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- I travel frequently by plane, train, and bus.
- Thankfully, since my job often includes testing and reviewing new products, I’ve found more than a few gadgets and accessories that make the experience better and easier.
- Below, find the 10 things I never travel without.
I’ve been living in New York City for the last five years, and over that time I’ve gotten used to frequent traveling. My family still lives in the Midwest and until recently my dearest friends lived in other states, so at least once a month I could be seen filing onto a bus, train, or plane to another destination.
And as with all things, practice makes (closer to) perfect.
Because of this, I’ve become much more discerning about what I travel with, in part because my job involves testing products to see which ones are worthwhile.
Below are 10 things I love to travel with, be it for their space, versatility, convenience, or reliability:
(Actually) wireless earbuds that save on space and add convenience.
- Jaybird Sports Instagram / @flyaltenes
I rarely travel with a checked bag anymore, so space is a top concern. For shorter trips where I don’t want my Marshall over-ear headphones to take up prime real estate or get crushed, I bring along my Jaybird RUN truly wireless buds. They’re tiny enough to keep in my pocket, and their charging case takes up less room than a pair of rolled socks. Plus, they’ve got an 8-hour playtime and on the off-chance I forgot to charge them beforehand, 5 minutes in their charging case gives me an hour of listening time.
A carry-on that holds an impossible amount of things and can function as a duffel or backpack.
Plain and simple, this is the best carry-on bag I’ve ever found. Ever since Cotopaxi sent me a test unit almost five months ago, I haven’t gone on a single trip without it.
It fits a lot, while still meeting airline restrictions for a carry-on, and since Cotopaxi is technically an outdoors gear brand, the bag itself is reminiscent of that. The Allpa inherited innovation from that space, like a low-profile harness that helps evenly distribute the weight of the pack so it’s comfortable to wear even when stuffed to the brim.
It also opens like a suitcase, so you don’t have to waste time digging to the bottom of a traditional backpack.
There are many great selling points to the Allpa, but for a frequent traveler, it’s the versatility, durability, comfort, and roomy design that are perhaps the best of the best.
The most comfortable and supportive socks that you’ll ever wear.
It might seem silly to have a favorite pair of travel socks, but to be fair they’re my favorite pair of socks for anything. While traveling, though, you’re likely on your feet for hours on end, and it’s nice not to have to worry about soreness or blisters. The honeycomb support system on Bombas’ socks took two years to design, and is just one upgrade that makes them the most comfortable pair you’ll own.
A toiletry bag that keeps everything in one easy-to-navigate space.
Despite falling under the site’s male category for a shaving bag, I love this Double Zip Toiletry Bag for the two compartments, which keep my cosmetics and grooming items separate but accessible. It doesn’t hurt that the company offers excellent leather at a great price, since it’s a material that gains character with age. If you really want to make it yours, you can have the bag monogrammed from $10.
An easy, old-school toothbrush with some new tricks.
This Kickstarter-funded toothbrush has quickly replaced more expensive electric models as my go-to option both at home and when I travel. It doesn’t need to be charged, isn’t bulky, and the rubber-like material feels both gentle and effective. Plus, it’s antimicrobial, which makes a lot of sense for, you know, oral hygiene. I’ve waxed poetic on it before, but suffice it to say it’s a really great buy for $10.
A wallet or purse that doubles as an external battery for your cell phone.
- Mighty Purse Instagram
Many reporters on the Insider Picks team swear by the Away carry-on (or Raden) in part for its integrated battery pack, but I haven’t taken the leap yet. Instead, I bring along my everyday wallet, which doubles as an external battery pack or a purse with the same capability. I appreciate that it kills two birds with one stone, and the space it takes up makes more sense when the item is multi-purpose.
For those who don’t want to be beholden to using the same purse, or don’t use one in general, an external battery is easily one of the smartest travel buys you can make. No matter how long the layover or how sparse the outlets, you’ll be able to stay connected.
An extremely well organized “personal item” backpack.
- Dagne Dover
Since the Allpa is my go-to carry-on now, I love bringing a well-designed “personal item” for my books, tablet, headphones, and other in-flight essentials. After trying my fair share of backpacks, I come back to Dagne Dover’s Dakota Backpack and Everlane’s Nylon Commuter Pack for different reasons.
Stylistically, the Dakota is made out of a cool neoprene material that gets a lot of compliments. Organizationally, it has really welcome features: a key leash, lots of compact internal pockets, and zippered compartments built into the back of the bag for quick access. The unique look and helpful design help justify its price tag.
Everlane’s Nylon Commuter Pack is water-resistant so I don’t think twice about the weather in either my current location or destination. It has a minimalist, lightweight body that’s perfect for carrying just the essentials and nothing else. The sturdy body also means it can stand on its own without flopping over, which is nice for setting it down in lines at the airport. On top of all that, it’s very affordable.
A phone case that keeps my cards and ID within reach at all times.
Both myself and Insider Picks editor Ellen Hoffman are longtime fans of Incipio’s lean but functional Stowaway card case. It keeps my default card, ID, and metro pass within easy reach instead of zipped in my bag or loose in my pocket while I’m traveling, which is a real lifesaver.
Clothes that look put-together but feel like pajamas.
Pants: There are lots of companies out there that make great workwear pants that feel like a pair of yoga pants. But my favorite by far has been the Ankle Skinny by Aella ($198). They fit like a dream, are as comfortable as yoga pants, and don’t stretch out with repeated wear, which is essential if your trip doesn’t include access to a washer-dryer. Plus, the material is water-resistant to survive spills.
Jeans: For comfort and fit, it’s hard to beat Liverpool, Hudson, and Mott & Bow, though you’ll probably need a belt for the latter. All in all, Liverpool would be my first travel pick thanks to cross-fitting for a flexible, flattering silhouette and comfortable stretch for under $100.
Shoes: Most of the time I throw on my ultra-lightweight Adidas Ultraboost Running Shoes, but if the packing was extra tight and sneakers don’t make sense, Everlane’s Day Boots ($225) are my go-to pair for comfortable style. I’ve worn them on daily 20-minute treks to and from work, during three-hour-long concerts standing, and to the airport without complaint. They fit like leather gloves, and the cushioned insole does its job well. They were a tight fit in my typical size when I first received them, but they’ve loosened over time.
Quality skincare tools.
It’s no secret that between the grime of millions of fingers on airport surfaces and the long day that might include little sleep and a lot of sweat, your skin can take a beating while traveling.
To help give myself some consistency, I always bring along the fantastic FOREO Luna 2 cleansing device ($199) and a really good primer like this Hourglass option ($54) or H20+ Beauty’s award-winning Defense Shield ($42) to minimize the germs, makeup, and pollution that’s absorbed into my skin.