9 Travel Accessories That'll Help You Save Money
Look inside the bag of an expert traveler and you'll find a variety of meticulously chosen accessories specifically tailored for each trip. Whether you're hiking in the mountains of northern Spain, surfing the coast of Australia or backpacking through Southeast Asia, the tools you carry play a big role in managing your budget. Here are 9 travel accessories guaranteed to save you money on the road.
1. Become a Power Traveler With a Smart Bag
If you're a traveler who can't go anywhere without a camera, GoPro, laptop, cell phone or other electronics, you'll find it useful to have a smart bag capable of charging several devices at once. I can’t tell you how many times I see people going to coffee shops for the sole purpose of charging a device or two, typically spending up to $10 on coffee or food to justify hanging around. Save yourself some time and money by getting a bag that lets you power up on the go. CO.ALITION, featured on the show Shark Tank, has a $199 starting price point and two fully customizable packs with built-in hard drives and battery packs that can fully charge a phone three times or a tablet once (if you select the higher-end power supply). The AMPL Smart Bag has also received a lot of attention for its quality design and impressive features, including a power bank that can charge an iPad Air 3.25 times (for the fully loaded option.) The AMPL bag isn't yet on the market, but the company is taking reservations now.
2. Indulge Your Vested Interest
Booking a super-cheap flight is a great feeling, but there's usually a catch with discount airlines and low-cost carriers: inflated baggage fees. The good news is you can avoid paying them with one simple and sneaky travel hack — carrying the heaviest items in your travel vest. These multi-pocket travel vests, shirts and coats can make the difference between breezing from airport to airport and a trip from hell. There are several reputable companies to buy from, but I like using ScotteVest because of the many styles offered in its "intelligent clothing" line for both men and women — the typical vest starts at about $100. Choose from among comfortable and durable vests, pants, hoodies, jackets and even boxer shorts — each article (yes, even the boxers) is designed with extra pockets specifically made to carry your travel accessories, providing a nice balance between fashion and function.
3. If the Shoes Fit, You're Golden
The No. 1 bulky item I can't stand stuffing into a suitcase is shoes. No surprise, then, that the Kickstarter success +ONE (formerly known as Shooz) was instantly welcomed into the travel industry. These shoes fold flat in any suitcase and are fully customizable, allowing you to change the soles so you can go straight from running to a fancy night on the town. Choose between an elegant leather wingtip and a sleek metallic look — the waterproof zip also makes it extremely easy to change the top or soles to fit your style and activity each day. The company says the shoes will be available later this year.
4. Venture Into Uncharted Territory Without a Data Plan
MAPS.ME instantly turns your smartphone into a sat nav for every city or island in the world. But the real beauty of this free app is that you can navigate without using up an ounce of your precious data, saving you from having to sign up for expensive international phone plans. I found it to be far more detailed than its competitors — like Navmii — on recent road trips across Europe and Australia.
5. This Is the Most Valuable Addition to Your Wardrobe
Pashmina scarves are more than a fashion statement. I don’t fly without these nifty little wraps, which are great for both guys and gals. They can be used as a pillow, blanket, stylish warm-up, impromptu picnic blanket or to cushion the most valuable items packed in your bag. A well-seasoned traveler should always spring for multipurpose items like this to save space and cash, and these certainly fit the bill. I recommend buying them on the road while you're traveling, from pretty much any market around the world. With the right negotiating skills, you can pick one up in Southeast Asia for $1 — otherwise, one will cost you about $10 in an international airport.
6. Perplex Pickpockets Everywhere
My iPhone case has held three of my most important cards (my credit card, photo ID and debit card) for the past eight years, and has drastically improved the way I travel. If you wander around Europe with a bulky wallet, you're just begging to be targeted by a pickpocket. By using a smartphone case with slots for your cards, you can keep your valuables next to your cell phone in your front pocket, which is harder for thieves to access. I use a Speck CandyShell Card Case, and it's one of the best investments that I’ve made — they're available for about $35 on Speck's website, or a little less on Amazon.
7. Travel SIMply
Try to think of SIM cards as an investment in future savings. Use data to find navigational maps that'll help you avoid expensive tolls and find the fastest routes, or use websites to book the cheapest bus, train or airplane tickets. Apps like CamperMate — which displays all the free campsites in Australia and New Zealand, for instance — can easily save you hundreds. International SIM cards can be found almost anywhere, and for as little as $5 for one gigabyte of data, depending on which part of the world you’re in, so you can be posting your favorite travel photos within minutes.
8. Fill 'er Up
I never leave home without a refillable water bottle. There are always water fountains in airports, so once you get through security, you can refill your bottle for free — many European cities also have free water spouts located throughout the streets. Pack a refillable water bottle and you’ll never have to spend another dime on overpriced bottled water during your travels. If you're going to be visiting a country without a clean public water supply, I'd recommend getting a bottle with a built-in filtration system so you can purify dirty tap water. I like GRAYL, which makes ultralight, battery-free bottles that can filter out the 99.999% of protozoan cysts, bacteria and viruses, including cryptosporidium, giardia, e. coli, salmonella, rotavirus and hepatitis A. If you don’t need a filter, check out Vapur Eclipse, a water bottle that can be rolled up and packed away tightly whenever it's not in use. The Vapur Eclipse retails for $11.99 and can be purchased directly through the company website.
9. Go Bananas for a Hammock
One of the biggest travel expenses you'll encounter is accommodations. With a travel hammock, you'll always have the option to sleep outside in nature — usually for free! These have become increasingly popular with trekkers in recent years because they're inexpensive, ultra-compact, and provide you with a comfortable, dry place to sleep. You can set one up and be ready for a good night's rest in less than a minute. Basic travel hammocks are often available for as little as $30, while top-of-the-line models with all the bells and whistles will run about $200. If you plan to use it daily, invest in a model that comes with a rain cover. If comfort is your main concern, try out the Kammok Roo, one of the largest, toughest and most luxurious hammocks on the market, which retails at about $99 at REI.
What are your favorite travel accessories that help save money?