits - that didn't have time to dry before moving to the next location.

Posted by
7364 posts

I agree that the Travel Forum has been very helpful, especially for itinerary improvements.

For packing light - over several trips I've learned that I only need to pack 4 outfits - wash 2, wear the other two while those dry. The outfits don't need to mix & match. It makes "what to wear" a non-issue during the trip. If I'm going to Paris, 2-3 outfits will be dresses; otherwise, 1 dress and 3 capris are the norm. I've received compliments during RS trips and afterwards looking at photos that I look nice, so it's fine to pack light!

Maybe one more non- packing hint - step away from the camera and enjoy the moment! Everything doesn't need to be photographed. Enjoy the art, savor the meal, talk to people; you're in Europe!

Posted by
4948 posts

Kathy - you beat me to it on the clear zippered sheet pouches. Between those and large ziplock bags, I've never found the need to buy packing cubes. And they last for years (( unless you have a lotion bottle leak all over the inside of one, LOL )

Posted by
1068 posts

Read guidebooks and do internet searches before you go.

Posted by
332 posts

Undergarments and sox ready for the trash. We take those and toss in the garbage as we use. Could be said for jut about any type of clothes. Have a shirt or jacket in good shape but outdated. Take & toss. If in good enough shape, drop at a donation box if you one across one.

Posted by
437 posts
  1. Ziplock bags -several sizes. Good for keeping scarves, receipts, etc together.
  2. Universal sink stopper for doing laundry in the sink. I just leave it in my suitcase so I always know it's there.
  3. Liquid laundry soap in a small squeeze bottle, kept in a double locked plastic bag. I do a couple items of clothes every couple of days. Socks, underwear, top, etc.
  4. A little "office" container or ziploc. I keep some different sized stickies and a calculator in there. I find a few stickies useful for tagging guide books or making little notes that are handy.
  5. Leatherman - you never know when you may have to fix some small little thing.
Posted by
2528 posts

For packing lighter, I include a limited amount of clothing (less than Rick) with no worries about matching, colors, etc. All combinations more than meet the high standards set by the fashion police.

Posted by
11280 posts

I always take a stash of different sizes of zip lock baggies, two rubber wine stoppers and part of a cake of Fels Napfa soap. The soap is available at Ace Hardware and is a great stain remover. I cut the cake of soap in half and put it in a baggie. You can also wash clothes with it but I prefer Camp Suds ( REI or any outdoor store) concentrated liquid soap. I fill two 3 oz bottles with Camp Suds. Plastic blow up hangers dry clothes faster an d a few hooks with clips for underwear. I take a few extra luggage locks and luggage tags.

Posted by
630 posts

I like to bring four of these over-the-door hooks. They come in handy to get our backpacks and raincoats off the floor which helps to keep the room a bit more organized - especially when the room is tiny.

Posted by
630 posts

1) For keeping our rolling bags dry on a rainy walk, we pack trash/garbage bags large enough to slip over them and make a hole in the end for the handle to poke through. They do double duty for hauling clothes to-and-from laundromats.

Kathy, can you roll the roller luggage with the garbage back over it?

Posted by
630 posts

. . . part of a cake of Fels Napfa soap. The soap is available at Ace Hardware and is a great stain remover. I cut the cake of soap in half and put it in a baggie.

Suzi, this is a great idea. I'm going to start doing this myself. Thanks for the idea. That soap removes all stains!

I've found the soap at Walmart. It's cheap too!

Posted by
630 posts

I like to bring a couple of mini keychain flashlights. I put them on a lanyard and we wear them around our neck when we sleep. It's perfect for getting up the middle of the night to use the restroom - we can see where we're going in a strange place without waking up the other person with a bright light.

Posted by
8747 posts

Coin purse, twist ties, zip lock bags, Maglight, small pencil from a golf course, small tin of dental floss, small roll of gaffers tape and some safety pins aren't travel secrets but excellent practical travel items.

Travel Secrets?

Ask a policeperson for a good place to eat.

Get lost and be prepared to discover a hidden church, cafe, museum, park, restaurant, etc because of it.

Keen shoes and sandals are great for travel.

The little London Tube pocket maps are brillant.

And the best travel secret should remain a travel secret so it doesn't become over run and ruined.

Discover it yourself.

Posted by
4574 posts

2 secrets - Lush bar shampoo. I often use apartments, so have no expectation that toiletries are provided. The bar is good for over 80 uses, and it is good for shampoo, soap replacement and laundering clothing....and doesn't have to go into the 3-1-1 bag.
2nd secret - I ensure my purse or pack has all my essentials in it and placed handy to me before I go to sleep. I know how to grab it even in the dark in case I need to evacuate.

Posted by
1307 posts

Pilgrim, I also take a garbage bag in case of rain. The bottom part where the wheels are is open. I do it a little differently, though -- I cut open the base of the bag so that the tightening "straps" are up around the extension handle.
I am a big fan of Tide to Go -- it takes out any food stains almost instantly and helps save on actual laundry.
Speaking of "secrets," I prefer Tom's unscented deodorant, which I have never seen in a travel size, so I take it out of its regular size container and move it to a clean Secret travel size container which fits it perfectly.
I take the small tethered document sac from Rick's roller bag and instead use it in my Travelon crossbody bag by hooking it onto the little flashlight tether. I put my ATM card and cash in it after visiting the bank machine. It doesn't help me pack lighter, but it does add another level of security against pickpocketing.

Posted by
630 posts

Pilgrim, I also take a garbage bag in case of rain. The bottom part
where the wheels are is open. I do it a little differently, though --
I cut open the base of the bag so that the tightening "straps" are up
around the extension handle.

Thanks, SharYn! I can picture this now. Great idea.

Posted by
14094 posts

Best tips from here:

  • 2 or 2.5 gallon ziplock bag (the name brand, not the cheap Dollar store variety), reinforced with mailing tape to use for a washing machine for my sink wash. I don't mind doing sink washing on vacation - just takes a few minutes, usually at the end of the day when I'm winding down anyway.

  • Pack on paper first. I'm not sure which poster I was reading who said that. In my mind I always associate it with one of the Colorado guys, Frank or Lee. This was one of the things I read when I first came to the helpline/forum and I took it to heart. A packing list keeps me from overpacking and not forgetting anything (mostly).

Posted by
15887 posts

Kathy, can you roll the roller luggage with the garbage back over it?

Yes, absolutely. The garbage/trash bag only covers the fabric part of the bag and doesn't interfere with the wheels. Should your bag be too long, just trim it off. We almost never take cabs so have rolled our bags over a mile or so on some of our trips.

The bottom part where the wheels are is open

YES! Like that!

Tip # 3: I set out a "gather box" about a month before our trip and throw things we don't need other than for the trip in it as I think about them. The master packing list is in that box as well, and I cross things off as they go into the suitcases.

Posted by
2199 posts

In lieu of a moneybelt or neck pouch or the belt pouch my husband uses, I made a slightly-larger-than-passport-size pouch with two buttonholes at the top. I sew two buttons into the front left inside waistband of each set of bottoms I take (pants, skirt) and button the pouch on each day. It holds my passport, the receipt for airline tickets, an emergency $100 U.S., all the European money except that for the day, and a plastic credit card holder with credit and debit cards, my driver's license and health insurance cards. That card holder has a ribbon attached which sticks out the top of the pocket so I can easily pull out my debit card for use at an ATM. A little hard to describe, but if anyone would like photos I'll be happy to send them if you PM me your e-mail address. I feel very secure with this system (not original to me) and use it for domestic big-city travel as well.

Posted by
489 posts

Thanks Janet, I hate money belts and I sew, so will be making your idea for next trip.

I have been taking 2-3 large rubber bands... you can rig up so much with large rubber bands.. I've altered those hangers without hooks to dry in the bathroom, added more length to my RS elastic drying cord (the best)... and made a wine cooler with packed ice cubes around a bottle of Rose in a hotel room in Arls.
Also take a small roll of electrical tape ... tape comes in handy for a variety of needs
A friend gave me the swiss army travel card, that doesn't seem to cause a problem with certain TSA's.... but I usually check that outgoing, but have no issues coming back...

Posted by
503 posts
  1. Detailed notes from each trip on what worked... and more importantly, what didn't in terms of clothing, shoes and equipment. This allows me to pack lighter and more efficiently with each trip.
  2. a cheap (i.e. dollar store) drawstring backpack in a bright color. Uses - on the plane, sometimes there is room for me to stash my personal item with my carry on ( I wait until the plane has reached altitude and the seatbelt light has gone off - if there is room I'll stash the bag on top of my carry on). I use the backpack to hold all the "bits and bobs" I use in flight -( kindle, headphone case, iphone, and my baggie with lifesavers, hand creme, etc,, etc.). Being a bright color, I don't miss it so don't have to worry about leaving my kindle, etc. on the plane. Later the bag holds my dirty laundry and I can use it to carry that laundry to a laundromat if I end up using one. Lastly, I stash it in my day bag for trips to the market along with another nylon bag - put the light stuff in the backpack and then only have to carry one bag, leaving a much needed hand free.
  3. S clips. Finding more and more uses for them. If I'm a very crowded area, I use it to attach the zipper of my day bag to the ring that holds the strap on the bag. Not foolproof for pickpockets but it does make it a bit more difficult.
Posted by
8975 posts
  • Roll your clothing. Had heard about this but resisted even trying it until I found myself in Potsdam a few years ago and unable to get everything in my little carry-on as had bought too many books. Looked up online a video of how to pack like this, rolling your clothes, and then tried it. Rolled everything. All be darned, got it all in the bag with room to spare! I was so surprised that this worked.

  • Instead of bringing along heavy guide books, take photos with your i-pad or phone of the pages you want, and include photos of some city maps.

Posted by
362 posts

I am LOVING the idea about bringing a plastic bag to cover my luggage to keep it dry. I hadn't thought of that. Thank you!

Posted by
15616 posts

Kathy - thanks for the garbage bag tip.

I love zip-lock bags. Sandwich bags are great for snacks during the day. I found some snack-size ones at Target (their brand) that open at the narrow end - all the others open at the wide end. They are so useful for small items. I carry spare camera batteries and memory card (in case of failure) in one. Another one has earbuds.

Posted by
15340 posts

1) Packing List--I have a master packing list on my computer. For each trip, I copy and paste it into a new document. Then I start deleting the things I know I'm not going to take or change items in which I found something more useful. I then decide if I want to make those "changes" on the master list as well. Packing is a continually changing and improving exercise. During and after the trip, go through the list and see if there is anything you want to change for the next one.

If you are not used to packing or have made major changes, don't wait until the last minute to pack. Do this at least a few days ahead of time to make sure there will be no problems. I use a combination of packing cubes, sacs, ziplocs and pouches. I then play Tetris to make it work. (I sometimes even do this on paper first. )

2) Use a paper calendar to plan your trip. I use the internet to do much of my planning and find it easier to have my planning calendar in front of me rather than going back and forth between pages. I make a custom one here: Create a Calendar

3) Sign up for alerts--flight notifications, weather, local transport (I use Citymapper). This way, you are less likely to be surprised and if there is a problem you can plan alternatives ahead of time.

4) It's rare that a trip will go exactly as planned. Stay calm and be prepared to make changes. Be flexible.

5) Don't get all of your travel information from one source. One person's don't bother is another's don't miss. A guidebook is just a collection of information. It is not a bible that must be followed to the letter. In a similar regard, take reviews with a grain of salt. If anyone can review, like on TripAdvisor, realize many may be fake. Use sites like Booking.com for reviews since only people who have booked that particular establishment on their website can review. (You don't have to book with them but can read their reviews.)

6) Get good, padded insoles for your shoes. Your feet will thank you.

7) Don't just make a list of the major sites in big cities and stick to that. Explore less touristy neighhborhoods and towns. Allow yourself to get out of your comfort zone. You might surprise yourself.

8) It's your vacation, your time, you money. Do what you want to do. Go where you want to go. Take what you want to take. It doesn't matter what anyone here or anywhere else thinks. (Except for perhaps the people you are traveling with.)

9) It's okay to wear shorts except in places it's not.

10) And as stated numerous times in this thread--ziploc bags are great.

Posted by
2768 posts

A travel towel! Mine is the x-large sea-to-summit brand but any works. I stay at hotels and Airbnb, which have towels but bringing a travel towel is now an essential anyway.

These are great for the beach (because hotels don't give out beach towels and bringing one takes too much space for one beach day on a 4 week trip). Also great for squeezing water from sink laundry - gets more water out and leaves the hotel towel unused. Also works as a picnic blanket (small but keeps you off the dirt). And many other uses, including as an extra bath towel if needed - and I have thick hair so need more towels than average.

Posted by
15340 posts

Additional travel secret....if you are staying in a hotel and you need an extra towel.....ask for it. I do this all over and have never been refused.

I can't speak for hostels or AirBNB, but hotels are a given.

Posted by
11613 posts

Kathy, love the trash bag idea!

I take a big ziplock baggie (2 or 2.5 gallon) for sink laundry, when things need time to soak.

Hotel shampoo works as laundry detergent if you don't have any with you. Just use a lot less or you will be rinsing for hours~

Posted by
630 posts

We've been traveling more and more lately. I now keep my luggage packed at all times. I got tired of rethinking my bags every time I travel. I had to duplicate things that I use on an every day basis - but it's worth it to have it in my luggage ready to go (ex. hairbrush, toothbrush, razors, etc). I even have pajamas and underwear that I only use for traveling, etc.

Also, this idea seems like common practice for most travelers on this forum, but it took me awhile to finally get on the bus for this idea . . . I have categorized my bags to organize my travel gear: cube for laundry gear, cube for electronics, cube for kitchen "stuff" (tea, sugar, dry milk, immersion heater, spork, etc), RX bag, first-aid bag, 3-1-1 bag, airport seat bag, security pouch, etc. I even have a bag of bags (LOL) which includes a couple of garbage bags, plastic grocery bags, Ziploc sandwich bags, Ziploc snack bags, packable backpack, etc.

Some of these bags are in Ziploc quart-size bags, some in packing cubes, some in dry sacs, some in the plastic bags that the sheets come in when you buy them - whatever works.

Posted by
173 posts

"Maybe one more non- packing hint - step away from the camera and enjoy the moment! Everything doesn't need to be photographed. Enjoy the art, savor the meal, talk to people; you're in Europe!"

The best advice here! I have no movies and few pictures of vacations with my kids, but we all have wonderful memories. I was busy having fun with my family instead of taking pictures of my family having fun. I want to enjoy a vacation, not photograph a vacation. Just my 2 cents! Safe travels, everyone!

Posted by
630 posts

A travel towel! Mine is the x-large sea-to-summit brand but any works. I stay at hotels and Airbnb, which have towels but bringing a travel towel is now an essential anyway.

Mira, I do this as well. I sometimes even use it on the plane as a blanket over my legs. I hate being cold :D

Posted by
4574 posts

I always take an African kanga with me. 100% cotton and does what Mira's towel does and acts as a skirt. Numerous countries have something similar - sarong, lapa, pareo. Really, just a hemmed piece of fabric. cotton works best.

Posted by
2610 posts

I like Janet's money-pouch solution, may have to try that. I love to visit flea markets and usually buy breakables and often the seller will wrap well in paper but I feel better transporting with more padding so bring several feet of bubble wrap along in my suitcase, also some extra plastic bags and tape. Clothes make good padding in the suitcase as well.

I use the liquid soap or shampoo from the hotel for my sink-washing.

When travelling to countries with different currency I bring snack-size ziplock bags to put the currency from one country in when arriving in another. If I'll possibly need them again on the way home it goes in my purse, otherwise in the suitcase.

I always bring a ziplock full of tea bags for those mornings when I have a terribly early start and have learned if you run the hot water long enough you can brew a decent glass of tea. My preference is a room with a kettle but a few dreadful times they weren't available so I made do, not always time to get coffee.

Posted by
630 posts

. . . if you run the hot water long enough you can brew a decent glass of
tea. My preference is a room with a kettle but a few dreadful times
they weren't available so I made do, not always time to get coffee . . .

Christa, I like to use an immersion heater to heat up my water for tea. It doesn't take up much room, and it's pretty light. If you do get one, just make sure you keep it in the water for 30 seconds AFTER you unplug it or it will burn out. It needs to be completely submerged in water while plugged in to prevent dry fry.

Posted by
2610 posts

Pilgrim--good idea, I think I avoided getting one because I wondered how it would work with a plug converter.

Posted by
630 posts

Pilgrim--good idea, I think I avoided getting one because I wondered how it would work with a plug converter.

I can't remember if I used it the last time I traveled to Europe, so I can't confirm if it works OK with the adapter. I use it all the time domestically. I just looked at some Amazon reviews and people stated it worked OK with the proper adapter for the country.

Plus, I'm always nervous about drinking water from a different country without boiling it first. I'm sure the water in Europe is fine, but I have a finicky stomach that may tell me otherwise; and I would rather be safe than sorry. :D

Posted by
15887 posts

I like to use an immersion heater to heat up my water for tea.

O gosh, we're such early risers and so completely useless without coffee very first thing in the morning that we travel with a small, lightweight kettle. I pack instant coffee and a plastic spoon inside, and bring two small plastic mugs. That thing has been a lifesaver on any number of trips, especially to Italy.

Posted by
630 posts

Ugh, Frank II, you know I always have to buy whatever you recommend. Now I have to add that mug to my Amazon cart - and I just emptied my cart this morning with some purchases. :D

Do you heat the water directly in the mug? I would think the lip of the mug would be too hot to touch. I've been heating my water up in this wide-mouth Hydro Flask. Then I pour my tea from the Hydro Flask into a hotel mug or this collapsible mug. I only pour a small amount at a time and the Hydro Flask keeps the tea hot while I drink the small amount of tea that I poured into the mug.

Posted by
15340 posts

This spring, I used the immersion heater directly in the collapsible mug you mentioned. The mug did get hot........so.......i took some cardboard hot cup holders, from places like Starbucks and Panera Bread, and used them to hold the cup. They fit perfectly. If I waited a couple of minutes after taking the heater out of the mug, the metal rim was cool enough to sip from.

The cup is still fine after dozens of uses.

I switched because I had to be careful with the collapsible cup. A couple of times with the immersion heater inserted, the collapsible cup almost tipped over. I was able to clip the immersion heater to the metal rim of that cup to keep it from falling out.

However, I may switch back.

Since you already have the cup....give it a try directly. You may find you like it and can leave the flask at home. And save the $35 on the titanium one.

I first learned about that exact mug from Sarah Murdock in one of the packing videos she does for RS. She also takes along an immersion heater.

Something else you might want to look at is the Voltage Valet Quick Cafe I have one as well and may take that instead of the immersion heater

Posted by
425 posts

If staying in a hotel that offers shower caps, keep them for putting around any shoes with dirty soles.

If you checked luggage on your return last time, but are going hand luggage only on the outward leg of your next trip, you will need to check for any liquids/etc gels still in the bag that was previously checked, that now need to go in 10ml max. containers with others in the transparent, resealable 20cm x 20cm plastic bag, for airport checking. [I just found my roll-on insect repellent in the wrong place.]

Posted by
2610 posts

Frank II--first I must say the Freedonia location made me chuckle--thank you for the dual voltage link, added to my list for the next Amazon binge.

Posted by
630 posts

Thanks, Frank II, for the link to the dual voltage immersion heater and the coffee cafe. I'll have to pass on the coffee cafe as I only drink tea. Plus we've been flying "only carry-on" lately, and that would take up too much room in my luggage.

I'm glad I participated in this thread as I just realized my current immersion heater is only 120V and I need to upgrade to a 120/240V dual voltage. I didn't even know there was a difference! The one I currently have has worked out nicely domestically, but I think I need a heavier duty one for Europe.

Once again, thanks Frank II ! You're a great source of information. :)

Posted by
15616 posts

You can buy immersion heaters in Europe too.

Disposable shower caps and ziplock bags make good "raincoats" for cameras.

Posted by
15340 posts

FYI--I tried to buy an immersion heater in Italy and was pretty much out of luck. The only one I found was way too big for my mug. It was about three times the size of the one I needed to replace.

I can't speak for other countries.

Posted by
1097 posts

Use contact lens cases (the ones with the screw top, not the snap-close kind) for creams and ointments. You can write the contents on the lid with a sharpie. They're leakproof and tiny, but hold more than you think. Ask a friend who wears contacts for their spares.

Posted by
1771 posts

So many good tips.

Here's mine, which I'm surprised not to see in here already:

I bring a spray bottle (small enough for my 3-1-1 bag) filled with Febreze or similar spray fabric softener. It makes smelly but unstained clothes wearable for days in a row without washing. Great for socks and even underwear. It also helps take wrinkles out of clothes when you remove them from your luggage. A little spritz goes a long way.

Posted by
119 posts

For hot tired feet. If you can't get some ice this idea can help. Use a flat round rubber disc that one uses to
plug the sink for clothes washing. Put it over the drain in the shower, run a couple inches of Cold water, bring a chair
or stool into the bathroom. Sit on the chair outside the shower with just your feet in the shower. Refresh the cold water
as it's begins to warm up.

Posted by
137 posts

I pack the dual voltage immersion water heater, same model as Frank II .
Once in Europe, I visit a souvenir shop and buy a mug, which I use to boil water in for tea or coffee. It sometimes comes home with me, depending on the space in the bag. I try to get a mug with a city name on it, have a growing collection already:))
Another thing I like to do is to pack a tiny empty spray bottle ( the one you can find among small plastic containers to fill cosmetics into 3-1-1 bag). At the hotel I fill the bottle with water and spray on clothes to smooth out wrinkles. Works great every time.

Posted by
3174 posts

I love threads like this!
I also use the garbage bag over the roller case trick; it saved me in Naples a couple of years ago when I had to wait for the airport bus in the rain.
However, I like the idea of the bags with the ties to really keep things dry!
I take half a foot scrubber block/pumice stone/ thingie, (my husband saws it in half); and every night before I go to bed I really scrub my feet and toes , then put on lots of cream.
By morning, my feet are ready for another long walk throughout the day.
A tiny bulldog clip is very useful.
It can keep gaping curtains closed, be a stand for a toothbrush, hold papers together.
I also keep my daybag by my bedside ready to grab in case of emergency; keep a pair of shoes there too.
Looks like we all think pretty much alike. :)

Posted by
15887 posts

At the hotel I fill the bottle with water and spray on clothes to
smooth out wrinkles. Works great every time.

Those also work great for misting down sweaty faces, necks and arms on steamy sightseeing days!

Posted by
2528 posts

How about lightweight clothes hooks and inflatable hangers? More secrets? Well, by substituting powdered soap (Forever New works very well) for liquid soap and packing a stick sunscreen (Neutrogena) instead of a liquid version, my 3-1-1 bag is now less than crammed with plenty of space for liquids. And wait, there's more....Handiwipes, in packet form, are great when a sink is not available.

A few simple plastic grocery bags. These can be used for shoes, dirty laundry, wet stuff, in-room trash bag, etc.. Very light, free, take up almost no space. Sometimes - I like to put dirty laundry in several small bags rather than one big bag - easier to distribute in suitcase and pack.

Posted by
7364 posts

Another item I use is the mesh travel pouches - 1 red, 1 green, 1 purple. I see they're available at Amazon & other locations. The large purple one has our itinerary papers, green contains misc., but the red one is important. It sits on the night stand, and I pack our phone chargers & travel adapters in it. We almost forgot one of the chargers one year, so now the red pouch is packed last in the suitcase. It's the last "walk around the room" & count that everything's in it before we walk out the door.

Posted by
380 posts

On my recent trip to Austria, I knew it was going to be very hot and was pretty sure I would be lucky to have so much as a window fan in my 2-star hotel room. I also am familiar with the heavy duvets which are usually the only bedding offered in Europe. I can't sleep without a cover, but I can't sleep under a heavy comforter even in cold weather--I wake up drenched in sweat. For some reason, I only do well with layers of thin blankets, according to the weather.

Anyway, I thought ahead and grabbed a twin sheet from my kids' room to bring along. Saved my life--one cool layer and I slept well.

Posted by
630 posts

Anyway, I thought ahead and grabbed a twin sheet from my kids' room to bring along. Saved my life--one cool layer and I slept well.

Astorienne, great idea! My husband is just like you and I never thought to bring a twin sheet. I'm going to add that to our packing list and bring it if there's room.

Posted by
630 posts

When flying overnight with a connecting flight, I like to have a bag ready that I call "Freshen-Up" bag. I keep it in my "Airplane Seat" bag and it works out perfectly when we arrive at our stop-over airport. I can just pull it out and it's ready for the restroom to freshen-up after a long overnight flight.

It includes: Blistex, two strands of floss in a tiny bag, small hairbrush, tiny amount of hand lotion, tiny bottle of hand sanitizer (in case there's no soap in bathroom - it's happened), toothbrushes, toothpaste, personal wipes.

As soon as I get through security from my deporting airport, I move the *hand lotion, hand sanitizer and toothpaste from my 3-1-1 bag to this "Freshen-Up" bag.

  • I realize I can bring a small bar of lotion that doesn't need to be in the 3-1-1 bag, but my husband doesn't like it and prefers the "liquid" hand lotion.

I also realize I can just bring the entire 3-1-1 bag into the bathroom, but this system works for me. Once we get through security I move my 3-1-1 bag (less the freshen up items) to my roller and I never have to open my roller again until I get to the hotel.

Posted by
1194 posts

Anyway, I thought ahead and grabbed a twin sheet from my kids' room to bring along. Saved my life--one cool layer and I slept well.

This is certainly the least expensive solution. A lighter and less bulky option is a silk sleep sack. They are about 1/2 the size of a soda can. They also provide a level of protection when sleeping in dodgy places.

Posted by
528 posts

I decided to purchase the RS belt loop money pouch for me to use. Problem: most of my pants do not have belt loops and for those that do, I dislike belts. Solution: I used safety pins to attach the money belt to the inside waist of my pant. I like to wear in at the small of my back. I have found I don't mind the pouch, I mind the elastic belt, which has a tendency to "ride up" during the course of the day.
Plus, who enjoys an extra band around their mid section? I used this method on my last trip in May and found it to my liking. Since reading Janet's idea, I have decided to try attaching large snaps to my pouch. I have tried it out and I like it. I will be testing this fully in just a few days. Also, you could do this to a regular money belt by cutting off the elastic belt. For those of you that don't sew, or have no skill at button holes this might be a good solution.

Posted by
380 posts

This is certainly the least expensive solution. A lighter and less bulky option is a silk sleep sack. They are about 1/2 the size of a soda can. They also provide a level of protection when sleeping in dodgy places.

On last year's trip, which was in slightly cooler weather, I tried a "travel" blanket made of some microfiber. I spent something like $40 on it and hated it--it wasn't breathable at all. I thought about the silk ones, but didn't fancy throwing good money after bad. I'm just used to sleeping under cotton. The ideal is one of those cotton waffle weave blankets, which seems to work for me in nearly all weather, but it would take up a whole suitcase!

Posted by
109 posts

We have a set of fairly substantial plastic ...knife, fork, spoon...that we carry. Keep them wrapped in a bandana. We also each take the plastic lid from a 2 lb coffee can to use as a plate....we stop in shops for cheese and such for our lunch and have picnics. Weighs little, takes up little space but has saved us bunches.

Posted by
2455 posts

I haven't seen "shaving oil" mentioned yet, which is a major space saver, especially for men. I have used a brand called "Shave Secret", which fits with the name of this thread. It comes in a tiny little plastic bottle, about the same size as those old "white out" correction fluid bottles. It is about 1.5 inches high, contents are 18.75 ml. I use exactly 4 drops per shave, put them onto my wet palms, them apply to my face, and this gives a very close and smooth shave, with a pleasant menthol aroma. No foamy bubbles like from a bigger can of shaving cream. One small bottle lasts forever, or at least a very long time, and costs just 3 to 4 dollars. I have seen them on the shelves at WalMart, also on line, no doubt elsewhere. www.shavesecret.com. Nice stocking stuffer!

Posted by
2199 posts

@Debra. I originally had a neck pouch, which I detested, so I cut the strap off of it and then used two big safety pins to pin it inside my waistband. However, the pouch itself was bulky and it had a foldover flap which made it hard to access. That's when I went to the make-your-own pocket idea. My husband has the belt pouch but can't access that in public. I love having my debit card and extra cash easily accessible but secure.

Posted by
2141 posts

Great thread and good memory jogger!

• 3" red plastic jar lid - I place it on the bedside table to hold my ring & Fitbit while I'm sleeping. The bright color catches my attention so I'm sure not to forget the stuff in the morning.

• 2 regular plastic hangers & 2 pants hangers to use when I do hand laundry. I leave them at the last hotel.

• I use my I-pad to take photos of my clothing and the various outfits I can make (got the idea from the Vivienne files).

• I review my packing list on the plane ride home and note what worked/what didn't.

Posted by
1194 posts

I tried a "travel" blanket made of some microfiber. I spent something like $40 on it and hated it--it wasn't breathable at all. I thought about the silk ones, but didn't fancy throwing good money after bad. I'm just used to sleeping under cotton.

You did throw good money after bad though, by going with the cheap solution. The microfiber sets are bulky, heavy, rough, and sticky. For $20 more you could have had something that was light and soft. You get what you pay for. It's quite unfair to judge a silk sleep sheet by a cheap knockoff made of inferior material.

There is no comparison between silk and microfiber.

Posted by
15340 posts

Shaving Oil is a great thing....however.....let me just throw this is. IMHO, Shave Secret has a very strong smell (Of cloves, I think) and turned me off.

I've used both Somersets and KIng of Shaves. Both give me a much easier, smoothe shave with Somersets just slightly better. (Somersets also makes shaving oil specifically for women.)

Everyone's face is different and their needs vary. What one person likes another hates. There have been threads about shaving oil on this board for anyone truly interested.

For those who can't use shaving oil, an alternative is a shave stick and small, travel shave brush. Neither has to go in the 3-1-1 bag.

Posted by
630 posts

My husband has sensitive skin, and he is very sensitive to smell. He started using Neutrogena Shave Cream for travel, and now he uses it every day at home. I'm sure I got the idea from this forum. When we travel, I just squeeze some cream into one of these liquid travel bottles and it works out perfectly. It takes up A LOT less space than a can of travel shaving cream. And the canned shaving cream always seemed to explode in my 3-1-1 bag (even with carry-on).

Posted by
73 posts

I too take a couple of tiny binder clips to secure curtains at night. I also pack a small or medium packing cube with everything I need on the flight. Mine have a handle (ebags regular brand) and I thread my seatbelt through the handle. That keeps the bag in my lap even if I doze off or if there is turbulance. Easy to put the cube back in either my underseat item or overheat item on landing.
I love Nite-Ize locking mini s biners. Use them on zippers on day pack and suitcase as one more deterrent to thieves.

I also always use a SPIbelt for deep storage. The large pocket ones with hold passports, cards, cash, and even phones. I wear mine under my blouse as a waist safe.
What didn't work for me was a Scottevest. All the stuff my husband needed securing, as well as my stuff, made me feel sloppy, weighted down, and very obviously touristy. I felt like a packhorse.

Last but not least, I've started packing an old fashioned hot water bottle. Fill with hot water for an aching back or cold hotel room; fill with cold water for sleeping in an unairconditioned room or to soothe hot, tired feet.

Posted by
73 posts

Forgot to add sunscreen! Even if you think it will be cold and cloudy, pack it! I'm one of those folks who is very sun sensitive and can sunburn anywhere, any time of year. Sunscreen is essential!

Posted by
630 posts

I also pack a small or medium packing cube with everything I need on the flight. Mine have a handle (ebags regular brand) and I thread my seatbelt through the handle. That keeps the bag in my lap even if I doze off or if there is turbulance. Easy to put the cube back in either my underseat item or overheat item on landing.

Rainy Day Lady, thanks for the idea! I already had an ebags packing cube, and it's the PERFECT size to hold all my airplane seat necessities. I love the idea of putting the seatbelt through the handle so it doesn't fall. I can't tell you the number of times I've dropped something and had to become a contortionist to retrieve the item from the floor.

Because I'm prone to dropping things on the floor, I also safety pin a long ribbon to the fabric of my blow-up pillow. Then if (or in my case when) the pillow falls (and it usually falls to the person sitting behind me) I can just pull the ribbon and retrieve the pillow without having to bother the person behind me. I have a safety pin on both ends of the ribbon - one end attaches to the pillow and the other end attaches to my shirt. My husband rolls his eyes at me with my contraption - but it works for me. And it has saved my pillow from falling on the gross floor a number of times :)

Posted by
630 posts

A few simple plastic grocery bags. These can be used for shoes, dirty laundry, wet stuff, in-room trash bag, etc.. Very light, free, take up almost no space. Sometimes - I like to put dirty laundry in several small bags rather than one big bag - easier to distribute in suitcase and pack.

Sun-Baked in Florida, I like to bring the plastic grocery bags as well. I fold them up small and then tie them in a knot with their own handle.

Details: I lay the grocery bag on the table, fold it over in half (long way), and then half again, and again, until it's the shape of a ruler. Then starting at the bottom of the bag and working your way to the handles end, start folding it up in about 2- inch sections. Keep folding it over itself in 2-inch sections until you reach the handles. Then take the handles and tie a bow-tie knot around itself. It makes the bag really small and takes up little room. (Hopefully you can picture what I'm describing.)

Oh, and Sun-Baked in Florida, stay safe with Hurricane Irma. We hope there isn't too much damage to your beautiful state.

Thank you Pilgrim for your hurricane concerns. I live smack dead in the middle of Florida in the Orange grove region. It's really the best position for a hurricane. We are prepared and expect to do well. The Keys and Coastlines are in the most serious locations for a massive hit. Unfortunately, the Florida coastlines suffer from over-population and development. The few roads North are jammed up with evacuations. The weather people and governor have done a fine job in rattling people enough to get them evacuated. Seeing news stories about the Houston devastation certainly "put a fire" under us as well. I am officially hunkered down with my local community. Here we go! I think text messaging and online shopping is at an all time high right now as we hunker-down. The local grocery store reports that the most bought items now are water, bread, beer, and toilet paper. That sounds about right! Time to grill any meat in the freezer to empty it out in case of power outages.

Posted by
630 posts

Sun-Baked in FL, sounds like you are prepared and have a positive attitude. :D

I still was able to walk the dog. We will feel the storm around 7-8 am Sunday morning in our area. Stores are closing and the roads are getting vacant. All in all, Florida does a good job of hurricane management. We are ready. Tampa Bay and the Panhandle may have problems. Curfews will go into effect about 8 pm tonight in critical areas. Floridians find ways to comfort themselves and each other during storms. Many have a sense of humour.
Poor Cuba is getting hammered.

Posted by
171 posts

We keep the airline blanket. It may be thin but we have put it too good use. Used for warmth on trains, bus rides, hotels rooms, helped a sick tour member who needed extra warmth, used as a pillow, for a picnic, protects wine bottles. Our 7 year old granddaughter used it all the time on our trip to Switzerland. We leave it behind when we travel home.

Posted by
14 posts

Take some kind of washcloth. We spent 6 weeks in Germany and France and only the Airbnb apartments had washcloths. None of the hotels we stayed in had any! Luckily I had a pair of "scrub" gloves so I used one and my husband the other.
I took Lush solid shampoo and solid hair rinse. Lasted the whole 6 weeks.
Be prepared for any kind of weather. Was in Europe from the last week of May through the 1st week of July 2013. Experienced cold blowing rain to a 95 degree heat wave.
Also be prepared for not everything going as planned so be flexible.

Posted by
328 posts

Re washcloths...we pick up one of those packs of 10-12 thin washcloths at Bed Bath and Beyond, or another store. Figure how many hotels we'll stay in, and take that many washcloths with us. When we leave that hotel, the washcloth goes in the trash. A nice bottle of wine or olive oil takes their place in my carry on! To add...take any other color than white so housekeeping doesn't accidentally remove them each day.

Posted by
3174 posts

Just got back from Venice, an was really glad to have packed little bulldog clips and safety pins!
Our apartment was on the ground floor, and after the second night I realized that anyone walking by could see into the bedroom through the net curtains!
I clipped and pinned up some spare towels over the windows to make "curtains" that no one could see through.
Made me feel less exposed, even though the apartment was in a dead end alley.

Posted by
503 posts

Some very good tips here, thanks to all. Regarding those who can't sleep under the duvets but need something to cover up with, I am the exact same way and often just longed for a top sheet in Europe. I finally decided to take the cover off of the duvet itself and it acts as the sheet I would have wanted. Very light, but enough to cover. The first time I did this was in a B&B and when we got back to our room that evening whoever cleaned the room had put it back on. I took it off the duvet again that night, folded up the duvet and put it on the shelf inside the armoire and there it stayed for the rest of our time there. It works great and you don't have to bring anything extra from home.

Posted by
8975 posts

Rather than remove the duvet cover, ask the front desk for an extra cover to use as a sheet. You can also ask if they have a thinner, lighter weight blanket to put inside of it. Many places will have varying thicknesses for summer and winter.

Washcloths are not used in hotels in Europe very often, so if you like them bring one with you.

Posted by
139 posts

This is great thread! Thanks everybody for your suggestions.

I like to have things "already packed and ready" on my purse and backpack, that way I know they're there already and I don't have to write them down on my list.

My backpack has 2 side pockets, kind of rectangular, on one side live a pair of flip flops wrapped in a grocery bag; I don't like to be barefoot, so they have come handy in multiple times. On the other pocket I have a glasses repair kit (from Dollar Tree), and a bunch of freezer Ziploc bags, probably 3-quarter size, and a couple gallon size. One advice I saw I think in this thread and in another thread is to pack a big black trash bag to cover my backpack in case it rains, great suggestion. I think I can fold it very small and leave it there to live.

On my purse I have a small emergency kit I got at Sephora years ago, the brand is Pinch Provisions, but to be honest, you don't need to buy it, you can do your own emergency kit using any small coin purse and add what you think is necessary. I have "edited" the emergency kit and paired it down to my needs: the kit came with 2 earring backs, a clear plastic hair band, a small sewing kit and I added a pair of very small scissors, a needle threader, 2 needles, and 2 buttons (and the various threads wrapped around a cardboard), plus a few safety pins. I washed a small 2 ml plastic bottle of perfume sample with atomizer and filled it with hairspray, this way I replaced the one that comes in the kit because that one is made of glass; added a few hair pins. I also add as I use them band aids, Listerine breath strips, and a feminine product.

And never, never forget the disinfecting wipes.

Posted by
136 posts

First, I second the suggestions for Forever New detergent packets and asking the front desk for top sheets if the duvet is too thick. And ZipLocs, always!

Other "secrets":
* To keep drapes shut, you can always use a skirt hanger in a pinch and clip the drapes together.

  • Duct tape - cut a piece of a drinking straw and wrap a length of duct tape around it. It always comes in handy, even for sealing up a bag of snacks.

*'pop up' disposable washcloths - you can get them on amazon or any travel store and a lot fit into a small space.

*OTC drugs - Bring whatever you prefer, especially those for a cold because you might not be able to get your preferred ones (like Sudafed) in Europe.

  • Zicam - I bring this whenever I travel and take it whenever I feel a cold coming on, and it works for me.

  • salt & pepper packets - I stash a few in my little first aid bag, helpful if you want to doctor(!) your takeout or for a picnic.

*If you've arranged things in your suitcase/bag just so, take pictures of the contents packed in stages.

*Pacsafe bag - I'm not keen on money belts personally, and I feel secure using the tote.

*Opt for laminated maps or the tyvek ones that Lonely Planet makes - I've had paper ones disintegrate in the rain.

*Lastly, check out the supermarkets/grocery stores - it's a terrific way to experience the local culture by seeing where people shop and what is available (or as I call them, the museums where you can buy the exhibits :) )

Posted by
347 posts

in addition to everything in my carry-on suitcase being compartmentalized in a packing cube, stuff-sack or other mesh bag, I do the same with my day bag, which is a Baggalini cross-body hobo-style bag.

Each small cloth or mesh bag is attached to my purse with a safety pin or a clip on an elastic band. This keeps everything IN the purse and prevents me from mindlessly taking my money and credit cards out of the purse.

I practice being mindful and taking my time when I take money or credit cards out.

This organization also allows my eyeglass cases to be stored in an 'upright' position instead of swimming in the bottom of the bag.

Posted by
136 posts

I travel only with a convertible (opens to the side like a suitcase) backpack and it has to meet carry-on requirements for the space-stingy small European airlines. So I developed a packing routine. I make a detailed packing list and then do a dry run, packing everything and then checking dimensions and weight of the full backpack. I roll the clothes tightly and do not use packing cubes because my backpack's interior already has compartments. All non-clothes items are sorted into ziplock bags, e.g. laundry supplies (packets of detergent, rubber stopper, clothesline, and 2-3 clip-hooks), toiletries, first aid/OTC meds, jewelry, etc. One of these corresponds to the 1-quart bag that holds the liquids that have to be removed for security, and I keep that in a place that can be pulled out easily on the security line. These ziplocks are all put into the outside compartment of the backpack. This has worked very well for keeping me organized and within dimension/weight requirements. Then after the trip, I take out my packing list and make notes about what was or wasn't needed for the next time.

Posted by
109 posts

Shave emolient (Alba brand, e.g.) is great for women's shave needs. I fill a very small travel container with it (you don't need near as much as spray foams). It's also very moisturizing.

Lands End sells pants (knit, very comfortable) with an awesome interior zipper pocket. It is sufficient for 2-3 credit cards, and a few tri-folded bills), easily accessible for me, discreet, and unseeable by others. Unbeatable when I want to leave the hotel room with no purse.

Posted by
14094 posts

I’ve lost track of whether this has been suggested. I’ve started packing 2 or 3 one-oz tubes of toothpaste instead of one 3 oz tube. Altho the bigger tube smashes down it feels better to be able to just throw away a whole tube when it’s gone!

Posted by
630 posts

I’ve lost track of whether this has been suggested. I’ve started packing 2 or 3 one-oz tubes of toothpaste instead of one 3 oz tube. Altho the bigger tube smashes down it feels better to be able to just throw away a whole tube when it’s gone!

Pam, I do this too. As soon as we get through TSA, I put one of the small tubes in my backpack so we can add to our small freshen up kit during our layover and brush our teeth.

Posted by
139 posts

1) I clip a small bag to the plane seat pocket with swivel double carabiner clips. (I use a Tom Bihn Side Effect or Side Kick bag for this--great pockets for organization.) That bag holds all I need for the flight: small headphones, gum, phone, Kindle or tablet, protein bar, tiny bag of meds (for headache, etc), wet wipes in individual pkgs, tissue, pencil, small wallet (clipped in with a strap), scarf (in baggie), a couple Soduku puzzles torn from a book, even tiny folding reading glasses. Keeps me much better organized so I don't have to root around in the personal item at my feet. I wear the bag as a crossbody through the airport, then trade out the strap for carabiner clips on the plane. This system helps me fidget less during the flight.

2) My plastic TSA 3-1-1 bag has a ring on it. I clip the bag to a narrow strap, and clip the other end inside my personal item. At security, I pull the TSA bag out of the PI, but leave it clipped. That way I don't forget it after the scanner.

Posted by
3174 posts

Tavapeak: I do a similar version of your tip.
I bring a reusable shopping bag in the smallest size, (think lunch bag size), the plasticised type.
Then after security and just before boarding, I transfer my book, Ipad, glasses, snacks, and some lip balm and handcream and a toothbrush into it.
That way I can put my carryon bag overhead, and not need to get into it again till landing.
This also gives you way more room under your feet than if you had put a larger bag there.

Posted by
630 posts

Tavapeak: I do a similar version of your tip.
I bring a reusable shopping bag in the smallest size, (think lunch bag size), the plasticised type.

S Jackson,

Someone on this Forum suggested using a small packing cube for the airplane seat items. I think it's a great idea, and I will be using this suggestion on my next trip. I like it because it has a zipper that opens all the way around for easy access of items and it also has a handle. The person suggested putting the seatbelt through the handle so the bag doesn't fall on the floor.

Posted by
4574 posts

I'm on board with the small packing cube for containment, and I think that poster clipped it to her seatbelt so it was in her lap for added security. Having left a book and reading glasses on a flight this year (thankfully retrieved), I realised I needed something pretty much attached to body so I don't forget it after an overnight flight. I have one from the dollar store that has a mesh front, small handle and several internal compartments. Great tips.