Before my first trip to Italy, I scoured the guide books and internet for tips on everything from how to make a call home to whether batteries were the same in Europe. When you’ve never been somewhere, how are you supposed to know these things, right? If you’re going somewhere new, just know that your questions aren’t stupid. Go ahead and ask! Or look things up and read message boards. You’ll learn a lot!
One of the things I read on the Rick Steves message board was about different uses for plastic bags on a trip. I don’t remember all the tips I read at the time, but it made sense. I put some baggies in my suitcase before flying to Milan, and now I never travel without an assortment of sizes, ready to go. Here are some of the things I use the bags for:
1 – I bring a big baggie to stash dirty socks and undies. You don’t want them getting the clean clothes in your suitcase smelly, right? Eeuw. And to be honest? You don’t need to invest in gigantic zipper bags. Bring along an old plastic bag from the grocery store and just roll or twist the opening closed to keep all the stinky bits inside. Or better yet, I like the plastic bags with drawstrings that you’re supposed to use to leave laundry for the hotel service. I often use those bags for my dirty clothes (just to take home) and then use them again when I’m going somewhere that is unlikely to have those bags in the hotel room.
2 – If you’re moving around from city to city, bring another big bag or baggie for clean but damp clothes. Have you ever washed out a few things in your hotel’s bathroom sink, only to discover the next morning that they didn’t have enough time to dry? If you’re packing up to head to the next stop, toss them in your CLEAN bag, and you can finish drying them at the next hotel.
3 – If you’re going to be swimming, bring a bag large enough to hold a damp swimsuit if you have to pack before it’s had a chance to dry. Maybe that’s the same bag as the damp clothes bag, but bags don’t take up any space – so I’d bring two!
4 – Protect your clothes and other belongings from possible leakage by putting ALL liquids in bags that zip when packing for your trip – and that includes items in your carryon bag. One of my most expensive mistakes was not putting cough syrup in a bag in my carryon flying from Melbourne to Singapore. It leaked all through the tote bag and all over my favorite beige trench coat in the overhead bin, completely ruining it. Some liquids like cough syrup and perfume (I think of them as sneaky liquids), you might even want to bag twice.
5 – Medium and small baggies are a great way to organize small items you collect each day. If you like to save ticket stubs to museums, local maps, informational pamphlets and other little memorabilia, gather and place in bags to keep from losing them or smashing them in your suitcase.
6 – If you don’t have a camera case with pockets, keep your extra batteries and memory cards in a baggie so you can locate your supplies quickly in a day bag or purse. When you’re out sightseeing and don’t want to miss a good picture, it’s annoying to waste time rummaging around in the bottom of your bag for what should be a quick card or battery change.
7 – I also keep a small baggie to change out money. I empty my wallet in the bag when I arrive in a foreign country and tuck it away in my suitcase. I put local currency in my wallet and money belt, and reverse the process when it’s time to go home. If I’m lucky enough to be traveling where the currency will change more than once, I can bring a little bag to collect leftover cash and coins from each country.
8 – Speaking of money, you can save the cost of lunch with your baggies if you’re staying in a hotel with a free breakfast buffet. I love the crusty rolls, ham, salami and cheese you’ll often find in Europe at breakfast. Use one bag for a roll, and another for a little meat and cheese. Add a piece of fruit, and all you’ll have to buy for lunch is a drink and you’re good to go! Do be discreet, of course. And don’t be greedy! I look at it this way: I sincerely hope that the hotels you and I might be staying at are NOT serving the same food from one morning to the next. Based on that assumption, any perishable foods that aren’t eaten by the guests probably go in the trash. (Plus, I am practicing for my retirement when I plan to stock up on Sweet ‘n Low, saltines and jelly packets at every dining opportunity. It’s the American way.)
Do you have more reasons for packing plastic bags in your suitcase? Certainly anyone with kids can come up with another eight ideas, at the very least! When I’m on business trips, sometimes I throw the business cards I collect into a baggie, or receipts for my travel expense report. I haven’t traveled with my dog, Mick, yet, but I’m sure bags will come in handy for canine needs, as well.
So, I’d just like to thank the clever inventor who came up with the concept of a zipper on a bag. I mean, really. How cool is that? They don’t take up any space, so don’t forget to throw some in your suitcase, carryon, daypack, or purse before you leave town. I bet you’ll be glad you did.