6 Small Things That Make a Big Difference While Traveling

Remember the MacGyver episode when he transformed a state park observatory telescope into a canon while dangling from a bridge? Well, I can’t fix a computer with a hairpin and duct tape (I can’t fix a computer, period) but Richard Dean Anderson was the inspiration for this next post.

Ear plugs

If you’re one of those blessed people that can sleep through a shuttle launch, disregard. BUT if you wake up to car horns, snoring, roosters, your own thoughts or dorm mates who wake up at 5:00 am to re-organize their ENTIRE backpack (you know who you are…), definitely snag a pair. Not sure how to use them? Strangely, you’re not alone. No worries, Youtube has you covered. I’ve also used them to separate my toes to apply nail polish to make my feet look less hobbit-like.

Bobby Pins

My hair is usually in a bun, a ponytail or a bun. Bobby pins have allowed me to get semi-creative with my increasingly ratty hair. They also reproduce like gremlins so you never have to buy more. The Everygirl has cute, easy styles for both long and short hair. I’ve also used bobby pins to hold up hems, fix a backpack zipper, hang laundry and snake a particularly disgusting shower drain (seriously, how am I not bald?). I was feeling MacGyverish until I found this Wise Bread post on 30 Handy Uses for Bobby Pins.

Lock & Key

This should be a staple in your backpack. Use it to lock up your tech gadgets, passport or cluster of diamonds in hostel lockers or lock your bag’s zippers shut when you check it at the airport. Nothing like discovering someone dug through your dirty underwear to steal you iPad. Also, if you have sturdy chain, you can also use it as a necklace.

Band Aids

Besides the obvious, I’ve used band aids to prevent blisters from forming inside my hiking shoes, stopped evil metal zippers from clinking together on a particularly long trek, fixed a hotel TV clicker and channeled Liz Lemon by wrapping the exposed underwire of my bra to prevent stabbing. I’m also not (too) ashamed to admit that on a cold night out in Prague, I even used them as nipple covers. SO that happened.

Dental Floss

Take care of your teeth and they’ll take care of you. Seriously, floss people. Beyond that, I’ve used dental floss as an impromptu laundry line, tied my hair back (which made it smell sort of minty), and temporarily replaced a busted shoe lace. A gal in Vietnam who is way cooler than me even used floss to patch a hole in her pants. Apparently people the world over are furiously brainstorming ways to use dental floss. I thought Kingston Family Dental’s Pinterest board was the most inspired.


You knew this one was coming. For some reason, I packed a six monthly supply with me on this trip. Did I think women outside the United States don’t menstruate? I’ve used CLEAN ones as make-shift ear plugs, a small bandage when I cut myself hiking, and to clean my glasses. I witnessed a very secure man use them to start a fire. Can’t get enough? Jenny Gardiner offers 101 ways to repurpose a tampon. Oh, and for the extremists out there, AR15’s 10 survival tips using a tampon is worth checking out…if only for the picture of some guy blowing through an applicator.

The Takeaway: Minimize, repurpose, simplify, reuse, recycle, repeat.

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