Patrice J. Williams
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As COVID-19 restrictions continue to lift and antsy travelers start dusting off their shoes, you might be wondering—do I even remember how to pack? It’s totally understandable that after two years of being stuck in the house and working from home, the concept of packing a bag might feel foreign. Whether you’re opting for a road trip or taking advantage of a travel deal and hitting the friendly skies, a few essentials can make any journey a bit easier and way more comfortable.
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Whether it’s the electronics and accessories that keep you connected or luggage that’s worth the price tag or packing cubes that can turn anyone into a carry-on pro, these are the must have essentials every traveler needs.
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1. Stay charged on the go with this portable charger
Being stuck with a dead phone battery is never a good thing, but it can be especially troublesome when traveling. So it’s no surprise a portable charger is a must when far from home. Miady’s chargers (two come in a single order) feature a USB-C and two USB ports. Each charger weighs just under 12 ounces and measures six inches tall, with the capacity to charge a phone up to three times. (The multiple ports also means a friend can borrow some juice as well.) A tap of the button on the side shows how much the device is charged, with four LED lights indicating a full battery or one light equating to 25 percent.
2. Pack efficiently with these packing cubes
There’s seriously an art to packing, especially if you’re about that carry-on life. Though some people don’t need the assistance of packing cubes, they can be pretty handy for those still struggling to pare down their selections or for longer trips. YAMIU’s 7-piece set has been my go-to for almost three years now. It includes one large, medium, two small cubes, a shoe bag and even two clear toiletry bags. One side of the cubes has a mesh design so you can see what’s inside, and there’s also a convenient handle on one end. On a recent 7-day trip, the large cube easily held 10 outfits.
3. A travel pillow that’s actually comfortable for sleeping on a flight
For those long flights, a good travel pillow is a must, and the TRTL is Reviewed approved. Most travel pillows have the U-shape design that goes around the back of the neck—not exactly comfortable for many wearers. However, TRTL’s take on the pillow is like a soft brace, allowing you to rest your head in a more comfortable position. Another added bonus? It’s less bulky than the traditional pillows, so it takes up less room in your bag.
4. A foldable bag for shopping excursions
Going to a destination where there’s a high probability you’ll be doing some shopping? Then you might (as in, should) want to bring an empty bag with you. This Narwey duffle bag is easily foldable, lightweight (it’s less than 7.5 ounces) and expands to a generous 18 by 13 inches. The interior holds a 25L capacity, making it a great option for any overflow pieces that can’t fit in your luggage—and it fits the dimensions to be classified as a personal item for a budget airline like Spirit or Frontier.
5. Trendy luggage that’s worth the hype
It’s rare that a popular brand like Away has sales on their luggage, but even if you have to pay full price, it’s seriously worth it. The brand gets a lot of buzz for being trendy, but we think the gear lives up to the hype, The Carry-On bag is made of polycarbonate, with a hard-shell design that can take a few dings. The interior features a compression divider pad to help pack a few more items and the 360-degree wheels roll smoothly, even when rushing through the airport or over uneven walkways. The Carry-on comes in a few fun colors like lavender and blush and neutrals like black and navy.
6. A water bottle to stay hydrated from point A to B
Whether it’s remembering to stay hydrated while on the go or refusing to pay astronomical prices for pretty much anything in the airport, carrying a water bottle is a great idea when traveling. Reviewed’s best overall water bottle distinction goes to the Brita BB11 for holding just enough liquid to keep you hydrated (20 ounces!) without being bulky—major pluses when traveling. It’s also slim enough to fit into a backpack pocket and the secure lid means no spills. A single push of a button reveals a straw that has a filter attached, which is said to reduce chlorine in tap water.
7. Portable tripod to capture your memories
Of course you need to snap those photos for major travel memories, and this small, 6-ounce device is a convenient help, especially if you’re traveling solo. When collapsed, it measures just under eight inches, but it extends up to 31 inches as a tripod. It had three different height levels and it’s easy to attach pretty much any phone to the secure holder. What’s really cool, however, is that it comes with a Bluetooth remote that conveniently snaps onto and off of the tripod.
8. An adapter that will keep you powered overseas
A lot of planning can go into an international trip, but one thing people forget is an adapter for their electronics. Epicka’s cube-shaped converter has the capacity to charge up to six devices at once. It works in more than 150 countries, and simply requires the user to push a button, which releases the appropriate plug type.
9. A document holder for all your important things
Depending on your travel destination, having a vaccine passport on hand might be necessary. To keep such an important document safe, a holder like this is a newfound must-have. One side perfectly houses a passport and the other has a clear window for your vax card. Not only does this mean the card is protected, but it also makes it easily visible. The holder has a slim design, so it fits in a purse, backpack or even a pocket—and it’s available in a dozen colors.
10. These TSA-approved toiletry holders
Carrying full-size beauty products is a TSA no-no for anyone opting for carry-on luggage only. Kitsch’s travel set includes 11 pieces that all meet TSA’s 3.4 ounce or 100 ml max rule for liquids, creams and gels. There’s a spray bottle, two pump bottles, flat pouch bottles and mini jars, so all liquids from sunscreens to body wash and everything in between can be transported with ease. Also, there’s a funnel and spatula to transfer your products from their full size bottles to these convenient containers.
11. Headphones worth the price tag
If you’ve ever lost an expensive AirPod or teeny earbud in the crevice of an airplane seat, then you know a solid set of over-the-ear headphones might actually be more convenient. A top-rated pair is Sony’s WH-1000XM4, which we loved for its lightweight design, impeccable sound and noise-canceling ability. These aren’t cheap, but you’re also sure to get tons of use out of them even when not traveling. The headphones seamlessly connect to two Bluetooth devices, so you can go from your personal phone to laptop for a work Zoom.
12. Long-haul flight footwear essential
Compression socks aren’t exactly sexy, but they can be a lifesaver when traveling for long periods. The snug socks can help improve circulation to the legs and feet but some brands can be a bit too snug and even uncomfortable. Luckily, Figs, a brand specifically marketed towards medical professionals, gets top marks for providing support without being too restrictive. The nylon and Lycra have moisture-wicking properties and as our reviewer noted, the socks “felt as great in the evening as they did in the morning.” Extra points for coming in fun colors and prints.
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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.