Top 10 creative items on our retired budget travel pack list

As retired budget travelers, we like to carry certain items to feel more comfortable. Many of these items are not always offered in rental units, often because of cultural differences. For example, there’s no automatic drip coffee makers in some countries, so we thought of a creative solution. We think other items on this list are clever solutions to costly options, such as a bag filled with rice. Now, that might seem really strange, but you’ll see why it’s necessary for Tedly.

To be clear: we realize ‘budget’ is subjective. We are not ‘extreme’ budget travelers, and we have previously disclosed our spending. Examples of our budget are here and here. Also on background, we mostly live in month-long Airbnb rentals. For more on that, go here.

And remember, this is an independent travel blog. We do not work with any brands or affiliates, and we do not get any kickbacks, freebies, or discounts — ever. Products in our list are independently reviewed. We are beholden to no one.

Our list creative necessities in retired budget travel

1. A one-cup coffee maker.

  • Outside the U.S., automatic drip coffee machines are not always provided in rentals.
  • We each drink at least two cups of coffee a day each. The average small “cafe Americano” (espresso and water) costs at least $2. We save $8 a day or more with this handy small item. That’s a minimum savings of $240 a month!

One-cup coffee method water pour

There is an entire blog post on this coffee issue here.

2. A top bed sheet.

  • Not all Airbnb rentals have top sheets. London, Croatia, one place in Barcelona come immediately to mind. However, we like a top sheet.
  • Tedly found a full-sized top sheet in the bedding section of a used clothing store in Barcelona, and so it cost just a couple of dollars.
  • It’s compact, weighs little, and is easy to wash and go.

3. Turkish towel.

  • A thin, absorbent cloth that packs up to nothing. It’s not as absorbent as a traditional towel, but it sure works well in a pinch!
  • This can be used as a blanket or scarf on travel days, or as a beach wrap or beach blanket (pictured below).

Turkish towel

4. Anti-bacterial wipes, scrubbie-sponges, and a microfiber hand towel.

  • We like to give places a once-over before we settle in — regardless of how clean it looks.
  • These small, inexpensive items save us an immediate trip to a store, and provide piece of mind.

5. Bluetooth travel-sized speaker.

  • Lightweight and compact.
  • Often, budget travel accommodations don’t include music setups.
  • Sounds better than laptop or tablet speakers.
  • Beach ready, like us.

Monster bluetooth speaker

6. External hard drive, flash drives.

  • These are backups to writing. (I had a laptop die two years ago and lost my creative writing folder.)
  • I also put pictures on these, even though we use Flickr. Sometimes the wifi isn’t great at some of our rentals, and fast wifi is needed for Flickr.

7. Bungee cords, clothes pins, thick rubber bands.

  • Handy items for a million uses. For example: bungee cords can secure the makeshift sunshade cover Tedly designed on the terrace of our Airbnb rental in Croatia (picture below); rubber bands compact items like my sandals on travel days; clothes pins for wash or as chip clips.
  • These items are cheap and weigh little.

Shade cover with bungee cords and clothes pins

8. Kindle Paperwhite.

  • Lightweight, easy to read outside – even in direct sun, charge lasts a long time.
  • Though initially pricey and you don’t “hold a book,” this ultimately is a big money-saver. I download free copies of books from my old library back in the U.S. (I used to own several bookcases — rooms — stuffed with books in a former life, so I get the hesitation to convert to digital books.)

9. Self-packable day packs.

  • Lightweight, fold up to small items.
  • Easy to use for grocery shopping or day trips from our temporary home base.
  • We use New Outlander – but there are several other brands. They are made of seemingly indestructible nylon, although, after three years of use, the water-resistant coating inside on one of our bags is heavily peeling off. Also, the large size is a bit too big for shorter people like me, so my day pack is the small size.

10. A small plastic bag filled with rice.

  • An essential item for Tedly’s photography. A must-have to keep the camera still during night shoots at slow shutter speeds.
  • Costs practically nothing, weighs next to nothing.
  • Instead of a large and costly, tripod, he plops down his small bag of rice to steady his camera. He came up with this resourceful idea after he left a beanbag at some Maya ruins back in Mexico.

And that’s our top 10 list of creative items for budget travel solutions. What about yours?

No doubt about it – resourcefulness and adaptability are two keys to making long-term retired budget travel a successful journey.

What clever items or creative solutions have you discovered on your journey? We’d love to know! Our situation is always changing in different countries, and so we may yet be challenged in ways you’ve already conquered. You can always contact us or leave a comment below.

Happy trails!







  1. The 1 cup coffee maker has been noted Ellie. We house sit tons for coffee nuts it seems but when renting or doing the hotel bit it helps to have one lined up. I am good for 1-2 cups daily. Heading back to NJ and a glorious K Cup in a few days. Time to stock up at Walmart.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As a tea drinker, I have to carry my own mug and a single-cup size electric coil. Also black tea bags when in green tea country like China or Central Asia.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the list.One question, I assumed you use uncooked rice in the bag, but in the picture it looks like it’s cooked sticky rice, or the precooked heat and eat type. Which do you use?

    Liked by 1 person

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