There are travel accessories that get good reviews on Amazon, and then there are the ones that you hear your fellow travelers rave about constantly. They’re travel products with a cult following: the rarer tools, brands, and clothes that have converted so many people you can’t help but be curious what the hype is about.
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Travel Products with a Cult Following
Here are the items with a loyal fan base that also happen to be perfect for travel—or for gifting to a fellow traveler you want to impress.
More of a modern phenomenon than just a rolling suitcase, the Away luggage you’ve probably seen plenty of ads for on TV built several sleek brick-and-mortar locations, and even has its own magazine: Here. So what’s all the hype about, really?
Away suitcases are minimalist, hard-side spinners that come in a slew of muted colors, and in sizes ranging from small carry-ons to checked-bag suitcases. Away suitcases are made from “unbreakable” polycarbonate, have built-in TSA-approved luggage locks, and include interior compression systems and removable laundry bags, all protected by a lifetime warranty. That last feature may account for the loyal following: Away bags cost hundreds dollars, but you may never need to purchase another. Plus, if you decide you don’t like it within 100 days of purchasing one, Away will take it back in any condition.
A travel pillow that’s not exactly a travel pillow made waves on IndieGoGo in 2018 by making 10 times its $25,000 production goal: the Trtl Pillow Plus. That’s because it’s a new-and-improved version of the beloved Trtl Pillow, which provides stealthy neck support under an attached scarf so you can sleep to one side on the plane even if you’re in the aisle seat, without your head falling onto your neighbor. The new Trtl Pillow Plus is super adjustable, with toggles allowing you to change the height of your head support in two different places. And it’s even softer and more streamlined than the already-versatile original.
Even if you haven’t heard of Allbirds, you likely know about Merino wool: the softer, denser version of the warm fabric that’s a hallmark of plenty of top-rated travel products, from gloves to sweaters. Allbirds are made with sustainable and cozy Merino wool, and the comfort of the shoe has made it a product with a cult following. In recent years, Allbirds has also created breathable warm-weather versions of the cozy, sock-like shoes–including loungers and a new high-top version. There are plenty of copycat versions of the shoe out there, but Allbirds are the originals.
A reliable luggage tracker that can double as a seamless daily-use tracker for your keys, phone, and wallet, Tile touts its “Tile community” as the secret to its massive success. The tiny trackers are owned by millions of people who automatically connect their location to the Tile app when they come in Bluetooth range of another one—so your lost keys or abandoned suitcase can drop a location onto your phone, even if you’re in another country. Tile outdoes most clunky, spotty luggage tracking devices and comes in two sleek formats: a keychain bauble or a card version that you can slip into a wallet.
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Another tiny tool that will afford you some peace of mind, Lasso packing organizers are sealable tubes that will hold your jewelry better than the tiny black film canisters some travelers still use. The inner tube is perfect for rings, earrings, and other baubles you want to keep separate from your knot-sensitive necklace chains and bracelets. They can also be used as cord organizers, so you’ll never have to spend takeoff untangling your headphones again.
Bose QuietComfort 35 Wireless Headphones
Looking for noise-canceling headphones that are as comfortable as they are cool? Bose’s QuietComfort 35 Wireless Headphones are a cult-followed product worth investing in, thanks to their high-quality audio, easy Bluetooth pairing, Alexa-enabled voice command abilities, and three levels of noise-canceling barrier. You won’t notice any crying babies on the plane.
Lululemon’s Vinyasa Scarf
Exercise clothing retailer Lululemon has a cult following of its own, but its Vinyasa Scarf might be the only airport accessory I regularly spot in airport terminal waiting areas year-round. The super versatile, snap-button scarf can go from infinity scarf to poncho to blanket in seconds, and its soft, breathable Rulu fabric wicks sweat so you can confidently take it everywhere in every season. Plus, it can be worn so many ways you’ll never need another scarf—but might want it in a few colors.
Another product with a cult following you probably recognize from the airport terminal, Osprey packs are some of the most traveler-loved bags around. Osprey is known for its unique designs that cater to both men and women (there are also unisex options), and feature utilities like water bladders and trekking pole holders. There are nearly endless possibilities when it comes to investing in an Osprey pack—rolling duffel, wheeled carry-on, multi-day backpack, lightweight commuting bag, etc.—but the classics include hiking day packs like the Stratos 24 for men or the Hikelite 26 for women, and bigger backpacking options like the Volt 60 that are complete with a torso harness for heavier hauling.
With larger phones on the rise, more and more people are looking for a way to better handle them. Enter the PopSocket, which provides support when you’re holding your phone at a challenging angle (like when you’re taking photos), and doubles as a kickstand for when you need to prop up the screen (like when you’re watching movies via your phone on your inflight tray table).
Foldable flats might sound gimmicky or cheap, but Tieks by Gavrieli are versatile ballet flats made from fine Italian leather that also happen to fold in half for packing … or when you need to stash a comfortable pair of shoes in your purse for those times your high heels get the best of you.
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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.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.
SmarterTravel Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on Instagram @shanmcmahon.