The Ultimate Travel Essentials
All it takes is one game-changing product — or one bad experience — to know how big a difference your travel gear can make. But separating the performers from the pretenders can be tricky business.
For our first-ever list of Ultimate Travel Essentials, we road-tested hundreds of items to find the absolute best gear on the market. The result? A definitive guide to the travel products you need to ensure your next trip is a success.
Bucky Ultralight Sleep Mask
Don't be fooled by dainty silk eye masks. What the Bucky lacks in aesthetics it makes up for in function: Molded cups keep pressure off your lids and prevent gaping by the bridge of your nose, and a velcro strap lets you adjust as it breaks in with wear. Not even the fiercest slivers of daylight can breach it.
To buy: amazon.com, $13
Mack's Silicone Earplugs
If you want sweet, sweet silence, there's no beating the classics. These silicone plugs mold to your ear to seal out every last engine drone and infant wail. At that price point, it's worth keeping a set in every suitcase.
To buy: amazon.com, $3
Here's how testing the Trtl went: An editor would take one look at the offbeat fleece neckwrap (it's got a springy internal skeleton to support your head), beg to try something — anything! — else, and then return from their trip converted. If you want restful sleep on a transatlantic trip, no head-bobbing necessary, it's a must.
To buy: amazon.com, $30
Collapsible bottles tend to start collapsing right when you’re mid-sip. This one has a sturdy grip sleeve, so it keeps its shape. The cap is leak proof and the silicone is easy to roll up and store. Stick it in your backpack and fill it up once you’re past security.
To buy: amazon.com, $25
Flux Charger Plus
It's slimmer than a smartphone, but with 10,000 mAh of charging power and built-in micro-USB and lightning connecters, this portable battery has more than enough juice to keep multiple gadgets going strong.
To buy: amazon.com, $60
The Oasis is easily the best e-reader on the market today. It's lightweight and user-friendly, with page turn buttons, a touchscreen, and an adjustable backlight that's glowy, not harsh. And it'll last through even your longest flights: After 14 hours of reading, the Oasis still had a 75 percent charge.
To buy: amazon.com, $290
SK-II Facial Treatment Mask
SK-II’s masks live up to the hype, leaving skin soft and bright. Bonus: they tend to deter chatty seatmates.
To buy: nordstrom.com, $17
Cuyana Baby Alpaca Travel Set
A supersoft blanket and matching mask are the coziest, classiest way to nod off at 30,000 feet. Cuyana's chic set is plush but not too fussy or pretentious — just the kind of luxury we like best.
To buy: cuyana.com, $195
Aquaphor Healing Ointment
Dab some on dry lips or use it to slick down unruly brows, soothe wind-chapped cheeks, or make calloused feet soft and sandal-ready.
To buy: target.com, $3
Buly 1803 Pommade Concrète
This thick lotion’s delicate scent and painterly packaging are an instant mood-lifter during a long day of travel.
To buy: net-a-porter.com, $50
Herschel Supply Company Standard Travel System
Practicality reigns on the packing cube front, and this four-piece set was a house favorite for its affordably priced, perfectly sized pouches. The most ingenious element? A rolltop dry bag for stowing wet swimsuits.
To buy: herschel.com, $40
Balanzza Mini USB
The ideal luggage scale is one that's so functional you can use it on autopilot. This got a bright, easy-to-read screen, shows both pounds and kilograms, and charges via USB so you never have to think about batteries.
To buy: amazon.com, $35
Joy Mangano My Little Steamer Go Mini
While you may find more robust portable steamers out there, the My Little Steamer is the lightest, most compact, and easiest to pack. It heats up quickly and eliminates wrinkles fast.
To buy: macys.com, $40
Snap on Moment's phone case and you can quickly switch between macro, wide-angle, and telephoto lenses for more creative captures.
To buy: shopmoment.com, from $90
The compact Cyber-shot is a big step up from most phones — compare the 10x optical zoom with the iPhone 7 Plus’s 2x — but without a glut of features that’ll overwhelm a beginner. You'll love the low-light performance and the intelligent panorama mode.
To buy: amazon.com, $198
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX10 4K
This is not your average pocket-sized camera, with its DSLR-like exposure control and crystal-clear Leica zoom lens. It takes stunning macro shots and, most impressively, allows you to refocus after you've taken the photo by tapping the spot you want to sharpen.
To buy: amazon.com, $700
Canon EOS M6
If you plan to take both manual shots and quick snaps in auto mode, snag this mirrorless, 24-megapixel camera. The LCD monitor tilts upward a full 180 degrees and downward at 45 to help you see things from a different angle.
To buy: amazon.com, from $779
Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II
For an entry-level model, this mirrorless camera from Olympus offers a surprising amount of creative control. Hobbyists will appreciate its versatility and lightning-fast, 81-point focus; newbies will love its lightweight retro build and intuitive functionality.
To buy: amazon.com, $799
It’s waterproof, dustproof, and shockproof, so it can go wherever you do for the same price you'd pay for high-end camera housing. And it has a surprisingly large sensor given its compact proportions.
To buy: amazon.com, $3,295
Fujifilm has outdone itself with this high-powered unit for the pros. The electronic viewfinder is best-in-class. There are 325 (no, that's not a typo) autofocus points. The shutter is incredibly quick, 14 frames per second, and delivers low-noise shots even with the ISO cranked up to 51,200. It has two SD-card slots to enable the longer shooting sessions required of timelapses and video. Should we go on?
To buy: amazon.com, $1,899
The best camera is the one you’ll actually take with you, so they say, and the DXO One is the ideal way to travel light and still snap great photos. It fits in the palm of your hand and plugs into your iPhone, outfitting it with the capabilities of an entry-level DSLR.
To buy: amazon.com, $500
Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic
This surefire crowdpleaser takes colorful, scrapbook-worthy instant photos. It's a step up from the popular Instax Mini 9, with adjustable shooting modes and a high-powered flash that determines brightness by gauging the subject's distance.
To buy: amazon.com, from $113
YI 4K Action Camera
As far as action cameras go, this one's a steal. If the clean, unfussy interface, high-resolution video and stills, and long-lasting battery (up to 120 minutes of recording per charge) aren't impressive enough, you can also sync it with your phone via wifi to edit and share right away.
To buy: amazon.com, $249
GoPro Hero5 Black
If you need solid sound and don’t want to futz with waterproof housing, this is a step up from our budget pick. It makes smooth, professional-quality video simple to capture and easy to edit on the go.
To buy: amazon.com, $399
MeFOTO RoadTrip Classic
This little guy weighs less than four pounds and fits in a carry-on, but can extend to five feet and support your heaviest DSLR setup, up to 17 pounds.
To buy: amazon.com, $199
Joby GorillaPod 3K
The flexible legs of this travel-ready tripod are designed to wrap around a rail or tree branch without sacrificing sturdiness. It's hardy enough to hold a DSLR or external flash weighing up to 6.6 lbs., and a built-in level will help you shoot straight.
To buy: amazon.com, $80
ONA Leather Prince Street
The branded bag that came with your camera is a magnet for thieves. This one looks sharp and travels under the radar.
To buy: amazon.com, $389
Killspencer Precision Pocket Modular Camera Bag
Kit out this stylishly spare bag with the matching pockets, inserts, and attachments to suit your gear.
To buy: killspencer.com, $750
The Daily Edited Cosmetic Case
This sleek saffiano leather pouch is roomy enough to stow your beauty essentials and small enough to fit in your everyday handbag. Personalize it with your name, initials, or even emojis — the first four characters are free.
To buy: thedailyedited.com, $80
This Is Ground Mod Tablet 4
An organization game changer for creatives on the go, this modular case is designed to pair with This Is Ground's array of inserts. Whether you're toting a full set of Micron pens or every charging cable you own, there's a customized option that'll perfectly fit your gear.
To buy: thisisground.com, $385
Cuyana Leather Jewelry Case
The interior of this pebbled leather case has tabs aplenty for keeping your rings, earrings, and necklaces tidy and tangle-free.
To buy: cuyana.com, $115
Longchamp Le Foulonne Luggage Tag
Sure, they'll provide a paper one at the airport, but we prefer to upgrade to something more fun (and less likely to tear off in transit). This Longchamp tag's bright pop of color will make even the most nondescript black bag easy to spot on the carousel.
To buy: longchamp.com, $29
Smythson Panama Marshall Travel Wallet
Neatly organize your passport, boarding pass, documents, and cash with this rich, cross-grained leather wallet. Built-in dividers make it easy to locate important papers quickly — a feature anyone who's ever had to rifle through their bag in a panic at customs can appreciate.
To buy: nordstrom.com, $595
Mansur Gavriel Travel Bag
It’s the ideal duffel bag, with buttery leather, a streamlined shape, and a forest green hue that’s perfectly gender neutral.
To buy: mytheresa.com, $1,195
Louis Vuitton Personalization Keepall
LV’s new personalization service, inspired by vintage travel stickers, let you tailor this classic to your taste. Pick patches to commemorate favorite trips, suit a signature color scheme, or track your travel to-do list.
To buy: louisvuitton.com, $2,260
Tumi 19 Degree Checked Luggage
The metal exterior of this contoured, clam-shell case can withstand the abuse of baggage handling. Inside, it's just as functional, with compression systems and mesh zipped pockets to keep your belongings organized and compact.
To buy: ebags.com, $1,395
Rimowa Salsa Air 22” Multiwheel
At just over four pounds, this suitcase makes it easy to meet the strict carry-on weight demands of certain international carriers and budget airlines. And even when stuffed to the gills, the thoughtfully simple spinner zips through the terminal — and over rough terrain — with ease.
To buy: bloomingdales.com, $495
Briggs & Riley's Transcend VX Tall Carry-on Expandable Spinner
We love this bag's expansion mechanism, which snaps out and locks in place to make your bag deeper — a must-have when you plan on hauling home souvenirs. Plus Briggs & Riley offers one of the best warranties in the biz: if your suitcase doesn't last a lifetime, they'll repair or replace it at no cost.
To buy: ebags.com, $399
Travelpro Platinum Magna Carry-on
There’s a reason so many airline crew members carry a Travelpro suitcase: the brand's bags are spacious, well-priced, and nearly indestructible.
To buy: ebags.com, $272
Patagonia Black Hole Wheeled Luggage
This aptly named behemoth is the toughest bag we’ve tried. It's weather-resistant, holds a ton, and the red is easy to spot in a sea of black rollerboards.
To buy: patagonia.com, $349
HP Spectre x360
This is one sleek machine, with coppery trim and a slim half-inch profile. Fast processing and a 4K touch screen make the device shine.
To buy: hp.com, $1,449
Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Headphones
You've seen them here before, but the QC 35s are still the best noise-cancelling headphones we've tried. This model's wireless, but comes with a cord so you can keep listening when the Bluetooth battery dies.
To buy: amazon.com, $349
Bose QuietComfort 20 Acoustic Headphones
Eliminate distracting noises while traveling, or don’t. These in-ear noise-cancelling headphones from Bose make it your choice at the touch of a button.
To buy: amazon.com, $249
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and Type Cover
This sleek, user-friendly hybrid is thin and light, but with an expansive, high-quality display. The built-in kickstand makes in-flight use a breeze.
To buy: amazon.com, from $625
Flight 001 4-in-1
This modular adapter has plugs for 150 countries in one bright, compact package. It's color-coded, so you can check compatibility with a glance at Flight 001's companion map.
To buy: amazon.com, $25
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom
It’s tougher than it looks: UE’s latest speaker can survive being dropped or drenched, so you can rock out poolside (or as one tester learned, leave it outside in a thunderstorm) without fear of shorting the circuitry. Plus, it weighs less than a pound.
To buy: amazon.com, $100
Fancii Cool Mist Personal Mini Humidifier
Packing a humidifier can alleviate the chapped lips and moisture-sapped skin that crop up in dry climates or after flying. This model is small, cordless, and ideal for a hotel room — just supply a water bottle and a few AA batteries.
To buy: amazon.com, $36
These handy cloths provide streak-free disinfecting and come in graphic packaging that’s easy to spot swimming in the bottom of an overstuffed bag.
To buy: sephora.com, $6
iPad Pro & Smart Keyboard
You can finally leave your laptop at home. New iOS 11 functions — like multitasking and file management — make the 10.5-inch iPad Pro a worthy substitute. And with a much larger screen and interactive pencil, it allows for a more productive travel experience than previous models.
Time for an upgrade: the new MacBook Pro is thinner and lighter than the Air, but with faster performance, a crisper display, and up to 16GB of RAM. In other words, it's a no-brainer for travel. And though we were skeptical at first, the Touch Bar won us over — the instant webpage access and fingerprint unlock function are both lifesavers.
To buy: apple.com, from $1,299
Skyroam Mobile Hotspot
- Once you own this pay-as-you-go hotspot device (you can rent one, too, if you need it for a shorter trip), pressing start will activate a 24-hour pass for up to five devices to access unlimited data. Day passes cost as little as $8 and cover more than 100 countries.
- To buy: amazon.com, $80
Clip or stick this Bluetooth tracker to valuables and never lose your keys again. Or your wallet. Or your kid. (Kidding. Sort of.) The battery is guaranteed to last for a year, and it’s compatible with both iOS and Android devices.
To buy: amazon.com, $25
Koh Gen Do Cleansing Spa Water Cloths
Even waterproof mascara is no match for these hydrating cloths. They're formulated with mineral-rich water from the Yumura Hot Springs of Izumo, Japan and skin saviors like white birch sap, so you can cleanse and soothe all in one.
To buy: nordstrom.com, $39 for 3
Laundress Stain Solution Packets
Keep a single-use packet in your carry-on in case of red-wine spills. It's a touch less convenient than pen-style stain removers, but in our tests it trounced the competition for actually undoing the damage wrought by Brunello and bolognese.
To buy: thelaunderess.com, $1