More packing tips: space-saving travel substitutes 3

It can be difficult to leave luxuries behind. Fortunately, in some cases, you don’t have to. There are often alternates to those nice things.

I’ve already written about how many things a sarong can do.

Here are some more of my substitutes. My goal is to take up very little space and weight. But don’t worry: I am not going to tell you to cut a neck and arm holes in a plastic garbage bag to make a rain coat.

I also prefer natural or healthy. I hope to be able to attend Natural Products ExpoWest March 2017 to find some great solutions for us all. Especially products that do double or triple duty.

Some of these are actually you-don’t-have-to-pack-anything-tips so it really save space.

Fingernail brush

Even when you don’t see dark gunk under your fingernails, there can be traces of your last restroom visit, handrail holding, or such beneath your nails. Around your cuticle, too. Having a good brush by my bathroom sink at home came in handy and felt good. But while traveling when everything needs to fit in just one suitcase and you need your toiletries handy in the washroom, this brush is one of the least likely things you’ll pack. My solution:

A toothbrush with cut bristles cleaning soapy fingernails.

This youth toothbrush isn’t so good at this.

  • A hard toothbrush. I think the cheapest-made ones work best. Cutting the bristles short makes it work better. I’m haven’t tried a travel toothbrush that folds into itself yet. Keep it clean and not near things that go in your mouth. Maybe a toothbrush that includes silver is a good idea. (I was introduced to one at a passed Natural Products ExpoWest and will look out for it again.)

Tounge scraper — for better hygiene and breath

I have read that a silver or copper tongue scraper is best because they have anti-bacterial properties.but these will do the job while you’re on the road.Using teeth as a tongue scraper

  1. Your very own teeth! Simply stick out your tongue and push it against the front of your top teeth. Then pull your tongue back into your mouth scraping it against those teeth. Spit, rinse. Repeat until you feel cleaner. The great thing is that you can do this anywhere (except in a room with other people).
  2. Butter knife or plastic butter knife. (Plastic is easier to come by and lighter to carry.)
  3. Use dental floss against your tongue. This is more difficult and I don’t think does as good a job.

Sleep mask

I have already written about how helpful a sleep mask can be while you’re away from home and can’t hang your own blackout drapes etc. (See Pack a sleep mask — my choice is Nidra mask.) But what if you don’t have one — yet. Or you’ve lost yours.

  • Put a tank top or tee-shirt over your eyes. Fold it so it only covers your eyes, not your mouth! Wrap it loosely around your head, tucking it under the back of your head so it’ll stay in place. I find this works, staying in place fairly well even when I roll over.
  • If you don’t travel with a tee-shirt, use your sarong. (You really should have one.)
  • My Fit Chic Headband

    My Fit Chic Headband

    A wide headband if you carry one. I like my Fit Chic Headbands and they’re a good width for this. It’ll be closer to your eyes than a very comfy Nidra mask, but it’ll get the light out of your eyes. (Well the thicker fabric ones are.) By the way, that headband will also come in handy for anyone with long hair — to hold it back when washing your face.

  • A scarf will also do the job if you can fold it so it’s not see-through. (Scarves also make a great fashion accessory. They add color to your fairly monotone matches-everything travel wardrobe.)

Baby powder

I discovered this when I was in hot, sticky Central America during their summer. To save space, I’d given up my little container of baby powder. I’d get out of the shower, towel off and immediately be so sticky that my (sorry guys) bra stuck to me making it hard to get dress. One day as I shopped for groceries, I hit upon my own solution.

Israeli baking soda

Israeli baking soda, 50¢

Box of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda

  • Baking soda does the job to cool your skin and keep your undergarments from sticking to you. It’s almost always available because it is sold in pretty much every food market in every country. It’s inexpensive so you can use it, then give it away – or pour it down the sinks and toilets where you’re staying so it can get them smelling fresh.

Since the year I started this substitution, the word is that talc is bad for us and I have noticed that baking soda is listed as a substitute. I like seeing my trick endorsed.

As a bonus, baking soda is great for many other things. For example: Use it to wash dishes and silverware if your temporary home’s kitchen isn’t feeling clean. Rub some around a sink to scour it clean, around a shower to remove mold or scum if it’s grossing you out. (Just don’t get the mold under your skin.)


Granted toothpaste isn’t really a luxury, but there may come a time when you need a substitute.

  • Baking soda. (Again.) Wet your toothbrush then tap a bit out of the box (or your container if you’re carrying some). It’ll stick to the brush just enough for you to get it into your mouth. Don’t brush too hard. Baking soda, as I mentioned, is inexpensive and available in food markets in every country I’ve been to. It also helps remove stains from your teeth.

Facial scrub

Guess what? Instead of bringing a tube of apricot scrub which clogs drains, or worse, a scrub full of dangerous plastic that clogs drains, hurts the oceans, earth and your skin, you can use…

  • Baking soda. Yep. That stuff keeps on coming in handy. I’ve read articles online that say it’s the wrong ph for skin so not to use it. But adding a bit to your soap-lathered hands just before you wash your face, adds that bit of exfoliation or scrubbing. (It doesn’t harm the  environment either.)

[Thank you to my friend Chela for suggesting this to me when I picked up a tube of facial scrub in the store when you hosted me.]

Facial blotters

Do you have oily skin and like to use fancy blotters to remove that extra oil from your face? If so, you can pass on packing that luxury item.

  • Simply grab a coffee filter. Tear off a small piece and it’ll do the job for you. You could even pack a few into a zip-close sandwich bag. (They may help you for other things as well, such as drying out your cell phone or camera. They can also work as a shoe-shine cloth.)

[Thank you again, Chela.]


Instead of packing yet another bottle you might use what’s in the kitchens where you stay. Each is actually said to be better than any commercial moisturizer and to have true health benefits. I don’t recommend packing any of them, though. If you have a favorite moisturizer and feel safe bringing it, pack some into a small container. (I recommend Brincatti containers if you feel you need 3 ounces or a bit less. I also respect Kenny Brincat and love that this is a family business.) That way you have it when none of these oils are on hand.

  • Coconut oil. This is something that’s not viable to pack. First, because it’s so fine that it’ll leak out of most bottles when hot. Also because it’ll go bad quickly. If you’re staying someplace that happens to have it in the kitchen, a tiny bit will do a lot for your skin. (I have this on the authority of a woman in med school for cosmetic surgery and we both use it. But seriously: just a tiny bit! Apply very lightly.) Please use a clean butter knife or small spoon to scoop out the tiny bit that you’ll need so you don’t contaminate the jar. (Here’s an article about it as well.)
  • Olive oil. Again, I wouldn’t pack and travel with it, but it’s in many a kitchen. It’s great for hands, elbows, and ankles. My cosmetic-surgeon-student friend says it’s not as good as coconut oil, but it’s been used for centuries in Mediterranean climates and Israel.
  • Grapeseed Oil. It’s good too, per this ABC News story.
  • Sunflower Oil is also good for your skin per the same ABC News article. The source for that story says it’s just as good for your skin as olive oil and is also good as a massage oil.

Nail polish

Nail BuffersIt feels so nice to have well-manicured, shiny nails — but a glass jar of nail polish is a major risk to your belongings. Plus, it requires nail polish remover. And polish requires maintenance.

  • The substitute is simply a nail buffer. I have found buffers in many beauty stores, drug stores, and dollar stores. I purchased both of these on my trip. One in Berlin, the other Jerusalem. (The flat one isn’t so dirty. That’s bad lighting.)


Antibiotic ointment

I do recommend carrying an antibiotic ointment but you may not always have it on you.

  • Garlic! Yes, really. I have seen people cut into a clove of fresh garlic and rub in on skin to fend off infection from cuts. It was also used on my friend’s bee sting (or something-sting) when he was stung at Petra. He doesn’t recall fully, but he thinks they mixed garlic and salt, then rubbed it on the sting. Next thing he knew he wasn’t bothered by it anymore, and he’d been dizzy from that sting.

Measuring cups for baking or cooking

IKEA 21533 and a generic paper cup - both 8oz

IKEA 21533 & a generic paper cup – both 8oz

Being able to bake as you travel can bring a bit of the comfort of home to your trip. However, I have often found that the place I was staying didn’t have a single measuring cup. One time when faced with this, I actually shared my solution in my Easy & vegan chocolate cake recipe post but I’ll say it here too. You can alway check online to recall that 1 US cup is exactly 8oz. The following match this:

  • A normal sized paper coffee cup. (Forget Starbucks sizes.)
  • A normal sized cold cup.
  • A normal sized coffee mug.
  • A normal sized styrofoam cup.

This is the size of a Keurig coffee maker “medium” cup in case that helps.


If you tend to need Antiacid for Indigestion or Heartburn, I don’t suggest you travel without it, but you can get away with carrying less.

  • Baking soda does the same thing to calm or counter Indigestion or Heartburn.  Most people happen to have this baking soda in their homes, so if you’re staying in someone’s home or a hotel where the kitchen will give you some, you can stir a bit of Baking soda into a bit of water and keep your own antacid tablets for when you don’t have an alternative. Or, you may have concluded by now that it can be helpful to carry a small container or well-protected baggie of Baking soda in your own luggage. (Note: It’s best to change your eating habits because stopping production of necessary acids in your body do other harm and have a kickback effect. But that’s info for another day and place, not my travel blog.)


Believe me, if you travel in Central America, butter will become a luxury item. I’m sure the same holds elsewhere. Interestingly, there is a substitute — to carrying around sticks or tubs of butter, that is.Butter Buds 2-ounce packet

  • Butter Buds is actually dried butter that comes in 2-gram packets — and I was lucky enough to be given some for my travels. (A Natural Products ExpoWest find.) You can stir ½oz into 4oz of warm water or use it dry. There is a coupon on their website. It seems  Butter Buds seem to be more available on the east coast but are listed as sold at Walmart in California. Here’s a store locator.




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3 thoughts on “More packing tips: space-saving travel substitutes

    • Deborah Shadovitz Post author

      Which makes me think, Bart… On days when you aren’t actively moving between locations, you could use some in your travel bag to freshen it up. You’d need to put some in a partly open container and arrange it so it won’t spill.