14 Inexpensive & Essential Items to Bring on Your Trip

These items should make your trip smoother and more comfortable without breaking your travel budget.

Packing for a trip can feel like playing Tetris, trying to squeeze irregular shapes into a carry-on so you can avoid luggage fees.

Just like some shapes are more useful (the ‘I’) than others (those stupid, blocky ‘S’ and ‘Z’ shapes), there are a few mission-critical items that will make your next trip smoother and more comfortable.

Luckily, many of these items are also affordable and won’t hamper your travel budget too much. Here are a few things to make sure to bring on your trip.

1. Luggage Tags

Luggage tags are easy to overlook, but they become very useful when disaster strikes and your luggage goes missing. A luggage tag can then fulfill its purpose of helping whomever finds your bag get it back to you. Some luggage tags can let you store your information in a QR code, but any tag with space for your contact information should suffice.

2. Flip Flops

The ultimate portable footwear for breezing through airport security, protecting your feet from a dingy bathroom or lounging around a hotel room, flip flops are also dirt-cheap. Old Navy sells flip flops for $5 or less a pair, as one example.

3. Detergent

If you’re truly committed to packing light, you’ll want to do some laundry during your trip. If you’re traveling through airport security, you’ll only be able to carry a bottle of 3.4 ounces or less, per Transportation Security Administration Rules. There are a few options, though, including Tide travel sink packets, which contain enough detergent for a sink full of laundry ($1.39 a packet at Bed, Bath & Beyond), and Travelon biodegradable laundry soap sheets (50 sheets for $6.90 from Jet.)

4. Clothesline

How to dry those wet clothes? A good travel clothesline has loops or suction cups to secure it at either end. It should also be made of braided rope so you can hook your clothes to it without clothespins. You can find travel clotheslines at REI for around $10.

5. Toiletry Bottles

As we mentioned before, TSA only allows you to take liquid containers up to 3.4 ounces through security. You can re-use travel-sized versions of your shampoo, soap or lotion (or reuse hotel product bottles), or you can buy some sturdy travel bottles. Samsonite sells a six-piece bottle set with spray, pump and pour tops for $10, while Walmart carries a four-pack of iGo travel bottles for $2.94.

6. Toiletry Bag

A toiletry bag is one of the more expensive items on this list — L.L Bean sells a small bag for $24.95, while Samsonite’s version is $22 at Macy’s — but it just makes sense to have something separating your toothbrush and other toiletries from your underwear. Some of them can even be hung over a shower rod, towel rack or door handle, making your morning routine while traveling that much easier. A separate bag will make your essentials easier to find on the go. A good toiletry bag should be slim, organized and durable.

7. Neck Pillow

Unless you’re flying first class, any long trip will require you to get your beauty rest while sitting almost upright in a cramped space. A neck pillow can provide some small comfort during this trying time. Bed Bath & Beyond carries a Memory Foam neck pillow for $15.99. For those truly committed to saving space in luggage, REI sells an inflatable pillow for $19.50.

8. Earplugs

Babies: Adorable right? Just wait until you’re on a long flight with a bundle of joy screaming directly into your ear the whole time. Secure yourself some peace with a solid pair of earplugs. Look for a pair that not only reduces the decibel level but also feels comfortable. Target sells Mack’s earplugs in a package of 50 for $9.99, though fancier earplugs are sold elsewhere.

9. Sleep Mask

On long trips you may have to try to get sleep while it’s still light out (or while your neighbor reads for hours on end). A good sleep mask can clear all those distractions, leaving nothing but rest-inducing darkness. Walmart sells sleep masks for as little as $3.99.

10. Plug Adapter Set

For some reason the rest of the world won’t submit to the American standard on electrical plugs. Until they come around to us being right, you’ll need a plug adapter to keep your electronics whirring on your international adventure. You can buy an individual adapter for your destination, but plug adapter sets or all-in-ones are affordable and you only have to buy one once. Walmart carries a Travel Smart plug adapter set for $9.99.

11. USB Battery Pack

If you’re using your phone regularly to navigate and look up fun things to do during your trip, you may end up needing more than one charge a day. In that case, be sure to carry a USB battery pack to keep your device powered on. Battery packs come in a variety of sizes and capacities depending on how much power and portability you need, and they usually go for $15 and up.

12. Travel Credit Card

Make sure you’re carrying the right plastic. A good travel credit card should reward you on your purchases but also not charge foreign transaction fees and provide travel protections like trip cancellation or interruption insurance and baggage delay insurance. Some cards will also get you free Wi-Fi on your plane or grant you access to swanky airport lounges.  We rounded up a few travel rewards card choices here.

The best cards also, however, require a good to excellent credit score. Before applying, it’s a good idea to check two of your scores for free on Credit.com to see whether you can qualify.

13. Reusable Water Bottle

Why pay for something you can get for free? As we said before, the TSA won’t let you pass through security with a fully loaded water bottle, but once you’re cleared you can head to your nearest water fountain and fill up for free rather than paying out the nose for a plastic bottle. Reusable bottles can be ridiculously cheap; heck, you can just reuse one you’ve already drained, but a sturdier metal bottle may last longer.

14. Notebook

Maybe I’m a biased writer, but I find it’s helpful to have a place to jot down anything I need to remember, whether it’s directions, places I need to visit or stray observations about the place I’m visiting. Of course, you can use your phone, but I find I retain things better when I rely on good old pen and paper.

Note: It’s important to remember that prices for products and services frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms cited in this article may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with the company directly.

Image: beer5020

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12 Ways to Keep a Big Move From Breaking Your Budget

Moving is annoying, sweaty and expensive. Here are ways to at least make it easier on your budget.

I moved across the hall two summers ago. My girlfriend and I were moving to a larger apartment in the same building, one that could fit two adult human beings better than the tiny Fortress of Solitude I had selected while I was still single.

I hate moving. It’s annoying, sweaty and expensive. The word “moving” vastly undersells the actual act. It’s easy to move. Lift a finger, take a step; you’ve moved. It’s not so easy to account for all of your possessions, pack them in an organized way, transport them safely, then unpack and rearrange them in a new setting, all on a budget.

But I thought moving across a hallway would be easy. While it was certainly easier than having to move to a different building, it was still annoying, still sweaty and still expensive.

I learned a valuable lesson: Moving is terrible, always. Having a plan can make it less so. Here are a few tips that may help you save on your next move and make it less stressful, even if you’re going farther than across the hall.

1. Get Rid of Stuff

There’s no point moving stuff you don’t even want. Try to sell excess furniture, especially larger items, online or to your friends or co-workers, said Ali Wenzke, founder of The Art of Happy Moving blog.

You can list items on sites like Craigslist, NextDoor or Facebook. This way you can get potential buyers to haul away your stuff for you.

Many charitable organizations will take smaller items like clothing, Wenzke said. Keep your receipt so you can write off the donation come tax time.

2. Get Free Boxes

The price of packing supplies can add up. Luckily, you can get free boxes if you just ask.

While many retailers will have spare boxes, furniture stores tend to have a good range of sizes, saidSam Radbil Sr., communications manager for ABODO Apartments, an online apartment marketplace. It’s a good idea to call stores at least a week before you need the boxes, since they may not get rid of boxes every day.

You can also ask friends who have recently moved if you can have their old boxes.

3. Label Everything

If you lose a sock every time you do your laundry, you will likely misplace one or two things when transporting everything you own. Labeling all your boxes appropriately can help keep your valuables from disappearing into the moving ether.

Radbil suggests labeling boxes by room.

“If you want to get really technical about it, even label exactly what objects are contained in the box,” he said. “This will also help you prioritize what boxes to unpack.”

4. Conserve Bubble Wrap (& Other Packing Tips)

A few stray packing tips from Garrett O’Shea, president of PockitShip, an on-demand shipping company: Wrap dishes in your clothing, rather than buying bubble wrap. Put paper or Styrofoam plates in between breakable plates. Put heavy items, like books, in suitcases. Pack essentials last, so they go on top of other items and you can grab them easily.

5. Decide Whether to Hire Movers

This decision boils down to time, ability and cost, said Leigh Meadows-McAlpin, owner of Dwelling, an interior design firm in South Carolina. Meadows-McAlpin frequently discusses the logistics of moving with her clients.

Moving on your own requires time to sort, pack, load and unload, as well as rent and return a truck. You also need the muscle, or friends and family who have the muscle, to pack and load everything. On the other hand, the cost of labor for you and your friends is usually no more than pizza, beers and gratitude.

“As the saying goes, time is money, and if you don’t have the time or ability to move yourself, you should consider spending the money to hire movers,” Meadows-McAlpin said.

6. How to Pick a Mover

The American Moving and Storage Association website is a good place to start, Wenzke of The Art of Happy Moving said. If you can’t find a mover in your area on the site, try searching the sites of their state associations. All the movers listed are vetted by the association and licensed.

“I recommend getting at least three in-person quotes from at least three different moving companies before choosing a mover,” Wenzke said.

An in-person quote should be more reliable and will give you a better feel for the company, Wenzke said. Be sure to ask about equipment, rates, how they handle parking restrictions with their trucks and if they outsource moves to a third party. Also make sure they have proper insurance — stuff happens.

Double-check reviews on Yelp, Angie’s List and other sites before hiring, she added.

Another good place to look is the Move for Hunger website, Wenzke said. The companies there are also vetted and pack up unopened, nonperishable food to donate to a local food bank at no additional cost.

7. Make a Moving Budget

Once you have a few quotes, you can put together a budget of how much the move will cost. Be sure to plan for unexpected expenses and any additional furniture you’ll need if your new place is bigger.

Factor in how much stuff you have and how much time you’ll need since movers usually charge an hourly rate.

“Small moves can start as little as $200 and go all the way into the thousands,” O’Shea said.

Make sure your wallet and your credit can handle the expense. You can get a snapshot of your credit report for free on Credit.com, and see whether you could — or should — get a credit card before your move. (Remember, while credit cards can serve as a great source of liquidity, that available limit isn’t license to overspend.)

8. How to Rent a Truck

If you decide to go it alone, you’ll likely need a bigger set of wheels. Your couch will likely not fit in your hatchback. (Looking for a new car? Follow these steps to save.)

When evaluating a truck rental, be sure to look at mileage costs, the cost of the truck, pickup and drop-off locations and any available discounts, Radbil, of ABODO, said. Remember to reserve a truck in advance as well.

9. Pick a Climate-Controlled Storage Facility

If for some reason you won’t be able to move your stuff to your new place right away, Meadows-McAlpin suggested keeping it in a climate-controlled storage facility. Otherwise heat, moisture and cold can cause mildew, rust and other damage to belongings.

“As a designer, I’ve had to have our workrooms repair or replace furnishings damaged in storage many times, and most of those damages could have been avoided if the clients had simply opted for a client-controlled space,” she said.

10. Report Your Change of Address

Moving is expensive enough, so you don’t want to add to your costs by falling behind on bills because they don’t get delivered to the right place. Luckily, changing your address is as simple as filling out a form on the U.S. Postal Service website.

11. Transfer Utilities

This can be easy to forget in the chaos of a move, but make sure the lights will be on for you when you get to your new home and that you stop paying for utilities once you leave your old home. When I moved into my first apartment after college, I did not plan ahead and had no lights or internet for the first few days. It was a pretty depressing way to start a new chapter of life.

Most utilities have user-friendly websites that allow you to do start and stop service, but otherwise calling ahead of the move can ensure that your new home is fully ready for you. (Once you’re settled, see how to save on your electric bill.)

12. Deduct Moving Expenses

If your move is work-related, you can deduct your moving expenses from your taxes if you meet certain conditions. The move qualifies if your new workplace is 50 miles farther from your old home than your old job location was from your old home, according to the IRS.

If you had no prior workplace, the new job location must be 50 miles from your old home. You must also work at least 39 weeks in the year following the move.

So to make your move pay, be sure to save your receipts for tax time.

Getting ready to move out of the dorm? Here’s 19 mistakes college grads make when finding their first apartment you’ll want to avoid.

Image: monkeybusinessimages

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