Great, and frugal, travel gear for women

From a swimsuit to hygiene products and all under $100.

MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICEMay 12, 2013 

Women who spend a great deal of time on the road will be the first to tell you that logistical and scheduling stresses can be greatly reduced by having access to items which are designed to go the distance. Whether you are getting ready for a trip of your own, shopping for a gift or simply getting your college-age daughter ready for her first trip abroad, this list provides several high-functioning finds.

GEAR

Getting your belongings from one point to another is no small accomplishment. That's where choosing the proper bags, protectors and organizers can play a critical role. One size doesn't always fit all however, so taking your specific needs into account will help guide your purchasing decisions.

Overland Equipment offers a combination tote and laptop backpack in the Cambridge bag, which comes with stow-away straps, compression tabs, vertical storage for easier aisle navigation and a top zipper for extra security. Those who have mobile office needs that require a fair bit of field work may find it particularly useful.

Need to carry a digital camera in your pocketbook in order to be prepared for travel photography opportunities? Sea to Summit sells a large, padded soft-cell pouch in fun colors that provides a nice buffer for a mid-sized DSLR. At an Amazon price of approximately $35, it's nearly half the cost of other camera-specific purse inserts I've seen on the market.

CLOTHING

Space-efficient wardrobe extenders are available with CamiBands, a tubular clothing item that can serve as a colored insert under blouses instead of a camisole, and also as a layering piece under the bottom edge of a tank or tee. They are helpful when a full second layer would either be too hot or excessively bulky to pack.

Active loungewear is my luxury of choice for trips where outfit changes are extremely limited. It gives me something I can not only wear to relax after a day of meetings, but also to sleep in and wear to the fitness facility in the morning before heading home on the plane. A pair of light-weight yoga pants is certainly a savvy choice, as is a thin hooded pull-over top. ExOfficio's Chica Cool hoody for women is one example.

Convertible clothing is also a killer investment, as is anything that can be worn in more than one way and lets you cut back on the number of items you need to pack. Aventura's two-in-one convertible dress is one. As a mid-calf dress, you can wear it strapless or with a tie-around halter. When you're ready for a different look, simply scrunch the top band a bit and slide the item down to your waist to serve as a stylish maxi skirt you can pair with a cute top and your favorite pair of strappy sandals.

If a plastic rain poncho doesn't make your short list of travel fashion preferences, a RainRap might be a workable solution. Made of a lightweight, water-resistant fabric, the garment appears very similar to a hooded poncho that allows you to reverse between two different colors.

For classic swimwear, it's tough to go wrong with a basic black tank suit. It can serve as a body suit in a pinch, and can easily layer under other clothing on the plane if you are trying to travel light. The Siena suit from Aqua Sphere is a strong choice, providing light body shaping and decent breast support for roughly $60.

GADGETS

While few travelers have room for excess gadgets in their luggage, there are definitely some on the market that make our lives easier. Bodyworksband.com sells flat-packing rubber power bands with specific exercise diagrams printed directly onto the product. Folded and tucked into a messenger bag pocket, they take up less room than a short stack of software installation disks.

Women with precision grooming needs may want to research the product availability from TweezerMan, which sells a variety of compact items such as folding brow combs, miniature tweezers and small adhesive magnifying mirrors.

Those who enjoy traveling to more remote destinations know that alternative personal products are often a pressing concern. Shewee.ca sells a portable urinary device for women. Essentially an ergonomic funnel, it provides hygienic and modest toilet access where it would otherwise be difficult or impossible. Basically it lets us go standing up with our pants on, ladies. How cool is that?

Disposable feminine products can be difficult to come by in many parts of the world. That's when having easily-sanitized, reusable items at your disposal is a good idea. Lunapads are a snap-in-place cloth solution that you can launder by hand on the road and air dry, while the DivaCup is worn internally and cleaned between uses.

Theriault is the co-author of "10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget," and founder of TrekHound.com, a website for independent travelers.

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