Budget and Sanity Travel Tips

1. Carry an empty water bottle with you. As you know, you may not carry liquids or more than 4 ounces through TSA security checkpoints in U.S. airports. But that doesn’t mean you cannot carry empty bottles, even those more capable of holding more than 4 ounces through these same checkpoints. So bring your favorite funky or classy, plastic or metal water bottle through the line. On the other side, fill up with tap water (yes, tap water is still fine to drink) or water from a restaurant soft drink fountain.2. Bring your own tea bags or drink mix packets/sachets. This is one of my favorite things to do because I think it’s so outrageous to pay over $2.00 for a single tea bag. Most time, a restaurant will no charge you for a cup of hot water. What they DO charge you for is the tea bag or the hot cocoa packet or coffee. So, with purpose and resolve, make your way to the counter of that ever-present fast food joint or cafe and ask for a cup of hot water. Then make your way out of the restaurant and drop into the cup your favorite Earl Grey packet or even Starbucks VIA instant coffee sachets. If bringing the VIA sachets, be sure to segregate them into the quart-size zipper baggy that you send through the TSA checkpoint.3. Bring your own pillow and blanket. Have you ever wondered if that pillow now snug up against your face was drooled on by the previous passenger who help your seat? Or did you ever think that maybe the blanket tucked under your chin was used as a towel to wipe the sweat from the previous ticket-holder’s brow or maybe even more odoriferous places on his body? Despite the effort that airlines have made in providing these amenities to passengers, I am grossed out by the prospect that pillows and blankets aren’t always cleaned between uses. With these disgusting thoughts in mind, I highly recommend two packable, lightweight, cozy items for the traveler: the Cocoon Coolmax Travel Blanket and the Cocoon Ultralite Aircore Travel Pillow. Both are very compact and the pillow can even by adjusted by inflating and deflating it.4. Bring along baby wipes. While not so much a travel tip that saves you bucks, this one can surely keep your frustrations in check. It’s not unusual while traveling to be in need of a quick clean up. What I’m talking about here is anything from wiping your hands after eating a sauce-laden sandwich to being stranded at the airport without any access to a shower, although your really, really need or want one! Baby wipes are a quick and convenient way to freshen up in the sense that a sponge bath does. And because baby wipes are intended to clean up some pretty messy situations, they seem to be really good at more adult messes such as food stains on clothing. And we know what an airline meal and turbulence can sometimes mean for food ending up on your clothes.5. Pack your own snacks. Don’t expect airline food to be healthy or cheap. These days, airline fare can cost your well over $10 for a semi-flavorful sandwich in-flight. And we all are familiar with the high prices in airports. So, don’t get stranded in this no-win situation. Pack your own nuts, cereal, dried fruit, sandwich, and even sushi. For finger-ready breakfast fare, bring Cheerios. If you prefer it with milk, you can always ask for some milk as the beverage cart makes it way down the aisle.6. Bring or wear socks when you arrive to the airport. Thanks to security procedures, many airports now require travelers to remove their footwear before passing through the security checkpoint. Being barefoot on such well-trodden floors isn’t my idea of cleanliness or even safety. So, I either be sure to wear socks or bring them with me and slip them on as I remove my sandals. Socks are also good to keep with you in your carry on as flights are sometimes chilling to the toes.7. Take the time to make a thorough visible check of your rental car when you first pick it up. All rental companies give you a portfolio with a bare-boned diagram of a car. Be sure to use that to inspect your rental car inside and out and make note of any scratches, dents, dings, and accessories in disrepair. If you are unable to see your rental car clearly – say it is nighttime or rainy when you arrive – ask where you can bring the car to a more lighted area. Additionally, you should use a digital camera or your camera phone to visually record any damage to your rental car. If any damage is not noted and communicated to the rental company before your drive off the light, you run the risk of being liable for the damage.8. Bring ear plugs. I can’t list the myriad of reasons why these little foam gems can be a way of keeping one’s sanity while traveling. I’ve often been the unlucky row-mate of crying babies, loud conversations, and even screaming earphones from the passenger next to me blaring the headsets so that she can hear the dialogue from the in-flight movie. I bring a few sets just in case I lose them, too. Oftentimes, I use them to muffle the sounds of the plane just enough to be a lull that helps me get a couple of hours of sleep on the plane. And at my destination hotel, they sometimes come in handy to muffle the sounds of a loud room air conditioner or heater or even the loud snores from the neighboring room.9. Pack underwear and other small items in zip-top plastic bags. I am a great believer in zip-top bags to hold my intimates and bathing suit (separately). It hasn’t ever happened to me, thank goodness, but I have seen luggage burst open on the carousel for arriving passengers. Unfortunately, this means articles of clothing all over the place – pants, shirts, dresses, and yes, underwear! Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep undies all in the same portable location. For more normal and usual travel, zip-top plastic bags allow you to see the contents and slip the bags around to little nooks and crannies in your luggage for especially efficient packing.