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Tools of the Travel Trade

by Denise McCluggage

"(Woman) is a tool-using animal. . .Without tools (she) is nothing, with tools (she) is all."

I don't think Thomas Carlyle will mind the liberty of paraphrase since it diminishes not a whit the wisdom of his words. His century was just less sensitive to political correctness. I list here a half dozen fine tools for travel and their various uses. Simple as they may be this selection can make your packing and traveling less stressful and more pleasant.

To find any of these items go online go to, and type in the name of the desired item in the "Find Product" space, click again and choices to delight the shopper's soul will appear.

The Luggage Rack: Every hotel room has one. Doesn’t that tell you something? It took me years for the penny to drop and now I have one at home to make easier all the packing and unpacking I do. Guests also welcome the rack when they are the ones with the luggage. The racks range in price from $15 to near $90. Find the chrome-with-black-straps familiar from hotel stays in the middle range. The more costly are of décor-conscious assorted woods with fancier straps. Some even come with bedside trays to increase usefulness.

Racks can be had with a high back (to protect the wall) but I find the flat ones are more versatile in the size of bag they can hold properly balanced. The racks fold up and disappear under the bed or in a closet between uses.

Folding Laundry Rack: These tubular contraptions when open are like a giant X with some three feet of hanging space on two bars (40 garments it is said.) The racks are sold for hanging your freshly ironed clothes or for party-guest coats. Why no one mentions what a boon they are at packing (and unpacking) time I don't know. I, for one, do far more packing than I do ironing. The racks fold to about two inches thick and at less that two feet in width slip neatly into the closet alongside your hanging duds.

As packing time nears I stand my Great X up and begin. On one bar I hang the Must-Go's, on the other the Possibles. I swap around a bit, cut the field, and start the packing process.
When I return home the "hangable" stuff comes out of the suitcase and back on the rack where I can check what needs cleaning or mending or button attention before it all goes back in the closet. (That's the ideal; truth be told sometimes they just hang there for a few days until jet lag dissipates.)

The folding racks range in price from about $18 to $30. The more expensive might be heavier gauge metal tubing but I have the cheap version and it works just fine.

Travel Tray: You might be surprised how useful this container is. Available variously in cloth or leather (even embossed crocodile) it travels flat but when its corners are snapped together it becomes a small basket (about 6x8 inches or a square) to keep "your stuff" (earrings, keys, lipstick, assorted coins, etc) segregated from "not your stuff" on hotel countertops.

The travel tray also keeps anything from rolling behind immovable chests or tumbling into wastebaskets. My basic black one, about $10, came from Magellan's. The leather ones, smacking a bit of male hubris, go for $25 to $50. Yahoo will get you to any of them.

Credential Holder: If you have been to as many races and auto shows as I have, you have an astounding collection of clear plastic sleeves that hang from a lanyard around your neck.
I have found a new use for them in these days of troubled travel when your ticket and photo ID are in constant demand.

Instead of thrusting these into a pocket or a zippered compartment of a carry-on and fumbling for them yet again I assemble all that is germane to the trip - ticket, ID, boarding card, baggage checks if any - and put them in the credential holder where they are readily accessible, easily scrutinized and not easily misplaced. I have thought of adding: "Deliver to…" and "Likes chocolate milk" on an instructions card but levity isn't welcome at departure gates these days.

My recycled credential holder has received grateful acclaim from ID checkers and airline personnel as well as piqued the interest of some power-suited women you might not think would considering wearing ID around their necks. But anything for convenience and time conservation these days. (Anyway, I have enough lanyards to color coordinate them with what I'm wearing. So there.)

The perfectly plain, unprinted, credential holders seem to be available only in mass quantities but type in that phrase in the Yahoo shopping search engine and you'll find for $4 and $5 credential holders with MOPAR and Ford Racing logos respectively on them. Tip:The Ford logo is smaller.

Flipper Toothbrush Holder: No, this isn’t in case you share brunch with a fugitive dolphin. This gadget may be my favorite of all time because it elicits a smile whenever I use it. The plastic clamshell-like device attaches to the bathroom mirror with suction cups and keeps your toothbrush in a clean, out-of-the-way place. And protects it for travel as well.

The great thing is it pops open as you pull the brush free and remains agape while you tend to the pearlies. Then you pop the brush back in place and the holder closes with a decisive snap. (So my threshold of amusement is low - you try it and see.)

Follow the Flipper trail through Yahoo or go directly to Magellan's. The price is about $8 for two in assorted colors. Trust me, you'll love it.

Travel Duct Tape: What would life be like with out WD-40, duct tape and paper clips? Scarcely worth the trouble. Unfortunately for travelers duct tape comes in sizes unfriendly to portability. And rolling off a carrying size is time consuming and not neat. Magellan's, those lovely travel folks, have done the task for you with coming up with a compact (no vacant center) about the size of half a Ballpark frank. The cost, about $5.

What use in duct tape on the road? Quick lasting mends of ripped out hems, for instance, faster than a needle and thread, emergency lint removal; patching luggage, whether skewered, ripped or zipper-challenged; taping something you want to conceal to the underside of chairs or drawers; repairing ripped shoes; patching the pockets of jeans; repairing a much-used travel guide etc etc. (There are entire books on the uses of duct tape, which appears to be useful for everything but taping ducts.)

Duct tape can also be used for taping together those hotel curtains that refuse to close entirely and let blinking neon signs play across your eyelids. So you are staying in a flea bag and forgot the eyeshades. Smile, you've got the duct tape. (Hey, you could even tape a washcloth over your eyes, but beware - your eyebrows are at risk.)

Are not tools a delight?