Yes, it’s that time of year. You’re inundated with gift guides regaling you with the best electronics, wine clubs, and god knows what else. I’m here to give you something more practical. I’m a travel writer, and I’m always asked what and how I pack for long- and short-haul trips. My answer is always as little and as efficiently as possible.
But there are some staples I bring no matter what, which can help any weary travel warrior get to their destination a little bit easier. Here is what I bring, and a list of VERY helpful items for any gift giving on the go.
Peeps Eyeglass Cleaner: It’s about as big as an oversized tube of Chapstick, comes with a built in brush, and is incredibly useful for wiping all the guck off your glasses. They’re cheap, they’re light, they’re small, and they simply work.
Fuse Reels: If you’re tired of knotted cords that tangle in the worst way possible inside your bag, it’s helpful to have some Fuse Reels to keep things neat and organized. I personally carry two separate iPhone lighting cables and two sets of wired headphones and they’re a mess. Fuse solves that problem with a lightweight, easy to store, winding piece of rubber/plastic that keeps your cords and cables tightly packed.
Mubasel Gear Backpack: Made of sturdy nylon, this backpack folds into nothing, weighs next to nothing, is water resistant, and has a million pockets and straps to keep all your stuff and stay comfortable at the same time. This bag is perfect for hikes, the beach, camping, whatever. It’s probably the most useful item I pack on any trip with outdoor activities.
Anker Battery: Because long flights with no outlets can ruin a trip. Have you ever gotten off the plane and your phone is dead from watching Taken 6 and now you can’t call your ride? Anker batteries are small and can fully charge your phone at least twice for any long-haul vacations. You’re beginning to see a pattern – small, light, affordable, and useful.
Kensington Adapter: Nothing is worse than showing up in a random country and not being able to plug in your phone or computer because there’s some rando eight-pronged outlet that only aliens know how to use. The Kensington Adapter won’t convert power, but it has every combination of plug for any sort of outlet. Cheap, light, insanely useful.
Jack Spade Passport Wallet: Okay, this is a bit of an indulgence, but I’ve found it to be absolutely perfect to hold everything I need. Your passport slides in and out with ease, it holds all your credit cards, there are extra pockets for secret stashes of cash, and it looks great as well. It’s not cheap, but I’ve had mine for years and it’s been around the world with me countless times and proved invaluable for never losing the most important things.
Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card: Speaking of holding cards for travel, there’s nothing better than the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The perks: Thousands of airport lounges for free, reimbursement for Global Entry/Pre-Check (for Americans), 24-hour roadside assistance, 3x points on travel and dining, and no foreign transaction fees. You might freak out when you see the $450 annual fee, but when you throw in the $300 in travel credit, it’s really only $150. Best travel card I’ve ever had.
TUMI Bag: Another indulgence but well worth it when you consider the lifetime warranty. This shoulder bag expands when you need extra room, fits under any airline seat, has a thousand pockets for all your gadgets, and looks great at the same time.
Uniqlo Ultra Light Down Jacket: By far the best thing I ever spent money on, the Uniqlo down jacket keeps you warm in (almost) any weather and folds into nothing inside your bag. If you’re spending a lot of time in cold-weather climates but don’t want to pack heavy jackets to keep you toasty, this is the game-changer you’ve been looking for.
Cabeau Neck Pillow: If you’re like me, you run hot, furnace hot. And most neck pillows are basically heat conductors that make the sweat from your neck trickle down your back rendering any airplane sleep opportunities null and void. Cabeau makes one of the best neck pillows on the market that won’t make you overheat and, once again, packs into almost nothing.
Speck Luggage: For short trips, I’m looking for compact, hard-cover luggage with great wheels and a deceivingly large amount of space. For that, I have a Speck 22-inch carry on. I never check a bag, so I need to make sure my carry-on fits all overhead space while not limiting the amount of crap I bring. Speck does all of those things and also has a built-in lock for any grabby new friends in foreign places.