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Packing Tips

Hotel Tips Bring an over-the-door shoe organizer - Hotel tip

One of the biggest frustrations when traveling is staying organized in your hotel room. An over-the-door shoe organizer is one of the most helpful items you can pack.

After you check-in, hang this on the bathroom door and fill it with all of your toiletries or other items – yes, even shoes. The clear plastic variety is the best, so you can see the contents – and so can everyone else in your traveling party.

It works great for toothpaste, toothbrushes, hair brushes/combs, hairspray, aspirin, rain ponchos, etc. Everything is at your fingertips!

Prevent your liquids from spilling - Packing tip

Packing liquids in Ziploc bags doesn't always cut it. It might protect everything else you packed from getting soaked if your shampoo leaks, but it won't fix another problem: you need whatever might spill.

To stop leakiness in the first place, rip off small pieces from plastic shopping bags (the thinner supermarket kind work better than those from the mall) and stick them on top of each bottle before screwing the cap back on.

Your clothes and your liquid necessities are safe!

[Photo: Flickr | taberandrew]

Spare ATM cards can save the day - Packing tip

When traveling, always get an extra ATM card.

A spare card can save the day if the ATM machine eats your card unexpectedly, or if you lose you card along the way.

[Photo: Flickr | rynosoft]

Grapefruit seed extract may keep your stomach strong - Packing tip

Nothing can ruin your vacation faster than going dally-belly by eating something not cooked properly -- or from bad water. The medicines doctors prescribe are sometimes too harsh for your body to take, leaving you exhausted. However, some people believe grapefruit seed extract drops are a powerhouse of natural killers to bacteria and parasites.

Use 5-10 drops of GSE to clean you toothbrush, thirty drops in a sink full of water to wash your fruits, veggies and meats, and 15-30 drops in the sink to wash your dishes and utensils. Also consider putting 3-6 drops in every five-ounce-serving of juice or water three times a day to keep your stomach and intestines clean.

[Photo: Flickr | Dan Zen]

Travel with clothespins - Packing tip

When traveling anywhere, a few clothespins with springs are a "must have!"

Clothespins will secure your damp towels or clothing to the back of a balcony chair, without offending the hotel management who ban draping towels, bathing suits and articles of clothing from balcony rails. They can be used in the bathroom, as well, to secure articles while drying.

Clothespins can be used to clip a curtain off to the side of a window with an otherwise great view, as well as to keep tight partially eaten snacks.

Expert clothespinners can also sleep in longer.

[Photo: Flickr | melloveschallah]

Try the 'traveler's washing machine' - Packing tip

Here's how to make a "traveler's washing machine" --
  1. Pack a large, thick plastic bag and a small bottle of laundry soap.
  2. When it's time for laundry, fill the bag with about a gallon of water and add a scoop of detergent.
  3. A few sloshes of the bag renders the water soapy.
  4. Drop in the clothes, and shake the bag some more.
  5. Leave the clothes to soak for at least 5 minutes.
  6. Dump the water out and fill with fresh water to rinse.
  7. Shake.
  8. Dump out this water and squeeze any excess water from the clothes.
  9. Hang the clothes on anything convenient to dry.
This saves a trip to the laundromat -- and money.

[Photo: Flickr | Alexik]

Map and highlighter are essential - Packing tip

Wherever, however, you go traveling, there are two easy essentials you must pack:

The first is a map of the destination(s) you will be visiting. It's easy to feel disoriented on solo trips -- or even a guided tour!

The second essential item is a highlighter. A map that you can mark with a highlighter allows you to see exactly where in the world you are. Just mark the major cities or towns you'll be visiting beforehand, and then connect the dots as you travel the local roads.

This is especially helpful in Europe where countries are only the size of American states and distances traveled are much less than you might imagine.

[Photo: Flickr | Adam NFK Smith]

Label your chargers, stay in charge: Packing tip

Do you panic about leaving a phone charger behind in a hotel room? Do your hands get clammy when you have a jumble of chargers cords in your carry-on bag, but can't find the right one? I solved the tangled cord problem by using colored twist ties, electrical tape, or sticky labels.

I save twist ties from bags of bread/bagels in a small ZipLoc bag in my silverware drawer in the kitchen. As I buy cell phones, I label the phone charger cables with a twist tie. My phone has a red twist tie while my husband's phone has a green one. My teen's charger cord is yellow while the tween's is blue. When we arrive at a hotel, I will unravel the charger cables we need, so the phone can be placed on the desk in the hotel room while charging. I use the twist tie to secure the remaining charger cable to prevent the phone from slipping to the floor. At the end of our trip, the charger cables are easy to spot because of the colored twist tie.

For larger charger cables, such as though for digital/video cameras and laptops, I use a piece of colored electrical tape or a sticky label. I buy electrical tape, which is about 0.5" wide and is red or blue. I write the name of the device on the label on the charger cable. Many laptop charger cables come with an attached velcro or plastic tie, which helps to prevent tangled cords in a carry-on bag.

[Photo: Flickr | A. Germain]

Stow your wireless mouse in a toddler-size sock - Packing tip

If you're traveling with your laptop and bringing a wireless mouse with you, stick it inside one of your toddler's outgrown socks.

A toddler's sock is the perfect size to cushion this delicate hardware. Plus, it's a great way to recycle clothing you'd normally toss in the garbage or use for a rag.

Also: it's cute.

[Photo: Flickr | FHKE]

Photograph your luggage and its contents - Packing tip

Take pictures of your luggage as well as its contents prior to leaving the house. Store this photo as a file on your computer, and e-mail it to yourself.

You may also want to include a list of the items packed.

In case of lost or stolen luggage, you can retrieve this information from any internet point, and it may be helpful when reporting the loss -- especially if you've lost something valuable.

[Photo: Flickr | dichohecho]

Bring a travel corkscrew - Packing tip

While you're on vacation abroad, few things compare to an impromptu picnic in the open air. It is the perfect opportunity for sampling the local foodstuffs, wine, and scenery.

Depending on where you are in the world, tracking down a corkscrew can often turn an uncomplicated experience into a bit of an ordeal. On your next trip, save yourself some time and always pack a handy travel corkscrew.

[Photo: Flickr | YannGar Photography]

Carry a door stop - Hotel tip

Ever worry that you might have an unwelcome visitor during the night in your hotel room? While most hotels have a deadbolt or a chain lock which can be engaged only from the interior of a hotel room, many cheap accommodations -- especially some found overseas -- offer less protection for their guests.

To deal with this, I carry a small rubber wedge that is normally used to hold doors open with me. Before I go to bed, I wedge it between the door and the floor. It's inexpensive, easy to pack, and gives me a little peace of mind when patronizing less-than-glamorous lodgings.

[Photo: Flickr | General Wesc]

The "Poor Man's Vacuum Packing System" - Packing tip

Try the "poor man's vacuum packing system" to make more room in your suitcase or carry-on:
  1. Get a gallon-sized or two-gallon-sized zipper storage bags (Ziplock, Glad, etc.) and a plastic straw.
  2. Fold the clothing and put it in the bag.
  3. Insert the straw and seal the bag around the straw.
  4. Suck the air out (use your mouth -- it's free and no heavy vacuum cleaner to pack!) using the straw, then quickly remove the straw and finish sealing the bag.
  5. Pack the straw to repeat when coming home.
Bonus: if a toiletry leaks, everything is safe in the plastic bags.

[Photo: Flickr | Artnow314]

Use contact lens cases to transport gels and lotions - Packing tip

Contact lens cases with screw-on lids make great travel accessories. When you want to take small quantities of hair gel, sculpting wax, eye make-up remover, an essential oil, Aloe Vera, or under-eye cream, you can't beat contact lens cases. They're small. They don't leak. They can hold one week's worth of lotion or gel in each little section.

If you don't already own spare contact lens cases, you can buy them at most stores for less than a few dollars.

Related: Use a pill box for jewelry

[Photo: Flickr | Lee J Haywood]

Walk with your bags before traveling - Packing tip

If you want to keep your bag smaller, and more travel-ready, walk with it for 30 minutes... on a hilly blacktop... on a sunny day.

I admit, this exercise may not directly trim your bags. However, this should make you more able to prioritize what you need for your trip.

[Photo: Flickr | .Luc.]

Carry your dirties in a draw-string bag - Packing tip

Having dirty socks, underwear and a tee rolled into well-worn jeans isn't too bad for that weekend jaunt, but if your travels take you to several destinations, it's nice to keep clean and soiled clothes separate.

One easy way is to pack a lightweight draw-string bag (cotton or nylon) or even a pillowcase. Going out, it can house your shoes. Coming back, it's a quick carry to the washer. Heading to a beach cottage? Toss in some clothespins to hang the wet stuff.

Pro tip: a vial of liquid detergent can double as shampoo and vice versa.

[Photo: Flickr | knitgirl63]

Use return address labels when traveling - Packing tip

Who mails letters anymore? With the ease of email, social networking and banking, I had a drawer full of return address labels that were not being used. For a quick way to personalize my travel gear I put the time-saving stickers on everything from my camera, iPod, reading materials, umbrella, inside my jackets and nearly everything I pack.

It's easy to think you won't lose anything or leave an item behind, but oh-so-hard to replace them when you do!

The most efficient way to unpack - Packing tip

If you're staying in a hotel for a week or less, don't bother unpacking. Just use your suitcase as a drawer!

Never unpacking makes re-packing ridiculously easy, and you can be sure you haven't left anything behind.

Leaving everything in your suitcase isn't lazy, it's smart! The only trick to this is keeping your suitcase organized throughout your stay. But how hard is that? Just keep you r clothes packed and resting neatly in your bag, and you're golden.

Don't forget toiletries - Packing tip

On the morning of a trip, I keep my toiletry bag with me as I get dressed. After I use each item that morning, I simply drop each into the bag.

This eliminates my taking things that I probably will not need -- and makes sure basics like my eyebrow pencil or my toothbrush is not left behind.

Before I zip the bag, I can always add in a few extras, drop in my jewelry pill box, and that bag has almost packed itself!

Daypacks and duffel bags for easy-access - Packing tip

Use comfortable, soft-sided bags, such as gym bags, small daypacks, or duffel bags for easy-access and lightweight portability on a trip -- just make sure to sort out your belongings properly inside the bag.

To maximize comfort and ease, find a duffel bag that has a wide opening with easy slide zippers and an adjustable strap. This will help reduce the strain of carrying a big suitcase.

In addition to increased comfort, duffel bags offer other advantages, as well. First, you won't have to worry and wait around the terminal for your suitcase to show up at the baggage claim. Second, duffel bags can be tucked under your airline seat, shoved into overhead compartments, and opened quickly and easily during security checks.

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