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22 Travel Must-Haves to Ensure Smooth Sailing From Home to Destination

Preparing for a vacation shouldn’t be stressful.

Let’s face it, air travel these days can be a nightmare. Staff shortages at airlines and airports are coming in direct conflict with the flood of people making up for lost time from the pandemic now seeking revenge travel. But despite a record-breaking number of flight cancellations and lost luggage, it’s always a good idea to pack up and go on vacation. To make your departure as stress free as possible, we have compiled a list of must-have travel items that will help you decide what to pack and how to travel efficiently.

If you plan well enough, and with products like BAGAIL’s packing cubes, Mumi Design’s organizing bags and a spacious wheeled carry-on suitcase from AWAY, there’s a chance you could forgo having to check a bag. On the other hand, if you are like me, there is no way that multiple outfits and many pairs of shoes plus toiletries are going to fit in a bag for the overhead bin, which is why the Apple AirTag has been my savior this summer. Here are some more products that have become my absolute travel necessities. They will set your mind at ease while traveling abroad or domestically.

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Bags

Carry-On Wheeled Suitcase

Carrying a heavy large duffle is so passe with the countless four-wheeled suitcases on the market. AWAY’s luggage makes the top of our list just as it did in our Best Carry-On Suitcases for Every Type of Traveler. It comes in a variety of colors and now has a range of Carry On to Bigger Carry On as well as expandable options. The Bigger Carry On has been my go-to for years and is still in perfect condition. The hard shell is waterproof and helps compress all the items inside.

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AWAY The Bigger Carry On, $295

Tote

A great complement to any rollie is a nice and roomy tote. Don’t let the look of the MZ Wallace Large Metro Tote fool you, it is extremely spacious and beyond comfortable on your arm. It comes in a variety of colors and patterns and has a luggage sleeve, so it sits nicely on top of the four-wheeled suitcase. The puffer material even makes it a nice footrest in flight.

MZ Wallace Deluxe Large Metro Tote, $300

Belt Bag

Yes, this is a fanny pack, and, yes, it is super useful to have when traveling! I wear it across my chest keeping items such as my passport and wallet within reach. A nylon version like the VeeCollective can be packed when not in use.

VeeCollective Quilted Belt Bag, $155

Foldable Bag

Having an extra bag in your suitcase allows for any souvenirs or purchases without the anticipation of wondering how everything will fit. You may need to check an extra bag, so keep that in mind, but if you just have one checked bag and then use this as a second carry on, you are golden. The Longchamp Le Pliage Nylon Weekender has been making transatlantic flights with me ever since I bought it in Rome a few years ago.

Longchamp Le Pliage Nylon Weekender, $160

Inserts

Packing Cubes

For a self-professed overpacker, packing cubes, like the ones from BAGAIL, have become a lifesaver. Thanks to the extra compression zipper, I can fit so much in each pouch and they help keep me organized while bouncing from place to place. I tend to pack each cube per place and write a note as to what is what, so I only pull that out instead of digging through the suitcase to find items. [(Packing tip: If you are checking bags, keep one pouch separate with a day or two worth of clothes to put in your carry-on in case you do find yourself with lost luggage.)

BAGAIL Compression Packing Cubes, $29.99

Toiletries Case

Keeping cosmetics and products like shampoo and conditioner in a hanging case helps keep the bathroom tidy. The plastic also ensures that in case something does spill, clothes and other valuables are protected. Shay Mitchell’s BEIS’ Hanging Cosmetic Case is functional as it also has a TSA-compliant clear pouch for a seamless security experience.

BEIS Hanging Cosmetic Case, $68

Mid-Size Pouch

There is nothing worse on a flight than realizing you need something from the overhead bin. Fill a mid-size pouch like this organizer from Mumi Design with the necessities to make your journey hassle free. With its six zippered pouches, the grab-and-go pack can fit anything from chargers, a travel toothbrush or anything else you may need.

MUMI Design Multi Pouch, $38.90

Jewelry Organizer

There is not one person in this world who wants to waste precious vacation time detangling necklaces or sifting through jewelry to find the perfect earrings for an outfit. Packing accessories in a travel size jewelry organizer like the one from Nordstrom helps with time management as it does with keeping your belongings secure.

Nordstrom Initial Zip Square Jewelry Box, $20

In-Flight Necessities

Passport Holder and Luggage Tag

One of the most important items you will be taking with you if traveling out of the country is your passport, so why not keep it protected in a cute case that is easy to spot in your bag? A matching luggage tag helps you not miss your bag once it arrives.

Zodaca RFID Rainbow Passport Holder with 2 Luggage Tags, on sale for $13.99

Hat Clip

Traveling with a hat or two is a must on any trip but storing and packing them is always a hassle. Celebrity stylist Lindsay Albanese has come up with the perfect solution: the TopTote, which is a part of her fashion accessories line. Simply clip this onto any bag and your hat will rest comfortably. You won’t worry about losing it or squishing it anymore.

Lindsay Albanese Serviceable Style’s TOPTOTE, $69

Sleep Mask and Ear Plugs

From the plane to the hotel bed, a sleep mask and ear plugs are essential. Why run the risk of having a bright room or being next to a noisy neighbor? The SMUG contoured sleep mask and ear plugs set is quite cute and practical.

SMUG Contoured Sleep Mask and Ear Plugs Set, $21

Hydrating Spray

Staying hydrated is key while in flight. Having a spray like the Beauty Elixir toning mist from Caudalie–a favorite of SI Swimsuit model Lorena Duran –is as refreshing as it is beneficial. [hyperlink Lorena’s summer trips story]

Caudalie Beauty Elixir, $18

Pillow

Sometimes the pillow offered by the airline just doesn’t cut it. For those long haul flights (or if you are like me and fall asleep as soon as the plane moves), bringing a pillow on board helps get you settled and comfortable. The TRTL Travel Pillow wraps around your neck giving support and keeping it in place.

TRTL Travel Pillow, $44.99

Wrap

There’s always the risk of being too cold on a flight, so having a wrap could help prevent a miserable flying experience. A cashmere one like the one from Jet & Bo comes with a storage bag and can also be used for chillier than expected evenings at your destination.

Jet & Bo 100% Pure Cashmere Lightweight Travel Set, $169

Compression Socks

I never drink enough water on a flight—it’s usually wine or nada—nor do I get up and move around. To help combat swelling and increase circulation, compression socks have been a go-to for me or even compression leggings like the ones from 2XU, which happen to have been worn by 2022 SI Swim cover star Kim Kardashian.

2XU Women’s Fitness Hi-Rise Compression 7/8 Tight, $84.95

Sandals

Having a pair of easily accessible sandals in-flight is great to not have to keep putting on your sneakers or other shoes you wear when getting up from your seat. I always opt for one of the heavier closed toe pairs. These cloud sandals from Cushionaire are like walking on air and can also serve as a pool/beach slide or in-room slipper.

Cushionaire Women’s Feather Recovery Slide, $24.99

First Aid Kit

It’s always good to be prepared for any scrapes or blisters that may present themselves while traveling. After all, a blister or two is almost guaranteed when touring for hours on end. The Welly On-the-Go First Aid Kit comes in an assortment of styles taking something as mundane as a bandage and turning it into its own fashion statement. The tin packaging that stores the two bandage sizes as well as single-use hand sanitizer and antibiotic ointment is just as chic. Welly allows for a one-time purchase or you can set up a subscription. Along with this, packing medicine such as Aleve to Benadryl is a good idea as is Tums or Pepcid.

Welly Quick Fix Kit Floral, $6.79

Electronics

Luggage Tracker

Many airlines have become advanced and provide real-time updates in their apps as to where your luggage is in the journey from check in to bag carousel. But for that extra layer of security, putting a tracker inside your bag is a great call. I first learned of this tip from The Points Guy, Brian Kelly when he showed how his Apple AirTag registered the exact whereabouts of his suitcase. All it needs to work is Bluetooth and the internal battery lasts months. For Android users, the Tracker Detect app allows for it to be connected to your phone, too.

Apple AirTag, $29

Portable Charger

Having a portable charger is crucial when spending hours away from a plug, especially when we rely on our phones for so much from maps to looking up sites to visit. This Luxtude portable phone charger has plenty of juice to keep you worry-free while exploring. This one in particular also has a built-in wall plug and is great for iPhone or Androids.

Luxtude 10000 mAh charger, $60.99

Multi-Use Adapter

There have been great strides made in making electronics multipurpose, so for the most part, you only need one or two adapters now when traveling internationally. The VINTAR 6-in-1 plug turns one European type C socket into two standard American outlets, three USB and one USB C charging ports. [Reminder: This is NOT A CONVERTER. This plug adapter is only compatible for 110V-250V wide voltage devices. If you want to use your hair dryer, straightener, electric toothbrush or razor, make sure they support 110V-240V Dual Voltage, otherwise you may need a power voltage converter. I’ve learned the hard way!]

VINTAR European Travel Adapter Two Pack, $22.49

Electric Toothbrush and UV Sanitizer Holder

Packing an electric toothbrush plus a cumbersome charging port can be extremely annoying, which is why this year I went with a battery-run electric toothbrush from Quip. The metallic finish looks good in any bathroom and my teeth continue to get the benefit of a powerful bristle. The other must-have when traveling is a UV sanitizer toothbrush case like this from Amazon.

Quip Electric Toothbrush, $35

LocknLock UV Toothbrush Sanitizer/Cover, $32.97

Portable Steamer

Regardless of how well packing cubes protect clothes from getting wrinkled, it’s inevitable that some items will still need to be ironed. A portable steamer is a great option and is compact, so it won’t take up much space. The option from Homedics is a steamer and iron combo that comes with a little carrier easy to store.

Homedics PerfectSteam 2-in-1 Garment Steamer and Iron, $79.99