I’m not ashamed to admit it. When it comes to travel—and life in general—I’m cheap. I drive an eight-year-old Corolla (which I bought used), I’ve never even considered paying for an airline upgrade, and the last suitcase I purchased cost a mere 40 bucks on Amazon. After all, the more frugal I am, the more travel I can afford. But I’m old enough to have discovered a few travel luxuries that I am willing to spend my hard-earned money on.
Which Travel Luxuries Are Worth Paying For?
Every traveler has their own priorities and their own idea of which “travel luxuries” are worthwhile. For some, that might be spa visits or hotel upgrades. For me, the most important travel luxuries are those that keep me comfortable, ensure that my vacation goes smoothly, and preserve my trip memories for years to come.
A Good Laptop Bag
As noted above, I’m perfectly happy to buy cheap carry-ons and replace them as necessary. (My last one, bought at Target, served me just fine for about 10 years.) But when it comes to the precious cargo I stuff into my personal item, it’s worth spending more on a bag that will protect my laptop and other valuables.
The ideal laptop bag is sturdy, well padded, comfortable to wear, resistant to rain, and cleverly designed with useful pockets and compartments. My current bag, the STM Drifter, fits the bill.
Am I willing to shell out an extra $1,000 to fly in business class? No way. But if I have a choice between a connecting flight or a nonstop, I’ll pay an extra hundred or two to get where I’m going more efficiently. Airport connections add stress and uncertainty to a trip, and my time is worth something.
High-Quality Hiking Boots
It doesn’t matter how stunning a landscape you’re hiking through; if your feet hurt, you’re not going to enjoy it. High-quality hiking boots are pricey, but they’re also built to last. Look for options with good arch support and a waterproof coating; I prefer a higher-cut boot that supports my ankles as well.
Reliable brands include Vasque and Timberland, but it’s worth shopping around and test-driving multiple boots to find the one that works best for your feet.
About five years ago, a U.S. immigration official asked me what I did for a living as he was checking my passport. When I told him I was a travel writer, he raised his eyebrows.”Why don’t you have Global Entry?” he asked. Why, indeed?
A year later I enrolled in the program, and now every time I step into an expedited security lane or bypass a snaking immigration line after a long international flight, I consider it the best $100 I ever spent. (Membership lasts five years.) Even better, some travelers may be able to get Global Entry for free.
It only takes one rainy hike in New Zealand (or Ireland, or Alaska…) to learn the difference between clothes that are water-resistant and those that are waterproof. Water-resistant clothes are fine if you’re dashing between buildings on a drizzly day—but not so much if you’re doing extended outdoor activities like hiking or biking in a climate prone to downpours.
As the old saying goes, “There’s no bad weather, only bad clothing.” Stock up on waterproof pants and jackets before such trips.
A Beautiful Travel Journal
Documenting the day’s experiences each night at my hotel is as vital a part of a vacation to me as trying new foods and exploring neighborhoods on foot. While I could easily scribble my thoughts in a two-dollar notebook from Target, my travel memories are precious, and I’d rather have them preserved in a more attractive place—like these gorgeous journals from Paperblanks.
A Versatile Coat
Unless you make every vacation a beach vacation, you’re going to need a good coat when you’re out exploring. I prefer investing in versatile jackets with multiple layers you can customize to suit the day’s weather. Examples include Columbia’s Eager Air Interchange for men and the Bugaboo Interchange for women. Both have a lightweight waterproof outer shell as well as a cozy fleece liner. You can combine them for maximum warmth or wear the shell or fleece on its own.
While these coats aren’t cheap, the price is easier to stomach when you remind yourself that you’re basically getting three jackets in one.
It’s all too easy to share a few snaps from your trip on Instagram and then leave the rest of your travel photos to linger, unorganized and neglected, on your phone or computer for years on end. But as with my journals, I prefer to spend a little money to preserve my travel memories in a more visually appealing way.
After every trip, I create a photo book with Shutterfly. The service lets you customize photo layouts, backgrounds, cropping, and more. Other popular photo book providers include Snapfish and Blurb.