What’s a travel gear hack? Often overused, the term hacking has been described, in part, as an appropriate application of ingenuity. To me, most hacks are about using everyday items in creative ways. Travel gear hacks use items in ways that are different from their intended purpose. If you’re looking for inspiration, here are some of my favourite travel gear hacks.
Currency separators. Make currency sleeves for banknotes by cutting the desired size from one of the corners of a plastic page protector. These keep banknotes organized by currency, and notes remain dry when they’re close to the body in a security pouch or hidden pocket. Keep coins, by currency, separated in small craft zip-top bags.
Inside luggage tag. Unlike an external luggage tag, an inside luggage tag is not visible to passersby so it could include information such as your home address and telephone number. It could also list the contact information and dates of all your accommodation bookings. Slip it into a plastic page protector and put it on top of what’s packed in the main compartment of your bag. Post a copy on the fridge or bulletin board for stay-at-home family members or friends.
Earbud manager. Say goodbye to tangled earbuds.
- Drill a hole in one end of a wine cork for inserting the jack. In the opposite end, cut a slot to receive the two cords just below the buds. Ensure it’s deep enough to keep the cords in place. Insert the jack, wrap the cord around the body of the cork and slip the ear buds in the slit at the other end. If necessary, secure the bundle with a sturdy elastic. This works for earbuds without an in-line control unit.
- For noise-cancelling earbuds with a built-in control module, use a credit-card-sized hotel key or depleted gift card. Cut a groove in each end to create a wrapping channel. Make a small slit at one end of the wrapping channel to receive the jack, and start wrapping. Secure the wrapped cord with a sturdy hair elastic. This works perfectly for my Phiaton PS20NC noise-cancelling earbuds.
Emergency cash stash. By stashing emergency cash in a few different places, chances are you’ll have access to at least one of them in an emergency. For each place, choose a single undamaged note in a currency and denomination that will be easy to change. Protect notes with a zip-top craft bag or cling wrap if they’re likely to come in contact with tape, perspiration, moisture or residue from the original product of a repurposed container.
Create hiding places such as under the insole of a shoe, or in secret pockets in clothing. If you’re fastening a stash to the inside of a bag with duct tape, use tape that’s the same colour as your bag. Or, hide cash in plain view in unlikely containers. Look for possibilities on dollar store shelves, or among your discarded containers. Dental floss? BAND-AID® dispenser? Lip balm? Stick deodorant? There are lots of possibilities.
Duct/gaffer’s tape fob or card. Leave the bulky roll of tape at home and take a small amount. Make a key fob by rolling a section of tape around a cylinder-shaped object such as a short piece of pencil or plastic tubing. Attach a curved piece of sturdy wire from a coat hanger or paper clip and start wrapping. Or, make a flat version using a plastic card such as a hotel room key or depleted gift card as the core. Punch a hole in the card for attaching to a daypack with a carabiner or lightweight cable. You might be interested in Travelling with duct tape for a description of the many uses of duct tape when travelling. Here’s a description of how to make a fob, compliments of Strobist. Of course, you could always wrap shorter lengths of different widths and different colours around other items in your bag. Water bottle? Hiking poles? Containers used for toiletries or first aid supplies?
Managed backpack straps. Faced with dangling straps after tightening shoulder, sternum and waist straps? One hack is to roll up the offending portions and secure them with duct tape, gaffer tape or a durable hair elastic or elastic band. However, a better solution is to use the brilliant little plastic clips called Web Dominators. Take a look at Tame dangling straps with Web Dominators for more information.
Cord minders. Twist ties do the trick but they wear out and involve too much twisting for my liking. I love dollar store hair clips, or those clips fastening orchid stems to plant stakes. A simple pinch provides access. Leave the clip attached to the cord while in use and it’ll never go astray. Placing a different colour on each cord makes it easier to grab the right one at a glance. They weigh next to nothing, so toss a couple of spares into your gadget bag.
Sanitize with denture cleanser tablets. To remain healthy, a refillable water bottle needs be cleaned often, and sanitized on a regular basis. At a minimum, once a week should do it. However, if you’re in the habit of using electrolyte enhanced drink tabs or filling your bottle with something other than water, consider sanitizing it more frequently. Bacteria love dark, moist areas and an unrefrigerated water bottle is an ideal environment for them to thrive. Washing daily with dish soap and warm water, and leaving it overnight to dry isn’t always a practical solution for travellers. Never fear, denture cleanser tablets are a viable alternative. Each effervescent tablet comes in an individually wrapped foil-sealed packet. Drop one in a water bottle filled with water, and leave it for the amount of time according to the directions that come with the product. If possible, follow up by cleaning with a bottlebrush.
Earring minder. Travelling with earrings? Keep each pair together with a button. Slip each earring post into one of the holes in the button.
Emergency toilet paper. My search for the best way to carry emergency toilet paper ended with travel packs of three-ply tissues. They’re lightweight, compact and serviceable, and remain protected in their cellophane packets. Carry one in your day bag, with a back up in your main bag.
Packing organizers. For cheaper packing organizers, cruise dollar store aisles for cloth pencil cases, filing materials, and bags designed for cosmetics and laundry. Repurpose packaging (e.g., zippered sheet or pillow case packet, plastic envelope) or look for other alternatives around the home or in the workplace. Ziploc® and other zip-top bags are really handy as packing organizers, but they’re prone to rip when subjected to the rigours of travel. Try reinforcing them with duct tape. The lifespan of my swimsuit bag has been extended using this approach.
Empty storage containers. A contact lens case is great for products where a little goes a long way, or to store rings or small earrings. Cut the case into two separate containers and they’ll squeeze nicely into a corner of your 3-1-1 bag or comfort pack. Tic Tac® containers have a small opening so they’re useful for contents such as spices or soap powder. A tinted prescription bottle filters out the UV light that degrades most medication, so one with a wide mouth is useful as a very small first-aid kit. When hiking or camping, keep matches and a section of striking pad in an empty watertight container. For a solid striking surface, attach the striking pad to the inside of the lid.
Secure zippers on bags. Make it as difficult as possible for pickpockets who usually rely on a quick grab and run. Alternatives to locks include safety pins, twist ties, S-biner clips, lightweight cables… whatever works to anchor zippers or bundle two or more zipper toggles together to delay or discourage a thief.
Socks. Use a spare sock as a safe. Stuff money or a financial card into the sock and secure it to the inside of clothing with a safety pin. Use a sock, or pair of socks, as a shoe bag.
For other ideas, see MacGyver kit for travellers. You might also be interested in Cruise dollar store aisles for travel products, as many of my favourite travel gear hacks use products from dollar store shelves.
What are your favourite travel gear hacks?