10 Tips for Saving Money (Up to $100) Before Your Next Trip #travel

Before I take any trip, I visit the dollar store. Why? Quite simply, I can save a lot of money there on travel items. Sometimes as much as $100, believe it or not.

I think these tips can work for most people living in the USA or other Western countries that have dollar stores, which is why I’m sharing them with you.

The main reason, of course, is that saving money before a trip means more money during it, and that’s always a good thing!

Dollar store

What inspired me to write this?

I remember being in Seljuk, Turkey, when my reading glasses fell apart. I was in desperate need of new ones; I could not read my guide book or maps. I looked everywhere and couldn’t find a new pair. I finally had to get a pair at a real eyeglass store for $40. Ouch. I was traveling low budget. The worst part? They were a bit too strong for my eyes.

Another time, I didn’t have a neck pillow for a long flight. I had to buy one at the airport. That was also expensive.

One day, while in a dollar store, I saw these same items for a fraction of the cost. After that, I tried to buy these types of products there. And it’s been working out quite well since then.

Here are the tips…I hope you find them useful!

1. Allergy (and Other) Medicines*

Are you an allergy sufferer who’s sick of spending big bucks on 24-hour (or shorter acting) tablets? Guess what? Some dollar stores have them for…a dollar.

Buyer beware, of course, since no one can vouch for their quality (they’re usually some sort of generic) or for the their freshness (check dates carefully), but if you’re looking for a way around paying $16 for the big names (even the generics aren’t cheap), this can work. You can also buy decongestant, aspirin, etc.

Savings: $10 to $15

Let's try a different one this year.

Note: This is not medical advice; please consult with a doctor being buying/taking any medicine. Also, this is not a product endorsement.)

2. Towels/Washcloths

Here, you need to be careful; quality can be dubious. But sometimes you get lucky. In any case, the price of towels and washcloths is dirt cheap in a dollar store. Just one dollar! :)

Small confession: I’ve recently caved and gotten myself a fancy super thin/absorbent/fast-drying towel from REI. Ouch on the price–about 25 times as much. But I must say I love it. Well worth it. Still, if in a jam or in need of a washcloth, there’s always the dollar store.

Savings: $5 to $10

Three generations of bath towels

3. Neck Support Ring

No, the quality isn’t amazing and there’s a chance it won’t last forever (but if you’re a backpacker and rough it a bit, it’s probably not a calamity), but you can save some bucks here. And have a more comfortable flight and easier bus rides.

Savings: $7 to $10

adult pillow in blue

4. Eye Mask

If you’re lucky, you’ll get one of these from your flight crew. But there’s no guarantee that you will (unless you’re flying one of the better airlines). And if you try to buy one in a regular store, they’ll run you $7 to 10 or more dollars. Sometimes dollar stores have them. They do range in quality, but you just might score a good one.

Savings: $6 to $9


5. Journal/Notebook

Sure there are times when I’d like to have a fancy journal, but not for most trips. They get beaten up when I travel and also, they can be expensive–anywhere from $5 to 10 (and sometimes more).. At the dollar store, they’re–you guessed it–just a buck. And sometimes, to my surprise, they’re quite cool looking, too.

Savings: $6 to $9

Escape Mini

6. Umbrella/Poncho

If you’re traveling during rainy season, you might want to bring an umbrella–and perhaps a mini one to keep your bags light. Sure it might fall apart at some point, but why pay $10 or more for one that you might misplace anyway. Same with a basic poncho. (Of course, if you’re a serious trekker, then you’ll have serious gear; for the rest of us, this is just fine.)

Savings: $9 to $15

Yella Umbrello

7. Sunglasses and Reading glasses

I lose both types of glasses constantly and fortunately, I don’t require a fancy prescription. If that’s your situation, then it pays to consider buying these glasses at the dollar store. Why? Well, they’re just a dollar and they do the job (unless you have a complicated visual situation). In regular stores,  they’re anywhere from $5 to $20, averaging at around $10.

And how about sunglasses? They’re not cheap. I say buy both types of glasses at the dollar store. You’ve got nothing to lose–except a dollar!

Savings: $10 to $15

Me in my favorite dollar store glasses; still getting compliments on them.

8. Energy Bars/Snacks

I love to pack energy bars and snacks (pretzels, nuts, etc.) for my trips. They’re great to have at the airport, on the plane and even for the first few days after arriving. If you buy them in a supermarket, they may be a little pricey. Get them at the airport and the prices are astronomical. At the dollar store, they’re an absolute bargain.

Note: If you’re super picky about the brand, try Trader Joe’s; the prices on energy bars are great there!

Savings: $5 to $10

9. Chewing Gum

Lately, gum has gotten expensive. Ridiculously so. I like to buy it anyway–especially when I’m going to be on a plane for more than a few hours. I like how it helps with ear popping. It’s also nice to have for handing out to kids you meet or simply to chew because you like to.

But I don’t want to pay $1.39 to $1.79 for a pack of it.  At the dollar store, I don’t have to.

Savings: $2 (per 3 packs)


10. Facial Cleansing Wipes

Not that I wear much makeup when I travel, but…I sometimes wear a little. Perhaps you do, too, or you just want a fast way to wipe off your face after a long bus journey). These cleansing wipes can really come in handy.

The problem is that the name brands charge a lot for a 30-day pack. Sometimes $6. Even more. Why not get them cheaper?

Savings: $5


Your Thoughts/Experiences/Tips?

How do you save money before a trip? Do you go to the dollar store? If so, what items do you buy? If not, then where do you go?

Or does this depend on the country? If you’re going to Southeast Asia, do you just get what you need there because it’s cheap anyway? But if you’re going to another part of the world, one that doesn’t have what you need at a fair price, you shop at home?

Any other tips you can share re: saving money before traveling? If so, please share and feel free to link to an article you’re written.


7 Responses to 10 Tips for Saving Money (Up to $100) Before Your Next Trip #travel
  1. Dyanne@TravelnLass
    October 2, 2012 | 4:32 am

    Some great tips there Lisa! Especially your notion of every dollar saved BEFORE the trip, is one more buck to spend ON the trip! ;)

    Though some of those things you can more easily (and far more cheaply than even the dollar store) buy at your destination (i.e. poncho, sunglasses, even the notebook).

    Furthermore, I’ve gotten most all my backpacks, rolling suitcases, those ubiquitous backpacker pants that zip-off into shorts, etc. – from the Goodwill/2nd hand shops. Yup, tell me THAT doesn’t save a bundle! ;)

    I’d also suggest that instead of/in addition to facial wipes (though these too can be bought on any street corner here in Asia), pick up a few packs of antibacterial wipes. Trust me, you’ll want/desperately need them throughout your trip – especially given the uh, shall we say less than hygienic w.c. in the world?

    Oh, and my best tip: Honestly? Don’t buy your generic over-the-counter medications at home. Heck, not even prescriptions for malaria, etc. The prices for such (even aspirin/Tylenol) are ASTRONOMICAL in the States compared to here in Asia. And that holds for Africa, Latin America, etc. as well. You can get many prescription drugs over here for peanuts! I once got a 6 month supply of malaria tablets – prescribed by a doctor in Medan, Indonesia – for about 3 bucks.

    P.S. Likewise, I too absolutely ADORE my pricey REI travel towel. Sometimes it really pays to get the best.
    Dyanne@TravelnLass recently posted..Wobbly Whiz on a Motorbike in DalatMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      October 3, 2012 | 7:54 am

      Hi, Dyanne. Thanks for sharing your tips! I’ve also bought a few items at the Goodwill shop–including shorts with velcro pocket flaps. They came in handy in Central America. And YES to the antibacterial wipes!! Very important. LOL re: the ‘less than hygienic w.c.’. Yup!

      What inspired this post, by the way (just added this in), is being stuck in Turkey with nowhere to get cheap reading glasses. Was not fun. I had to fork over $40 to a fancy eyeglass place since there were no cheap places in the area. I’d even asked locals to help me. Since then, I’ve always packed 3 pairs of cheap readers from the dollar store.

      Lucky that you’re living in SE Asia. I can imagine things are super cheap in Vietnam! I saw that with some items (but not all) in Indonesia. Depended on where, of course. In tourist areas, prices were high, of course.

      I had considered buying my malaria pills in Indonesia, but I got them here. Fortunately, my insurance covered most of it (if it hadn’t, I wouldn’t have). And I’m glad I did because of where I went first (Pekanbaru)–a city that few tourists go to (would have been too hard to shop since no one spoke English) and then the village of Payakumbuh. I didn’t have a good feeling about the pharmacies there–even in the city section. Very iffy. So I think that in this case, I made the right decision. Of course, if I’d started my trip in Lake Toba, Yogyakarta (great pharmacies there!) or Bali, I would have bought locally. Or if I’d needed them in Panama, certainly, I’d buy in Panama City.

      Re: the generic Tylenol and antihistamine, I’m cool with paying a dollar here. As long as I recognize the generic brand and the date is good (and the package is intact), I’m comfortable.

  2. Leektone
    October 2, 2012 | 2:13 pm

    Thank you for this strong thesis statement about dollar stores. I like examples you used to support your points.
    Next time, I travel, I will head straight for the dollar store.

    • CB Driver
      October 3, 2012 | 7:42 am

      Thanks, Leektone. Did the hook get your attention? I hope so. If not, then maybe I shouldn’t be a writing teacher. Enjoy the dollar store, by the way. It’s quite an adventure. A lot of self-discovery can happen there. :)

  3. Gray
    October 3, 2012 | 12:43 pm

    At this point, my daily life costs less than what I earn, so I don’t have trouble saving money for my trips. BUT…when I did need to save money desperately, yes! Dollar Stores are great! So is buying generic products at the grocery store (instead of brand names). I usually can’t tell the difference between the store brand and the brand name.
    Gray recently posted..Trying New Things, Eating Weird ThingsMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      October 5, 2012 | 10:19 am

      Hi, Gray–awesome that you’re in that position! The dollar stores are quite good, aren’t they? I just visited one the other day and saw more goodies. Like: ziplock-style bags and 3-packs of tissues. These are also a great bargain.

      I agree with you re: generic products at the supermarket. It seems they’ve come a long way and 99% of the time, they’re the same or very similar.

  4. Jeff @ GoTravelzing
    October 5, 2012 | 11:34 am

    I always forget about the dollar stores, even though are on every corner now. They are good places to get the small travel size (under 3oz) products.

    I did see 1 Euro stores in Ireland recently. Maybe the concept is spreading.
    Jeff @ GoTravelzing recently posted..Warning Signs – Protecting You From Yourself in IrelandMy Profile

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