With graduation season in full swing and the summer fast upon us, young travelers (including yours truly) are taking off for adventures all over the globe.
Inexperienced travelers should prepare for all kinds of situations. However, an entire industry exists to sell over-prepared and overcautious people “specialized” travel goods, like cushy eye masks and single-use laundry detergent sheets.
These products are definitely helpful—but they’re also definitely overpriced. Fortunately, for those traveling on a budget, you can make your own versions of these items. Here are three I didn’t leave home without.
1. Laundry Kit
If you find yourself in a city that doesn’t seem to have Laundromats (I couldn’t find one in Istanbul) or if you’re nearly out of cash and clean socks, you’ll be happy to have supplies to hand wash your essentials.
Unfortunately, a travel rubber clothes line online costs about $10, while travel detergent and a sink stopper can add up to another $10. At that rate, it probably makes more sense financially to pay someone else to wash your clothes for you.
Instead, create your own kit with nothing but a bunch of rubber bands, a plastic Ziploc bag, and some kind of non-liquid detergent. You can make a travel clothesline by looping and braiding rubber bands together. A Ziploc bag full of water can serve as a sink stopper (or at least a sink “slower”), and another Ziploc can hold powdered detergent (you’ll probably want to double-bag that). A laundry soap bar also works; I got one at a supermarket in Boston’s Chinatown for about $0.59.
Whatever you do, avoid special “laundry detergent sheets” or mini bottles of liquid detergent—both are overpriced, at around $5 each—and, of course, liquid isn’t optimal for flights.
2. Travel Sleeping Kit
For a long flight, it’s essential that you sleep to help curb your jetlag. Unfortunately, that can be challenging, with crying babies, talkative passengers, and flight attendants who constantly hawk specialty meals or duty-free goods.
To overcome all this, I recommend having some kind of pillow, earplugs, and an eye mask. In a pinch, you can fashion earplugs with toilet tissue and a pillow-facemask combo out of a hooded sweatshirt. However, I recommend preparing a slightly more planned travel sleep kit.
Start by making a decent pair of earplugs, which will be custom to your ears, with a cotton ball, rubber band, and plastic wrap. Then, if you’re crafty, sew a cute eye-mask and neck pillow, or simply bring a scarf (to wrap over your face) and a jacket or sweater (to roll up behind you for some head and neck support).
3. Upcycle Travel Containers
One of the biggest travel supply rip-offs are tiny containers. Buying airline-approved mini bottles of shampoo and other toiletries is a just a waste of money.
Instead, when prepping for a trip, refill old small containers (like from hotels or past trips) from larger bottles of product. If you (or your parents) have old film canisters lying around, use these for storage as well. They work great for grooming products—I filled one with hair pomade and another with face lotion.
A 7-day pill planner is perfect to repurpose for organizing over-the-counter drugs, like ibuprofen, antacid, and antihistamine. Store them by category, rather than by day. If you have little drawstring cloth bags from old gifts, use those as holders too. I put my jewelry and headphones in them, to prevent tangling.
What travel accessories do you make at home to save money? Post your tips in the comments!
(Photo: All Those Details)