When i first started using maya i bought some of the tutorial videos and as a result ended up unpacking every single uv on my models, now im a little more used to it i do about 20% of the wrangling that i used to do.
Basicaly i copy my model, then combine all the small pieces into single meshes, and i cylindrical map as much as i can, only unpacking where it particulaly stretches on certain faces. The secret realy is in being creative with texture maps, if you play around with contrast, hue and saturation, multiplying textures on top of each other you blend virtualy anything, and the more abstract the underlying pattern, the less likely you are to see seems and stretches. Dont worry about the textures looking really messy, what i do is save it all out as a jpeg and then play with contrast and brightness until it blends down.
See my wip star wars thread i use this technique on all the models there.