Business became brisk at a theme park gift store, when rain led to a flood of shoppers seeking plastic ponchos for $6 each. But we pulled out a private stash of clear plastic ponchos from a dollar store.
Practical but frugal travel gear can be purchased for as little as 20 cents an item. We pick up inexpensive travel items by using the following retail options:
Hardware stores: Key labels — the small tags used to identify different keys — also make affordable luggage identification tags for about 20 cents each. Hardware stores also sell s-shaped metal hooks, which can be hung over restroom stall walls or hostel doorknobs to create extra storage or hanging space in tight spots. Stock up on padlocks to secure international train lockers and hotel rooms in exotic locations. Power chord adapters with numerous plug options are helpful when you need to charge cell phones, lap tops and other devices in airports.
Beauty supply chains: Travel-sized cosmetics and personal care products are available for discount prices at beauty supply stores. Small tins of bobby pins, compact universal sharpeners for makeup pencils and travel-friendly four-way nail buffers are sold at Sally's Beauty Supply store. Miniature nail brushes can be used for grooming or washing socks in the shower on long-term adventure vacations. Some drugstore chains sell small containers of shampoo, mouthwash, cotton swabs and travel items for $1 each. Purchase super-sized versions of those products to refill smaller containers before each trip.
Thrift and dollar stores: Lightweight ponchos, umbrellas, mesh organizing bags and eyeglass repair kits are available at dollar store chains. For a buck, we found two-packs of rubber door stoppers, which can provide additional room security in hostels, motels and hotels. Simply wedge the door stop under the door from the inside for extra security while you sleep. For camping trips, we have purchased gas, candle and oil lanterns at thrift stores, which also sell Swiss knives and other camping supplies at low prices. Second-hand stores and consignment shops also offer sports equipment and ski-clothing in excellent condition.
Discount chains: Portable sandwich grills — great for camping or hotel rooms — are sold at discount chains. At big box stores, we purchase snacks, personal grooming items, airline-approved liquid containers and vehicle organizers for road trips. Look for multi-purpose tote purses with padded middle pockets for travel laptops and space for a smart phone.