7 Tips to Turn Trash into Useful Travel Gear

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Seven items you'd normally throw away make nifty substitutes for pricy packing aids. Hang on to those old pillowcases.

I’m all about finding creative ways to reuse items on my quest to live frugally. I know I get that from my mother, who saves plastic containers to reuse for storage. Take one look at my rag bins and you’ll see I have a hard time getting rid of anything that could help me clean my house – for free.

This way of looking at things is why this tip sheet from IndependentTraveler.com caught my eye. (The site is devoted to tips and practical advice for travelers.) It’s all about taking items you might have thrown out and making them work as travel or packing accessories. Here are the site’s 7 ways to turn trash into travel essentials:

Trash: Old Pillowcase
Travel Essential: Travel Laundry Bag or Shoe Bag
Don’t throw away old pillowcases — travel supply stores sell similar sacks and pouches for $10 or more. Use your old pillowcases as dirty laundry bags or shoe bags. (You know from my recent post on reusing pillowcases that I love this idea.) Secure the top with rubber bands if you want some closure.

Trash: Old Wallet
Travel Essential: Dummy Travel Wallet
Hang on to your worn-out wallet, and use it as a decoy when you’re traveling. Keep most of your money and credit cards in a second “real” wallet or money belt, and then put some small bills in the dummy wallet. If you run into thieves, throw the criminals your dummy wallet, and make a quick getaway.

Trash: Bubble Wrap
Travel Essential: Protective Wine Bottle Sleeve
To protect packed bottles from breaking, travel supply companies sell protective sleeves for about $10, but you can easily make your own. Put a bottle of wine on that sheet of bubble wrap that has been hanging around in your closet. Fold the bubble wrap so it covers the wine. Cut the wrap to fit the wine, and staple the side and bottom, leaving an opening at the top.

Trash: Sheet/Bedding Packaging
Travel Essential: Case Organizer
Most comforters, sheets and pillow cases are sold in sturdy, rectangular, clear plastic casings. These casings, which are quite durable and usually have a zipper, closely resemble “packing cubes” — zippered containers that cost about $20 for a set and help travelers organize luggage. (You could also reuse these to hold liquids.)

Trash: Egg Carton Tray
Travel Essential: Jewelry Box/Disguise
A half-dozen egg carton tray makes a good travel jewelry box that doesn’t appear enticing to thieves and protects your jewelry during your travels. The plastic containers in which wet wipes are sold also make a handy jewelry box, without the separate compartments.

Trash: Nylons
Travel Essential: Mesh Bag, Luggage Spotter, Laundry Line…
You can use old nylons to bind up a broken suitcase, to tie around your luggage for easy identification at baggage claim, to use as a laundry line in your bathroom or for washing delicate items (instead of a mesh bag).

Trash: Yogurt Container
Travel Essential: Tie Protector
Save $7, and make your own tie protector. Roll up a tie, and pop it in the empty pot to prevent it from getting creased in your case. Just make sure you wash the container thoroughly. (This assumes you buy large yogurt containers with actual tops. The smaller ones, with the foil tops, probably wouldn’t work well for this.)

What about you? What kind of creative reuses do you find for items that others see as trash?

Leah Ingram is the author of “Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier & Healthier for Less” and shares money-saving tips at Suddenly Frugal.

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