You know that feeling you get when, just as you get to the airport, you realize you forgot your phone charger? Well, while it's a heart-sinking feeling, it's not a matter of life and death. Except for your cell phone battery, anyway. But when it comes to matters of life, death, and just general safety on vacation, some of the smallest investments can reap the greatest rewards.
To help you spend and pack wisely, we've put together a list of 12 travel accessories under $10 that will absolutely save your bacon -- because no bacon should ever be squandered.
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Price:$9.87 Yes, those little things you see propping doors open all the time. Consider this: something used to hold a door open might be just as good at holding it closed. Then consider that not all hotel rooms (particularly ones without electronic keycards) are as secure as your bedroom back home. Lastly, consider what might happen if an intruder -- say, some creep who saw you at the hotel bar -- picked their way into your room while you're asleep. Even if an ill-intentioned weirdo never actually tries to sneak into your room, the peace of mind these things offer is well worth the price.
Price:$5.99 That saying about "the best camera is the one you have with you" applies to an even greater extent to tools. A good multi-tool, like the Leatherman Wave can set you back upwards of $80, but there's no need to spend that much if all you're after is a portable solution. Keychain multi-tools come equipped with pliers, screwdrivers, scissors, and pretty much everything the full-sized versions have, except in a smaller package. If you'd rather have something you can keep in your carry-on, the TSA-compliant Gerber Shard (pictured above) gives you two screwdrivers, a pry bar, and a bottle opener -- all on a keychain that won't fill up your pocket.
Price: $4.46 Beyond using them to transport TSA-approved liquids or bury your phone at the beach, Ziploc bags can mean the difference between a fun surprise rainstorm and the heartbreaking realization that your phone and passport are hopelessly waterlogged. They're also a great cheap option for keeping smaller items separate from the rest of the crap inside your carry-on, so you're not forced to root around in there for your ChapStick like a lady with a purse.
Price:$9.95 A first-aid kit of some sort is a vacation must, but what if you get a really bad cut? Like, "we're gonna need a bigger Band-Aid" bad. That's where QuikClot comes in: this military-grade, chemically treated gauze acts as a hemostatic agent, speeding up the clotting process and ensuring that you don't bleed out before you can get to a hospital. Are the odds SUPER remote that you'll need this level of emergency medical care? Yes. Should you absolutely drop $10 on it just in case? Also yes.
Price: $7.95 In addition to the myriad miscellaneous uses of rubber bands (building a makeshift clothesline in your hotel room/launching them at unruly airplane passengers), you can defend yourself from thieves by wrapping them around your wallet -- the bands, not the thieves. Doing so makes your wallet approximately 83 times harder to pull from your pocket, both for the prospective thieves and for you.
Granted, a suitably skilled pickpocket can probably snatch your wallet regardless of how many rubber bands you've wrapped it in. There are some things you can't entirely prevent -- but taking proper precautions puts the bullseye on some other mark.
Price:$9.99 You don't realize just how handy a mini flashlight can be until you don't have one. Yes, everybody's phone has a built-in light these days, but why drain your precious battery life and run the risk of accidentally dropping/shattering the most expensive thing on your person when you can just as easily use a dedicated, much brighter LED torch? For the amount of space one of these things takes up, the ability to see in the dark whenever you want is an absolute steal -- whether you're rooting around in your carry-on or alone in a strange place when the power goes out.
Concentrated laundry detergent
Price: $4.50 Sure, a Tide To Go pen can save your shirt if a splash of spaghetti sauce gets on there, but what if the entire plate upends into your lap? Well, if you've brought along a bottle of concentrated laundry detergent, you simply pour two capfuls into whatever washing basin you've got on hand and have at it. Then you hang the formerly stained article of clothing from your makeshift rubber band clothesline, kick back, and crack open the minibar, because if the money you saved isn't going towards booze, then really, what's the point?
Price:$7.99 Originally used in the suspension lines of parachutes (hence the name), paracords found a second life in the outdoor market thanks to their remarkable versatility. In addition to its tremendous tensile strength (up to 550lbs), each length of cord contains a core made up of seven individual two-ply strands which can be separated and used for finer jobs. Whether you've got a busted shoelace or a wound that needs suturing, paracord is your new best friend.
Also, as far as fashion goes, a paracord bracelet puts that silicone Livestrong bracelet where it belongs: in the trash.
Price: $8.23 Unless you're into orienteering, a compass won't seem like a practical piece of kit to bring on vacation -- until, of course, you realize knowing what direction you're walking (in an unfamiliar area) is pretty damn helpful. Combine your über-cheap compass with a paper map -- which you can either print out beforehand or score from a hotel concierge -- and you'll be navigating like a pro, no matter where you are. It's almost as if people have already been using this technique for hundreds of years...
Price: $8.24 There's really no good reason not to bring the greatest invention of the 20th century on vacation with you. Sure, the whole enormous roll is too bulky, but you can get around that by simply wrapping a length of the tape around a Sharpie marker. You now have a convenient way to transport the most important item in your carry-on.
Seriously, every conceivable problem on your trip can be fixed with this impossibly sticky stuff. Tore a hole in your bag? Duct tape. Broke your arm? Duct tape. Just got kidnapped? Duct ta... oh.
Price:$9.99 Alright, so this one might not save your LIFE per se, but it'll definitely save you having to pay overweight baggage fees, and that's just as important as your life, honestly. Weighing your luggage periodically throughout your trip lets you keep track of how much wiggle room you've got left in there, ensuring you'll think twice before buying that solid ebony fertility idol.
The classic analog models are generally cheaper, but fork over the extra few bucks and invest in one of the digital versions; on top of being more accurate, they're also a lot smaller, which is important when you're trying like hell to make room for a fertility idol.
Butt (and other part) wipes
Price:$4 Anyone remotely adventurous in vacation dining knows firsthand how intestinal distress can ruin a perfectly good evening (and/or pair of silk boxers). A travel pack of sanitary wipes ensures you’ll never have to rely solely on half-ply toilet paper in order to completely cleanse yourself. Added bonus: you can use them for general face and hand cleaning when sinks or clean water are lacking. When you're in a jungle, you'd be amazed how good a fresh wipedown feels. For a negligible cost -- in both money and luggage space -- sanitary wipes might be the most important item on this list.
Gianni Jaccomais an editorial assistant for Thrillist Travel, and and is fluent in more than seven languages that he made up himself. Follow him on Twitter at @gjaccoma.