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Thanks to the warm weather and time off from work and school, summer is a great time to take a flight to a new locale. But before you throw on a Hawaiian print shirt and make for the door, you’ll need to prepare. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so take time to gather everything you need for the optimal travel experience. No matter what travel chaos comes your way, certain products can make your day more comfortable, entertaining and better overall.
Travel is typically busy this time of year, but even more so as many Americans find themselves going on vacation for the first time since COVID began. To make sure you stay afloat in this travel rush, the experts at Reviewed have compiled a list of 13 products that you’ll want during your flight and beyond.
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1. A carry-on travel backpack you can explore with
No matter if your flight is two hours or 12 hours, it’s great to have a travel backpack or similar personal item that can fit all of your necessary belongings. If you can fit all your things into a backpack (or carry-on bag), you can often save money by not checking your luggage. Plus, you can save time by skipping checking in a bag and avoiding the luggage carousel after your flight.
There are plenty of stellar options for backpacks depending on your needs. The large Osprey Ozone Duplex 65 backpack and its sister backpack, the Osprey Ozone Duplex 60—our best overall choices for travel backpacks— are perfect for the flight cabin, but also double as a carry-all when you’re exploring your destination. They’re durable yet comfortable and have plenty of storage for your personal items such as a few changes of clothing and room for toiletry bags.
If you’re looking for something a little less rugged, Melissa Cooper, Reviewed’s senior director of marketing, recommends this stylish and professional Kenneth Cole backpack. It has plenty of room for your travel necessities, including a padded laptop pocket and a front organizer that holds chargers, tablets and notebooks in place. It even has an extra strap on the back to conveniently attach it to a rolling suitcase.
2. A travel pillow to snooze on the plane
Don’t let your neck suffer through a long day of travel without the necessary support. To make resting on a long flight (or another form of travel) more comfortable, a solid neck pillow is non-negotiable.
After testing several types, we recommend the Cabeau Evolution Classic Travel Pillow. It’s incredibly supportive, durable and even has an adjustable clasp for a personalized fit.
The J-Pillow Travel Pillow might be a better choice for you if you’re a side sleeper. As its name suggests, this pillow is shaped like the letter “J” and is extremely comfortable for those who prefer to rest their heads to the side. Bonus: It fits into a compression bag (included with purchase) easily, making it easier to carry around than a typical neck pillow.
3. High-quality luggage that stands the test of time
After the past few years of limited travel and staying indoors, you deserve to start anew by upgrading your old suitcase. At Reviewed, we’ve tested plenty of carry-ons and luggage from various brands to judge durability, ease of use and overall quality at its price point.
The TravelPro Platinum Elite suitcase makes a great impression due to its high-quality construction and supreme maneuverability. Packing it is a breeze thanks to its front-opening access. For a carry-on, we ranked the Osprey Transporter Wheeled Carry-On as our top pick. It’s sturdy, easy to wheel around and has a retractable handle that feels built to last. It also boasts plenty of organizational space and storage, making it a must-have for any kind of travel.
4. Protective yet comfortable face masks for the plane and beyond
Masks haven’t been required on domestic flights or in airports since April. That said, experts still recommend wearing them as a new, highly transmissible subvariant of omicron is on the rise. Experts also state that cloth masks aren’t as effective at protecting from the coronavirus. Instead, you’ll want to wear a medical-grade mask like an N95 or KN95, which filter up to 95% of particles in the air.
5. A meditation app to stay relaxed
To keep your nerves in check, we recommend trying out Headspace, a meditation and mindfulness app that we ranked as the best meditation app out there. It features a wide variety of meditations to help relax, destress and cope with certain emotions, along with helpful tips for better sleep and exercise. Even if you’ve never meditated before, Reviewed’s former sleep writer Lindsey Vickers found the app to be beginner-friendly and easy to navigate, explore and experiment with.
Headspace is free if you want to access basic content like a few meditations and one nighttime guided session. Additionally, you can access all of the content for free for a 14-day trial. To access all of Headspace’s content regularly, the annual membership costs $69.99, which breaks down to a little less than $6 a month.
6. Disinfecting wipes to clean your seat on the plane
While COVID-19 doesn’t predominantly spread through contact with surfaces, these past few years have made us a bit more cognizant of cleanliness. The Department of Transportation suggests using disinfectant wipes to sanitize your seat, tray table, armrests, seat belt and surfaces in restrooms while you travel.
While once hard to come by, you can purchase Clorox Disinfecting Wipes easily on Amazon. Just be sure you’re using them correctly by following the instructions on the label—you need to ensure a surface stays wet for a certain amount of time to properly disinfect.
7. A supply of hand sanitizer to protect yourself from germs
Travel-size hand sanitizer will forever be a staple in travel bags to keep germs at bay. TSA is currently allowing one liquid hand sanitizer container—up to 12 ounces per passenger—in carry-on bags. If you want to cut down on space and prefer to purchase more at your destination, stick with a travel-size sanitizer. Just make sure the formula contains at least 60% alcohol, as recommended by the CDC.
8. A pair of noise-canceling headphones to drown out the noise
Noise-canceling headphones are just about a necessity for a peaceful travel day. However, there’s plenty to consider with this technology before buying. Do you prefer an in-ear, on-ear, or over-ear fit? What type of noise cancellation does this model use: active or passive? After testing over a dozen noise-canceling headphones, we recommend a pair like the Sony WH-1000XM5. They provide excellent audio quality, great comfort and most importantly, top-notch active noise-canceling.
If you’re a diehard fan of earbuds, we recommend the Sony WF-1000XM4. Not only are they the best noise-canceling earbuds, but they’re just the best earbuds overall thanks to their sound quality and superb battery life.
9. A reusable water bottle to stay hydrated
Skip the airport lines for an over-priced water bottle and bring in a reusable airport to use along the journey (just make sure it’s empty when you bring it through TSA).
While any reusable water bottle will do, a good reusable water bottle can help keep your water extra cold all day long. Out of all the reusable water bottles Reviewed has tested, the Brita Stainless Steel Water Filter Bottle can keep water cold for hours and features a filtering straw to help reduce the taste and odor of chlorine found in tap water.
Your kids will appreciate a reusable water bottle, too, which is why we recommend the Kids’ Hydroflask Wide Mouth Bottle after plenty of water bottle testing. It features a convenient straw lid and is conveniently lightweight to store in a kids’ backpack or personal item.
10. A portable charger for charging your electronics on the go
Nothing is worse than opening an electronic when traveling and finding out it’s actually dead—especially if it’s your cell phone when you need to check important information or stay in contact with friends and family. To prevent this scenario, we recommend keeping a portable power bank on you—and remember to charge it up before leaving for the airport or departing your hotel.
For tablets and laptops, we recommend the Goal Zero Sherpa 100PD—with a 25,000 mAh battery, several charging ports, Qi wireless charging pad and tough build quality, you really can’t go wrong with this choice for charging up your must-have electronics. For keeping your smartphone charged up, a portable battery pack is an absolute necessity, especially if all the airport outlets are being used or there are no outlets in sight. Our top pick for a battery pack is the Mophie Powerstation PD—this powerful little device stays compact without compromising performance, charging your smartphone with speed.
11. Compression socks for the long flight
If you’re susceptible to swelling legs on long-haul flights, don’t forget to pack a pair of compression socks, which gently apply pressure to improve blood circulation. Even if your legs don’t swell during flights, you may find comfort in the stretchy, snug material regardless.
Out of all the compression socks Reviewed has tested, we recommend a pair from Figs, a direct-to-consumer brand targeted at medical professionals. Their socks are ultra-comfortable and easy to pull on.
12. An e-reader to avoid packing heavy books
A good book is a perfect companion for travel. Unfortunately, with everything else you’re packing, the weight of a novel or two will quickly add up. That’s where an e-reader like the Kobo Libra comes in. With a wide selection of reading material and crisp display, packing this e-reader is a must.
13. A compact toy to keep kids entertained
If you’re traveling with toddlers or younger kids this summer, you’ll want to make sure they’re comfortable and entertained through what could be a long and busy travel day. That’s why you’ll want to bring along some top-rated compact toys to keep morale high.
Enter: Pop-its. They’re perfect for keeping kids busy, especially if they’re feeling fidgety or nervous. Reviewed’s parenting staff writer Janelle Randazza writes that Pop-its are must-haves for the “sensory satisfaction of popping bubble wrap, without the jarring noise factor.”
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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
This article originally appeared on Reviewed: What to pack for summer travel 2022: headphones, mask, backpack