The Five Most Useless Travel Products?
“T ravel gadgets. Some are truly useful, but most of the time, many so-called ‘must have’ items get lost at the bottom of my carry-on, left in a drawer, or just tossed out.”
The travel products he mentioned are listed below — along with my comments…
1. Neck Pillows
“The paper-thin, questionably clean white rectangles that airlines pass off as pillows are not the greatest.” This statement — especially the “questionably clean” part — reminds me of this now-classic discussion pertaining to the pillows of one particular airline posted on FlyerTalk.
Although you will never catch me carrying a neck pillow with me due to their bulk and the fact that I prefer to carry as little as possible when I travel, I disagree that “those cushy, or inflatable neck pillows you see stuffed into (or tied onto) carry-on bags serve little purpose other than to identify the user as a novice traveler.” Some people simply find that they are more comfortable — which, of course, helps the flight become significantly more pleasant.
Then again, if you happen to travel as a passenger seated in the economy class cabin of Etihad Airways, you will be greeted with — amongst other items — a pillow which can be used as either a regular pillow or a neck pillow when you arrive at your seat, as I discovered on my first flight as a passenger aboard an airplane operated by Etihad Airways. I would personally like to see more airlines adopt this idea.
2. Passport Covers
“Passport covers serve no real purpose. Does a passport really need that much protection?”
Despite my passport showing definite signs of wear and tear with the way the cover is fraying — as evidenced by the photograph of the front and back of my passport shown at the top of this article — I have no interest in purchasing a cover for it.
For me, that wear and tear — along with all of the stamps on the pages inside — is part of the story of my travels. If my well-worn passport looked shiny and brand new in appearance, the extent of my travels would not be as believable; but hey — that is simply my humble opinion.
“The covers only delay you when approaching the airline check-in counter or immigration desk (or kiosk) since they must be removed for scanning.” I have no reason to doubt that that statement is true; and it is a good point to consider. Travel is better when it is done as unencumbered as possible — even regarding something as minor as a delay due to a cover on a passport. Those little irritations do add up towards potentially degrading the overall travel experience…
3. Bulky Headphones
“You won’t find too many truly frequent travelers toting, or worse, wearing, those oversized, bulky headphones that seem to be all the rage these days. Their biggest drawback is that they are so difficult to pack. And they get in the way and bang into things when wearing them in small enclosed spaces like airplane cabins.”
I have no argument with that statement, as I completely agree.
A good friend of mine gave me noise-cancelling headphones which work so well that when I attempt to use them while talking to someone using my mobile telephone, I can barely hear what I am saying; so they should be quite effective at enjoying music during a noisy flight — but they are just too bulky for me to consider having them travel with me.
“Noise canceling earbuds or slimline headphones are much better.” I know what I am about to say will rattle some audiophiles; but I am fine with the earbuds given out by airlines for passengers to keep during international flights. They were better than those annoyingly uncomfortable and ineffective air tubes from yesteryear — having to listen to audio sounds through a conveyance which was nothing more than a cheap hollow double plastic tube with little sponges that you stuffed into your ears. It was like listening to the adults speak in Charlie Brown cartoons, with their muffled gibberish. I could not understand a word anyone was saying — especially when the tubes had a kink in them. Those “headphones” were probably designed by the same sadist who devised the modern armrest. Thank goodness those hollow tubes are long gone.
If I recall correctly, the cost to use those air tube headphones was $5.00; and unlike the earbuds distributed by some airlines, you could not keep them — not that you would want to keep them, as they were useless outside of airplanes. Unlike those old air tube headphones, at least the current earbuds are equipped with a universal jack which you could use on a plethora of electronic devices — including music players and “smartphones.”
4. Seat Back Organizers
“These carefully constructed organized pouches that strap to the seat in front of you are just plain annoying. Do you really need to bring that many gadgets, paperwork, and electronics to set up a full-on executive desk in an economy class seat? What happens when something mistakenly falls out when your seatmate escapes to the bathroom?”
I have to say that I have not seen these products in use during a flight; but I certainly do not need one. My belongings are organized in either the bag with my personal belongs or my small camera bag — both of which I carry aboard the aircraft…
…and when necessary, I can usually fit my small camera bag into the other bag.
I agree with this one — but that is merely my opinion.
“It used to be that a big bulky and expensive camera was a status symbol. Now it’s a relic. While it sounds surprising to even include this popular item in this list, most smartphones now provide excellent picture quality. So lugging along a separate camera is increasingly a waste of precious space. Sure, professional photographers can’t do without their full repertoire of equipment, but for the rest of us, why bulk up your bag?”
I was ready to vehemently disagree with this last item — until I read that last sentence. As a person who has worked as a professional photographer for years, mobile telephones — despite their advances in technology — are not always adequate to get that good photograph.
When I travel, I combine the aspects in professional photography with the archival potential of an image to document where I have been. I carry one single-lens reflex camera with two adjustable lenses; and although I could always use a good wide-angle lens, I strive to keep what I carry with me at a minimum. This means no heavy or bulky items — such as a full-sized tripod, for example.
Although I have never tried one, I understand that a good compromise is what is known as a mirrorless camera, which incorporates many of the functions of a single-lens reflex camera — including the ability to change lenses — but without the bulk.
If you just want a simple camera to document your travels, then your mobile telephone or portable electronic device — most likely already equipped with a camera function — should suffice; but if you are looking to up the ante in terms of the quality of your photographs and you are willing to spend some money, consider investing in either a mirrorless camera or a single-lens reflex camera.
Bonus: Armrest Products
Three arguably useless — or useful, depending on your perspective — travel products which attempt to solve the ongoing armrest “wars” are presented in additional detail and images in this article written by me on Thursday,
For me, the mantra is to carry as little as possible whenever I travel — but if the value of any of the aforementioned items outweighs less weight and bulk with regard to traveling light, who is to say that those products are indeed useless — especially if they do not inconvenience or irritate fellow passengers?
All photographs ©2016 by Brian Cohen.