Here on the Practical Travel Gear blog, I like to highlight travel gadgets that serve more than one purpose. Sometimes these things are sitting right in front of you and it just takes a little creativity to repurpose them.
A recent article in Real Simple called "Double-Duty Travel Items" had a couple of good ones worth repeating. First was a kid's floatie--the inflatable things you put around a toddler's arms in the swimming pool. The second purpose? You wrap them around a bottle of wine in your bag or suitcase to keep it from breaking in transit. (Hey, toddlers and the need for extra wine go hand in hand.)
Second was the hotel shower cap. I'm not sure who ever uses these in the shower anymore, but as the article points out, they make great shoe wrappers in your suitcase or backpack.
In fact, if you are staying in a nice hotel, there's a treasure trove of items that are great for travel: the travel-sized toiletries, the dry cleaning bag that becomes a laundry bag, and the shoe shine cloth that works well as a glasses case and cleaner.
A tube sock can hold a spare laptop battery, a sarong can be a towel, a beach blanket, or a skirt. Your MP3 player can also hold key documents and contact info (just password protect them if it's sensitive, like credit card numbers.) What else are you carrying or looking at that can do more than one thing?
[photo from Babycare Direct UK]