The 20+ best holiday travel essentials that I — a health editor about to fly 25,000 miles — won’t leave home without

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Packing for a trip, whether it’s a weekend getaway or a few weeks of international travel, can be a daunting task. Striking the perfect balance between weather-appropriate clothes and shoes, life’s essentials and everything you think you’ll need to ensure stress-free travel (while not overpacking or exceeding the airline’s luggage allowance) can feel almost impossible. As someone who logs an average of 40,000 miles of domestic and international travel annually, I know this challenge all too well, but I’ve finally figured out the best travel essentials.

During this holiday season, I’m embarking on an international trip with my family that includes four consecutive flights spanning thousands of miles and 35 hours of travel each way. While planning for our annual trip can be daunting at times, I’m thankful for the travel essentials I’ve found over the years. It’s so much easier now and stress-free. Above all, I’ve learned packing the things that will help keep my family healthy, safe, organized and prepared for anything is infinitely more important than clothes, shoes or shampoo.

Keep reading to learn about the travel essentials I refuse to leave home without, especially on long-haul trips with my family.

20 travel essentials everyone should know about

Bagail

Packing cubes are easily one of the best travel accessories of my time. I have a set for every member of my family. These handy travel helpers are made of water-resistant nylon and range in size and purpose. This eight-piece set includes a large, medium and small packing cube with straps to hold everything in place, plus an undergarment bag, a toiletry bag, an accessories bag, a laundry bag and a shoe bag. 

I can easily keep everything organized by tops and bottoms or have a cube dedicated to casual clothes, one for workout clothes and a cube just for dressier outfits. And when staying in a hotel for an extended time, I can easily unpack in minutes by slipping the cubes into the dresser drawers. These are worth every penny and then some!

$21 at Amazon

PackIt

Speaking of game-changers, the PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag is something I use year-round for lunches, picnics and travel. Whether traveling by plane, train or automobile, eating on the go can be downright dangerous when you’re at the mercy of random food stops and airline meals. The PackIt cooler keeps medication, snacks, sandwiches, fruit and veggies cold and fresh for over 24 hours. I also love that when I am finished using the bag, it folds up nicely to fit in compact hotel refrigerator-freezers, so it’s cold and ready for a beach picnic or our return trip. 

I’ve had the PackIt lunch bag I’m currently using for about seven years, and it’s held up beautifully! 

$21 at Amazon

OS1st

Since our early 30s, my husband and I have sworn by the use of compression socks when flying long distances, and even A-list celebrities like Jessica Alba sing their praises too. Staying seated for long periods, especially when traveling by air, can cause swelling, leg cramping and pain that is exacerbated by dehydration, and even deep vein thrombosis. Studies have repeatedly found that compression socks reduce flight-induced ankle edema, travel symptoms of leg pain, discomfort and swelling, and improve energy levels, the ability to concentrate, alertness and post-flight sleep. 

Os1st is a brand I love and trust for many of my therapeutic sock needs. The socks are well made, the customer service is outstanding, and the company is always working to improve its socks and create new, cutting-edge designs. These compression socks look like dress socks and feel extremely comfortable when worn for extended periods.

$30 at Amazon

Hikenture

I do not care for those crescent-shaped neck pillows you see people with around the airport. I find them cumbersome to carry and not very comfortable to use. In fact, none of my family members care for them. I came across this inflatable pillow while looking for something for my son to take camping. When it arrived, I was blown away by how soft and lightweight was — and how compact it was when not in use. After realizing I could inflate the pillow to my desired firmness or only partially and fold it in half to use as a lumbar cushion, I immediately ordered two more for my husband and I to use while traveling. At under $30, this pillow with a removable, machine-washable cover is a steal and would make a fantastic gift for the traveler or camper in your life.

$20 at Amazon

Cozy Earth

Whether you’re facing jet lag at the end of your travels, sunshine that starts at 6 a.m. or a red-eye flight, having a travel eye mask on hand is a must. Cozy Earth’s new bamboo mask is super soft, incredibly comfortable to wear and 100% light-blocking. And if the brand Cozy Earth sounds familiar, it’s likely because it’s one of Oprah’s favorites!  

$36 at Cozy Earth

Grace & Stella

There’s no question that traveling can put a huge dent in your beauty sleep routine. I love Grace & Stella’s under-eye treatments for reducing puffiness, dark circles, undereye bags and fine lines. Kindly, the undereye maks are vegan and cruelty-free too.

$18 at Walmart

Hydro Flask

Did you know that the microclimate of an airline cabin consists of dry, recirculated, cool air, which studies have found can quickly cause dehydration, especially on long-haul flights? In fact, to maintain proper hydration, it’s recommended that you increase your water intake by 15–20 mL for each hour of flight.

Taking a refillable water bottle with you on trips will not only help you stay hydrated but also help protect the environment while saving you money from having to buy water on the go. I am a huge fan of Hydro Flask, which keeps my water ice cold for over 24 hours. (Just be sure that it’s empty before you go through security screening.)

$26 at Amazon

DripDrop

Being dehydrated by just 2% impairs performance in tasks that require attention and immediate memory skills. When traveling, especially by air, staying hydrated can be a difficult task. To help me stay hydrated on-the-go, I love these electrolyte powder packs from DripDrop. All I have to do is add one pack to 8 oz of water, give it a good shake, and in seconds, I have an electrolyte-fortified drink to help me stay hydrated. 

If you prefer tablets over packets of powder, try the Nuun Hydration Immunity Electrolyte Tablets with Vitamin C.

$19 at Walmart

Daviky

If you take multiple medications, vitamins or supplements, one of these large pill organizers will be a welcomed addition to your travels. I particularly like this one from Daviky since you can use it to organize one, two or four weeks’ worth of medication. 

$8 at Amazon

Band-Aid

As a rule, I never travel without a first aid kit. Sometimes I’ll make the kit using a ziplock bag and first aid items around the house, other times, I’ll nab one of these 80-piece first aid kits. The size that I take depends on the destination and the number of days I’ll be traveling, but I always bring one — because cuts, scrapes, bruises and headaches are inevitable with my family when on the go.

$11 at Walmart

Emergen-C

Traveling can be hard on your immune system, especially if you are rundown from always being on the go. These Emergen-C immune support gummies are a great complement to your daily multivitamin. Each gummy is packed with immune-boosting Betavia (R), 1,000 Mg vitamin C, vitamins B and D and antioxidants.

$13 at Walmart

Depoza

Over the years, I’ve left more full bottles of expensive body wash, shampoo and conditioner in hotel bathrooms than I care to admit. Well, not anymore! These handy travel bottle sets have officially put an end to that. From shampoo and conditioner to body wash, lotions, potions and styling products, these hold it all and just the right amount. 

This kit includes a slew of TSA-approved pieces: four leak-proof silicone squeezable bottles, four travel jars, two spray bottles, two spoons, a funnel, a cleaning brush, labels and a transparent makeup bag. I also like that each container is labeled with the number of ounces it holds.

$12 at Amazon

Ixnine

These days I barely leave home without a backup phone charger, let alone travel. This charger from Ixnine has 26800mAh, which for me, can charge my phone about three to four times before I need to charge the power bank itself. With three USB ports and one USB-C port. It can charge up to four devices at once, but I have yet to try that and cannot attest to the speed or how long the bank will last. I also really like the LED indicator that shows the percentage of remaining charging power.

$25 at Amazon

Snoozies

Travel slippers are must for me when it comes to air travel and hotel floors. These Snoozies slippers are great for being both compact and comfy. The inner liner is a thin sherpa-like material, and the bottoms are soft with an anti-skid covering. While you wouldn’t want to wear the slippers outside, the thin material makes it so you can repeatedly wash-and-wear (including the carrying bag) without damaging the bottoms. The slippers are also great for airport security, hospital floors and friends and family members who ask you to leave your shoes at the front door. See all 14 colors and patterns.

$17 at Amazon

Travel pain reliever, anti-inflammatory medication and motion sickness medication

When it comes to must-have emergency medications, I won’t travel without Tylenol, ibuprofen or motion sickness tablets — even the most seasoned traveler can find themselves air-sick from severe turbulence or choppy ferry rides.

  • Tylenol Extra Strength Caplets with Acetaminophen, Travel Size

  • Bonine Chewable Motion-Sickness Relief Tablets, Raspberry

Antibacterial wipes and gels

Even before Covid-19, I carried disinfecting wipes, hand and face wipes, flushable wipes and antibacterial gel while traveling. From airline tray tables to dirty bathrooms to eating on the go, proper hygiene should always be top of mind.

  • Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer Gel Infused with Essential Oils

  • Goodwipes Flushable Wipes for Sensitive Skin, Lavender Scented

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