In heated anticipation that travel will soon be something we can all look forward to, the best thing to do in the meantime is be prepared. Many years of traveling extensively for work (oh and vacations too), have given me the opportunity to thoroughly curate my list of discoveries and must-haves that come along on almost every type of trip, work or play.
This is not a comprehensive list of course, what you like to travel with depends on your own unique preferences hence you won’t see any neck pillows recommendations from me. Perhaps, however, you’ll find one or two things here worth giving a shot.
What’s the criteria for this list? For me, the best travel accessories should give you the feeling of having the same conveniences of home without being overly inconvenient to take with you. More than anything though, as Marie Kondo would say, they should spark some joy, and have you saying to your self ‘Oh I’m glad I brought you with me,’ at least once during your trip.
Note: everything here is something I’ve personally purchased myself and put through the paces. For any items that do have affiliate links I’ve included them to help support this blog.
1. The 6 foot lightening cable
Have you ever been to a hotel where the outlets are everywhere except where they should be? Or perhaps you find yourself not social distancing around one of those ‘charging posts’ at the airport pre-flight because you forgot your backup battery (see next item). The 6ft charging cable is a life-saver and you’ll be astounded at the difference those 3 little feet can make.
2. The Portable Backup Battery
Here’s one item where a little bit of weight is an acceptable trade-off to avoid the anxiety of being without google maps. I usually opt for a bright color so I can easily see it in my bag. Get the biggest one you’re willing to carry so know you can get multiple charges if needed and perhaps even someone (far less prepared than you) out. And while you’ll have the 6ft charging cable in case, the other reason to have a battery is so you can avoid those communal USB charging stations which can potentially install malware onto your device. I’ve found the Anker ones to be the most reliable and sturdy.
3. The Universal Travel Adapter
You don’t want the humiliation of having to shell out 15 quid at Heathrow for a UK-only adapter that probably cost 50 cents to make. Not that I’ve ever done that, twice. Instead, be ready to charge anywhere with one of these babies. I’ve not found any particular brand better or worse but it’s worth the $30-40 dollar investment if you think about it.
4. The old school wired headphones
If you’re an over-ear diehard, then move on but having a set of old school Apple EarPods with the headphone plug can come in handy when your bluetooth buddies die. Also nice to have if you want to avoid having to pay for those crappy airplane earbuds or use the shared over ear ones. Just don’t forget the lightning adapter and they’ll come in handy if you need them for taking calls from your phone. I keep mine attached to the EarPods and just remove it when I don’t need it. Corded earphones are also really trendy now, so there’s that as well. Get inspo from wireditgirls on how to style them and get a pair (or two) while they still make them!
5. The bluetooth speaker
I have a friend who brings full-size scented candles with her anytime she travels. I tend to think this is a bit ridiculous, but I imagine she feels about those candles the same way I feel about music. If aural ambiance is your thing, the ‘Wonderboom’ from Ultimate Ears brings the big speaker energy in an incredibly small and cute form factor. Whether you’re parking yourself in a conference room or on the beach, a little music can do wonders.
6. The laptop bag
Where to keep all the dongles, doodads oh and where’s my lipbalm when I need it? There’s nothing worse than getting halfway to the presentation (or pool) to realize you forgot ‘the thing.’ Since I rarely go anywhere without a laptop I wanted to find a bag or sleeve that could stow all these accessories without compromising protection and style. So like a good dress, I set out to find something with pockets. I found the perfect solution from Yoshida Company’s Porter called the ‘tanker.‘ It has a section for your laptop and two large pockets on the front for all the things. This one is probably a bit more than you’d expect to pay for a laptop bag but it’s amazing quality and if you use yours as much as I do it’s totally worth it. Tip: if you can afford it and travel a lot, get two of the most important accessories so you can worry less if you remembered your charger.
7. The masks
While the N95 is the gold standard for masks, if you need something that will do in a pinch and does a semi-decent job of protection but still lets you breath I’ve found the AIRism masks from Uniqlo to be the best so far. They’re a bit stretchy which makes them easy to put on and they don’t make behind your ears hurt. They also come in 4 sizes and a few colors. They’re easily washable as well, just remember to put them in a lingerie bag when you do.
8. The hand sanitizer
If the last couple of years has given us anything, it’s been the rare opportunity to test a slew of hand sanitizers and dispenser formats. While at least one car cup holder is dedicated to a full-size pump bottle at all times, my portable favorites are the slim, card-shaped spray ones. These ones are from a company called Ritual360 and you can get them in packs of 4. They’re less bulky, and the spray does a good job of dispensing just enough product. Best of all, not having to replace a cap each time leaves far less room for user error.
9. The water bottle
While I’ve tried many others, I always came back to the Nalgene. For me the most important criterion for a good water bottle is that it must never (EVER) leak, it has to be very lightweight, and finally, be easy to fill and wash. There was a time where the hot-cold dual-duty type came into the picture, but in the end, if we had to choose (and we did), regular old water always wins over any hot beverage so Nalgene it was. I’ve never had a Nalgene leak; and they weigh almost nothing empty and are dishwasher safe. I do also like that they’re transparent so you can see how much liquid you have left. They also come in a slew of colors, although one will last a lifetime. The 16oz wide mouth version is the perfect size.
10. The Rydir band
Probably the best invention since the spinner suitcase. How often have you tried to use that L-shaped ledge where the pull handle meets the top of your suitcase to rest your bag? After a few steps, you think, ‘oh great, this is working’ and then your bag decides it’s not and does the ‘swivel and spill,’ putting you back where you started. The Rydir band is an invention that’s kind of like a tube top for your tote that you slide over your suitcase’s pull handle and keep it in place. And while I accept that some dirt and germs are part of travel, I love that I can leave it on my bag until I get to the hotel to keep my bag as germ free as possible – and wash it when I get home.
11. The tote bag
I used to have so many bags it was just plain irresponsible but I knew finding ‘the one’ was not going to be easy. Keeping the faith paid off and one day, I did finally meet my ‘totemate’ and we’ve been together ever since. The Longchamp le Pliage is truly a bag for all seasons. Once you give it a try, you’d be hard-pressed to find something better. It’s durable, incredibly roomy, and having the full top zip is especially useful. I love this bag so much and have created many converts over the years. Lonchamp really should consider compensating me. I’ve got my eye on this one in Cognac next. Tip: I throw mine in the wash, hang to dry, and voila, good as new!
12. The convertible purse
With the deal on the tote bag relationship sealed, I was free to move on to the next mission, finding the perfect purse. The goal was to find something just big enough to fit all the very basics, that would work casually but also support semi-fancy, work cross body as well as transform into a belt bag if I so desired. It also had to be durable, made of quality materials and work with any type of outfit. I had given up before I started looking but my prayers were answered on day in San Francisco when a friend of a friend walked in wearing it on her waist.
Enter the Lotuff mini-luna bag. The search was over, and now I have two (so far). The perfect purse that I now use every day. It’s the perfect size for all the basics (phone, keys, lip balm, pen, credit cards, ID, hand sanitizer, mask and mints). I use mine almost everyday and certainly never leave home without it, and it comes with 2 strap lengths for cross-body and belt-bag lengths. Some things were just meant to be. Lotuff also makes the Tripp purse which I think it the one they’re most known for, if you prefer a more classic shape. P.S. I have one of those too.
13. The shoe bag
I love shoes, of all kinds. I love heels, I love sneakers and everything in between. To this day I don’t feel like I’ve lived the fullest day possible if I haven’t put on at least two different pairs of shoes, even if the pandemic meant they were both slippers. There are the shoes you wear en route and then the shoes you put on at your destination. When going into the office was still a thing I was usually the one with no fewer than seven pairs of shoes under her desk. That quickly changed once they started to allow dogs in the office and the filing cabinet quickly adapted.
Shoes, especially the heeled variety are incredibly awkward to carry and those shoe bags they come with are flimsy at best. Plastic shopping bags usually became the go-to but that rustling sound they make as you attempt to untangle a heel is rather embarrassing when the whole point is to look more professional.
The presto-chango moment where you transform from commute shoes to the ‘yes of course I can walk in these don’t I look fabulous’ should be effortless and there was just nothing that satisfied me so I just invented what I would like to use. Long story short, it’s called SHOOFIE and you can see them here.
13. The silk scarf
If you’re travelling light (or not!) and want to perk up an outfit, accessories are a great way to do it. And accessories that have dual function the best kind. A silk scarf in a great print will give some some immediate oomph with the added benefit of being incredibly warm and very lightweight. You won’t even notice you’re carrying but it will come in vary handy in those freezing cold conference rooms or if you happen to spill something at breakfast on your last clean sweater. Hermes scarves are the highest quality and come in the most amazing prints. While they’re not the most affordable they’re certainly aspirational and a buy-it-for-life accessory. Tip: if you want some ideas on how to style a scarf here are 25, and non of them is a tube top.
15. The elastic laces
You can turn any laced shoe into a slip-on with these ‘elastic’ laces. They’re not laces but more like bands that fit through each lace eye to mimic what laces do. If your feet tend to swell on the plane, these have some give you don’t need to worry about not being able to get your shoes back on or having to tie your laces every time you go to the bathroom. You’ll be able to get your shoes on faster than it takes to bring your seat back to an upright and locked position. The most annoying part of these is getting them into the lace holes but you only need to do that ones and most now seem to come with a small tool that makes it super easy. There are always a few options on Amazon. They do make them for kids as well so just be sure to check you’re ordering the ones for adults.
16. The slipper slides
Walking around barefoot anywhere but on a beach kind of freaks me out. I like to have slippers that work as in-room slippers but can also work as ‘go-get-coffee’ sandals or even shower shoes. I used to be fine with those Havianas flip-flops but the older (and more sophisticated me) needed a more arch-supportive option for my super flat feet. The Adidas Adilette slides are perfect. They’re lightweight and are inexpensive enough that you can always keep a pair in your suitcase at the ready. There’s also the bonus that in the wintertime, you can keep your socks on. They’re always coming out with new colors but classic navy and white is timeless.
17. The travel pants
If there were to be another instalment of the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants series, these would be the star. My original intention was to find some non-legging-type pants for travel, hikes and generally running-around-doing-errands. With these pants I found they’re all that as well as the pants-that-look-real-enough-to wear-to-the-office pants.
Based on the ‘great reviews’ (yes, risky), we gave these Rectrek Plants from Outdoor Voices a go, and they turned out to be an accurate reflection of all those 5-star reviews and be everything we’d ever wanted. They pull-on, have the perfect amount of stretch (but don’t stretch out) and also repel water quite well if you happen to spill something or get caught in the rain. Best of all, they have two side zip pockets and one welt-pocket on the back. As of this writing we’re up to six pairs.
18. The hair turban
Especially if you have thick hair, a hair turban will significantly cut down on drying time, and you’ll become surprisingly more mobile post-shower, not having to balance the hotel beast of a towel on your head. Aquis makes the best ones, and they have them in so many colors, so there’s no risk of it being swept up with the towels by accident. Tip: its shape makes it the perfect thing to wrap delicate or fragile items, so they don’t bounce around in your Suitcase.
19. The foldable drying rack
You may consider this one a bit excessive, but once you have one, you might be surprised with everything you can do with it. Especially for beach vacations, it’s convenient for drying your suit on the deck versus using that line over the tub. Nothing worse than putting on a damp swimsuit! If your beach is more of a boardroom, it’s excellent in the closet to hang things like scarves, stockings, undies and gloves, etc. Find one that’s foldable or collapses flat like this one. It should be super lightweight and you can just leave it in your suitcase to keep your slippers company.
20. The flattenable tray
What’s missing in most hotel rooms is where you can put all the small things like day jewelry, a watch, and key cards. A collapsible tray will snap (literally) to attention and make itself useful on any trip. I always leave one in my suitcase so it’s always there for the next trip. You can find them almost anywhere but the Longchamp le foulonné coin tray is sturdy, lightweight, and just the right size but you can find an endless number of these elsewhere, and get them personalized too. Tip: a lighter color makes it much easier to see what’s in it.
21. The packing cubes
Packing cubes have several benefits and the two biggest benefits are to keep like items together (like underwear or socks) and organize items that need to go together (like an outfit) in one place together. There are so many types of packing cubes to choose from these days but I personally prefer ones that are not rigid, washable and have a clear or mesh top so I can see what’s in them. Packing cubes also make it super unpack and repack quickly at the hotel, just plop them into drawers as is keeping your things clean and easy to see and access.
22. Clear Ziploc bags
Clear plastic bags in all sizes are endlessly useful and tres economical. From toiletries to snacks (but probably not together), keep messes at bay and find what you need in a flash. They can be reused almost indefinitely but once they’ve outlived their use they now makes ones that can be composted. I always keep a few in the suitcase as you never know when they’ll come in handy.
I hope that you might find something on this list that’ll help you on your next trip. We’ll see if 2023 brings any new discoveries that merit an update here.
One item I’m still looking to add to this list is the perfect jewelry case. I’ve yet to fine a great solution and would love to hear about anything you’ve found works for you.