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As the world slowly starts to open back up and Covid-related travel restrictions ease, you may find yourself planning to travel for the first time in a good, long while. Maybe you’ve already booked the trip you’ve been dreaming about. Or maybe work has you back on the road. Whatever the reason, constantly changing pandemic rules and regulations can make traveling more stressful than it used to be. The best travel accessories (along with some patience) can help even things out, saving you time, space, and money. That way, you can enjoy the journey, no matter how near or far you’re headed.
How we selected the best travel accessories
As a frequent and intrepid traveler, I’ve spent a lot of time on long-haul flights to countries across the globe. I’ve pedaled my bicycle across Central Asia from Mongolia to Turkey, over the Karakoram and the Caucasus Mountains, and through most of Europe. My “day job” as a tailor and pattern maker for film and television also sometimes sends me out of town to work for up to eight months at a time. (I’ve spent an inordinate number of nights at Marriott Residence Inns across the United States—which are decorated exactly the same.)
After logging so many miles, I’ve had the opportunity to road-test a lot of traveling gear and gadgets over the years. And, like most regular globetrotters, I have a tried and true list of travel accessories I carry with me on any trip. My preferences skew towards things that can withstand being shoved into a bag on a bicycle and bounced over rocky terrain for days on end and still work perfectly. (Thank you, 2017 12-inch MacBook.)
Different kinds of travelers will gravitate toward different kinds of travel products (obviously). We combed through a variety of options to come up with the best travel accessories that will hopefully be useful to the highest number of people on the widest variety of trips.
Things to consider before buying travel accessories
The best travel accessories save you time, space, and money. There’s a lot of uncertainty and a decided lack of control involved when you’re traveling, especially by air. Being prepared with the means to make your trip easier and more comfortable can go a long way to alleviating the inherent stress of the journey. And while you may not be able to do anything about a flight that was just delayed for five hours for no apparent reason, at least you know you can keep your phone charged and watch your stories while you wait.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but the first thing to keep in mind when purchasing a piece of travel gear is how it will fit into your routine on the road. Does the thing you’re buying do what it claims effectively without unnecessary parts or features that you can’t figure out how to use. We looked for travel products that were intuitive, so you can think to yourself, “Gee, I wish this wallet had a place I could easily store and access my coin euros” and then you discover that it actually does have just that thing.
The best travel aids offer solutions to many common issues on the road and are helpful on many kinds of trips. While you may love the idea of having a “Paris overcoat” or an “Aspen ski jacket,” we don’t necessarily think there are best travel accessories for Europe or any other specific place. The best travel items are those you take with you on every trip, no matter how where you’re going or how long you’ll be away.
No one likes having things break, but travel gear that doesn’t stand up to the normal wear and tear of life on the road can be especially annoying and frustrating. Things like luggage wheels or handles breaking, zippers going off track, or a bicycle handlebar camera mount coming apart in the middle of a rocky downhill ride. These are not good things. Good travel gear survives baggage handlers across the world, getting tossed out of tuk-tuks, and bouncing along in the belly of a bus on an ill-maintained mountain road with amazing views.
Weight and volume
Packing is always a weight and volume game, especially since airlines charge you more for what they consider “overweight” luggage. Thus, the best travel accessories should be comparatively light and take up as little space as possible. My own general rule is that anything that weighs more than 16 ounces must serve a very important function. When packing for my multimonth Silk Road bicycle trip, the only item more than 1 pound was my “travel” laptop, which weighed in at 2.03 pounds.
Best travel accessories: Reviews & Recommendations
The travel accessories on this list perform a variety of functions, but they are all essential in their own ways. Once you’ve traveled with them once, you’ll probably wonder how you ever made do without them.
Best travel wallet: Pacsafe RFIDsafe V150 RFID-Blocking Compact Organizer
Why it made the cut: The Pacsafe RFIDsafe V150 features designated spaces for passport, credit cards and cash. Plus its strong all-around zipper closure prevents things from falling out.
- Weight: 5.3 ounces
- Dimensions: 6.7 x 5 x .8 inches
- Price: $59.95
- RIFDsafe blocking material
- Outer zippered coin pocket (great for coin Euros)
- Detachable strap
- Passport sleeve can hold multiple passports
- Awkward to open when worn across the chest
While many are partial to Fjallraven passport wallets—we like them, too—the PacSafe travel wallet with RIFDsafe goes a step further, keeping credit cards, sensitive documents, and data protected from any electronic-scanning theft attempts.
The inside of the PacSafe V150 has a passport slot, multiple credit card slots, a small zippered pouch, and a large section for paper currency and other documents. On the outside is a zippered coin pocket so you can fish out change without opening the whole wallet. The heavy-duty exterior zipper that encloses the entire wallet is durable and holds up to repeated overstuffing.
The Pacsafe RFIDsafe V150’s larger size allows you to fit a smartphone inside (so long as it’s not bigger than 6.5 inches tall) by simply placing it in the middle, folding, and zipping. It’s great for when you’re just going out to eat and don’t want to carry a bigger bag, or you’re wearing something with a glaring lack of appropriately sized pockets.
That said, because of its size, the V150 forces you to live the “travel wallet lifestyle,” with your money strapped to your chest. Unzipping the outer zip and fishing out what you need while wearing the PacSafe can result in some awkward maneuvering and things unsecured inside falling out so be cautious when performing that trick.
Best travel accessory for long flights: Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless Noise-Canceling Over-Ear Headphones
Why it made the cut: The Sony WH-1000XM4 noise-canceling headphones allow you to sleep, listen to music, or watch whatever you want in comfort and relative peace.
- Weight: 9 ounces
- Dimensions: 7.27 x 3.03 x 9.04 inches
- Price: $298.00 – $349.00
- Long, 30 hour battery life
- Intuitive touch sensor controls
- Multiple device pairing
- Earcup cover material wears over time
Having spent the pandemic spring and summer of 2020 living in a New York City apartment next door to a building undergoing a gut renovation (the entire time), I can attest that Sony’s WH-1000XM4 noise-canceling wireless headphones not only effectively drown out annoying background noise, but are also comfortable enough to wear all day without becoming excessively warm.
A great Bluetooth headphone that multiple folks at PopSci cosign, the WH-1000XM4 comes with a case, wired headphone jack, and an adaptor so you can plug into the dual-pronged jack standard in most airplanes. The touch sensors on each ear cup allow you to skip tracks, adjust the volume, and answer phone calls. The Sony headphone companion app lets you personalize your settings and helps connect multiple devices.
If you have trouble sleeping in hotels with hallway or street noise, these headphones will successfully mask a lot, especially when coupled with a white noise app. The padded headband and ear cups even make it possible to sleep on your side with them on—though that does require positioning your pillow at just the right angle.
Best neck pillow: Cabeau Evolution S3 Neck Pillow
Why it made the cut: Made with memory foam, this travel pillow has straps to secure it to the back of any seat as well as an adjustable clasp for chin support and raised sides that help prevent your head from bobbing and rolling.
- Weight: 11.6 ounces
- Dimensions: 9.5 x 10 x 5 inches
- Price: $39.99
- Has a washable cover
- Has a flattened back that doesn’t push your head forward
- Comes with a stuff sack that allows you to compress the pillow to half its size
- Strap system to attach to any chair
- One-size-fits-all seat attachment strap may not work for shorter people
Along with a pair of noise-canceling headphones, a quality neck pillow is one of the best air travel accessories you can buy. Conveniently, if you arrive at the airport and discover you’ve forgotten yours—or if you don’t own one—neck pillows, including the Cabeau Evolution S3, are sold in shops in almost every airport terminal. I personally own three of them, all of which were purchased at an airport.
The memory foam in the Cabeau pillows provides the most comfort a person can achieve while sleeping sitting up. The flat back and raised sides ensure that your head won’t roll into some odd position that will result in annoying neck pain upon waking.
The strap that attaches to the seatback is a useful feature as it keeps your head from falling too far forward while you snooze. Shorter people may find the straps aren’t a sufficient length to reach their head and shoulders when looped around the seatback but we’ve found the Evolution to be quite comfortable and stable even without using this particular feature.
Best power bank: Anker PowerCore 26800 Portable Charger, 26800mAh
Why it made the cut: The 26800 mAh of power charges most phones six times, which is likely enough to get you through a full week without access to actual electricity.
- Weight: 1.1 pounds
- Dimensions: 7.09 x 3.21 x 0.87 inches
- Price: $69.99
- Three USB ports to charge multiple devices at a time
- Fast charging of devices
- Quick recharging in six hours
- Wall charger not included
During a five-month bicycle odyssey from Beijing to Istanbul, which included seven-to-10 days at a time without electricity, the Anker PowerCore 26800 was my portable charger of choice. Those who didn’t show up for the trip with a power bank to keep their phones charged scoured the markets on the way until they found one. Many that brought one had to buy a second. Mine got me through the whole trip, successfully keeping my phone and bike GPS charged between hotel stops.
It’s especially helpful that this portable charger can recharge faster if you plug in with multiple cables at once. You can fully recharge this beefy power bank in about six hours, which is handy if you’re somewhere the outlet-to-human ratio is something like 1:12.
Best travel adapter: Epicka All-in-One Worldwide Wall Charger
Why it made the cut: In the digital age, every globetrotter needs a multifunctional travel adapter that can be converted to EU-, UK-, AU-, and US-type plugs.
- Weight: 5.5 ounces
- Dimensions: 2.8 x 1.97 x 2.05 inches
- Price: $22.99
- Four USB ports and 1 Type-C port
- Internal spike and surge protector
- Fits outlets in over 150 countries
- Doesn’t convert voltage
- Doesn’t support Type D, H, or M (South Africa, India, Israel)
We like cleverly designed things that are useful in multiple places and environments. The Epicka worldwide wall charger is one of those things. With a series of buttons and slides, the Epicka transforms into various plug formations so you can use it in different countries. With four USB ports and one C-type port, you can charge your phone, Kindle, GPS device, noise-canceling headphones, and computer all at the same time from a single outlet.
Best travel accessory (for anywhere): CamelBak Podium Chill Insulated Water Bottle 21 oz
Why it made the cut: A reusable water bottle means you don’t have to purchase the high-priced bottles of water at the airport and an insulated bottle keeps your beverages cold (and hot) longer.
- Weight: 3.5 ounces
- Dimensions: 2.9 x 9.4 inches
- Price: $15.00 – $16.00
- Double-wall construction keeps beverages cold longer
- Made with BPA-, BPS-, and BPF-free polypropylene so doesn’t taste like plastic
- Self-sealing cap
- Lock-out feature to prevent leaks
- Only comes in 21oz and 24oz sizes
Reusable water bottles are Earth-friendly, sustainable, and mean that you never have to pay $4 for a bottle of water in the airport again. Many airports these days have dedicated fountains to fill your bottle, usually right next to (or part of) the standard drinking fountains near the restrooms.
Remember that you won’t be able to take a bottle with water in it through security. Once inside the airport, you’ll be able to fill it up and, in most instances, bring it on board. If you’re flying to the United States through a major international hub like Doha or Dubai, you’ll have to empty it before passing through security to the gate. There’s always a drinking fountain on the other side where you can fill back up, though.
This Camelbak water bottle doesn’t taste like plastic, even when brand new, and has a self-sealing jet valve. To drink, simply squeeze the bottle. The drinking valve swivels to a lock position so you can throw the bottle in your bag and shove it under the seat in front of you without worrying about leakage.
At your destination, the Camelbak Insulated water bottle is perfect for hiking, cycling (it fits into most bicycle water bottle cages), or exploring. While most places have drinkable tap water, remember that there are still some countries that do not.
Best travel organizer: Osprey Ultralight Zip Travel Organizer
Why it made the cut: With numerous zippered storage pockets and a hanging hook, the Osprey Ultralight Zip Travel Organizer is great for small toiletries, a first aid kit, and/or your backpacking kitchen set up.
- Weight: 4.2 ounces
- Dimensions: 6 x 9 x 3 inches
- Price: $35.00
- Made from a stretchy, light material so you can pack for a variety of trips
- Durable enough to withstand the tendencies of a chronic over stuffer
- Available in colors other than black or gray
- Has a removable see-through pouch
- Doesn’t have an easy clip or its own strap
The Osprey Ultralight Zip Travel Organizer ticks all of the best travel product boxes: It can be used for your toiletries, a first aid/medicine kit, or a snack/utensil storage kit, so it’s versatile. Its strong zippers and stretch mesh fabric on one side allow for expanded capacity when needed without breaking or ripping, so it’s durable. At 4.2 ounces, it’s very lightweight. And its many zippered storage compartments plus a removable clear inner pouch are thoughtfully designed for travelers.
We also love that this travel organizer comes in orange (both an attractive and useful color), which makes it easy to locate when digging through a backpack or suitcase.
Best travel suitcase: Osprey Sojourn 45L 22
Why it made the cut: The Osprey Sojourn 45L fits most airline carry-on specifications, features sturdy wheels, and can also be converted to a backpack when needed.
- Weight: 8 pounds
- Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 9 inches
- Price: $320.00
- Osprey Daylite pack can be attached for additional capacity
- Padded air mesh hip belt and backpack mechanism are both quick deploying and removable
- Internal compression straps
- Chassis and wheels roll exceptionally well on cobbled roads and sidewalks
- Bag is on the heavy side on its own.
Like all things Osprey manufactures, the Sojourn 45L is an extremely durable bag with zippers that will withstand excessive over-stuffing—which, as far as I am concerned, is the true test of any backpack or suitcase.
The wheels and high chassis allow the Sojourn to happily thumpity-thump over cobbled roads and uneven terrain. If the path becomes particularly roll-adverse, you can easily transform the Sojourn into a fairly comfortable backpack. We wouldn’t recommend any kind of hiking with the Sojourn in backpack mode, but it is sufficiently doable for shorter distances—such as navigating through a place like the medina of Chefchaouen, Morocco, where there are too many stairs.
The hip belt and backpack mechanism take up space inside the bag but you can still fit enough gear and clothing for an extended trip if you are a light packer. You can also easily attach a Daylite backpack to the front via clips for added capacity if needed.
Best day bag: Patagonia Ultralight Black Hole Tote Pack 27L
Why it made the cut: The Patagonia Black Hole works as a tote or a backpack, and is well-suited for sightseeing, shopping, or your daily commute.
- Weight: 13 ounces
- Dimensions: 15.5 x 10 x 8 inches
- Price: $89.00
- Foldable and easy to store when empty
- Surprisingly comfortable as a backpack
- No cinch cords on the side mesh pockets
As a New Yorker and frequent traveler, I believe in having an extra bag on me at all times. You never know when you’re going to need to haul something somewhere. The Patagonia Black Hole tote makes an excellent shopping bag, which you may need in a city where stores don’t offer plastic bags. It also easily fits most laptops so if you’re on a business trip it’s a great way to carry your laptop to your meetings. It also converts to a backpack, which is comfortable enough for a day of sightseeing. In short, it’s an incredibly useful thing at home or abroad.
Q: How do you make traveling easier?
You can make travel easier (and less stressful) by being prepared and organized, especially when it comes to packing and ensuring that you’ll be able to charge your devices when needed. While it’s true that people used to be able to somehow navigate the world before smartphones and GPS devices both of things make traveling so much easier—even if it’s just to make sure that the taxi you just got in is taking you to where you want to go.
Q: How much do travel accessories cost?
There are a lot of different kinds of travel accessories, so the prices will vary a lot depending on what you’re looking for. Some things, like wall chargers and neck pillows, can cost $20 to $50. Larger items, like suitcases and bags, can get much more expensive because they’re manufactured with materials that will hold up through rough handling and environments.
In general, we strongly advise avoiding the cheapest possible version of a travel accessory. I don’t want to buy something that breaks and needs to be replaced, especially mid-trip. In my experience, paying a little more for higher quality means I won’t have to purchase that same thing again when it inevitably breaks.
Q: What accessories do you need to travel?
Honestly, the only accessories you absolutely need to travel are a valid passport and a credit card with available credit. Everything else is gravy. But who doesn’t like gravy?
Q: Where can I buy travel accessories?
You can buy travel accessories online. Websites such as Amazon, REI, and Backcountry carry products from a variety of brands. You can also shop for last-minute or forgotten travel gadgets and products in airport shops—though they are almost always much more expensive there.
Final thoughts on the best travel accessories
Having the ability and the choice to travel to new places is a wonderful privilege. I feel infinitely lucky to have been able to see as much of the world as I have. Inventors and manufacturers are always thinking up new and interesting gadgets and gear to make travel easier. Hopefully, these tools and tips will help you get out there and have some amazing adventures too.