Fanny packs. Visor hats. Camera straps. There are so many travel accessories that we roll our eyes at, but there's no denying the practicality of them. So we're here to stop the hate, with this ode to money belts, neck pillows, and other vacation gear that don't get quite as much love as they should:
Fanny packs: The masses hated fanny packs the moment an overly prepared mother donned one of these neon-pink sunscreen holders at Disney World. But they really are unparalleled in the way they easily store your larger-than-pocket-size belongings. You don't have to worry about the bulk of a backpack, and it's much easier to keep an eye on your belongs when they're, well, right there in front of your eyes. Bonus: Fanny packs only run about $10.
Money belts: For the lighter packer, money belts -- essentially a smaller, more concealable sister to the fanny pack -- rose to fame as a pickpocket protector. Although they're not the most comfortable or easy to use, it's really one of the best ways to avoid losing your valuables, both because the belt is less conspicuous and because there's an extra layer to get through. Even renown traveler Rick Steves advocates the use of a money belt. For only a few bucks and mild discomfort for the first hour you wear it (we hear you get used to it after awhile), you can easily alleviate the stress associated with a stolen wallet or passport.
Neck pillows: What do you hate more, looking dorky or suffering a red-eye flight with skin-irritating, sandpaper-clothed airline pillows that do absolutely nothing for your neck? After years on the road, we've decided to toss fashion out the window and go for the option that stabilizes our necks and banishes kinks, especially when flying long-haul and in economy class seats that are getting smaller and smaller. A little more than $10, we think, is a small price to pay for what’ll seem like a heavenly upgrade -- and getting enough rest so that we can enjoy the trip.
Packing cubes: At the risk of appearing way too Type A, packing cubes really keep you organized and efficient. With about $30, you can catalog your clothes in a way that makes sense for your travels: shirts in one cube, pants in another, dirty clothes in another. At the end of the day, they save space by forcing you to be more neat and help you plan the minimum number of outfits as you categorize your garments. Less to lug around aside, lighter luggage that you can carry means fewer chances of losing your luggage.
Headlights: No, these aren't just for cars or miners. While they look dorky, we've found them useful for camping and reading at night in hotels (though that's starting to change as hotels are starting to be more thoughtful about guest room amenities). They take up little space, free up your hands, provide a non-shaky beam of illumination, and don't cost more than $15 -- so why not toss one into the luggage, just in case?
Waterproof anything: Do you love traipsing around in wet socks? Or getting soaked under the umbrella when rain meets wind? If not, swallow your pride and go ahead and pack those Crocs and rain jackets (which, by the way, probably weighs less than your umbrella, anyway). And if you're an avid photographer, don't be shy about the geeky waterproof devices either. Better than ruining your favorite shoes or -- worse yet -- a great travel camera when it unexpectedly pours.