Just as the fitness industry wants to sell you equipment and dietary supplements that you don’t actually need, the travel industry also promotes many products that seem fascinating. It’s easy to think you need them when you’re new to travel, but most of the time it will save your money – and suitcase space.
Here are some of the most overrated travel gear novices and veterans alike should skip over.
A new pair of ‘travel shoes’
Imagine the busiest running day of your life. You get up early to take the dog for a walk before driving your child to soccer practice. Then head to the store to buy supplies for the car wash fundraiser later that afternoon. Afterward, go for ice cream before heading home for another dog walk.
What shoes did you wear? These are the ones you want to take on vacation. Pack the pair that you can walk for miles in, those who can trudge through the mud as you chase your dog, those who can stand getting wet from the car wash, and who won’t leave you with blisters before you arrive Ice cream.
Some travel blogs will say that you need special “travel shoes” to withstand the cobblestones of Europe and still feel comfortable on the long flight there. But unless you’re buying hiking shoes to climb Kilimanjaro (and you’ve probably trained the same shoes already), buying shoes specifically for a trip is a recipe for foot pain.
Nerdy tip: The best shoes for your vacation are shoes that you already feel comfortable in.
And with that in mind, don’t think you should buy new clothes. You may need different clothing in certain circumstances: Southern Californians may buy a snow jacket when they’re cold, or you may need loose, lightweight, long-sleeved tunics for countries with conservative cultures and hot weather. However, in most cases there is no reason to buy a special wardrobe.
“Travelers are being tricked into buying another travel dress, another pair of hiking pants, and another large suitcase,” says Katherine Leamy, the lightweight packaging expert behind The 5 Kilo Traveler, a packaging and travel website.
“There is a misconception that you need special travel gear.”
Wear clothes that you already feel comfortable in – and you don’t have to spend more money on them.
A passport case
They’re cute – and usually unnecessary. In most cases, passport cases prove to be more cumbersome as most customs officers ask you to remove your passport anyway.
If you find passport covers an aesthetic asset – or are seriously concerned that the original book cover will get dirty – then go for it. Otherwise you will save your money.
However, what you should bring with you is a copy of your passport. Both a digital copy on your phone and a paper copy packaged in a different location than your actual passport can come in handy if it’s lost.
A document organizer
In the past, a document organizer might be useful for going through all of the preprinted MapQuest instructions or keeping your friends home phone numbers on record. Today, most of this information is already on your phone, so you can probably call document organizers a thing of the past.
“The only thing I ever need when traveling is a passport that fits perfectly in any of my backpack bags,” said Kassandra Flores, a blogger who writes about both travel and travel Minimalism. “All other documents, such as boarding passes or hotel reservations, are now digital. I believe that an organizer is overrated and only takes up valuable space.”
While it doesn’t hurt to have a hard copy of digital documents, a bulky, leather-bound organizer is likely over the top. A simple paper bag folder should be enough.
Fancy toiletry bags
Rethink that fancy toiletry bag – with all the pouches and pouches – that just takes up more space.
In most cases, putting your toiletries in a regular plastic bag will save you money (and suitcase real estate). In addition, plastic bags will help you separate the toiletries better. That way, if your toothpaste explodes in-flight, it will only create a mint mess in the 1-cent plastic bag and not your high-quality toiletry bag.
Most toiletries, hairdryers, portable steamer, and towels
You probably don’t need to pack (or buy) as many toiletries as you think. Most hotels have everything you need from shampoos and lotions to small electrical appliances like steamers and irons.
Even if the hotel hasn’t left out cotton swabs on the counter, it’s likely an attempt to cut down on waste. Especially because of COVID-19, made a lot of hotels Amenities available upon request only to reduce the number of potential touch points that need to be cleaned. As a rule, hotels still have these things at the front desk. you just have to ask.
In the worst case – unless you are camping in the middle of nowhere – you can easily buy shampoo from the corner store if you haven’t packed it and your hotel doesn’t have shampoo either. And hey, in the end you have a nice souvenir with someone else’s shampoo.
Unknown camera equipment
If you’re a photographer, traveling can be one of the best ways to pursue your hobby or career. However, if you’ve never used high-tech camera gear, the extra zoom lens, tripod, and GoPro are likely more confusing than entertaining. Ultimately, they will weigh down your suitcase and create a tangle of strings at the same time.
If you just want to document visual memories of the trip, your smartphone’s camera will likely be sufficient.
The final result
We’re not saying you never need to pack the above gear. Depending on the nature of your trip, you will certainly need to purchase special equipment at some point. A Backpacking trip You may need to upgrade your daypack to a full backpack, and a safari may need to bring a zoom lens for your camera.
Keep in mind that there are niche travel gear out there that please just that – a niche crowd of people. Be careful about what gear you bring as overpacking is an easy way to weigh on your travel and budget.
Don’t be fooled into buying whatever you think is necessary in travel magazines and blogs. Instead, save your money on vacation. Enjoy drinks at the rooftop bar with views of the city. Book the cooking classes and surfing lessons. These memories will be worth it. The memories of bruised toes on travel shoes that you thought you needed won’t be.
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