We open our suitcases to reveal our best-kept vacation secrets.
Time off is a pretty necessary balm for life. If you are feeling burnt out, struggling with drawing boundaries in the workplace, or craving some quality family time (or alone time), taking space from everyday life is logical. There’s some scientific support for that feeling of post-vacation clarity, too: A 2009 study found that vacation relieved everyday stress and provided a boost of well-being for a short period of time after a trip. While you may not experience permanent wellness after one quick trip, who wouldn’t appreciate some temporary peace of mind?
If you’re lucky enough to be embarking on a trip soon, you’ve probably already consulted expert advice to bear with iffy travel conditions, treated yourself to cute new luggage after a decade spent hauling around a battered suitcase, or carefully sourced some cute vacation outfits. But have you considered bulking up your packing list beyond your phone charger and extra socks?
We’ve carefully crowdsourced the KCM crew to collect tools and accessories that can transform your time off into a totally seamless experience. These editor-approved items will reduce stress and in some cases, eliminate the likelihood of a worst-case scenario travel disaster. Hit the road with our list of vacation game-changers below.
Bagail Packing Cubes
To be honest, this recommendation comes from many of us. The team consensus is that we love packing cubes: They keep your clothes neat and wrinkle free and enable you to fit more stuff into a cramped carry-on. You can get cubes for different occasions and clothing types, too, but we really love this basic set as a jumping off point.
Go-To High Waist Leggings
“Invest in some leggings that are comfy enough to wear to the airport but can also be dressed up or down with your vacation outfits.” — Meredith Struewing, social media manager.
Wired and Wireless Headphones
“I am pretty good at sleeping on planes — I have a very strategically curated Plane playlist that puts me right to sleep. But you know what wakes me up? The music abruptly shutting off because my phone fell or I got tangled up in my headphone cord and the plug came out of my phone. This is why I can’t travel without wireless headphones, I prefer Airpods (and Wake-Up Call readers seem to feel the same). But I also recommend traveling with an old pair of corded headphones because airplane TV systems still use them and not all flights hand out free ones. So, if you’re excited your in-flight movie, make sure you have a compatible set of headphones, like these.” — Maggie Parker, senior digital editor.
Welly Human Repair Kit
“When you tend to walk around a lot while traveling, you might get blisters. This compact kit contains bandages, hydrocortisone cream packets, ointment, and hand sanitizer…and it’s really pretty!” — Bianca Austrheim, marketing coordinator.
Addalock Portable Door Lock
“When you’re renting an Airbnb or hotel room, you never know who might be lurking around. A portable lock won’t take up much space in your luggage, and it can prevent a spontaneous break-in (which no one wants when they’re trying to take a relaxing vacation).” — Diana Valenzuela, editorial assistant.
Apple AirTag 4 Pack
“If you’re flying, use Apple AirTags in your bag. That way, you can track your luggage if the airline loses it…which, these days, seems very likely.” — Mary Agnant, senior producer.
Bmnmsl Travel Wallet
Here’s a safety tip: A few KCM team members recommended bringing along printed out, scanned copies of passports and IDs. To avoid crushing and crinkling sheets of loose paper, pick up a document organizer to store all these important copies. that you hopefully won’t need.
Lewis N Clark Triple Security Lock
“Bring locks for your backpacks, purses, and suitcases if you’re traveling to a place where pick-pocketing is common. I got my entire bag stolen in Barcelona. But joke’s on them because I only had gum, candy, and a shattered iPhone 4 in my purse at the time.” — Bianca Austrheim, marketing coordinator
“Essential for taxis, Ubers, trains, and tour buses.” — Sara Sajadi, director of strategy and operations. (Pro-tip: Stock up on the non-drowsy formula so you won’t be too tired to sightsee.)
Wild Essentials Escape Plush 3D Sleep Mask Kit
“Pick up an eye mask and ear plugs. They’re great if you have a too-bright hotel clock or a room near the ice machine.” — Sara Sajadi, director of strategy and operations. (Side note: This kit comes with earplugs and a handy travel pouch.)
MalsiPree Dog Water Bottle
“If you’re traveling with a dog, this pet water bottle is a lifesaver. It will save you from lugging around a water bowl (or trying to find an impromptu one) and the water dispenses easily.” — Diana Valenzuela, editorial assistant. (This item appears on the list of our favorite trending TikTok items, too!)
Longchamp Le Pliage Expandable Travel Bag
“Longchamp’s expandable tote is my go-to travel bag. It easily slides under the seat in front of you on airplanes when it’s zipped on the smaller setting. It also fits into the cabin space above when you need more space to fit all those souvenirs and gifts you picked up along the way.” — Alaina Raftis, managing editor.
Pitusa Mini Sundress
“Pitusa cover ups are essential for the beach or pool. They’re cute and they barely take up any space in your suitcase when you roll them up.” — Sara Sajadi, director of strategy and operations.
Portable Travel Garment Steamer
“If you’re traveling for a big occasion, do yourself a favor and bring along a portable steamer. I’m uniquely terrible at handling irons, and the last thing I want to do is singe a brand new dress with a hotel iron mere hours before I’m supposed to be attending a wedding.” — Diana Valenzuela, editorial assistant.
Wayre Cruiser Pant
“There’s nothing wrong with wearing leggings to the airport, but I am here to declare these as the best travel pants ever invented. They’re made from super lightweight, stretchy material, have four (yes, four!) pockets (two of which are hidden to prevent pickpocketing), are made from recycled plastic bottles, and are antimicrobial, so you can wear them multiple times without any funky odors sticking around.” — Katie Pittman, commerce editor.
Baboon to the Moon Go-Bag
“Honestly, I’m traveling more often than not. My partner and I are long distance, my family lives nearly 1,000 miles away, and I like to adventure to new places whenever I can. Whether I’m in a train, plane, or automobile, I’m usually toting my belongings in this backpack/duffle/briefcase bag. The straps are infinitely convertible, it has tons of internal packets, it fits both in the overhead bin and under the plane seat, and it’s made from waterproof material — and yes, I have gotten stuck in a downpour while wearing this, so I can vouch that your belongings inside will stay bone dry. I, on the other hand, should have worn a rain jacket.” — Katie Pittman, commerce editor.
Wild One Everyday Carrier
“I swore I would never be the person who carried her dog around in a bag, yet here I am. Whether I’ve got to tote my pup on the subway or on the bus to visit my partner (a lovely three-hour ride), she refuses to be in any carrier but this one. It has a padded floor on the inside for her, a leash clip to keep her secure in the bag, and a cutout so she can easily see where we’re headed. For me, it has three external pockets (including one specifically made for your phone), a ring to hang your waste bag holder on, and both shoulder and hand straps. Perhaps the best part? It’s machine washable.” — Katie Pittman, commerce editor.