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50+ Uses for a Travel Bandana or Scarf on Your Next Trip

February 25, 2024

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Picture this: You sign up for a lunchtime riverboat ride as one of the shore excursions offered by your cruise. You've got your best light-colored travel slacks on, and as you board the boat, you realize, ewwww!!! The seats look like they haven't been cleaned in 20 years.

But you don't worry because tucked neatly into the depths of your day bag lies your secret weapon: the trusty bandana.

Why take a travel bandana or scarf on your next trip? Well, the bandana isn't just a square piece of fabric, you know. It's a versatile companion, a jack-of-all-trades ready to tackle any challenge your travels throw your way.

Before we dive into the many ways a bandana can elevate your travel experience, let's take a moment to appreciate the History of the Bandana, courtesy of Heddels.

The bandana has served an important function for generations, worn by the likes of sailors, seafarers, farmers, cowboys, bikers and miners and its use even extends to the LGBT community, gang members and general rebel culture. . . at times representing political campaigns and patriotism, at others, aiding in the promotion of popular culture and other twentieth-century advertising.

The bandana can serve an important function for you too.

Whether you're backpacking through the wilderness, enjoying a leisurely cruise, or exploring a busy city, here are 50+ creative ways to make the most of a travel bandana or small scarf.

How to Use a Travel Bandana or Small Scarf on Your Next Trip

  1. Sun protection. Shield yourself from the sun’s harsh rays by wearing your bandana as a head covering, wrapping it around your neck, or tucking it under your hat so it covers your neck.
  2. Face mask. A bandana makes a great makeshift mask to product you from smoke, dust, pollution, and yukky smells. You still need a medical mask for COVID and other communicable diseases though.
  3. Hair band. Keep your hair out of your face by using a cute bandana as a stylish hair tie.
  4. Towel. You can use your bandana to wipe away sweat, dry your hands, or even dab spills.
  5. Pot holder. Takeaway coffee too hot? Wrap your bandana around the cup.
  6. Napkin. Keep a bandana handy for impromptu meals or snacks on the go. Go one step further and practice your napkin-folding skills for entertainment.
  7. Eye mask. Fold your bandana and place it over your eyes for a makeshift eye mask to help you sleep on long flights or train rides.
  8. Signal flag. Use a brightly colored bandana as a signal flag to attract attention in an emergency.
  9. Sling. Create a makeshift sling to support an injured arm or shoulder until proper medical attention can be obtained.
  10. Trail marker. Going hiking? Tie a bandana to a tree branch to mark your trail so you can find your way home.
  11. Pillow. Stuff a bandana with clothing to create a comfortable pillow for napping on the go.
  12. Ponytail tie. Keep your hair off your neck by tying it up with a cute bandana.
  13. Insulation. Wrap a bandana around a water bottle or food container to help insulate it and keep its contents cool.
  14. Lens cleaner. Use a clean corner of your bandana to wipe smudges from sunglasses, camera lenses, or phone screens.
  15. Shoelace. OK, you can’t really use your bandana as a shoelace, but if your shoelace breaks or the sole comes loose, wrap the bandana around the bottom of your foot and tie it on top to keep your shoe on until you can get back to your accommodation.
  16. Cooling neck wrap. Tie a wet bandana around your neck to keep cool on hot days.
  17. Bug repellent. Apply insect repellent (natural, if possible) to your bandana and tie it around your neck or wrist to help keep bugs at bay.
  18. Dish rag. Clean dishes or wipe down surfaces using your bandana as a reusable dish rag.
  19. Sweatband. Keep the sweat out of your eyes during exercise or when it’s hot by folding and tying a bandana around your forehead.
  20. Tourniquet. In the unlikely event of a medical emergency, a bandana can be used as a tourniquet to control bleeding.
  21. Cord organizer. Roll up charging cables, headphone cords, and other cables in a bandana to keep them organized in your bag.
  22. Entertainment. Search online for “Bandana Board Games” and take your pick of Snakes & Ladders, Backgammon, and more.
  23. Identification marker. Tie a bandana to your luggage or backpack to make it easily identifiable in crowded areas.
  24. Neck warmer. Fold a bandana and wear it around your neck to keep your neck warm in chilly weather.
  25. Window shade. Most rental cars don’t have tinted windows, so you can use your bandana to shield yourself from the sun. Put it where the sun is hitting your body instead of in the car window so you don’t block visibility.
  26. Ruler. Measure your bandana before you leave, then use it to measure other things while you’re gone. Bonus question: How many bandanas in a mile?
  27. Knee pad. Fold a bandana and place it under your knees when kneeling on a hard surface.
  28. Bookmark. Forgot to bring a bookmark? Your trusty bandana will save the day.
  29. Gift wrap. Need to provide a small gift while you're traveling? There's no point in buying an entire roll of paper. Just wrap the gift in a bandana and tie it with string. (Look up “How to tie a furoshiki knot.”) The recipient gets two gifts in one!
  30. Fly swatter. Need to shoo away a few flies and bugs? Give your bandana a good shake in the air. If they're all over, wrap it around your face for protection.
  31. Hat band. Roll up your bandana and tie it around your hat to add some style.
  32. A cold compress. Fill it with ice and apply as needed. (Put something between the compress and your skin first.)
  33. Windshield cleaner. Rental cars are notorious for never cleaning the inside of the windshield, and this can affect visibility when the sun hits at a certain angle. For safety, wipe the inside of your windshield with your bandana.
  34. Snack holder. Hangries on vacation are no fun for you or the people you're traveling with! Use a bandana to create a makeshift pouch to carry trail mix, nuts, or other snacks when you’re out exploring during the day.
  35. Emergency toilet paper. When nature calls and you're without toilet paper, a bandana can be used as a last resort. Tip: always keep a small plastic bag in your daypack.
  36. Bib. Dining on that yummy, slurpy spaghetti while wearing a crisp white shirt? Uhhh…maybe a colorful bib is in order.
  37. Seat cover. Place a bandana on a dirty seat to keep your clothes clean.
  38. Taxi hailer. Wave your bright bandana to flag down a taxi. You’ll definitely stand out in the crowd.
  39. An apron. Cooking in your Airbnb? Tuck the bandana in the front of your pants or skirt, and voilà! You have an apron.
  40. Handkerchief. Use a bandana as a handkerchief to wipe your nose or clean up spills.
  41. Car finder. Tie a bandana to your rental car’s antenna so you can easily find it in a parking lot.
  42. Emergency hat. Tie a knot in each of the corners to make an emergency hat if the sun becomes too strong. Raining? A bandana won’t help you in a downpour, but it will definitely keep a light rain off your head.
  43. Glasses case. Wrap fragile items like glasses or sunglasses in a bandana to protect them from scratches.
  44. Shoe shiner. Travel can be hard on shoes. Keep them shining brightly by wiping them off with your bandana.
  45. Food cover. Enjoying a picnic outside? Keep the bugs away by laying a bandana over the food you’re not eating.
  46. Bicycle handlebar wrap. On a bicycle tour? Wrap a bandana around your bicycle handlebars for added grip and comfort during long rides.
  47. A basket. Tie the four corners together, and you have a basket to collect shells, flowers for your travel journal, and whatever else you find of interest.
  48. Dry bag. Use a bandana to wrap around items that need to stay dry in wet conditions.
  49. Band-aid. Cut yourself? Get a scrape? A clean bandana can serve as a band-aid until you can get first aid.
  50. Headscarf. Bad hair day? Fold the bandana into a triangle and tie it under your chin or in the back under your hair. A bandana is also helpful if you’re traveling to religious sites where you need to cover your head.
  51. Placemat. Having a snack on the train? Eating fruit and cheese on your balcony? Your bandana becomes the perfect placemat.
  52. Belt. Tie together a few bandanas for a cute look or in case the belt you're wearing breaks. Yikes!
  53. Emergency splint. In the event of a limb injury, use a bandana to secure a makeshift splint in place.
  54. DIY first aid kit. Wrap essential items in a bandana to create a compact first-aid kit you can toss in your day bag.
  55. Fashion Accessory. Jazz up your travel wardrobe with a colorful bandana. Wear it as a scarf around your neck, tie it around your wrist as a bracelet, or knot it around a strap on your day bag.
  56. A gift.  People (especially children) in many countries love to have something from the US. A bandana is the perfect gift! It’s inexpensive and lets you interact with the locals by showing them the various ways they can style it.


As you can see, the humble bandana is a true travel essential with a gazillion (well, at least 56)  practical uses.

From first aid to fashion, these versatile pieces of fabric can come in handy in a variety of situations, making them a must-have item for your packing list.

So next time you hit the road, don't forget to tuck a bandana into your bag—you never know when it might save just save the day!

Now the question is: How many bandanas will you take on your next trip?

☕️🧭 Thanks for reading. Would you like more travel tips? Then sign up for Coffee & Compass, an unmissable collection of carefully curated tips on traveling in the second half of life. Brewed fresh weekly, it will show up in your inbox each Sunday.

❗️And before you go, here are some other posts you might like:

How to Pack a Suitcase Like a Pro and Eliminate Stress

10 Travel Planning Tips to Create the Perfect Vacation

Prepare Your Home for Vacation (2024 Checklist)

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