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6 Travel Items You Should Never Cheap Out On

We’re all about budget travel here at SmarterTravel, but there are some things you should never cheap out on. From suitcases to shoes, trying to skimp on these travel items will only cost you more in the long run.


Danner Trail 2650

Buy a pair of cheap shoes and you’ll pay the price every time you walk. Rather than buying multiple pairs of inexpensive shoes, invest in a single pair of well-made shoes that will last you for life. Your feet, legs, and back will thank you. Pricier shoes are generally made with higher quality materials, and offer more arch support, padding, and better tread than flimsier models. 

We highly recommend picking a shoe or boot from Danner, a company with high standards for footwear quality. Danner’s Trail 2650s have lasted us through numerous hikes and lengthy city walks on our travels, thanks to their waterproof and breathable GORE-Tex liners, Vibram outsoles, and durable suede construction.


Set of Monos luggage in warm brown

Suitcases are one of those items for which you truly get what you pay for. From tough zippers to smoothly rolling wheels, paying a bit more for a brand name will get you a suitcase that will last for hundreds of trips. Opting for a budget suitcase could mean you’ll break a wheel mid-trip and have to spend even more to replace your bag on the fly.  

Suitcase brands SmarterTravel editors swear by include Briggs & Riley, Roam, Monos, and Samsonite.  

Rain Gear

Helly Hansen Verglas
Helly Hansen

The problem with cheap rain gear is you don’t know how it’s going to perform until it’s too late. This is a valuable lesson that we learned on one rainy hike when our supposedly waterproof gear completely failed, leaving us drenched. Inexpensive rain gear doesn’t always stand up to heavy downpours, which can be dangerous on outdoor adventures when you’re left wet and cold.

Instead, we recommend splurging on something like Helly Hansen’s Verglas Infinity Shell Pants, which use the brand’s trademarked Lifa Infinity membrane, a fully waterproof (but breathable microporous membrane.  Combined with a PFC-free DWR treatment, these pants will keep you bone-dry without the use of chemical solvents that can fail (or cause environmental health issues) that you’ll find in cheaper rain gear. 


Woman smiling and wearing large, circular sunglasses, riding in a large van
WavebreakMediaMicro | Adobe Stock

There are plenty of stylish sunglasses available for cheap from street vendors, but they may not actually offer any sun protection. Knockoff sunglasses migh not meet FDA standards for UV protection and impact-resistance. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends checking the quality of lenses before you buy new sunglasses by looking at something with a rectangular pattern (like a floor tile). “Hold the glasses at a comfortable distance and cover one eye. Move the glasses slowly from side to side, then up and down,” advises the AAO. “If the lines stay straight, the lenses are fine. If the lines wiggle, especially in the center of the lens, try another pair.”

We love sunglass brand Kaenon for travel, as their frames are durable but still stylish. The Calafia sunglasses perfectly fit small faces, and the Silverwood model is a great unisex pick for a gift. The brand even has an essentials line that offers high-quality polarized sunglasses for under $100.


Close up of person adjusting their socks while hiking
Bostan Natalia | Adobe Stock

We’ve spent way more money replacing cheap socks after putting holes in them after just a few months of wear than we would have if we had just invested in good quality socks in the first place. Plus, socks are the first line of defense in keeping your feet happy while traveling. A good pair can keep your feet dry, blister-free, and prevent odors.

We invest in Smartwool socks for travel and don’t look back. Smartwool’s socks have a two-year satisfaction guarantee, so you can be reassured your socks will last a long time. We especially recommend their socks for hiking. Smartwool’s Hike Light Crew Socks feature an arch brace that stops the sock from slipping (and adds support) and are made from Merino Wool that can last many wears without washing. 

Charging Cables

Picnic table with cup of coffee and two devices connected to white chargers
NorGal | Adobe Stock

Opting for a cheap charging cable that you find online could cost you the price of your phone. According to Good Morning America, “There is a little protective chip inside Apple approved lightning cables that guards your iPhone from a power surge or potentially overheating” but many counterfeit cables don’t have that chip, and you could end up irreversibly damaging your phone by using one. 

When buying a charging cable, you’ll want to look for the MFi badge, which means it’s an Apple-approved accessory. We always pack Smartish’s 3-in-1 charging cable when traveling—the universal cable lets us charge kindles, tablets, and our iPhone and the fast-charging feature gets our batteries to full in no time. The 6-foot cable length is a lifesaver for hotel rooms with awkwardly placed outlets (so we can still keep our phone next to the bed).

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We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

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