Travelling is enough of a headache as it is without worrying about extra baggage that you could have done without. While there are some things that you just can't leave behind, there are other items that can fill several roles, and packing them can make any trip a smoother one.
Photo by Reinis Traidas
Take the plain white t-shirt, for example: It can be used as a sleeping shirt, as a rag to clean up spills, as a wrap for delicate souvenirs, as a seat cover, or as an emergency bath towel. It can be tied off and used as a laundry bag, or shredded and used as bandages. There are endless uses for it, but it takes up hardly any space in your baggage, so it's the perfect item to pack for any trip.
Here are five more items, that you may already use, which can fill other roles and help you pack lighter:
Floss can be used on more than just your teeth. It's perfect for tying things off, whether it's your pant legs during a sudden onset of bad weather, or securing a plastic bag over a wine bottle as an impromptu cork. You can use it to tie your shoes if your laces break, which could buy you just enough walking time to find replacements. Floss also makes for a great plumbing silencer, since you can tie a bit to a leaky faucet or shower head to combat a deafening drip. Best of all, it makes a better cheese knife than an actual cheese knife.
Small Pelican Case
Pelican cases aren't cheap for their size, but they're not too expensive considering how well they can protect anything you put in them. For about $20, you can have a five-inch by 3-inch case that will protect your mobile phone, wallet, passport, jewelry, ancient timepiece, or valuable artefact from an expedition—basically if it's dear to you, it's protected in one of these things. They're not just good for protecting what's inside them, though; you can use one of these to hold a soaking wet pair of swim trunks in the same bag as a perfectly dry suit, and they make for pretty decent lunch boxes, too.
Shampoo is one of those bathroom items that's become sorely overlooked in this modern age. When it comes down to it, shampoo is soap like any other—so you can use it to clean just about anything. It can wash dishes, hands, clothes, carpet, or anything else you might accidentally get dirty in your hotel room, and it takes up far less space than an entire set of bath supplies.
You don't have to be into journaling to appreciate the value of a banded notebook. The soft-cover Moleskine Plain Notebook is the perfect example of one of these; it's small but sturdy, lightweight, and the band around it ensures that nothing will fall out. Having paper with you at all times can be a real life-saver when travelling in foreign lands, and the hardness of the notebook itself can help in other ways (like fitting under the leg of a wobbly table in a cheap hotel room).
The modern multi-tool is the king of all multi-use items. The greatest thing about these little marvels of engineering is their size—you can fit nearly 20 different tools into about 2 inches of space, and your luggage won't even feel the difference. With one of these, you won't have to worry about finding a knife or scissors. You'll always have screwdrivers on hand, and you'll always have a corkscrew available for that bottle of hotel wine. If you don't yet have one of these, it could be worth it to invest in one just for travel. They only run about $40, and they're worth every cent. (Just remember not to put them in your hand luggage -- tools get confiscated by airport security.)
Know of any other great, multi-use items that could make travel easier? Share them in the comments!