Traveling is one of my favorite things to do. In fact, even as I write this, my first ImpulseSave blog post, I'm on vacation. Right now I'm sitting on a deck in Estes Park, Colorado, enjoying a beautiful sunset and listening to John Denver.
Don't get me wrong; I've had my fair share of business travel, too. For a while my husband and I were bi-coastal (he in Boston, me in California), and after that I spent about 18 months commuting from Boston to New York every week. I've mastered trains, planes, rental cars, and public transportation in cities across the country. Over the years I've built up an arsenal of travel items that have proven invaluable, saving me time, money, or both. Here are the things I never travel without:
1. A sturdy water bottle. Right now I'm sporting this bottle from CamelBak. You have to get used to the mouthpiece (you have to bite down in order to open the straw) but it allows you easy access to the water without having to unscrew the lid each time you want a sip.
Savings: no more buying $3.50 bottles of water after you pass through airport security. Pretty much every airport has a water fountain near the gates (Kansas City is the only exception I've found so far).
2. My AAA card. Not only is it good for bailing you out when your car breaks down, but the membership pays for itself in the savings you get on hotels. Now, I understand that if you use sites like Hotwire or Priceline you may find bigger discounts, but the AAA card comes in handy for road trips or other last-minute situations where you don't book a reservation ahead of time.
Savings: Usually 5-15% off a hotel stay.
3. TripIt. If you travel a lot (and have a smartphone), this app (and website) is a huge help. Once you set up an account, all you have to do is forward your email confirmations to TripIt, and they'll organize them into an itinerary for each trip. complete with your confirmation codes and relevant addresses. Best of all, it's free! (They do have a paid version with some added features, which I've used in the past and found well worth it.)
Savings: Reduced time and hassle from keeping track of your travel plans.
4. Compression socks. Does this make me sound like an old lady? Long flights can be really tough on you. And if you're like me and prefer the window seat, it's not easy to get up and walk around often. Compression socks help reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and also keep your legs and feet from swelling up too much when you sit for long periods of time. I use the Recovery Sock, which is also great for activities like running and hiking.
Savings: Feel more refreshed after you fly (and reduce your risk of potential medical costs caused by blood clots in your legs!).
5. A good carry-on roller bag. I've had this one from Timbuktu for about five years now and it's still in great shape. I don't think they make this exact model anymore. It holds a lot more stuff than it looks like it will - especially if you know how to pack a suitcase. Plus it's tapered on the top so it fits in just about every airplane overhead space I've encountered (except for those small planes where everyone has to gate check their bags).
Savings: No checked bag fees, which can be up to $25 (unless you fly Southwest, which allows the first two bags free). Also no waiting around at baggage claim once you land.
6. Noise-cancelling headphones. These Bose headphones were a total splurge item for me but I can't live without them now. Yes, they're expensive - but if you're on planes a lot, these are a lifesaver.
Savings: Get a lot more work done, with fewer distractions.
7. Eye mask and earplugs. If you've ever taken an overnight flight, you know how painful it can be. You might not have much control over your legroom, but blocking out the light and sound can make a huge difference between a painful redeye and a tolerable one. They can also come in handy when you're in a hotel room with east-facing windows and thin curtains, or when you're right next to the freight elevator. The mask I use is raised around the eyes to allow for eye movements that occur during REM sleep, which means I sleep more soundly.
Savings: Actually getting sleep = Priceless.
8. National parks annual pass. This isn't for everyone, but it's saved us a lot of money over the past few years. My husband gets two vacations a year, and we've become huge fans of national parks. Right now we're in Rocky Mountain National Park, but we've also explored the Grand Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, Yosemite, Zion, and Joshua Tree all in the past three years. Many of the parks cost $20 for the day, making the annual pass a steal at just $80.
Savings: If you ask me, it's a small price to pay for hours and hours of amazing scenery, hiking, and wildlife.
Do you have any travel secrets? Tell us about them in the comments!