updated 4/10/2009 3:49:23 PM ET 2009-04-10T19:49:23

The companies and products listed in this story did not advertise with, nor did they provide free samples.'s product reviews are based on real-life travel experiences and reader feedback.

On a recent trip to my local drugstore, I discovered that high-priced travel specialty shops aren't always the best places to find must-pack travel products.

  1. Don't miss these Travel stories
    1. Lords of the gourd compete for Punkin Chunkin honors

      With teams using more than 100 unique apparatuses to launch globular projectiles a half-mile or more, the 27th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin event is our pick as November’s Weird Festival of the Month.

    2. Airports, airlines work hard to return your lost items
    3. Expert: Tourist hordes threaten Sistine Chapel's art
    4. MGM Grand wants Las Vegas guests to Stay Well
    5. Report: Airlines collecting $36.1B in fees this year

Drugstores offer a wealth of multi-use items that are affordable, practical and carry-on compliant, from toiletries to tasty snacks. Here's my list of the top things you should pack on your travels, plucked from the shelves of a simple drugstore — print this out and bring it on your next shopping excursion.

Note: Medications for travel are not included in this list, but it's important that you pack the appropriate medications on your trip. Read more in Medications for Travel.

Downy Wrinkle Release
Let's face it: An iron and ironing board are not always readily available on our travels, and most of us cannot afford to buy an entire wardrobe of wrinkle-resistant packable travel clothes from Magellan's. When packing for a trip, I've often sadly left my favorite dresses and tops behind because I deemed them too wrinkly to take abroad. But no more! I've discovered Downy Wrinkle Release, and I can now pack whatever I want without looking like an unkempt shar-pei on vacation. Downy Wrinkle Release works by relaxing fabric fibers so that wrinkles can be smoothed out with your hand, and it's safe on most fabrics. Just spray on your rumpled shirt, tug, smooth and wear. The three-ounce bottle sells for about $2.99.

Trail Mix
There's a reason it's called trail mix — the healthy blend of nuts, seeds and dried fruit provides plenty of energy for hikers and bikers. But it turns out the stuff may be just as suitable for air travelers as for trail trekkers. In April 2007, The New York Times reported that dried cherries, a common ingredient in many trail mixes, may help reduce the effects of jet lag. Cherries contain melatonin, which is an antioxidant that helps regulate sleep patterns. According to Dr. Russel J. Reiter, a well-known authority on melatonin, eating dried cherries before sleep while traveling can increase the body's natural melatonin levels and may mitigate the effects of jet lag. Check your local drug store for a trail mix that contains dried cherries.

Don't have a taste for trail mix? Find dried cherries at a health food store, or try Kashi Cherry Dark Chocolate granola bars, which retail for about $3.89 for a pack of six.

Colgate Wisp
Brush your pearly whites while camping, touring, hiking or flying — no sink needed. Colgate Wisp is a single-use disposable toothbrush with a bristled head that contains a unique "freshening bead." The brush's fresh bead does not foam like traditional toothpaste; instead, it releases a mouth-cleaning liquid that is safe to swallow. The Wisp also has a handy pick at its bottom end for those tricky spaces between your teeth. The brush usually sells for $2.39 for a four-pack and $7.99 for a 16-pack.

Oscar Blandi's Dry Shampoo
Dry shampoo has long been a secret of runway stylists, and although it will not clean your hair quite as thoroughly as a regular shampoo, it's a fabulous way to freshen up your 'do in places like airplanes and camping tents, where a hot shower is not available. I like Oscar Blandi's one-ounce travel-size dry shampoo because of its lemony scent, non-aerosol packaging and convenient size ($11 on Spritz your hair with dry shampoo and comb it through to eliminate oil, add body and shine, and eliminate dreaded "airplane head." Dry shampoo is also perfect for busy vacations with itineraries that leave little time for hair washing.

Neutrogena Healthy Defense Oil-Free Sunblock Stick
Neutrogena Healthy Defense Oil-Free Sunblock Stick gets my vote for the most packable and portable sunblock protection available on the shelves of your local drug store. The 0.47-ounce sunblock, which resembles a small stick of deodorant, is perfect for carry-on luggage — since it's not a liquid, you can leave it out of your zip-top bag. Plus, when you accidentally leave the cap off you won't end up with clothes soaked in smelly sunscreen. The product's non-greasy solid formula provides reliable sun protection without the mess of liquid sunblocks. You can buy it in SPF 30 or SPF 45, and it typically retails for about $7.99.

Petroleum Jelly
Petroleum jelly is the ultimate multi-use beauty product for travelers. It's a moisturizer, lip balm, make-up remover, first-aid salve and more. Soak a tissue with petroleum jelly to remove eye make-up (make sure not to get it directly in your eyes), rub it on parched skin or smooth it on lips to protect them from dry airplane air. Best of all, petroleum jelly is cheap! The carry-on compliant 2.5-ounce Vaseline brand sells for about $3.29 per bottle, and many drug stores carry generic brands that cost even less.

Olay Daily Facials
Replace your bottle of face wash with Olay Daily Facials and you'll have one less liquid to squeeze into your carry-on zip-top bag. Olay Daily Facials are disposable cleansing cloths that have Olay facial soap soaked right into the fibers. Just add water and scrub your face! Olay Daily Facials come in a wide range of varieties for all skin types; there's Sensitive Skin, Hydrating, Night and Clarifying.

The cloths are available pre-moistened as well as dry — Olay also offers Daily Facials Express, which are moist facial cleansing cloths that you can use without any water (perfect for the plane). A pack of 30 Daily Facials retails for about $6.49. Save money by cutting the cloths in half with scissors — you'll get twice as many for the same price — and purchasing the refill pack.

Empty Carry-On Travel Bottle Set
Buyer beware: Travel-sized products can sometimes be full-size rip offs. For example, I found a 1.7-ounce travel-size bottle of Pert Plus 2 in 1 Shampoo Plus Conditioner for $2. At the same drug store, the regular 13.5-ounce bottle of the Pert Plus 2 in 1 Shampoo Plus Conditioner cost just $3.69. So if I were to buy the travel-size bottle, I'd be paying over four times as much for the exact same product.

Yes, it's true: We recommend some travel-size products in this very list. However, these items are in spray containers, which may be hard to transfer into empty bottles. So instead of stocking up on a dozen overpriced travel-size shampoos and soaps, invest in a high-quality travel bottle set and only buy travel-size items that cannot be easily poured into smaller bottles, like sprays and aerosol cans. Create your own set of personalized travel products with your favorite shampoos and lotions, label them how you like, and reuse them on multiple trips. A Mon Image three-ounce Travel Bottle Pack on costs $5.29 for a set of four bottles.

Braun Smoothstyler Cordless Styler
Bring the Braun Smoothstyler Cordless Styler on overseas trips and you can leave your hair straightener, curling iron, and mess of adaptors and converters at home.

The cordless styler is powered by an energy cell that provides up to eight hours of styling time without the need for plugs, which comes in handy when traveling to countries with different electrical sockets. This item also is perfect for camping trips or a quick touch-up in the airport bathroom, and its medium-size barrel works well for smoothing out coarse hair or giving curly hair defining waves. If you can't find it at your local drug store, you can purchase the cordless styler for $22.99 on sells a year's supply of energy cells to power your cordless styler for $14.80. Please note that according to the TSA, travelers may not carry any extra power cells onto a plane (but they are permitted to pack a styler container containing a single power cell).

Duct Tape
Many avid travelers know the secrets of duct tape — it's the closest possible thing to a packable travel cure-all. The countless uses for duct tape include repairing broken luggage, identifying luggage (wrap your bag with colored duct tape for easy spotting in baggage claim), temporarily bandaging wounds, covering blisters on feet, and taping passport and/or money under the hotel bed for security. A roll of Scotch Duct Tape on sells for just $3.99.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments