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craft_store_jewelry(MCT)—On a recent trip to a well-known craft store, I noticed a selection of colorful wall chargers and mini USB cords available for $5. While they were obviously positioned for impulse purchasing, the display did make me stop and think. What other fun and frugal travel finds were available at craft stores? I bumped my next appointment and proceeded through the aisles in hairpin fashion in order to find the answer.

As it turns out, there are a number of affordable bits you can pick up while you’re there. Of course, there are the expected children’s activity books, materials for a DIY traveler’s sewing kit and road trip entertainment in the form of a crochet hook and skein of yarn. However, the following three categories caught me by surprise.

Bling: To manage your risk of jewelry theft on the road, it helps to travel with thrifty items which won’t break the bank if they need to be replaced. Fabric and leather cord necklaces with simple fasteners make an inexpensive display to any fashionable pendant slides you purchase at souvenir shops as you travel, and can be used with a number of similar products which are also available at chain craft stores. The trick is to shop carefully so you don’t end up with items that appear fake or cheap.

I recently spent $3.99 on a five-pack of velvet necklace cords which not only provide a penny-pinching way to enjoy a dichroic glass pendant I own, but also an inexpensive and efficiently-packed backup while traveling, since packing more than one doesn’t cause space concerns. Ribbon necklaces look equally attractive, depending on your ornament choice, and come with a similar price tag. An eight-inch strand of attractive glass beads can be restrung on a length of stretchy cording, providing a fun wrist bauble that can serve double duty as a ponytail holder.

Bands: Fuss-free hair options are a must for the active frugal traveler on a tight itinerary, and beaded bracelets aren’t your only option. A trip down the trim aisle — typically located near the notions and bolts of fabric — will provide you with access to yards of wide elastic ribbon in various colors. Frequently used as a folded trim option for homemade clothing, this supply can also be fashioned into a simple tie-on bracelet. The bracelet is one travelers can simply slide off to twist onto their hair when temperatures dictate wearing tresses up and off the neck in order to remain comfortable. Basic black provides a unisex solution for vacationers in their teens, as well as adults and young children with long hair.

Basic headbands in neutral and bold colors can also be found at craft stores. While they are typically made available as a base for adding all sorts of baubles and bits, purchasing them plain is an affordable, low-stress solution for women and girls who want to keep stray strands from falling into their eyes.

Bags: They may not have a designer label, but chain craft stores certainly have a reasonable selection of bags that certain types of travelers may find useful. Zippered totes in a variety of patterns make lugging all of your carry-on incidentals a breeze, while rolling duffels and craft-organizing bags work well for those who have to travel with either bulky gear or a larger number of tools and tidbits. Basic canvas bags in plain colors can work for souvenir shopping and also as a base to add fun patches from your travels. This idea is particularly well suited to older children and teens.

Theriault is the best-selling co-author of the book “10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget,” and founder of, a website for independent travelers. She also founded, a website for teachers.

©2013 McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Distributed by MCT Information Services