If you’re trying to save money on travel every single dollar counts, right? You can hone your flight finding abilities or plan an entire trip around an inexpensive country. But one of the best, and often times most overlooked, ways to save money on the road is by packing wisely and carefully choosing your travel gear.
That’s right, the right travel gear can help you see the world for less.
Follow my helpful packing tips and make sure your bag includes the following items to save money on airline-bag fees, laundry-service charges, and other expenses.
#1 Don’t Buy Cheap Luggage
It may seem counter intuitive but spend more money where it counts: Your luggage. Think about it, a $200 well-constructed, durable piece of luggage that lasts you 10 years is a better value than a $50 bag that falls apart after a couple of trips. Even if you promise to treat your luggage as delicately as possible the grounds crew at an airport may not.
Personally, I have used many different types of bags and nothing has come close to the durability of my Away Luggage. This bag has traveled with me over 3000 miles and been through some rough experiences but still manages to look clean and new. The zippers are sturdy, the bag itself is remarkably scratch-resistant, and the inside is easy to keep clean.
#2 Be Mindful of Weight Restrictions
Weight allowances (for any size bag) vary from airline to airline. Be sure to research your specific airline’s policies before you leave. If your bag is overweight, by even one pound, you may get stuck with a hefty fee.
I even suggest investing in a small luggage scale you can throw in your bag – Amazon has some for under $10. This travel gadget is especially useful when flying home, when your bag is weighed down with purchases and souvenirs. The last thing you want is to be awkwardly crouching on the airport floor taking items out of your bag one at a time trying to meet the weight requirements.
#3 Stick To a Carry-On
To avoid paying extra in fees (and save time) stick to a carry-on as much as possible. Now, I know, many airlines are adding a fee even for carry-ons but for now, the majority of airlines still allow overhead carry-ons to fly free.
A carry-on may be easiest to pack for a weekend trip but don’t rule out this size bag for longer trips. You may have to be more strategic, but it’s definitely not impossible to use a carry-on for longer trips. I’ve even used a carry-on for trips as long as month long!
Here are my best tips for packing using only a carry-on:
- Pack clothes that serve multiple purposes.
- For example, a maxi skirt can be used many different ways. Throw it over a swimsuit for a cute cover-up. Pair it with sneakers to explore a city on foot. Or even style it with a nice top and statement jewelry for a night out.
- Pack everything in the same color scheme.
- I’ll admit that I usually pack clothes in black, grey, and white because I don’t have the best fashion sense. But doing this means everything matches in my bag, no matter the combo.
- Roll your clothes to fit way more in your bag.
- Don’t forget you can do laundry on the road.
- In some countries, it only costs $1-2 a pound to get your laundry washed, pressed, and folded.
- If you’re in a more expensive country I suggest packing laundry soap sheets. A bathtub, or even sink, can become a quick place to wash your clothes while on the road.
#4 Don’t Buy Branded Travel-Size Products
The best way to save cash is to recognize when you are being ripped off. Branded travel-sized bottles are way overpriced. Even if you don’t go by a products price per ounce the actual cost comparison side by side is clear.
Buy a pack of travel-sized reusable bottles and fill them up with your products at home.
#5 Grab Free Sample-Size Containers
Bags quickly get weighed down once you start packing your makeup and toiletry items. This is why one of my biggest packing tips is asking your local MAC or Sephora for some empty sample containers. I simply tell them I am traveling soon and want to take my products with me – they are always more than happy to give me more than I need. I use them for moisturizer, cream foundation, or even hair gel.
#6 Stop and Think
Two things you should never do: Put off packing till the last minute and rush through it – you’re sure to forget things. One of the biggest money sucks when it comes to travel is forgetting essential items that seem like no-brainers. Why do you think all tropical destinations price sunscreen so high? Because they know you are going to forget it and then you have to pay this price.
If you stop and think while packing, or even suck up your pride and google a packing list you’ll be sure not to miss an item.
True Story: I recorded the accompanying video for this article on a Thursday and then the next day flew down to a beach in Florida to visit family. I didn’t pack sunglasses for myself or my husband. I’ve written multiple packing guides for beach vacations from Thailand to Mexico and can’t tell you how dumb I feel that I didn’t take my own advice. Moral of the story, don’t be like me. Google a packing list.
#7 Pack Food
In airport land, $5 for an untoasted bagel is a good deal. Plus, many airlines have even stopped handing out that ridiculously small bag of peanuts. Save your money and pack snacks and even a full meal to eat while traveling. I usually don’t leave home without at least a couple of RX bars in my bag.
#8 Don’t Forget That Water Bottle
Another thing that is stupid expensive in airports or on a plane is bottled water. Pack a durable water bottle for your bag and fill it up once you go through security. I love the Que collapsible water bottle since it saves room while empty.
Extra Pro Tip for Traveling in Expensive Countries
If I know I’m traveling to expensive countries I plan accordingly. Usually, I’ll be sure to book a hostel, hotel, or Airbnb with a kitchen. Making your own food on the road saves a ton of money. But then I take it a step further by packing meals from home into my luggage. Along with my normal snacks, like fruit and granola, I also pack staples like rice and pasta.
I used this trick while road tripping/camping in notoriously expensive Iceland. The price to check my bag was worth all the extra food I could bring with me. At the end of the day, my local Trader Joes has better prices than even the most discount supermarket there.
Hopefully, these tips help you save some money on your next trip and, of course, check out the video above for some more tips.