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Travel Talk: How to pack, be prepared on the cheap

Chase Binder

Chase Binder

When Bud and I pack for a trip – regardless of whether we’re headed to Florida in the car or jetting off to Burma – we try to incorporate items that are easily available around the house into our packing plans. For one thing, they’re convenient, for another, they’re low-cost or even no cost. Oh, we’ll still buy the occasional specialty item from Magellan’s ( or Travel Smith ( – but first, we look around and see what we have.

Packing Jewelry: I never bring expensive jewelry on a trip – it’s plain silly. You’re asking for trouble both in terms of just losing a piece and actually becoming a target for pickpockets and thieves.

That being said, I love colorful costume jewelry and find that changing up a necklace and earrings alters the look of an outfit and makes my wardrobe go a lot further. I’ve spent years looking for the perfect jewelry bag – heck, I even toyed with designing one myself. But until I have the time and energy to do that, I use three sizes of Ziploc bags – the sturdy kind, not the flimsy light-weight ones.

First, I lay out my necklaces in the bottom of a gallon-sized bag. It’s easy to see the colors through the plastic. Next, I lay out watches and bracelets (wrist and ankle – I love ankle bracelets!) to coordinate with the necklaces in a sturdy quart-sized bag. Last – and still with my eye on colors and styles – I select earrings and tuck them in the snack-sized bag. Then I open the gallon bag and tuck the smaller ones inside – bingo! I can see everything, and everything’s easily organized throughout my trip. Even better, it’s all together and a snap to toss in the room safe.

Classy? Maybe not, but it works.

Packing Laundry Items: Bud and I have gotten used to doing laundry (hand and machine) as we travel about. It lets you pack lighter, which is a huge plus both in terms of today’s “fees for everything” airline policies and just being easier to move around.

In fact, our dream is to travel like a couple we met in Burma last year. They were halfway through a six-week itinerary in Southeast Asia, traveling solely with carry-ons – and they looked great!

I save the clear plastic bags that linen items such as pillow cases and cloth napkins come in – very sturdy and “real” zippers – and load them up with enough snack-sized bags of powdered detergent and dryer sheets to accommodate a wash a week or so, depending on our itinerary. A few spare 3-ounce TSA-approved bottles of liquid detergent, a couple of Tide sticks and another snack-sized bag with a needle and thread, and we’re ready for anything.

Packing Utility Items: It’s one thing to have a critical item break when you’re home in New Hampshire – no problem getting tools and materials for repairs. On the road, not so much.

Bud carries at least one roll of duct tape (one in the checked luggage and a smaller one in carry-on is best), a selection of plastic electrician ties, a small corkscrew (for wine emergencies) and his trusty Leatherman multipurpose tool (check for models from $25 to $100). The Leatherman can do everything from slicing ham and cheese for sandwiches to disassembling a ceiling fan for critical adjustments. It and any similar larger Swiss Army-like tools are, of course, considered weapons, so they need to go in checked luggage.

(Chase Binder lives in Bow. Read her blog at

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