20 Cheap Travel Items Under $20 That Are Surprisingly Useful

As an avid planner and deal-seeker, I’m always on the hunt for inexpensive and affordable practical travel items.

I’ve tested numerous products over the years and these are the ones that I’ve found that have the best value for money!

After years of traveling, I’ve learned that a few simple travel hacks can make life so much easier. When I first started traveling, I was always worried about forgetting something (sometimes I still do!!!), but I’ve since learned the art of streamlining my packing and only bringing useful travel items to cut down on unnecessary fluff and save on precious luggage space. 

Travel safer and smarter with this list of the best travel items under $20!

Buy them for yourself or others – these affordable travel products make great gifts for travellers!

cheap travel items

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1. Mini Wet Brush

My hairdresser introduced me to the Wet Brush a couple years ago, and I’ve never looked back. I have thick hair and it used to take ages to comb my hair after washing it. The Wet Brush is perfect for untangling messes with ease – and I have no idea how it does it, but it prevent tugging, pulling, ripping, and damage that can cause split ends, breakage, and hair loss.

And the Mini Wet Brush is just so cute!

I’ve gifted this many times to all my female family members and some friends. 

The mini version is easy to throw into luggage for a trip and does the same job as it’s bigger sister, making it perfect for travel!

2. Compression Socks

These aren’t exactly glamorous, but they will help with blood flow during long flights while you’re just sitting there. Compression socks also help to avoid blood clots, swelling, and general discomfort. 

They shouldn’t be painful to wear (if they are, they may be too small), but you should feel some gentle pressure around your calves.

3. Packing Cubes

This is probably the number one item I recommend to everyone when they mention they’re going on a trip. It has made my life SO much easier. You’ll be surprised how much these little cubes can pack in – and keep you organized, especially if you travel with a carry-on.

How much simpler is it to just throw a couple of organized cubes into your luggage instead of individual items?

I’ve become a little bit obsessed with these and probably own 3 sets, but they also make great gifts (I’ve done it!) because I really feel everyone should travel with these.

4. Portable Charger

I will never leave home without one of these ever again!

I learned my lesson while we were in Italy and because I was taking so many photos, my battery died! I never travel without one of these now. They’re easy to travel with and charge. 

One of these usually ends up as a gift every year. Everyone should have one!

5. Luggage Scale

I prefer the digital scale over the manual one since I find it more accurate, but this is a handy little item to have on you while packing for a trip (and to allot for some souvenirs on the way back!πŸ˜‰).

6. Travel Journal

I used to keep my travel notes in my iPhone, but over the years I’ve come to realize it doesn’t evoke the same emotion. I love looking back at old notes and reminiscing about past travels.

Opt for a soft cover like this one that will fit easily into your luggage and not take up a lot of weight.

7. Travel Wallet

I’m the type of person to check my documents a million times before we leave, AND feel for my passport and double check it’s actually mine (πŸ˜‚). I even do this before we walk out the door AND once we get into the car. What is wrong with me????

Keeping everything organized prevents you from fumbling around at check-in kiosks or during security. Ones with added RFID protection are even better to prevent your cards from getting hacked.

8. Luggage Tags

Seems pretty basic right? But they make great gifts and come in allllll shapes, sizes and colours. Know a couple getting married and going on their honeymoon? Check these Mr & Mrs ones out!

Your luggage tag should contain your name, email address, and a phone number. Addresses are also used, but I find that could target you for robbery. However, the address where you are travelling to many be a good idea (include a smaller slip of paper in addition to your main information), or if you are travelling home and don’t want to list your home address, a work address would also suit.

Always look for a tag with a cover so it can’t easily be scanned by others.

9. Luggage Strap

If we ever check luggage, I get paranoid that the zipper will bust during transit and all of our contents will come out (πŸ˜‚). Keep your luggage intact with some inexpensive straps. 

They also make for great identifiers on the carousel, since it seems like 99% of travellers own black suitcases.

10. TSA Locks

Have you ever wondered, “should I have locked my luggage?” as you see it gliding down the conveyor belt? I have moments of panic if mine isn’t locked, since I have this irrational fear that my zippers will separate and all my contents will spill out!

A good luggage lock will help protect your luggage against any unnecessary attention from potential looters and keep it safe while in transit.

A great luggage lock will also be accessible for TSA  (Transportation Security Administration) agents that may need to inspect your luggage.  This has happened to me a few times, actually! We arrived at our destination and I went to unpack and there was a note stating it was inspected.

If you opt to not use a TSA approved lock, you will risk the change of your lock being cut, or your zippers or other parts of your suitcase, in order for them to access the contents.

By the way, luggage locks just aren’t for air travel. They’re really useful if you’re staying in a hostel/rooming with others, in transit in busy cities, or when your luggage is in your room for the day while you’re out.

Using a luggage lock won’t keep your items totally safe, which is a reminder to carry your valuables with you in your carry-on, and not in checked luggage.

11. Reusable Bottles

I never travel with full-size toiletries, and instead I only take what I know I’ll need during my time away. 

Reusable bottles are so simple to keep your luggage weight to a minimum, too. 

12. Power Adapter

This may not be something that is often thought of, since most people may assume where they are travelling offers these (check with your accommodations prior to leaving!). Power adapters are crucial to charge your devices. 

These are easy to miss while you’re packing up. I’ve lost many during my travels! I usually check the room a few times before leaving (and find myself checking drawers I wasn’t even in at all! I have a problem!πŸ˜‚).

13. Mini umbrella

It may seem like a negligible item, but learn from my experience!

 It always rains when we go to England. Always. On one of our most recent trips we didn’t think to bring on and had to buy one at the Imperial War Museum for £20 – but hey it makes for a great souvenir!πŸ˜‚

Mini umbrellas are easy to transport (you can fit it in a purse or jacket pocket).

14. Pashmina

Carrying a versatile item like this serves multiple purposes. 

For the plane, you can use it as a blanket (which I often do!) or drape around your shoulders for extra warmth. 

I also used one of these during our trip to the Vatican since women have to cover their shoulders.

They’re easy to pack and carry, and I never leave without it!

15. Collapsible water bottle

I strive to become more eco-friendly and have been researching collapsible water bottles, since usually the reason for me buying one at the airport was because I didn’t want to lug a big container around, especially when we only travel with carry-ons! 

Tip: Usually you can ask your flight attendant to fill it for you once you’re on board, but I am seriously doubting they will do that given the current situation. There are usually water fountains at airports, so you can fill your bottle before you board.

These collapsible (folding, if you will) bottles will pack away tightly when you don’t need it, making for convenient transport.

16. Sunscreen

I know, I know. I feel like someone’s mother reminding them to put their sunscreen on. But I have had wayyyy too many burns in my life (you think I would’ve learned my lesson???). This is my favourite one that I’ve used, and I use it every day for my face too. 

It’s the perfect travel size too!

17. Safety whistle

This might seem kind of lame, but it can really come in handy if you’re travelling solo or hiking. It’s an added peace of mind for you (and your loved ones at home) if you carry this on you.

You may not always have a phone (or reception), and you can easily wear it around your neck or attach to your bag.

These can also be used to scare away any unwanted attention from animals (like a pack of intimidating monkeys – no joke – they can be really scary!!πŸ˜‚).

18. Mini first aid kit

Bandaids don’t always cut it (hahaha I just made a pun and didn’t even realize). Consider bringing a mini first aid kit with other items like antiseptic wipes, sting relief, safety pins, and antibiotic cream.

You can also make your own, but I like how the kits have individually wrapped items instead of having to bring the whole tube or roll of something.

19. Sanitizing Wipes

We never leave home without these. My husband and I started using these years ago on airplanes (since we know those tray tables never get cleaned). Even more important during the times of a pandemic, they don’t take up a lot of space and it only takes a few seconds to wipe down all your surfaces (don’t forget about your seatbelt buckle!).

20. Before-You-Go Spray

Yeah, I saved this one for last. Is it weird? Maybe. Is it also the most useful travel item in existence? It’s definitely one of my top 5!

If you’re spending a lot of time in close quarters with someone else…you may want to pick this up. It masks any bathroom odours and you will thank me for it later.

It also comes in a larger size for at home, but I’m really happy I found a travel size. I gift it every Christmas πŸ˜‚. It will save relationships!!!!

I hope you enjoyed this list of the best cheap travel accessories and gadgets! I hope it makes your packing easier and leaves you a little more prepared for your adventures!

p.s. Heading on an all-inclusive vacation? Here’s what to pack (+ free printable!).

What are your top picks for cheap travel gifts? Share and comment below!

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28 Comments

  1. August 29, 2020 / 1:14 pm

    What a great list! I love the reusable shampoo and conditioner bottles (yay for eco friendly products!) and also the mini wet brush! I take mine everywhere with me and it’s fantastic!

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 29, 2020 / 4:21 pm

      Thanks Kate! Glad to find someone else who loves the mini wet brush :)!

  2. Lauren
    August 29, 2020 / 4:58 pm

    Great list! We LOVE our luggage scale. Can’t imagine how we traveled so much without it.

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 29, 2020 / 5:48 pm

      Right?? I rely on this thing now to make sure I can squeeze in as much as possible!

  3. Lana
    August 30, 2020 / 4:26 am

    Love this post Sarah! So many great ideas here that I hadn’t thought of! I really wish I’d brought a luggage scale on my gap year, then maybe I wouldn’t have been charged for extra luggage as often as I was πŸ˜… My top 5 definitely includes a world wide adapter, small first aid kit, TSA safety locks, luggage tags (all of which you mention here) but also my GoPro!

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 30, 2020 / 6:10 am

      I was JUST thinking yesterday I need to get a GoPro! hahaha I think we’ve all been victim to excess luggage at the airport at one time or another πŸ˜‰ Thanks!!

  4. August 30, 2020 / 7:25 am

    I would have mever thought of most of these! The mini toiletry bottles are a life saver though, I started using those a few years ago akd recommend them to anyone who will listen!

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 30, 2020 / 8:03 am

      Yes! It still surprises me how many people travel with full size toiletry items! It takes me ages to go through a bottle, how could I use a whole one in a week? haha.

  5. August 30, 2020 / 4:14 pm

    What a great list. I’m in love with my collapsible water bottle. I use it for hiking and the good news is it barely adds any weight to your pack when it’s empty. Also, someone bought us the before-you-go spray the other year for Christmas as a joke gift and you’re definitely right about it being a relationship saver, haha

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 30, 2020 / 4:30 pm

      Thank you! Yes the collapsible water bottle is a genius invention (especially for when it’s empty!). Hahahah the spray is seriously the best thing ever. I also bought it as a joke but now EVERYONE gets it for Christmas!!!

  6. Holly
    August 31, 2020 / 7:31 am

    I have a few of these on my standard trip list too! But I have a waaaay bigger powerpack than you can get for under $20!

    • Sarah
      Author
      August 31, 2020 / 12:47 pm

      There’s always deals for power banks! At least there are tons of great options!

  7. September 2, 2020 / 7:31 am

    Great list, thanks for putting this together. I would have to add number 21, waterproof socks. Until recently I would have laughed at this but I bought a pair for our recent trip (pre-covid-lockdown) and they were amazing. Whoever invented them was really smart as you don’t need bulky hiking boots for going out in the snow.

    • Sarah
      Author
      September 2, 2020 / 8:42 am

      That’s a great idea, Kirsty!

  8. September 2, 2020 / 11:00 am

    These are so useful. I have already some such as adapter or a charger, but I found it so cool to mention pashmina as it is something I would not think much about to share. I have this scarf for years and when I now think about it, it is the most useful item ever! Will defo try wet combo, didn’t know about it, so thanks! And also packing cubes, been thinking about it for a while, and now will just go ahead and get them! πŸ™‚

    • Sarah
      Author
      September 2, 2020 / 2:55 pm

      oh my goodness – if nothing else, you absolutely NEED the packing cubes – they will change your life!!! Haha my scarf has saved me on numerous occasions!

  9. Erin
    September 2, 2020 / 2:17 pm

    Love this list! Your point about TSA locks not just being for airports and flights is so so true. I have always carried TSA locks on me while traveling so that I can lock shut my day bag, and I’ll also lock up my suitcase or pack back in my hotel or hostel. I think you’re totally right that this approach won’t for sure protect you from theft, but it’s definitely a good deterrent (and always makes me feel secure!).

    • Sarah
      Author
      September 2, 2020 / 2:55 pm

      Thanks Erin! I’m glad it’s not just me – I get paranoid about these types of things! It definitely makes me feel a lot better!

  10. September 2, 2020 / 4:52 pm

    This is such a great list! Packing cubes are hands-down my favorite travel item I’ve purchased πŸ™‚ they are so practical, and keep your suitcase so organized. Love your tip about carrying a pashmina with you – definitely a useful thing to have with you.

    • Sarah
      Author
      September 2, 2020 / 5:11 pm

      Thank you Olivia! Packing cubes is my #1 item I tell everyone they NEED πŸ˜‚! The pashminas have definitely come in handy over the years, they’re so versatile!

  11. September 2, 2020 / 8:50 pm

    Absolutely love this list! I actually did not know that they make the Wet Brush in a mini version – I LOVE mine but I’ve always thought it was too big to travel with! Great suggestions, thanks so much for sharing!

    • Sarah
      Author
      September 3, 2020 / 5:45 am

      Thanks Kaylini! I was so excited to find a smaller version too!!

  12. September 2, 2020 / 8:55 pm

    I love this list! I use a lot of these items as well, and girl I FEEL you on the sunscreen! It’s a definite MUST for keeping this youthful skin! Lol. I love the idea for the collapsible water bottles too, great idea for when you aren’t using it, doesn’t take up any room! Will have to get one.

    • Sarah
      Author
      September 3, 2020 / 5:46 am

      Thank you so much! I still have many friends who won’t wear any, but I’m already started to see gray hairs and I don’t need wrinkles too!!πŸ˜‚

  13. September 3, 2020 / 10:57 am

    I have never used a luggage strap, didn’t really know what they were for until my luggage exploded. Handy for next time we get to travel. And yes, a hot pink one would stand out. I love this idea.

    • Sarah
      Author
      September 3, 2020 / 12:50 pm

      Oh no! That’s one of my worst fears!! I’m so paranoid I may actually start using two (length & width-wise). Glad you found it helpful!

  14. September 3, 2020 / 11:26 am

    Love the collapsible water bottle idea. I hate wasting so much plastic and this is a great space saver too! Really useful guide.

    • Sarah
      Author
      September 3, 2020 / 12:51 pm

      Thank you Katy! I’m always on the hunt for better, more sustainable items to travel with! πŸ™‚

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