Yes, I'm kind of OCD about packing the perfectly useful but light bag.*
* but everyone knows that already and it isn't a bad thing. ;)
1. It's best to plan to wear some of those souvenir t-shirts on your trip and home. Trust me -- you won't care.
2. If your bags are getting slightly too heavy to make it through the carry-on restrictions check, wear a bunch of that heavy stuff to avoid checking your bag, and then go to the bathroom to take it all off and put it in your bag again.
3. Research before you go how you can ship souvenirs home mid-trip. I'm not sure what it is, but there HAS to be a way. I've got a couple of years to research this.
4. You don't have to bring everyone back a souvenir. Your shoulder isn't up to it, and besides, they don't bring you souvenirs when they travel. ;) (Hey. Hundreds less you'll spend!)
5. Bring a tiny pack of Sugru in case something BIG, like a suitcase handle or wheel breaks. Just add it to the fix-it kit with your duct tape (wrapped around an index card for compactness -- why buy a special, expensive travel roll?)
6. Washi tape can stick things into your travel journal instead of having loose bits and pieces of paper fluttering around in your way. You don't even need a dispenser. It's basically decorated light-tack masking tape, and it comes in fun designs in small rolls.
7. You can make a great travel journal out of a basic school composition book. Create pockets inside for different purposes, secret hiding places, and decorations. You can write your memories of the day, reminders, stick in receipts and pamphlets, and keep it all tidy. The sewn-spine kind lasts forever, and you can tear out excess pages if you know you won't use all of them anyway. Just remember to tear from the center, because both halves of the page come out together. They usually have a hard back so you can write on your lap or bed if need be.
8. I added tie ribbons and a cord lock to my inflatable neck pillow's cover. This kept it in place around my neck. I usually turn mine sideways for comfort anyway, and without a tie, it would fall off pretty quickly.
9. An inflatable beach ball is more useful than inflatable water wings. You can use it for a pillow, lumbar pillow, foot rest, lap pillow, or cushioning for breakables in your luggage. You can also just play with it if you're bored. They're so cheap that if you gave it away or it popped, it would be no real loss.
10. Teva Tirra sandals are awesome walking shoes, and great for flying because they let your feet expand on a flight.
11. Rolling clothes really DOES take up less space than folding them.
12. I believe that my wiping down my seat, armrests, and definitely my tray table when I first took my seat saved me from some germs that made other people in my group rather ill. Single-use Wet Ones packets to the rescue!
13. Bring reliable, travel-proof snacks. And then make sure to snack a little all through the day on carbs + protein. Maybe even hard candy if blood sugar is an issue for you as it is for me.
14. It's possible to crash so hard that you sleep for four hours face down in a pillow and nothing wakes you up, even though you normally can't sleep on your stomach.
15. Just because someone (me) swaps seats with a lady so she can sit beside her husband on a flight for a few hours, don't think taking your shoes and socks off and sitting there nasty and barefoot will earn you an empty seat next to yours. That kind person still has to sit somewhere. And there are things they could do during the flight to make things unpleasant for you, so be polite, you nasty, disgusting, gross mofo.
16. Dr. Bronner's liquid soap is a serious multitasker in your toiletry bag. Shampoo, body wash, laundry soap, mouthwash, toothpaste (ICK though!), shaving soap, face wash.
17. Eucalan is a great mild hand washing detergent for clothes (especially wool) that doesn't require rinsing, just in case you have a tough time rinsing soap out completely when you hand wash.
18. Some flight attendants deliberately give you the wrong meal if you dare to be awake an hour after takeoff. I asked for pasta (to help me get sleepy); I got some Mexican chicken dish that was too spicy for me to eat. And you know, I do like spicy stuff, but that was inedible. It's why I didn't give them the chocolates I'd brought for them. (I'd given some to the flight attendant in my previous flight who had helped me get my carryon stowed -- someone took my allotted space with extra bags -- she seemed thrilled about the treats.)
19. It's not worth it to bring any kind of jewelry or expensive scarf when you travel. You become too worried about accidentally losing your nice things. I didn't bring a bit of jewelry, but I regretted bringing my silk scarves, because I didn't wear them. I did get a lot of use out of my pashmina, though.
20. The more equipped you are to help other people with their travel needs / emergencies, the more likely they are to expect you to take care of them. Take care of yourself, and stopping worrying about the quality of their travel experience. Sometimes travelers need to learn from their mistakes. They can buy toothbrushes and toothpaste, improvise pajamas, and buy their own safety pins when they need them. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.
21. Tons of secret pockets in your jacket are awesome. Just make yourself a list of what's in each pocket so you don't have to dig.
22. Baggu still makes great fold-into-your-pocket shopping bags that weigh almost nothing. I suspect the extra large ones could be worn as backpacks. (The regular ones are a bit too snug across the shoulders.). They're great as carry-ons for the plane, bus, or train. Attach a carabiner for hanging help.
23. Tis better to pin things to the lining of your bag than to go searching for a single safety pin when you need it. If you leave five safety pins attached in a highly visible location, you'll always know where to find them. Leave them there forever, until you need them.
24. Bring along an external battery for your smartphone. Although airports are finally starting to add charging stations, it's not always easy to find a seat beside a free one. Besides, it's a drag running out of battery life when your phone IS your travel camera.
25. Turn on location tagging for your photos so that later you'll know exactly where you took that picture. It shouldn't cost you a cent. (I forgot!)
26. Sugar free gum will ruin your trip if it is sweetened with Xylitol or Sorbitol. It's horrible stuff! It does nasty things to your stomach! (And if you find out accidentally that you're sensitive to it, your whole torso may swell up. I kid you not! I suddenly had problems fitting into bras and stretchy pants that had fit me a few days before. Not being a regular gum chewer, the issue snuck up on me. ). You're better off going with good old fashioned sugary Juicy Fruit on the plane and accepting you consumed another few calories. Read about the pain and nastiness here: http://www.askahealer.com/xylitol.htm.
27. Eating bread before you fly causes gas. I didn't find that out from personal experience... Just from reading. Lol
28. If you can sew the most basic running stitch, you can retrofit a travel bag with pockets. I have a 31 Retro Metro Weekender bag that is a cavern of almost pocketless space on the inside. I cut up a cheap mesh laundry bag and sewed pockets into the sides of my bag with the mesh because it wasn't working for me. It was so much easier to stay organized that way.
29. I know people say that adding packing sleeves and cubes will keep your bag organized, but if you are putting all those extra bags inside of bags, aren't you adding some appreciable weight and girth? I'd rather use Ziploc bags... I always end up needing them anyway. They're almost weightless and take very little space, besides being almost guiltlessly disposable. Besides, if your bag is subjected to a random search, wouldn't you feel better knowing your undies weren't directly touched by some stranger, because they were zipped in a clear plastic bag that's easy to examine without touching your underwear??
30. After a transatlantic flight, I can't drive. I just can't stay awake. It doesn't matter which direction I'm traveling -- my narcolepsy hits hard. It would be better for me to stay the night in my arrival city after returning, than to attempt to drive home. Next time, I'll stay the night in a hotel before I head home. If you want to live, please don't ask me to drive right after that flight. I can't handle it.
31. It doesn't matter what kind of hair dryer you buy -- if it was made for American voltage, you might get lucky and have it run for a few seconds, but it WILL DIE before you can use it. I bought a travel dryer with dual voltage (only set for UK and Ireland voltages - I made sure), used an adapter, AND a transformer, and it died the first time I turned it on in Ireland. Buy one made for your destination. Amazon UK sells them, though shipping won't be really fast. This is when I discovered that my hair is healthier when I don't wash it every single day, as I was doing before this trip. :). Though I'll admit, my hair looked hideous after letting it air dry.