1. Ditch the towel. The regular Wal-Mart variety terry cloth bath towels are not traveler-friendly. They are big and bulky, which means they add superfluous weight to your luggage and take up way too much space. Some people opt for the new breed of microfiber towels because they dry super fast and can be jammed into any empty corner of available baggage. I’ve found that a sarong works best overall for me. They are very light-weight and dry quickly if hung up. They are long enough to be used as an extra lining on sketchy hostel mattresses or as a beach blanket. While your at it, roll up all your beach gear in it and sling it over your shoulder for an easy day pack. Sarongs work great as last-minute head, shoulder or leg covers in hot countries where entrance to holy sites require certain dress codes of modesty. Hang them over windows to keep out unwanted light. If you have an urgent ‘call of nature’ when hiking in the forest, you’ll be very grateful for the visual barrier a sarong can swiftly make.
2. Be your own daily laundry service. I learned this trick from Rick Steve’s Italy guidebook. Instead of packing a week supply of t-shirts and undies, just pack two of each item. When you arrive at your destination, find a convenience store and buy a small bag of laundry powder. Each night you can wash your few clothing items in your room sink or shower and then hang them up to dry overnight. They should be ready to go by the next morning!
3. Shrink the pile. Pack all your clothes in medium or large size vacuum sealable bags. The best ones have a bung where you can vacuum out all the air as well as the ability to roll out excess air through a one-way passage at the base. Not only does this free up a lot of packing space, but it also makes your clothes waterproof.
4. Ziploc is your friend. Speaking of waterproof, if you plan on wearing a backpack at any point on your trip you need to take along a box of Ziploc freezer bags. They keep your items dry, can be used to separate liquids from electronics and other things that shouldn’t get wet, and come in handy if you have leftover food at a picnic.
5. Stand and deliver. For women, my wife recommends a P-style (also known as a She-Wee). This is a plastic funnel that allows you to pee while standing. It can be inserted discreetly into your pant’s fly. This has been a life saver on camping trips where we’ve been a long walk from the toilets, on hiking trails, in nasty urinals at music festivals and in dingy bathrooms in Third-World countries.
6. Do-It-Yourself meals. One of the most enjoyable things to do in other countries is sample the local cuisine. But on longer stays this can get quite expensive. Finding a grocery store near to your hotel can save you a bundle. When my wife and I were traveling in Italy, we’d buy fresh bread, fruit and canned goods or deli items in the morning before heading out for the day’s travels. Around lunch time, we’d scope out an empty corner or an open field and have our picnic while people-watching.
7. Start no-pooing. Okay, okay, I know this sounds weird. But many people have begun to stop using shampoo and conditioner products on their hair and are having excellent results. The normal no-poo method is to use a simple baking soda solution on your scalp once a week and a vinegar solution on the length of your hair 1-2 times a month. The rest of the time you just rinse your head thoroughly with water. My wife and I have been doing it for a while now and I think it just might become a permanent thing. As far as travel goes this lightens the load, saves some money and packing space, and has the added benefit of carrying less liquid bottles, which have a tendency to open up and leak during transit.