You know who’s the king of carry on travel? Batman, that’s who. Seriously though, think about it.
The Dark Knight battles psychopaths who spend their ample free time thinking up new ways to kill him, yet he always comes out on top. Poison gas? Batman has the antidote. Rampaging lava monster? He’s wearing a flame-retardant cape. Chained to a cement block at the bottom of the river? Mr. Wayne pops that little scuba rebreather thing in his mouth and it’s all good. And where does he keep all that cool stuff…his utility belt.
Batman Doesn’t Check a Bag
Not only is he prepared for literally everything (he carries Kryptonite around just in case Superman starts acting up), he does it with a glorified bum bag. If Batman can keep Gotham safe with a few small items, why do you need a sherpa to carry your backpack on a two-week trip to Spain?
Below I’ve listed my favorite travel hacks and repurposed travel accessories, along with a few of my own personal tips to help you build your ultimate travel “utility belt” that’s not only functional, but carry-on approved. Just don’t actually make your own batarangs. The TSA will not be amused.
Before You Go
You can find most of these items around your house or at a local Dollar Store so I recommend getting what you can before your next trip. Some might be tough to find on the road.
Sunglass Case Cord Organizer
I actually hate sunglasses (never wear ’em), but the case they come in is super useful. Find one that zips and presto – you’ve got a convenient padded organizer that’s the perfect size for holding all your charging cables, cords, and even an extra set of headphones.
Shower Cap Your Shoes
This is an oldie, but a goodie. Simply wrap the shower cap around the soles of your shoes and never worry again about mud on your cashmere.
Contact Solution Case Lotion Holder
Again, this is a popular hack, but it’s everywhere for a reason. It works. I don’t travel with lotion, but packing fancy schmancy cologne for full moon parties has never been easier.
Tic Tac SD Card Case
I usually travel with a DSLR camera – complete with a handful of SD cards, and at least one USB thumb drive for transferring photos in a pinch. A Tic Tac box is the perfect size for safely storing both. Plus it’s lightweight, water-resistant, and minty fresh.
Cassette Tape Phone Stand
An empty cassette tape case can also hold your USB drive and SD cards, but I love how these lightweight durable cases fold open into the perfect smartphone stand. Now you can show YouTube kitten videos the way they were meant to be seen.
Prescription Bottle First-Aid Kit
An empty prescription bottle makes a great mini first-aid kit. Toss a handful of dramamine tablets, diarrhea pills, aspirin, some safety pins, and a few band-aids in and you’re ready for most accidents short of the ER. Complete the kit with tweezers and a tiny pair of scissors (TSA compatible) for extra credit.
Pro Tip: The orange-tinted glass protects medication from UV rays making them last long enough for multiple trips.
Bike Light Headlamp Hack
Bye-bye dorky headlamp. Hello, bike light.
A handlebar mounted bike light is a simple, cheap solution to hands free lighting. Wear the bike light on your finger like a ring or clip it around a variety of other things – a backpack shoulder strap, necklace, or even your belt or belt loops – and point it in the direction you want. Bike lights are small, light, durable, waterproof, and the batteries last forever.
Pro Tip: Bike lights are free at bike events if you live in a big city and range from $7-$50 retail.
Stretchy Belt Daypack
This is literally as close to a Batman utility belt as you can get:
- Wear a stretchy belt (I like the Uniqlo “stretch tape belt“)
- Hang stuff from the back (jackets, shirt, book, etc.)
- Hands free daypack.
Pro Tip: Hang a wool cap off the back and use it like a little satchel to hold smaller items.
On the Road
You can prep all you want, but once the rubber hits the road things are bound to get weird on any trip. Here are a few hacks to help you adapt to the hiccups on the fly:
Garbage Tie “Lock”
In a world where you can pick a kryptonite lock with a pen having the strongest heaviest lock isn’t always the best defense.Thieves are like lions – they cull the weak from the herd. The key to preventing theft is simple – don’t be the easiest target. Enter, garbage tie “locks.”
Simply twist a garbage tie through two zippers toggles and voila, your bag is 5-seconds harder to open. It might not sound like much, but that five seconds is all that stands between a pickpocket and your passport.
Pro-Tip: Garbage tie locks make you bullet-proof on crowded public transportation.
Dryer Sheets in Your Suitcase
You smell bad. Toss a dryer sheet in your bag and smell better.
Electrical Tape Band-Aid
I always travel with a roll of red electrical tape. It makes a great custom-sized waterproof band-aid or blister pad and if you have a bright color (red/yellow), you can tag your luggage with it for quick recognition. Plus…you know…tape fixes everything.
Stash a little emergency cash in an empty chapstick tube. Roll up a twenty, stash it, and toss it in your day bag for a little peace of mind in case the worst happens. Batman uses a cherry flavored one. Probably.
Body Lotion = Shoe polish
If you travel with boat shoes, like I do, shine them up for a night on the town without lugging shoe polish across half the planet. Simply dab body lotion on the leather and rub vigorously. Ta-da: shiny shoes.
Pro Tip: Ask a lady at your hostel to borrow some lotion. When she cringes and says, “Ew, you’re a creep,” just smile and tell her you’re shining up your dancing shoes. Then ask if she wants to come along. Shiny shoes and a dance partner. Way to go.
Local Brewery Bottle Cap Bolo Neck Tie
This one is courtesy of the brilliant ladies over at The Merrythought. I hate buying “typical” souvenirs – mugs, t-shirts, etc. – so when I saw this genius craft I immediately thought of all the beers I’ve downed on my travels around the world. Finally a way to remember them!
This simple craft involves a paper clip, bottle cap from your favorite local beer, a shoelace or strip of leather, and some glue. Just follow the directions here and you’ll have the ultimate conversation starter in minutes, you dapper traveler.
Pro Tip: Sell these things to make a few bucks on the road.
Egg Timer Time Lapse Photography
If you’ve ever seen those beautiful panning time lapse travel videos and drooled with envy but thought you could never get that same effect with your smartphone, worry not.
Up your travel photography game with an egg timer.
Place the egg timer sideways (or buy one that’s flat on top) and set the timer to about an hour. Place your camera on top and set the time lapse setting to anywhere between .5 – 3 secs. When the timer dings, you’ll have a flawless time lapse photo session you can quickly edit into something like this:
Water Wings = Sweet Travel Pillow
The next time I see a pair of knock-off Rugrats water wings at a flea market in Bangkok, I’m buying them. I just have to know if they’ll make a decent travel pillow. They probably won’t, but worst case scenario: I’ll have a sweet pair of water wings, so that’s cool…
Sometimes travel is a life or death battle. Channel your inner Batman and stay light on your feet with cheap multi-purpose travel items and travel hacks to survive.
- Batman Doesn’t Check a Bag – Neither Should You
- Bike Lights > Headlamps
- Electrical Tape Fixes Everything
- Tic Tac boxes make great SD card cases
Tweet at me to let me know if you have any other great travel hacks or tips or if any of these tips didn’t work out quite the way you planned!
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