Travel gadgets ‘of yore’

What were once essential travel gadgets and accessories are now considered retro, vintage or are long-forgotten.

While the days of receiving a matchbook upon boarding a plane – on which you could happily light up with abandon – or being handed a hotel room key that was actually a key may have passed, today, we fondly recall some of the superseded gadgets we no longer need on our travels.

Super 8 video cameras

Remember these clunky recorders that were superseded by BetaMax and then VHS cameras? Both of the replacements were much larger and required a small suitcase to take away with you. Super 8 cameras have had a resurgence among young filmmakers and cinematic dilettantes, but the cost of developing the film needed to make movies is high. While the analogue effect of Super 8 film will never be replaced (if you’re looking closely enough), many digital cameras and smartphones have a Super 8 filter built in or able to be added on. And most movie-making software can closely replicate the effect enough to render the original obsolete.

Polaroid cameras

There’s nothing that’s ever quite replaced the look, feel and instant gratification of the good old Polaroid camera. Smartphones can give you the digital equivalent, but there’s something to be said for ripping out that blank Polaroid film and shaking it while watching in great anticipation for the magical appearance of an image. It’s ghostly at first, then gradually comes to life in beautiful muted tones and pastel-like colours. Again, Polaroids are having a small resurgence in some circles, but the cost of film is only affordable for hardcore novelty buffs.

Concertina bonnets

Image taken from Vintage Vixen

You’ll still find the odd concertina bonnet on the streets of rainier cities, but, by and large, these clever fashion accessories have been replaced by hooded jackets or umbrellas.


Once a hot ticket item at almost every establishment you visited and also a popular souvenir (who didn’t have a matchbook bowl in the 70s and 80s?), matchbooks are now a thing of the past. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I saw one that wasn’t in an antique shop or retro bazaar. Shame, some of those old matchbooks featured fantastic and funny designs.

Hat boxes and vanity bags

Whatever happened to the hat box? Well, it may not be the height of travel fashion anymore, but the lack of hat boxes and vanity bags in overhead storage would have more to do with the dearth of people donning hats, rather than a lack of availability of niche luggage. You can still find them, although we think the modern version, shown below, is a pretty cool replacement.

And as far as vanity bags go, well, with the introduction of restrictions on carry-on liquids and the fact that people just don’t ‘doll up’ for a flight like they used to, means you’ll rarely see one of these bulky receptacles on a plane (or anywhere else for that matter).

Traveller’s cheques

Once a necessary item for any overseas traveller, the success of plastic cash, credit and debit cards and globalisation of financial institutions have made traveller’s cheques redundant.

Hotel keys

Very rarely nowadays will a hotel desk clerk reach back and grab a brass key and tag off a hook on the wall behind the counter. There may be a few hotels that still go to this throwback method of access, but the advent of swipe card and key card security technology means you rarely see actual keys any more.

Are there any travel accessories you used to take on holidays that you don’t have to anymore? Why not share your travel gadget memories with our members?

Related articles:
When cool really was cool
Five wonderful wacky travel gadgets
Five things your phone has replaced

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.


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