We often analyse ALDI's special buys for technology gear and gagets. This Wednesday's special buys are in a less frequent category for the supermarket giant: travel gear. We've run through what's on offer to identify the best deals.
If you're a regular traveller, the odds are good that you'll already own versions of all the items in this list. If you're planning for an annual holiday and know that your old suitcase is falling to pieces, seeing a bargain item at ALDI might tempt you. There are some good deals in the week's offer, but many of the prices are similar to those you can find at other retailers. As with any purchase, a little advance research can save you from impulse buys that are either not needed or actually not that cheap.
Carry-On Suitcase ($39.99)/Suitcase ($79.99)
Why you might want it: For brief trips, wheeled bags generally give you more storage space than a backpack (though they're less convenient when it comes to accessing that gear). Four-wheeled suitcases are particularly easy to move around airports, and the carry-on model includes a built-in laptop sleeve.
Is it worth it?: It's not hard to find a carry-on case for $40 in a shopping centre (or a larger model for $80), but one with four wheels is slightly rarer. My general experience with cheap suitcases is that they do wear out faster than the pricier alternatives; if you're a regular traveller, spending a little extra makes sense in the long run. One important factor to check if you're tall is the length of the handle; many cheap suitcases have short handles, which can make them uncomfortable to pull. Also bear in mind that suitcases with highly rounded corners give you less packing flexibility than a squarer model.
TSA Luggage Locks ($7.99/2)/TSA Luggage Straps ($5.99)
Why you might want it: If you're travelling around the US and you routinely lock or strap your luggage, you need a TSA-approved lock. If you use any other kind of lock and the TSA decides to inspect the contents of your baggage, the lock will be removed and destroyed.
Is it worth it?: If you do want a TSA lock, these are good prices, though you can find better deals elsewhere (for instance, one eBay seller I spotted has three locks for $9 including postage, which is actually a little cheaper).
Luggage Scales ($9.99)
Why you might want it: Weighing suitcases on a scale designed for people or food is tricky and often not accurate. Digital luggage scales strap to any suitcase and tell you the weight, helping you avoid horrendously high excess baggage fees at the airport.
Is it worth it?: I've been a fan of digital luggage scales for a long time (I even keep a set in the Lifehacker offices so I can check the weight of colleagues' bags before they head to the airport). $10 is a very good price (eBay's cheapest devices are around $15 including postage), though I haven't tested this particular model and it looks a little less robust than my current Balanzza gear. Nonetheless, if you don't have a set, this is my pick of the sale.
Scholl Flight Socks ($24.99)
Why you might want it: Flight socks can help prevent deep vein thrombosis during long flights.
Is it worth it?: I wouldn't wear flight socks simply for the sake of it, but if you're in a risk category for DVT, it's a relatively inexpensive precaution. The ALDI price is competitive; there are cheaper brands floating around, but you'll typically pay $30 or more for the Scholl-branded options.
Travel Hair Dryer ($9.99)/Dry Shampoo ($4.99)
Why you might want it: For on-the-road hair care.
Is it worth it?: Full disclosure: I have short hair and happily wash it with whatever soap-like liquid is going, so neither of these options is going to appeal to me. I've argued before that taking a hair dryer is a waste of space for many travellers, given that many hotel bathrooms include them. One reader countered that argument by pointing out that many hotel hair dryers are under-powered, but I can't imagine a $10 dryer is going to be much better.
If you do need to dry your hair and don't trust the hotel, this could be a reasonable option. Added bonus: you can use it to help dry clothes if you're washing on the road. As for the dry shampoo: up to you, though as we've noted before, baby powder also works. The dry shampoo also comes in an aerosol, which can be a nuisance if you take it in hand luggage as it has to be screened separately at Australian domestic airports.
Travel guides, language guides, puzzle books, journals
Is it worth it?: None of these grab me. If you're trying to save space, every single function could be served by an app on your smartphone of choice. If paper still appeals, I'd want to do proper comparison shopping on travel and language guides, and not just grab them in a supermarket. Cheap puzzle books can be found in any discount store, as can journals. The pricing for all of these is reasonable, they just don't strike me as very compelling buys.
If any of these deals do interest you, the usual ALDI sale rules apply: get to your local branch as soon as it opens (usually 0830) if you want to be sure of getting a specific item. Got your own take on the usefulness/value of one of these deals? Tell us in the comments.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman does prefer doing Killer Sudoku on paper rather than with an app, if only to fill in time while the plane takes off and electronic items can't ne used. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.