It’s inevitable that at some point you’re going to have one of those ‘Oh shit’ moments when you open your suitcase and realize you forgot to pack something essential to your life as you unpack in another country. If it makes you feel any better, it has happened to me almost every single time I travel, regardless of how much of an awesome last-minute professional packer I think I am.
But luckily I’m crafty (AKA stubborn) and tend to figure out how to make use of something else in lieu of what happens to be missing. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, either way it’s usually a lot better than just pouting about that missing item!
1. A Toothbrush
Although it’s something you use every day (hopefully) it’s still something so easy to forget when you’re busy thinking of what clothes to pack. If you realize you’ve forgotten your toothbrush, and you aren’t staying at a hotel that could just send you a new one, you have a few options.
First, obviously attempt to find a local supermarket or drug store. But in the event you can’t find one (let’s say you’re really out there), crumble a napkin or piece of paper and rub it along your teeth, then even chew it, and spit out all of the gross plaque and tartar you just scraped off. Then swish water in between your teeth to get the remaining crap out that’s stuck in there, and voila, semi-clean teeth!
2. Shampoo & Conditioner
While it’s technically better for your hair if you don’t wash it, most people prefer not to have a stinky ‘do, and aren’t happy if they forgot shampoo and conditioner. If for some reason you can’t find a store to buy some while you’re traveling, you can always opt for some natural methods, like using Apple Cider Vinegar (I’ve used it, it works), lemon juice, or even mayonnaise… Yes, mayonnaise…
If you’re not up for some experimental hair products, just rinse it with water or invest in some baby powder.
Eeewwww, worst packing fail ever! Hopefully you’re in a country that doesn’t believe in using deodorant and you can blend right in (just kidding), but you probably prefer to not smell like rotten onions. This is a hard one because it’s a bit hard to hack antiperspirant.
There’s some DIY recipes that suggest using corn starch, baking soda, and coconut oil, but I doubt you’ll be able to find those easily while traveling…and if you can…they probably aren’t far from the deodorant aisle.
If you happen to find a communal fridge, you can steal some baking soda and dab some on your arm pits, or you can use anything with high alcohol content like hair spray, hand sanitizer…vodka…to kill the smell and dry out your pits. Yum.
4. Hair Dryer
I purposely left my hair dryer at home when I went to Iceland because I assumed the hotel I was staying at would have one. They didn’t. So I not only had no way of drying my wet hair, but no way of styling it either. Using a towel works…eventually, but so does any type of powder…including your face powder…
I’m actually glad I forgot it because although I originally opted for the top-knot, I realized that once I took my hair down, it made really pretty natural curls! The trick is to pull it up like a high-pony, twist the whole thing, wrap it around in a circle starting at the base, then CLIP the end piece at the base of the bun. Genius, I know..
Yeah. This one sucks big time. The good news is that you (hopefully) have the one pair that you’re wearing! You can get away with the old inside-out trick the first day, and washing them are always an option…unless they take too long to dry. Or you can consider the way that menstrual pads work, and how they keep your undies clean from disgusting period juice (sorry guys).
Use a paper towel or toilet paper as a disposable liner for your undies, which will hopefully keep them clean for an extra couple of days. Guys…I don’t really want to think about it, but I’m assuming you probably don’t care anyway so I’ll just leave it at that!
6. Warm (Enough) Clothing
I’m always so proud of myself for not over-packing, yet there have been 3 distinct times when it led to me freezing my ass off. Jackets aren’t exactly cheap to buy, and unless you’re staying in a hostel or volunteer house, you might not have anyone to borrow one from.
In one situation, I actually was at a volunteer house, and the other volunteers were nice enough to lend me a pair of old boots, and one even gave me their jacket because they were going back home. But in other situations when I was alone, I had to get crafty.
If you can find a thrift store, that’s your best bet, or if you’re staying at a hotel, ask if there’s a lost and found bin that you can borrow from. Of course wearing every article of clothing you did bring is an option, but sometimes it’s still not warm enough.
If there’s a pharmacy (or if you can remember before you leave to go to one), get disposable heating pads for your back…they double as GREAT personal heaters and last for about 12 hours!
If worst comes to worst and you are literally still freezing…I won’t tell anyone if you wrap yourself in the hotel pillow cases then layer your clothes on over them.
7. A Phone/Laptop Charger
Yep. That sucks. Especially if you’re in another country where these things aren’t exactly abundant. Even if you do find an electronics store, that shit ain’t gunna be cheap! So here’s what you do; before your battery dies, look up a few hostels and cafes and write down their location.
Go to the hostels (or hotels) and see if anyone is hanging out in the lobby using the free wifi…who happens to be using the same device as you. Bribe them with smiles, hugs, and high-fives (or just offer to pay them) to let you borrow their charger. You can do the same at a cafe, but I feel like people are friendlier at hostels.
8. An Adapter
I don’t know how the hell I forgot to bring an adapter to Iceland, but yeah, that happened, and there were no “travel stores” any where that sold them. Luckily the car I was renting had a USB outlet so I could charge my phone while I was driving, but the laptop, no such luck.
I finally ended up asking the hotel front desk if they knew where I could buy one, and voila! She happened to have one that someone had left behind! Long story short, ask if they have one at a hotel…they don’t need to know you’re not staying there.
Also, TV’s usually have a USB outlet, so check the ones wherever you’re staying…or be sneaky at a bar or something.
9. Other Forms of Money
Sometimes you lose/run out of money, and sometimes you get your credit cards stolen. Shit happens. But not to fear! Get online and find the closest Western Union and wire yourself your money if you need cash but don’t have a debit card.
If you happen to be somewhere that doesn’t accept your card (hotels in Thailand wouldn’t take my AmEx), tell them you’ll BRB, go find wifi, and book the hotel online with your card, then go back and check in.
10. Over-the -Counter Meds
Nothing sucks more than being in Cuba with potential food poisoning and realizing you forgot your emergency vial of Peptobismol. Hopefully you’re somewhere that has somewhat of a drug store that you can find stuff at, but if you’re in a place like Cuba or Thailand where that shit ain’t easy to find…you’re going to have a problem. A very painful problem.
If it’s something like a headache or upset stomach, brace yourself, because the solution is………. alcohol (note: I am not a doctor, don’t sue me). The headache is probably from a hangover anyway, and everyone knows the solution to that is the Hair of the Dog, which also works for hangover-nausea.
If you have nausea or a stomach ache from something else, drinking alcohol will act like a laxative to help clear you out, and make you drunk enough to forget about it! Hooray!
If your stomach problem is more on the you-drank-WAY-too-much side, or you might have food poisoning, try your best to find Activated Charcoal Pills. They absorb poison in your belly, but also turn your poop black.
Have a good travel hack? Let me know! Below are a few contributions!
How To Get a Row to Yourself on a Flight
How to Maximize Your Days Off & Travel Cheaper
“I’m a full-time worker and travel blogger, so using my vacation days as effectively as possible is a minor obsession. Plan your trip carefully to find evening flights the night before your days off and avoid back-tracking by flying into one city/out the furthest city away. It was cheaper to fly into Osaka (Japan) and out of Tokyo than it was to fly in and out of Tokyo, not including the cost of the bullet train back to Osaka. Instead of losing a day/night in transit on an expensive bullet train back to Osaka for an early flight, I spent my free night exploring Tokyo’s hipster neighborhoods after hiking off trail in the Sea of Trees.” – Karen, WanderlustingK