5 Travel Hacks for Women Who Like to Be Comfortable On A Budget

I took this pic with my phone while turning onto Pacific Coast Highway. Don't do that. I got flipped off by the driver behind me for driving slow and weaving.

When I travel I have three rules: be comfortable, eat healthy, and keep it low stress. And my bonus rule is: save money where I can so I can splurge where it counts.

To that end, I’ve compiled a list of 5 travel hacks that work well for me:

1. Drink plenty of water, but don’t break the bank while doing so.

I finally stopped buying bottles of water in airports for 2 reasons: they are very expensive, heavy and bothersome to tote around (especially since I’d rather have a hot tea while I chill at the gate,) and they are not necessary. When I stop at the coffee shop to get a cup of hot water for my tea bag (I'll post soon with some awesome hot tea suggestions,) I ask for a cup of water to drink as well. I’m happy to pay the usually nominal charge for these items, but often the coffee shops refuse payment and hand them over for free. When that happens, I put a dollar or a handful of change in the tip jar.

I can finish off a cup of water before catching my flight and then get more on the plane if need be, with no heavy water bottle to lug around for hours.

Once I arrive at my destination, if I have a rental car, I locate a drive-in restaurant (like Sonic) and order a large ice water with fresh lime (a "large lime water.") Sonic charges 97 cents or so for this, sometimes less depending on the location, and you have a huge refreshing tanker of water in your cup holder to sip on all morning or afternoon (and the Styrofoam keeps the ice cold for hours it seems.) Two of those a day while I’m out and about is usually just right.

For my hotel room, I’ll stop at a Walgreens or grocery store and pick up a gallon jug of distilled or purified water. About one a day is enough for drinking, taking supplements, making tea, etc in my room. A gallon at Walgreens is around $1.50 and 99 cents at Sprouts.

This hack alone saves me at least $20-25 on a 4 day trip to Orange County, for example. That’s $20 I can put toward a pedicure instead. ;-)

2. Carry an En Cas (healthy emergency snack) in your purse.

I’m so much more likely to overspend and overeat (as well as choose a less healthy option) if I let myself get too hungry on a trip. I learned the phrase “en cas” from Mireille Giuliani in French Women Don’t Get Fat and have really benefited from her advice. My usual en cas is a small baggy of raw or roasted nuts, and you can assemble this for very cheap in Sprouts’ bulk section. Today I spent $4 for about 2 cups total of raw nuts and sunflower seeds. Add a plastic spoon you can pick up at the coffee shop when you get your hot water, and store it in the baggy too. Done.

3. Rent a room with a kitchenette and bring your kitchen with you.

Steamed veg, black beans seasoned with garlic powder, and diced avocado. Yum.

I pack a lightweight wooden cutting board I got at Big Lots for $5, a $1 chef’s knife from Dollar Tree, a peeler, a tall but lightweight saucepan with lid, and a silicone steamer basket by Oxogrips in my suitcase, as well as a few baggies in gallon, quart, and sandwich size. Then I buy a grocery bag of local produce every day for $20 or so and have fresh salads, avocados, lemons, fresh cooked beans, herbs, and piles of delicious steamed veggies and edamame in my room for most meals. I save eating out for once or twice per week on a vacation, and only at my very favorite restaurants. Then the splurge on the meal (money-wise as well as calorie-wise) feels so much less extravagant, and I don’t have to worry about that Travel Gut Bomb you usually get while on vacation.

I plan to post some of my favorite healthy, easy hotel kitchenette recipes soon. Trust me, I don’t suffer at all eating this way!

4. Bring a few essentials for peace, comfort, and fitness.

I actually like Walmart's "Equate" 10 billion probiotics better than this brand now, but I don't have a pic.

- folding travel yoga mat.
- 2 essential oils: peppermint and lavender or some blend that involves those 2. You want one that’s relaxing/calming and one that’s refreshing/sinus-clearing. (Peppermint oil dabbed just outside my ear drums and behind my ears helps tremendously with airplane pressure pain by the way.)
- a package of non-refrigerated probiotics for relief of Travel Gut Bomb.
- Yogi Get Regular tea for same.
- good earplugs.
- individual packages of Wet Ones in your purse.

Just arrived in Huntington Beach, needing some sunshine on that white skin!

5. Pack minimal, comfortable clothing and shoes.

This should be a no brainer, but it has taken me years to accept the fact that I’ll have a much happier travel experience if I don’t bring 4 pairs of shoes and five different cute outfits all accessorized with special jewelry and scarves. If you don’t know what a minimal, comfortable travel wardrobe looks like, I’ll give you an example packing list for a week or two:
  • 3-4 pairs black or dark grey yoga pants and/or leggings
  • 7-8 long sleeve and short sleeved T-shirts, in white, grey, or black, with at least some that are long enough to cover your butt in the leggings
  • in summer, one pair black jogging shorts
  • one pair of jeans if you think you need to “dress up” a bit
  • a few tank tops, any color. Lately I gravitate to pink, purple and raspberry for my coloring.
  • one or two other colors of short and long sleeve T-shirts, bringing your T-shirt total to 10-12 or so.
  • a warm hoodie. Grey is best.
  • a sweatshirt, grey or other neutral.
  • black and white tennis shoes plus black flip flops in summer, black Ugg boots plus tennis shoes in winter. 
  • comfy pajamas 
  • comfy, cushy socks for hotel room
The only accessories I take on trips are one pair of cheap CZ stud earrings and a simple silver pendant necklace. I wear those on the plane. I wear a hair band on my wrist for a “bracelet” so I can always throw my hair up in a bun or pony. In winter, I take one warm knitted scarf and a lightweight, packable down jacket (a "puffer.")

So those are my top 5 hacks for now! Happy traveling. :)