With the holidays right around the corner, you've likely got a few upcoming trips. If you're like us, you might be a bit out of practice on planning and packing. And maybe (like us, again) you never quite nailed that to begin with. No problem. We tapped a true expert in the field — a former flight attendant with many miles under her belt — to help. Sakkara Barnwell has traveled to 14 countries across four different continents, and she has some serious experience when it comes to the goods that can make or break a trip. Whether you’re visiting your mom in Florida, heading to a national park or taking the European vacay of your dreams, you'll benefit from her wisdom and product picks below. Even better: prices start at just $7. So stow your carry-on, fasten your seatbelts and take in these trip-transforming tips.
Totwo Travel Laptop Backpack
Amazon Basics Packing Cubes Set, 4-Pack
Lysol To Go Disinfectant Spray
Palmer's Cocoa Butter with Vitamin E (3-Pack)
88 Acres Granola Bars
With the limits on carry-on size, it can be hard to find the perfect personal bag for flights. But our expert might have nailed it here: Check out the Totwo Travel Laptop Backpack, Barnwell’s favorite travel bag. “It has a proper laptop storage area, a space designated for easy access to a portable charger and pockets, pockets, pockets!” she says. “This is the perfect way to pack a lot and keep it all organized.”
Barnwell depends on packing cubes to keep the inside of her suitcase organized. Packing cubes offer a place for everything and keep everything in its place. The large cube here, just over 17 inches long, is sized right to hold (and consolidate) a stack of clothes. The smallest can corral randoms like charging cords. It's a much better use of suitcase real estate. Plus, the cubes make unpacking so much easier! “Everything [stays] compact and organized and does so in a stylish way…no more [packing items in] Ziplocs for me!” says Barnwell.
Using sanitizer is a simple way to reduce stress while traveling. For ease and convenience, Barnwell recommends Lysol To Go. “I trust that airlines are maintaining optimum cleanliness, but what if they missed a spot?” says Barnwell. For every spot — even soft surfaces — there’s Lysol!
“I am completely obsessed with this lotion!” raves Barnwell. “Planes have the driest air in the cabin. Top that off with constant hand-washing and I am left with ashy, dry hands. Your skin is bound to suffer.” To combat this cycle, Barnwell trusts Palmer's Cocoa Butter. “Palmer's keeps my skin silky-smooth, moisturized all day and as an added bonus it smells absolutely amazing!” These travel-size cuties are perfect for your carry-on, purse or backpack.
Nourishing snacks are important for keeping stamina up through the rigors of airport navigation, layovers, rental car lines and whatever else your trip throws at you. Barnwell’s favorite option: 88 Acres Granola Bars. “They have simple ingredients, great flavors, 6 grams of protein in each, and are individually wrapped so I don’t have to touch them to eat them.” (You know, just in case you don't get a chance to wash your hands in that moment.) “An added bonus is that they have no nuts or gluten so you don’t have to worry about triggering anyone’s allergies.” Smart when you're sitting so close to fellow passengers.
“There is nothing worse than getting to the airport and not having access to my perfectly curated Spotify playlist because my phone is dying…well, nothing except getting off of the plane and having to run around looking for outlets so you can charge up enough to order an Uber!” Barnwell says. We can relate. To stay angst-free before, during and after your flight, make sure you’re ready with a fully-juiced portable phone charger like this one.
“This model can fully charge any phone at least 4 times or an iPad 2.5 times!” It easily fits in your carry-on and can even charge two phones at once, so your travel companion can get a little boost, too.
As you probably know, many countries have outlets that are different from those in the U.S. (much like how just about everyone else uses the metric system). Barnwell is always ready with her universal adapter. “Realizing you can’t plug in your blow dryer or cell phone when you arrive in another country is…not great. This universal adapter fits all the plugs in the world and keeps your phone from getting fried! I never leave the country without one.” This is arguably the most important item in this whole list!
Keep your hair and skin happy for the duration of your stay with a natural silk pillowcase, which Barnwell swears by. “Hotel bedding tends to be harsh and aggravating on my face. This lightweight silk pillowcase keeps my curls poppin’!” Since you’ll be spending a third of your trip (and your life) snoozing, we recommend you grab a couple of these to make every minute amazing.
With limited space for packing — especially if you’re trying to pack light — items with multiple uses are treasures. The right pashmina can make or break a trip. “It’s large enough to be a mini blanket when the plane is cold. It's a shawl when I’m in a more conservative country. It's a scarf to keep me warm on cool nights. And in a pinch it can even serve as a sarong on the beach,” shares Barnwell. She loves this fringed option pashmina for its versatility and style.
Speaking of multi-use items, you’ll be the MacGyver of your destination with this Packable Travel Neck Pillow / Puffer Jacket. “This one was a definite game changer for me,” said Barnwell. “It conveniently becomes your neck pillow for the plane ride so it stays tidy." And it's just right for long walks or athletic hikes where temps are unpredictable.
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