Sharing is caring. Between Arun and myself we have different travel needs so we thought it might be useful to put together a list of essential accessories that will have you covered for either business or leisure travel, either within Asia or the United States or those all important long hauls across either the Pacific or the Atlantic.
Speaking for myself, after spending 5 years living out of a suitcase, I quickly went from taking a huge check in luggage for a week long work trip, to a standard size carry on for a two week getaway. I became obsessed with fitting as much of my necessities in as little space as efficiently as possible – but not without some trial and error. Arun is mostly a leisure traveler, so falls more on the other end of the spectrum He tends to steer to looking to get the luxuries of home while on the road but still maintaining the cardinal rule of no checked bags. Unless of course you’re headed to a foodie destination where food purchases will be a must to take home (aka, Thailand).
Here’s a list of some of our favorite travel must-haves we’ve found over the years. Pick and choose as you please, and as always let us know what you think!
- Flight 001 Spacepak Clothes $46
I am a big advocate for not checking in luggage if I absolutely don’t have to. Be it a weekend getaway or a three week work trip, it’s going to fit in my carry on. Well, this is the one thing that goes in my suitcase every time I pack. The concept might seem like common sense, but it basically helps you organize your clothes to pack smarter. I’ve easily fit two weeks of clothes in the standard size Spacepak (which now comes in several prints!). Bonus! An extra compartment in the back to pack your dirty clothes once you’ve worn them. You can order them in a variety of designs so it’s nice to have something with a bit of personality that reflects yourself! Available directly on Flight001‘s website, or on Amazon.
Honorable mention go to the rest of the Spacepak line, including the Toiletry Bag, (which is another favorite of mine) and the Undergarments Bag. Both are great additions to your travel accessory stock, but I would recommend the standard Clothes Bag over these two for those who are only willing to start with one item.
- Anker PowerCore 5000 Portable Charger $17
There are tons of portable charges in the market, but I particularly like this one for its size – it’s just a bit larger than a tube of lipstick. A full charge gets your phone to about 75% or so, and works with any cord that has the standard format USB connector on the end. It is also lightweight and doesn’t send any alarm bells at airport security, which is always important for a seamless transit through the terminal. Available at Amazon or on Anker‘s website.
- Travel Adapter $12
When traveling, I find the one thing I never have enough of is outlets, so if you manage to find a travel adapter with built-in USB outlets, that’s a win. I’ve found generally that the bulkier (read – deeper) the adapter is, the harder it is to use, since it could be so heavy it simply falls out of the outlet, so I try to keep it as skinny as possible. This one from Amazon gets the job done, but is admittedly nothing special. At $12, it’s not a bad deal. Warning: travel adapters are not surge converters, so be sure to check that the item you’ll be plugging in can handle voltage ranging from 110-240 volts, otherwise, you risk damaging your electronic.
- Flight 001 T5 Pill Case $28
When I’m on the road, I hate the idea that I could come down with something and not be able to do something about it. I used to be the kind of person who’d bring travel size bottles of Advil and Pepto, but I soon switched over to pill cases to save on space. This case comes with 8 compartments you can use either to load up your daily medication (one box per day) or bring 8 kinds of pills with you. It even comes with label sticker for each type of medication (“Allergy”, “Sleep”, “Headache”). It brings out the inner neat freak in anyone, but in a good way. My favorite part is the zippered cover case, which ensures you’ll never find your pill case accidentally open at the bottom of you purse (not that it’s ever happened to me). The distinctive design is also helpful for whenever you find yourself having to find the case somewhere tucked inside your bag. Available at Flight 001 or Macys.
- Longchamp Le Pliage Small Tote $125
Since I only ever bring a carry on, that means I only get one personal bag to slide under the seat in front of me – and it’s usually a large tote (big enough to fit a laptop) that I wouldn’t necessarily want to use as a purse while I’m at my destination. I love the Longchamp Le Pliage Small Tote since it is so light and easily folds flat, I can easily pack it into my carry on tote without taking up much space, then unfold and use it once I land. I immediately toss my wallet, cellphone, and passport in this tote to avoid spending time digging through my giant tote bag in the immigration line. It is also lightweight and durable. Both practical and let’s face it, functionally sleek. I’d pick it in a neutral color that goes with most anything you might be wearing regarding of season. Available at Nordstrom.
- T3 SinglePass™ Compact Iron $89
I have a Harry Josh hair dryer I use at home and love. Because of the difference in voltage, I avoid using it internationally. I hate relying on having decent hair thanks to whatever random hair dryer the hotel has (and would rather not get electrocuted by a cheapo installation), so I make sure to bring reinforcements. This T3 SinglePass Compact Iron is tiny but mighty – it heats up quickly and gets my hair stick straight in no time. The chances of having voltage issues with this is much lower than a hair dryer, plus it’s tiny and takes up next to no space in your luggage. It’s very carry one friendly too so that’s important. Available at Sephora.
- Lip Balm – Kiehl’s #1 $7
So this in my mind is one of the most forgotten accessories for a long haul flight, especially when departing from a warm or tropical destination where we most likely wouldn’t need it on the ground. But in the air? It’s a lifesaver. And can make a long haul flight very uncomfortable if you don’t have access to it as your lips dry out. Had a particularly bad case of it years ago and was struggling – but for the grace of the Singapore Airlines flight attendant who handed me her unopened balm which saved me. Important note – not all airlines stock their amenity kits with lip balm and they get changed up often so never rely on that as a fall back, take the minute and buy beforehand.For me I detest the Blistex’s and Nivea’s of the world and have since read that at times, especially in an airplane environment, they make your lip dryness worse in the long run despite providing fleeting respite. Burt’s Bees is good because it’s completely organic, but for Kiehl’s works best. It’s also long lasting so doesn’t need much reapplying and not greasy at all so you don’t have that annoying ‘glow’ or leave marks on whatever you eat or drink. The US$7 is well spent on this handy accessory. Available at Kiehl’s.
- Wireless Speakers – JawBone Jambox (custom made) $70 (soon to be discontinued, so get them while you can!)
Music is life. So for me speakers are a must, especially when on a vacation. They come in so handy so often, something I didn’t realize until I invested in one of these. And if you’re headed to a beach? Forget about it – these are an absolute must – they will bring much joy, believe me. As someone who enjoys a ton of bass these speakers are a godsend because as small as they are, they pack a punch. But if you’re not like me, no worries they have many adjustable settings. They are light at only a few ounces and can fit into any backpack, day bag or tote, can operate wirelessly from you phone or through a simple USB chord to any device and their batteries have good stamina at 6-8 hours of continuous use.Win win win win – well you get the idea.I got mine customized with my own design, another very cool feature that Jambox offers but at a very reasonable price of about $60 you can get one off their ready made line which already look pretty cool themselves. Find it here at Best Buy. As mentioned above, these are now discontinued but continue to be in stock at a few outlets online. A worthy alternative are the Bose Soundlink Mini Bluetooth speakers available at $179 – with the added price point you can see why I prefer the Audio Technica version…while these do offer more variety and sound, I’m just not sure it’s worth the added price point. Find them here at Amazon.
- Headphones – Audio Technica $249
Remember when I just said that music is life? Well I meant it. For when you don’t want to subject those around you to your inevitable questionable music choice, another must for me wherever I go and whenever I travel are a pair of solid headphones. And why not – throw in some in-ear earphones too, because you want to be that guy with the huge headphones on in the subway. If you want to spend money on marketing, yes there’s Beats – but they are far from the best in anything other than highest price.
So for me, I go with the professionals. And Japan’s Audio Technica win it for me. They do the real stuff on stage mostly, but also have several lines of consumer products too. Pure functionality and quality with a bit of minimalist style thrown in, and I’m sold. I use their Over-Ear High-Resolution Audio Headphones line which is the HD equivalent of audio. Remember that first time you watched the BBC’s Planet Earth in ultra-HD? Yeah it’s the same feeling. It’s $249 but its money much better spent than on the traditional options. Available at Amazon.
For in-ear audio I sacrifice a bit of bass but go with real cutting edge noise cancelling technology which comes in really handy for in flight usage given that it’s been designed specifically for locations of ‘high ambient noise’. And blows any headset an airline offers you in Biz or First – those American Airlines International First Class Bose QC sets included. $179 might seem a bit much to spend on ear phones per se but they have lasting power and will serve you well. Available at Amazon.
- Hand Moisturizer – La Mer $90
Going back onto the theme of keeping your body moisturized (get your mind out of the gutter) on a long haul flight in a cabin that is being pressurized at 4,000 feet – 8,000 feet, you’re going to need some moisturizer. Yes, there’s the cheap stuff in the lavatory and yes you can avail of the more cosmetic rather than functional stuff in airline wash bags – stuff like Bvlgari on Emirates, Salvatore Ferragamo on Singapore Airlines or Elmes on British Airways. But again, that’s brand and product placement, not exactly the real deal on what actually works best.For me La Mer is class all the way and also offer handy travel sized options so that you never have to check a bag. On a day to day basis I tend to stick to Kiehl’s but La Mer is ideal for travel because of how long lasting its effects are. The cream uses seaweed extract which apparently works well both in cold and hot climates or dry and humid conditions. $90 for the 3.5oz travel version. Find it at La Mer‘s website.
- Wash Kit – Jack Spade $128
A very functioning wash kit is an absolute must for travel, be it for work or pleasure. It should suit your own specific needs and we all have different ones. Personally, I hate those rigid amenity kits or the bulky ones that don’t compact well into a smaller space or bag. The Jack Spade wash bag suits me perfectly because it’s made out of quality canvas so is malleable into the random space I try to squish it into. It also folds out into three different sections so it’s handy to store many different items if need be. And it has a very handy hook to hang out in whatever bathroom you might find yourself in. It’s a small feature – but one that you realize is very important when it’s taken from you. And remember – it’s canvas – so it weighs next to nothing. I bought in gray for $128. Available at Jack Spade.
- Inflight Travel Socks – Junya Watanabe $33
I don’t care what you say or how old you are, we all…shall we say, ‘expand’ on a flight. On the one hand, I like to be free and unrestricted without shoes as I settle in for the long haul (but remember folks, never during take off or landing!). But on the other, my feet then get cold – and normal socks sometimes prove to be restrictive as I….’expand’. Normal socks also don’t have traction and furthermore I’m not one to use above ankle socks in normal situations. I also don’t want to be wearing warming socks as I run through an airport in transit or clearing security.So another travel accessory that I live by are a pair of airplane socks – not the wafer thin ones you find in airline kits, but one that is cozy, keeps your feet and ankles warm, have some traction and best of all are compression socks so they expand and contract as your do. Cashmere socks are very comfortable but prove to be a bit much for cabin temperatures. My favorite travel socks are from Junya Watanabe – they are the ideal balance of light but keep you warm and are also compression and have good traction (don’t worry I wear shoes into the bathroom unlike some). I like their design too as they are simple and aren’t those annoying loud socks that are made to attract attention to you. At $33 a pop they are bit steep for just one pair of socks, but at most you’d need only two of them since they aren’t for everyday use. Available on the Janya Watanabe website.
So there you have it. We take on our favorite travel accessories for any season, gender or travel need. Be it that short commuter there and back flight for work or that beach vacation you’ve been looking forward to for weeks. Any combination of these items we think works out well, and by all means tailor them to your own needs. If you do end up trying any one of these products, which we’d be so happy if you did, give us your honest feedback on any one of them!
So for some parting words: we started out this piece with the statement of sharing is caring. And we stick by that – so please share with us your travel essentials and what you can’t fly without – let’s compare, contrast and most importantly get the inside scoop! Bon voyage.