Dollar Store ‘Finds’ for the Frugal Traveler

Photo Credit: Nicholas Eckhart on Flickr CC Lic.

Every frugal traveler should include a trip to the Dollar store as they prepare for their vacation.  I was there today…actually looking for a fingernail file and started snapping photos of some of the ‘finds’ I’ve purchased for our travels in the past – and recommended on this blog.  I drew some interesting looks from the manager until I explained what I was doing….  I can only imagine what other customers thought.  haha!  Oh well!!  🙂

Though many of these things can be purchased at Walmart, Target….Dollar General, Family Dollar, etc…  what I’m referring to are the stores that sell everything for $1 — Dollar Tree, The Dollar Store, Deals, etc…

If you’re going on a cruise, check out  Dollar Store ‘Finds’ Specifically For Cruises 


This is the BEST place to get travel size containers for cosmetics, shampoo & conditioner,  crèmes, etc…  🙂

travel size bottles


These TSA approved containers have lids that are ‘secure’ so you don’t worry about leakage.  However, for worry-proof, pack them in Ziploc bags from……You guessed it!!!  The Dollar store…for $1  🙂




travel size containers


These containers come in 10 packs –  .10 each!!  Use these for anything small (earrings, Advil/Tylenol, wax earplugs,  etc…) that won’t leak as they have snap-on lids.  



travel size containers

Another option:  A 6-pack for $1   These lids seem a little more secure….


Adapt your ‘quality’ to what you plan to use it for….



travel size medications

Travel sized medication bottles.  I think I’m more ‘in love’ with the size of the bottles than anything.  We have long ago used all the meds in our travel size bottles, but keep refilling them with ‘new’ meds each vacation.    I even combine several meds of varying shapes/colors into one bottle to save space.  NOTE:  If you do this, realize that medication has expiration dates.  We make a point to use all the meds in a bottle when we return home…but refill with new meds for the next trip.  I don’t rebuy the bottles…but the medication is ALWAYS ‘new’ on every trip.


medication containers

For those on a regular medication or vitamin regiment, these pill organizers are great.  There are options to fit everyone’s schedule.  Just keep looking until you find one that meets YOUR needs.

pill organizer - 3x/day


I really like THIS one for 3x/day vitamin or medication schedule.   OR use this large container for the whole family…dedicate a row…or rows…to each person and keep everyone’s meds in the same container.

Here’s a Hack:  Use these (any size) for ANY small items you need to keep track of…earrings…rings…ear plugs…


ice packsWe use these for lunches.  When we fly, we take a small collapsible insulated bag in the suitcase along with one (or 2) of these.  Most hotel rooms have a mini-fridge with a small ‘freezer’  section for freezing.


plastic bags


If you’ve read many of my posts, you know we take plastic bags on all vacations.  You just never know when you’ll need one.  On our last trip, my bracelet broke….I gathered all the beads together in a bag and brought it home to re-string.  The uses are endless!!  🙂


All you will need is 2-3 bags of various sizes, NOT entire boxes.  🙂

ear plugs

Ear plugs come in handy quite often – flights, hotels, cruises.  This set comes with a small container for storage once the package is opened.  I have two of these!




Duct tapeDuct Tape – Again, if you’ve read many of my posts you know we ALWAYS take a bit of duct tape on trips – and usually use it for something.  I  recommend wrapping 2-3 feet around a pencil stub instead of taking the whole roll. These rolls at Dollar Tree were very small if you wanted to take the whole thing….  Regardless of how you do it, this roll is $1!


Dollar Stores are a GREAT place to find items to keep the kids occupied on any trip…flight or road trip.  There’s everything from puzzle books to paperback classics (books) to stickers/sticker books to inexpensive plastic toys that won’t cause stress if they’re lost en route.

Puzzle books and Workbooks:flashcards, workbooks

 Workbooks for preschoolers – when they still think this sort of thing is fun!  🙂

…..Coloring or Activity Books

puzzle booksactivity, coloring and puzzle books











Stickers and Sticker books:sticker books and stickers

 stickers for the kids




paperback classics



Paperback Classics:



Toys at the Dollar Store



Small toys – plastic and cheap!!  You won’t worry if they’re lost  🙂



cheap washcloths for freshening up on flights


Washcloths for that flight.  Take these (DRY) in a plastic bag – If you need to clean up a mess – or freshen up, ask the flight attendant for a cup of warm water (or cool water??).  This is better than taking the nice washcloths from home and risk them getting lost.

flavored water packets


These are nice – everyone can have their favorite drink flavor – for MUCH less $$ than sodas.


Some might have an aversion to purchasing food from the Dollar Store but I have found many things to be the same brands as the grocery stores/discounters sell.  I always check the expiration dates and occasionally find items “close’ to expiration, but have never found anything actually expired. Because I’m usually shopping the week before we travel, the close expiration date isn’t a problem.

high protein snacks Snacks – Trail Mix varieties:  I don’t actually buy these as we make our own, but for those who prefer to purchase them, here they are for $1.


snack-individual sizes

Other snack options….all individually wrapped.  These are great for grabbing before a day on the beach or in an amusement park…or going on a hike or tour.

packages of peanuts

variety of snack crackers from Dollar store



cookies from Dollar Store

Cookies in smaller quantities.  Though we don’t purchase the Trail mixes, we DO really like these cookies – (The fig newtons are as good as the name brand imho)   OK…I’ll admit it…..I buy these on a regular basis – not just on vacations. The small size makes it easier to ‘justify’ the purchase….  🙂


smaller sizes for weekend getaways

If you’re staying in a place with a kitchen/cooking facility, these smaller size mixes are great for making a dessert for one evening – without  having to deal with remainder.



travel size peanut butterPeanut Butter!  Our snack of choice – It’s protein and my family LOVES it.  Dollar Tree has both the “To Go’ packs which are great for flights.  (Food is so expensive at the airport or on the plane and  TSA restricts what you can bring with you.)   We either use it as a dip for celery, etc…or bring some crackers and a plastic SPOON ( can’t bring a knife through  security….).

The small jars were great for taking to Hawaii.  Groceries are so expensive on the Islands and we wanted to bring as much with us as we could.  This size was perfect for a week.

travel size mayo/jelly/syrup
These are more ‘finds’ we took to Hawaii.  Again the small size meant we could use it all before flying back home.  It was really nice to pay $1 for each one rather than the $4-$6 they charged at the grocery stores on the islands.  As you can see…these are name brands.



These  accordion files will keep paperwork, tickets, confirmations, etc… organized (yes, I DO print some things…its just easier to handle paper when going through security lines than phone/ipad, etc… )

Not pictured, but they also have awesome PLASTIC folders for these same items..if that’s what you prefer.  They won’t get torn up as quickly as cardboard/paper folders.


heavy duty aluminum foil


If you’re vacationing in the wide outdoors, this HEAVY DUTY foil will be great for making Hobo Meals.  Get it for $1!!!  🙂 🙂


OTHER ITEMS (not pictured)

  • PAPER!!!  Dollar Tree is a cavernous hole for a paper addict such as myself.  I LOVE the sticky notes in all sizes and colors…and pads…notebooks…Everything my little paper-addicted heart could want is there…for $1
  • Then…there’s paper’s best friend…the colored pens!!!  🙂  Packs of 4 – or 6 for $1.
  • carabiners – large ones for $1…or smaller ones in packs of 2/$1.
  • Shower caps to cover shoes when you pack…to keep clothes clean’er’….
  • Mesh laundry bags – great for that return trip home.

There you have it!  With a trip to the Dollar Tree…  (and a few dollars)  you can have a lot of things to make your travel easier, less stressful and certainly less expensive.

Happy Shopping!




Branson, MO Pt. 2: What To Do – Shows, Shopping and More

For Part 1 of this series:  Branson: Planning Your Trip

Shows:  The shows in Branson are family friendly;  as long as you choose something that fits your personal taste, you will be happy.  This is a list of the ones we have seen and liked….though NOT an exhaustive list of all the good shows.

  • Acrobats of China:  This is a good show, but don’t expect to find discounts for them.  They don’t exist!  Paying full price IS worth it.
  • Baldknobbers:  This is a family show – they claim to be the “First Branson Show”…along with the Presley’s;   It’s a country and folk music variety show.   I emphasize the words ‘country folk’ as this is NOT the modern country  music of the “stars”.  It’s a good show!  🙂
  • Presley’s:  Claims to be the “First Branson Show”….along with Baldknobbers; There is a ‘friendly battle’ going on between these 2 families as to who was ‘first’.  They’re very similar – country and folk music variety show.
  • Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner and  Show  VERY good meal and show about the story of the Civil War.
  • Jim Stafford:   This is a classic Branson show….Jim is quite a talented guitarist and he plays quite a bit, but this is also a variety show with other acts.
  • Haygoods:  The Haygoods are a family who got their start at Silver Dollar City.  As their popularity grew they bought a theater on the 76 strip and have been voted Branson’s #1 Show for several years.  Tickets are reasonably priced and they have Family Passes that make it economical for families.  Highly recommended
  • Yakov  Yakov is from Russia  and does a comedy variety show.  He also has a dinner theater.
  • Photo Credit; Branson Conv. Ctr. CC Lic.

    Shoji   Excellent show, but don’t expect to find a discount or have this show included in any of the “free tickets” for attending a Timeshare presentation.  Shoji is a violinist and INCREDIBLE!

  • Twelve Irish Tenors:  If you love the harmonies, you’ll LOVE this show!!
  • Sight and Sound Theater   This is Christian theater – Bible stories with incredible sets and live animals!!!  They have a continually changing fare, including  – Noah, Jonah, Moses et al –  and of course, the Christmas story every Nov/Dec.  (Our favorite is probably Noah and the Ark  🙂  )There is a backstage tour during the afternoon — a nice addition if you’re going to the show that evening.  🙂

NOTE:  Shows are the reason most people go to Branson…however, don’t think that’s all this town has to offer. If you’re not interested in shows…or if your budget just won’t allow for them, there are still MANY fun, family activities to keep everyone busy and happy while you’re there.

Other Things To Do:

Photo Credit: Party_of_Five on Flickr CC Lic.

  • Silver Dollar City:   LOVE IT!!!  There are discounts for admission to SDC; just look for them.  The added advantage to a day in Silver Dollar City is the number of shows in the park – all included in the price of your admission ticket.  If you enter the park after 3 pm, the next day is free.  This is a great way to plan your days there.  You can either have 1 1/2 days for the price of 1…or divide your visit into 2 partial days to suit the needs of young children or those with limited mobility or energy.   TIP:  I HIGHLY recommend the “grill meals” at Skillet Cookery. (pictured) The meal of veggies and meat are cooked on this 5′ grill. It’s the best meal in the park!!!   (imho) 🙂  This year, they are opening a new roller coaster that is the largest, wildest wooden coaster anywhere.  If your family likes these, it promises to be quite the experience.
  • Butterfly Place & Rainforest   This is one of several around the country.  This is a good way to spend a few hours with the kids.  My kids really enjoyed it.  Coupons available; find them in the coupon booklets at hotels, restaurants, etc…
  • IMAX Theater:  Shows run all day long, replaying on a regular schedule.   🙂  Buy tickets for the first show, then purchase tickets for a later show that day at half-price with your ticket stub.  Check the website for coupons for the IMAX and food items. This is a great activity if the day is cold or rainy.
  • Hollywood Wax Museum:
  • Ripley’s “Believe it or

    PHoto Credit; Louis CR Artist on Flickr CC Lic.

  • Branson Landing Cruise or Dinner Cruise:  This is fairly new, but looks to be a nice experience for a couple looking for a romantic evening.  We haven’t done this, but are wanting to on our next trip to town.
  • Mini-Golf:  Branson has quite a few mini-golf courses in every theme imaginable. This is a great family activity as the temps typically go down in the evenings.  This was often the highlight of our trip…we ‘bargained’ with the kids.  They tolerate our day of shopping (when they were young and didn’t yet appreciate a day of shopping. haha) and we’d take them to their choice of miniature golf that evening.  Of course, eventually, they appreciated a ‘Shop Til You Drop’ day and bargaining was no longer necessary, but that worked well during those ‘early years’.  🙂

Get Outta Town:  There are some wonderful activities just outside of town…in addition to Silver Dollar City (which is out-of-town too).   Check out the area around Table Rock Lake and Tanneycomo. There’s the regular lake activities and lake cruises and dinner cruises as well.

Photo Credit: Branson’s Best Reservations:

Outlet Shopping:  We often go to Branson in the Fall to do our Christmas shopping.  Bargains galore!!  When we first began going, there were 3 outlet malls.  Tanger is the only one left.   They are extremely busy during ‘back to school’ shopping as well as the Christmas shopping season, so be prepared for crowds at those times.  Stop by the Lounge in the corner of the mall for a coupon book…free to AAA members; $5 for everyone else.  They will allow you to look through it before purchasing to see if you can get your $5 value from it.

Photo Credit: John Stone on Flickr CC Lic.

Branson Landing:  This is the newest shopping mecca – an outdoor mall flanked by Bass Pro Shops and Belk.   It’s  NOT Outlet shopping but it’s very nice… make plans to spend a little time there.  NOTE:  The parking is quite a walk if you arrive late in the day.  There are shuttles to transport visitors – for a tip.  Nighttime is a GREAT time to go as well – especially during the Christmas season.  It’s beautifully decorated for the Holidays!!

Coupon Books:  Branson is the Place for Coupons.  Don’t go anywhere without at least looking to see if there’s one available!  🙂  The coupon books/brochures are at the entrances to most motels, restaurants and shopping areas. Pick up one of each (there is more than one company printing these) when you FIRST arrive in town so you have time to look through them before spending any money.  As I mentioned above,  the Tanger coupon book is available at the Tanger Lounge in the corner of the mall -$5 or free for AAA members. If you will do a LOT of shopping, this may save you some money even if you have to pay for it.