My family and I once spent a month in Italy and survived with only one suitcase. Our youngest was two years old at the time so rather than pushing around a piece of luggage, I knew my hands would instead be pushing around a stroller. Our oldest was six and not quite ready to trust with his own bag – so to keep things easiest, each of us had a carry-on of some kind (backpacks for the three of them, a tote for myself) and everything else was in one shared suitcase.
Suffice it to say that I have become obsessed with the fine art of packing for long-term travel. I pack and unpack the suitcase easily five or six times in an attempt to bring the fewest possible items with us. I am always on the lookout for things that serve a dual purpose. One pair of shoes that can crossover from miles of walking along old-world streets to dining in a fancier restaurant. The skirt that can just as easily hike the Cinque Terra as it can show respect inside a cathedral. But there is one item I won’t leave home without. And with more than 30 uses, it tops my list of items we simply must bring with us.
Care to guess what this might be? Yes, a bandana!
My recommendation is to toss it inside a small ziplock bag and keep it with you at all times during your travels. I used to just simply toss it in my purse but after finding myself in a European WC with not a single swatch of toilet paper in sight, I was forced to use it to take care of business. Since I had nothing in which to store the soiled piece of fabric, I had to toss it in the garbage can without protection.
So now that you know at least one use for the almighty bandana, here are a few others we’ve discovered along the way:
- dish cloth
- plug sink or tub drain
- open a bottle of champagne (cover the cork)
- champagne stopper
- coffee filter or tea strainer
- salad spinner
- hair tie
- head band
- ear muffs
- wipe sand off feet
- moisten and wrap around neck or head to cool down
- emergency diaper
- emergency toilet paper
- wind/dusk mask
- clean sunglasses/eyeglasses
- protect back of neck from sun (tuck in back of hat)
- cold compress
- handbag accessory
- luggage identifier
- collecting shells, rocks, etc
- sleep blindfold
- pillow cover
- seat cover (buses, benches, etc)
- food storage
- kids games (capture the flag, hide & seek, flag football)
It should be noted that not all bandanas are created equal. I once picked one up at the local dollar store and found the fabric to be stiff and water-resistant. While that might be fine if you’re using it for a bib or as a sling, the fabric was difficult to work with so our uses were more limited.
What about you? Have you additional uses for bandadas you can share? I would love to hear! And in the meantime, happy travels and don’t forget to pack your passports and bandanas!