THE BLOG
09/25/2013 11:24 am ET | Updated Nov 25, 2013

Eight Hacks Using Travel Freebies

Earn your vacation black belt with these hacks that turn free items into quick solves for common travel problems. From using a bar of soap to fix a stuck zipper to repurposing a hotel-room standard as a security device, hone your road-warrior survival skills with these easy tips. We know you've got more clever ideas too, so please share them with us and other readers in the comments section below!

Shower Cap as Shoe Cover

Flimsy shower cap, or custom shoe cover? You decide. In every suitcase, there's a constant battle between dirty and clean items. Score a victory for fresh-smelling shirts and dirt-free trousers by keeping your shoes contained in a shower cap. Place them in, soles down, and let the shower cap's elastic band cradle the shoes so that any dirt, grease, or unidentified muck stays safely tucked away inside the plastic pouch. Depending on the type and size of your shoes, you may need more than one shower cap, but housekeeping is usually pretty generous with them.

Bar Soap as Zipper Unsticker

There's nothing quite like the startling claustrophobia that comes from having a stuck zipper. Whether it's on a suitcase, a boot, or an article of clothing, a zipper that won't budge almost seems to be personally reminding you that, when it comes right down to it, it can trap you at any time. Reclaim control by grabbing the little bar of soap that rests on every hotel room's bathroom counter. Rub the dry bar against the teeth of the zipper to lubricate it enough to move. Once the zipper is unstuck, rub the soap up and down against the length of each zipper side, and then zip and unzip a few times to prevent further sticking. Then dust off the flakes and give yourself a high five.

Doorstop as Security Device

Little rubber doorstops hide out behind hotel-room doors, waiting for fleeting moments of glory. And while the unassuming devices are put there so guests can prop open their doors, they're just as effective at keeping doors shut. So if you want an added level of security when you turn in for the night, wedge the doorstop under the bolted door. Voila, you've just added an additional lock.

Shampoo as Leather Polish

Travel can be hard on leather shoes, purses, belts, and jackets, so if you find yours looking worse for the wear while you're on the road, turn to your hotel bathroom for a quick fix. Liquid shampoo has an amazing superpower: A small amount, rubbed in circles with a cloth, can clean and restore the rich color of leather. And though we've never tested it, we've also heard that it can be a handy and quick way to protect leather shoes from winter salt stains.

Bar Soap as Bite Relief

Bugs always seem to be on vacation, which explains why so many people return from their travels covered in bites. Spare yourself a trip to the pharmacy and treat an itchy bug bite with a basic bar of soap from your hotel room. Simply wet the bar a bit, rub it on the bite, and let it dry. Some people recommend rubbing the dry bar directly onto the bite, so experiment to see which method offers more itch relief. Take it with you and you'll have the perfect travel-bite remedy, since as a solid, your trusty miniature bar of soap isn't subject to the TSA regulations that itch-relief gels and creams must follow.

Airplane Socks as Scratch Protectors

You know the socks you often get on overseas flights? The ones that don't fit quite right and come with weird treads that make them impossible to wear with shoes? Give them new purpose by keeping a pair on hand to protect items from getting chipped or scratched in transit. They're the perfect size to hold the trinkets you pick up on your travels -- the ones that don't need to be enveloped in bubble wrap but do need a bit of extra protection before being tossed into your bag. And in a pinch, they can serve as a handy alternative to a glasses case in your bag or purse.

Baggage Tag as Lint Remover

Didn't bring a lint roller (and don't travel with duct tape)? No problem, you're still likely traveling with an item that can do double duty and help you get out the door fluff-, lint-, and animal-hair-free. Just carefully remove the long baggage-tracking sticker from your suitcase handle, wrap it around your hand with the sticky side facing out, and blot at any area of clothing that needs cleaning.

Conditioner as Shaving Cream

Based on no scientific data (but plenty of anecdotal proof), we're sure shaving cream is the most-forgotten toiletry in the travel tool kit. Man or woman, you're likely going to need to shave at some point on any trip, so finding yourself without can be problematic. Worse, most hotels don't offer shaving cream in their repertoire of free items. But hair conditioner, which comes standard with nearly all hotel rooms, makes a perfectly acceptable substitute. And it has the added benefit of being moisturizing, so you can be smooth and supple in one easy step.

-- By Christine Sarkis

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Read the original story: Eight Hacks Using Travel Freebies by Christine Sarkis, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.

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