Cameras, travel SIMs, money belts: The 15 most pointless travel items

No one carries travellers cheques anymore – that's a given. Most people probably don't lug around paper maps either, or spare rolls of film.

But even still, there are plenty of items that travellers do carry these days that are similarly pointless. From elastic washing lines to "hidden" money belts, these are the things that are best left at home.


If you're a proper photography enthusiast, I can see the appeal of travelling with a clunky SLR camera, or even one of the smaller "prosumer" jobs. For everyone else, however, there's really no need for a camera. Most smartphones take great photos, and you're far more likely to capture those magic moments on something you can fit in your pocket and carry with you everywhere.

Unless you're a professional,  it's unnecessary to bring cameras on the road.

Unless you're a professional, it's unnecessary to bring cameras on the road. Photo: iStock

Travel SIM card

I don't get travel SIM cards. Sure, they offer you slightly reduced calling and texting rates in foreign countries, but what most of us need on the road is data roaming, and the savings on that are next to nothing. You're better off just accessing free wifi in your hostel or hotel.

See also: Are travel SIM cards worthwhile?

Travel-specific clothing

You look pretty silly trekking around Paris in your Kathmandu pants and North Face jacket. This isn't a mountaineering expedition – you're going out for dinner. Better to just wear the clothes you normally would at home.

Do not wear these pants in Paris, period.

Do not wear these pants in Paris, period. Photo: iStock

Plastic poncho

This is great, you think – this poncho will keep me dry, and it packs down into a tiny little square. And sure, it starts off like that. But the minute you pull that thing out of its packaging it will balloon out into an enormous scrunchy sack that you'll never be able to fold up – or bother wearing – again.

Money belt

Everyone knows about "hidden" money belts. Every dodgy person in your hostel knows about them. Every thief in town knows about them. Not least because they bulge around your waistline like you're trying to smuggle a few schnitzels home. There are better ways to store your valuables.

Money belts: Nope.

Money belts: Nope. Photo: iStock


There's still a place in travel for the humble guidebook, whether you prefer Lonely Planet or Rough Guide or any of the other brands. What's not necessary is a brick-like hard copy. Download an electronic version and you're good to go.

Sure - bring a guidebook - just not a hard copy.

Sure - bring a guidebook - just not a hard copy. Photo: iStock

Elastic washing line

I've carried an elastic washing line around for probably 10 years now, and I think I've used it a grand total of twice. The rest of the time I either haven't been bothered to wash my clothes, or have been able to pay someone else to do it for next to nothing.

More than one "smart" gadget

I'm a huge fan of smartphones for travelling – they're your guidebook, your map, and about a million other handy things, as well as your means of communication. However, there's no need to also carry an iPad, and a Kindle, and a laptop, and any other gadget really. Keep it simple.

Hiking boots

You could really make use of hiking boots if you were actually going hiking. However, if, like the vast majority of travellers, you're only planning to trek along the pavements of large cities, hiking boots will be completely unnecessary, not to mention heavy.

More than 10 days worth of clothes

It's tempting to try to stuff everything you own into your bag. Several pairs of jeans, a few jackets, six pairs of shoes, every pair of underwear you own… However, all you really need are clothes to last you 10 days. Tops. After that you can do some laundry. You'll appreciate the lighter bag.

Don't pack more than ten days of clothes or you'll end up doing this every time you change hotels.

Don't pack more than ten days of clothes or you'll end up doing this every time you change hotels. Photo: iStock

A lot of toiletries

People seem to forget that other countries have shops, too. Shops that sell things like soap, and shampoo, and moisturiser. You don't have to pack several litres of all this stuff for fear of being caught short.


The people who really need hiking boots are probably the same people who really require a bag that can be carried comfortably on their backs. For everyone else, a soft bag with wheels will get your through most situations with ease.

Do not take this haul on a trip to Europe.

Do not take this haul on a trip to Europe. Photo: iStock

See also: 10 essential tips for packing light


I carried a small handheld torch for years until I made the connection between the little torch icon on my phone, and what that could actually be used for. Oops.

Alarm clock

Some people like to have a real alarm clock by the side of their bed, something that they can glance at during the night, and I get that. But there are apps that allow you to do just that with your smartphone. No need for the travel clock as well.

Alarm clocks: Just use your smartphone.

Alarm clocks: Just use your smartphone. Photo: iStock

Passport wallet

What's the first thing you usually have to do with a passport wallet every time you fly? Take your passport out of it. Customs and immigration people don't like passport wallets. And anyway, they're not necessary: passports are built to travel. They're not going to disintegrate if you go without a special case for them.

What do you think are the most pointless travel items that people still carry around?



See also: The 10 things travellers get wrong

See also: 21 things you'll only understand if you travelled before 2005

Beauty and the Backpacker: Episode 1

Who wins in the battle between adventure and luxury? Ben Groundwater goes head to head with luxury lover Emma Markezic in New Zealand to find out. Watch below.