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 January 31, 2013  Posted by  Hot Deals, Travel
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Lots of companies sell gadgets and gear that are supposed to make travel less stressful and more organized. A bit of ingenuity can save you both stress and the cost of buying the gadgets.  Here are six favorite free and cheap travel essentials from a longtime road warrior — me.

Travel wallet. Instead of buying a pricey travel wallet with built-in security, hang on to an old, worn-out wallet to use as a decoy when traveling. Put a few small bills in the dummy wallet while keeping your real money and credit cards in a “real” wallet or money belt. Keep the dummy where pickpockets can find it easily, so they don’t bother digging further. If you are held up, throw the criminals your dummy wallet.

Luggage scale. Avoid paying overweight baggage charges by weighing your suitcase on the bathroom scale. Here’s the trick — stand on the scale holding the packed bag, then put the bag down and weigh yourself without moving the scale.  The difference in the two numbers is what your bag weighs. Trust me, this is much more accurate than simply placing the bag on the scale.

Hotel door alarm. Sure, you could protect yourself against unwanted intruders with a $20 gadget that takes up valuable luggage space. Or, you could use an ordinary wooden clothespin. Just jam it into the space between the bottom of the door and the floor. Pack a couple of extra clothespins to turn a regular hotel hanger into a skirt hanger, and for its original use, on the laundry clothesline.

Packing cubes. Why spend up to $10 apiece for fancy, colored pouches when you can do the same thing with resealable zip-top bags from the supermarket for pennies. I use sturdy freezer bags in various sizes for everything from socks to sweaters. Just squeeze out the last bit of air before completely sealing for a space-saving vacuum pack. The zip-top bags have the added bonus of being see-through, unlike many fancy packing cubes.

Travel size toothpaste. Unless you get free travel size toothpaste from your dentist when you visit, don’t bother buying one. My trick is to use the half-empty tube from the bathroom at home. Just roll it up from the bottom to reduce the size, and secure with a rubber band or clip. Voila.

Duct tape. I always have a few strips taped inside my bag, because you never know. Over the years, I’ve duct-taped split seams on a bag, wrapped a piece around zipper pulls for security after my luggage lock went missing, even used a piece to smooth a spot inside a pair of shoes that was giving me a blister.

If you have any cheap tricks for DIY travel gadgets, we’d love to hear about them.

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Evelyn Kanter

Evelyn Kanter is an award-winning journalist who has been reporting on good deals, and warning about bad ones, for longer than she cares to admit publicly. A native and lifelong New Yorker, she helped launch the “Sales and Bargains” column in New York Magazine, and was the first consumer reporter for CBS News and for WABC TV “Eyewitness News”. She’s the author or editor of more than a dozen travel guidebooks and apps, including Peaceful Places New York City, and owns and operates NYC On The Cheap and EcoXplorer. A long-time tree-hugger, Evelyn also writes about green travel, green cars and saving the green in your wallet, for national and regional magazines and newspapers, including a column syndicated by Motor Matters.

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