7 Great Low-Tech Travel Accessories for $15 or Less
With the holiday travel season upon us, TPG Contributor J. Keith van Straaten offers his recommendations for travel accessories that are so simple and inexpensive, anyone can use and afford them. (All photos are courtesy of Amazon.com, unless otherwise noted.)
There are a lot of great electronic gadgets and apps out there to help make traveling easier and more fun — but some of the handiest travel accessories don't require batteries or Bluetooth, and you don't have to spend a lot to upgrade your travel experience. These low-tech travel accessories have no electronic elements and are readily available for purchase for a wallet-friendly $15 or less.
Sure, they aren't the sexiest items, but they are practical — I use each one on almost every trip I take. I hope you find these seven low-tech travel accessories as useful as I do, and remember, they make great stocking stuffers for the traveler(s) on your shopping list.
Many of these items can be purchased at online stores via a shopping portal, such as AAdvantage eShopping. To make sure you're getting the most points for your shopping portal purchase, I like to compare offers at the Mileage Mall on WebFlyer.com.
This simple gadget allows me to carry more with less effort — whether it's a second bag, a bulky coat or an item that was too big for my carry-on (such as a poster tube). I keep it tucked into the outside pocket of my rolling carry-on bag and it takes just a few seconds to attach for use. Its simple and lightweight design helps keep ill-fitting items snugly in place. It's especially handy for adding luggage that isn't designed with a pocket or strap to slip over a handle, and it's great for tethering last-minute airport purchases to an already-full carry-on.
When traveling, I don't expect to have all the comforts of home. And yet, one that I insist on is a cup by the bathroom sink to wash down pills and rinse out after flossing — if it's not there, I get weirdly disoriented and grouchy. After enough hotel and Airbnb rooms came up short, I decided to bring my own cup. This one folds flat so I can keep it in my toiletry kit – and it gives me one less excuse to be a grouch when on the road.
It's important to stay hydrated while flying, and bringing your own refillable water bottle is a great way to do that. Some prefer a hard-sided bottle, but those attract the attention of well-meaning TSA agents who'll make me show that the bottle is empty before allowing me to pass through airport security. These bottles roll up when empty, so you can tuck them away without distraction. And bonus, they're also 100% recyclable.
Why should your dirty travel laundry take up so much precious space in your luggage? Put it in one of these bags, squeeze out all the air, and voilà — you've suddenly got more room for souvenirs in a suitcase that doesn't stink from a week's worth of used clothing. Airtight and watertight, these bags are especially great for packing up from a swim on the last day of your vacation.
Put this tiny book in your pocket and get ready to communicate with people, no matter the difference in language. Each of the 72 pages simply displays photos of objects that you can point to, organized into common categories. Whether you need to get to a hospital, borrow some scissors or make sure there's no fish in your soup, this book has your back. And trust me, it's a lot easier to point to a picture of a crab than it is to act it out in a fancy foreign restaurant.
My biggest trick for packing light is to bring only a few socks, underwear and t-shirts, then wash them along the way. I used to do this washing in the shower with excess shampoo, but I got some, uh, constructive feedback from a girlfriend that my Selsun Blue wasn't doing the job. These packets have the perfect amount of real detergent and are small and flat enough to take up hardly any space.
Like I said, this list isn't sexy. But man, nothing soothes a weary and cranky traveler like a hot cup of comforting oatmeal. I've visited some exotic places, and while trying new cuisine is among my favorite reasons to travel, sometimes foreign breakfasts leave me, well, cold. Carrying a few of these small packets guarantees I'll have the energy to get through whatever the travel day has to offer. I keep one in my carry-on bag at all times. If a flight is delayed or the airplane food isn't doing it for me, I can always ask the flight attendant for a cup of hot water.