MacGyver-Level Holiday Travel Hacks

Over the river and through the woods . . . but instead of to grandma’s house or a big box Black Friday free-for-all, why not book a memory-making adventure instead? But before you embark on your holiday trip, unlock these MacGyver-level travel hacks.

Many folks already carry folding bags for errands down the street, but tuck those totes into your suitcase for shopping halfway across the world too. Whip them out to secure your souvenirs while you haggle for more.

Include fabric softener sheets in your carry-on as well, since they can be wiped on clothes to refresh the smell, help to de-wrinkle and reduce static in the winter. While you’re in the laundry aisle, also get and pack color-catching dye-trapping sheets so you can wash lights and darks together in one economical load. Pack a portable stain removing pen to spot clean spills, or use hairspray to help eliminate ink stains (if it’s alcohol-based). Bring your electronics chargers and power adapters. Alert your credit card companies as to where you’ll be traveling.

The travel experts at Travel Experts, Inc., offer even more pro advice to unpack before heading out.

Get the Picture

Maryland travel agent Lynn Juliano likes photographing her gear at home before heading elsewhere. Take a picture of your luggage, inside and out, in case something happens in transit. Also snap your passport, plus the front and back of your credit card, so if they’re lost you’ll still have the digits.

Once you’re at your destination, photograph the outside of your hotel, in case you get lost, or the hotel’s business card, so you can show your cabbie where to return you if needed. Email those photos to yourself in the event you lose or break your phone (and remember the password to access your account from the hotel’s business center computer).

Dude, Where’s My Car?

Travel with Alex’s Alex Dalton is also a photo fan. He says if you drive yourself to the airport, take a picture of the parking garage level and aisle number before jetting off. After a week or two away, you’re likely to forget where you left your car. Plus, if you get stuck somewhere, you can text that picture to your people if they need to retrieve the car.

Copy That

Also make and bring copies of your passport to each hotel where you’ll stay, Lynn advises. Give the front desk a copy rather than your actual passport so you won’t leave it behind (which happens, says Lynn). Hotels make copies anyway, so this saves a step.

Alex adds that you should always print a hard copy of your boarding pass even if you have one on your phone, especially when you have connecting flights. If your phone dies, or gets lost or stolen, you’ll have a paper backup.

All About the Benjamins

Virginia-based Travel Experts agent Ellen LeCompte says “secure your cash!” Many banks have free checking so she sets up a separate checking account with a debit card just for travel. So if your ATM card is lost, stolen or scammed, your exposure is limited just to the funds in that account, not your main checking account. Put your bank manager’s direct number in your phone so you can call if need to put more cash in the account. “I had my card skimmed in a rural town in the UK the day after my husband’s paycheck was deposited,” Ellen said. “We learned this lesson the hard way.”

Ich Bin ein Berliner

Alex knows that communication is as important as currency. He suggests you download the languages of the places you’ll be visiting into Google Translate. Nothing says “I should have studied more Bahasa” like being stuck on the backroads of any Indonesian island and needing to ask about a latrine, he recalls.

Back to Basics

Lynn recommends packing a good old-fashioned, travel-sized emergency kit with:

o Aspirin or ibuprofen for headaches and pain

o Benadryl for allergic reactions (or to help you sleep)

o Probiotics to stabilize your stomach

o Band-Aids, moleskin or liquid skin for blisters

o Papaw ointment for cuts and abrasions

o Charcoal capsules to absorb intestinal impurities

o Rehydration solution, a couple of packets in case you do get sick

o Copy of your eyeglass prescription. Takes no space and can keep you from experiencing a fuzzy Mona Lisa.

Alex adds that Curad sells a ten-pack of antiviral face masks. Pack one for departure and one for return to reduce the risk of contracting whatever croup your seatmate is incubating.

Remember duct tape, of course, says Lynn. “I take a mini-roll on EVERY trip. I’ve used it to mend a hem, jerry-rig a damaged fender, and seal a broken luggage zipper. I’ve even used it with cheesecloth to create a window screen in Tuscany where the bees were as big as hummingbirds!”

Alex says to slip necklaces into straws (reusable ones, of course) to prevent tangling.

Maximum MacGyver

Travel Experts agent Christie Soper of Greensboro, North Carolina’s Suncierge relies on one simple item. “My personal favorite MacGyver travel tool is the simple elastic ponytail holder,” she says.

“Aside from the traditional use holding my hair back for sports, these little jewels have sealed bags, secured a pill case closed, latched keys in my purse, attached sunglasses to a stroller handle, held together a broken bikini strap, lashed my sandal together on a night out when the bottom separated from the top, and wrapped a loose koozie around a choice beverage. I always carry several in my toiletry bag, in my purse and in my car,” Christie explains.

So tie one on, pack some hacks and have a cool, foolproof yule.

Karin is a culture worker and communicator, educator and publicist, actor and activist, and is equally fond of dogs and cats.