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As international Covid testing requirements and masking lets up, travel is on everybody’s mind. A recent statistic released by the Airlines Reporting Corp. showed a 135% increase in airline ticket sales this May compared to the same time last year. That spike only accounts for air travel, but people are still going camping, and taking road trips in droves this summer, even more than they did pre-pandemic in some cases.
Traveling is exciting, but to make it successful you’ll need the right gear. Wearing earbuds that conk out halfway through your flight, or realizing your U.S. chargers won’t fit in European outlets can cause unnecessary stress. You’re supposed to unwind, not worry.
Whether you’re a well-seasoned traveler looking for upgrades, or someone about to take their first big trip through the country or across the pond, you’ll find all of the travel essentials you’ll actually need below.
Travel is just one way that life is going “back to normal” in a post-pandemic world, and Rolling Stone has you covered as you ease back into jet-setting. We’ve collected everything you need before braving music festivals, hosting a dinner party, or just enjoying the summer.
1. A High Capacity Battery Pack
It doesn’t matter where you go or what you do, never go on a multi-day trip without a battery pack that can charge your phone several times over. The one we’re recommending is Omnicharge’s 12,800mAh Power Bank, which holds enough juice that it can fully recharge your phone four times. It has a USB-A and USB-C port, and even works as a wireless charging pad if you forgot your cables. This Swiss Army Knife-like functionality makes the Omnicharge 12,800 the first thing you should pack for your trip.
2. A Universal Power Adapter
Carrying a universal travel plug allows you to use your U.S. chargers abroad without having to invest in all-new cables. We like this one from SublimeWave because it can be used in 120 countries thanks to its assortment of power prongs (the metal pieces that plug into an outlet), which can be extended and retracted. It also has four USB-A ports, so you can charge smaller gadgets without plugging in a power adapter.
3. Noise-Cancelling Earbuds
The Linkbuds S is Sony’s latest pair of Bluetooth headphones, and carry on company’s legacy of world-class active noise cancellation.
In our testing the earbuds blocked almost all airplane engine noise when listening to music at roughly 70% of the maximum volume level. When music was off, the earbuds cancelled enough noise that it was possible to fall asleep. This also speaks to the Linkbuds S impressive level of comfort.
Sony says these earbuds offer roughly six hours of music playback per charge with noise cancelling on. They’ll automatically start charging when put back in their case, so if you take a short listening break during a layover you’ll probably be able to listen to music without any interruption.
Until recently you’d need premium pair of over-ear headphones to get noise cancelling performance good enough to use on airplanes, Sony’s Linkbuds S definitively prove that’s no longer the case.
4. Noise-Cancelling Headphones
If you prefer over-ear headphones to earbuds, or don’t want to worry about battery anxiety while traveling, our go-to noise-cancelling headphones are still Shure’s Aonic 50s.
The ultra-comfortable headphones have incredible active noise cancellation and an equally-impressive 20 hours of battery life. We’ve tested these headphones on planes, trains, automobiles, and even walks around the New York City and they’ve always performed very well.
We were able to block out all plane noise when listening to music at around 60% of the maximum volume level, and the headphones greatly reduced engine sounds when nothing was playing. Most importantly, the headphones remained comfortable for an entire international flight, which is no small feat.
5. A Carry-On Suitcase
Travelpro’s new Platinum Elite Hardside Luggage is a piece of luxe, carry-on luggage that’s large enough to replace a typical checked bag. It’s 23-inches tall, 14.5 inches wide, and 9.5 inches deep, which means it’ll fit the guidelines set by most domestic and international airlines. Be sure to double-check before you book.
We’ve traveled with this suitcase, and it passed all our tests with flying colors. Its wheels moved smoothly, the handle lifted easily to the appropriate height, and it was simple to program the luggage’s three-digit lock. We were especially impressed by this bag’s inner pocket, which is designed to house a battery pack. Once connected, you can plug your gadgets into a USB-A and USB-C port on the side of the luggage.
It’s that commitment to practical, forward-facing convenience features that help the Travelpro Platinum Elite Carry-On stay one step ahead.
6. A Checked-In Suitcase
If you need a checked bag for a longer trip, Paravel’s Aviator Grand is our top choice.
It’s 28.1-inches tall, 19.7 inches wide, and 11.7 inches deep, which is fairly large, but still manageable to maneuver when you get off the plane and head to your home or hotel. It’s 11.8 pounds, which may seem heavy (especially if you’re trying to stay under most airlines’ 50 pound weight limit), but that’s right in line with most hardshell checked luggage.
We packed this suitcase with 48 pounds of gear and took it on a multi-stop international flight, and it handled the trip like a champ. Everything we packed remained perfectly in place thanks to its inner straps and zippers, and the three-digit lock kept the Aviator Grand closed the entire time. One of our favorite features was this luggage’s 360-degree wheels, which allowed us to move quickly around other travelers waiting for their luggage, and people on the street.
Getting a solid checked bag is an investment every frequent traveler should make. Knowing that everything you pack will get to your destination safely makes the trip a lot less stressful. As a bonus, the Aviator Grand is made from sustainable materials, like recycled plastic bottles and aluminum, so you can feel good about using it.
7. A Travel Backpack
We’ve had the opportunity to test quite a few travel backpacks, but Troubadour’s Aero was the one that impressed us most.
It eschews the typical school-style backpack shape for one that’s closer to a duffel bag, with one long, deep main pocket that provides ample storage for clothes, gear, and snacks. Its top zippered pocket is big enough to hold essential documents (and in our case earbuds and a battery pack), while the big side pocket easily fit a 13-inch laptop and 12.9-inch iPad Pro simultaneously.
One of the toughest parts of traveling with a fully-packed backpack is fitting it in beneath the seat in front of you. This wasn’t a problem because of the Aero Backpacks tube-like shape. Instead of bulging outward it slid inside the space easily.
We can recommend the Troubadour Aero Backpack to commuters, students, and travelers that need an easy, comfortable way to carry all their essentials.
8. A Cable Organizer
Traveling with a lot of technology means bringing cables, power adapters, and power banks. Finding the right place for all of these accessories can be tough, which is why we recommend Twelve South’s BookBook CaddySack.
The travel tote is filled with straps — some adjustable, some fixed — and a small zippered pocket that’s all designed specifically to hold cables and similar accessories. We’ve used the CaddySack on dozens of flights, and it makes grabbing a charger mid-flight a breeze.
We’re recommending the CaddySack because of its utility, but we appreciate the fact that it looks like an old, hardcover book when it’s zipped up.
9. A Universal Charging Cable
If you travel with a lot of gadgets, one of the easiest ways to lighten your load is getting a universal charging cable. This cord from Nomad can charge devices with a Micro-USB, USB-C, and Lightning port. The cable is wrapped in double-braided kevlar, which prevents damage from tears, nicks, and bends. We’ve traveled with this cable on several occasions, and it’s the first accessory we remove from our backpack (or CaddySack) once we get to our seat.
10. A Smaller Power Adapter
Another way to pack lighter is to leave your bulky laptop charger at home and use Anker’s Nano II instead. The pocket-sized power adapter can charge devices at up to 65W, which makes it powerful enough to work with a 13-inch MacBook Pro. We’ve tested the Nano II for ourselves, and found it performed just as well as bigger, bulkier ones. Ultimately, you can save yourself a lot of space in your backpack or luggage by making the switch to Anker’s Nano II.
11. An E-Reader
Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite is a true travel essential for anyone who wants to read while they go. It has enough space to hold thousands of books, a battery that will get you through an entire international flight (and then some), and a backlit e-ink screen that won’t irritate your eyes as much as the LCD display on a phone or tablet.
All of these features come packed in a device that’s roughly the size of a paperback book. If you get motion sick, you can also use the Kindle Paperwhite to listen to Audible audiobooks through any pair of Bluetooth headphones.
12. A Portable Game Console
The Nintendo Switch is the best portable game system available right now, and an excellent way to spend time while you’re in transit. The console has a 6.2-inch HD screen, two built-in controllers, and a battery that lasts up to nine hours. If the system’s battery does run low, you can charge it by plugging it into the Omnicharge battery pack we recommended earlier.
What sets the Switch apart from other portable game systems is its excellent library, which includes titles from the Mario and Zelda series along with hundreds of indie games. You can buy these games physically, but frequent travelers are better off downloading digital copies, so your entire library is just a couple of taps away.
13. A Phone Game Controller
If you don’t want to invest in a dedicated game console, Razer’s Kishi controller offers a similar experience using your phone. Although it comes in one piece, the two sides of the Razer Kishi are designed to extend over the sides of your phone. One side gets plugged into your phone’s charging port, which ensures there’s no latency (lag), which is present when using Bluetooth controllers.
When it’s not in use, both sides contract and snap together into a compact package that’s easy to carry. We’ve tried a lot of gaming controllers over the years, and the Kishi’s buttons, triggers, and analog sticks are truly console-class. It makes the experience of playing popular games like Alto’s Odyssey, Sayonara Wild Hearts, Fantasian, and Chrono Trigger far more satisfying than on-screen touch controls, which lack precision.
14. An HD Tablet
Most long haul flights come with an in-flight entertainment center, but you can bring your own by using Amazon’s Fire HD 10 tablet.
Its 10.1-inch display is larger than the one on your phone, which makes reading, watching videos, and playing games a lot more enjoyable. That said, the tablet is relatively small and incredibly light compared to other tablets, which means it won’t take up a lot of precious space in your bag.
The Fire HD 10 comes with either 32GB or 64GB of internal storage, but we recommend you get a 256GB MicroSD card if you plan on downloading a lot of media for your trip. Amazon’s Fire HD 10 offers all the same perks as an in-flight entertainment center, but you get to pick all the TV shows and movies.
15. A Comfortable Face Mask
In the U.S., most major airlines and other major public transportation entities have lifted mask mandates, but we still recommend getting a breathable mask for multi-hour and international trips at least. BlueBear’s ProSport Nanotec Mask is the most comfortable one we’ve tested thanks to their light weight, elastic loops, and hypoallergenic construction.
16. A UV Light
Ultraviolet light has been an effective way to kill germs (including bacteria that spread viruses) forever, but Monos’ CleanPod UVC Sterilizer lets use it anywhere. The UV light is attached to a handheld wand, which can kill 99.9% of germs in roughly 30 seconds. It powers on almost instantly, and can be recharged with a USB-C cable. We’ve tried the CleanPod out, and it’s an incredibly sleek, light device.
17. A Personal Snack Container
If we’ve learned anything in our experience traveling it’s this: Don’t wait for a flight attendant or rest stop to eat. Snacking during trips is important, which is why we recommend OXO’s new Prep & Go Divided Container. It has three separate compartments, so you can pack a full meal (with condiments) without worrying about it getting messed up or soggy. This container is part of a 20-piece set, which is available for $49.99 on OXO’s website.