Dear Readers: What do you absolutely have to pack for your next trip? With all the traveling I do, I have learned a few packing tricks that will save you time and keep you organized. Before your next trip, try this:

• Put essentials — like pain relievers, toothpaste, deodorant and hair products — in clear, plastic, zipper-type bags so you can see at a glance what you have and what you need. (It also prevents leakage if a container should open.) Sample sizes work great and can be refilled when empty.

• Take along a small bag containing a lint brush, a sewing kit and stain-remover wipes.

• Don't forget an alarm clock (I pack two!), slippers, a night light or flashlight and lots of plastic bags for shoes and dirty laundry. You can use the plastic hotel laundry bag, too.

And, before leaving home, don't forget to:

• Give family members your itinerary and phone numbers, if necessary.

• Shut off the water if you'll be gone for an extended time.—Heloise

Dear Heloise: On the subject of laundry: Teach young children to always remove clothing right side out and insist that everyone put clothes in the hamper right side out.

Have prewash spray close to each hamper so that any stains are treated before placing in the hamper. (Be sure the product can set on clothes rather than needing to be washed right away. — Heloise) Both of these hints cut down on sorting and folding time. It also makes everyone aware that the laundress is not a servant!

Remove clothing from the dryer while still warm — the folding and hanging is neater. As you put something on that is hung up, remove the empty hanger. These hangers should go to the laundry room from time to time. —Pat from Omaha, Neb.

Dear Heloise: I use a label maker and type the name of the plant, then paste the label on the plastic, clay or ceramic container or pot. This helps me remember the name of the plant after a few weeks into the process of growing. —Anna Victoria Reich, Stafford, Va.

Dear Heloise: I have found how to deal with the long delay when put on hold on important phone calls. I keep a joke book beside my telephone, and I enjoy it while waiting. I'm much more cheerful now when the phone call resumes. As a volunteer at a thrift store, I have ready access to old joke books, and they are easy to put down when the call starts up again. —Betty N. Shor, La Jolla, Calif.

Dear Heloise: Just read the column on fake buttermilk. Did you know that you can also buy powdered buttermilk that is labeled for cooking and baking? It has a long shelf life and comes in handy when needed. —Anna from Wisconsin

Send a great hint to: Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000; fax: 210-435-6473; e-mail: [email protected]. © King Features Syndicate Inc.