If you're a thrifty traveller who likes to stretch their dollars wherever possible and avoid unnecessary spending well, this is the article for you!
Travelling is all about that delicate balance between being carefree enough so that you can immerse yourself in new experiences and enjoy them thoroughly yet also being vigilant about looking after your needs and your budget! Without this crucial balance it could cause you to burn through cash too quickly which could curtail your plans or end the trip altogether! While you can't bring everything and the kitchen sink along with you on your trip, and there will inevitably be unplanned expenses, it can be helpful to know a few hacks using household items since they are commonly found in most kitchens and/or the various accommodations that you may find yourself in.
If you're aware of the different ways to utilize these easy-to-find items, you can easily make the best of any situation without breaking the bank on single-use items you buy out of desperation (at a crazy exchange rate).
So while we're all about pinching a few pennies on your travels, it's also important to recognize the items where you absolutely should never skimp quality or skip altogether because of tight purse strings. So we've also included 10 items we feel you should absolutely spend the extra cash on.
Basically with all the awesome thrifty ideas mentioned, it will probably all even out anyways...
So, without further ado, here we go!
25 Twist Tie Security (Cheap As Chips!)
It can seem more safe and practical to grab those mini pad locks for the zippers on all your luggage / bags. The truth is that a glimmering gold padlock can signal to a thief that you have something particularly valuable to protect within your bag which makes it a target.
It is far more discrete and economical to use a simple twist tie to bind your zippers together! Twist ties are barely noticeable so that if someone does try to unzip your backpack while you're moving, they will not have accounted for the time it takes to untwist the that tight tie and will probably grow frustrated and move on fast!
24 Clear...ly Nail Polish Can Work Wonders (Cheap As Chips!)
It doesn't even have to be clear but it tends to be the most practical. You can sub in nail polish for glue if you're in a bind and need a temporary solution. For example, say you accidentally snap your cheapie sunnies in half (see our point on sunglasses below) and just want them to last until you can replace them, by swapping a bit of nail polish together it can be enough to hold most plastic in place. It can also help if have many envelopes to lick and send to your family and friends back home! A dab on the seal of the envelop with a bit of nail polish and it's guaranteed to stick until it's in the right hands. Other uses include, tightening screws, fixing a run in your tights, or patching holes in hostel window screens!
23 Rollin' With The Wires (Cheap As Chips!)
Charging, not charging. Charging, not charging. If you've been there with a wobbly wire when trying to get a charge into your electronic devices be it a cell phone or some other electronic device you depend on, it is one of the most precarious and vulnerable moments one can experience.
The hack here is to prevent weakened wires by using this common household item for proper storage. This means you can actually be happy the next time you go to use a restroom that's all run out of TP because you'll have the roll to wrap your wires- TP is the gift that keeps on giving people! Good for headphones, chargers, and even extension cords. If you're feeling particularly groovy you can even personalize them a bit as an afternoon craft.
22 Shower Cap Shoes (Cheap As Chips!)
By and large it seems that the world is finally doing a semi-decent job of banishing (or at least significantly reducing) waste-producing plastic bags. That's what's great about this hack because the shower caps protect the soles of the shoes from mucking up your other clothes but, ultimately, can also serve as shower caps too. You know, on those days were you'd rather cruise vintage markets in Madrid instead of washing your hair for it to only poof out into a giant ball of frizz from the humidity anyways.
Shower caps can also be used as bicycle seat covers to prevent a wet seat after a downpour and protect expensive camera lenses.
21 Sunscreen Safe (Cheap As Chips!)
Although it's a bit risky, if you're the kind of traveller who prefers to travel with cash it can help to have an incognito spot for stashing. This trick works especially well for any beachy destinations where you would feel a bit uneasy leaving your Louis V handbag at your umbrella as you dip a toe in the sea. Stashing your cell phone completely out of sight can be surprisingly secure because if someone peered into your beach bag all they'd see is a towel and sunscreen and as a result, would likely keep moving. An excellent use of recyclable materials!
20 Film Canister First Aid (Cheap As Chips!)
A throw back to your boy scout days, a compact, water resistant and easy to throw together film canister first aid kit is something you should consider tossing in your bag on your next trek. Bits and bops to include in your tiny kit include a safety pin, a small roll of gauze, a few differently sized band aids, an alcohol pad, a mint or packet of honey (in case you are or encounter a diabetic), and a coin or two for emergency phone calls. You can fasten it with a rubber band around the outside as well as a big red cross on the label so that if someone else needs to rifle through your pack to find it in a hurry, they won't miss it.
19 Spongey Ice Pack (Cheap As Chips!)
Sponges are cheap, light and easy to find virtually anywhere you go. Where there is a kitchen, there will likely also be a sponge or two. Soaking a sponge with water and sticking it into a plastic zip lock bag creates an no fuss ice pack. Whether you're simply boiling hot after a day at the beach, have a fresh injury or simply want to keep the contents of your picnic basket cool, it can help to repurpose this simple kitchen staple. When you're done you can reuse the same sponge again and again or dry it out and stuff it into your bag for next time!
18 Razor Sharp Rejuvenation (Cheap As Chips!)
If you have been travelling for a long time, it's only natural that your clothing items would start to show signs of wear and tear. If you have towels that are starting to give off fluff or pants that are beginning to pill, never fear!
If you can get your hands on a cheap disposable razor like the one you see pictured above, you can solve it pretty quickly by gliding it gently across the surface of the disintegrating material as often as needed. If you don't shave or have a partner that shaves, you may come across another traveller who was about to ditch their razor for a new one and frankly they work just as well.
17 #LaundryPins4LIFE (Cheap As Chips!)
Laundry pins are so nifty! Aside from the obvious purpose of helping to air out your clothes and peg down any lighter items like scarves and beach covers from blowing away into the beachy abyss, they can also be used for a host of other purposes! My particular favourite is the travel smart toothbrush stand that keeps your precious bristles from making contact with unknown germs lurking on the surface of the bathrooms you didn't personally clean yourself.
If you were to glue or tape a cotton ball to a clothes pin - you now have a travel air freshener/ aromatherapy gizmo! A couple of drops of lavender should give you sweet dreams in addition to knowing that it didn't cost a thing.
16 Ziplocks Stock & Barrel (Cheap As Chips!)
Compression bags that are sold in shops for the purpose of maximizing space and keeping your bag organized retail for anywhere between $15 and $50. They are quite amazing in their ability to well, compress but guess what? Ziplock bags work pretty well too and at a fraction of the cost. If you think about a Ziplocks job (you have one job, ziplock!) it's to keep food fresh by providing an airtight seal. That really is half of the battle of compression.
To take it one step further, you will get huge return on the minimal extra time it takes you to roll your clothes before sticking them inside the ziplock. Not only does it make it easier to squeeze out any excess air, it makes it much easier to see what you have inside each little bundle.
15 Something Wrong? Stick a teabag on it (Cheap As Chips!)
What is tea? Well it's dried herbs and flowers so it makes sense that in addition to tasting delicious, they also give off a pleasant aroma as well. Stick a couple of bags in your sneakers before you pack them and you'd be amazed at how efficiently they cut odours - choose tea with a stronger scent like lemongrass or lavender.
Black tea bags can double up as a first aid kit essential due to the tannins in the tea. If you've smacked your elbow, gotten attacked by a (swarm of) mosquito(s) or woken up with puffy eyes from a restless night in a hostel you can use a wet tea bag to soothe your skin for pennies on the dollar.
14 Beach Ball Pillow (Cheap As Chips!)
What's red and white and improves your in-flight sleep as much as it does your beach-side serve? It's everyone's favourite spherical floaty toy - the beach ball. I mean, he looks pretty cozy, doesn't he? It's a fantastic item to have on hand because it can deflate to virtually nothing but can also serve the very practical purpose of bolstering your head while you try to catch some zees. For extra comfort boosting (and to avoid peeling your face off a drool covered beach ball), wrap it in a soft scarf or t-shirt and don't inflate it all the way.
13 Honey for Healing (Cheap As Chips!)
Honey is nature's antiseptic that is widely available in many countries that you will visit and you can purchase it for a relatively low cost. It can be applied topically to open wounds, cuts and burns which helps maintain an ideal healing/moist condition while still providing a protective layer. Taken orally, honey regulates blood-sugar to avoid midnight snacking (which is fall into while on holiday) and helps to induce sleepiness. With natural anti-inflammatory properties it can be helpful also if you're experiencing signs of bloating, aches or pains.
Honey is also a natural preservative so it's easy to craft your own soaps, creams and balms at home well before leaving without the fear of them going off while on your travels.
12 Tennis Foot-Ball (Cheap As Chips!)
After a long walking tour there can be nothing more heavenly than a nice foot rub. It can be difficult to find someone who is willing to brave your balmy feet and that's fair enough! Simply take a tennis ball to the ground and roll it back and fourth with the soles of your foot. Not only does it feel amazing but it's actually good for your feet as it's also stretching out the muscles that don't always get the TLC they require. If it's feeling good there's no need to stop there you can also rub the ball on your back while against the wall, or lay on top of it and roll it along your spine if you're dealing with a not-so-comfy sleeping situation.
11 Apple Cider Vinegar Cures (Cheap As Chips!)
Perhaps saving best for last, apple cider vinegar is a cost-effect lifesaver because it has so many powerful purposes! Have you just squeezed the last of the hotel hair conditioner out of that teeny tiny bottle? You can use apple cider vinegar instead! Something smelling funky in your suitcase? Mix a couple of drops of essential oil into some apple cider vinegar and give it a spray, you can also use this solution to clean countertops or throw it in the bath with you if you're worried about bacteria lurking. Throw it on a cotton swap as a facial toner or take a swig after a big meal to help aid your digestion.
And the 10 items ABSOLUTELY worth splurging on.... *drum roll please*
10 High Quality Walking Shoes (Do it, Splurge!)
It can be difficult to justify sneakers with a high price tag when you can just as easily grab a pair for a quarter of the price at TJ Maxx or Target. I used to think like that too until someone actually explained the mechanics of running shoes to me. As someone who hasn't really taken a 'shining' to running (read: cannot run) I didn't think I needed to invest in the pricey 'running technology' - my Chuck Taylor's were suiting me just fine. That was until I started experiencing the lower back pain that come along with cheaper walking shoes. Enough was enough! I invested in a pair of Adidas running shoes and I haven't looked back since. Did they cost nearly triple what a new pair of Chucks cost? Yes. But you know what else is expensive? Visiting the chiropractor. Get good shoes.
9 Luggage Scale (Do it, Splurge!)
It only takes that one Air Transat employee to roll their eyes down at your luggage and use the 4 most detested words at the airport "your baggage is over"
Next thing you know you're splayed out on the ground in front of the priority line flinging your underpants abound, frantically trying to redistribute the weight so that you can avoid spending $100+ for the extra bottle of shampoo you were adamantly convinced you couldn't live without. The luggage scale helps every traveller get into the routine of checking the weight of their bag before it's too late and helps them to make better packing choices - get one.
8 Sushi (Do it, Splurge!)
You may not even like sushi or be going somewhere where it's a thing. All we're saying here is that if you do like sushi, or plan to try sushi for the first time on a trip (or not on a trip for that matter) don't get cheap, sketchy sushi. What's cheap sketchy sushi even look like? It lives in places like the gas station. It might be discoloured or on super-discount-super sale, or at the very worst sold out of a hot van. For the love of what's good, keep moving!
Sushi needs to be fresh which is why the right, delicious kind is a bit expensive. If you're going to commit to the sushi experience, go all in and get something good. Reserve your frugality for downscaling from organic trail mix you've been eying. Regular old peanuts won't give you food poisoning whereas sketchy sushi will. Which brings us to the next point...
7 Nutritious Snacks for Travel Days (Do it, Splurge!)
Say it with us: sugar is bad! Hearty foods are good! Eating a handful of jelly beans or a slice of pizza may seem ideal when you want something fast or are feeling too jet-lagged to consider any other option but you will do yourself a major service if you choose fresh, healthy snacks. Though it's an extra investment of time and can be more costly, it helps to pack a small cooler bag ahead of time so you can happily munch throughout the day. Carrots and hummus, apples, avocado with a bit of salad dressing, heck even a peanut butter sandwich! Think 6th grade brown paper bag lunches. Grease has a funny way of tuckering us out normally, add the pressure of high impact travel and it means that you will crash the moment you arrive at your destination.
6 Protective Sunglasses (Do it, Splurge!)
Not all sunglasses were created equally and it can be tempting to scoop up a cheap pair from the superstar salesmen dude selling those Oakley knockoffs to you as you squint into the sun and debate laying face down on your sun-bed for eternity to avoid the burning of your retinas. The trouble is knock-off or cheapie sunglasses aren't just cheap in price, they're constructed with cheap plastics where other more expensive sunnies have legit UVA/UVB protection. After having dabbled with polarized lenses that were on discount at a Buffalo outlet it has become crystal clear to me, what a significant difference wearing proper eyewear makes. If you add up all the times you fell for the seaside sales pitch, you would probably be able to get one solid pair of sunglasses as some retail for as little as $60.
5 Tattoos (Do it, Splurge!)
Cheaping out on a tattoo is like marrying a person you don't really know (or like!) – it's just not a great long game strategy! When travelling somewhere exotic it can be exciting to commemorate your journey with a permanently inked on keepsake and that's a super cool idea! All we're saying is be willing to get a decent artist to help you out. You may even want to do some window shopping and scope out the tats on some locals so you can ask for a referral versus winging it with a dud. Tattoos can be expensive and you really want them to be because it means they are trained, sanitary and likely going to do a much better job!
4 Universal Travel Adapter / Voltage Converter (Do it, Splurge!)
They all look the same so read a few reviews and/or talk to someone in-store about the countries you are visiting (or frequent) and get a second opinion. A big sell for me are adapters that also have built in voltage converters to adjust so that you don't fry your tablet or other beloved electronics that you're toting across the world. Finding an adapter that is also a voltage converter is often a little bit more expensive but totally worth it to have your bases covered if you travel a fair bit. Since electronics have come a long way and require more power than traditionally was true a few years ago, it can be helpful to upgrade your adapter to match your gear.
3 Travel Insurance (Do it, Splurge!)
Those of us who have travelled to far off lands only to discover that a whirlwind of confusing insurance sales speak left us without the important coverage that we truly required can leave you feeling a little hard done by. Paying out of pocket for medical expenses sucks. You may be tempted to believe those who call insurance a scam and even forego it altogether! While there are totally some sleazy insurance providers out there who are known to prolong payment, be conveniently unavailable or declare curve ball limitations to your particular travel claim; travel insurance is important. You can avoid the cynicism altogether by spending a bit more and going for a reputable agency. It can help to talk to people your age, who have travelled to the same country and gauge from their experiences with claims. A solid insurance plan with a well-known provider is 100% worth the extra cash.
2 Anti-Leak Containers (Do it, Splurge!)
Do ziplock bags work? Most of the time! Is it expensive to replace your stuff when they don't? Absolutely. Leaky containers can be a real thorn in your side if you have forgotten all about that mini tube of sunscreen you wrapped in a towel or didn't quite screw the cap on your aftershave. Liquids + suitcases being thrown about = sad face. It is absolutely a good call to invest in a series of small leak-proof bottles that you can stash your liquids in risk-free. It truly won't break the bank and can make your trip that much sweeter when everything is exactly where it should be: contained.
1 Direct Flights (Do it, Splurge!)
Time is money, honey! Saving time getting from place to place is incredibly valuable if you can afford it. This point requires a bit of discretion because an itinerary with a nice long layover may actually be a cool way to see another country if it's quite a bit cheaper. However, the additional accommodations, taxis to and from the airport and the physical energy tax must be considered as well. Sometimes, it's simply best to shell out a bit more cash and take the direct flight that gets you straight to your destination efficiently and somewhat hassle-free so that you can begin to enjoy your fab holiday asap.