For travelers watching their wallets, it’s important to stick to a budget, find money-saving travel deals, and get the best possible exchange rate. Additionally, those looking to save cash would do well to pack strategically. The right travel gear can help you keep costs down while seeing the world.
Pack the following 10 items to save money on airline bag fees, laundry-service charges, and other expenses.
Empty Carry-on Travel Bottle
Travel-size products are, to put it bluntly, a rip-off. For example, a travel-size bottle of CeraVe Moisturizing Cream costs $5.04 for less than two ounces. The 12-ounce version has a list price of $10.49, which means the travel-size version is nearly half the price for only a sixth of the product. Instead of getting gouged, pack your own carry-on travel bottles filled with your favorite products. We like GoToob containers, which have suction cups that let you stick them to bathroom and shower walls for easy access.
If you’re traveling to a place where sunscreen is compulsory, like a beach resort in the Caribbean, any sunblock for sale in local shops will probably be really expensive. And 3.4 ounces (the maximum bottle size the TSA permits in carry-on luggage) of Coppertone won’t likely be enough for a good week of heavy-duty equatorial sun rays. The wallet-friendly solution is to buy solid sunscreen before your trip. Neutrogena and Banana Boat both offer stick sunscreen, which may be carried onto a plane in any amount since it’s not a liquid. Bonus: It will never leak all over your stuff.
Overweight-luggage fees are usually as hefty the bags that incur them. Some airlines charge up to $200 for too-heavy suitcases. But those charges are easily avoided if you pack a luggage scale and weigh your bag before arriving at the airport. This one from Travelon costs around $11.
Once upon a time, airlines were as liberal with edible treats as your grandma. Now, many airlines sell marked-up bagged snacks that you could buy in the store for a lot less. You get the idea. So bring your own snacks (bagged candy, crackers, nuts) and save a few bucks.
Like a Swiss Army knife, duct tape has myriad practical uses. But unlike a Swiss Army knife, you can take it on a plane. Use the tape to put things back together if your suitcase gets ripped by rough-and-tumble baggage handlers, thus saving you from having to spend money on a new bag during your trip. If you’re heading to a place with an unfavorable exchange rate, purchasing a big-ticket item like a new suitcase could really eat up your budget.
Other creative uses for duct tape include covering blisters on feet, removing lint from clothing, and creating a makeshift hotel-room safe by taping your wallet and jewelry to the underside of the bed. For more ideas, see 11 Clever Uses for Duct Tape When You Travel.
As long as you stay within airlines’ bag-weight limits, you can stuff as much as physically possible into your suitcase. As well you should, since every U.S. legacy carrier charges for checked bags on domestic flights, and the more bags you check, the higher those fees climb. One simple way to maximize suitcase space is to use a travel compression sack designed to save space by eliminating air surrounding the contents of the bag. I’ve used the Eagle Creek brand, which doesn’t require use of a vacuum to suck out air. (Who travels with a vacuum?) You just stuff the bag and roll to oust air inside. Listen for the swooshing sound as you deflate.
I’m a book devotee. I prefer paper over screens, ink over interface. But I’ll admit that the e-reader beats books to a pulp when it comes to travel. How else could one cart a virtual library of reading material in luggage without sustaining overweight-bag charges? Even a single large hardback book is enough to seize some serious suitcase space. So it’s no surprise the e-reader made our list of “5 Things You Should Never Fly Without.”
Empty Water Bottle
Most travelers know this trick, as is evidenced by the lines that sometimes form at water fountains near boarding areas. Avoid the overpriced newsstand bottled water by packing an empty bottle in your suitcase and filling it up after you’ve gone through security. To save space, opt for a squishy, foldable flask like the Vapur Anti-Bottle.
Travel Laundry Detergent
According to our sister site Cruise Critic, “As at land-based resorts, laundry and dry-cleaning charges on a cruise can be steep.” Even if you’re planning to pack enough clothing to avoid using laundry services during your trip, an upturned glass of wine or a leaky bottle in your suitcase could make a mess of your plans.
Pack travel laundry detergent and stain remover to use in case of a spill emergency. We like the Tide Stain Stick, which fits in a pocket or purse and, at less than 3.4 ounces, is carry-on compliant. We also recommend Travelon’s Laundry Soap Sheets; they’re not a liquid, so they’re OK to bring on the plane.
Traveling with laundry detergent could also save you from having to buy replacement clothes upon your return. Let certain stains set for too long and they might never come out.
More Money-Saving Items for Travel
More from SmarterTravel:
- Embarrassing Travel Gadgets
- 10 Basic Packing Tips Every Traveler Should Know
- 5 Things You Should Never Fly Without
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2012. It has been updated to reflect the most current products, pricing, and availability.