The $10 Travel Essential Clark Howard Always Packs

Written by |

Money expert Clark Howard loves to travel and loves to save money. For Clark, that means packing everything into one bag to save on baggage fees and sticking to his #1 rule when it comes to cheap travel.

When traveling, you also need to think of ways to protect your wallet and yourself. Recently, Clark purchased something that he calls a “lifesaver.” And he means it literally.

This Is Clark’s Must-Have Travel Item

“I purchased something for $10 that could potentially save my life,” Clark says.

It’s a portable carbon monoxide detector.

Clark says he got the idea after reading about a deadly carbon monoxide leak at a hotel in the Bahamas.

Carbon monoxide (CO), an invisible and odorless gas, is harmful when you breathe it “because it displaces oxygen in the blood and deprives the heart, brain and other vital organs of oxygen,” according to a fact sheet from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. “Large amounts of CO can overcome you in minutes without warning — causing you to lose consciousness and suffocate.”

Unfortunately, there is no law requiring hotels to have carbon monoxide detectors in every room. A consultant and former Hilton employee told the New York Times, which did an in-depth article on the subject, that installing and maintaining in-room carbon monoxide detectors would be “outrageously expensive” for the hotel industry.

“So it’s pretty crazy, right?” Clark says about the issue. “Because everywhere you go, pretty much, smoke and fire detectors are required.”

How To Shop for a Carbon Monoxide Detector

Clark says he did some online shopping to find an inexpensive carbon monoxide detector for travel.

“I went on eBay and I went on Amazon, and I put in ‘portable carbon monoxide detectors.’ One search I did was ‘carbon monoxide detector for travel‘ and found more stuff,” he says.

“I found this little device that fits in the palm in my hand. It runs on two AAA batteries. Ten dollars is what it cost me,” Clark says. “No brand name on it, so hopefully it works.”

A recent search on Amazon found portable CO detectors, with ratings of four stars or better, for around $19 and up (prices are going up on everything!).


If you don’t have to buy right now, you can try to wait for a sale to see if prices will drop some. Make sure to check for the latest deals.

If and when you buy a carbon monoxide detector for travel, here are some tips to remember:

  • Keep it simple: Shop for a digital display that clearly shows the carbon monoxide reading.
  • Read the manual: Because you want this product for safety reasons, it’s important that you take a few minutes to read up on it to understand how it works.
  • Test it first: Make sure the device is working properly and doesn’t need new batteries. That may mean pressing and holding a button to activate the alarm. Again, the manual is your friend.

Where To Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, carbon monoxide detectors should be installed near your sleeping area.

“When I go to a hotel room, I put it on the dresser. And hopefully, if there is a leak, it’s going to alert me,” Clark says.

Final Thoughts

When you’re traveling, hotel safety is something you have to be proactive about. Buying a portable carbon monoxide detector is not only inexpensive but also potentially priceless.

Clark says he doesn’t travel without it.


Travel credit cards can earn consumers rewards for their spending. Best Travel Credit Cards: Top Rewards Picks for 2023 - The best travel rewards credit cards! Compare the latest sign-up bonus offers to start earning free flights, hotel stays and more.