Branson Blog
Branson Blog

Informative and entertaining, read all about the experiences in Branson on our blog. There’s so much in Branson to see and do!

52 Genius & Affordable Hacks For Your Next Trip

Every day it seems that someone has the latest greatest “hack” to make things easier, to do things cooler, to make life simpler; it’s all over Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and just about every other social network site; there are even a couple of TV shows about hacks. You may have also heard the phrase “work smarter not harder.” So let’s hack your trip, whether it is to Branson, or almost anywhere.

The easiest way to get your Branson vacation started is, of course, to call the fine folks at Branson.Com and they will help you plan your trip to the fullest. When you call, you will be talking to Branson locals, actual people who work, live, & play in and around Branson.

A Buck or 2 a Hack

On the Road

We have gathered some ideas for making the ride to and from, and while you are at, your destination easier for all the passengers. And most of these re-purposed hacks will only cost a buck or two.

1. Cereal Container Transformed to a Trash Can

Repurpose a Plastic Cereal Container

You are going to be in the car a while. The littles and bigs are going to snack. There will be some trash. Now where to put all those string cheese wrappers and apple cores?
Take a plastic cereal container, pop the top off, line it with the plastic bag you get from the grocery store, pop the top back on and open the pour spout, and ta-da; a car trash can! Brilliant! Then when you stop for gas or potty breaks, just pull the bag out and dispose in the proper receptacle. (Stuff a few extra bags in the bottom of the container before you line it with the initial bag to have spares on hand.)

2. Hangable Pocket Organizer or Sanity Saver:

Pocket Organizer for Seat Backs

Simple yet great way to store road trip necessities and they are within easy reach of the littles in the back seat or the bigs across the way. Stash the beverage container, crayons, small toys, travel games, books, snack packs, or DVDs. You can attach the pocket organizer to the headrest with the carbineer clips we will talk about later.

3. Multi-Purpose Toothbrush Holders:

Toothbrush Holder is now a Straw Holder and More

Other than the obvious, to hold your toothbrush, there are other uses for these handy containers.

Don’t you hate when you leave the drive through and they forgot to give you a straw. Or for when you are grabbing a soda or water bottle from the cooler on the road and a straw would just be so handy. And when you travel with littles, seriously, a straw can be a big help (something magical about a straw to a little). Pack a few in a 2 piece toothbrush holder and keep them in the car for just in case. Since you have a couple extra straws, I’ll tell you in a bit what to do with them to save some of your jewelry.

Want to pack some cotton swabs? Pop them in the toothbrush holder (with your toothbrush even) to keep them together and straight.

4. Shower Caddy or Lunch Time Hero:

Shower Caddy as a Fast Food Holder

You are on the road and it’s close to meal time. The little one wants that kid’s meal which comes with the toy, but you don’t want the mess. Introducing the dollar store shower caddy! *triumphant music inserted here please* These are great for holding a kid’s meal, including the drink in one place and not getting grease on your upholstery. Yea! Parenting Win!

The shower caddy can also be handy for keeping crayons, small activity books, travel games and the sort in one place.

5. Sponge & Zipper Bags Freezer Pack Hack:

Simple Sponges, Water, & Zip tight bag makes reusable ice packs.

You have a 12 pack of dollar store sponges and some zipper bags, and you are packing a cooler for the road trip to Branson. Those blue gel freezer packs cost so much and what if one breaks and that strange blue goo gets on everything?

Have no fear, this hack is here!

Soak the sponge in plain water and place inside the zipper bag. Freeze. They will melt but the water will stay in the zipper bag and will be reabsorbed into the sponge. When you get to your location, pop them in the freezer and they are good to go again.

Either Here or There

1. The Laundry Basket Chameleon:

Simple Laundry Basket or Brilliant Hack

I know you have no intentions of doing laundry while you are on vacation, which is fine, I am not suggesting that when I say to bring a laundry basket. I’m going to show you at least 3 great hacks that utilize a simple laundry basket, now keep in mind if you have a spare one at home these can be great ways to use them in the car for your Branson vacation, other road trips, or just for everyday life.

Landry Basket Hack – Back Seat Oasis

OK, let’s say you have 2 littles in the back seat, now imagine a wonderful barrier between them. No need to hear, “Mom, sister is in my space!” And when you use the laundry basket to stash snacks, activity books, videos, and the sort, then you will have an easier time enjoying the ride and the littles can help themselves.

Landry Basket Hack – Carry Groceries

Another handy use for the basket: let’s say you’ve arrived at the condo, one of you will probably need to run to the store for groceries while the other unpacks the bags. Instead of trying to lug all the grocery sacks from the car to the room, place them in the basket to carry them all at once (FWIW most of us don’t like to make multiple trips from the car to the “house”, we’d rather take it all in one trip.)

Laundry Basket Hack – Baby Bathing Basket

One more use for this laundry basket of many wonders, let’s say you have a teeny little one on the trip, use the basket at bath time. [I hear some of you scratching your head.] At home you probably have a special bathing tub to put in the bath tub; the laundry basket can serve the same purpose. Fill the tub like normal, place the baby in the basket in the tub. You can put in the little’s favorite bath toys and voila!

2. TAPE (Trusty Applicable Practical Equipment):

Duct Tape Suitcase Hack

OK, so you are flying to Branson, and you have the same generic looking suitcase that everyone else has. Don’t spend money to buy a new suitcase with a bright pattern or wild colors on it just to stand out. Hop down to the nearest dollar or discount box store and pick up a roll of wild duct tape. [That’s right folks, duct tape can be the solution to almost everything!] Cut off about 6 inches of the insanely striped, wonderfully wacky looking duct tape and either wrap it around the handle, or make a colorful tag. This will save a lot of hassle at the baggage carousel when 73 other nearly identical suitcases come rolling around.

If you brought the miraculous duct tape with you on your trip, it can come in handy for a quick repair of the suitcase or stroller if it gets a rip. If it is reflective too, use it to mark the kids (tape it to the cinch sack they are carrying) or if you like to run at o’dark:30, a bit of it on your own shirt, back of your shoes, or cap will keep you safe.

2 1/2. More Tape:

Colorful Tape to the rescue

In keeping with the tape theme, consider this; you’ve just unloaded all your items for the trip into your hotel room. You are traveling with a little crawler or toddler. They have wandered off and as quick as a flash they are just about to stick a finger into a power outlet. If you happened to have some painter’s tape lying around, that works great to cover up those outlets. (We suggest this over duct tape… I know duct tape is amazing but it can also leave residue or damage surfaces when removed) Handy dandy blue painter’s tape can easily be removed when you leave with no fuss & no muss.

If neither is available, take one of the band-aids from your first aid kit and use it to cover the outlet. You did pack the first aid kit, right? Keep reading.

3. Crazy Uses of Plastic Soap Travel Holders:

Plastic Travel Soap Container

These plastic soap travel holders are so multi functional. Store your deck of cards for that rowdy game of Go-Fish, Rummy, or Spades; flash cards to keep the kiddo’s mind sharp; crayons; so your little Picasso can color you a masterpiece; or keep your compact digital camera safe from bumping around. I imagine you could come up with a number of other uses for this item and would love to read about them in the comments below.

4. Calm Achieved with Activities & Coloring Books

Activity Books

If you actually have down time while you are in Branson, or if one of the littles gets bored easily, stop by a dollar store and pick up an activity book, crossword puzzle book, or coloring book (even adult coloring books… if anyone needs me I’ll be in my pillow fort coloring – adulting can be hard). It’s sure to keep someone busy for a little while at least (maybe long enough for a quick nap.)

5. Have Games Will Travel

Travel Games

Remember going on long road trips as a little and playing games like license plate or road sign bingo? Now, with a quick trip to the dollar store, you can get a package of those beloved games for the littles and the non-driving big can play together.

Or if the littles can play together (with minimal “bloodshed”) you can even find travel games like battleship, connect 4, even travel checkers, just make sure all the little pieces can somehow stay on the board. These fun games should fit fine in the pocket organizer we talked about earlier.

At Your Home Away From Home

So you’ve arrived in Branson and gotten the luggage into the room, as you are unpacking, you realize *gasp* you forgot… something. Fear not, we may have an easy solution to that and more.

This may seem like an awful lot of stuff to get at the dollar store and you don’t necessarily need everything on this list.

Frankly you may have some of these items at home already, these are just ideas that we’ve personally found useful throughout our travels that can make things easier.

Cruise the dollar stores either close to home, before your trip; or when you are in Branson, to pick up “essentials” for the trip:

1. A Stitch in Time:

Dollar Store Sewing Kit, a Stitch in Time.

How many times have you lost a button (those buffets are tough on a shirt *wink-wink*), had an unraveled hem, or had a minor tear and wished you had a sewing kit handy?

The one’s we’ve found at the local dollar store have almost everything needed for those emergency fixes:
A multitude of needles & buttons, threads of various colors, thimble, needle threader, and those handy little scissors. If you don’t know how to sew, there are plenty of videos online that can teach you.

2. You Can See Clearly Now:

Eyeglass Repair Kit

This may come as a surprise, but did you know that over 60% of people wear either contacts or glasses (mostly glasses)?

OK, so you may not wear glasses but what about those expensive sunglasses you have on, what if you lose a screw, or just got fried chicken grease on the lens? I think you see where this is going…

3. Hair Clips of Wonder:

Hair Clips for Cord Management

How many times have you reached in your bag to get your ear buds so you can drown out the noise or rock out to your favorite tunes or to find the charging cord for your device only to find they are tied up in more knots than a hammock? Here is where hair clips can come in handy, clip them around charging cords or ear buds to prevent tangling.

Of course you can use them for what they were designed to do but now you have another option. Hair clips not your thing, look further down for hacks involving binder clips.

4. You’ve Got the Power:

Power to the People!

If your family tends to be rather connected, and always in need of more power, consider bringing a small power strip along. One plug to unite all the electronics in charging harmony. Also if you are flying, this is a great way to make friends at the terminal while awaiting your flight.

*I would not recommend the ones from the dollar store, but don’t spend too much either. As a matter of fact, just look in that one box in the garage, you might have a couple of spares.*

5. You’ve Got to Zip It! Zip it Good… Zipper Snack Bags (various sizes):

Zipper Storage Bags
Zipper Bags have so many uses

Zipper bags are very handy for storage (let’s keep all the toiletries in these so nothing spills), snacks [road tripping snacks (snack size) or the gallon size “take the theater popcorn back to the room”], or keeping cell phones dry (protect them from rain, water rides at Silver Dollar City, or cruising the lake in a boat). I bet you have a bunch of ideas for zipper bags; we have a couple additional ones further down.

6. Don’t Be Left Hanging Without A Carabineer Clip:

Carabineer Clips – A Hacker’s Multi Functional Friend

A carabineer or “D” clip can hold a number of pony tail holders in one place so you aren’t hunting for them all over your toiletry case or purse. Luckily, I don’t have any hair, so I won’t be needing them anymore; but I do keep some handy for my wife. (Happy wife, Happy life)

They can come in handy for a number of other uses, too. Hauling in multiple grocery bags, keep your keys handy, clipping your water bottle to your belt or cinch sack, we could go on and on. We’d love to hear your hacks for this nifty item.

7. Take Note of This:

Notebook or Journal

So often we spend more time on our phones than “in the moment”, my phone has a note pad feature where I can jot something down as a reminder, it never fails, I end up on Facebook or reading emails and forget what I needed to make a note of. If you keep a small notebook and writing utensil handy, it will be much easier to make a quick note about the restaurants the locals recommended, or the short cut directions to get to your show on time, or even for noting who and what you have taken photos of on your camera. When you get home, you can then post about all the fun you all have had and you’ll have your handy notes nearby to help. And if nothing else you can doodle, unless you picked up an activity book we talked about earlier.

These can also be fun for the littles to get “autographs” from their favorite Branson performers after the shows. These notebooks, coupled with a rubber band or a spare hair tie, can be used to gather “souvenirs” like brochures, kids’ menus, wild flowers, or pretty leaves.

8. When Things Get Messy:

Stain Stick to Save the Day

My grandma, when referring to a food stain on my clothing when I was a little, said “it must have been good if you got it on you.” I’ve gotten better about food falling on me, but sometimes you just need to clean your hands or dab up the ice cream from your sleeve before you head into a show and don’t have time to go back to the room and change.

Stain removing sticks or wet wipes are a lifesaver. They are incredibly portable, pack a couple of packets in your pockets or plop a pen in your purse. And the wet wipes can really be handy if while on the road you stop for potty breaks and someone forgets to wash up.

If, for whatever reason, you did not bring or get a stain stick, the complimentary shampoo in your room can act as a stain fighter until you can get the article of clothing cleaned properly. Remember, a little dab will do ya.

9. Choose Your Weapons:

Child sized utensils
Child Friendly Utensils from the Dollar Store

The littles are eating solid foods, and are getting pretty good at handling a fork and a spoon. Now imagine you are out to dinner and the flatware you are provided with is as big as the child’s arm. Instead of the little trying to wield that massive fork like a pitchfork, pick up a set of child friendly utensils at the nearest dollar store. Much less chance of someone poking their eye out.

10. Argyles, Stripes, & Paisleys… Oh My:

Argyles and Stripes and Paisleys – Oh My.

You left the house and are in Branson, you notice it’s a tad chilly at the shows. If you are cold, you can bet your baby is probably cold too. Don’t go and buy the expensive leggings, instead get colorful tube socks, cut them down to make cute leggings. Just don’t let Dad wear them with sandals, unless you want to embarrass your kids (which can be so much fun), then go for it, it’ll be a funny memory for years to come.

Easy Leg Warmers

11. Mesh Collapsible “Hamper” Bag:

Mesh Hamper of Holding

Gather up the littles and let’s head to Moonshine Beach for a fun day of water and sand play!

At the end of the day the littles have had a blast digging in the sand and making sand sculptures, now it’s time to pack it all up and head back to the room. Ooh wait, everything is all gritty with sand, it is going to get all over the car, and then the room. But you were smart & stopped at a dollar store and picked up a collapsible hamper, now you can put all those beach toys and water shoes inside the hamper and give them a shake. Let all that sand stay at the beach where it belongs and not in your car, luggage, or room.

*Bonus Hack– After playing in the sand at the beach, sprinkle a little baby powder on yourself that is covered in sand, brush it off, and the sand will go with it. (The baby powder absorbs the moisture.)*

Another handy use for the mesh hamper is to actually use it as a hamper. Instead of tossing dirty clothes on the floor *yuck* or shoving them in the plastic laundry bag found in the closet *stinky ew*, hook the mesh hamper to the back of the bathroom door or on the door knob and toss in your dirty dainties, soiled socks, or whatever until it is time to pack it up and head home. If you happen to have a dryer sheet (we’ll talk about that in a bit), toss that in with the clothes in the luggage, you’ll thank me later.

12. Larger Container with Clip-lock Lid:

There are so many things you can do with these handy containers.

Lego® to Go

One friend of mine has a little “master-builder” [Lego® Movie reference]. She loves to build incredible creations out of those colorful plastic blocks. And when they travel, those blocks must come too. So they cut down a Lego board to fit inside the container and filled it with blocks. Now she can build to her heart’s content and it can all stay in one place. Add in some print outs of patterns to be created with the blocks (good instruction following or math exercise), or pick up the little pre-set kits of Lego® that build just one or 2 designs.

Arts & Crafts for the Road

My nieces are great little artists (I am not biased in the least), they can sit quietly for hours doodling, coloring, and making up stories about their artistic creations. Another use for these containers is to make a traveling art case. Adhere some paper or sticky note pads to the inside of the lid (I us a cardboard backed notebooks and the handy hot glue gun), and fill the rest with crayons, markers, color pencils, glue stick, and doo-dads to decorate their masterpieces.

13. Groovy Glow Sticks:

Versatile Glow Sticks

You will see glow sticks at most of the kids’ shows in Branson, but they be a tad expensive. Stop in to the nearest dollar store and get your own. I’ve seen them come 20 to a tube with connectors to make bracelets or necklaces. Now, aside from just looking fabulous in your glow in the dark accoutrements, they can be a handy thing for the littles.

If your hotel or resort has the pool open a little after dark, the glow sticks would make a fun game of “fetch” for your strong swimmers.

Glow Sticks in the Tub

Make bath time more fun (and less stressful) by activating and dropping a few in the bath water. Turn out the lights (leave the door open a bit, we don’t want screaming) and let your little have fun while you are in there for safety.

Another great use for these “magical glowing wonders” is a makeshift nightlight. Both bigs & littles can feel uneasy sleeping in a new place, away from home. Help make bedtime feel somewhat normal with a nightlight made of glow sticks. They can wear them on their wrists or loop some around the bedside lamp and one on the door knob if they have a separate room. This will make those night time bathroom trips safer.

When they sleep well, you sleep well.

14. First Aid Kits or the makings of one:

Pre-made First Aid Kit or make your own.

You can get a simple one at the dollar store, the one pictured states it has 21 pieces, but it is just antiseptic towelettes and a variety of bandages. Which got me pondering as I was wandering the aisles of our local dollar store and thought, do we have bandages at home? Medical tape? Antiseptic wipes? Hmm, better stock up.

That got me to thinking about how to assemble a simple first aid kit for when we travel. If you don’t find one pre-made (those can get costly), think about what you would like in one and put your own kit together.

A sample list to consider can be found here. Print this list off and keep it glued inside the lid of your kit (if you can get it laminated, you can check off the items that are in the kit or note which are need of replacement).

15. Binder Clips to the Rescue:

Protect your Razor and Hands

You may have a couple dozen of these in your junk drawer at home that have mysteriously followed you home from work (don’t worry, we won’t tell), grab one or 2 before you leave and toss them in your toiletry bag for your trip to Branson. Use it to cover your razor so you don’t nick yourself reaching into your bag since that little plastic razor cover always seems to disappear after the 1st use.

Binder Clips to the Rescue

You’ve arrived at the hotel and notice the curtains just don’t want to stay closed, clip it. These will help greatly in keeping the room dark while you are sleeping.

Skirt/Pant Hanger from the hotel closet

(Level Up Hack! If for whatever reason, you end up without a binder clip and need a quick fix for the curtain gap; check the closet for a hanger with the clips on the bottom to hang pants or skirts. Use that to clip the curtains closed.)

Another idea, you’ve set up all your essentials in the hotel bathroom, and for whatever reason don’t want your toothbrush just laying on the counter, use the binder clip to elevate the toothbrush.

These are also handy for headphone cord managing. Place the ear buds inside the clip, wrap the cords around the handles and clip it to your bag, or cinch sack. We’ll talk more about cinch sacks next.

16. Cinch Sacks are a Cinch Hack:

Cinch Sacks

It never fails, any time we’ve gone to the dollar store, as we are checking out; there is a rack full of colorful cinch sacks. Now you may be wondering, why would you need a cinch sack on vacation, you’ve packed that perfectly good backpack or did you?

Well, considering they are only $1, it is worth having a couple as back ups. While you are in Branson you may have planned a trip to White Water or the lake for a “splash” of fun. [Sorry, probably too late to warn you about the puns.] Take each cinch sack, pack a towel, water bottle, and zipper bag of snacks and hand them to each child to keep up with. It will make the littles feel like they are helping and teach a bit of responsibility. After you’ve “soaked” up all the fun you can handle, stuff the wet towel back in the sack, most of them are watertight and that’s all right. Skip the towel and still pack it for a trip to Silver Dollar City or the area trails.

17. Just In Case Rain Ponchos:

Rain Ponchos

Not every day can be sunshine and rainbows. One Branson saying is, “if you don’t like the weather, stick around, it is sure to change.” And when it does, you want to be prepared. I am not trying to “rain” on your parade, I’m just saying it never hurts to be prepared.

If it doesn’t rain, it might come in handy to keep the littles clean if you do an art project together at the condo, to keep yourself dry as the little one splashes around at bath time, or for the messy eaters if you forgot or ran out of bibs.

18. So Many Books, So Little Time:

Again, if there is time for such a leisurely activity, pick up inexpensive books at the dollar store. You probably won’t find the latest New York Times top 10 there but you’d be surprised what you will find for reading material and if you finish it while on vacation you can donate it to a thrift store or library. Some hotels & resorts even have a lending library on site, so leave it for them. Or utilize it for your own reading pleasure. If you are an avid reader you might consider downloading an app or load up the e-reader to enjoy your favorite novels (many of the classics are free to download), or download audio books to an MP3 player.

19. Brightly Colored Ball Cap or Visor:

Somehow, through some sort of secret ninja training the littles receive at school or on the playgrounds I guess, they can just disappear from you in an instant, blending in with the crowd. Don’t let that kind of panic set in. Make them stand out with a vibrantly bright ball cap or sun visor or big bright bow.

Perhaps when going to Silver Dollar City you can have special bright shirts made up to match the family so you can spot each other easier. We are big fans of tie-dyed shirts, there are fun and easy to make.

20. Cheap (inexpensive) Sunglasses:

Go get yourself some cheap sunglasses

When writing this, ZZ Top’s song “Cheap Sunglasses” came to mind. And in all my years, it never fails, the more costly the sunglasses, the easier they are to lose. But the cheap ones, almost never get lost. I still have a pair of cheap old shades I picked up for a float trip 20 years ago. You can even get those eyeglass cords that slip on to the back of the glasses to wear around your neck so you don’t ever misplace them.

Pack Hacks

1. Pack Twice – Zip Once:

Like the age old adage for carpenters, “Measure twice, cut once,” the same concept applies to packing.

My spouse, for example, used to pack 4 complete complex outfits & 3 pairs of shoes, for an overnight stay. *shakes head* Granted this is when we first got married and traveled very little. Now we travel a great deal more and have become wiser when packing (and frankly I don’t wish to lug around a bunch of bags, I’m getting old and tired).

Really?!? All this for an overnight?

By now, you have probably seen the video of the tiny, skinny person who can pack a month’s worth of clothes in to a fanny pack [slight exaggeration, but you know what I mean], well that doesn’t work for the average person. So with that in mind go ahead and lay out everything you think you will need for the number of days you will be away from home. Once you’ve done that, take a good look at what you have and, remove 1/3 to 1/2 of the items in your suitcase. [Will you really need 7 possible outfits for the 2 night stay??]

Remember this is a vacation, not a fashion shoot. Consider what you are planning to do and if color coordination is a concern, plan on neutral colors, tans, blues, grays.

[If you are traveling with your littles, tweens, or teens and you want to embarrass them, mix the most hideous patterns and colors possible. Think of it as #GoodwillGlam.]

Perhaps think about packing 2 or even 3 tops per 1 pair of shorts or pants. If you are staying in one of Branson’s condos, cabins, or hotels with free or inexpensive laundry, this is also a wise idea to save space. With all this said though, never skimp on “unmentionables.” Remember what mom said about accidents & clean underwear.

Another quick tip; put the heavier items towards the bottom of the suitcase (wheel side) to help keep it balanced.

Have the littles pack their own bag (within reason.) You can supervise while they consider what to wear and pack for the trip. Let them know that you will be taking care of the toys and things they think they will need. Frankly, once you are on your Branson trip, they will most likely forget about the cars and dolls they packed and be more excited about all the activities. Finding cool rocks, leaves, and flowers can be more fun than playing with toys sometimes.

2. To Fold or To Roll; That is the Question:

Rolled Clothes save space

Long has been the debate on whether it is better to fold or roll clothes when packing a suitcase or overnight bag. Frankly it is based on preference and what you are packing. Ask anyone who has served in our nation’s military forces and they will tell you rolling is the way to go, somewhat less wrinkling and more space.

If you wish to fold and don’t want the hassle of ironing something later consider this; packing your shirts or blouses in dry cleaning bags (the clear plastic bags the clothes came in from the cleaners) and fold them like you normally would at home. The thin plastic layer will help prevent creases [now if that could just work on our crow’s feet].

Oh, another thought, if dry cleaner bags are not available, all that tissue wrapping paper you bought at the after Christmas sale works too. Just place a sheet around each folded article of clothing that you wish to keep unwrinkled.

3. Stretch Utility Strap w/Velcro:

Velcro Utility Straps

You have somehow managed to pack enough clothes for a voyage on the Titanic (not accounting for the sinking) when you are just going to be in Branson for the weekend. If you’ve decided that you need that many items of clothing, then the utility strap will come in handy for compressing clothes so your suitcase doesn’t burst open like a jack-in-the-box. I have another space saving tip later, keep reading.

4. More Packing Hacks

When you travel in the colder months and are bringing a sweater, I suggest just folding it for packing (unless you are flying then wear it; saves room), if you roll it, it will be to massive to fit but it will make a great pillow.

Collar Keeper

If you are packing a button down collared shirt, keep this in mind, go ahead and fold the shirt, and to keep the collar in shape, roll up a belt to fit inside the collar. This will help avoid a floppy, crumpled collar, and it’s a good place to pack a belt or spare belt. If you are not packing a collared shirt but still need to pack a belt, run it along the perimeter of the suitcase. If you are packing a collared shirt but don’t have a spare belt check out the tip later involving a hair straightener.

OK, ladies (look away fellas), you need to pack a couple brassieres but don’t want them damaged, fold them in half (cup within cup) and tuck your socks and underwear inside the cups. This will save you space and help the brassieres maintain their shape.

5. Packing Cubes or Compression Bags:

Packing Cubes

This may mean a trip to the dollar store or big box discount store before your getaway. Packing cubes have appeared on the market recently as a great way to pack in a compact and handily available manner. They come in a multi pack of various sizes and you can keep items separated or make outfit combos and keep them together for easy access.

Another space saving idea, especially for long stays, would be to use 2.5 gallon zip-lock bags. These can be packed with numerous items of clothing and compressed to about 1/3 of their size for easier packing. These are also great for when you are travelling with the littles (might use a gallon or even quart size ones). Make outfit combinations for your stay, to keep the little matching and looking sharp.

6. Come Fly Away:

Most airlines will allow you to bring a carry-on and a personal bag (backpack, purse, satchel) at no additional charge. [check with your airline to be sure] With that bit of knowledge, let’s use that carry on to its fullest potential.

When we travel anywhere for more than 3 days, and by air, we make sure there is at least one change of clothes (or at least some undergarments), important documents, toiletries, chargers for electronics, and any medications [even if it is just aspirin], in the carry-on. [Your checked bag might get “lost” and you don’t want to be without essentials.] And if your carry-on has extra space, and your partner’s is bursting at the seams, share the load and put some of their items in your bag.

7. Eyeglass Cases or Small Multi-compartment Pill Case Serve a New Purpose:

Pill Case to hold small items

These ideas can go into the dollar store hacks as well. Consider when you are packing, are you planning a nice night out on the town? Do you have a favorite necklace you wear on special occasions? What about nice rings, earrings, or bracelets/anklets? A small multi-compartment pill case is great for keeping earrings, rings, and the sort organized.
Of course you can still use these to keep your pills or vitamins.

Another idea, if you plan ahead a bit, is to take a bit of cling wrap or press & seal wrap; lay out a sheet, place your jewelry items on top and then another sheet on top. Press them together and it’s like laminating your baubles for easier packing. I have another suggestion further down for keeping your necklaces untangled.

Glass Case to Store Cords & More

Back to the eyeglass case, a dollar store glass case will work wonders for stashing your make up brushes, eyelash curler, & tweezers in them, use it to store jewelry, keep all your electronic cords in one place, the list could go on and on.

8. Neat Hack with a Shower Cap:

Shoes in the Shower cap

If the hotel doesn’t have one, these can easily be found in a dollar store (10 to 12 in a package) and it is not just for keeping your hair dry. Place your shoes in the shower cap to keep the rest of your items clean. Wish I knew about this the first time we vacationed on the beach, I think I brought home enough sand to start my own beach. Don’t forget that the space inside the shoes can be valuable real estate for packing small items too.

9. World’s Smallest Make-up Case:

Contact Lens Storage

You are only going to be gone for the weekend, do you really want to pack all of your makeup into a make up bag and have that take up space in your luggage? Minimize the need for all those tubes and containers with a contact lens holder. A bit of foundation or concealer, a piece of lipstick, bit of liquid blush, and you’ll only need the same amount of space as a tube of lip stick. If you are really tight on space in your bags, with some strong shears you can cut the contact lens case in half.

10. Keepin’ it Fresh with Dryer Sheets:

Again, I am not suggesting you do laundry while you are on vacation in Branson unless you wish to, but a dryer sheet or 2 in the bottom of the luggage will keep the whole bag smelling fresher. Or tuck a couple in one of the zipper bags you have from earlier and use them towards the end of the trip to keep the odor of the “used” items down to a minimum. You can also tuck them in your pocket as a bug repellent if you are heading out to the hiking trails in Branson. In a bit we’ll cover another use for dryer sheets.

11. More Jewelry Storage Hacks:

Keep your jewelry safe

If you happen to have extra straws from your trip to the dollar store, you can use them to keep your necklace from tangling. Simply thread one end of the necklace through the straw and fasten them together. This will save you time from trying to untangle your favorite neck bling, when you should be on your way to a show or dinner.

Another trick is to use one of the clickable storage boxes, tuck in a bit of tissue and place your pretties inside so they don’t slide around. Or if you have an extra button, either from your sewing kit or in the junk drawer, you can pair up earrings on each button to keep them together.

12. Keep Your Cool with a Hair curler/straightener Storage Hack:

Oven Mitt keeps Straighter cool

When you travel with a hair flattener, straightener, or curling iron, and need to head out and don’t want to leave it on the vanity [they can leave a mark] tuck it in a oven mitt. These are rather handy to have in the suitcase anyways. Just make sure it is well made, perhaps with silicone in it’s construction. Then when you’ve curled, straightened, flattened, whatever you do to your hair to get ready, in the mitt it goes.

Hooray for Science
Hooray for Science

Now for a bit of science… curling irons can get up to 280° to 300°F and some as high as 400°F, a cloth oven mitt can protect up to 200°F unless it gets wet. Some oven mitts are made with heat-resistant silicone, thus are resistant to 500°C which is equal to 932°F. I’ll let that sink a bit.

13. Packing a Bottle of Adult Beverage:

Safely Pack Adult Beverages with a water wing

This may not be an issue for most; I mean if you want to drink adult type beverages, there are plenty of places around town to pick up something. But let’s say you are celebrating a special occasion, and you’ve been saving a bottle of vino just for this trip (don’t forget the corkscrew, if you did, to the dollar store!). If you have any bubble wrap left [and you haven’t popped all the bubbles, so hard to resist] or a padded envelope from your latest online purchase (just snip a bit from the bottom of the envelope so the neck of the bottle can fit through), you can use it as a makeshift sleeve for the bottle so it will not break while in your bag. A child’s water wing will work in a pinch as well. Just slip the bottle into the un-inflated water wing, and blow it up a bit to provide cushion.

14. Aww Who Ate All My Tic-Tacs:

Tic Tac Containers for Smalls like Bobby Pins

One of our dear friends has gobs of long flowing hair, and she uses like 20 bobby pins to keep it all in place. She told us she uses an empty Tic-Tac container to hold all her pins and keeps it in her purse or travel bag. (Just don’t pop the top and try and eat them like a Tic-Tac.)
These handy containers are also great for toothpick storage. And for those who are camping, they are wonderful for storing spices and herbs for cooking.

For our photo taking friends, these containers are also good for keeping extra memory cards and thumb drives safe and handy.

15. Pack a Portable Power Plant:

Pocket sized Power Plants

These days we cannot leave the house without some sort of “smart” device, be it our phone, tablet, or phablet (tablet size phone). Then when you are away from an electrical outlet and that power indicator starts flashing red; *gasp – panic sets in* Don’t panic, just be prepared. Take a visit to your favorite electronic store or big box store and pick up a decent portable charger. Feel free to ask the geeks with the blue shirts at that one big box electronic store, or if you are tech savvy, at least make sure it can handle charging 2 devices at once or one device twice. These are typically as small as a thin deck of cards or a long lipstick tube and come with a short cord to plug into your device. If you want to “go green” they even have solar powered phone chargers (those cost a bit more.)

Travel Hacks You Should Know

You have probably seen the videos of hotel room hacks where someone makes a grilled bacon & cheese sandwich and steamed veggies using the room iron & coffee maker. I’m not going to go there with these hacks, because if everyone did them, image how gross the iron & coffee maker would be… These are a bit less messy & damaging (which can lead to extra costs on your part.)

1. Forgot your charging plug?

Cell Phone charger hidden behind the TV

Nearly every TV in Branson hotels, motels, condos, & cabins have these little gems hidden in plain sight on the back. Use the USB port in the back of TVs to charge devices if you have the cords (do not get the cords from the dollar store, they will not work [learned that the hard way]), if you don’t have the cords, ask the front desk if they have some in “lost & found.” One of the most left behind items in the 21st century at a hotel is phone charging cords. In a hurry to charge your phone, switch it to airplane mode, it will charge much faster.

2. Forgot your toothpaste, hair dryer, etc:

Most hotels/resorts will have hair dryers and sundries in room which may help in not having to pack as much. We get that some folks have sensitive skin or must have a certain type of product they cannot live without. Most sundry items can be found at a dollar store or big box store in town. Speaking of sundries, have you ever been on vacation and somehow forgotten your toothbrush? Our dollar shop carries them, but what is rather amazing, they even carry electric toothbrushes. Granted this won’t be like your Bluetooth enabled, hyper-sonic, ultraviolet cleaning, 70,000 RPM dental “Dremel”, but hey it’s only $1.

3. Look Sharp by Caring for Your Clothes:

Make a padded hanger:
If you have a blouse or sweater that is delicate but needs to be hung up, take a dry, clean hand towel, fold it into thirds long ways, and drape it over the hanger like a shawl, then hang your item. No more pokeys on the shoulders.

Don’t drag out the iron & ironing board:
(You are on vacation after all.) Hang up items in the bathroom while you take a hot shower, another way to remove wrinkles from your clothes, grab a travel size clothing wrinkle release spray. Remember earlier when we were talking about what to do with a collared shirt if it get’s crumpled? Well, if you just need to flatten your collar, cuffs, or hems; use the hair straightener, quick and easy fix. Oh, make sure the flat iron is clean; you don’t want any hair product residue on them.
*More science – Watch your temperature settings: cotton=high heat; polyester blend=medium heat; silk=low heat.

Got Lint:
Dang it, you’ve put on your favorite dark colored shirt, pants, skirt, etc. and it is somehow covered in lint (or pet hair) and you didn’t pack a lint roller. But wait, do not despair, there is a hack for that. Did you pack the tape (either duct or painters) that we discussed earlier?

If so, all is well, just take a length of tape wrapped around 2 or 3 fingers (sticky side out) and dab it over your clothes to remove that bothersome lint, fuzz, or fur.

Oh dear, you don’t have any tape? If you packed the dryer sheets we talked about previously, take one of those , dampen it a little, and give your clothes a quick rub down while blasting it with the hair dryer on cold setting (it’ll make them smell nice too).

Don’t have a dryer sheet either? OK, last ditch effort, take a clean washcloth from the bathroom, get it slightly damp (wring the heck out of it), then lightly brush the troubled area and voila.

4. Scan Your ID and Important Documents:

You have a phone with a camera, so let’s use it to obtain some peace of mind. Take a moment to snap shots of your driver’s license, passport (if needed), insurance cards (auto and medical), travel confirmations (tickets for flight, confirmation letter, etc.) and send them as an attachment to your email address, so in case the physical items get lost you can access them on your phone or on a computer. Another thought, if you take any prescription medications, take a photo of the labels in case you need a refill while on the road (because you forgot to get a refill before you left or somehow the meds disappeared.)

5. Don’t Get Declined:

Don’t get Declined

Nothing like being on the road or in Branson having the best time, when suddenly, your cards stop working. Your mind starts racing. You run through a million scenarios as to why your cards are suddenly defunct. Most likely, it is because your card company is looking out for you and see that your card is being used in a way that is not your usual pattern or your usual locations. Instead of ruining the fun of vacation, and spending a lot of time on the phone trying to get your cards active again (learned this the hard way). Call them (the banks) and give them a heads up. This is also handy if you have a daily limit on dollar amount or transactions on your cards.

6. Resist the Urge to Post:

Resist the Urge

We have become a society that loves to tweet, post, snap, shout it from the mountain tops, every little aspect of our lives. Resist the Urge! Please, do not post your plans on social media or announce it all over the office, the supermarket, or post vacation photos while you are away, some unsavory people may be snooping and know you are not home and take advantage of that. Wait until the trip is done, you are back at home, and then post to your heart’s content (it might save you from those embarrassing candid shots, too).

7. Final and perhaps most important “Hack”:

SMILE, You are on vacation!

Be Kind to One Another.

Vacations can be restful or stressful, but if you treat those around you with kindness and patience, the same will come back to you. Extend politeness to the servers, staff, ushers, ticket agents, and anyone else who is doing their part to make your vacation better. Perhaps that will be a topic in an upcoming survival blog.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read through this, I can only imagine what I may have left out of this list of tips & tricks, hacks & facts.

If you have anything you’d like to add, please comment below. And we would love it dearly, if you really liked it, if you would share this with your friends.

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