The funny thing about really good travel gear is that it doesn’t have to be travel gear. Aside from key essentials—like a stylish, durable new luggage set or those packing cubes your favorite influencer has been raving about—so many of the things you’d typically bring on vacation can also play a role in keeping you and yours entertained at home. And, now more than ever, there are gadgets, gizmos and accessories that are designed for work and play, making them perfect for times when travel is, unfortunately, not an option.
From creative, eco-friendly swimsuits to cool new devices, here are some of the many new and popular products that we’ve tested and just flat-out love for our backyard shindigs, pool parties and, we hope, upcoming travel adventures.
Solo New York Highline Duffel
The solo adventure is still one of the most popular forms of social distancing, and when you’re heading on vacation as a party of one, the last things you want to deal with are luggage fees, fumbling with your gear at TSA and long waits at the baggage carousel. The Solo New York Highline Duffel packs a convenient wallop with 54 liters of storage, which, in traveler’s terms, means you’ll have enough space for seven shirts, six pairs of pants or shorts and four pairs of shoes. There’s also a dedicated laptop pocket for the always-working adventurer, or simply for those of us who love to fall asleep to Netflix.
Do you need that much clothing? That’s up for you to decide, but minimalist travelers will love the versatility this bag provides, as well as the overall stylish appearance that also makes it great for heading to work or even the gym.
Solo New York Liberty Accessory Kit
Oh, and in addition to the clothing and shoes, the aforementioned Solo duffel also still somehow has space for a toiletry kit, so double down and include the elaborate Solo New York Liberty Accessory Kit. While the duffel also has a zippered pocket for accessories, this kit was designed to handle both your bathroom supplies and crucial accessories, like a watch and extra ear buds or your Airpods case.
For the extra organized among us, or the travelers who live in constant fear of leaving things on airplanes (points to self), this kit provides additional peace of mind when that is already your most important travel accessory.
SwissDigital Zion Massage Backpack
Travelers who rely heavily on backpacks as their sole piece of luggage know all too well the toll that takes on their shoulders and backs. For more frequent travelers, we joke that it’s a great way to work out while hopping from terminal to terminal, but you’d much rather be sore from hiking or surfing than standing in the hotel transport line at the Punta Cana airport. Fortunately, SwissDigital came up with a creative way to alleviate your soreness.
The SwissDigital Zion Massage Backpack takes smart luggage to another level with a massaging feature that is powered by the pre-wired USB charger. Don’t feel like a back rub? You’ll still have a convenient spot for your portably battery charger, as well as a large laptop sleeve and an RFID pocket for your digital valuables. But, let’s face it, you’ll never say no to a little shoulder rub while you wait for your boarding number to be called.
For as much as we love a convenient weekender duffel or backpack for getting away on a last-second trip, there are times when nothing does the trick quite like a hardshell suitcase. Want the best of both worlds? Of course you do, and so the solution is the Delsey Aero 19-inch expandable rolling luggage, which can be just small enough to make it as a carry-on bag, but it also increases to hold and secure everything you and another person need for a nice vacation.
When open, the Aero offers two full compartments, with straps to keep your clothes in place and a divider to keep things separate. Best of all, the TSA lock will keep your good extra safe in case you have to check your bag on the return flight, and you might even crack a smile when you see the hard case tested when your bag is dropped in the rain as it’s being removed from the plane. (That happened to me twice last year, and I love this bag for it.)
SpacePak Travel System Flight 001 Packing Cubes
There is a very good reason so many travelers will encourage friends, families and even strangers to purchase a set of packing cubes: packing cubes are the best. If you’re a traveler who prides yourself on being strictly organized, then you use packing cubes to remain organized. If you’re extremely disorganized and constantly wondering why you can’t fit the basic necessities in your luggage, then packing cubes will solve all your problems. You cannot lose.
The Spacepak size set from Flight001 allows you to organize your essential clothing and gear into compartments within your luggage, and you’ll seriously be shocked at how much space these bags save. If anything, you will love the ability to separate your laundry from clean items on the return trip, which is great for people who rely on finding an unused hotel room trash bag to handle the stinky stuff.
The Pakt Backpack
For many travelers, overpackers especially, bag size matters. And no matter how much we stress the ease with which you can reduce luggage clutter and focus on packing the things that matter, some people still feel the need to throw in the kitchen sink, because “you never know when I might need to wash dishes at the beach.” For those people, the Pakt travel backpack will fulfill their needs.
Large and comfortable, the design for this bag was crowdsourced from professional travelers so that every aspect of the travel experience, from secure zippers to easily accessible pockets, would be considered. Simply put, this backpack is like carrying a suitcase on your shoulders, but you barely notice the weight. Add in the comfort, style and bevvy of storage options, and this bag will accompany me on journeys for many years to come.
Backpacks come in all shapes and sizes, and they have so many bells and whistles these days that some brands forget that these bags should also look good. After all, there’s a huge style component to travel, and some people care as much about how their luggage looks as they do the performance and durability. For those people—especially those extremely specific souls who want a bag to look good, perform well and keep the load compact—that bag is the Briggs & Riley Large Roll-Top Backpack.
Looking at this backpack’s exterior, you might not expect much, based on its sleek appearance and the two simple zippered pockets on each side, but the interior tells a much different story. Undo the roll-top and you’ll discover multiple compartments that will handle every last accessory you’d think to bring. Of course there are laptop and tablet sleeves, and pockets for your passport and other important papers, but you’ll also find ample space for extra clothes and even a hidden RFID shield pocket to keep your digital items safe.
Electronics and Gadgets
Nebula Capsule Max
True or false: You can bring a movie projector on vacation and it will take up less space than one shoe. Pencils down! The answer is true. Technophiles probably know this, but movie projectors have come a long way since the days of schoolteachers wheeling them in to kill an hour of class. And the Nebula Capsule Max from Anker makes it easier than ever to bring a theater in your luggage, just in case you need to kill some time with the kids between beach excursions at your vacation villa or even on the wall of your hotel room. Or, if you don’t have a family vacation planned anytime soon, it’ll make an evening in the backyard perfect for everyone.
This device has quickly become one of my favorite toys at home—my son won’t watch PJ Masks unless it’s on the projector now—and what makes this Nebula worth every penny is how easily it switches from Netflix to Amazon Prime Video to my own video files to a Bluetooth speaker, all at the swipe of a finger on my iPhone. It is truly that cool.
Treblab HD77 Portable Speaker
Speaking of my four-year-old son—or my gear intern, as I call him—he is a huge fan of spontaneous dance parties, and specifically likes me to have “Friends are Family” from The Lego Batman Movie on standby for whenever he’s ready to bust a move. This became a recurring experience once he realized that I have a variety of Bluetooth speakers sitting around the home office for testing purposes, and so if you’re curious to know which one he prefers for jamming out like the Caped Crusader, it’s the loud, clear and lightweight Treblab HD77 outdoor wireless speaker.
This is also one of my favorites as well, because, like the Treblab E3 headphones, the sound is crisp and powerful, and the battery life is especially great for travel purposes (20 hours of continuous play). The water resistant HD77 is especially ideal for poolside jams, and the shockproof design even keeps it safe from whoopsies and clumsy toddlers who are drawn to the very simple buttons.
Anker PowerCore III Sense 10K
With battery-powered backpacks all the rage and extra battery chargers all but certain as a travel necessity in the smart device era, it’s time that we focus on crucial aspects like size and weight as much as function. Yes, there are lightweight portable chargers out there, but some of them might give you one full phone charge tops, and after that you’re on your own until you’re back home or at the hotel. For some that’s fine, but for those of us taking countless photos and video with multiple devices, we need a charger that offers multiple charges, and we’d prefer it doesn’t feel like a brick in our backpack.
Are we being picky? Not really. Not with Anker’s PowerCore III Sense 10K fulfilling those wishes and giving us a sleek, even stylish battery charger that can provide two iPhone or Google Pixel charges, or almost one full iPad Pro charge, all while weighing less than half a pound. Just as great is the recharge time of 4.5 hours, which means a good night’s sleep will be greeted with a fully charged battery pack for another day of action shots and sightseeing.
Anker PowerLine+ III Gold Lightning Cable
On a recent trip, I experienced one of those classic “Oh (expletive)” moments in the boarding area for my departure flight. I realized that I forgot my primary lightning cable, and while I know I had another in my roller bag, that was already checked and would do my no good in the airport and on my flight (I like to keep my phone as close to fully charged as possible). So, I had to do what I thought I never would… I bought a new cable from the airport gift shop.
I know, I’m still really bitter about the cost.
Here’s the thing, though: a good lightning cable is as important as the device it’s charging. I have had cables that were allegedly indestructible and would last forever, and within two years the threading was unraveling, wires were exposed and the USB port just stopped working. So, if you want the best, you pay for it, and Anker’s 2020 Special Edition 24K lightning cable is probably the best, most well-designed cable I have ever owned, as the flexible design and construction will supposedly withstand 35,000 bends. I hope to see that through!
Does a lightning cable need to be fancy? Does it deserve to be fancy? Consider this: You are using this cable to charge expensive, fancy phones, tablets, action cameras, laptops, etc. Why wouldn’t you want a cable that adds to the presentation? You deserve the quality more than anything, so consider the gold to be the cherry on top.
HydraCell Utility Lantern
It doesn’t hurt to make a flashlight a permanent part of your travel gear. Yes, your smart phone has a flashlight, but that’s battery power you can’t afford to burn on vacation. But even if you have a pocket light in your bag, there’s a chance you could still find yourself in a bad battery situation, and that’s especially bad if you’re taking an adventure-based trip. So, it’s time to consider a flashlight that is powered by water.
I know, I thought it was crazy, too, but HydraCell’s waterproof flashlight and utility lantern provide great light and their batteries are powered by water. Simply dip them in water for about 15 seconds, shake them off and pop them into the devices. One dip can last more than 250 hours, and while the flashlight and lantern are a little bulkier than most options, they won’t force you to spend $20 or more on a pack of batteries at the resort’s gift shop.
Eggtronic Power Bar
When it comes to our gadgets, we tend to be creatures of habit. Or maybe “creatures of brand” is a better way to put it. If you’re an Apple person, chances are you have an iPhone, Apple Watch, Airpods and iPad, and those are all more than likely the same contents of your travel bag. So, when it comes to charging all those devices, you can certainly bring multiple chargers and lightning cables, or you can minimize your clutter while maximizing your space with a clever charger like the Eggtronic Power Bar.
At a little more than 7-inches long and less than 3-inches wide, this power bar easily handles the charging duties for up to four devices. Two Apple MFI-certified Qi wireless spots can handle your iPhone and Airpods (if you have the newer version) or two iPhones, while a magnetic wireless charging spot perfectly fits your Apple Watch. Or, if your MacBook is in need of a quick boost, you can plug the Power Bar in as a battery pack.
And don’t worry—this isn’t an Apple commercial. The Eggtronic Power Bar also charges Samsung Galaxy Buds and other smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy, Google Pixel and more.
Indie Source Independence Mask
Face masks will not (and should not) go away anytime soon. What once seemed a peculiar travel accessory has become a mandatory piece of gear, and many of our favorite destinations won’t let people visit without them. Fortunately, many clothing companies are making stylish options for us, and we’re especially big fans of those that follow the “buy one, give one” philosophy.
Los Angeles-based Indie Source’s Independence Masks come in a variety of styles, and for each one purchased, one is donated to area service industry or healthcare professionals. This mask was also designed in cooperation with a physician’s consultant to serve as a protective cover for N95 masks.
Vuori Kore Short
From hybrid to walk varieties, with classic chinos and traditional boardshorts in between, men have so many options when it comes to choosing shorts for travel. For many of us, a regular pair of khaki shorts from the GAP or J Crew is the standard bearer, but that doesn’t serve us well for trips that are based around adventure, exploration and fitness. And the last thing we want is to bring 10 different pairs of shorts with us, which is why it’s great that Vuori’s Kore Short simply exists.
With a boxer-brief liner built in, the Kore Short is like a swimsuit for dry land. The style is perfect for everything from yoga to long-distance hiking, and if you spontaneously leap from a ledge into the stunning Caribbean water below, you won’t regret it on the ride home like you would with those other shorts. Just remember to leave your phone in your bag.
United by Blue Women’s Original Hybrid Short
Again, the ability to go the whole day without having to swing by the hotel for a quick change is so important to a successful vacation (especially if you’re easily tempted by naps or pool drinks). United by Blue’s Original Hybrid Short most importantly offers comfort and durability, but also the flexibility to go from the yoga studio to the hiking trails around the Arenal Volcano, while dipping in the hot springs should you feel the need.
Even better, while you’re enjoying beautiful beaches, parks and forests, you’ll find peace of mind in knowing that United by Blue has long been commited to using sustainable materials that benefit the environment.
Long flights are typically uncomfortable, even if you’ve been blessed with a seat in business or first class. As airplane seats shrink, so does our leg room, and the middle seat on a long flight is just about the worst thing a traveler could ask for. It’s not even over when the plane lands, as you could stand in the customs line (welcome to Miami!) and at the baggage carousel even longer, and then you still need to take a cab or shuttle to the resort. That’s a lot of pressure on your poor legs, and all of this is a key reason why compression socks have become so popular.
Nabee compression socks were conceived by a nurse following a long night shift, and they’ve been designed to provide comfort and relief to your legs and feet without sliding down, and that’s why they’ve been especially popular among athletes—not to mention for their purported benefits in alleviating pain and possibly preventing spider veins. At the very least, they’ll make you forget about your lack of leg space on long flights, and that’s a great reason alone to try them.
Feetures Everyday No Show Socks
On the other end of the sock spectrum, there’s the no-show look for people who want comfort but don’t want their socks sticking out of their low-rise shoes. The style is especially great for travelers who like to hike, run and explore on vacation, as these socks pair well with athletic shoes and slip-ons.
The Feetures Everyday No Show socks use silicon “Heel Hugger” technology to fit like a glove for your foot, while providing comfort that feels like a regular sock. Toss a few pairs in your overnight bag and you’ll be covered for everything from your morning run to a casual dinner by the ocean.
American Backcountry’s National Parks Line
The hardest part of being stuck at home is resisting the urge to drop everything and take off to our favorite destinations for the weekend. And sometimes, even when there are no restrictions, we simply have too much going on at home.
So, we keep reminders of our favorite islands, beaches and parks, like American Backcountry’s National Parks and destinations t-shirts that pay tribute to everywhere from Big Sur to Zion National Park. If we can’t be there, we can certainly let everyone know we’re thinking about it.
Fair Harbor Anchor Short
What makes Fair Harbor’s swimsuits so unique is that their primary ingredient is recycled plastic bottles. That might lead you to believe that the popular Anchor Short isn’t comfortable, but it’s exactly the opposite. Created by a brother and sister who love surfing and named the company for their favorite childhood beach, Fair Harbor’s styles have been designed not only with compassion for the oceans in mind, but also functional, durable beach attire.
The company also recently celebrated World Oceans Day by announcing its collaboration with the popular clothing brand UNTUCKit, and the result is a new line of men’s swimwear boasting Fair Harbor’s anti-chafe liner that is way more comfortable than standard mesh liners.
While we love swimsuits that are designed to be eco-friendly and made from recycled materials, we also want them to look really good. That’s at least part of the driving force behind “serial mom-preneur” Andréa Bernholtz’s Swiminista swimsuits, which are made from luxury recycled fabrics (and fabric made from post-consumer plastics) and as stylish and supportive as they are environmentally conscious.
And for unique times when we can’t get out of the house as much as we’d like, Swiminista offers a try-at-home option to make sure women find their perfect fits.
Aqua Lung Versa Mask
As much as I love snorkeling on vacation, using rental equipment was already something that didn’t thrill me, mostly because of the quality of equipment, but also because I never know how well that stuff is cleaned. Now, it is most certainly off the table. That means I need a lightweight mask and snorkel that can slide into my bag and not take up a ton of space. So, when Aqua Lung announced the “Mask of Tomorrow” earlier this year, I figured that was worth a shot.
The Versa mask is everything Aqua Lung claimed and more, as it is surprisingly lightweight with a curved mask that allows amazing visibility with no fog. Best of all, the fabric head strap and hypoallergenic silicon face skirt make this mask so comfortable that you’ll barely notice it. Pair it with a snorkel like the Zephyr, and your bag will be all set for the next reef exploring adventure.
Gogh Jewelry Design Zero Waste Necklace
Not long after we were tipped off about designer Szilvia Gogh’s incredible combination of creativity and generosity did she add another pair of awards to her long, amazing list of accomplishments. The Women’s Divers’ Hall of Fame member and founder of Gogh Jewelry Design recently earned the People’s Choice and Industry Choice honors at the 2020 COVR Visionary Awards for her Zero Waste Necklace, and the recognition is well-deserved.
Tapping into her scuba diving history and inspired by artists and companies who up-cycle trash from the ocean, Gogh repurposes discarded scuba diving parts and pieces for her Zero Waste Necklace and the collection’s other pieces. The materials are paired with amazonite, sea glass and lava stone, and the result is a uniquely beautiful piece that is ideal for anyone who loves and appreciates Mother Ocean.
Chelsea King Active+Swim Scrunchies
Scrunchies are back in a big way, and a lot of popular influencers and celebrities have been raving about Chelsea King’s line. My team of expert testers (read: my niece and her friends) is particularly fond of the Active+Swim line, which allows them to incorporate bright colors and big accessories into their summer of fun in and around the water.
Another thing we love is the Healthcare Heroes Program, which recognizes the importance of medical workers keeping clean and neat by offering a #scrunchiesandscrubs discount to show appreciation for the front line efforts.
Try finding a reasonably priced sneaker cleaner that can slide into your luggage and take up very little space. Better yet, try finding one that does that and also lives up to the hype. It’s tougher than it seems, because I have tried almost every sneaker wipe on the market with little satisfaction, especially when it comes to the prices. (And as someone who deals with driver’s/flyer’s heel a lot—when the heel of your shoe is worn and discolored by the carpet in your car or under an airplane seat—this is a very serious accessory issue to me.)
From price to performance, Sneaker LAB Wipes are a slam dunk, and especially helpful is how both the sneaker and leather wipes are no bigger than wet naps. That’ll go a long, long way in your toiletry bag, especially if you have multiple pairs of shoes taking up precious luggage space.
Lita’s All-Natural Insect Repellent Travel Kit
Beach, pool, jungle, hotel bar—no matter where you prefer to spend your time on vacation, you probably know the immense value of bug spray. Depending on the destination, bug spray can be as crucial as suntan lotion, so a few travel bottles of relief should have a permanent home in your toiletry case.
Or, if you’re traveling with the whole family, you bring a dedicated set like Lita’s All-Natural Insect Repellent Travel Kit, which comes in a hard shell case that is important for separating the distinct smell from the rest of your gear. That’s not to say the smell of Lita’s products isn’t enjoyable, and this kit includes everything you’ll need: one spray bottle of the insect repellent, one bottle of the dual purpose (repellent and bite relief), one small bottle of the bite relief, one dual purpose roll-on tube, and one empty spray bottle for refills and extra spray. Better safe than itchy.
Gloves in a Bottle
If you are traveling right now, be it to the local beach or one of the Caribbean islands that has recently reopened, you should be well aware that every personal safety measure matters. If you’re not aware, don’t worry—we plan to keep reminding people that cleanliness and good hygiene are more important than ever. That starts with wearing face masks and washing your hands a lot, but that doesn’t mean that your hands and face don’t need just as much protection from the sun, too.
With all the soap and sanitizer you should be using on your hands, you can’t forget your skin. Fortunately, Gloves in a Bottle is a convenient lotion designed to aid your skin and protect it from damage caused by cosmetics and pollutants, while also acting as a sunscreen. It’s an all-in-one formula that slides right into your toiletry bag.
PoolCandy SplashRunner 2.0
Throughout history there have been amazing inventors who have given us things like airplanes, cars and the cheesy gordita crunch. Up there with Nikola Tesla and Leonardo Da Vinci should be the inventor of the PoolCandy SplashRunner, as this genius bravely asked, “What if we put a motor on an inflatable pool lounger?”
Now, the PoolCandy SplashRunner 2.0 boasts a new propeller design that increases speed by up to 20 percent. You know, for those moments when you realize you drifted to the opposite side of pool from your radio and a Sugar Ray song threatens to ruin the vibes. Or, you know, you just want to find a spot with better shade.
Food and Drink
Breeo Outpost 24
Backyard adventurists and grilling aficionados are probably already familiar with the Breeo X Series smokeless fire pit, but if you’re not it is the mother of all smokeless fire pits. The X Airflow technology basically ensures that your backyard fire is all flame and no smoke, which means that you never have to worry about getting a face (and nose) full. What makes these pits so cool, though, is how the outer rim also serves as a sear plate, allowing you to wow your friends and family by making delicious burgers and steaks over fireside conversation.
The only problem? You can’t take your Breeo on vacation. You can, however, take the Outpost 24 with you, as it can go from providing an additional cooking surface above your X Series to acting as a campfire grill. All you have to do is plant the Anchorpoint in the ground, lock the post in place and add the grill. Then, as I recently enjoyed for myself, it’s s’mores for everyone!
Well Told Map Glassware
When it comes to your home bar, everything that can be seen should be decorative. That goes for bottles, books, tools and especially glassware. In fact, most people have that one set of glasses solely for looking at and definitely not touching. But we think that’s snobby. Instead, you should want people to use your glassware so they’ll always remember it for how unique it is, and sometimes it might even spark some fun conversations.
That’s likely the case with the Well Told city collection, which features coffee mugs (pictured), rocks glasses, champagne flutes and even mason jars, among others. Whether sipping java or downing a pint of your favorite IPA, people love talking about their hometowns, so this unique design will probably, at the very least, reignite some old sports rivalries.
Trader Vic’s Tiki Mug 3-Pack
Home or abroad, every cocktail enthusiast should have a favorite piece of glassware, or chalice, if you will. Mine is the Trader Vic’s red Maori Haka mug, because if it’s good enough for the brand that gifted us the Mai Tai, then it’s good enough for me. More importantly, it keeps my delicious tropical cocktails chilled long enough for me to sip them without them being reduced to cold syrup water, and with as much as we’ve been learning about cocktails lately, mine is keeping very busy.
So, why not make sure you have your favorite guests covered with the Trader Vic’s Tiki Mug 3-Pack, which includes the red and white Maori Haka mugs and one Notu mug?
Mondo’s Thanos Tiki Mug
Or, if you want something a little more modern for your cocktails, this is literally the Mad Titan of Tiki mugs. Mondo has a fun variety of characters and styles, but I’m always partial to Marvel gear, especially when it involves Thanos, everyone’s favorite purple villain.
Bamboo Tequila Tasting Set
As much as we love busting out the blender and whipping up a pitcher or two of our favorite margaritas, the best tequilas and mezcals are meant to be sipped, not mixed. For the special bottles in your collection—and those occasions when you want to show off your knowledge as much as your favorite reposado—this all-in-one tasting set is a stylish, convenient way to present your tequila.
The Bamboo Tequila Tasting Set includes six ceramic shot glasses, a ceramic knife and a bamboo cutting board for slicing limes (I also recommend orange slices) just right.
The Cocktail Box Co.
Becoming a poolside bartender isn’t easy. We can share cocktail recipes from every resort in the world, but only practice makes perfect. Sometimes the best way to learn is with step-by-step instructions and the exact ingredients and measurements already set out for you. Short of having a professional bartender hold your hand, that’s the experience you will get from the Cocktail Box Co. kits.
Perfect as gifts or for bringing beloved classic cocktails on long flights, these kits aren’t a gimmick. I’ve used my old fashioned kit several times and it has helped me nail the basics of making my favorite non-margarita drink, and each time I try to be a little more experimental with the bitters and other factors (I failed miserably at creating a smoke bubble, but at least I tried). It’s like I always say, starting right now: Confidence makes the best cocktails.