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Everyone who travels needs to be prepared but budget travellers even more so! We avoid extra fees by taking everything we need with us and knowing what to leave behind.
We here at Budget Breaks are definitely "less is more" when it comes to travel and in our lives! I often think the best purchase is the one you didn't make. It's more affordable and sustainable. We try to make each purchase an investment that will last for years, so if any of these accessories seem expensive, remember that will be used for a very long time. When we started traveling we had no idea what to expect and after the last 10 years of travelling (5 for Nick!), we've narrowed down our list to 12 travel accessories we can't live without:
2. Travel-sized containers
Another really affordable investment are reusable travel containers. In our ultimate guide to sustainability we talked about how much more expensive travel-sized products can be. In a test, we found that travel-sized toothpaste was 6x more expensive then the regular sized. We also found that when we bought travel-sized, we would save them to our next trip and they would often expire before we finished them. Not a great investment! Buying reusable travel-sized containers is not only cheaper but you can bring your favourite products with you. We prefer soap and shampoo bars (Lush sells great ones!), because they are cheaper, last longer and of course don't count as a liquid (no spills!). Be sure to keep all liquids under 100 ml and don't exceed a total of one litre combined, otherwise it will be discarded at the airport! Don't forget to put them in a Ziploc style sandwich bag before you leave for the airport. I'll never forget the time I had them in a clear zip up bag and they told me to buy one Ziploc bag for a pound or I wouldn't be let through (Thanks Luton airport!).
Pro Tip: Bring a small container of laundry powder to wash your clothes at a laundromat or in the sink on longer trips.
3. Microfiber towel
If you are staying in hostels or airbnbs, you'll find there are sometimes no towels or you need to pay for them. A budget friendly way to travel is also spending a lot of time at the beach. We always bring a microfiber towel when we travel because they fold up small, are lightweight and dry quickly. We love the Chawel which also doubles as a changing room (you have no idea how many times that's come in handy!) and I even used it as a blanket on a long flight. If you are looking for something a little smaller, we also use this one from Mountain Warehouse.
We've learnt to never put away these towels wet or they will stink! It takes them up to 45 minutes to dry so make sure you give them time and always check the amenities section on your airbnb so there are no surprises when you arrive (many times private rooms will not offer towels).
An Amsterdam hostel with a hen party group coming in at 3:00 am, construction right outside your bedroom window in Paris at 6:00 am, the St. Pauls Cathedral bell chiming every hour through the night or perhaps even a moose calling outside your tent in Canada... Welcome to our life as budget travellers! Earplugs are a must when we travel. You do not want to have your trip ruined by a bad sleep.
We've tried many types of sleeping earplugs over the years and found that it all depends on your needs.
The moldable earplugs are perfect if traditional earplugs hurt your ears because they are molded to the outside or bowl of the ear. They are made from soft wax with cotton or silicone. However, I found this type fell out often during the night and I gave up on them. Maybe you will have better luck!
Reusable earplugs are usually made from plastic or silicone and vary a lot in their ratings. I wanted to love these because they are a one time purchase. It's more sustainable and affordable and I don't need to worry about remembering to buy them for a holiday. But I found they hurt after repeated use. Perhaps I have small ears!
Our favourite are the disposable foam earplugs with the highest NRR of 33 decibels (db). They keep the sound out without falling out (often) or hurting our ears. Manufacturers say they are good for one or two uses before the rating goes down but we have used one pair for up to two weeks and found they still work as long as you store them in a case to keep them clean. When they lose their elasticity or get dirty, it's time to chuck them. If you do find they fall out or you are still waking up, you can combine these with earmuffs or a headband to bring the NRR to 36 db.
Not matter what type of earplug you choose, for a light sleeper like me, I'd recommend NRR's between 31 and 33 decibels.
6. Dry bags and/or rain cover
If you have ever traveled to somewhere like the UK or pacific northwest, you know it can and will rain at the most inconvenient times... In the middle of hike maybe? Or right after you get off the bus? We bring dry bags on every trip! They are essentially just a waterproof bag that is folded several times to prevent water coming in from the opening. They are relatively inexpensive and we use them for our camera and lens as well as our phones and extra socks! I've even used them the reverse way to stop a wet bikini and towel from getting the rest of my bag wet. They are available at outdoor stores and come in many different sizes, we've got ones that have lasted the test of time from Mountain Warehouse and MEC. A rain cover is a waterproof bag for your bag (see photo below). It perfect for keeping everything dry on a rainy day. We use as an extra to keep everything we brought from getting wet, such as clothes and snacks. However, the backpack can sometimes leak from the part up against your back in heavy rains. These also come in different sizes and get folded into a small bag when you don't need them. I've had this one from MEC and it still works years later.
Dry bags and rain covers are an easy way to prevent hundreds of dollars worth of damage from broken phones to cameras. If you don't travel very often, it might be more economical to use a plastic bag. We travel a lot and I don't want to worry about the bag ripping during a hike or a rainy day in the UK. If you are planning to kayak or do an activity where your things could get fully submerged, we have also have a floating PVC dry bag from eBay.
7. Universal adapter
Adapter's are a necessity of travelling in the modern age. We've had a universal adapter from Amazon for years. Our favourite features are the usb outlets that allow us to charge both of our phones and a laptop at the same time, so we don't waste time in our room instead of exploring. Universal adapters like this are especially convenient compared to older styles that required the plugs to be changed each time you went to a new socket location. I, for one, always lost the attachments. This all in one style is hassle free and easy to throw in your bag before you leave.
It is the norm for hostels to have storage spots that do not come with a lock. We have also stayed in airbnbs with no lock on the door. One airbnb in Barcelona had large signs on the door saying they were not responsible for theft when there was no lock on the door and yet, the only other people living there were the hosts... Sketchy right? A standard TSA approved lock is perfect on hostel lockers and your backpack zippers to keep your belongings safe when you're in an airbnb or even on the plane.
9. Noise-cancelling earbuds
Earbuds are a must for travel. Planes, trains and buses are all loud and you don't want to end up listening to someone else's long conversation or a baby crying on your flight. We added this in as one our must have's because we have forgotten our earbuds on one or two trips and it sucks! You can't watch that Netflix show you downloaded for the train or you'll risk angering other passengers. The time seems to pass so much slower when you can't tune out the world and get lost in a show or music. Look for ANC (active noise cancelling) earbuds that have a noise reduction rating (NRR) to block out environmental noises while you travel.
Pro tip: we very seldom solo travel these days and whether just as a couple or with friends, a headphone splitter really comes in handy. It's so much easier to have two sets of headphones then trying to awkwardly share while you watch a Netflix show.
10. Phone (and these apps!)
Of course you'll have phone with you so why is this on the list? Because travelling with a phone can save or cost you depending on how you use it travelling! Take advantage of free WiFi anywhere from airports to coffee shops and fight the urge to buy international data charges by getting a free WiFi finder app that is specifically for the country you are visiting. Download maps before you go so that you'll never get lost when you travel. Google Maps has an easy guide on how to download maps for offline use. If you are travelling to country where you cannot speak the language, look for offline translator apps. For example, Pleco is an amazing translator that can be used without internet in China. Download a lost phone app that you can log in to from your laptop or even your friends phone, just in case.
Ryanair, among others, charges an outrageous fee for not having your ticket ready at the airport but you can only check-in 24 hours before departure. Get an e-ticket on your phone to save you the hassle and expense. Many attractions offer discounted online tickets and at the very least, you can skip the ticket lines! All and all, phones have changed travel significantly in the last few years and now we can't imagine travelling without them.
Pro tip: Use your calculator app to haggle prices in countries where you cannot communicate. We did this in China to save money on purchases!
12. Local currency, international money card and a credit card (just in case!)
We always take out currency before we head to the airport. Airport currency exchanges are known to have terrible rates. An international money card is also an option, such as the TUI Travel Money Card, for those who are worried about getting their cash stolen. I like having the cash, it gives me a better idea of how I can stay on budget for the trip and unlike the travel card, there will never be a problem where it isn't accepted or doesn't work. Never use your debit card abroad unless you have pre-arranged it with your bank at home. The charges are exceedingly high per transaction. I also have an emergency credit card, in case we miss our flight or encounter another high cost. Open a credit card account that gives you a welcome bonus in aeroplan rewards for extra savings.
Bonus: Printed copies of your passport and itinerary
If you lose your bus ticket or your phone ticket won't load, it's always a good idea to have a printed copy of tickets, reservation numbers and travel times to save you money. Losing your passport can be stressful and it will help authorities, as well as your embassy, if you have a copy of your passports photo ID page.
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no extra cost to you we receive compensation if you decide to click through and make a purchase.
It can be difficult to pack for your holiday. You don't want to be uncomfortable or stress about what to wear, travel is supposed to be fun after all! So we've got some tips on how to pack clothes like a pro and avoid clothing disasters on your holiday. Consider asking yourself these 11 questions before you pack that piece:
1. Is it versatile?
When you are exploring, you'll be probably go through a number of different environments throughout the day. Maybe a temple in the morning, a waterfall in the afternoon then dinner and drinks in the evening. There's no time to head back to your accommodation on many days traveling. This means what you're wearing will need to be versatile. A lightweight blouse or a maxi skirt are perfect for this kind of day and will leave you cool and comfortable. Going somewhere cold? A nice sweater and jeans are universally appropriate.
3. Is it wrinkle-free?
Most problems on holiday are encountered by wearing the wrong fabrics. Learning about the pros and cons of fabrics is a great way to get the most out of your clothing and your money. A quick look at the label when you're packing is a good idea. Linen is a natural fabric, extremely lightweight and breathable but it wrinkles like crazy! Same goes for silk and viscose/rayon. However, this doesn't mean you need to avoid these fabrics all together. Many companies will blend them with other fabrics to cut down on wrinkles. Polyester is great because its durable, doesn't lose its shape or wrinkle but it can make you sweat and has been considered an environmentally unfriendly material when compared to natural fibers. However, they do have a longer active life than most garments and fortunately, many companies have started recycling polyester fabrics, making them a more viable option in recent years according to TED Research. If you need to get wrinkles out and there's no iron handy, try hanging up the piece in the bathroom when you take a shower. The steam will help remove wrinkles.
4. Does it suit the climate?
Like I said above, it's all about fabrics. Wool is a great choice for wet or cold climates as it retains it's warmth even when wet. However, it can be heavy and shrinks in the dryer. Blends are a great way to maximize the positives of a fabric. A wool blend is less itchy and won't be as heavy or shrink as much as well as being much cheaper to buy. Cotton is breathable and doesn't hold onto smells so it's perfect for humid climates. However, it loses it's warmth when wet so just remember to pack a small sweater if you are going to be in a humid climate into the night. Lycra and spandex are stretchy and bounce back. A small amount of these blended into jeans and trousers will make your long haul flight much more comfortable.
5. Does it suit the culture?
We do a google search of our destination and what styles of clothing are acceptable before we pack. Tourists are often targets for pick pockets and other types of theft so we usually try to blend in with the locals. Designer labels and other flashy clothing and accessories are probably best left at home! Unfortunately, there's another layer of this question that applies more to women than to men. You might not agree with it but it doesn't change the fact that clothing choices can get you into trouble on your trip. For example, in Greece and Bulgaria, women are not allowed into orthodox monasteries or churches if their shoulders are not covered and they must wear a full length skirt or dress. Also, low cut or sheer tops may get you unwanted attention in some countries. An over-sized scarf can be used to cover your shoulders or legs on short notice as well as add an extra layer for warmth. If you are really at odds with the local culture and their rules, you might want to consider another destination where you can enjoy your holiday and make less changes to the way you dress and act.
6. Will it weigh down my bag?
Coats, jeans and sweaters make cold climates a little trickier to pack for. We try to limit everything heavy to two items. One coat that's waterproof and another for warmth. Shoes are also one of the heaviest things you will pack. We pack one pair and wear the other to the airport. Shoes need to be comfortable and durable, chances are you'll be walking in them in all day! I usually wear a pair of runners to the airport and for outdoor days as well as a pair of sandals, flats or boots depending on the climate. If we are staying in accommodation with a shared bathroom, we usually double the sandals as shower attire to avoid potential fungal infections.
7. It is secure?
This one relates to backpacks, purses and pockets. The last thing you want on your holiday is to have a pick pocket take your money, or worse, your passport. Zippers with anti pull tabs or bags with secret compartments, like this one from amazon, are your best option. Avoid purses that do not have a zip closure, things could fall out when your traveling or be stolen. A cross body bag is a good idea because it can't be easily ripped from your arm. I try not to leave anything in my coat or trouser pockets, I really don't want to lose something important while I'm traveling! I am moving from one destination to another so there's usually no time to trace our steps back to look for something. Not to mention you might find reporting a lost or stolen item very difficult in a different country with a language you can't speak.
8. Do I wear it regularly?
As I mentioned above, I used to bring clothes for every occasion possible but I ended up wearing the same things I did at home. We all want amazing travel photos and to wear new stuff on our holiday to get out of that work rut. But our favourite clothes are our favourite for a reason. They are comfortable, suit us and we look great in them! You don't want to be fiddling around with an uncomfortable dress that doesn't fit properly when you should be enjoying a wonderful holiday! This applies to shoes even more so. You don't want to get blisters when you are going to be walking for hours! Wear the tried and tested.
9. Is it easy to care for?
Think of your destination and what type of laundry services will be on offer. Will you have time to properly take care of certain fabrics? For example, wool needs to be air dried. Do you have enough wool socks packed to leave some drying in your accommodation? In comparison, things made of polyester or cotton tend to dry quickly. Tide has a guide on how to read washing labels on clothing tags that can help you decide what to bring on holiday. Avoid packing anything with that dry clean only symbol! If you're traveling chances are you won't have the time to wait for an item to be dry cleaned in the event of a major stain. A friend of mine had a beautiful light grey winter coat (which was dry clean only) when she came to visit me in London. We went to the Winter Wonderland event in Hyde Park and a lady pushed right into her. She ended up spilling a whole cup of mulled wine all over herself and being on holiday had no time to get it dry cleaned, thus ruining an expensive coat. My point is, you never know what's going to happen. Materials like velvet are notoriously difficult to clean and are ruined easily. If the unexpected does happen, try to put water on the stain immediately. Real Simple has an easy chart for what to do for each type of stain.
10. Do I actually need to buy this and does it need to be brand new?
I always want to wear new clothes on holiday! It's refreshing and think of all the cute insta photos. But is it something I really need? It is not very budget or sustainability minded to purchase clothes for a holiday, especially if the climate is very different from the one you live in. If you have time before your trip, go through your closet. You may find items you forgot about or ways to revamp your outfits. If you do need to buy something, try a thrift store! One of the ways we can afford to travel is by getting almost all of our clothing from second-hand shops. It also helps the environment. UK sustainable clothing charity WRAP stated that if the active life of a clothing garment is extended by nine months, it significantly lowers the environmental impact of it's production. Always check out second-hand clothes thoroughly before you buy. Look out for the fabrics mentioned above and any imperfections including stains, holes or pilling.
11. If yes, should I invest in quality pieces?
If you need a new pair of shoes and can't find what you're looking for at a thrift shop, a bargain purchase might not be the most budget friendly option. Fast fashion is cheap, trendy clothing items made from low quality fabrics. If you need to replace it three times more often than the quality piece, it probably isn't cheaper in the long run. If you are buying something to wear through your holiday and beyond, consider investing in a quality item. Cheap fabrics like acrylic make you sweat, hold the smell and lose their shape after a few washes. If wool makes you itchy, try a wool blend over an acrylic sweater. Take some photos in the items in the dressing room, it will give an idea of what it looks like from different angles and give you a snapshot of your future holiday photos. Remember, if you are buying something new before you holiday, make sure you break it in before you leave! This gives you time to return what you don't love and stop those walking blisters.
Wear comfortable layers for long haul flights (and for the rest of your trip!)
If you've ever been on an airplane, you know they can be chilly! And before you get on, you'll probably get warm with all of the stress of security and boarding. Layers are absolutely perfect for traveling because chances are you will be inside and outside, walking and resting all in the same day. I tend to wear a small cotton tank top or undershirt so that if I sweat, my sweaters and blouses don't get ruined or need to be washed immediately.
Pack a sewing kit for trips 3 months or longer
Going on a year abroad? Teaching in China? Consider packing a travel sewing kit from your nearest fabric store. The kits from dollar stores are a bit cheaper but in my experience they are useless. When I moved to Canterbury, England for my masters degree, I used my sewing kit at least five times and even had traveler friends borrow it! You don't want to throw out a coat because of a missing button. There are tons of how to sewing videos online like this button fixer. This is especially a good idea if you are traveling to more rural areas where you won't be able to get a kit!
Hope you guys enjoyed this post! What are your favourite clothes for travel? Do you have any tips?
We want you to see more on your holiday for less. We've made a list of some of our favourite budget travel tips that will help you get the most out of your holiday, no matter where you are in the world.
1. Be open minded. Booking websites like Skyscanner have a search “Everywhere” option. You can see the cheapest flights from your location to anywhere in the world. You may well find a destination you hadn't initially thought of, or find a popular destination for much cheaper than you assumed. We planned a 3 week holiday in Europe this way and would pick the cheapest destination from each location. Our flight from Greece to Bulgaria was only 9 pounds! Also be sure to take advantage of using the 'Whole Month' option on Skyscanner. If you are open minded about when you can travel, this is a great way to save. To illustrate this point I have attached a screenshot of how varied the prices of a flight from London to Berlin and back can be.
Bonus tip: Remember to search using an incognito tab so that websites can't use your search history to increase prices on flights you've previously looked at.
2. Maximize your holiday time. Think of your holiday like a day trip, arriving early will give you more time to explore and likewise with a later return. Always double check flight times before booking and decide whether an extra nights accommodation is worth the money saved on an evening flight. This way you'll get more from your holiday for less.
3. Be a backpacker. It's well known the check in times of most hotels and Airbnbs are in the afternoon while check out times are in the morning. You don't want to waste time dragging around luggage (most attractions will let not let you in with baggage anyway!). Some hostels, hotels and stations have lockers for a fee but you can skip that all together if you bring a backpack instead. Plus bringing less keeps you organized and means you don't have to worry about extensive time unpacking and packing, as well as having more things to potentially worry about misplacing.
4. Stay away from all-inclusive tours. We've been on a few of these tours and found that you are not given enough time to explore, you see the “tourist side” of the destination and they are usually very expensive. Why not plan your own trip? You can cater it to your interests and make time for the activities you enjoy.
5. Search “Days trip from…”. Now that you've picked your destination, search day trips from the city. You can often get to these using public transit. We found the beautiful medieval town of Besalú this way when we went to Girona, Spain.
6. Stay at a local hotel, hostel or private room Airbnb. This way you'll see the city and culture beyond the tourist areas. In our travels we've found that family run and local hotels are much more willing to spend time telling you about the best places in the area. We sometimes stay in private rooms through Airbnb within a home. This is another way we can get to know people and find out where the locals go. Which brings me to my next point…
7. Ask for recommendations. Whether it's your Airbnb host or receptionist, ask them where the best places are. Locals know the best (and cheapest) places to eat and beautiful places to see. We find this method much more reliable than online reviews. On the same holiday in Spain, our wonderful Airbnb host told us about the town of Castellfollit de la Roca and it ended up being the highlight of our trip! Our general rule of thumb while traveling is 'If the locals are doing it, it can't be bad'.
8. Walk, cycle or take the train. We look into the travel times between each place we want to check out and anything under a 30 minute walk, we'll do without the aid of public transit. You'll stumble upon hidden gems and save money! While wandering between attractions in Rome and Athens we stumbled across stunning churches and ancient walls that would have been totally missed otherwise! Bike sharing systems, where you can hire bicycles using your phone and drop them off wherever you end up, make riding around major cities easier than ever before. Just like with walking, you'll see places most tourists never do! Finally, you can take the train. We often do this if we are traveling within a country. For example, it was much cheaper to take the train from Venice to Rome and we got to see the beautiful Italian countryside complete with quaint villages and wineries.
9. Plan ahead. Download your destination on Google maps before you go. This way you don't need to keep stopping in places with WiFi to get directions. Having pictures saved on your phone is also a great way to overcome potential language barriers, instead of trying and failing to ask for directions to a place, showing the place name on your phone is much easier. Another way to save time and stress is to buy tickets online ahead of your trip for any major attractions you know you want to go to. You'll skip the lines and have more time to spend checking out other things.
10. Look up “free things to do in…” This one is very budget friendly and offers you more ways to enjoy your holiday. Tourist attractions are advertised heavily (especially costly ones!) and often you can miss a lot of what the destination truly has to offer. This way the money you do have will go further or towards a nice dinner. We have found Pinterest useful for this as its possible to find many step-by-step guides for each place.