Frequent travelers are always in search of a good deal, but some travel tools are worth spending a bit more on. What’s the point in buying a cheap travel accessory if it’s not going to last?
Travel Tools Worth the Splurge
Here are the travel tools worth investing in once—and how they’ll help improve your travels, trip after trip.
Don’t let uncomfortable headphones or a screaming baby keep you from sleeping on your flight. Noise-canceling and sleep-friendly wireless headphones are a travel tool worth splurging on if you have trouble sleeping on the plane, or simply want to block out the rest of the world.
SleepPhones look like a soft headband, but pack wireless headphones inside that will allow you to sleep in any position on the plane. You’ll forget you’re even wearing them; I use them to turn on white noise that lulls me to sleep when I’m restless in a new place. Comfortable noise-canceling headphones that pack small like Bose’s wireless QuietComfort 35 are also a wise investment if you’re more invested in blocking outside noise.
Universal Power Adapter
Don’t be the American that blew a fuse plugging everything into one cheap adapter. A universal plug adapter that lasts means you’ll never have to worry about blacking out the hotel or shocking yourself—don’t learn this the hard way, with a cheap $3 adapter, like I did. Instead invest in one universal adapter that meets your travel needs, like Zoppen’s International Travel Adapter, with Japan, U.K., E.U., and Australian compatibility for small electronics (not bigger appliances, like hair dryers). It also has four USB ports for device charging, and its retractable prongs make it a super packable travel tool.
If you’re a hiker or camper, or you just enjoy a walk in the woods, stop heading out in your gym sneakers. A durable pair of hiking boots will save your feet and ankles from injury and fatigue, and your sneakers from getting ruined—plus, they’re a travel tool that will last you forever.
Keen has hiking shoe variations for every type of adventure, whether you want packable sneaker-like hiking shoes for shorter treks, or true boots with ankle support for rockier adventures. Keen’s waterproof Gypsum II boots come in both a men’s and women’s style and a variation of colors. These were my first hiking boots and may be my last: They’re packable and durable, and they provide all the support I need.
The Right Camera
Good photos will last a lifetime, so don’t settle for blurry smartphone shots: For something more capable of zooming and getting better light, invest in a packable camera—it might cost less than you think. Mirrorless cameras are thinner than a DSLR, and so are notoriously pricier, but Nikon options start at around $350.
Not looking to pack a camera? Newer iPhone and Galaxy phones will do for most trips, and can be improved with clip-on lenses like AUKEY‘s HD wide-angle lenses, which take up virtually no packing space.
Check your bag often? Consider a hard-sided suitcase that will last. Baggage handlers can get rough, and you never know what could end up broken or damaged. Briggs & Riley’s Sympatico hard-sided spinner expands by 22 percent to fit everything you need, and it compresses back down to meet airline size limits if you decide you’d rather take it as a carry-on. It comes with a lifetime guarantee that you’ll never have to pay for repairs, so while it is pricey, it could be the last suitcase you ever buy—making it the ultimate travel tool.
A Combination Back-up Charger
A portable charging bank is a must-have travel tool in case you run out of phone battery in an unfamiliar place—but new versions are combining them with other travel tools like luggage scales and flashlights for added value.
The Oaxis Air Scale can give you a digital reading of your bag’s weight when it’s not charging your device, and other packable chargers like Xcentz’s flashlight power bank have built-in flashlights that can come in handy in an emergency. Having a multi-use version on you at all times will put more than one travel problem at bay and make the purchase more worthwhile.
If your skin feels dehydrated or breaks out when you travel, you’re probably not packing the right travel toiletries. Skimping on travel tools for freshening up can cancel out all your vacation relaxation—so instead of grabbing cheaper or store-brand travel toiletries, go for organic ones like Green Goo that can help you feel more like your normal self on the road. These all-natural products will save your skin and hygiene with skin-repair packs, face-wash spritz, deodorant sticks, and even baby-friendly balms for nursing remedies and sensitive or infant skin. Use them in-flight and you’ll get off the plane feeling like your best self, and your seatmate won’t suffer from strong fragrances.
A Crossbody Travel Bag
Security, utility, and fashion can all be achieved with the right crossbody bag. Purchasing one on the smaller side is convenient and will force you to carry only what you need, and zippered pouches will keep pickpockets at bay. Travelon’s Anti-Theft LTD Crossbody is fashionable enough for all environments.
Bulky coats are not your travel friend, but it’s important to have a warm outer layer as a travel tool in the colder months. Invest in a dense-but-thin jacket with down, like Patagonia’s Nano Puff for both men and women.
Looking for something with more substance? Consider these 10 great travel jackets that are easy to pack.
Cozy Walking Shoes
Don’t sacrifice your feet for fashion, or fashion for your feet. New sockless shoes like Suavs and Allbirds are both cozy and on-trend. Allbirds’ merino wool makes them some of the most comfortable walking sneakers on the market, and Suavs’ microfiber insoles’ airflow and moisture-wicking elements prevent sweaty feet. Both are the ultimate travel tools when it comes to shoes, and you’ll never want to take them off.
Waterproof camera cases are the subject of too many horror stories about a ruined smartphone or camera on vacation. Instead, if you’re hoping to get video of your active adventures in inclement weather or water, invest in a GoPro. These tiny mountable cameras are the perfect travel tool for capturing active memories like biking, snorkeling, and skiing. Mount your GoPro, which comes in a sealed waterproof case, and don’t worry about damaging it or losing any of your photos. They might be cheaper than you think now that they’re widely popular.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 9 Travel Products That Will Take the Stress Out of Your Trip
- 10 Controversial Travel Gadgets That May Actually Improve Your Trip
- 7 Tiny Travel Gadgets You Can’t Leave Home Without
Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.
Editor’s Note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Prices are subject to change.