Thrifting For the Traveler

musings, Travel

I love thrift store shopping. I love the fact that you can save money. I love the fact that it reduces waste. I love the fact that I can give money to a charity I care about. I love the fact that when I can’t use something, I can pass it onto something else.

When it comes to travel gear, there is no exception in that one can find great deals for great prices. Some of my favorite pieces have come from a second hand store, and they soon become favorite travel companions as I journey through the world.

My go-to travel and overnight bag is a leather duffel bag that I bought for about $10. Today’s score was a brand-new, tags attached, strap still wrapped up, American Tourister duffle bag for $4.50. I am always on the search for the next great jacket, or pair of pants, or a variety of other items that make journeys on the roll easier.

Here are my tips for scoring great finds at a great price.

Hint: this works for garage sales, eBay searches, rummage sales, and other hunts.

  1. Check the price
    • See if you are okay with the price, there is no point to continue if you don’t see the price as acceptable.
    • At many thrift stores, Saturday is the best day as extra tags are half-priced (double score).
  2. Check the brand
    • Like many things, certain brands can say a lot about the product. If it’s a branded product, I try to stick to reliable favorites and companies that have a long reputation. Brands that are common for places like Target and Walmart may be okay, but it’s unlikely that you will get the years of wear and love out of products from there.
  3. Check the value
    • If it’s a newer item, or an older version of a newer item, check on Amazon or another retailer to see the value. This may determine if the price is accurate or not.
  4. Check for tears, stains, and other blemishes.
    • Some of these are easily fixed, but some tears and issues can be a death sentence to a bag. I bought a beautiful Very Bradley duffle bag and when I got it home I noticed the handle had a terrible tear. While I fixed it, and it’s a great bag for light weight items, it is probably something I would not buy again. Some stains will come out in a wash, while others will be a permanent problem. Just decide if it’s worth it or not.
  5. Check the lining
    • sometimes linings can be completely damaged or destroyed, which may be why it was donated in the first place. Just do a thorough check in the pockets and corners for death-sentence problems.
  6. Zip the zips
    • Zippers are often one of the first things to break or wear out, so often when a zip goes, someone gets rid of the bag or jackets. Make sure everything is in working order before you purchase. If something is not too bad, and you have some sewing skills, then try replacing the zip with a new one.
  7. Measure wants and needs
    • While extra and new and shiny bags seem very exciting, it’s important to remember that one probably doesn’t need 10 duffel bags. I like to shop, but I also try to limit everything I buy because it gets too much. Thus, I sometimes shop for friends and family that I know could use something. Sometimes I just turn down the cute LeSportSac and move on.
  8. Make it fun
    • If you find thrifting to be a chore, or shopping in general, then don’t try it. You’ll end up frustrated and worn out. Check out Amazon deals and keep an eye on sales instead
    • If you like shopping, then it’s fun to go every couple of weeks and goof around.

Happy Travels!

BONUS TIP: some stores in the world offer some amazing second hand options. More on that for another day, but definitely check out local thrift stores when you are on the road!

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Top 10-Denver

colorado, Colorado Events, musings, Travel

I love the “big city” of Colorado. AKA Denver, which serves as the capital but also as a massive metropolis of something like 30 suburbs and small towns all connected and smooshed together. Denver proper is rather small, but is packed full of exciting and enjoyable activities for any visitor.

10. The Molly Brown House. 

Molly Brown, also known as the unsinkable Molly Brown. Also actually known in her lifetime as Margaret Brown…anyway, lived in Denver and was an activist and feminist in the early part of the 20th century. All around she was pretty badass and did a lot for not only Colorado but also the United States in her lifetime. The house has been restored to reflect her lifestyle and that of the Denver elite in the 1910s and 20s. It’s quite a look at the wealth of the time, and also her life and what she stood for and cared about.

Learn more from a project I did, Acta Historia

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9. City Park

If you want to enjoy some of the 300 days of sunshine Colorado boasts about, there is not a more wonderful location in the city than at City Park, which is very close to my number 8 and 7 choices! It’s full of not only some great statues of Martin Luther King and Robert Burns, but also in the summer you can rent boats, there are fountains to play in to beat the summer heat. And always a few dogs to say hello to.

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8. Denver Zoo

Yes a zoo is a zoo, but the Denver zoo boasts an impressive collection of creatures for a mid-sized city, and is home to some amazing habitats! Their recently renovated elephant enclosure is like walking into another country! They offer lots of goodies for kids to interact with, and for adults, it’s just a fun time to get face to face with otters and primates!

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7. Denver Museum of Nature and Science

I have been going to this museum at least once a year for as long as I can remember. I even worked here for a while in college, and it was a dream come true! I love this place, and with revolving and evolving exhibits there is always something new to see! It’s always a lot of fun!

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6. Civic Center Park

This heart to Downtown is an exciting and beautiful layout full of rich classic architecture and the place for downtown happenings and festivals!

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with my friend Fallon in 2011

5. 16th Street Mall/Downtown

This 1.25 mile long shopping mall offers a lot of fun shopping for the visitor, but it also offers a link to other sights in the downtown area. a FREE shuttle connects one end to the other where you can access Lo-Do and then Capital hill on the other end. The strip offer eclectic dining options and ease of access to other city transportation such as the tram-system. My favorite place is The Tattered Cover Bookstore!

4. Denver Art Museum

This MASSIVE museum literally has something for everyone, and is full of relics from all over the world. Enjoy renaissance and medieval, or Asia and the Middle East, South America has rooms and rooms! They also have wonderful modern art, and rotating exhibitions so check it out. Plan a day if you have it, or a few hours to hit the main interests. Kid’s can also intimately interact with the exhibits by checking out an explorer pack!

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3. LoDo

This may be the most Colorado thing about Denver. Not only do you get to enjoy a huge collection of antique buildings but there are a ton of mom and pop restaurants serving up local fare. Then there is the iconic REI flagship store for those outdoorsy types. There is the iconic Union Station that lights up at night for a marvelous view, and Coors field if you want to catch a Rockies game. FINALLY you can Kayak in the middle of downtown Denver! REALLY and it’s FREE, of course you need a kayak…

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2. Clubbing and music

The clubbing district of Denver stretches along Sherman street, south of downtown. This is great place to grab a few drinks, dance, meet people and check out the local DJ scene. If this is less of your style, stick to Colfax and the music venues! The Fillmore, Ogden (personal favorite) and Bluebird have concerts almost nightly from local bands to grammy winners, there is always something to check out!

1. RED ROCKS- not Denver Proper

Okay if you are going to take a trip to Denver, or are a local looking for stuff to do, then you HAVE to take in a show at Red Rocks. It’s one of those holy experiences that only can happen with music and nature and fandoms come together. My first show there was The Cure and since then I have seen Flogging Molly, Devotchka, and  The Fray and I’m always planning on going back. Not only do the concerts make you swoon, but the park itself is a really cool place to hike around in and take in the Colorado sights and sounds. It’s only about an hour from downtown (give or take due to traffic) and well worth the jaunt. The best part is sharing it with friends, I got to share it with a family friend’s 13-year-old last summer, and not only was it her first concert, but her first big event like that without her parents. Meaning I got to share in her right of concert-going at 13 with Devotchka, at the best venue in the world!

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