6 travel items you should never go cheap on

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


Aerial view of various sneakers and sandals in different shades of warm brown and white
okkijan2010 | Adobe Stock

Buy a cheap pair of shoes and you’ll pay the price every time you walk. Instead of buying several pairs of cheap shoes, invest in one pair of well-made shoes that will last you a lifetime. Your legs, feet and back will thank you. More expensive shoes are generally made with higher quality materials and offer more arch support, cushioning and a better tread than thinner models.

We highly recommend choosing a shoe or boot from Danner, a company with high standards for footwear quality. Danner’s Trail 2650 saw us through numerous hikes and long city walks on our travels, thanks to its waterproof and breathable GORE-Tex linings, Vibram soles, and durable suede construction.


Monos luggage set in warm brown

Suitcases are one of those items where you really get what you pay for. From tough zippers to smooth-rolling wheels, paying a little more for a name brand will get you a suitcase that will last hundreds of trips. Opting for a budget suitcase could mean you break a wheel halfway through your trip and have to spend even more to replace your bag on the go.

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

Rain gear

Hiker in yellow raincoat and big orange waterproof hiking bag climbing a mountain
vitaliymateha | Adobe Stock

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

Instead, we recommend taking advantage of something like Helly Hansen’s Verglas Infinity Shell Pants, which use the brand’s trademark Lifa Infinity membrane, a fully waterproof (yet breathable) microporous membrane. Combined with a PFC-free DWR treatment, these pants will keep you 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 cheaply from street vendors, but they may not actually offer any sun protection. Knockoff sunglasses may not meet FDA standards for UV protection and impact resistance. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends checking lens quality before buying new sunglasses by looking at something with a rectangular pattern (like a 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 move, especially in the center of the lens, try another pair.”

We love travel sunglasses brand Kaenon because their frames are durable yet stylish. Calafia sunglasses are perfect for small faces, and the Silverwood model is a great unisex choice for a gift. The brand even has an Essentials line that offers high-quality polarized sunglasses for under $100.


Close-up of a person adjusting his socks while hiking
Bostan Natalia | Adobe Stock

I spent a lot more money replacing cheap socks after they got holes in them after only a few months of wear than I would have if I had invested in good quality socks. Plus, socks are the first line of defense to keep your feet happy while traveling. A good pair can keep your feet dry, blister-free and prevent unpleasant odors.

We invest in Smartwool travel socks and we haven’t looked back. Smartwool socks have a two-year satisfaction guarantee, so you can be sure that your socks will last for a long time. We especially recommend their hiking socks. The Smartwool Hike Light Crew Socks have an arched strap that prevents the sock from slipping (and adds support) and is made from Merino Wool that can withstand many wears without washing.

Charging cables

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

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

When shopping for 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 we travel—the universal cable lets us charge lights, tablets, and our iPhone, and the quick-charge feature fills our batteries in no time. The 6-foot cable length is a lifesaver for hotel rooms with awkwardly located outlets (so we can still keep our phone next to the bed).

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

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