5 Suitcase Essentials that Save Money on Every Trip

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Travel isn't cheap, but these 5 suitcase essentials save you a ton of money just by bringing them along!

Joseph and I both LOVE to travel. The anticipation of new places and opportunities is far too tempting for us not to make Travel a part of our budget just as much as weekly groceries and gas money.

In fact, we just came back from a super fun road trip in late July, only to spend this coming weekend in Miami as part of a blogging campaign with Marriott. Then I’m doing a quick three day turn-around and headed back North for a wedding. Can you say crazy?

I think I might just be ready to stay home and hibernate for a little bit.

But as I planned and prepped for each trip, I was reminded again how quickly expenses add up out there on the road. Fast-food stops, extra gas receipts, hotel accommodations, and airfare, can turn a few fun-filled days into a full-blown spending excursion. Travel is not cheap!

Although it might seem like the best deals are found during the researching and booking stage, I’ve found some pretty awesome savings opportunities in each of the specific items I take with me. These five are my absolute favorites to pack, and not only are they fun and functional, they save me a ton of money too.

1. eReader/Magazines

5 Suitcase Essentials that Save Money on Every Trip | Creative Savings

Books and magazines are my weakness, so I am never in short supply when it comes to reading material on a plane or in the car. One of the reasons I love my Kindle is because I can take hundreds of books on one device!

If you’re a book lover too, you know how easy it is for hardcovers and paperbacks to quickly add extra weight to your suitcase {which could result in nasty fees}. Plus, those terminal magazine racks sport such outrageous cover prices that I always try to bring some magazines with me from home. I have a ton from freebie subscription offers!

If you need any ideas for what to read, here are my favorite places to find thousands of FREE books.

2. Water Bottles

I try to be super conscious about buying plastic water bottles when we have so many reusable ones at home, but for road trips, I don’t mind splurging on a 24-pack before we go. This cuts down on the temptation to pick up drinks at a gas station or run through a drive-thru, which saves time and money.

I know we could save even more if we brought our own water bottles {and we do usually bring one or two}, but you can’t always guarantee the water will be any good at rest stops. I’d rather not take any chances!

As for flying, I highly suggest bringing an empty water bottle that you can fill up at a drinking fountain or in the bathroom once you pass security. The air conditioning always seems to make me thirsty, and you can save a couple bucks by avoiding overpriced airport shops.

3. Ziploc Bags

I am a huge fan of Ziploc bags. Not only do they act as compression bags to help stuff clothes into a carry-on {which saves on checked luggage fees!}, they also keep all my toiletries from leaking and making a huge mess during transportation. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a lotion bottle burst, but it isn’t pretty!

Plus, they are great organizing tools to separate out snacks, medicine, and other little odds and ends that you don’t want floating around in your suitcase.

5 Suitcase Essentials that Save Money on Every Trip | Creative Savings

4. Snacks and Sandwiches

It never ceases to amaze me how many strange looks I get whenever I pull out a squished PB&J sandwich to eat at the airport, but it’s certainly not enough for me to stop doing it. Restaurants think they can charge an exorbitant amount for food just because you’re “trapped” in the terminal, and it really really annoys me. The food doesn’t taste that good either!

For snacks, I like to bring my own trail mix that I’ve put together at home – usually just M&M’s and peanuts since I have an aversion to raisins. And granola bars are perfect to fit into small carry-ons and purses.

If you’re taking a road trip and have room for a cooler, sandwich fixings and breakfast bars save you from paying for two meals each day, and keep your tummy from getting sick on too much fried food!

5. Layered Clothing

5 Suitcase Essentials that Save Money on Every Trip | Creative Savings

There used to be a time when I was not prepared for the cold air conditioning of the airports, or didn’t pack enough warm clothing for colder climates. This had me constantly running to the nearest Target to pick up a comfy sweatshirt or cardigan, which costs between $20-30 dollars depending on the quality.

I make sure I always take a light sweater wherever I go, so I’m never caught unprepared. I also make sure to take clothes that layer really well – tees and tanks, cardigans, and pullovers. I don’t know about you, but this Florida girl cannot stand being cold!

These suitcase essentials are what I take on every single trip, and have saved me from so many unexpected (and unnecessary) purchases. Because when you learn to manage money better, even your travel money, it allows you to do more of what you love!

So put all five of these essentials on your packing checklist next time you book a flight or prep for a family vacation, and see how much money YOU save!

What is one travel essential you can’t live without?

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  1. Dollar store rain ponchos! They are compact and light, and will save you from getting completely drenched.

  2. On my rental car trips in the US I bought gallon containers of water that stayed in the trunk from which I refilled my reusable water bottles. Same for loafs of bread, bag of apples

  3. DH and I have food allergies. Cheating has landed me in ER several times ruining our vacation. I’ve since learned to keep raw apples and walnuts with me. They taste great together and make a great meal replacement. Compared to the cost of a drive-thru, airport food, etc., they are a great bargin for anybody.

    If you have allergies, think of a food combo that will work for you that combines fat, carbs and protein in roughly equal amounts. Even carrying a great protein shake in envelopes (Raw Fit is our favorite) will save you money over eating out.

  4. I travel a lot for work and I have created my own list of airport must-haves:

    – Kindle with light attachment
    – Ipod with noise cancelling headphones for take off when the entertainment system isn’t working yet and I don’t want to listen to the flight attendants
    – Small earbuds for when the noise cancelling headphones get too heavy and uncomfortable
    – Small travel blanket
    – Compression socks
    – Flip flops if I am flying into a tropical climate
    – Some kind of smelly lotion or essential oil if there are stinky people around
    – Infinity scarf to cover my face if there is a really stinky person around – they are out there!
    – Benadryl to help me sleep if the flight is 8 or more hours
    – Pen – they never hand out pens for the customs form and i always have to share mine
    – Fragrance free personal wipes If my travel day is super long with layovers
    – I remove my contacts if the flight is over 8 hours long, so i have solution, a contact case and my glasses
    – Adult coloring book and markers if i have several short flights with layovers in between

    I also put a lot of thought into what I am wearing for airport travel. I start by picking out my two favorite pairs of undies – the most comfortable ones – and I wear them for my two airport days. Then you have to pick out pants. Something that is stretchy and warm – i usually go with thick black leggings. Then I layer on a tank – no bra for airport traveling – and then my favorite sweater dress, or a long flannel with a puffy vest layered on top. The only thing to remember is that if you are wearing leggings, you should cover your bum – which is just a good rule for life. And if my travel destination is cold, I love to wear a long pea coat over my travel clothes – because then it doesn’t even matter what I wear!

  5. For car trips I carry a gallon jug of water that I refill from my kitchen filter. Perfect for refilling my reusable water bottle!

  6. Sounds like you and I pack the same way, as I also bring all these things! (I also agree with all the other commenters so far, as I also find things like hand sanitizer, chapstick, and tea tree oil to be amazing.) On my last trip I was gone for three months, so I brought a little container of condensed homemade powder laundry detergent. Most of the time I washed my clothes in a sink instead of at a laundromat (it was just easier that way), so this ensured that I always had a cleaning agent. Of course this item went well with my braided latex laundry line!

  7. For a trip for a week or more; I take trash bags for dirty clothes and my laundry stuff. Zip lock bags are your best friend when traveling.

    1. Totally agree, Stephanie! Trash bags for dirty clothes are great! Sometimes I try to get by with the bags provided by hotels but it seems like they get stretch out and get holes in them when you throw in your first piece of dirty laundry.

  8. Ziplock bags!!

    When flying back from the northeast years ago, airport security singled me out for the more intensive screening. At a table in plain view of 100’s of passengers (who ALL ended up looking over), the guard reached into my suitcase, grabbed the first item at hand and held it up in the light for scrutiny. It was a pair of my giant dirty undies . So embarrassing.

    Now I roll them into tiny tube shapes (the way they come in commercial packaging at chain stores) and stash into a ziplock bag for packing. I *also* take a couple extra empty bags to stash the worn bloomers during the trip. Sounds odd, but it’s nice to keep things separated.

    1. Oh my goodness, Susanne! Sometimes I wonder if the TSA gets a year end bonus for how many people they embarrass. That’s such a great idea to keep things neat and together. Hopefully your next TSA agent doesn’t decide that he also wants to search each individual Ziplock bag!

  9. so, did you ever have a problem with your empty waterbottle at security on the airport?
    i suppose its a 500ml bottle or so and i would not want to risk security taking it away from me..
    thanks for the great list,

    1. No, they didn’t, but it was also a disposable water bottle, so if they did ever decide to take it away, then I wouldn’t be too upset!

      1. I hand carry my daily water bottle through security EMPTY and fill it in the airport terminal. There are lots of water fountains, even some bottle filler stands once you get past security.

  10. My “In a pickle”… I have scissors, medicines, hair musthaves, floss, mirror, just all the things you might need if you get in a pickle!

  11. These are great! I also always opt to bring antibacterial sanitizer gel, room freshener spray, and my own antibacterial soap dispenser for hand washing! I know, I know.. I sound insanely OCD but it’s a necessity for me! Water bottles are always a must. Gotta stay hydrated out there! Lovely post, Kalyn!

    1. Haha – I completely understand where you are coming from! Hand sanitizer often finds a way into my purse and suitcase as well. πŸ˜‰

  12. my travel essential is tea tree oil. warning: you have to make sure you’re not allergic to it, as many people commonly are. IF you’re lucky enough not to be you can use it SO many ways when traveling.

    The first is to rub a drop right under your nose, it’s antiseptic properties keep germs from getting into your system thanks to the recycled air on airplanes. It’s also a great add in to shampoo for dandruff, to toner/cleanser after washing your face, or to inhale if you happen to get a cold on your trip.

    1. This is such a great tip! I always get nervous that I’m going to catch something on an airplane and get sick, especially since it’s such a small confined space!

  13. Great ideas! I use these also, but my favorite tip is to pack light and wash laundry. This saves money for those luggage fees for airlines and saves your back from schlepping things all over!

    I’m going to link this on my website where I write about traveling with the kids and learning along the way. I would love a shout out from you!

    Thanks for sharing the great tips.
    Natalie, The Educational Tourist

  14. Well, my Kindle for sure. It looks like you have the smaller Fire? I do too but then bought the paperwhite for reading exclusively, and absolutely love it. (Gave the Fire to hubby)

    Food? Yep! But then I’m known to take snacks and a small ice chest anytime I leave my home to go to “town” (Austin 35minutes away)

    I also take:
    workout gloves
    tinted chapstick
    deck of cards

    darlene πŸ™‚

    1. I actually have the older Kindle {2nd edition I think?} I’d like to get the paperwhite eventually, but the frugal side of me says my old one is working just fine!

  15. I think it is so funny that you wrote about eating PB & J in the airport because all last week when we were on vacation camping at the EAA AirVenture show I literally got up every morning and packed PB & J sandwiches, chips, apples and granola bars. When I got hungry, I sat down in the shade and ate my sandwich while I watched hundreds of people spend 30 minutes waiting in line to pay outrageous amounts of money for greasy, mass produced food. I know some people were looking at me kind of strange but I was happy and came out with $350 left in my vacation budget. Great tips!

  16. When we travel we bring our own water bottles too, plastic and stainless steel, but I freeze many of them ahead of time so not only do we have fresh water on the way, but cold water. About the only time I buy soda is before we travel for a special treat. I buy the small bottle size–two reasons–they don’t need that much (usually the kids share 1), and also they come with a screw on lid so the whole soda doesn’t have to be drank in one sitting. I clean these well, then fill with my filtered water and freeze. These bottles make great ice packs for the cooler and gives us cold water to drink throughout the trip. This summer we took a 9 day road trip. One cooler was just water/ice bottles with sandwich fixings. (I did buy one bag of ice from the store before we left as it was a long trip.) Everything stayed real cold/frozen until day 8. We didn’t have to worry about water until the last day. We got some store bought water bottles at that point and made it home. I agree with you on all the other suggestions too. We always bring our own food and snacks when we travel as it is a great time, money, and health saver. We usually try to find a Chinese restaurant for our one meal we buy and order off the menu–better choices and can usually bring something back to the hotel to supplement breakfast and/or lunch the next day. And ziploc bags are the best for just about everything.

    1. I didn’t even think of freezing water bottles, but you’re right, they are perfect for ice packs AND cold drinks! Thanks for sharing these tips!

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