September 22, 2019

Surprising Sources for Scoring Affordable Travel Supplies

I obtain travel supplies for as little as 20 cents per item for the basics, and at significant discounts for more substantial items. Here are some of my favorite sources for scoring affordable travel supplies.

Special Ops Catalogs

I covered this somewhat in my travel bag solutions post for Wise Bread a while back. People who make their livings on S.W.A.T. teams, special operations missions or with law enforcement careers need gear that hustles, stands up to abuse and holds a variety of items in an easy-to-grab-and-use manner. They also donít tend to make a great deal of cash, unless they go into the private sector. And they typically have to buy their own gear. This makes tactical gear catalogs and web sites a great source for luggage and peripheral items you need to use for travel, particularly if you are mobile media professional who needs to do photo shoots and interviews from the road.

Hardware Stores

There are a number of travel items you can buy at the hardware store. Some of my favorites include colored key tag labels (five for a buck) that I use for luggage ID, universal sink stoppers that pack flat in my bag for on-the-fly laundry around the globe and door wedges to provide extra security in third-world hotel rooms.

Dance Catalogs

I picked up this little bit of inside knowledge from veteran travel writer Gretchen Kelly. Once, when we were both on assignment in a remote mountain location, I complimented her on her travel pants, which were a wrinkle-free, easily-packed black jersey. Sheíd paired them with numerous items during the trip, including a white top and black cardigan to form an outfit that would have been just as appropriate for spending the afternoon in a European cafť. Iíd been looking for such a pair, but hadnít wanted to dish out the 100 plus bucks for the ones Iíd seen featured by various travel clothing companies.

Thatís when she let me in on her secret. They were dance pants, and cost less than $50! I was immediately intrigued. Like special operations professionals, dancers tend to be the type of people who are willing to work for less money in order to do what they love. And like those same spec ops pros, they tend to dish out for their own supplies. Other packable purchases Iíve noticed in this career field are tanks with built-in bras, sweater dresses and a variety of clothing items suitable for on-the-road fitness, adventure travel and yoga.

Discount Chains

Iím not sure why more people donít target the bargain shopping retailers such as Marshalls, Ross and TJ Maxx when gearing up for a trip or restocking travel supplies. Most of these stores have at least a small travel department, as well as other categories of inventory that can serve a business traveler well. Iíve seen career totes for women at all three chains, as well as luggage, neck wallets and even wraps and scarves that I was able to put to use for a business trip to Saudi Arabia.

Dollar Stores

Other than the twenty-cent luggage tags, travel shopping doesnít get much cheaper than this. Buying travel supplies at Dollar Tree enables me to pick up extremely inexpensive versions items that need to replaced frequently. Umbrellas and rain ponchos are two of my faves, but there are numerous other travel products I always purchase there for their ultra affordability.

Beauty Supply Stores

There are several travel supplies at Sallyís Beauty that make my short list. Theyíre affordable, and have a variety of locations where I can purchase what I need for hair care, cosmetic replacements, nail care and more. That being said, there are beauty supply stores around the world, and most of them have a few simple items you can always count on such as emery boards, bobby pins and even curlers if you have to squeeze in a formal event or two while traveling.


Antacids arenít the only travel supplies you can buy at the pharmacy. Travel-sized bottles for security check points, emery boards and smaller pharmaceutical containers for things like aspirin have all made my pharmacy shopping list at one time or another. Iíve also used cheap lip liners as blush and lip color while backpacking, and picked up a box or two of semi-permanent color to touch up my roots on the road.


If youíve got an Amazon Prime membership, you can use Amazon to ship to anywhere you might be in the United States. So if youíve just ripped a hole in your favorite leggings, or dropped your Nikon out of the river raft, free shipping is just a click away. We also use this when we find comparable prices to other stores we use and simply donít want to drive the 45 minutes it would take to reach them.

While there are plenty of items I prefer to purchase through traditional travel gear suppliers, I certainly want to save a buck where I can. These sources enable me to do that.

Photo Credit: 05com