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Kip Tips

7 Things to Pack to Save on Your Next Trip

Keep these items in your carry-on to help trim the cost of travel

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Every little bit counts when you’re trying to keep your travel budget in check. We’ve addressed many smart ways to save before, from how to avoid hotel fees to when to book flights to get the best fares. But the savings don’t end there. There are plenty of other small ways to lower your expenses while traveling. Here are seven items you should pack in your carry-on that will help put a little more money back into your souvenir fund.

SEE ALSO: Fabulous Travel Freebies

1) Re-Useable Water Bottle: A recent check at Orlando International Airport had bottles of water ranging from $2.29 to $5.19. That means it could cost a family of four between $9 and $21 to hydrate while waiting at the gate. Instead, bring along a recycled plastic water bottle or make a one-time investment in a quality refillable water bottle such as one from Nalgene or Klean Kanteen. This will allow you to fill up for free at a water fountain or soda fountain in the food court. (Some airports even have special water bottle refilling stations nowadays.) Take it a step further with a Bobble water bottle that has a filter built in, so you don’t have to worry about hunting down filtered water.

2) Lunchbox: That same vendor in Orlando was selling sandwiches for $7.99 and bags of chips for $2.29. That means it would cost another $40-plus to round out a meal in the terminal for a family of four. A better idea is to brown-bag it. You can make your to-go meal even more fun by investing in a Japanese-style bento box. Laptoplunches.com stocks multiple colors and configurations. The compartmentalized boxes keep your food neat and let you pack a variety of nibbles into one compact box for each family member. Plus, they’re fun for the kids.

3) Refillable Toiletries Bottles: Instead of buying individual travel-sized toiletries each time you hit the road, invest in a few re-useable mini-bottles that you can fill up for pennies at home. A set of four costs $5.49 at my local CVS, whereas mini shampoo/conditioner/body lotion started at $1.49 a bottle, with body wash starting at $1.57. That’s $6.04 right there. Plus, if you’re on an extended trip you can stash some laundry detergent in a mini-bottle for quick washes at your hotel.

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4) Compression Bags: Don’t want to pay $25 or more to check a bag? Get a set of vacuum-sealing compression bags. A six-piece Ziploc Space Bag combo set is a good option and sells for $20 at Bed Bath and Beyond. Just insert your clothes and push down to compress the contents so you can get even more in your carry-on.

5) Smartphone Apps: Don’t overlook how simply downloading a few smartphone apps can save you money. Make sure you’re staying on budget with the Mint.com Personal Finance app. Search for food and travel coupons on apps such as RetailMeNot Coupons and Groupon. Find the cheapest gas with GasBuddy. And, if you’re looser with your travel plans, use booking apps Last Minute Travel Deals and Hotel Tonight to get hotel rooms on short notice.

6) Local Currency: If you’re traveling abroad, it’s a good idea to arrive with some local currency in your pocket to cover expenses until you get settled. You’ll likely get better rates exchanging money at your bank before you go than you will at currency exchange bureaus at your destination. Plus, you may avoid some service fees. Just make sure to visit your bank well ahead of your departure date in case the currency or denominations you need require a special order. Then, when you get to your destination, withdraw cash from local bank ATMs to get favorable rates. (See Save Money on Your Money While Traveling Abroad for more.)

7) Alcohol for your destination: As long as the bottles are 3.4 ounces or less and fit in a quart-size clear plastic zip-top bag--the same as the rules for your toiletries--the Transportation Security Administration says your booze can fly. You can get 50-milliliter carry-on sized bottles of alcohol from Total Wine & More for as low as 99 cents, depending on your location. (Fifty milliliters is the equivalent of 1.7 ounces.)