The Best Travel Accessories We Never Leave Home Without

Sure, you’d never travel without your toothbrush—but what about a refillable toothpaste tube?

When packing, there are things we all reach for: toiletries, clothes, shoes. But then there are also various travel accessories some of us would never leave home without. The small things we wouldn’t consider as essential as, say, our passports, but nonetheless make travel easier. Things that solve (or at least lessen) the little problems that pop up along the way—like sleeping in uncomfortable airplane seats, dealing with tangled cords, or reducing single-use plastic waste.

At AFAR, our staff has spent many hours searching for and testing travel accessories that help us along every leg of the journey—many of which are sustainably made, several from small businesses. This list reflects our tried-and-true favorites, the items that, now we’ve traveled with them, we never leave home without.

Whether you’re hopping on a plane to a far-flung destination, or taking a short road trip close to home, consider packing these essential travel accessories.

Matador Refillable Toothpaste Tubes in black and white

Matador’s refillable toothpaste tubes come in a set of two sizes for shorter and longer trips.

Courtesy of Matador

Matador Refillable Toothpaste Tubes

Sick of buying those tiny plastic tubes of toothpaste and tossing them after just a few uses, but don’t like the texture of chewable toothpaste tablets? Thankfully, travel gear brand Matador came up with a brilliant ecofriendly alternative. This set of reusable toothpaste tubes comes with a one-week capacity tube and a larger two-week capacity tube that can be filled (and refilled) infinitely with the Crest or Colgate you keep at home. Just remove the sliding clip at the back end, add toothpaste to the “max fill” line, fold at the “fold line” and replace the clip. The sliding clip can be a little finicky to use at first, but once you do it a few times, it gets much easier.

Anker charging block

Eliminate packing single-use devices with ones that are multipurpose like this 3-in-1 charger.

Courtesy of Amazon

Anker 3-in-1 737 Charger

  • Problem it solves: Packing multiple charging bricks for your electronics
  • Buy now: $80,;

Whether you’re traveling or simply bringing your laptop to the local coffee shop, this charging brick from Anker has three ports—two USB-C and one USB-A. That means you can charge your computer, iPhone, and one more device all at the same time so you don’t have to pack multiple charging bricks.

Travel carbon monoxide detector

Better safe than sorry.

Courtesy of Amazon

Carbon Monoxide Detector

  • Problem it solves: Protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning while traveling
  • Buy now: $23,

Although many states require carbon monoxide detectors to be installed in private residences, not all hotels are required to have such safeguards in place. To be safe, pack a plug-in model with battery backup like the Kidde Carbon Monoxide Detector. It’s about the size of a (very thick) iPhone, so it doesn’t take up too much space in a carry-on. The Kidde emits four beeps in quick succession when it detects CO, while other carbon monoxide detectors may have verbal alerts. (A smoke alarm will sound different; it might have a three-beep pattern, for example.)

Woman wearing gray Trtl travel pillow wrapped around her neck

The Trtl Travel Pillow is also available in a smaller size for kids.

Courtesy of Trtl

Trtl Travel Pillow

  • Problem it solves: Sleeping comfortably on planes, trains, and long car rides
  • Buy now: $45 (was $50),

Finding a travel pillow that actually works can be tricky, but several AFAR editors swear by the Trtl travel pillow. Any qualms about looking silly instantly disappear as soon as you use this ergonomically designed travel pillow (which keeps your head from bobbing around). “It feels a little strange putting it on the first time and sort of looks like a neck brace,” said Rosalie Tinelli, AFAR’s former senior audience development manager. “But who cares how it looks when you’re getting peaceful sleep on an airplane and waking up with zero neck stiffness?”

Available in a variety of colors, as well as a kids’ version (ages 8+), and an adjustable, more-breathable Trtl Pillow Plus, this travel pillow is easily one of our favorites.

Pink portable pill case

These portable pill cases come with six small sections for just-in-case meds and two larger ones for daily vitamins.

Courtesy of Amazon

Travel Pill Case

Plenty of products go viral on TikTok, but these compact pill cases that act as a portable pharmacy are probably one of the most practical items to get millions of views on the video-sharing platform. Instead of packing a dopp kit with multiple bottles of Tylenol, Dramamine, and other over-the-counter meds, these space-saving pill cases let you decant them into eight small sections. Just be sure to label the sections so you tell your vitamins apart from your other meds.

White Apple AirPods Pro in case

These little headphones come with a myriad of travel-friendly features.

Courtesy of Apple

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation)

  • Problem it solves: Noisy public spaces
  • Buy now: $200 (was $249),

You may have already heard rave reviews of Apple’s AirPods Pro for everyday use, but they’re also fantastic travel headphones. These compact, cordless earbuds come with travel-friendly features like noise-cancellation, a 30-hour battery life, and flexible silicone tips that help the earbuds stay in your ear (and not, say, lost inside your airplane seat).

Set of three Eagle Creek packing cubes in yellow and different sizes

The Eagle Creek Pack-It Packing Cubes come in a variety of colors and styles.

Courtesy of Eagle Creek

Eagle Creek Pack-It Packing Cubes

  • Problem it solves: Staying organized on the go
  • Buy now: Pack-It Starter Set, $41 (was $55),

If you’re not a packing cube convert yet, give it a go: The cubes really do keep the contents of your luggage neat, folded, and well organized. Although there are many options to choose from, several AFAR editors cite Eagle Creek’s popular Pack-It packing cube system as their go-to choice. The starter set comes with a garment folder, a medium-size cube, and a small cube. Added bonus: Eagle Creek designs its products to have minimal negative environmental impact by keeping them PVC free and incorporating recycled materials.

White Airfly Pro

This clever device allows you to watch movies on airplanes with wireless headphones.

Courtesy of Twelve South

Twelve South AirFly Pro

It’s possible to use wireless headphones to watch movies on in-seat screens on airplanes with the Twelve South AirFly Pro wireless transmitter. It plugs into the headphone jack in airplane seats and sends audio signals via Bluetooth to your headphones. (It also works as an AUX IN adapter in a rental car.) It has a 16-hour battery life and is roughly the size of a matchbox.

Set of three striped Baggu 3D Zip pouches filled with clothes and shoes

These Baggu pouches can be used to organize anything, but the two bigger ones are great for shoes.

Courtesy of Baggu

Baggu 3D Zip Set

  • Problem it solves: Keeping your dirty shoes separate from everything else
  • Buy now: $36 for three,

If the thought of letting the crud on the soles of your shoes come into contact with your clean clothes, your toiletry bag, or even a hat inside your luggage makes you queasy, invest in travel shoe bags. The quickest fix—that you likely already have in your home—are plastic grocery bags or large Ziplocs. But there are a few sturdier and more sustainable options like the Baggu 3D Zip Set. Made from recycled ripstop nylon, this trio of zip pouches can fit a variety of items. But the medium and large pouches are perfectly sized for stashing flip-flops, flats, and even sneakers. (The small pouch is best for organizing toiletries or charging cords.)

Black Matador Flatpack bottle

Prevent leaks in your toiletry bags with the Matador Flatpack bottle.

Courtesy of Matador

Matador FlatPak Toiletry Bottle

  • Problem it solves: Leaky, single-use travel containers for gels, liquids, and creams
  • Buy now: $14 for one, $38 for three;

Rather than buy disposable, travel-size toiletries that might leak or explode in your bag, invest in good-quality reusable bottles for your lotions, shampoo, soap, and other liquids. For this, AFAR contributor Maggie Fuller recommends the Matador FlatPack toiletry bottles, which—despite the name—look more like little bags. These TSA-approved, three-ounce bottles are compact, leak-proof, and easy to squish into your toiletry bag.

Leather cord tacos

These leather cord tacos contain unruly charging cords.

Courtesy of This Is Ground

This is Ground Cord Taco

  • Problem it solves: Tangled cords taking over your bag
  • Buy now: $25 for three,

Whether it’s headphones or chargers, we all travel with cords that all too easily tangle into knots or with each other and other small items in our bag. To keep them in order, AFAR editor at large Laura Dannen Redman recommends the Cord Tacos by This is Ground. Handmade in Los Angeles, these tiny leather “tacos” wrap around your cords and snap closed to keep them neat and coiled up on the go.

Purple eye mask in box

This eye mask comes in a variety of colors, including purple seen here.

Courtesy of Asutra

Asutra Eye Pillow

The Asutra Eye Pillow is ideal for when you’re trying to sleep on a plane or in a too-bright hotel room. It’s made with ultra-comfortable silk, it blocks out all light (so it won’t matter if your seatmate insists on reading the whole flight), and it’s filled with lavender and flax seeds, giving the effect of a calming weighted blanket for your face. You might want to wear this one every night—even when your PTO days have come to end.

Vapur Anti-Bottle in blue full and folded down

The Vapur Anti-Bottle folds down to next to nothing when it’s empty.

Courtesy of Amazon

Vapur Anti-Bottle Water Bottle

  • Problem it solves: Staying hydrated on the go
  • Buy now: from $9,

Packing a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated while reducing waste is a no brainer these days. For those of us who don’t need a bulky 32-ounce bottle taking up precious room in our carry-ons, the Vapur Anti-Bottle—a BPA-free plastic water pouch that can roll up into practically nothing when empty—is a must pack item.

Travel Tube Blanket

  • Problem it solves: Cold airplanes, trains, or destinations
  • Buy now: $64,

Why pack a blanket and a scarf when you can have a blanket scarf? To keep warm on planes, dining outside, and everywhere in between, reach for one of the versatile blanket scarves by Seattle-based and women-owned Travel Tube Blankets. Made from a soft, stretchy knit fabric, the Classic Travel Tube Blanket can be worn like an infinity scarf when rolled up. Unraveled, it transforms into a 4.5-foot-long, tube-like blanket (kind of like a sleeping bag without the bottom seam) or a shawl to toss over your shoulders.

Amber-colored bottle of Aesop hand sanitizer

The Aesop hand sanitizer contains aloe vera, to keep from drying out your hands.

Courtesy of Aesop

Aesop Resurrection Rinse-Free Hand Mist

Hand sanitizer has always been an essential travel accessory, but it is even more so following the COVID pandemic. Fortunately for travelers, Australian brand Aesop has a spray version of its popular Resurrection Rinse-Free Hand Wash. Featuring the same refreshing citrus scent, this alcohol-based sanitizer also contains aloe vera so your hands don’t dry out.

Metal and wood Snow Peak Wabuki Chopsticks with red carrying case

Snow Peak’s chopsticks fold down into an included carrying case.

Courtesy of Snow Peak

Snow Peak Reusable Utensils

  • Problem it solves: Relying on single-use plastic cutlery on the road
  • Buy now: Titanium Fork and Spoon Set, $27,; Wabuki Chopsticks, $50,

Reusable utensils may not be the first thing you reach for when packing, but they can be surprisingly handy—for takeout, picnics, or eating an emergency pack of ramen in a hotel room after all the restaurants have shut for the night. “I always pack my Snow Peak cutlery set, while my husband takes their collapsible chopsticks, so we can skip the disposable utensils,” says Jessie Beck, AFAR’s associate director, SEO, product & video. Both come with a dedicated carrying case so you can keep your utensils separate from the rest of the things in your bag.

Epicka universal travel adapter in black

This universal travel adapter fits plugs in over 150 countries.

Courtesy of Amazon

Epicka Universal Travel Adapter

  • Problem it solves: Charging electronics in other countries
  • Buy now: $23,

For international travel, a universal travel adapter is a must-have accessory. This compact one from Epicka comes with plugs that you can use in more than 150 countries, including the United States, Australia, England, and most of those in the EU. With an AC socket, four USB-A ports, and one USB-C port, it also lets you charge up to six devices at once—saving you the need for multiple adapters.

Jar of face cream

This rich face cream quenches dry skin on long flights.

Courtesy of Blue Lagoon Iceland

BL+ the Cream

Prevent feeling like a dried out husk on your next long flight by layering on an ultra rich face cream like the BL+ the Cream from Blue Lagoon Iceland. It’s made with microalgae and silica sourced from the same geothermal source as those famous blue pools. The travel-friendly 15-ml pot may be pricey—but a little goes a long way.
This article was originally published in 2021; it was updated on December 14, 2023, with new information.

Lyndsey Matthews is the senior commerce editor at AFAR who covers travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.
From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More from AFAR