Splurge or steal? These flying essentials suit every budget

Anna Hecht, CNN Underscored
Updated Thu February 15, 2018

When you fly, a lot of out-of-your-control complications can arise. But you shouldn't have to worry about poorly constructed luggage or a dysfunctional carry-on bag.

We like to to think of high-grade flight essentials as our way of optimizing the travel experience. For instance, a silk eye mask can block out light and help you relax for better sleep midflight. Or a sturdy weekend bag may allow you to skip checking a bag at all when making a quick trip.

When shopping for travel gear, it's important to consider what's realistic for our budgets — and where it's worth the investment to pay a bit extra.

What will it be? Splurge or steal? The choice is yours when shopping the top travel essentials listed below.

Note: The prices below reflect the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.

The luggage

You may have experienced the headaches that come with a dysfunctional suitcase. Whether the wheels won't roll properly or the zipper sticks, it's just not worth the hassle. When upgrading your suitcase, don't settle for less. Depending on what you're after (and how much you're willing to spend), you can have all the added bells and whistles — or stick to the basics.

The steal: This best-selling carry-on was rated by over 2,000 Amazon customers, who gave it an average 4.2- out of 5-star rating. With a sturdy shell exterior and spinner wheels for easy maneuvering, this suitcase will do what you need it to — and for a great price. When you shop this suitcase on Amazon, you'll save a cool $75.51 off the original price.

Rockland Melbourne expandable carry-on luggage ($44.49, originally $120; amazon.com)

The splurge: If you're a techy traveler, this suitcase is for you. In addition to having all the usual suitcase features, this Raden is Bluetooth-enabled for a carry-on that's as smart as it is sturdy. The Raden syncs with an iOS app so that you can weigh and track your bag. And it has a built-in battery for charging your phone and other devices. Seriously, this lightweight, protective case does it all.

Raden Luggage ($295; nordstrom.com)

The noise-canceling headphones

Ever had to sit next to a newborn or toddler on a plane? If so, you know the benefit of keeping a set of noise-canceling headphones close by. Here, we turned to Consumer Reports and Amazon reviews when comparing two highly rated pairs.

The steal: Over 6,000 satisfied Amazon customers gave this No. 1 best-selling option a 4.1- out of 5-star rating on average. Available in four colors, this affordable over-ear pair actively cancels out noise so that you can catch some shuteye. When it comes to the price tag, they cost just $69.94. That's a fraction of what you might pay for high-grade pairs from other brands.

Cowin E7 Noise-Canceling Headphones ($69.94; amazon.com)

The splurge: Bose has a great reputation for its high-quality headphones. This top-rated pair earned high marks from Consumer Reports for sound quality and noise reduction. On Amazon, they were reviewed by over 4,000 customers who rated these an average 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Bose QuietComfort 35 ($329, originally $349; amazon.com)

The weekend bag

Whatever the style, your weekend bag needs to be functional and hold all your 48-hour essentials. Below, we have a bargain find that's totally usable (and stylish). Then we have the splurge option, which has a few more features -- hence the price tag.

The steal: With over 750 Amazon customers giving this travel tote a 4.6- out of 5-star average rating, you can bet it's worth every bit of the price. We're fans of this bag for its classic canvas body fabric, leather accents, quality hardware that won't rust easily and fashionable design.

S-ZONE Leather Trim Travel Tote ($52.99; amazon.com)

The splurge: When it comes to the splurge option, there are a few things to consider about this bag. For one, it's heavily marked down now via Zappos.com. And two, it's got a sturdy build, rolling wheels for easy transport, a sleek design, additional center handles and a waterproof exterior to protect belongings. Even though this is our "splurge" pick, you're still saving a whopping $240 when you buy now.

Bric's Milano Pronto Rolling Duffel ($240, originally $480; zappos.com)

The sleeping mask

The fastest way to get to your destination? Sleep through your flight, with the help of a high-grade eye mask.

The steal: There are a few obvious reasons to buy this mask if you're on a budget. For one, it's extremely affordable, ringing in at just $12.90. And with over 10,000 customer reviews giving this product a 4.2- out of 5-star rating on Amazon, we'd say it's been thoroughly tried and tested.

Bedtime Bliss Sleep Mask ($12.90; amazon.com)

The splurge: Just as we're concerned about getting sleep midflight, we're also concerned about our skin. Flying at high altitudes in a dry plane cabin can dehydrate facial skin. That's why we think it's worth investing in a sleep mask that's gentle on the eye area. Slipsilk refined its design over a 10-year period to ensure "the ultimate combination of shine, thickness and durability." Made from luxurious mulberry silk and adhering to strict quality guidelines (including restrictions against toxic dyes), this mask is a surefire way to make your inflight experience feel more spa-like.

Slipsilk Pure Silk Sleep Mask ($45; nordstrom.com)

The passport holder

Passport holders come in all kinds and variations. Some have extra pockets for holding credit cards and cash, while others have RFID blockers to keep your credit cards and personal information safe. No matter its features, your case should at the very least protect your passport from wear, tear and water damage. Below we have two options that we'd recommend.

The steal: Over 500 Amazon customers gave this case an average 4.7- out of 5-star rating. With RFID blockers to keep your personal information safe, you'll have one less thing to worry about while traveling. Available in 21 various patterns and colors, there's an option to suit every traveler.

Fintie Passport Holder (starting at $8.99; amazon.com)

The splurge: This AlpineSwiss option also protects your credit cards and identity from scammers, since it comes with military-grade certified RFID blockers. Beyond that, this sleek leather holder doubles as a wallet with an added compartment for organizing credit cards and cash. The best part is, it's now on sale. When you purchase this case from Jet.com, you'll save $50.

AlpineSwiss RFID Blocking Passport Case ($44.99, originally $94.99; jet.com)