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From desk to suitcase – travel supplies from office supplies

by Mary Chong
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I’m one of those people who no matter what store I’m at, I think “hmmm…how could this be repurposed for travel?”

You can find items to be repurposed at any store – from the dollar discount store to the drug store. Just look around and use your imagination.

Here are 10 office supplies that I use when I travel:

1. Post it Notes

Post it Notes are perfect because they have removable adhesive. They are great for leaving notes to the house keeping staff on the mirror of your hotel room or cruise ship cabin, or to leave notes to your travel mate or new friend telling them where to meet you for drinks. They are also useful for marking pages in your new guidebook or making notes on your map.

2. Notepad

I always carry a notepad (I carry a couple of notepads just in case) but with all the technology out there you may be thinking that you can just make notes on your phone or tablet etc… Great environmental idea! BUT, what if you are in a foreign country and you want to ask a helpful store clerk who speaks English to write the destination name and directions in their language so that you can give it to the taxi driver? Are you going to hand them your phone? What if you find yourself in a not-so-safe area? You might want to go low-tech instead and not have to worry.

3. Pen, Highlighter, Permanent Marker

You need a pen if you are bringing a pad of paper and post it notes but more importantly you need one to fill out your customs forms.

You might want to bring some cool, funky pens or pens with your country’s flag on them. You can normally find these at discount stores quite inexpensively. I think they are great gifts for children you meet in your travels – much healthier than giving them candy. We experienced this when we were in India years ago; children were actually asking us for pens! We were so surprised because we weren’t prepared and were scrounging through our backpacks looking for pens we borrowed from the hotel.

A highlighter comes in really handy for highlighting your route on a map, or for highlighting important details like store hours, itinerary items, sights not to miss.

A permanent marker (Sharpie makes a mini version) is handy because it will write on practically any surface, is water-resistant and permanent. I use a permanent marker for luggage tags, scribbling notes on brochures/business cards or labelling water bottles.

4. Elastic Bands

If your style of packing is to roll versus fold then elastic bands will come in handy so that your little bundles don’t come unrolled. Other uses are to string a bunch of them together for a makeshift clothesline, as an emergency tourniquet, or as an attention getter. (wink)

5. Paperclips and Binder clips

Paperclips and binder clips are useful as page markers, chip bag closers and for keeping bundles of paper together but also for keeping your curtain closed in the hotel. I hate it when there is that thin sliver of light that peaks between the curtains don’t you? A paperclip can also be used as an emergency fishhook!

6. Pencil case

Small pencil cases are inexpensive, come in different sizes and shapes and are perfect for your electronic cables, first-aid supplies, medication etc. I especially like the ones with the 3 reinforced holes that are meant to go inside a binder. Hook a carabiner to one of the holes and sew a ring inside the very bottom of your backpack, put some emergency cash or I.D. inside. So, unless your entire backpack gets stolen, you have a pretty secure/pick pocket proof yet accessible stash.

7. Envelopes

I always carry a business size envelope with me for receipts when I travel. Each time I make a purchase, I write the amount on the outside of the envelope before I tuck the receipt inside. I organize my list in columns – gas/transportation, food, shopping etc. Then on my flight home I tally up each column and I know exactly how much I’ve spent. The great thing about this is when you get to customs. If you get asked, you can just hand the customs official your nice, neat, organized envelope of receipts.

8. Labels

If you like to share your travels by sending post cards to friends and family, having preprinted labels with their address (and yours) makes it fast and easy. If you are travelling in your own country, bring postage stamps with you from home as well so that you don’t need to go searching for a post office.

9. Packing Tape

Much like duct tape, packing tape is pretty ubiquitous. From fixing a tear in your backpack or luggage to using it as lint remover it’s always helpful to have a few feet in your bag just in case. Check out the duct tape article here to see how I created my own mini roll.

10. Bubble Wrap

If you are buying alcohol, perfume or gifts during your travels, you’ll need some bubble wrap to protect them on your way home. You only need a foot or two so it really doesn’t take up space. If your plane gets delayed and you are stuck in the airport, you’ll have something to entertain you as you POP POP away!

Have you repurposed any supplies for your travels? Join the discussion and share your travel hacks!

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2 comments

Alouise March 18, 2014 - 6:12 pm

I love these suggestions. I always take a notepad and pens with me when I travel. Even if you have a smartphone/tablet/laptop, etc batteries can die, devices can freeze up and stop working, so having an old fashion pen and paper is always handy. The paper clip suggestion is great. I use a giant paper clip to keep my curtains closed at home, but I didn’t think of bringing one for when I travel. There’s a giant binder clip in front of me right now, and I’m going to pack it in my suitcase.

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Dan @ A Cruising Couple March 17, 2014 - 11:34 am

These are brilliant! I will definitely be using some of these during our travels. I love the pencil case idea! Casey takes 3 or 4 notebooks every time we travel. We also use envelopes to save receipts.

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