OPINION: Enter the web wormhole of travel gear and travel gadgets and you can end up spending a fortune on things that will supposedly make your trip run more smoothly.
Some of these – multi-country adaptors, Swiss Army knives etc – can be genuinely useful.
But some commonly bought items, such as these below, turn out to be more trouble than they’re worth.
They supposedly keep you safe from robbery, but if there’s one thing that advertises an easy target for muggers, it’s a blatantly obvious strap around the waist. It also screams “wealthy tourist with distinct lack of street smarts”. In other words, the ideal target. Stick to a wallet – preferably in a zipped pocket – or purse, and keep a few notes and a spare card somewhere separate.
Has anyone truly found that a travel pillow has provided significant levels of extra comfort on a flight? Maybe there’s a tiny percentage of the population, but they’re dwarfed by the numbers of people who’ve found travel pillows mildly annoying and cumbersome to carry around, taking up needless space in a carry-on bag.
Specialist travel jackets
You’ve probably seen these advertised – they’re the ones with a gazillion pockets that you can fit books, iPads and all manner of other stuff in. Problem is, they look ridiculous, and they get incredibly heavy to wear once in destination. If you’re buying one to get around hand baggage rules, you’re probably taking too much stuff anyway. And besides, an awful lot of it will fit in normal jacket pockets.
You’re on holiday. Stop fretting about how well your clothes are pressed. Just fold or roll them in the right way, and they’ll be perfectly fine. And, if you’re travelling for business and absolutely need an immaculately ironed shirt, you’re almost certainly staying somewhere fancy enough to provide an iron on request.
Even if you’re really into your aerial photography, carrying one of these babies around is likely to be a waste of space. This is partly because you can’t even use drones at a lot of sites on safety and security grounds. There are also legal headaches – different countries, regions and cities have different rules on drone usage – and if there’s one thing guaranteed to get you extra inspections at the airport, this is it.
Either you’re the sort of person who can pack methodically and diligently, or you’re not. If you are, then buying these cubes to pack into is not going to save you much space on your usual method. If you’re not that organised, things will stay where they’re supposed to be for about a day before you revert to the “just lob everything in and shut the bag with brute force” method.
Security regulations over what you can and can’t take in hand luggage have led to people making some absurd purchasing decisions – specifically buying tiny 100ml bottles of shower gel and shampoo at inflated prices. These things tend to cost roughly as much as buying a full-sized bottle from a little shop once you’re in the destination. So just do that instead, and leave it behind when you fly back. In the meantime, however, nick mini-bottles from hotels when you can.
Solar-powered phone charger
If you’re going to be somewhere that genuinely has no other source of electricity, this may be worth considering. But if you’re just going to be wandering around a city, then it is likely to be a total nuisance. This is largely because you have to wangle it so that it’s in a position exposed to sunlight. And, given you might be dipping out of museums and cafes all day, this is going to lead to your phone barely charging at all.
Seriously, in what situation are you going to need music pumping out louder than your phone/ laptop can manage? Chances are, if you can think of one, you’re blessed with the sort of self-awareness of men who travel with guitars. If it needs to be that loud, it’s probably obtrusive to the people around you rather than a welcome addition to the party. Leave the speakers at home.
Unless you’re planning on camping, you really don’t need to lug a sleeping bag around. The former staple of the backpacking world just isn’t as useful any more now that hostels have realised they are essentially bedbug transportation devices. If you’re staying in a hostel that even allows you to use a sleeping bag, then it is dodgy as hell.