Itching to be able to travel again? The time will come, and there are many ways you can prepare—but perhaps the best way is to upgrade some of your travel must-haves and test them out while you’re stuck at home.
Here are some cheap or free strategies for readying your travel arsenal with items that can also help you stay comfortable and relaxed at home.
Inflatable Back Pillows for Working from Home (and Eventually the Plane)
Working from home can be rough on your back—as so many new remote employees are finding out. You know what else can be rough on your back? Plane travel. Use this opportunity to try out some travel pillows as a solution that can eventually double as the perfect plane pillow. I personally prefer a lumbar option like Therm-a-Rest’s Lumbar Travel Pillow, which provides support that prevents you from slouching and deflates to pack away when you’re not using it.
Getting a good night’s sleep is important in stressful times, plus it’s scientifically proven to be crucial for a healthy immune system. White noise machines can help, and portable ones like the Yogasleep Rohm are both affordable and perfect for packing when you get back to travel. The relaxing lull of white noise is a must-have in your too-quiet future hotel rooms.
Don’t come out of quarantine ready to travel but with a broken or about-to-break suitcase. Short of buying a new, pricey spinner in these tough times, it’s worth considering that you can fix or break-proof your trusty carry-on. You can read more here about how to fix a broken suitcase, but some handy improvements include:
Another luggage add-on, organizing straps for packing can also be a handy at-home organizer you can look forward to using on your carry-on. The adjustable, buckled straps are perfect for organizing and hiding at-home cables that have become an eyesore, and later they’ll easily compress clothes and gear to pack smaller into a size-restricted bag.
Putting away your winter clothes to make room for spring ones is a lot easier if you employ some packing cubes to organize items into groups. Use your old packing cubes for storage and upgrade to some shiny new ones you’ll be eager to road-test later.
As we wait out the COVID-19 pandemic at home, we’re keeping our spirits up by dreaming about future travels. And the more we’ve thought about it, the more we’ve realized that there’s plenty to do now at home to make the trips we have yet to take better, and to focus our energy on something hopeful and positive. Here’s how we’re planning ahead to better days and better trips.
There’s nothing like getting ready to pack for a trip and being able to mentally high-five your past self for having the foresight to have already cleaned and restocked your toiletries bag. That way all that’s left for you to do is check it over, add in any additional items, and throw it in your bag. Experience the same joy by reserving a drawer or a box in a closet in which you keep pre-sorted baggies of travel essentials like adapters, travel pillows, passport holders, and travel-size toothpaste.
In travel as in home repair, having the right tool for the job is everything. Does this sound familiar? It’s time to pack, and you realize you’re missing a cover-up and comfortable sandals for a beach vacation, or snow gear for a winter adventure. Instead of waiting until the last minute to panic-purchase items that will come in handy again and again, go through the types of trips you’re drawn to, assess your supplies, and fill in holes as you find them. Then congratulate yourself on making the most of your non-travel time.
Clean Your Travel Bags
Right now, most of us are thinking a lot more than usual about hygiene. And when you’re in that frame of mind, it’s easy to see why it’s weird that we don’t all automatically give our suitcases a deep clean every time we come home from a trip. But suitcases actually are pretty easy to clean, and now can be a great time to get them out and spruce them up. Call it the beginning of a great new travel habit. Check out How to Clean and Disinfect a Suitcase to learn how.
Now is also a good time to check the expiration date on your passport. Though the U.S. State Department is currently only processing emergency passports for new applicants and is facing significant delays for renewals by mail, knowing when you need to take action on your renewal will help you be prepared when the time comes to travel again.
Update Your Inspiration List
Bucket list, must-do list, five-year travel plan—whatever you call it, this is a good time to dust off the old inspiration list and find some new destinations to dream about. Here are some of our favorite dreamy round-ups, divided by destination and interest.
While you can’t go out, take the money you’d be spending on Ubers and fancy cocktails and put it into a savings fund for a future trip. Also, take some time to set a budget for yourself—sites like Mint.com can help you track your spending and find areas to save. Don’t forget to incorporate these sneaky travel costs into your trip budget.
Learn a New Language for Your Next Trip
You know what takes a lot of time? Learning a language. If you find yourself with free time to spare, put it to good use by downloading a language app and jumping in. Most language apps are based on games and repetition, which makes it fun whether you’re learning the basics or going for more advanced mastery.
Cook Your Favorite Dishes from Around the World
Craving cheese fondue from your Switzerland trip? What about tapas from Spain? Cooking is not only therapeutic, but it’s also a great way to remember your favorite dish from a recent trip. We’re working on curating a Pinterest board with our favorite recipes from around the world; make sure to follow us for future travel inspiration. And don’t miss these international recipes and cocktails.
Support Small Businesses
In this time of uncertainty, do what you can to support your local community as well as your favorite businesses at your vacation destinations. A few ways to do this include shopping the store’s online site or buying gift cards from your favorite restaurants for future use. Some musicians are running fundraisers with online “concerts” that are streamed on social media with the idea that viewers can donate to “tip” local bartenders. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that people’s creativity will shine through, so be creative!
Download Our Packing Lists
Take time to create an inventory of your current travel essentials and prepare your own packing list from our templates. Each one is downloadable and editable, and most are even mobile-friendly, so you don’t have to print. Check them out below:
Is climbing Everest or taking a cycling vacation on your bucket list? You’ll need to get in shape. There are plenty of free streaming workouts you can do at home, and our list of hotel room exercises you can do without any workout gear works equally well in your living room. In most locations you can still get outside for a walk, jog, or bike ride (as long as you stay at least six feet apart from other people), giving you a good workout as well as some much-needed fresh air.
Stay Healthy and Mindful
Beyond fitness, this is also a time to keep yourself healthy in other ways. Of course, you’ll want to practice behaviors to protect yourself from COVID-19, including social distancing, frequent hand washing, and not touching your face, but you’ll also want to protect your mental health during this stressful time. Walking, meditating, taking a leisurely bath, reading a good book, watching a funny TV show, video chatting with family and friends, completing a puzzle, and researching future trips are all good ways to reduce stress and keep yourself sane.
With what they’re charging for bottled water at the airport these days, nobody should be traveling without their own water bottle. However, it’s fair to be a bit wary of drinking from the tap, especially when you’re traveling to a place that doesn’t have a great reputation for clean water. This is why filtered water bottles make the most sense for travelers.
Filtered water bottles can be a little more expensive than regular reusable bottles and may involve a little more maintenance, but they’re worth it for the peace of mind you’ll have with every sip. Here are some of my favorite water bottles with filters for traveling.
If you’re the kind of person who would buy a filtered water bottle but never get around to changing the filters, a LARQ could be the bottle for you. Instead of filters, this bottle purifies water using a UV-LED light hidden in the cap. The light is powerful enough to kill germs, and the same kind of light is even used in hospitals to disinfect surfaces. The best part? It’s as easy to charge as your phone, with a universal charging port that will plug into any USB port.
Fans of Brita, rejoice: You can take the 36387 Premium Water Filter Bottle on the road. The 26-ounce bottle is sleek enough to slip easily into car drink holders. The BPA-free hard plastic bottle has a carrying loop and an enclosed straw for ease of use. The chlorine-reducing filter improves the taste of tap water, and the filters are easy to replace.
Glass isn’t necessarily travel-friendly, but at the same time, every drink tastes better when you’re drinking it from a glass. Why else would airlines go the extra mile to use them when serving their first-class customers? If you like glass but are worried about it breaking, check out The Escape, a glass water bottle that is protected by a silicon sleeve and uses a multi-stage filtration process to keep your water clean and tasting good.
The Kiddo is a filtered water bottle designed with kids in mind. From its fun design to its wide-flow straw, which makes it easier for kids to use, this is a great choice for parents who want their kids to carry their own water bottle. The filters are also interchangeable with those of other Epic Water Filters bottles, so you can stock up for the whole family.
If you will be spending time outdoors and might need to drink from a fresh water source, consider the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier. With its press-down filter design, this travel water bottle can filter sediment as well as chemicals like chlorine without leaving an aftertaste.
LifeStraw is one of the most trusted brands for water filters. Its LifeStraw Go bottle has a heavy-duty filter built in, making it super easy to filter your water on the go. It is also available with a one- or two-stage filter, so you can choose the one that fits best for the trip you’re planning.
If you have an affinity for stainless steel water bottles, The Outback might be the best choice for you. With an easy-grip design and a non-slip rubber base, this is a sturdy water bottle with a filter that will last. You can use it on the road or at home to purify both tap water and natural water.
Whether you’re going camping or building a disaster kit, the Seychelle Water Filter Bottle is a good addition to your arsenal. Its super strong filter removes everything from bacteria to agricultural run-off, so you can be 100 percent sure the water you’re drinking is safe. It’s a squeeze bottle, but it’s made of durable plastic material.
Earthquakes. Fires. Tsunamis. Hurricanes. Most of us don’t think about these things as we’re packing, but when we visit destinations vulnerable to certain types of disasters, we take on the real risk of an emergency.
I live about 10 blocks from one of California’s major faults, so disaster preparedness is a small but important part of my family’s daily life. Until recently, however, I hadn’t much thought about how to translate the lessons I’ve learned from my local emergency-response community to the realm of travel. But then I realized that many of the most important items to have in the event of a major disaster are not only small and portable, but they have plenty of travel uses as well.
Here’s our shortlist of packable things that could save your life while on the road.
This is something that many people in earthquake-prone regions already have on their keychain. A whistle (opt for a “pealess” whistle, one that does not contain a cork pea, for maximum durability) can help rescuers find you if you’re trapped in a building or under rubble after a disaster. The high-pitched sound can be easier to detect than the human voice, and it can be indispensable when dehydration or crushing has impaired your ability to yell.
Other Travel Uses: Personal safety if you’re walking alone or at night, rallying a group or family, or kicking off an impromptu potato-sack race.
In a disaster, electricity is often the first thing to go. And if you’re in a building or on the subway, you may need a light source to help you find your way out. (While you could use your phone for this purpose, you’ll likely want to preserve its battery for other uses during an emergency.) Choose from the many small, keychain-sized LED flashlights with long battery lives and bright lights that are on the market.
Other Travel Uses: Finding your way back to camp after a midnight trip to the loo, reading in bed at a hotel without waking a sleeping partner, or navigating poorly lit paths and uneven surfaces.
Staying as healthy as possible is key in the aftermath of a disaster, and that means effectively tending to minor injuries. First-aid kit basics such as individually wrapped alcohol pads, small packets of antibiotic ointment, and a selection of bandages can help you keep minor abrasions from becoming infected. Plus, they take up virtually no room in a bag.
Other Travel Uses: Caring for blisters, scratches, or bug bites or helping strangers in need of a quick fix.
Staying warm can be a challenge if you find yourself exposed to the elements for an extended period. Even if you’re inside when disaster strikes, heating systems may not work. A Mylar rescue blanket is an incredibly light, stowable, and efficient way to stay warm with just your own body heat.
Other Travel Uses: A makeshift picnic blanket, a backup warmth layer for evenings under the stars or at the beach, or a hygienic floor cover for desperate moments when you need a place to rest during an overnight airport layover.
Dust from debris can cause short-term breathing problems and long-term health issues. While a simple bandana or neckerchief won’t filter out everything, it will provide coverage against larger airborne particles, and that can be just what you need to get to safety. Since basic bandanas are small and fold up nicely, you can carry a few to distribute to companions.
Other Travel Uses: Containing your cold on an airplane or as dust-storm protection.
Charging your phone requires both electricity and access to an outlet—two conditions that can be hard to meet after a major disaster. Travel with a small battery- or solar-powered charger to prolong the life of your cell phone in an emergency. Even if phone and Wi-Fi systems are down, this will allow you to use your phone as a flashlight, for documentation, and to access apps designed to be helpful in emergencies.
Other Travel Uses: Helping you stay connected (via apps, maps, social media, email, and phone) whenever your phone battery runs low.
Clean water is one of the most important things you can have with you after a disaster. To be prepared, buy a reusable water bottle and fill it every morning. To increase the chance you’ll actually carry it with you, choose a smaller size (for instance, Simple Modern’s 17-ounce bottle) that doesn’t take up much room in a day bag.
Other Travel Uses: Preventing dehydration while saving money and resources.
After a disaster, food is often in short supply. Keep a spare high-protein snack in the bottom of your bag and you’ll be able to maintain energy longer. Nuts and health bars are easy, non-perishable options to have on hand while you travel.
Other Travel Uses: Avoiding blood-sugar spirals when you’re out and about.
A large part of surviving a disaster is preparing in advance. Here are two more small steps you can take to keep yourself and your loved ones safe in the event of an emergency.
Know Possible Destination Risks: There’s no predicting every risk in a destination, but it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the potential vulnerabilities of a place before you arrive. FEMA has a free app (iOS | Android) with tips on how to prepare for and deal with disasters, including earthquakes, severe weather, terrorism, volcanoes, and wildfires.
Keep Your Shoes by the Bed: If disaster strikes while you’re in bed, you’ll want to have a pair of shoes close by to protect your feet from broken glass or other sharp objects that may have fallen on the floor. Before you go to sleep, place a pair of shoes (and socks) within arm’s reach of the bed. In earthquake-prone areas, some experts suggest tying the laces of your shoes together and securing them to a heavy piece of furniture so they’re less likely to slide away in the event of sharp movement.
Our Favorite Items for the Home
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Here’s the thing about ultralight luggage: It’s not always very light. In our opinion, the ultralight category should be reserved for suitcases six pounds and under. But such lightweight luggage can be hard to find.
The Lightest Carry-on Luggage
We’ve rounded up 10 carry-on spinner and roller bags that weigh in under the six-pound mark. They range in price from affordable to splurge-worthy and come with a variety of bells and whistles. From lightest to heaviest (based on manufacturers’ specs), here they are.
Why We Like It: With an appealing balance of form and function, the Lite-Box offers a sleek design and was built for strength and handling thanks to details like outside corner protection. Plus, it’s the only hard-sided luggage we could find that is this lightweight.
Why We Like It: It’s a rolling bag with the ability to hold more: You can strap additional equipment to the Gear Warrior’s front. It also also has compression straps, lockable zippers, and a bottle opener.
Why We Like It: IT luggage makes some of the lightest rolling carry-ons (and checked bags) we’ve ever seen. This style has more features (like four wheels or a locking telescoping handle), so it comes in just over the 5.5-pound mark.
If you’re worried your carry-on could be gate-checked on your next flight, check out these 10 top-rated underseat carry-on bags. Whether you’re a chronic over-packer or tried-and-true business traveler, there’s an underseat luggage option for every type of flyer.
Samsonite Spinner Underseater with USB Port
This underseat carry-on bag from Samsonite is divided up into two main compartments, one larger section for clothes and shoes and one smaller section for your electronics and other in-flight essentials. This bag also has a USB port (battery not included) so you can charge your phone on the go, as well as 360-degree spinner wheels and a 10-year warranty from Samsonite.
This simple and affordable underseat carry-on bag comes in 10 color options and textures. It’s on the smaller side, weighing less than five pounds. It has more than 1,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, and travelers love it for its value and thoughtful design.
The Samsonite Wheeled Underseater (available in both small and large sizes) is one of the top-rated underseat carry-on bags on Amazon—and for good reason. The difference between the two sizes is a few inches in height, plus about $25.
Both bags have in-line skate wheels and a retractable handle, internal packing compartments, a removable 3-1-1 pouch, a hanging organizer pouch, and a side water bottle pocket. Reviews say both sizes comply with all major domestic carriers for underseat carry-on luggage requirements (and yes, that includes Spirit).
Aerolite Carry-on Underseat Wheeled Trolley Luggage Bag
If you’re looking for a compact and lightweight bag that fits under your seat, look no further than Aerolite’s Carry-on Underseat bag. This bag is stylish and has multiple outer zipper compartments for essential travel items, plus a strap to hook over a larger suitcase. Both styles meet the underseat carry-on luggage requirements on American, Delta, Southwest, United, and Frontier.
Travelon makes an anti-theft underseat carry-on bag that fits a decent amount in the main compartment and has a retractable handle. It has an RFID-blocking pocket for cards, technology pockets, a laptop sleeve, and locking zippers to prevent theft.
The Travelpro Maxlite5 Rolling Tote is the perfect investment if you’re looking for a long-term and durable carry-on bag that fits under your seat. It comes with Travelpro’s lifetime warranty and has a water- and stain-resistant coating. Reviews note how much fits inside despite the bag’s small size. It has plenty of pockets to keep you organized.
This Olympia Rolling Overnighter is perfect for business travelers who are looking for a carry-on bag that fits under the seat. It is extremely durable and can handle items like folders, binders, and laptops. It has a separate padded laptop compartment and a roomy main compartment, as well as a front zipper pocket and two side Velcro pockets. Available in five colors, it has an option for every kind of traveler.
This top-rated bag on Amazon is great for travelers who are super organized packers. The Lucas Wheeled Under the Seat Cabin Bag has a large main compartment with a zippered fold-down flap for organizing items. The bag also comes with a hanging toiletry case, travel slippers, and a travel neck pouch. It’s on the larger side, so if you’re an over-packer, this is a great piece of underseat carry-on luggage.
Some reviews say the bag doesn’t always fit under an aisle seat, so be wary when selecting your seat on some airlines. Read the SmarterTravel review on the Lucas Wheeled Under the Seat Cabin Bag here.
The Delsey Quilted Rolling Underseat Tote has a roomy main compartment coupled with lots of interior and exterior pockets for organization. It’s also a stylish, rolling carry-on bag that fits under your seat and has two shoulder straps as well as a sleeve on the back so it can attach to a larger suitcase.
The High Sierra Endeavor underseat carry-on bag has superior organization features as well as extras like an expandable zippered side shoe pocket, a fully padded laptop compartment, and a mesh beverage pocket. The in-line wheels don’t take up precious space either, so this underseat bag is larger than most.
As proud globetrotters, we’ve never spent quite as much time at home as we’re doing right now. And truthfully, our digs could use a bit of sprucing up. If you’re looking to brighten and improve your home base too, there’s good news. Loads of sales are going on right now to help you stay connected, entertained, and ultra-cozy at home. Just keep in mind everyone is online shopping these days, so the sales we list below will sell out faster than a six-pack of toilet paper.
These days, screens have become our lifeline. If you’ve been making do with an old, out-of-date model (or worse—a cracked screen), upgrade to Amazon’s Fire and get back to swiping and tapping with the rest of us.
This L.L.Bean throw is everything we want in a blanket: It’s crazy-cozy, handsome, and machine washable. And since L.L.Bean backs everything they make with an astounding year-long return policy, we know it’ll hold up for the long haul.
Looking to level up your slipper game? Ugg’s fluffy Fuzzettes are made with the coziest shearling ever, plus feature soles with traction for secure padding around the house. Pair them with the cozy knit joggers also on sale below.
There’s never been a better time to invest in a pair of solid headphones. Consider them an audio cocoon. This pair from Plantronics have an outstanding price—even before going on sale—and we love their bright, cheery blue color.
Expecting a lot of packages in the coming weeks? These Nest Cams can show you what’s going on outside your front door, and you can talk and listen to people through them, ensuring contact-less deliveries. Plus it can act as added security when you do get back to traveling.
These days, we’re living in our leggings, and this pair by Old Navy delivers on everything we want: four-way stretch fabric, hidden zip pockets, light compression, and a crazy-cheap price. (Use the promo code HURRY.)
Apple products rarely go on sale, so we’re happy to see $30 knocked off these earbuds of the moment, which reviewers rave are “worth every penny.” Charge them up and work your way through our favorite podcasts or audiobooks.
This debut cookbook from food phenom Alison Roman may be from 2017, but it is absolutely perfect for the current 2020 #StayHome moment. Her self-described “lo-fi” recipes are simple, unpretentious, and unbelievably tasty, with many starring freezer-friendly and shelf-stable ingredients.
Say hello to the ultimate work-from-home uniform for casual professionalism. Everlane’s jumpsuit is made from 100 percent Japanese GoWeave fabric, a silk alternative that’s resistant to wrinkles—perfect for work days on the couch.
If knocking out germs and other contaminants from your home has become a part-time job, you might appreciate the added security of a Hepa air purifier. (If you’re wondering, Hepa filters can theoretically capture Covid-19 particles. But consider it a bonus, since it’s no substitute for social distancing.)
Being home means you start to really notice those dust bunnies. And since your home may also be multitasking as an office, school, or day care, you’ll want to keep it tidy. Leave it to this handy, reliable robot vacuum cleaner, which reviewers rave is “life-changing.”
Travel as light as possible with a phone case that does double duty as your wallet. These cases not only protect your phone from drops and scratches, but also hold the essentials you’ll need on a day out. Below are the best phone wallets to protect your device and save you space.
Smartish Vault Slim Wallet
Billed as the “wallet slayer” by phone case company Smartish, the Vault Slim Wallet lives up to its nickname. It holds three cards plus cash (or, if you’re like me and you rarely carry cash, you can cram in four cards). The case has grip-textured sides that have helped me drop my phone significantly less since switching to this case.
Keep your cards and cash hidden yet easily accessible with the Incipio Stashback phone wallet. It looks like a standard phone case but has a secret compartment that hinges up to conceal up to three cards. The case has been impact-tested for drops up to seven feet high, so even the clumsiest phone owners can feel safe using it.
Designed by Under Armour for tough environments, from traveling to hitting the gym, the Protect Stash Case can stand up to a lot of abuse. It has a shockproof case design with a padded interior and a “self-healing” exterior coating. The back is textured to give you a better grip while using or carrying your phone, and it won’t interfere with wireless charging. This phone wallet can hold up to three cards, but it’s still slim.
Need your phone case to pull triple-duty as protection as a wallet, protective layer, and a kickstand? The Smartish Q Card Case has a little slot built-in that allows you to use any card as a kickstand, so you can watch movies on your phone hands-free—which is perfect for airplane tray tables or simply relaxing in bed.
Want to replace your entire purse with a phone wallet case? The LUPA wristlet wallet holds your phone, up to four cards, and cash, plus it has a handy strap so it can be carried on your arm. It’s also super affordable, so you can stock up on all of the fun colors to match any outfit.
I’ve received more compliments on the Spigen Slim phone case than any other travel tech accessory—the sliding door feature that holds your cards garners lots of jealous attention. This is probably the slimmest phone wallet case out there, which is a trade-off because it only holds two cards. You can fit three in there, but I ended up breaking the case by overloading it.
If you prefer to keep the phone case you already have but still want the benefits of a phone wallet, the CardBuddy is a good solution. It’s a removable pocket that can hold up to three cards plus cash, and sticks on to any existing phone case (or the back of your phone, if you like to live dangerously).
Your phone. Your DSLR camera. Your e-reader. Your travel documents. No matter what you’re carrying in your backpack, you’ll want to make sure it’s protected from unexpected rainstorms while you’re out traveling the world. The following waterproof backpacks for travel come in a variety of sizes and styles, but they all offer excellent protection for any weather.
This list also includes a few water-resistant backpacks that perform well in rainy conditions but might not stand up to an all-day downpour or a tumble into a lake. These can still be useful travel backpacks if you won’t be spending significant time outdoors.
Miggo Agua Versa Backpack
With its versatile design and storm-resistant exterior, which protects fragile cameras and lenses from even heavy rain, Miggo’s Agua Versa may be the best waterproof backpack for photographers. You can carry the bag three ways: as a standard backpack, slung over one shoulder, or as a backpack with straps in an X position to make it easier to grab your camera. Inside is a padded, detachable bag to hold your camera and lens, plus compartments for a laptop, tablet, and power bank. There are also several external pockets for quick access to small items. The bag’s sturdy lycra and tarpaulin exterior will hold up to most inclement weather conditions.
The Cloudbreak from outdoor retailer FE Active is a dry-bag backpack that’s made of eco-friendly PVC tarpaulin for full waterproof protection during activities like hiking, camping, and kayaking. It’s got two netted side pockets for water bottles and a corded exterior to hold a jacket or other items. This roomy backpack can hold a laptop and multiple changes of clothes; when it’s completely full, however, you may have to check it rather than carrying it on a flight.
The Waterproof Drawstring Backpack from RAINS is a small, chic waterproof daypack that’s perfect for city sightseeing. It’s large enough to hold the basics—a wallet, a water bottle, a tablet or book—without weighing you down. The main compartment has one interior pocket for your phone, and the bag is made of waterproof polyester and polyurethane.
Another heavy-duty dry-bag backpack, this 35-liter bag from Earth Pak is ideal for travelers who don’t want to worry about water damage during their outdoor adventures. It’s roomy enough to pack for a weekend but small enough to use as a carry-on, and the sturdy PVC material protects everything inside, from camera equipment to clothing. Sternum and waist straps help you balance the load. Bonus: The bag comes with a waterproof case that fits smartphones up to 6.5 inches (measured diagonally).
Designed for commuters, the Hondo Backpack is also a good bet for business travelers seeking a waterproof laptop backpack. It has a 15-inch padded sleeve for your computer and keeps you organized with interior and exterior pockets. This waterproof travel backpack is comfortable to wear, thanks to plenty of padding and a chest strap to balance the weight, and it’s small enough to carry as your personal item on a plane.
When you’re carrying all your belongings on your back, the last thing you want is a heavy bag that adds a lot of extraneous weight. That’s why I like the Freerain24. At just 6.6 ounces, this waterproof hiking backpack won’t weigh you down as you’re scrambling up mountains or wading through streams. It’s got two side mesh pockets for water bottles, as well as a water-resistant front exterior pocket to hold items you need to access quickly. Between trips, you can fold it up into its own small sack for easy storage.
The Kopack Laptop Backpack is a water-resistant backpack rather than a waterproof one—it’s made of water-repellent nylon that can handle spells of light to moderate rainfall. The laptop sleeve, which holds computers up to 17.3 inches, is located in a separate compartment against your back so it’s more difficult to break into, and there’s a smaller anti-theft compartment at the bottom rear of the bag where you can stash your phone or passport. Numerous other pockets keep small items like keys, sunglasses, and pens organized.
The sleek BackSak, which comes in 25- and 35-liter options, closes in two different ways. Once you’ve rolled the top of the bag down a few times, you can clip the two ends to each other to create a carry handle on top of the bag, or you can attach them to the bag’s side clips to help you compress the load. Either way, this backpack is fully waterproof (though the company doesn’t recommend extended submersion). The bag has an interior and an exterior pocket, as well as reflective patches so you can see the bag in the dark.
Travelers looking to stay organized will appreciate the Blackpack from MOS. This travel backpack comes with a built-in rainfly so your travel gear is safe from most weather conditions. With a 15.6-inch laptop pocket, dedicated tablet pocket, and mesh pockets, the Blackpack offers 27 liters of storage space. MOS also sells a power adapter that you can store in a special pocket to keep all your electronics charged while they’re in your backpack.
Though it’s not intended for full submersion, Geckobrands’ 30-liter backpack is otherwise fully waterproof as long as you tightly roll down the top at least three times before buckling. This dry bag backpack makes a handy companion on outdoor adventures, with padded shoulder straps that are comfortable to wear. The bag weighs just 0.6 pounds and folds up small when not in use.
If you’re looking for a waterproof backpack that will keep your stuff dry even if it’s submerged, consider the Stormfront Pack. Made of sturdy nylon that’s coated with thermoplastic polyurethane and durable water repellent, this 30-liter waterproof hiking backpack is ideal for outdoor adventures. It’s comfortable to wear thanks to padded straps and a removable waist belt, and at 21 x 12 x 9 inches, it fits most airlines’ carry-on size requirements. The exterior pocket is the only part of the backpack that isn’t fully waterproof, but it’s still a useful place to stow items such as a poncho or car keys.
Looking for that perfect waterproof phone case for those days swimming or by the river? With full touch-screen functionality in the case, this is the perfect phone case for you. Tightly close the case to ensure that water doesn’t get in and sit back and enjoy your adventure.
Finding the motivation to work out while on vacation is no easy feat. I try and stick to my normal exercise routine as much as I can while I travel, and this list of the 10 best workout clothes and tools helps me stay in shape on the road—and at home between trips.
Vi Headphones and Fitness Tracker
Say goodbye to tangled headphones, wearing a Fitbit, and paying for expensive fitness-tracking apps—the Vi headphones and corresponding app are the ultimate travel workout companion. With a variety of earbud sizes and clips, these wireless headphones are comfortable and won’t fall out once you get the right size.
If you run outdoors at home and on the road, the Vi Fitness app is a great way to track your runs and mileage. Hikers and cyclers can also benefit from the activity tracker. Dubbed a “personal trainer,” the activity monitor tracks things like speed, heart rate, and distance. It also adapts to your fitness level and personalizes workouts. Plus, the app links to your favorite music streaming service.
A reusable water bottle is an essential workout item for travelers, and I especially love Takeya’s insulated stainless water bottles. The handle is great for travel, since you can hook it onto the outside of any bag, and it’s easy to carry around the gym. The double-wall vacuum insulation keeps water cold for hours, and the narrow mouth is great for grabbing a quick sip mid-workout.
Built from moisture-wicking fabric and fitted with a no-slip waistband, these stretchy, figure-sculpting leggings keep you cool as your workout warms up. They’re comfy enough to wear in other situations as well, including on the plane or while working from home.
Don’t forget one of the most important things to do after working out, even on vacation: taking care of your skin. I am obsessed with these facial cleansing wipes from Burt’s Bees for a post-workout refresh. Whether you don’t have time to hit the shower or you need some immediate rejuvenation, these wipes, made from white tea extract, cucumber, and aloe, are a must. I even use them over my whole body sometimes if I need to skip a shower.
This mesh-backed sports bra is one of the best workout clothes you can travel with because it doubles as a bathing suit top. The full coverage bra is quick-drying and moisture-wicking, so it won’t stink or stay wet for long after sweating or swimming.
Nike makes a great moisture-wicking headband that fits any head size. I typically find myself shifting any sort of headband during a workout because it sits too far forward or back—but you won’t have that problem with this one because it ties.
I swear by L.L.Bean socks (with styles for both men and women) for working out. The quick-drying, breathable fabric and thoughtful cushioning on these moisture-wicking socks will keep your feet cool and dry during any activity. These socks are also designed to reduce friction inside your shoe to prevent blisters.
I always travel with my Hoka Bondi 6’s, because I can wear them to the airport with a travel outfit or put them into my carry-on, where they don’t take up too much room. These shoes (available for men and women) are extremely flexible and comfortable for workouts and provide incredible sole support; that’s actually part of Hoka’s mission as a shoe company.
I cannot say enough how much I love this running belt pack from Salomon. It miraculously fits a phone, keys, and some cash or cards. It doesn’t move while running, and I’ve worn it for stationary workouts as well to hold my phone. It takes up zero room in your suitcase and helps make your workouts annoying armband-free.
This Trail Jacket from Lululemon is an ideal choice for hikers and others who love to exercise outdoors. The fabric is both water-repellent and wind-resistant, so the jacket will hold up in any climate. The hood is designed not to bounce when you move, and there are vents in the fabric so you don’t overheat. There’s even a hidden pocket for your phone.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Codey Albers contributed to this story.
Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.
On the newest smartphones and other electronic devices, headphone jacks seem to be an endangered species. As more and more companies ditch the jack in favor of Bluetooth connection, it’s time to get with the program. If you’re wary of change, know that a pair of wireless headphones will simplify the way you travel: As you walk through the airport, along the beach, or on the trail, you’ll fall in love with the freedom of not having a cord tie you to your devices.
Wireless headphones come in all different models and price points. Here are some of the best options for every travel budget.
If you prefer the subtlety of earbuds but worry about wireless earbuds getting easily lost, check out the SoundPEATS True Wireless Earbuds. Each pair of earbuds comes with its own charging case that can charge the earbuds up to 10 times before the case needs to be recharged. The earbuds come with different sized ear tips to fit a variety of ears comfortably.
If you want to connect to your music in style, Marshall, the iconic amp-maker touted by all your favorite rock stars, also makes wireless headphones. The recently released Marshall Major III headphones are extremely comfortable and convenient for travel since they include a cord to transform them back into a regular non-wireless pair of headphones. This is extremely handy should you find yourself on a long-haul flight unable to connect wirelessly to the in-flight entertainment system.
If you like the idea of wireless headphones but don’t really like the way they feel or look, check out the Wireless Headphone Hat. This beanie doubles as a pair of Bluetooth headphones that can sync to your phone, so you can stay cozy without missing your tunes.
These wireless earbuds from Yevo are extremely comfortable and secure, which makes them great for working out or on your more rigorous travel days. The carrying and charging case is also very portable and these earbuds are equipped with HD premium sound, so you won’t miss out on quality.
For a more affordable pair of wireless headphones that still deliver sound quality and long battery life, check out the JLab JBuddies, which have 13 hours of battery life and fold up to for portability. Sized to fit kids, but great for smaller adults as well, these wireless headphones feature memory-foam cushion, which provides comfort on a long flight.
If you like the idea of wireless, but really worry about dropping your wireless headphones and losing them, check out these wireless, but not 100-percent-cordless pair of earbuds like Jaybirds. Connected by a wire, you can enjoy a wireless workout without the anxiety of losing an earbud.
If you don’t think a pair of wireless headphones or earbuds can make it through your workout, the RunPhone Wireless will give you the confidence that your headphones aren’t going anywhere. Though it looks like a regular sweat-band, there are hidden speakers that let you listen to music wirelessly.
If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line pair of wireless headphones to get you through a long-haul flight, try the 1000XM2 Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones from Sony. With high-resolution audio quality, 30 hours of battery life, and a noise-cancelling profile made just for the in-flight experience, these wireless headphones are worth the high price if you crave a quiet flight.
Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.
Jamie Ditaranto is a writer and photographer always looking for her next adventure. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.
When it comes to travel, I am overall anti-gadget; like many independent travelers, I’d rather pack light than lug tons of stuff around in an attempt to carry every convenience of home with me on the road. That said, some travel gadgets are essential to just about every packing list. Besides your smartphone—which is a given for just about all of us—I’ve come up with the 12 best travel gadgets that deserve inclusion in your carry-on.
Universal (All-in-One) Plug Adapter
After years of thrashing through a bag of adapters before every international trip, I was thrilled when all-in-one adapters started appearing on the market—that is, until I tried to use one in actual wall outlets.
Some outlets are recessed, requiring an extender that seemed not to be included in most adapter sets. Some adapters didn’t seem to correspond to the shape that you found in the guidebooks for the country you were visiting. Others were poorly made and came apart after a few days’ use.
That is mostly over, as today’s all-in-one adapters address most of these issues with a built-in extender on the European adapter plugs. Most have enough options that you will never be out of luck, and they tend to be better made to boot.
A couple of well-reviewed choices include offerings from NEWVANGA and Unidapt.
“Noise-canceling headphones were probably the best travel investment I have made,” says pro photographer Erik Dresser, who logs tens of thousands of air miles each year for his work. Dresser notes that the headphones let him shut out the general din of the aircraft so he can relax more easily, permit him to sleep in flight without getting woken up by chatting passengers and crying babies, and signal to others that he is not up for socializing.
A USB flash drive (also known as a thumb drive) can come in handy on any number of occasions while traveling, such as sharing a document with the hotel front desk so they can print it for you or accessing a photo of your passport if it’s lost or stolen.
On two separate occasions in the past few years (a company party and a fundraiser), the “party favor” was a small, rechargeable USB phone charger, probably the most useful and welcome party favor in history. The only thing about “party favor” quality chargers is that they tend to fail pretty quickly, so purchasing a good one is probably worth the money.
This one from Anker will give you a heap of charges, which beats buying drinks you don’t need at a coffee shop just to be able to plug in.
If you will be renting a car or driving your own vehicle on a road trip, bring a car charger/adapter. Recharging your stuff while driving helps combat the “not enough accessible outlets in the hotel” factor and allows you to use your device to map your route, play a podcast, or distract your kids in the back seat without running down the battery.
Some car chargers are designed to charge your phone very quickly; the PowerBear Fast Car Charger seems to be the leader in this realm.
In my informal gadget survey of friends who travel frequently, the one thing that few of them owned but many were thinking of getting was a weatherproof phone case. At home, such cases often seem overly bulky, but when traveling they’ve found it more common to get caught out in bad weather.
“Ziploc bags work to protect the phone, but actually using the phone through a wet plastic bag is a mess,” one noted.
LifeProof cases are the go-to for many hardcore travelers, while PunkCase is a well-regarded option at a lower price point.
Bringing a tablet as well as a phone had always seemed like just too much stuff to me—until newspaper and magazine apps started getting good. I used to leave home with more than five pounds of paper reading material, which I left behind for other potential readers in airplane seatback pockets, gate areas or hotel lobbies; now I download magazines and books to a tablet.
Tablets come in a wide range of price points; click here to browse.
For heavy vacation/travel reading, many hardcore readers swear by the Kindle because it’s so easy to read outside in strong light. If you read a ton while traveling, and in all kinds of places, a branded Kindle e-reader is probably the way to go in lieu of a tablet.
For hardcore travelers who might spend long periods of time away from plugs of any kind—such as backcountry hikers, climbers, and campers—solar chargers are a useful addition to a packing list. Sure, part of the point of heading into the backcountry is getting away from connectivity, but that doesn’t mean that GPS devices, cameras, or even smartphones are completely verboten.
Depending on which cell phone plan you use, a mobile hotspot can save you money on international plans and data charges. These devices broadcast a secure, dependable Wi-Fi signal you can use in any country, without having to rely on sketchy public Wi-Fi signals or use your own pricey data. Well-reviewed options include devices from Huawei, GlocalMe, and MightyWifi.
This isn’t exactly a gadget, but clothing has become quite technical in nature and can provide more than just routine cover. Many companies make pants, socks, and shirts that provide specific protection from both sun and insects, including measurable UV protection as well as EPA-certified insect repellent properties. Many are lightweight and breathable as well, making this a “tech” purchase perfectly suited to travel.
We’re in the early days of smart suitcases, but the idea is extremely compelling—being able to check on your smartphone where your bag is, how heavy it is, and whether it has been opened. Many smart suitcases even provide the ability to charge devices through a USB connection.
There are also simple tracking devices you can put into your luggage, so that might be another way to tap into this type of tech without going all in on an expensive bag. As this tech comes into its own, soon enough tracking our own bags might seem almost routine.
Always cold? Try The North Face Take Along Pullover Hoodie, a sweatshirt with plenty of extra length to keep you warm below the waist. This thick hoodie was designed for camping adventures, but works just as well inside a chilly house.
From the outside, SCOTTeVEST’s Chloe Glow Hoodie looks like an ordinary, if attractive, microfleece sweatshirt for women. It’s not until you put it on that you realize just how much you can fit into its 14 pockets, cleverly designed to hold phones, tablets, glasses, passports, and other small items. Many of the pockets are on the inside of the hoodie, making them less accessible to potential thieves. Bonus: The main zipper goes all the way up to the hood, so you can protect all or part of your face in windy conditions.
Men looking for a similar travel hoodie can try this sweatshirt from SCOTTeVEST, which has a whopping 21 pockets. Besides all the storage space, the best feature for travelers is the “Do Not Disturb” eye mask that flips down from the hood to block out the world—perfect for a long flight or train ride.
Do you have trouble sleeping on planes? If so, the Zip Up Travel Hoodie just might help. The hoodie comes with an inflatable neck pillow you can pack into one of the pockets. With 10 pockets for your passport, tablet, and other travel accessories, getting through airport security will be a breeze. If you’re traveling in a colder climate, you’ll appreciate the built-in gloves and eye mask.
Another intriguing option for sleep-challenged travelers is the Aros line of unisex hoodies, which includes both pullover and zip-up models. Instead of lugging a bulky travel pillow onto the plane, wear one of these travel sweatshirts; inside the hood is an insert that you can inflate and turn into an instant pillow. (Don’t forget to remove the insert before washing the sweatshirt.)
On planes, the only person less popular than a screaming kid is a passenger with bad body odor. Don’t be that guy. Instead, give the Woolly Clothing Men’s Merino Wool Henley Hoodiea try. This travel hoodie for men is made of fabric that wicks away moisture, fights odors, and dries quickly, making it ideal for stressful sprints through the airport or for active excursions during your trip. Find a similar option for women here.
If your vacations typically involve lots of time outdoors, shield your skin with a travel hoodie that includes sun protection. Coolibar offers a full line of sun-protective clothing, including the Seaside Hoodie for women and the Packable Jacket for men. Both feature an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 50+ and are made with soft, lightweight fabrics.
This multi-purpose heated hoodie has a battery pack that can both warm you up and charge your phone. Core-warming zones on the front and back of this unisex travel sweatshirt keep you nice and toasty no matter how low the temperature falls. The battery lasts anywhere from two to eight hours, depending on how high you turn up the warming zones. Supply your own USB cable and you can plug your phone or other device into the battery pack for an emergency charge.
Laptop bags aren’t just for the business traveler anymore—and they’re no longer relegated to the humble padded messenger bag. Stylish laptop bags now range from trendy backpacks to designer tote bags, and the best ones will protect your hardware as much as they complement your style.
They’re also the best underseat personal item for the plane if you plan on plugging in to watch a downloaded movie or get some work done; you’ll still have plenty of space for all your other in-flight necessities.
Here are the laptop bags to consider, according to how you travel and what your personal style is.
Dagne Dover Ryan Laptop Bag
Redefine the standard messenger bag by opting for one made of high-performance fabric that stands out. Dagne Dover’s Ryan Laptop Bag is equal parts work and play. Its neoprene outer is strikingly stylish, and practical features include a back luggage-handle sleeve, two main zippered compartments, organizing pockets and elastic straps, a key leash, a cross-body strap, and two long tote handles that make it a shoulder bag to boot.
A sleek unisex backpack and laptop bag that’s not bulky, STM Goods’ Myth 18L has a 15-inch “slingtech” laptop sleeve—which means it suspends your laptop to shield it from potential bumps and pressure. And it has several more cool features: hidden cable feeds so you can charge your electronics, AirPod and non-tangle headphone compartments, a water-repellent outer coating, and a luggage-handle sleeve.
For an affordable water-resistant laptop bag that’ll fit all the necessities, VASCHY’s Vintage Leather Laptop Tote is made of waxed canvas and real leather. The refined materials plus shock-proof padding and a reinforced bottom make it a sturdy bag that’s a steal—it’s under $50 at the time of writing.
A smaller laptop bag that would definitely fit in with business class, DELSEY’s Chatelet Soft Air Shoulder Bag looks like a luxe designer purse but packs two electronics sleeves. Its interior measures 16 inches wide, 12 inches tall, and six inches deep. Vegan leather, studded bottom “feet,” and a soft-padded lining make it durable, and it also includes a removable matching pouch for smaller items. It comes with a 10-year warranty.
A cool and affordable soft-sided laptop bag that comes in several colors, KELTY’s Ardent 30L Backpack can fit a 15-inch laptop in its rear back-panel sleeve—which also has an added secret passport compartment and a plush-lined tablet sleeve. The main compartment is huge, so you can keep clothes or gear separate from your protected valuables, and a smaller front compartment is full of pockets for organizing small accessories like your phone, sunglasses, and medications. This bag easily goes from day hikes to plane rides for super-organized travel.
Traveling with kids? TETHY’s Unisex Diaper Backpack suits new parents with its hidden diaper-changing pad and roomy inner organizing pockets designed for bottles, diapers, and wipes. It looks less like a diaper bag and more like the stylish laptop bag it also happens to be. Thanks to the padded tech sleeves, it can fit a 14-inch laptop and an iPad, plus the outer water-resistant nylon and leather trim give it a chic, stylish look.
A large, light daypack that’s a workhorse for planes or commuting to the office, Osprey’s Arcane Large Laptop Backpack has a main compartment sleeve for a 15-inch laptop. Its soft back panel provides plenty of support, and the internal organization will help you keep everything where you can find it.
If you’re willing to splurge on a travel bag, make it one you can use for everything—and I mean everything: work, gym, travel, and any other packing occasion. Lux and Nyx makes fashionable luxury bags with shoe compartments, laptop sleeves, and comfortable shoulder straps. The Zoe has more than 18 compartments, with space for clothes, a pair of shoes, a water bottle, a laptop, and a tablet. It even has utility straps at the base to secure a yoga mat or tripod.
Even if you’ve never heard of Fjallraven, you’ve still likely seen the Swedish outfitters’ on-trend tote backpacks at the airport. The Fjallraven Kanken’s roomy main compartment has a 15-inch laptop sleeve and makes it an ideal day pack, weekender bag, or personal item. SmarterTravel’s Ashley Rossi says, “It’s great for storing a laptop and all your essentials during a short or long flight, and it doubles as a great daypack for walking around a destination.”
Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Twitterand Instagram.
Editor’s note: Reviews are based on usefulness, portability, durability, value, and “cool factor.” Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product. If you have any questions or comments concerning our reviews, or would like to suggest a product for review, please email us at email@example.com.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Codey Albers contributed to this story.
The J-Pillow vs. Trtl Pillow: both popular pillows have rave reviews online, but they have dramatically different designs. So I got one of each and brought them on 13-hour flight (using one outbound and one inbound) to determine: Which one actually let me sleep comfortably in coach?
J-Pillow vs. Trtl Pillow: Support
Winner: The J-Pillow. The J-Pillow nestled under my chin and rested on my shoulder, so I could lean my head to the side and rest on the pillow without letting my head nod forward or fall to the side. The design of the pillow curves around your neck, but as it’s worn on the side, so it doesn’t push your head forward. I found that the J-Pillow was the most effective at keeping my head upright while I slept. It was especially comfortable while used in a window seat (and leaning against the wall).
The Trtl Pillow mimics a neck brace, wrapping around your neck and using a plastic frame on the side (between your chin and your shoulder) to allow you to rest your head. However, no matter how I positioned the Trtl Pillow, I couldn’t get the right amount of support I needed to relax into sleep.
J-Pillow vs. Trtl Pillow: Comfort
Winner: The J-Pillow.Made from a soft, squishy fiber filling and covered with an ultra-plush microfleece fabric, the J-Pillow was significantly more comfortable to lean on than the Trtl Pillow. Despite the Trtl Pillow’s soft fleece cover, I could still feel the hard plastic internal spine inside, which wasn’t comfortable to lean on.
Winner: The Trtl Pillow. It’s about half the size of a standard U-shaped pillow, and wraps up for easy and compact storage. The Trtl Pillow won’t take up much space in your carry-on, unlike the J-Pillow.
The J-Pillow can be compressed into its (included) carrying bag, but it will still take up a decent amount of real estate in your carry-on or personal item.
The Trtl Pillow is also slightly more lightweight, weighing in at around 5.2 ounces vs. the J Pillow’s 7.5 ounces.
Winner: The J-Pillow. The entire J-Pillow can be machine washed in warm water, and then dried on low heat, making it easy to clean after each trip.
You can remove the Trtl Pillow’s fleece covering and wash it separately in the washing machine, however you’ll need to hang dry it and then reinsert the internal support (which can’t be washed), making it a more complicated cleaning process.
Caroline Morse Teel is a Principal Editor for SmarterTravel. Follow her on Instagram @travelwithcaroline for travel photos and advice.
Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.