I'm all for throwing down the cash for travel gear when the situation demands it, but the truth is there are many scenarios on the road which can be handled without a credit card if you simply put your mind to it. One of the most basic problem-solving supplies out there is the humble safety pin. So before you run out and buy that resort-priced replacement luggage, consider how this vintage solution might come to your rescue.
Zippers: It's no secret that faulty zippers result in their fair share of travel snafus, and getting stuck mid tug is only part of the equation. The actual pull tabs have been known to cause me a fair bit of vacation ageda as well, which is why I always carry a small supply of safety pins with me when I travel.
When threaded through the opening on the main fastener, they make a great substitute for when the tabs break and fall off. This happens more often than you'd think, particularly on roughly-used gear and clothing that may have left their glory years far behind. Since this is what I tend to pack when planning trips that are bit muddier or more adventurous than others, I like to be prepared. This method has allowed me to avoid on-the-road replacements of everything from jackets and sweaters to fleeces and basic totes.
Safety pins also come in handy when you need to secure two zipper pulls together, such as the ones on backpack compartments, suitcases or rolling duffels. When a long zipper has two tabs, you actually have a built-in opportunity for extra security. These are easily pushed apart in the most basic of field conditions, resulting in unexpected spillage of your belongings at best and making you an easy theft target at worst. Hooking both tab openings together with a secured safety pin adds an inexpensive additional layer of protection.
Wardrobe: It never fails. I hit the road for a couple of days and the blouse I've worn for months without incident loses a button. Ditto with my best black travel slacks. While it's true I can do a quick mending job once I finally arrive in my hotel room, that doesn't do me much good while sitting at my departure gate. Especially if I've checked my main bag. So I count on my trusty purse stash of safety pins to save the day.
A quick trip to the closest restroom stall allows me to make minor adjustments and secure gaps with a simple and affordable clasping device that's been around for more than a century. This same solution can be pressed into service for a loose hem or even a too-deep neckline on that new dress you'd like to wear before you get home.
Safety: Basic hotel rooms in the developing world often come with open air windows and rudimentary curtains. Pinning those curtains together not only provides privacy but keeps unwanted eyes from seeing any equipment you may have in the room before you lock it up in the closet for the day. Safety pins can be pressed into service for your medical security as well. In addition to the age-old advice of sterilizing the tip in order to remove a splinter, they can also be used to secure an impromptu bandage made with gauze or a clean bandana.
Theriault is a best-selling author, avid traveller and a veteran in the field of international teaching. Her recent book entitled Teach Anywhere, advises new and experienced educators about overseas employment, international evacuation tips, and inexpensive lessons which can be implemented anywhere from refugee camps to regular classrooms.
What is your one must-have item when travelling? Post your comments below.