I’m a world traveler and these are my 17 packing essentials, starting at $3

towel, neck pillow, sandal, battery pack
Pack wisely with these travel gear picks I swear by. (Photo: Amazon/Getty) (Amazon/Getty)

If anyone knows how to pack a suitcase, it’s me…because I live out of one! As a remote worker, I spend much of my time abroad. Trust me: understanding how and what to bring can make or break a trip. As a rule of thumb, it helps enormously to have things that conjure comfort, safety and a sense of familiarity (no, it’s not all about cute outfits!). Some of my essential pieces of travel gear are totally unexpected — like an HDMI adapter and sunscreen for my hair — scroll to see what I mean.

In this connected world, it just makes sense to travel with a piece of luggage that also charges your phone; it’s so helpful when you’re stuck at an airport gate or on a long bus ride. Flight attendants and pilots swear by Travelpro luggage, and if you take a look at what they're rolling through the airport, you'll almost always see this brand. I use it too now, and I'm happy with the quality, roominess, compartments and maneuverability of my luggage.

As for what to put inside? I consider the following pieces of travel gear indispensable.

When I started using an electric toothbrush, it was a game-changer. After having some dental work done, I knew I didn't want more — so a serious toothbrush was a must! I travel with the Philips Sonicare 9900 Prestige Rechargeable Electric Power Toothbrush with SenseIQ, a next-level toothbrush that removes up to 20 times the plaque of my sad, old manual toothbrush. It was a slim, portable charger and a cool carrying case, and I feel it's well worth the $354 investment in my oral health.

But Philips makes lots of top-of-the-line electric toothbrushes, like the incredibly popular Philips Sonicare ExpertClean 7500, which you can get at Amazon right now for less than half the price.

I hate to admit it, but there have been times I've been on the go without ample time to wash my dirty laundry, so inside the suitcase it went with all my clean clothes! Perhaps you've had the same conundrum with sweaty gym clothes, or — if you're a healthcare worker — your used scrubs. The solution for all of this is Stnky laundry bags, which are so impenetrable they create a shield between my dirty and clean clothes. And you can toss the entire thing — dirty clothes and all — right in the washer! It's so convenient.

Here's a hack for making any hotel room or Airbnb instantly feel like home: bring a Bluetooth speaker along to fill the space with your favorite tunes or podcasts. My constant companion is the JBL GO2 speaker, which is so lightweight I often forget I'm carrying it. I also bring it with me to the pool or on beach outings, because it's waterproof to the point of full immersion. Amazon customers have given this little red beauty almost 28,000 five-star ratings, so I'm not alone.

Sometimes after a long flight, I would notice my ankles were swollen and would stay that way for a few days. Edema, or foot and ankle swelling, is a common side effect of airplane travel and happens when you're sitting in one spot for too long and fluid accumulates in your extremities. It's not too dangerous but it's pretty uncomfortable and unsightly. So now I wear compression socks on most flights, and I prefer Amazon's popular Charmking brand because they make compression socks in regular black, white and grey options — but they have fun colors and patters too, if you prefer that!

Just like you have certain things in your closet that are your go-to items, I have certain things in my luggage. And one thing I rely on that you will thank yourself for packing is a gauze-y white button-down blouse with sleeves I can roll up or down. It's perfect to throw on over a tank top and lightweight enough to toss in your tote bag when it gets hot. I tuck mine into jeans for a walk around town and throw it over my swimsuit on a beach day. Pro tip: get one that's machine washable and doesn't wrinkle easily.

A portable changer, or power bank, is an indispensable travel item that's going to save the day, so don’t don't leave home without it. Why? Because now that we mainly use our smartphones to take pictures, get directions and even pay for things, it’s important that to have that phone always juiced up when you’re out sightseeing, on a boat trip, on a long hike — there are a million scenarios in which your phone can die. I would be stranded without my Anker power bank. Anker is one of the leading names in portable technology, and this particular charger is a hit with nearly 53,000 perfect ratings.

I like to spend as much time as possible in beach towns, and I practically live in these Funky Monkey EVA beach slides. They’re basically Birkenstock dupes for a fraction of the price, but just as comfortable (they're heaven, in fact), and they’ve never given me blisters or pain of any kind. It speaks volumes that they’re Amazon’s No. 1 bestselling flip-flops and have more than 38,000 five-star reviews.

I thank myself all the time for buying a Turkish towel four years ago. It’s durable, highly absorbent, ultra-thin and takes up about the same luggage space as a pair of pants. I got mine in Croatia, and it’s been my constant companion all over the world, holding up impeccably through countless beach days, road trips and machine washes. This 100% cotton Turkish towel by Realgrandbazaar — down to $15 — is identical to mine. It’s super cute and doubles as an on-the-go blanket.

You know you need a good sunscreen for your skin every day (I prefer mineral sunscreen, like this Kate Somerville pick, which sits on top of your skin to deflect rays), but don’t discount the damage UV rays do to your hair and scalp, too. My delicate, color-treated strands get fried and bleached by the tropical sun if I don’t use a great product like Coola Organic Scalp and Hair Sunscreen. The lightweight, coral reef–friendly mist has SPF 30 to protect against harsh rays and provides 80 hours of protection against another culprit: salt water.

The low humidity on planes is notorious for drying out skin, and then there are the elements, jet lag and forgetting to hydrate on your actual trip. They all take a toll on the skin. I constantly have a small stash of skin care with me while I travel, and a lightweight yet deeply hydrating moisturizer is absolutely essential. I’m loyal to ingredients, not brands, and this top-rated Biossance moisturizer contains two of my favorites: plant-based squalane and hydration superstar hyaluronic acid. It’s a carry-on-friendly .5 ounces.

Here’s another great way to keep your skin — and your whole body — hydrated while you travel: drink water! Novel idea, huh? It's even more important if you're walking a lot, touring ancient ruins or doing anything that puts you in the blazing sun all day. This top-rated, vacuum-insulated, reusable Takeya Ocean Originals water bottle makes it easy: it has a loop handle that lets you hook it onto a bag or a belt and carry it hands-free.

Not everyone considers an HDMI adapter essential, but I do, and here’s why. A lot of hotels and vacation accommodations offer smart TVs, but that means you have to log in to your own Netflix, Hulu and other accounts. And then you forget to log out, which is a security risk. This QGeeM HDMI adapter connects your smartphone or laptop to any flatscreen TV with its HDMI cord attached and mirrors whatever’s on your screen. I don’t travel anywhere without mine.

My AirPods Pro wireless earbuds are always in my electronics travel pouch. They have superior noise-canceling and audio abilities — I even sleep with them in if I'm in a noisy neighborhood — are sweat- and waterproof and have seen me through long trips on planes, trains, automobiles...and boats! A fully charged case will give you 30 hours of performance. Right now I'm seeing them on Amazon for 20% off, so hurry!

One of the least predictable things about travel is sleep quality. Will you get noisy neighbors? Construction? While staying in Bali, I had a rude awakening — I was literally awoken by the sound of roosters every morning at dawn. Lesson learned: Now I never travel without foam ear plugs. They're absolute game changers, and this box of 10 pairs of Flents ear plugs is more than 50%. If you're not an ear buds person or just can't sleep with yours in, just invest in these: you’ll thank me later.

I never advocate fear-based travel advice. But pickpocketing and card skimming are real, so I advocate the best safety precautions so you can enjoy your trip with a clear head. This Travelon Anti-Theft shoulder bag is a perfect example of a smart purse. In converts into a crossbody bag, which keeps your stuff close to your body and in front where you can see it, and RFID technology protects all the cards in your wallet. It’s got lots of handy compartments too, so you don’t have to dig through a bottomless pit to find your keys, wallet, phone and all your little accessories.

Neck pillows are a dime a dozen and yes, they do make travel so much more comfortable. But I also get back pain from traveling, and sometimes I need pillows in other places. This Bcozzy travel pillow is one of my best Amazon finds, and it comes with its own travel case. It’s flexible so you can conform it to your shape and for different sleeping and sitting positions. That’s probably why it’s Amazon’s No. 1 bestselling travel pillow.

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