Certain travel accouterments have proven to be such lifesavers that I’m not sure how I ever traveled without them. These are not items that companies have sent to me for free to review: I sought out and paid my own good money for every one of them, and they’ve stood the test of thousands of air miles. So here’s hoping they prove useful for the traveler in your life too:
1. Ultralight parka. My North Face Thermoball Full Zip Jacket is one of the three essentials I take on every trip. It’s black, of course, so I can wear it anywhere or with anything; it’s comfy in a wide range of climates; and it compresses to a tiny fraction of its bulk, folding into its own pocket—to create a “pillow” you can use on the plane.
2. Touchscreen-friendly winter gloves. Glider Gloves let you use your smartphone outdoors in the cold without having to remove your gloves. There are many brands of touchscreen-friendly gloves, but these keep my hands warmest.
3. For women: Backpack-style handbag with built-in laptop sleeve. As female business travelers know, the easiest way to limit your luggage to one carry-on wheelie and one personal item is if that personal item is a handbag that holds your laptop. My Tumi Voyageur Halle Backpack keeps my electronics safe and organized, keeps my hands free, and is rugged enough for sightseeing in all weather conditions, yet is stylish and can be carried tote-style for those times when you need it not to look like a backpack.
4. For men: Ultralight daypack. My husband and two sons love the Kompressor, by Marmot. Carry it onto the plane as your personal item, and use it when exploring or shopping at your destination; somehow it seems to expand to hold everything you can possibly stuff into it.
5. Reading glasses that are always at hand. It’s hard to lose, drop, or sit on Clic reading glasses, thanks to their wrap-around neck band and magnetic closure. You never have to fumble through a bag in search of your glasses, and they keep your hands free for managing luggage, documents, your camera, etc.
6. Inflatable airline neck pillow. The Cocoon Ultra-Light Air-Core Neck Pillow supports your head and neck, and gives you the comfort of a foam pillow, yet weighs only four ounces and folds into a pouch.
7. Luggage handle wrap. Got black luggage that looks like everyone else’s? This is how you can spot yours at the baggage carousel—and ensure a stranger doesn’t walk off with it. The IdentiGrip by Bucky has a hidden window inside for your business card—for added identification.
8. Motion sensor nightlight. This comes in handy in hotel rooms when you don’t want to turn on an overhead light and wake up everybody in the room. The InterDesign iForm Motion Sensor Light is especially useful for dark bathrooms and when you’ve got kids in tow.
9. Digital luggage scale. Sometimes you’ve got no choice but to check heavy luggage with the airline. It’s smart to weigh bags before heading to the airport, to make sure you’re within limits, and the Taylor 2-Handed Luggage Scale saves your back by making it easier to lift your bags to weigh them.
10. Hydro-soothing eye pads. The best relief for tired eyes on long flights is artificial-tears lubricant eye drops, but the second best is cucumber eye pads from XpresSpa. You’re supposed to leave these moist, disposable eye pads on your eyes for 10 to 15 minutes. I do it at the end of overnight flights, during the 15 minutes before landing, so I can start my trip feeling like a human being again.