Some may call it cheap. At Airfarewatchdog, we call it being smart with your money. For the best return on your dollar, consider adding these splurge-worthy items to your travel arsenal.

Luxuries Even Cheap People Should Buy

Carry-on Bag

Cheap (AKA smart) people have a strong aversion to paying optional fees, which is why having a good carry-on bag is key to skirting bag fees. And it’s not enough to have a small carry-on these days, as the airlines with the most cost-effective airfares supplement their bottom line by shamefully charging for the use of the overhead bin.

Avoid dolling out a single cent by employing a bag that’ll fit under the seat in front of you. At only 22 by 11 inches when stuffed, this expanding travel backpack from Peak Design fits underneath even the tiniest of the ultra-low-cost airline seats. Plus, its 45-liter capacity fits an insane amount of stuff, including a laptop, yet shrinks down to daypack size, too.

Price: $300 at Peak Design



Nothing kills a trip faster than wearing painfully uncomfortable shoes. Invest in footwear that promotes orthopedic health in whatever activity you’ll be undertaking.

Seeing the sites and museums in Europe? Allbirds is often found on “most comfortable walking shoes” lists. Taking on the Inca Trail? Look for top-notch hiking footwear like the Breeze LT Low GTX from cult-followed Vasque. Cheap isn’t crazy, so break the boots in before setting out on the trails!

Price for Breeze LT Low GTX: $150 at Vasque

Price for Allbirds: $95 at Allbirds


Waterproof Clothing

Only one other common experience is as troublesome on a trip as sore feet; that’s walking around with wet clothes. Both of these are preventable with the right gear, of course. Unless you’re traveling to the desert, always pack waterproof pants and jackets.


Good Gear Bag

Even cheapskates like us sometimes have expensive hobbies, and thus, expensive equipment. Protect your investments from potential damage with the best bag for your gear.

I like messenger-style bags for quick access to my camera, so I’m eyeing the photographer-designed Everyday Messenger from Peak Design. Traveling with your drone? Lowepro has a guide on how to choose the best bag for drones. Timbuk2 makes one of the best-reviewed laptop bags around, the Closer Laptop Briefcase.

Ultimately, don’t let your cheapness be what makes you spend even more, should the unthinkable happen and your gear be damaged. Go with a gear bag from well-reviewed brands that invest in quality materials, intelligent designs, and are stylish to boot.

Price for Everyday Messenger: $220 at Peak Design

Price for Closer Laptop Briefcase: $159 at Timbuk2

gear bag

Phone Case

I’m flabbergasted whenever I see someone without a phone case. This is especially egregious during travel. When accessing the phone’s camera all day long, the potential of dropping the phone is higher. Whether iPhone or Android, invest in the best phone case for your model.

phone cases

Global Entry Membership

What is money if not for the exchange of your time and energy? Knowing that, put a dollar value on the amount of time and hassle endured at TSA and customs lines.

If you seldom fly, then keep that money in your pocket, but if you’re on a first-name basis with TSA agents, it’s time you invest in a Global Entry membership. Memberships are five years long, so the $100 investment is only $20 annually.

Check with your credit cards: some reimburse the expedited-security membership costs.

Nonstop Flights

Again, how much are your time and energy worth? I’ll gladly pay the difference for nonstop vs. connecting-flight travel if it guarantees I arrive at my destination sooner, avoiding potential pitfalls like missed, delayed, and even cancelled flights.

Header image via Peak Design

All products and services mentioned on Airfarewatchdog are independently selected by our team of expert travelers. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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