// you’re reading...


7 travel items not to bother buying

WSA adsense code -->

Againt on the theme of travel purchases - some things I’d suggest you don’t waste your money on.

1. Swiss Army Knife

Of all the items that exist on a Swiss Army knife (or Leatherman tool) I’ve only ever used knife blades, scissors, tweezers, bottle openers, corkscrews and nail files. On an actual penknife, the only ones I can use myself are tweezers, nail files and knife blades – and the tweezers suck.

All of those items except bottle openers will definitely be confiscated at Heathrow. Emery boards are cheap and light, I have a very cool bottle opener key ring, and when travelling I either drink wine in a restaurant or bar (where they open the bottle for you) or stick to beer. As I said, the tweezers on Swiss Army knives suck, so if I can, I’ll bring separate ones anyway.

That just leaves knife blades and scissors. In my regular day to day life I do occaisionally need one or the other of these items. However, a simple penknife costs only a few £/$ - a lot less than a complicated multitool – and a pair of scissors even less. If I’m checking a bag, or not flying, I’ll usually put in a pair of nail scissors – they do most jobs if they need to. If I’m doing carry on only, I do without and haven’t had a problem yet.

2. Sewing kit

This might just be a personal one. I rarely have buttons come off stuff disastrously, nor do I regularly rip my clothes. It takes me forever to mend things when I’m at home, so I’m not going to waste my holiday doing the same. At British airports sewing kits are sometimes confiscated, which kind of defeats the point, and if something becomes unwearable, I’m probably in a place where I can pay someone to fix it for me or get a replacement, or make do until I get somewhere where I can.

3. Compass and/or Whistle

One of the fundamental rules of travel should be that if you don’t use it at home, why on earth would you use it whilst travelling. Compasses and whistles are cases in point. Outside North America, many/most cities are not arranged on a regular grid pattern, and it’s just as easy to navigate with a map, particularly if you are not a regular compass user.

Similarly, whistles are only useful in a few tiny situations – if you’re mugged then you should just handover your cash, if you’re attacked then the whistle needs to be round your neck already, and preferably in your mouth. Which is just a recipe for falling over and knocking your teeth out, or swallowing it.

Naturally, if your trip is in a wilderness area, or you use these items in your day to day life, feel free to disregard my reasoning above. Otherwise, save your cash.

4. Inflatable travel pillow

I have a (short) list of things wrong with these:

  • the look stupid
  • they aren’t very comfortable
  • they get punctures
  • they are a pain to blow up
  • Overnight flights tend to have pillows available anyway. If you really need a pillow for a long bus or train journey, get a compressible one and then you can use it for an emergency regular pillow. Alternatively use clothes as a makeshift pillow – I appreciate that this doesn’t work quite as well if the air conditioning is so cold you need to wear every item of clothing you possess.
  • 5. Immersion heater

    Ok, I don’t have one because I only drink hot drinks from time to time (I’m not a proper Brit either – I don’t like tea). But in any case, pretty much anywhere you want to go there will be coffee on sale, most places can do hot tea, and if you can get coffee, you can get hot water.

    Otherwise if you take one, you’ll also need the right plug adaptors, and a mug that won’t break whilst you boil the water. Also a fire and electrical hazard.

    6. Travellers cheques

    Only worthwhile if you are going somewhere where you can’t rely on ATMs. And that people, is almost nowhere – Mongolia, Burma, some of the ‘stans’. Everywhere else, travellers cheques (or travelers checks) are more limiting.

    Outside the US, travellers cheques are not like regular cheques. You can’t normally use them in hotels, restaurants, etc. So, to use travellers cheques, you tend to need regular office hours. (Inside the US, just use ATMs like everyone else.)

    Travellers cheques are replaceable, but that is quite a hassle – there aren’t Amex / Thomas Cook offices on every street corner. Also, especially in places where the script does not use the Latin alphabet, your signature will need to match exactly in order to cash them. In Thailand, I once had to sign my name about 15 times before they would give me any money.

    7. Special travel clothes

    These are really good. They wash and dry quickly, have millions of pockets, come in a myriad of sensible colours,…

    Except that they tend to be ugly, styled to suit men and in colours that I really, really hate and will refuse to wear. They make you stick out like a sore thumb, in the same way that that middle aged men in shorts stick out in Paris. Wear your regular clothes. If you wouldn’t wear travel clothes on a day trip in your home area, or to the shops, (assuming the weather is right) then why would you want to wear them whilst away?

    Similar Posts:

    If you like what you're reading, why not leave a comment below, subscribe to my feed, or check out some of my best posts.


    24 comments for “7 travel items not to bother buying”

    1. If you’re staying at a hotel in the US, many other items can be left at home as well: soap, shampoo, hair conditioner, hand-held hair dryer, shaving cream, razor, comb, toothpaste, toothbrush, sewing kit. If these are not already in your room, the front desk usually keeps a supply of these items and will gladly bring them to you.

      Great list — I haven’t seen a traveler’s check in years!

      Posted by Ron | July 23, 2009, 4:20 am
    2. I’m in complete agreement with all of these- I have an awesome compressible pillow; it’s so much better than those horrendous inflatable things.
      I can’t comprehend people who carry things like immersion heaters (although I do bring tea-bags with me as hotels in North America tend to provide that god-awful cheapo kind).

      Posted by Looby | July 23, 2009, 6:01 am
    3. That’s funny because I love my Swiss Army knife. It’s great having a corkscrew in a youth hostel so you can uncork and unwind and meet lots of people.

      I also go camping and knit so I find my knife handy and dandy. I have used every feature eat least once (Even the toothpick). But I suspect you aren’t much of an outdoorsy girl, are you? :-)

      I’ve never heard of taking an immersion heater before. Ditto on travel pillows. They’re stupid and you can actually take a real pillow on planes as carry-on. Sewing kits are silly. No one mends anything at home anymore, why would they do that on a trip?

      Posted by mapgirl | July 23, 2009, 1:45 pm
    4. I’m an outdoors girl only in my rich mental life. In the real world, I’m a city person through and through. I can’t believe you’ve used the tool for getting a stone out of a horse’s shoe.

      I do enjoy having a (beer) bottle opener on my keyring. Most satisfying. I guess the corkscrew works the same way.

      Posted by plonkee | July 23, 2009, 8:53 pm
    5. The only one of these I disagree with is the sewing kit - amazing how often we’ve needed them, and I’m sure as hell not wasting holiday time looking for a tailor or a dry cleaner in a strange city. I never pay for them though, we have a stack picked up in hotels over the years.

      Posted by guinness416 | July 23, 2009, 11:14 pm
    6. I agree wholeheartedly with the entire list

      In fact, to save anything if a button falls off, etc.. use your dental floss :)

      It acts like a strong, tough string. Even works a shoelace if doubled up.

      The inflatable pillow definitely sucks, but I bought a travel pillow that compresses down, but when you open it, it puffs up to a HUGE pillow that can be squeezed back down to a small one again

      Posted by FB @ FabulouslyBroke.com | July 25, 2009, 12:06 pm
    7. This is a great post - I go traveling and I definitely never had any use for any of the items mentioned on this post - not that I even own of these items :)

      Posted by Ms Save Money | July 31, 2009, 12:00 am
    8. If I wasn’t good at telling direction from trees and the sun (erm, really - blame boy scouts) then I’d definitely take a small compass.

      It’s really useful in a brand new city to know the directions when getting your bearings (I don’t mean that to be a tautology!)

      On the other hand, the iPhone has a built in compass…

      Posted by Monevator | July 31, 2009, 12:25 pm
    9. Hey
      sory to write to you like this, but i could not find the contact form. I really like your blog and i was wondering if you would maybe like a link exchange with my website http://www.sayeconomy.com . My site has many good articles and gets over 100.000 different visitors per month. I think we would both benefit out of this exchange alot. We would get higher position in search engines and many new visitors from each others economy sites.

      Well let me know on . I would really like a link exchange with your blog (i like it alot).

      Thank you in advance for your reply.


      Posted by Economist | August 3, 2009, 11:23 am
    10. Hi, very interesting Blog. nice work!

      Watch this blog for funny cartoons on Business, economy and go to market strategies: http://www.gotomarketblog.blogspot.com/

      Posted by HBee | August 3, 2009, 4:14 pm
    11. what about a first aid box?

      Posted by Sarah | August 6, 2009, 4:38 am
    12. Fully Agree with your Swiss knife, cheques, pillow and rest of all things can never be bother if we buy and i would suggest to keep fresh and buy anytime specially traveling hobbiest.

      Posted by Title Insurance Florida | August 7, 2009, 11:34 am
    13. The only thing i dont bother buying is shampoo’s because it always goes messy on all my clothes while in the baggage, and you cant take it with knowadays in your hand baggage either, so i just buy it whenever i land to the holiday resort.

      Posted by Payday Loans | August 7, 2009, 3:49 pm
    14. Good advice. I also try to avoid buying magazines at the airport. I try to find a friend and swap for some of their magazines to keep me entertained (and the magazines can all be old since its all new to me).

      Posted by MyMeans | August 12, 2009, 3:43 am
    15. Good list and travellers cheques are already losing out to the prepaid currency cards and if a swiss arm knife is carried in hand luggage through a uk airport the chances of it not being confiscated are extremely remote nowadays.
      As a diver compass is useful but as it is built into my dive watch i reckon i can get away with that one.

      Posted by Dave | August 19, 2009, 11:50 am
    16. Your article on this blog is fantastic. Well done! I’m a big fan of your blog and be sure to keep up the great work.
      I plan on returning and linking to your site.

      The Alan Haft Blog,

      Posted by Alan | August 24, 2009, 11:41 pm
    17. I’m in agreement on the swiss army knife. People always get them for me because I go camping a lot, but I never really find any good use for them. Most of the tools included suck. I’d rather just have a knife and a wedge tool.

      Posted by cd rates | August 25, 2009, 1:03 am
    18. Great list.

      I generally take a very small sewing kit with me (white, black, brown, blue string and 1-2 needles + some assorted safety pins and a random button or two), however I can pull all of that out of my sewing stash, so no need for a specific purchase. Most of the time, if something does happen however, I rarely sew, I’ll just employ a safety pin until I’m home.

      Posted by Rae | September 4, 2009, 2:41 pm
    19. LOL! This is so right on, and very smartly said.

      My sister-in-sin always takes an espresso maker with her. Everywhere. And, being gifted with a nice pile of assets, she travels a LOT. Hey: there are some things a person shouldn’t have to be without!

      Posted by Funny about Money | September 7, 2009, 1:41 am
    20. What? You have to have the travel pillow - i need it :)
      Honestly the little ones that you get on planes are rubbish! Although granted, you do look a little silly…

      Posted by oneadvice | September 23, 2009, 3:11 pm
    21. I’m sure as hell not wasting holiday time looking for a tailor or a dry cleaner in a strange city. I never pay for them though, we have a stack picked up in hotels over the years.

      Posted by commercial printing | November 1, 2010, 11:26 am

    Post a comment

    Proud member of the