Introduction: 8 Unusual Uses for Barf Bags

Worshiping at the porcelain altar. Shouting groceries. Shouting for Hugh. Calling Ralph on the big white telephone. Barf. Blow. Blow chunks. Hurl. Hork. Regurgitate. Lose lunch. Toilet tango. Spew. Puke. Gastrointestinal pyrotechnics. Upchuck. Yak. Airsickness. Carsickness. Seasickness.

Whatever you want to call it, barf bags will catch it. But they can do so much more. From airplane hacks to terrestrial everyday uses, airsickness bags are more versatile than the world gives them credit for. And they're free.

Step 1: Store Leftovers

Not every restaurant provides bags, boxes, or other containers to safely bring home leftovers.

Airsickness bags are lined with plastic, have tabs to seal in the freshness, and fold nicely. You can surreptitiously stuff in all the bread you couldn't finish before the appetizers came. Or carry home the soup of the day. The same properties that hold in food post-digestion can also hold the same food prior to mastication.

Disclaimer: using barf bags from the seat pocket on an airplane for food storage might be sort of gross. People do put their filthy tissues in there (among other things), and I can't imagine that those pockets get a thorough wash very often. It might be a little like eating off of a hotel bedspread. YMMV. I know a woman who swears by barf bags for storing leftovers who has yet to get sick.

Step 2: Barf With Confidence on the Go

I have never done the Technicolor yawn on an airplane. I have, however, managed to woof my cookies in a number of other locations. As have many of you, I'd imagine.

An airsickness bag is a great accessory for pregnant women, college freshmen, and young schoolchildren. Anyone susceptible to vomiting while on the go could use an extra couple of bags. Keep them in your purse, in your backpack, or folded up in your back pocket behind your wallet. Never again will you be surprised by an encore performance of lunch, presented in reverse to everyone else on the bus. 

It's the politest way to yak in public. They even sell cute ones: (See what they did there? Get it?)

Step 3: Hydrate

Getting enough water on an airplane is not easy. You can't bring liquids through security, bottled water is more expensive than gasoline once you're in the terminal, and the in-flight beverage service can maybe get you 8 oz. of liquid at a time.

If flying makes you dessicated and parched, you'll need to smuggle a water bottle on board. Empty. Or frozen if you're prepared to argue that the rules do not prevent you from bringing frozen solids aboard an aircraft.* Once you're aboard the plane, your liquid opportunities have pretty much dried up.

All hope is not lost. Using your airsickness bag as a funnel, you can get water from the lavatory to your water bottle. It's a little hack-y, but it works. You can also just fill the bag up then dump it into your water bottle. Because you won't have the necessary cutting implements to put a hole in the bag. It's better than waiting for the flight crew to wet your whistle.

*The airport is a great place for lively scientific discussion. Argue with them about the possibility of electromagnetic interference causing plane crashes. Let them smell your water to prove it's safe. Explain that an e-ink screen is pretty much an Etch-a-Sketch when the wireless is turned off. Everybody loves learning. The more you know...

Step 4: Throw Stuff Away Stink-free

Sometimes you need to throw stuff away. Sometimes that stuff doesn't smell so awesome.

Put the following things into a barf bag to seal in whatever scents you don't want wafting out of the trash can:
  • dog poop
  • old perfume
  • used feminine hygiene products
  • used male hygiene products
  • Axe body spray
  • banana peels
  • burnt hair
There are more smelly things out there that fit inside a barf bag. This list is by no means comprehensive. But it should cover many use cases.

Step 5: Airplane Puppets

On the flight where I obtained my barf bags, a young mother was traveling with her 8 month old child. No toys. No snacks. Just the natural beauty of mother and child together inside a big aluminum tube, just as Gaia intended.

That kid screamed and screamed.* Taxi, scream, take-off, scream, electronic devices back on, child still screaming. Which is understandable. If it was socially acceptable or even legal to articulate my feelings while in the airplane, I would likely yell right along with that small child's stentorian wails.

But I can't do that. Nor can I fire up anything to mitigate the din until we hit 10,000 feet. So please entertain your child. Try turning a barf bag into a puppet. Draw a face on with a pen. Make some funny voices. Everyone around you will appreciate the effort, even if its unsuccessful. Anything's better than listening to your child scream past your increasingly frantic, embarrassed exhortations to please be quiet.

*I was once a colicky baby who flew from Stapleton to JFK. Sorry 1985 PanAm passengers. I get it. You and your baby need to go places. Airplanes are uncomfortable and upsetting. Babies aren't designed to seethe inwardly like the 6'5" dude trying to simultaneously put his feet someplace and protect his elbows from the drinks cart.

Step 6: Mailing Envelope

My dad is an envelope recycler. You know those windowed envelopes they stuff with junk mail addressed to "Your Name or current occupant"? He carefully opens them to get the free envelope. Write in the address to the right of the plastic window. Tape the whole thing shut.

For a similarly classy letter with the added bonus of water-proofitude, use a barf bag. They're usually the right size for 4x6 pictures, you can affix labels and stamps to the outside, and the recipient will appreciate your creativity.

Bonus homework assignment: The Wikipedia article for airsickness bags mentions that this is a thing. But apparently it's only a thing in Australia. If this is something you do in your country, edit the Wikipedia entry. If you are Australian, your homework is already done. Good for you. You may read quietly while the other pupils work.

Step 7: Hold a Seat

Open seating on an airplane is a blessing and a curse. It's great when you want to save some cash, but the press of humanity struggling to get adjacent seats while avoiding weirdos and the middle seat can be unsettling.

Be one of those weirdos by using the barf bag early in the flight.
  • Fill the bag up so it looks puffy and full.
  • Set it on the seat you'd like to keep empty.
  • Look ill. Point at the bag occasionally.
  • Watch other passengers sit next to crying babies to avoid you.
This won't work on full flights, but it can be nice when there are 13 open seats and you want to have elbow access to two armrests for the duration of your journey.