Travel Hacks à la MacGyver

Like most people traveling on a budget, throwing money at a problem isn’t always an option, so you either suffer or get inventive. I’ve been in this situation more times than I will admit, although, I think I am admitting it right now, by passing on these crafty gems.

Note, I usually travel with some kind of tape. It is the most versatile tool I can think of. Once you have tape, and you know what you want to design, it’s almost certain you can find things laying around that will suit your needs.

For one reason or another, it’s not always convenient to get to a store or waste precious vacation time fixing someone else’s apartment or hotel room. The following are all quick fixes that you build up and tear down again when you leave. They are not pretty, but functional and only meant for a short time. Enjoy!

Pringles Can Coffee Maker

Anyone who needs coffee to wake up knows how frustrating it is to arrive at a hotel or Airbnb and find no way to make coffee. It’s not always easy to get a cup when you’re far from shops or downtown. Maybe you’re just too lazy to go out every single morning and get it. But with a few supplies, you can create your own makeshift coffee brewer.


  • Pringles can
  • Elastic band or hair band
  • Coffee drip filter
  • Coffee grounds
  • Something to boil water in

To start, you have to remove the metal bottom of the Pringles can. Then, you take a filter and insert it inside the top of the can and fold over the edge of the filter, around the edge of the can. Then use the elastic to secure it. This should be tight because if it slips, grounds will end up in your coffee.

Next, put coffee grounds in the filter. Then you need a mug or some other container to drip the coffee into. Take the boiling water and slowly pour it on top of the grounds. You will probably have to hold the can with one hand and pour the water with the other, unless you create some kind of platform the can could sit on.

When the cup is full, hooray, you have coffee!!!

Toilet Paper Holder

How many times have you been stuck with a bathroom that had no toilet paper holder? Ugh, too many to count! I hate having to chase the toilet paper around the bathroom. If there is toilet paper, there should be a toilet paper holder. Even if you’re staying somewhere for just a week or two, in my opinion, this quick fix is worth doing.


  • A pen, pencil or chop stick
  • Tape

First, you have to find a place within reach of the toilet, to actually mount the holder onto. In this picture, the shower door had a rail, so it was a no-brainer. I just taped one side of the pencil up and slid the toilet paper on it, and then taped the second side up. If you have to replace the roll, you’ll need to break one side and retape, but who cares. Toilet paper is not on the floor or wet in the shower!

Pan Bisquits

No oven, no problem! Biscuits can be made in a deep pan using a cover to bake it on the stovetop. It takes some monitoring though. You have to check underneath the biscuits to make sure they’re not burning; and watch the temperature too, not too hot. Think bake, not cook. I used medium to low heat, and it took about 20 minutes.

Pizza will work best in a shallow flat pan. Same deal with the heat, just medium to low. The one issue is when the crust is done, the cheese probably won’t be melted. I just pop it in the microwave for 1 minute at that point, and both top and bottom are done.

AC Deflector Shield

If you’re like me, you don’t like cold air directly blowing on your head all night. A lot of AirBnb hosts (and even some hotels) place the bed right in line with the AC vent. If I’m there just a few nights, I wear a hat to bed. Yes, I travel with a winter hat, no matter the season, especially for this reason. Ha ha. If my stay is longer, then I get crafty.


  • Manila folder or cereal box
  • Tape

I build my deflector shields out of anything at hand, but it should be like a thin piece of cardboard or a manila folder. Again, you’ll need tape. I should mention, I use masking tape (painter’s tape is similar). It doesn’t damage anything and comes off easy.

To construct the shield, you only tape the top of the shield. When the AC runs, it will blow the shield up, but the air will flow down, so it hits the floor and not you. Pleasant sleeps will thereafter be had.

Water Boiler Cooker

First, let me say, this is a desperate measure, like when you’re craving broccoli and you only have a little kitchenette. Or if all the other pots and pans are busy cooking other things.

That said, if you have a water boiler, you really can cook anything in it that you would normally boil. You just have to hold down the little handle to make it stop from clicking off. It can get hot and steamy, so you have to protect your fingers using a pot holder or towel. I usually give it a break too. This appliance wasn’t meant to boil for too long.

Amazing thing though, the broccoli cooked by just sitting in that hot water, so I didn’t have to hold down the handle to boil it for as long as I thought I would.

Showerhead Support

Sometimes the showerhead is loose, with no anchor, and just flopping around the bathtub, assuming you will sit in it and just hold the showerhead in your hand, while using the other to soap up – totally not convenient long term, once-in-a-while ok.

Again, my trusty tape to the rescue. Tape it at two points, at least, to get it to stay when the water pressure is on.

This shower was drooping, and in this case, I had a window handle I could tie it to in order to support it. I used the airplane headphones from my flight over. Worked like a charm.

Sarong Shower Curtain

A shower with no shower curtain…is a mess!

But if you have a sarong and some tape, then it’s another easy fix. If there is something to tie it to, it is easier, but in my case, there was nothing. I actually just taped the corners to the ceiling and wall.

The sarong made this shower so right!

Laptop Cooler

My time in Costa Rica was challenging. I’m pretty sure the saying “Pura Vida” really means “we have more potholes and mosquitos than anywhere else in the world”. That said, it’s also hot as Hades.

My laptop did not like it, and I didn’t have a fan to point at it, so I made ice slabs in the freezer using plastic take-out containers.  I just put the laptop right on top. It happily chugged away, probably a lot cooler than I felt.

Makeshift Hairdryer

It happens all the time. You wash your hair before looking if there is a hairdryer in the room. But, if you have a heater, you have a hair dryer. It might involve climbing some furniture, like I did (I was on top of the bed here), but better than walking around with frozen hair, right?

Honorable Mentions

Versatility of Clothes Pins

We don’t give clothes pin enough credit. They are useful for so many things.

  • Holding a curtain open
  • Pinning a curtain shut
  • Closing a chip bag
  • Hanging your hat (or mask in the time of Covid)

Broom turned Mop

If you only have a broom, you really do also have a mop. If you can’t find a washcloth or dishcloth, then you can sacrifice some old piece of clothing that made it into your suitcase. (The longer you’re nomadic, the more this will happen.) Whatever you chose, you wet it with some soap and wrap it around the end of the broom and, voila! You can mop.

Rice Cooker as Crock Pot

Not many people know, that they can use a rice cooker like a crock pot. It’s a two-step process though. A rice cooker has two settings: cook and warm. What I do is cook until the contents boil, then put on warm and let it sit for an hour or two. I have done this with good results.

Paper Mouse Pad

Depending on what kind of mouse you have, the surface of the table could affect how it works. Glass is a no-go. The holes in an ironing board are too bumpy. A single sheet of white paper, taped down, is enough to fix most mouse issues.

You’re Welcome!

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