Have you ever gone on a big trip where you didn’t have to buy anything new? No? Yeah, me either. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought items for a trip that I’ve never used again. It makes me feel wasteful and helped me come to the realization that I’m not utilizing the resources I have around me properly.
Sometimes we become a bit too "buy" crazy, and forget that there are other ways to get what you need without spending a ton of money. While it is so easy to just purchase something, we often forget we can borrow it from a friend or rent it when needed. How do you know which option is best? It depends on the item, how often you travel, and your budget!
Below, you will find a travel accessories + gear guide on what to buy, what to borrow, and what to rent before headed out on your next adventure.
These are the items that you wish you had, but don’t have long term use for. Instead of buying them and not using them as much as you’d hoped, rent them and return them!
Camera Equipment – I’ve become one of the travelers that now only brings her iPhone for all my video and photography needs while traveling. I used to bring a point and shoot camera as well as a video camera with me, but those are so out of date that my iPhone is now the best equipment that I own. Maybe you’re like me and you’ve had that $1,000+ camera in sight for a long time, but you’ve never pulled the trigger. I’ve got a happy medium for you! If you can’t afford a top of the line camera, but you want professional quality images, you can always rent a camera. Didn’t know you could? Well, you can! Renting equipment allows you to use the most current technology out there, without the huge monetary commitment. You get the image quality that you want, but for a fraction of the cost. You can also rent specialty equipment like drones!
Some sites you can browse for camera gear and accessories:
Luggage – I never have the right luggage for what I want to do. I have survived with an old carry-on bag for years but have a hard time deciding on what to buy next. Do I really need to spend hundreds of dollars on a travel backpack that I might use only a couple times in the next 5 years? You may not have a place to store it and it might just sit around going unused. A great site to browse luggage options is Rent Luggage. In addition to backpacks and luggage, they also have other specialty items like tents, rooftop racks, sport equipment bags, etc. You can rent items by the week for up to a month. If camping is your jam, you may want to check out sites like Lower Gear.
Athletic equipment –I highly recommend renting athletic gear like skis/snowboards/surfboards etc. Unless you’re an avid surfer and must bring your personal board, you will probably end up saving money by renting a board rather than shipping and dragging it around with you at every stop. Most rental shops will be conveniently located near where you need them, so keep your eyes open, or do some research online before you go. If you like to bike but don't want to bring your bicycle around with you, there are many bike sharing networks around the world. Be sure to check out this Bike-sharing World map for more information.
Baby equipment – Traveling with a baby is already a lot of work. There are a bunch of companies around the globe that specialize in baby items like cribs, car seats, changing tables, swings, bed rails, strollers, high chairs, etc. Traveling with all these items can be daunting and the cost and hassle to check them onto your plane, or have them shipped to your destination may not be worth it. These companies will deliver and pick up the items so that you don’t have to! That way you have the items you need, when you need them, so you have one less thing to worry about. Here is a great list from Travel Mamas to get you started.
Electronics – GPS, cell phones, SIM cards, mobile hotspots, laptops, etc. can also be rented! If you don’t have a great international plan with your cell phone carrier, a great option is to rent a phone for a pre-paid amount with all the features that you need. Same goes with other electronics. If you don't have it, and don't need it long term, rent it!
Below are some of the items that I most frequently loan out or borrow from friends. Most items don’t cost a lot on their own but when you add it all up, it really makes a dent in your travel budget. This is money you could have spend on a night at a nice boutique hotel or a fancy meal at a restaurant. If you’re a frequent traveler, some of these may be better to purchase, so use your discretion.
Packing cubes and space bags– These things are a traveler’s dream. Packing cubes are one of the only things I love about actually packing up a suitcase. They allow you to roll (or fold) your clothes up in an organized fashion. Once you have your clothes in the cubes you can play a fun game of Tetris in your luggage to see what fits best, and where. Space bags are great for packing up large jackets by simply rolling the air out of them to save space. Bring one along for your dirty clothes so they stay separated from the rest of your clothes. Chances are high that someone you know already has these, so ask your friends!
Locks – If you want that added feeling of security while you travel, borrow a few TSA approved travel locks. I recommend the combination locks, but they also have ones with keys (just don’t lose em!). If you may be leaving your luggage with your hotel after checking out or staying in a hostel these can come in handy.
Power adapters and converters – If you’re traveling abroad you’re going to likely need a travel plug in order to use or charge your electronics. Most sets only come with one of each, but I always take more because I have multiple things I need to charge/use at once. Who doesn't? Everyone who has traveled abroad will probably have a set gathering up dust somewhere, so make them useful again.
Luggage – If you don’t have the right luggage, it can really change your travel plans significantly. Your choice of luggage determines how mobile you will be. If you want to pack lightly and really only need a decent backpack, but only have a full-size suitcase, you’re going to need to start shopping! Don’t rush to the store just yet. Ask your friends and family if they have something that you can borrow that may fit the bill. If they do, you’ve just saved yourself a good chunk of change. If the backpack they have doesn’t fit you or isn’t comfortable, say “thanks, but no thanks” and see if you can rent one that works better.
Travel purse – I never have the right purse when traveling. Over the shoulder bags are the best for traveling. These bags are harder to steal and the most comfortable after a long day out and about. You’ll want something that is durable and ideally water resistant. My last “travel purse” I bought was from Forever 21 and broke the second I got to my destination, so choose wisely. Most of my friends like to travel and have a purse that was designed just for that. They aren’t usually the best-looking bags, but they get the job done. Before shelling out the cash for one of these functional travel bags, ask around to see if anyone has one that they can loan you.
Money belt – A money belt is a great way to keep your valuables on you at all times. I always travel with one and keep some money, my passport, and a credit card in it. While I do still carry a purse with some cash in it, I will have most of my money stashed away in my money belt in case the purse is stolen.
Outerwear – I despise buying outerwear. I never have the right coat for “real weather” because I live in San Diego (What are seasons again?). When I buy a coat, it usually sits around in my hall closet for most of the year, and if it’s lucky, worn once in the winter. Are you headed on a ski or snowboard vacation, but don’t plan to go again for a long while? Ask a friend to borrow their outerwear instead of buying it all. Need a warm waterproof jacket for a trip to a rainy climate? Someone, you know most certainly has one you can borrow. I bet that friend also has gloves, hats, earmuffs, scarves, etc. to complement your look.
Travel Towel – You never know where your travels will take you. Having a travel towel for the beach or the shower is a must. Don’t bring a terrycloth towel; it will take up far too much space. A travel towel is made of microfiber material and is so compact you’ll hardly notice it in your luggage.
Travel books – Don’t buy a new travel book, borrow one from a friend. The information stays (mostly) the same from year to year regarding major landmarks. So unless you must have the most up to date information on restaurants and lodging (ahem...use your smartphone), an older copy will be just fine. If your friends don’t have a book that you’re looking for, look for it at your local library and check it our before you travel. The last resort, buy a used one from Amazon for a couple bucks.
Rain boots – Unless you live in a place that these are practical for seasonal use, borrow these! You shouldn’t have too much trouble asking some friends if they have a pair you can borrow. Since they mostly come in full sizes and don't have to fit your foot like a glove, rain boots are great to borrow (compared with other footwear). Don’t bring rain boots on your trip unless you’re sure you’re going to get use out of them. Otherwise, they take up far too much space in your luggage.
These are the must-haves. Things you will use and reuse, time and time again. Everyone’s needs are different, but for bigger purchases, I recommend this as the final step if you can’t borrow or rent the item. My list is short, mainly because I hope you will borrow or rent what you don't already own.
Reusable travel toiletry containers - Instead of constantly buying new travel shampoo, conditioner, body wash, etc., purchase refillable 3oz (or smaller) containers for your trip. For one, it means less waste. Reusing these containers for other trips is better than buying a bunch of one-time use products. Second, you can buy the maximum size container to use for your carry on (3oz container) rather than buying a travel shampoo that may be only 2oz. Do you need a third reason? If you do, what better way to travel, than with products you already use in your shower at home. You’re familiar with the product, you like it, and you can continue to use it when you get home.
Good shoes – I typically only pack two, maybe three pairs of shoes when I travel. Walking shoes or boots, dress shoes, and maybe a pair of flip flops for the beach or shower. A great pair of walking shoes is one of the most important travel purchases. You often do a lot more walking and stay out for longer hours when you are traveling so it is important to find a pair that isn’t going to limit what you want to accomplish in a day. Be sure to break in the shoes long before your trip, so you don’t have any unpleasant surprises. Best to be comfortable than stylish.
Under layers – When you’re traveling to a cooler climate it is great to have some warm layers underneath your clothes to provide extra insulation. Yes, you can borrow these from a friend, but some may find that a strange request. I recommend a pair of thermal leggings and long sleeve shirt to start. A couple pairs of really good socks can make a huge difference too. Compression socks for a long flight and a warm pair of wool socks should do the trick.
Other Travel Accessories + Gear Tips:
If you're not sure whether buying, renting, or borrowing is the way to go, I have a few pieces of advice.
First, start my asking your friends and family to see if anyone has what you need. Don't know who or how to ask? Put in on Facebook. You never know who many come to your aid! If no one has the item you need, and it doesn't come cheaply, check to see if someone offers rental options for that item. This works best for an item you will never use again or something you would use infrequently.
If you plan to use that item more than a few times a year, it might be worth purchasing. If money is more important to you than convenience, then you'll need to evaluate the cost to rent vs. the cost to buy compared with the frequency of use and resale options of that item.
If you’re going to buy "new" equipment for the trip, buy used when you can. Searching through online classified sites like Craigslist, a peer to peer sharing network or a local up-cycling group is a great starting point.
You can also wake up early and hit up a few local garage sales for great deals. You’ll save money and hopefully keep something out of a landfill. If you don’t need the item after your trip, sell it or give it away!
What items are on your must buy, rent or borrow list?
Is there any advice you have for your fellow travelers?
What rental websites have you come across that you can't live without?
Share in the comments below!