Toiletries can be a major line item in your budget when you live on the road. Once you embark on a life of full-time travel, you are basically embracing the fact you'll be paying more for some of these products on a permanent basis. From import taxes on favored supplies to purchasing full containers of the basics you'll leave behind only partially consumed, this is one category of vacation necessities where the price increases with full-time travel.
Filling up those contact lens cases with your favorite eye gel will only get you through days, not months. That canned shave cream you love? Good luck finding it in a travel size when you're taking the three-month slow route through farm country in the eastern part of Europe. Even if you implement every packing tip and international shopping strategy in the book, you will still end up spending extra due to the nature of the nomadic lifestyle. Here are a few of my favorite ways to keep costs under control as much as possible.
I've written a number of times before about the power of multipurpose products on the road, but one strategy I've yet to shout the praises of is the use of two-in-one products. One that we use regularly now is whatever brand of two-in-one toothpaste we have access to on the road. My husband hates to be without the benefits brought to him by the active ingredients in mouthwash, but also hates having to lug around even a small bottle of the stuff. Fortunately, the flattened bottles of this combo product not only solve that problem, but pack efficiently as well. As an added bonus, they typically only cost about as much as a bargain toothpaste, cutting our total price by 50 percent or more.
While I'll always love having a rich, luscious hair conditioner on hand, buying both shampoo and conditioner can be a real drag in rural locations where only large containers are available. Even with decanting into a smaller travel bottle before you depart, it's still quite a waste of product when you add up how many bottles you'll be leaving behind over the course of 10 or 12 months. Our new solution is to search out the shampoo and conditioner combination brands whenever possible. They can still be used as shower gel to maximize consumption, and provide a 50 percent reduction in both cost and space.
Decanting things such as lotion, facial oil or tinted moisturizer into smaller empty bottles is certainly nothing new, but have you ever noticed how the clear containers are often priced the same as the brand-name travel sizes that are already full of product? Why not try a new brand for a trip or two until you've consumed the entire amount? In the end, you'll have gotten the small bottles for free rather than paying for empty ones. There are situations and products for which this solution might not be appropriate. When it is however, you've carved out a cost savings opportunity that will serve you well over the years.
It's no secret that sunscreen products can be pricey. However, while there's no way around throwing down the big bucks for a higher SPF number, it is possible to save money on your day-to-day needs by simply switching product categories when you shop for sunscreen with an SPF of between 15 and 30. Certain basic skin lotions come with broad spectrum protection and meet your daily moisture needs as well. Lubriderm makes one, and while I haven't seen it yet in Spain or Morocco, I have found it available for purchase in Ecuador when I was traveling there for an extended time.
This same strategy can be implemented with lip balm. Lip sunscreens tend to cost more than basic lip balms with SPF included. Since leaving the United States to explore the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa, I've used this strategy twice and saved between $4 and $6 each time. Once was with a Blistex balm at a pharmacy in Seville. The other was with a generic brand at a local grocery store before we hopped the ferry over to Tangier.