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12 Very Ordinary Items That Simplify Travel

As the editor of Journeywoman.com I'm grateful for the ingenuity of the members of our Journeywoman Network. Our INBOX is consistently filled with messages from travellers willing to share their latest advice for travelling safely and well. Here are 12 of those tips touching on ordinary items that could make your journey that much easier.

Edited by Evelyn Hannon

A GLASSES CASE HAS SO MANY USES -- writes Marti in Downers Grove, USA -- There is no end to the things you can put into one of those glasses cases that snaps (or zips) completely closed. It can hold jewelry, batteries, phone charger, camera cards, safety pins, lanyard, glasses repair kit, paper clips and rubber bands, bandaids, and all the endless list of little items you want handy when travelling but don't want to clutter your small toilet kit.
PACK A SMALL OVER THE DOOR HOOK -- writes Marie in Philadelphia, USA -- When I travel I use an over-the-door hook that is easy to pack and fits in any carryon. To begin, I like to air out my clothes when I arrive. Then, I use it when I'm packing to leave by clearing out the closet and placing everything on the hook so I don't leave anything behind. It's also great for a wet raincoat or umbrella or to hang your bag of dirty laundry.
LET THERE BE LIGHT -- writes Jill in Eugene, USA -- Don't bump into things on the way to the washroom. Pack a small LED candle to use as a night light! They last forever so no worries about batteries running out quickly or trying to find a handy outlet in your hotel room. I like them because they give off just enough light in a dark room to find your bearings.
YOU'VE READ THIS TIP BEFORE BUT TAKE NOTE AGAIN -- writes Carolyn from Ann Arbor, USA -- As a solo woman traveller I try to take as many safety precautions as possible. I always carry a rubber door stop in my luggage. It stays in my bag from trip to trip. It's easy to pick up at the Dollar Store. These door stops are small, portable and it takes only a minute to slip one under your door for a good worry-free night's sleep. Remember, in some hotels or B&Bs there are no chain locks and you never know who else has a key to your room.
REMEMBER AN EXTENSION CORD -- writes Lisa in Deerfield, USA -- My tip is short, sweet and very practical. With all the electronic aids and gadgets we now travel with, I also always pack a small, light extension cord in my bag. I find that electrical outlets are often located behind furniture in hotel rooms and at times inconveniently located at the airport. The extension cord allows you to plug in multiple items easily. If you are travelling with a partner who has their own gadgets, etc, this cord is almost an imperative.
TAKE A TOWEL -- writes Terri in Nanaimo, Canada -- Being of a certain age I usually get a fresh colour on my hair before travelling. However, the dye, even salon dye, tends to take a few weeks to completely wash out, I pack a small microfiber towel for drying my hair when I get out of the shower. Most hotels overseas will charge you if you have stained their towels, and even if they don't, why not show your good manners and protect them just the same. My hair towel is a turban style and takes up no space at all in my suitcase. I just wrap my wet hair, and let it soak up the water (and colour). It dries in a couple hours and because it is the turban style, it has a loop and button closure that can be hooked to the back of your hotel bathroom door. Plus it doubles as a facecloth, or in a pinch a body towel.
WHY TAKE AN INFLATABLE GLOBE BEACH BALL? -- writes Brenda in Prince George, Canada -- Here's why. Whenever I travel I take one of them with me. They take up no room at all in your bag and they are great for playing with kids no matter where in the world you happen to be. Inflate the beach ball and show the children which country you live in and how far you've traveled to get to meet them. It's a great conversation starter and often leads to a game of ball toss. Then, before I depart for home I give my beach ball away to a deserving child. You can be sure that I'm always rewarded with a huge smile.
DON'T GO ANYWHERE WITHOUT YOUR UMBRELLA -- writes Deb in Vancouver, Canada - Yes, I know you have one but my advice is to buy yourself another small, light umbrella just for travel. Don't use it at home; keep it in your suitcase so it's always there when you go away. Whether to shield you from rain or wet snow or from the blazing sun in hot climates, I promise you it will always come in handy.

EDITOR'S NOTE: In rural China toilets often have no doors. That's when your umbrella comes in handy. Open it in front of you. At least you have a teeny bit of privacy and you will definitely entertain the Chinese folks who are waiting their turn for the open air country loos.

ANOTHER USE FOR BALLOONS -- writes Kathy in Austin, Texas -- I have not yet seen this tip on Journeywoman's website but we found it very useful on our trip last year. Balloons are Inexpensive and take little room in your suitcase. Instead of packing blow up hangers for hanging our laundry we took some long skinny balloons (like those used for creating balloon creatures). Prior to travelling we filled them with air, did not tie them up, and then let the air out so they would be ready for use. Along the way, when washing shirts we slipped the balloon through the sleeves and then hung the laundry to dry. Works perfectly every time.
ORGANIZE YOUR TRAVEL RECEIPTS -- writes Terri in Nanaimo, Canada -- At the Dollar Store I picked up a small 'cheque file' (the plastic ones with an elastic closure that are the size of a chequebook). They have individual pockets and are great for keeping receipts in order. I use a seperate pocket for receipts of items to declare; credit card receipts for meals, etc., and one for miscellaneous expenses while I am in the country. The little file also holds a pen, a small notebook and a credit card size calculator. I can pop it into my carry on, and that way calculate what I need to declare at customs as well as having my receipts handy to compare credit card charges with. Plus by keeping a tally of miscellaneous expenses, I can better budget for the next trip. I also store my leftover foreign currency in there until the next trip.
ALL THOSE EXTRA BALLPOINTS -- writes Evelyn in Toronto, Canada -- We are always picking up ballpoint pens here, there and everywhere. We can't possible use them all. Why not put the extras aside? Paired with little notebooks from the dollar store, they make excellent items to share with children in developing countries
PACK A PAIR OF CHOPSTICKS -- writes Marilyn in Santa Fe, USA -- When travelling in Asia there are times that you trust the food but not the cleanliness of the utensils you are given. That's why I always have a pair of chopsticks in my backpack. They come in so handy at moments like this. When my meal is done, back the chopsticks go into my bag where they are later cleaned thoroughly when I'm back at my hostel or hotel.


Pack this item when cruising...

Cruise shipI think this is a fabulous tip and I want to share it with everybody in our JW Network. Traveling by ship across rough water to and from the Antarctic, my cabin-mate pulled out ordinary non-slip matting from her suitcase. We used it in the bathroom to stop cosmetics and face creams sliding off counters, on the desk under our laptops and on shelving in the cabin. A few sheets of light weight matting (similar to that used in kitchen drawers) is now in my bag whenever I travel by ship. Try it. It works! Elane in Melbourne, Australia


For another 24 useful items to pack, click!

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