Travel Accessories - Spend or Save? - Part 1

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Find out if you really need to spend a little extra on a branded accessory or will a generic one / travel hack work just as well?

While some experienced travellers have long-standing experiences with brands, those new to the rigours of the road might find themselves wondering about recommendations they find through ‘social influencers’ or targeted advertising.

TripAdvisor’s latest TripBarometer study predicts that as much as 44 per cent of Indian travellers will spend more on travel in the year 2017. This just means more travellers and even more brands trying to sell them gear that they may not really need.

Yes, expensive doesn’t always equal better and budget / generic brands aren’t always a disappointment. From personal experience, I consider the pros and cons of 5 categories of travel accessories that you should think more carefully about before your next purchase. In this first part, check out Packing Cubes and Shoe Bags and what the final verdict on those is. 

Packing Cubes

Travel Accessories - Spend or Save? - Packing Cubes

I’ve always been organised. My travel organisers of choice - sealable food storage bags, fabric bags and simple polythene shopping bags. As for travel cubes - now that I’ve travelled with them, I can honestly say investing in a set that fit your budget and travel style can easily make any trip more efficient.

A couple of years ago, I did a 15 day trip across Spain, Germany and Switzerland with just hand luggage for the first time. On a strict budget, high-quality plastic storage bags were my go to and they worked out just fine. When it comes to picking a reliable plastic storage bag that can stand in for a packing cube, I find that the simple soft, thick, ones with zipper channels instead of slide closures work best. You get ‘some’ compression and they are essentially waterproof but don’t over stuff them or they’ll rip. Which is also why I always have few neatly folded extras at the bottom of my bag. They are particularly handy for last minute additions of wet clothes and dirty laundry.



During the course of this extended trip, I bought a set of hot pink IKEA packing cubes. Reasonably priced at CHF 10.95 for a set of 4 UPPTÄCKA, this 100% polyester set was a great introduction to packing cubes.
Sturdy zips and fairly structured, two of the three organisers work perfectly well even today. Though, the inner lining of the double sided one frayed and tore on my last trip, which was very disappointing.

If you’re new to the whole packing cube revolution, in India, Amazon Basics, Wildcraft and Decathlon (Oxilayne Newfeel) make some practical and affordable options. Pick cubes made of nylon or silnylon ripstop (a synthetic silicon-nylon blended material), which are far stronger than ones made of fabric. Cubes made of natural fibers can't stand too much wear and tear, can't store damp clothes and tend to fray at the seams more often than synthetic ones.

If on the other hand, you are already convinced about this kind of organising system, I suggest looking into a branded set from companies like Tom Bihn, Tortuga, Muji, Sea to Summit, eBags and Eagle Creek.


I currently own a set of Eagle Creek Pack-it Spector compression cubes. Though, at USD 30, it might make more sense to get it from the US, if you can manage it.
This set isn’t very structured, but it is as fuss-free and hardy as promised. The zippers feel strong and high quality as does the lightweight material plus the compression features. This works perfectly for my decidedly practical, somewhat minimal approach to travel.

Bonus points for being able to chuck them in a washing machine when you need to clean them.

FTCD SAYS:
SPEND IT. If you are a frequent traveller, you will go through a LOT of food storage bags and in that sense, packing cubes are the greener and easier choice. High-quality, branded organisers usually use far superior material and tougher stitching and fastening that you tend to forgo when buying cheaper sets.

 Shoe Bags


As a former flight attendant, I can safely say frequent travellers have been using shoe bags long before they made it onto any ‘packing hack’ list. Even so, I never EVER put shoes in a shoe bag without a shower cap or a thin polythene bag covering the soles.

For me the idea is simple - don’t get the dirt from the soles of shoes onto the inside of the shoe bag or my clothes! Make no mistake, this WILL happen. Packing, unpacking and repacking along the way, makes dirt an unavoidable reality. While the idea of using shoe bags isn't exclusive to travelling, it does do two things - protect your shoes from scuffs and scratches and stop your bag and clothes from smelling like sweaty feet even before your holiday begins.

So, while I don’t use branded shoe bags, I do try to take at least one waterproof bag and a few soft cloth/nylon bags with some kind of a drawstring or flap closure. As part of the 4 piece UPPTÄCKA set, the zippered shoe bag works perfectly for in this case. Ideally, even disposable laundry bags from hotels or a sealable food storage bag can work perfectly well. If you are buying one, pick a bag that's not too structured and you will be able to stuff and contort it into all sorts of corners of your luggage.

FTCD SAYS:
SAVE IT. When it comes to Shoe bags, I’d have to say, I’ve managed perfectly without branded bags and will continue to do so for as long as I travel.

In the next part of this Travel Accessories - Spend or Save? I explore Toiletries, Travel Bottles and Power Banks. Stay tuned!

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