We’ve all been there, next to the hotel pool, debating whether to jump in or not because we don’t know if our swimsuit will dry (it won’t) before we have to put it in the suitcase. Here’a a tip: Pack an extra bag … or eight.

Whether we are traveling to Europe for 14 days or taking a weekend road trip, we almost always bring along extra plastic groceries sacks. Trust me, they can be used for more than just carrying Froot Loops into the house.

Bring several extra bags on your trip, and give them a new life. They are light weight, fairly watertight, and reasonably strong. Here are eight ways we’ve found them useful.

– Pull one out for use as a trash bag.

– Carry one along the beach with you to collect shells.

– Use one as an overnight bag at a hotel so you can leave the big suitcase in the car.

– Bring another for your wet swimsuit.

– Put your dirty laundry in one to keep it separated from your clean clothes.

– Put your dirty shoes in another before repacking.

– Use as a placemat at a picnic table when you stop for lunch.

– Use as a makeshift glove when touching something dirty (gas nozzle, dog doo, etc.)

These infinitely useful, free sacks take up almost no space in your bag–if you take a little time before you leave to prepare. I’ve found that if I re-fold the bags carefully, making sure to get all the air out of them, I can get a bunch in a very small space. They fold up well, and you can fit several in a ziplock bag. Here’s how I do it (please excuse my bad hair — it was very early morning).

The photo at the top of this post shows eight bags “au naturale” next to eight bags folded carefully in a ziplock bag.  The loose bags are large, bulky, and kind of a mess. The eight folded bags take up almost no space and weigh next to nothing. It isn’t hard to fold them up, and you’ll be glad to have the bags along on your next trip.

Do you take extra grocery sacks when you travel? What other uses have you found? Let us know — we’d love to hear from you. 

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