Things To Buy Before You Travel Again For The Holidays

Here's what you need right now to make your trip smooth and worry-free, whether you're road-tripping or flying.

If you haven’t traveled or visited family in a long time because of COVID, there’s not a whole lot about the actual process that’s changed, aside from mandatory mask-wearing on flights, buses and trains and having to present test results in certain situations. Once at your destination, you may also need to present proof of vaccination to do things around town. With coronavirus safety to worry about, you’ll probably want to be as comfortable and organized as possible in every other way so you can keep calm and carry on with your trip. Whether you’re hitting the road to join family for the holidays or finally flying to see friends, here are essentials that’ll come in handy as you travel again.

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A clamshell-style passport and vaccine card holder
First things first: If you're traveling to a place that will require you to show your vaccine card often, you need to protect it. This PU leather holder has one flap that's perfect for your passport and another that will protect your vaccine card while keeping it visible.

Get it from Etsy for $10 (comes in 13 colors) or check out this version on Amazon for $9.98 that also has RFID blocking.
Or a 5-pack of waterproof vaccine card protectors
Want to take your vaccine card with you, but be confident it won't accidentally get roughed up? Grab a pack of these waterproof card protectors. With five in each pack, there's likely enough for everyone in the fam.

Get it from Amazon for $6.98.
Packing cubes
Packing cubes are the best trick for keeping yourself organized when away from home. Rather than rummaging through and undoing all your precious folding looking for socks, just pull out your sock cube! The three sizes in this set from packing cube experts Eagle Creek each come with a grab handle, compression, mesh windows so you can see what's inside each one and self-repairing zippers. They're also made from fabric that's both washable and water-resistant to you save you from spills .

Get it from Eagle Creek for $29.95. (And if you love packing cubes with lots of structure, a set of the company's original packing cubes are available at Amazon for $23.40 and up.)
A travel at-home COVID test that emails results for re-entry
Will you be taking a return flight to the U.S., or going on a cruise? This FDA-approved at-home test meets the CDC's conditions for proving a negative result for certain types of travel. Simply purchase the kit, sign into the included virtual visit with an eMed professional who will observe and help you administer your test wherever you are, and you'll then receive third party verification of your results by email or app that you can present for re-entry.

Get a two-pack for $69.99.
Or at at-home rapid test for personal use
If you're simply traveling to gather with friends or family and want to check your status before you arrive (as opposed to the need to provide results in order to travel or re-enter the country) you can get an FDA-approved but less expensive at-home rapid test. The BinaxNow test takes just about 15 minutes to swab your own nose and wait for results.

Get Abbott’s BinaxNow test from stores including Walgreens for $23.99, Walmart for $14 and Sam’s Club for $14. It is also sometimes in stock at Amazon.

Other at-home options are also available, listed here.
A luggage scale that saves so much money in the long run
Avoid paying those nightmarish overweight luggage fees by weighing your bags before you leave home. Just hang your suitcase from this little scale, which can handle suitcases up to 110 pounds, and you'll know whether you need to adjust your packing while you can still do something about it.

Get it from Amazon for $13.32.
Peak Design's wash pouch
This Dopp kit/toiletry bag is so beautifully designed and satisfyingly constructed you'll probably want to use it at home, too. A magnetically sealed toothbrush pocket is the most thoughtful detail, but you'll also love the internal mesh pocks, lie-flat grab handle and the hanging hook that stows away when you prefer to set the bag upright. No space is wasted, so you'll be able to pack all you need without taking up extra space in your suitcase.

Get it from REI for $59.95.
A highly recommended travel backpack
Travel backpacks have finally evolved past top-loading hiking gear that suggests you'll be spending your gap year in hostels. Today you can find them built more like wearable suitcases with roomy interiors, padded laptop compartments, built-in organizers and straps that detach or pack away in case you decide to check the bag rather than carry on. The Tortuga Setout comes in a luxe weatherproof fabric, is surprisingly comfortable to wear, holds more than you ever thought possible in a 22"x14"x9" carry-on thanks to its lack of wheel and handle structures, and will protect your laptop, tablet, keys and more. In fact, you have to be careful not to put too much in it so it doesn't get heavy.

Get it from Amazon in a men's torso fit or in a women's torso fit for $199.

The Ebags Mother Lode travel backpack is less comfortable to wear for more than short periods of time, but expands beyond carry-on size when necessary. Check it out for $113.99.
Or a hard-sided carry-on with spinner wheels
Breeze through your trip with multi-directional wheels, an integrated TSA lock and an expansion zipper if you need it. Reviewers say this polycarbonate Samsonite Winfield 2 spinner is a great value for the money.

Get it from Amazon in brushed anthracite for $124.
A NIOSH-approved N95 mask you can purchase guilt-free
These N95s are made by a Florida-based medical device company and have been certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. You may want the extra level of protection when you're sitting in the airport boarding area, flying, traveling on a crowded train or taking a cab to your destination.

Get a five-pack from Amazon for $18.75.
Or a pack of 10 KN95s
These KN95 masks carry a stellar 4.5 rating on Amazon, with more than 20,000 people weighing in. They have elastic ear loops and an adjustable nose bridge, and, according the manufacturer, fit small and medium adult faces. Drop a few in a purse, carry-on or coat pocket so you feel ready for anything as you travel.

Get a 10-pack from Amazon for $14.99.
A handheld steamer
This foldable handheld steamer is great for small jobs and traveling (there's a storage bag for stashing it in your luggage). The cord is 8 feet long, and the steamer works both vertically and horizontally.

Get it from Amazon for $26.97.
Individually packaged sanitizing wipes
Whether you're in a car, train or plane, it's always nice to have some sanitizing wipes stashed away in your bag.

Get a box of 30 from Amazon for $6.66.
A travel-sized face wash that'll work for just about anyone
This creamy, foaming sulfate-free cleanser takes off makeup and sunscreen without your skin having to suffer for it. Antioxidants, aloe, glycerin and allantoin are great soothing inclusions, and this is also fragrance-free, so there's no needless irritation from a wash-off product that doesn't need to smell good anyway. At two ounces, the tube is a great way to try the product and breeze past those pesky TSA checkpoints at the same time.

Get it from Amazon for $11 or Sephora for $11.
A travel-sized deodorant
You may scoff, but hear us out: If you're away for just a week or two, a full-sized deodorant is one of the biggest space-wasters you can pack in your toiletries bag -- most of the packaging is just air! And you definitely don't need the whole thing. Grab a travel-sized stick and be both lighter and smell-free as you fly.

Get it from Target for $1.29.
An inflatable kid's bed
Tired of getting kicked by your own kid as you try to sleep together in a hotel or guest bed? This gives your children their very own fun sleeping space -- and its side bumpers will keep little ones from rolling out.

Get it from Amazon for $36.99.
An inexpensive folding travel hair dryer...
Sometimes you just can't be sure your Aunt Sally's house, Airbnb or hotel is going to have a blow dryer. This 1600-watt Conair folds for easier portability and weighs just one pound.

Get it from Amazon for $14.99.
...Or an investment-worthy compact T3 dryer
Of course, if your wet hair needs more oomph, this compact T3 is pretty, powerful and 30% smaller and 20% lighter than the company's beloved standard blowdryers. It weighs less than a pound (one of the only reasons to pay more for a hair dryer). You can use it on the road and at home.

Get it from Amazon for $149.99 in white and rose gold or graphite.
A pair of comfy wool sneakers
Need to hike through the airport without blisters but don't want your feet to freeze, either? Try these soft and cozy flexible Merino wool runners from Allbirds, which come with the added bonus of being machine washable. (And if warmth isn't a need, check out these other non-ugly shoes that are great for walking, too.)

Get it from Allbirds for $98.
Body wipes for staying fresh
Why is it you can feel so dirty from just sitting in car or standing around in an airport? If you've got a long journey ahead, grab a pack of these wipes for a quick way to freshen up. Each big biodegradable, plant-based hypoallergenic wipe is individually wrapped so they stay fresh until you need them.

Get 10 for $9.99 or two packs of 10 for $18.99.
A leather vaccine card holder with key ring
Secure your card inside your luggage for safekeeping or carry it with you out on the town. Made of full grain genuine leather, this will hold a standard 4-inch by 3-inch vaccination card behind a protective clear plastic window.

Get it from Etsy for $12.99 in eight colors (personalization is also available).
A neck-supporting travel pillow that won't take up too much space
No matter how you're traveling, try this travel pillow, which is essentially a soft, washable fleece scarf with an ergonomic support for your neck inside. Although it doesn't pack completely flat, it does take up far less space than bulky U-shaped pillows.

Get it from Amazon in red, black, gray or coral for $29.99.
A waterproof Kindle Paperwhite
One thing that will pack completely flat? A Kindle. It'll take up far less space than an actual book and fit in most purses. Plus, the illuminated screen will help you read in a dark plane or bright car, and you can buy more books on the go if you're choice for the trip turns out to be boring. It's also waterproof, so you won't have to worry about spills or dropping it in the bath.

Get it from Amazon for $84.99.
A drawstring makeup bag and organizer
This barrel-style toiletries pouch has internal mesh pockets for organizing your products; then, when they're all in, you can simply cinch the top to keep everything secure. It's made of nylon fabric that won't be ruined by spills and comes with a mini zipper storage bag and brush bag, too.

Get it from Amazon for $7.99+ (comes in multiple colors).
A portable air compressor for your tires
If you're setting out on an 8-hour road trip to Grandma's house, you should check your tire pressure first and add air if you need it. Although you can do this at a gas station, you'll probably need quarters, and what if you don't have any handy (or you need air with no gas station for miles)? It's easy enough to do at home and on the road with this portable machine that plugs into your car's cigarette lighter. It will also blow up bicycle tires, balls and inflatables, too.

Get it from Amazon for $28.49.
Blister bandages in several skin tones
These breathable bandages both prevent and treat blisters you might get from a miles-long airport terminal or some unexpected sightseeing -- and they come in multiple skin tones.

Get it from Amazon for $8.12+ (availble in various styles).
A leather travel jewelry case
Use this roll-up case's three velvet-lined compartments to sort and store your jewelry and trinkets as you travel.

Get it from Amazon for $19.99 in white or gray.
A packable lightweight puffer jacket
This will be especially handy if you're going from a warmer place to a colder one: This full-zip water-resistant washable puffy packs up into its own carrying bag with a drawstring to take up less room in your luggage.

Get it from Amazon for $39-$41.80 (comes in 23 colors).

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