Those of you who travel frequently face a conundrum: The joy of exploring new cities and enjoying local culture must coexist with the stress and discomfort of modern travel. No matter how often you travel, you never quite get over the sheer ugliness of airports, the uncomfortable seating arrangements on planes, and the suspicion that you are being treated like cargo.
Thoughtfully designed products won’t fix the problem, but they can address some of the headaches of travel and maybe even make your journey more enjoyable. Below, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite travel gear, including luggage, travel accessories, and comfortable clothing. They span a range of prices and uses to suit every traveler’s needs. So if you’re looking for a holiday gift for someone who is constantly on the road, or if you want to find something for yourself before your next big trip, read on.
A design-forward duffle
Innovative travel brand Baboon has come up with a stylish duffle bag that converts into a backpack. The shiny waterproof nylon exterior looks sleek but is designed to withstand a lot of wear and tear, and is totally waterproof. On the inside, there’s a surprising, slightly absurdist pattern, consisting of either a monkey riding a dinosaur or an astronaut riding a tiger–a little levity during your travel misery. The bag was designed to look versatile enough for trips of all kinds, from business travel to desert adventures. The $149 small “Go-Bag” can pack up to three days of clothing, and fits easily into overhead bins.
The beauty industry is largely unregulated, and there’s a growing awareness among consumers that many of our daily bathroom products are full of toxic chemicals. Cleaner alternatives to traditional soap and lotion are available, but travel-sized versions can be hard to track down. (Refillable bottles are a nice idea in theory; in practice, they’re a lot of work.)
The clean beauty brand Beautycounter has a $35 travel body essentials kit that fits easily into a toiletry bag. A $30 set of three hand lotions will come in handy when dealing with dehydrating plane air. And if you’re looking for luxurious skincare products to give someone on the road, the $89 Best of Beautycounter kit contains a set of four products that are all under 3 oz.
An easy travel uniform
Even frequent travelers struggle with what to wear on long flights. You want clothes that look decent enough so you won’t be embarrassed if a coworker or client sees you at the airport, but you also want to be comfortable. Summersalt, a brand known for swimwear, has developed Travelwear, a travel uniform for women ranging from $45 to $145. It consists of a jumpsuit, trousers, a long-sleeve shirt, a duster, and a scarf. The pieces are made of wrinkle-free material that also wicks moisture and resists odor. This means you can walk out of the airplane with a flowing outfit that looks–and smells–like you just pulled it out of the closet.
The key to surviving a grueling travel schedule is an entertainment-packed phone. If you’re stuck on the tarmac, you might as well binge-watch The Great British Baking Show or Homecoming. But this requires having good headphones. As my colleague Mark Wilson has pointed out, we now live in a world where we need wireless headphones, ever since Apple killed off the headphone jack.
That means every traveler needs a set of wireless headphones with a battery life that’s long enough to survive a cross-country flight and back again. There are plenty of options on the market, but for the purposes of travel, you want a set that is compact and lightweight, but also has excellent sound quality. (It also helps when your headphones are beautiful and bring you joy every time you whip them out.) After surveying the market, I recommend the Beats Solo3 Wireless On-ear Headphones, which meet all these criteria. They also come in a range of colors, to suit the tastes of any traveler.
A backpack that packs a punch
If you or the person you’re shopping for likes to travel light–very light–Tortuga’s travel backpacks are a great option. The brand’s logo is a turtle, and its bags are designed to allow you to carry your world on your back. The $125 Setout Laptop Backpack is sleek and minimalist, and it packs a lot of stuff. There’s a special padded section for your computer and other electronics. There are plenty of designated sections for your shoes, dirty laundry, and clothes. And even when packed to the brim, it doesn’t look or feel like a traditional “backpacker” designed for multiday hikes. Bonus: If you use this as your carry-on instead of a traditional roller suitcase, the airline is very unlikely to ask you to check it in.
Delightful toiletry bags
If you must carry your shampoo around with you, you might as well have a toiletry case that brings you pleasure every time you take it out of your suitcase. I recommend skipping the generic plastic travel cases, which many travelers use because they are easy to clean. Cuyana’s leather cases–available for both men ($95) and women ($110, for two nesting cases)–are more beautiful and longer-lasting, plus they’re water-resistant. They’ll also look good on your hotel bathroom counter.
An extra bag for all those souvenirs
Most of us have gotten used to traveling with nothing but a carry-on, given the limiting luggage requirements of most airlines. But what happens if you want to go shopping on your trip? Paravel’s $60 fold-up duffle bag and $65 fold-up backpack are a great solution. They are collapsable, fitting into a small, lightweight, compact case, and come in a range of fun color combinations. If you keep one in your suitcase, you never have to worry about picking up extra souvenirs on a trip. You can fill it up and either check it in or use the bag as your personal item. No more scrambling to buy a new bag for your trip home.