Expert tips: The travel gadgets that are absolutely worth buying


Excluding gimmicky travel accessories, there are some simple products that make a traveller’s journey all that much easier.

The Stuff Travel team have rounded up some of our favourite purchases that have stood the test of time. These are some of the products that we’ll never travel without.

Dual-prong airline headphone adapter

I thought I could avoid using flimsy, almost always broken airline headphones by bringing my own high-resolution cans. It was only once onboard that I encountered a two-pronged headphone jack, forcing my long-haul to be either a tinny or one-eared listening experience.

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It is said that airlines use the double 3.5mm stereo jacks onboard to deter passengers from walking off with their headsets.

I discovered years ago that an easy fix, without splashing out on Bluetooth headphones and a transmitter to connect to the in-flight system, is simply purchasing the lightweight adapter which converts your regular jack into two. You can pick them up for around $5 at electronics stores and airports. – Stephen Heard, travel publishing coordinator

An airline headphone adapter allows travellers to plug in their own headphones to the aircraft's sound system.


An airline headphone adapter allows travellers to plug in their own headphones to the aircraft’s sound system.

An everlasting backpack

There are a few things in life where paying that little bit extra is worth the dent in the bank account in the long run.

A good pair of jeans is one, a coffee machine is another, and in my case, the extra expense for a hardy backpack has been a decades-long investment.

The trusty backpack that has seen travel reporter Alan Granville move freely around the world.

Alan Granville

The trusty backpack that has seen travel reporter Alan Granville move freely around the world.

Back in 1998 I decided to go on a year’s working holiday to Australia. As I was living in London at the time, I set off to the nearest outdoor equipment store and purchased a fine backpack for the princely sum of £150. In today’s money that’s more than £250 or close to NZ$500, which on a meagre journalist’s salary was a whopping investment. But boy has it paid it back. It’s travelled with me twice around the world, taken in the sights of Japan, Europe and the US, and been in every nook and cranny of New Zealand.

Amazingly, bar some minor patchwork, the backpack is still in pretty mint condition. – Alan Granville, travel reporter

A convertible travel pillow

I came to the conclusion a long time ago that there is simply no good way to sleep on a plane unless you have the privilege of a business class cabin. In economy, you’d need about three of those pathetic excuses of a pillow just to create a bit of padding, but they never stay in place where you position them anyway.

A comfortable travel pillow and an eye mask can make the world of difference on a long-haul flight.


A comfortable travel pillow and an eye mask can make the world of difference on a long-haul flight.

Sick of head lolling and the subsequent upright jolt, I have tried many a travel pillow to see if any of them prevent the dreaded crook in the neck. Whatever you do, don’t buy an inflatable pillow. They’re not comfortable and just like an airbed, you might wake up to find the air has escaped after a short nap.

The best one? A $50 convertible pillow bought spontaneously in a San Francisco airport. It tucks back into itself so you can choose the u-shape neck supporter or turn it into an actual mini pillow. It hasn’t transformed my sleep, but I’ve definitely had more restful mid-air shuteye with this baby than anything else. Add a comfy eye mask and you might be able to arrive at your destination a little bit refreshed. – Juliette Sivertsen, travel news director

Over-ear headphones

For a long time, I was perfectly content to accept the free headphones the airline gives you on a plane.

But my partner had been extolling the virtues of his Bose noise-cancelling headphones, and so ahead of a trip to Ireland back in 2019, I decided to get my own pair to see what all the fuss was about.

At the time I was too stingy to splurge on proper noise-cancelling headphones, so ended up going with the much cheaper Sennheiser HD 300 over-ear model, which you can now get for a little over $100.

Over-ear headphones will transform your in-flight entertainment.


Over-ear headphones will transform your in-flight entertainment.

The difference they made was huge. They were so much more comfortable than the ones provided by the airline (I even fell asleep wearing them), and while they weren’t noise-cancelling, they still blocked out a lot of the aeroplane noise.

They turned me into a true believer of BYO headphones. In fact, I’m considering upgrading to a noise-cancelling model for my next trip. – Siobhan Downes, senior travel reporter

Packing cubes

I’m a Type A personality so when I can file things away neatly into little compartments, it totally sets my brain at ease. Frustratingly though, I’m also a chronic overpacker – taking things that I’ve not worn in years but might suddenly need. I take sweaters to tropical destinations just in case, and take summer dresses to Europe in winter because you never know!

Enter packing cubes – my saviour. I’ve bought the $15 Kmart set, as well as the pricier kind you’d find at places like Kathmandu. The result is the same – I’m more considered in my packing. I end up taking less, even though it feels like there’s room for more.

And because there’s a place for everything, I always know where to find it when on the road. Use the little ones for socks, togs and undergarments and the larger ones for pants or dresses, tops, gym wear, or day wear versus special occasion outfits. Everything is neat and contained and makes packing so much easier.

Pro-tip – I also use them at home to organise my wardrobe. – Trupti Biradar, travel editor

What are the best travel purchases you have made? Let us know in the comments or email us at


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