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While it’s true some travel supplies are available only at specialty stores that charge top dollar, it’s equally true you can find a variety of travel bargains at stores you might have overlooked.
Here are some of my favorite secret shopping destinations for vacation necessities:
Professional salon supply stores
When it comes to buying travel-sized grooming items, I head directly to a salon supply retailer like Sally Beauty Supply. Products making a regular appearance in my hanging hotel toiletry bag include a miniature four-way nail buffer, a similarly sized emery board, miniature bottles of clear and French pink nail polish for a buck, wooden or stainless steel cuticle sticks, and a thin professional teasing comb I can use to create a number of looks.
Another great travel resource is a matchbox-sized tin of bobby pins available in a wide range of colors to match different shades of hair. They take up much less space than a supply of hair clips, and you always have a backup if you lose any pins during the day. Bobby pins can also serve double duty as emergency zipper pulls and paper clips.
Frequent travelers will be the first to confirm the need for convenient, healthy food choices. Some of my favorites can be found in grocery stores, and help me avoid those ever-so-tempting Snickers bars that always seem to silently mock me from the shelves of the airport sundries store.
To help tackle the problem, I typically purchase cases of energy bars from Sam’s Club as well as envelopes of soup mix and instant oatmeal from stores like Target and Whole Foods. The powdered items can be mixed with hot tea water in insulated cups while in the air.
Clear, quart-sized plastic bags required for transporting travel-sized liquids through security are also available inexpensively at these types of retailers. Simply check the food storage aisle, where you can purchase them by the box for just a few dollars.
Home improvement and hardware stores
Carabiner clips are one of my favorite travel tools. Unless you’re planning on rock climbing or rappelling, you can skip the high-priced variety sold at the sporting goods store and go for the cheapies available at places like Ace or Home Depot. They provide a sturdy solution for hanging go-to items on the exterior of your travel backpack or bag — brimmed caps or water bottles with handles.
The electronics section typically carries dirt-cheap electrical adapters that can be useful for extending the number of outlets available at the airport.
Basic department stores have more to offer than most people think when it comes to stocking up on travel necessities. For example, the pharmacy department at Walmart has inexpensive boxes of individually packaged alcohol wipes, small tubes of basic pain killers such as ibuprofen and aspirin, and multi-packs of adhesive bandages that can be raided to restock my miniature first aid kit. Dillard’s, on the other hand, is my go-to source for stretchy denim leggings to pair with tunics, and wrinkle-free jersey dresses to assist in my ongoing quest to pack light.
The cosmetics counter is a hot spot for efficiently packed grooming goodies. Dual-purpose powders will save you from having to pack liquid foundation, and creamy lip liners can do triple duty by serving as both lipstick and blush when you are on the road.
I’m also a huge fan of the four-color shadow palettes that come in a single compact. As long as you choose neutral tones, you’ll be able to create a number of stunning makeup looks. I like the color combinations that come with a dark, smoky black shadow as well as a glittery white. These two options let you brighten or dramatize the other two colors for evening without having to pack an additional product.
The bottom line is you don’t have to overspend at stores specializing in travel-sized supplies in order to pack light and have what you need on the road. Consider the product selection available at some of the places you already shop in order to get the best bang for your buck.