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A Travel Packing List Secret: Multi-Use Items

When trying to pack light for your long or short term trip, your overarching mantra should be: “Things that are also other things.” Here are some examples of this motto in action to consider for your bag, graciously modeled by Sena Comfort of YCC, Ghana!

1. A sarong or large, lightweight cloth.
Uses: Towel, light sheet on cold bus rides or nights, sleep sack in nasty dorm beds, screen for changing in public places, post-swimming dress, makeshift wrap/bag for dirty laundry

2. A thin, plain, dark-colored tank top.
Uses: Cute going out top, hiking or exercise shirt, pajamas, undershirt, swimming top for conservative countries

3. Semi-stretchy knee-length pants.
Uses: Pajama bottoms, exercise-wear, around-the-house/hostel wear, casual bottoms, under-skirt “slip”

4. Supportive, nice-looking hiking sandals (I swear by the Chaco brand).
Uses: Hiking shoes, daily walking/working sandals, around-the-house wear, cute going out shoes

5. Shampoo.
Uses: Shampoo (duh), body wash, laundry soap, hand-wash for un-equipped bathrooms

6. Dark, fast-drying hiking pants that are also nice looking and thin enough to roll up to knee-length.
Uses: Hiking Pants, work bottoms, respectable-looking pants for events, travel wear, pajamas in a pinch

7. A small “netbook” computer.
Uses: Free Internet source (free Wi-Fi is everywhere!), phone (Skype is free!), map, emergency contact system, photo and document backup storage, life organizer (ex: To Do list, calendar, etc.), lifeline and sanity maintainer

8. A small, dark, fold-able bag.
Uses: Backpack, purse, airplane carry-on, divider for inside a bigger bag, quick cloak for valuables in a hotel room

9. A small notebook of plain or lined paper.
Uses: Stash of paper to rip out, diary, game board, catch-all for important notes (ex: phone numbers, addresses)

10. Short, fast-drying (synthetic) running shorts.
Uses: Pajamas, exercise shorts, boxer-style underwear, swimming bottoms for conservative countries

11. A plain-looking baseball cap.
Uses: Sunscreen, identity hider (for when you don’t feel like people talking to you), rain hat, mini-purse in a pinch

12. A nice-looking but durable plain t-shirt.
Uses: Cute shirt, work shirt, exercise shirt, pajamas, undershirt, towel in a pinch

13. Plastic bags of different sorts.
Uses: Backpack divider (ex: sock “drawer”), dirty laundry bag, protection against toiletry spills, Trash bag, Last-resort purse, barf bag, wet item repository, shoe bag

14. (For women and Scotsmen) A lightweight, plain but nice-looking knee-length skirt.
Uses: Cute skirt, slip to go under sheer skirts, post-swimming wrap, method to change clothes in a public place

15. (For women and perhaps jiggly men) A sports bra.
Uses: Exercise essential, swimming top, casual daily bra, girdle to fit into too-small shirts/dresses

16 and Up: Digital camera, Small scissors, Inflatable travel neck pillow, and more!

The Moral: As you pack, keep asking yourself, “Can I use this item in more than one situation?” If not, think long and hard about whether there is a more versatile item to replace it with. And as for that lime green ballgown? Leave it behind.

Want more details on the brands and specifications of the items I use and adore? Click here for tons of posts on Pre-Trip Packing and Planning!

With wonderful students in Ghana.
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