As you might have guessed, semi-professional traveler and blogger Chris Christensen
travels – a lot. Life on the road has taught him that packing too much stuff carries two grave risks: excess baggage fees and throwing your back out.
Below are seven things he always packs to save his back as well as his credit card.
1. Use a Smartphone for Skype and Wifi Hot Spots
As long as you remember to turn off data roaming which can eat your entire traveling budget in five minutes, then a smart phone can be one of your best money saving tools:
• Skype - You can save money on calls home by using Skype on your smart phone and you can even call phone numbers directly at very low rates. Any spot with free wi-fi becomes a free (calling another Skype user) or affordable (calling an international number) phone booth. I have a SkypeOut plan for $3 a month that lets me call any U.S. or Canada phone line for free. While we visited Hong Kong I stood outside a government building with free wi-fi and participated in a conference call to the U.S.
• Wi-fi hot spot - I realized last year that for the cost of a single hotel stay I could buy a data plan for domestic travel for a month so that I could use my iPhone as my wi-fi hotspot. So instead of bad and expensive hotel wi-fi I could bring my own wi-fi, which I could also use in cars, buses, and airports. You have to monitor your data usage so that you don’t go over your plan but for frequent travelers this can be a good option.
2. Fill Empty Water Bottles
Some people think that you can’t take a water bottle through airport security. You can, just not the water. I always pack an empty water bottle that I refill on the other side of security. I have just purchased a collapsible water bottle that has very little weight when it is empty and takes up almost no space. You should stay hydrated when you fly, but why buy a bottle of water at airport prices?
3. Wear a Money Belt or Pouch
If you are going to an international city known for its pickpockets, then the best money saving product is the one that keeps your money in your pocket and not someone else’s. In a two-day trip to Rome with a group of 10 people, two of the 10 were pick-pocketed but in both cases they had not taken the precaution of leaving their wallet at home and switching to a money belt or a money pouch that you wear beneath your clothing. This will not only save you money but the stress of being in a foreign country trying to report a theft and trying to replace your credit cards.
4. Pack More than a Few Snacks
I usually just throw in a couple of granola bars, pop-tarts or a zip lock bag of home made trail mix (peanuts, M&Ms, raisins) in my bag before I go on any plane trip. You never know when that connection will be shorter than you thought or the meal service (if there is one) will be delayed. It is always a good idea to have a snack to make your traveling companions happier. If you travel with kids, then double down on snacks.
For a road trip extensive snacks and a cooler are appropriate, plus a 12 pack of Diet Coke for me, because why pay $2 for a soda if you can bring one from home for $.25.
5. Membership Cards
Are you a member of an auto association like AAA? Are you a senior in AARP? Do you have a student ID? If so, bring along your membership or ID card as many destinations have discounts that you can take advantage of. This does not just apply to theme park admissions and other places where discounts are posted but even to some restaurants. My favorite BBQ place will give you a free soda if you show your AAA card.
6. Scales and Compression Bags
Many travel experts recommend a portable travel scale as a way to make sure that your bag is not overweight. I own one but do not pack it because my philosophy is that well before your bag gets that heavy, you have packed too much. The same goes for compressions bags that help you pack more densely in the same size suitcase. Packing lighter can keep you from hurting yourself or someone else with a heavy suitcase. Packing light enough that you can do carry-on luggage will give you options when travel goes wrong. You don’t save money when you take a large suitcase and then your luggage gets lost because of a tight connection.
7. Packing List
My best travel advice is make yourself a packing list so that you don’t have to buy that one thing you had planed to take, knew to take, but is still sitting back on your dresser at home. With a list tested from previous trips I can pack for a month of travel in less than 15 minutes and not be stressed that I am forgetting something.Chris Christensen
Chris is the host of the Amateur Traveler
, a hugely popular online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations and news from around the world. It includes a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog. Oxford University uses Amateur Traveler to teach English as a second language… which is pretty darn cool.
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