The 20 Most Popular Travel Essentials AFAR Readers Bought in 2023

Of all the travel products AFAR recommended this year, the most purchased items included luggage, water bottles, and several items for keeping you—and your belongings—safe.

Collage of travel gear on colorful backgrounds

Can you guess which item of travel gear was the most popular in 2023?

Courtesy of manufacturers

When AFAR recommends travel gear, we hope to guide conscientious travelers to the essentials we’re totally obsessed with, never leave behind, and can’t stop telling our friends about. That way, when buying new gear is necessary, you know you’re making a responsible choice and investing in the best products.

Of the hundreds of products we recommended this year, exactly what you ended up clicking on and buying is also fascinating to us. Here, we count down the top 20 travel products AFAR readers bought the most in 2023, including water bottles for you and your dog, Away luggage, and several safety essentials.

The Large Away suitcase in seafoam green

The Large Away suitcase has capacity for trips up to two weeks long.

Courtesy of Away

20. The Large by Away

Coming in at number 20 is the large checked version of this direct-to-consumer luggage brand’s popular polycarbonate suitcase. Made with a durable yet lightweight polycarbonate shell, the 12.1-pound Large by Away holds 99.2 liters of clothes and is separated into two larger clamshell compartments. It also includes TSA-approved combination locks, a laundry bag, and an interior mesh compression system that packs down bulky items. The bag has Hinomoto wheels—arguably the highest quality wheels in the luggage industry and made with ball bearings to ensure an ultra-smooth ride. Plus, Away debuted a full redesign of all of its hard-shell suitcases in 2023 based on customer feedback over the years. These bags now come with underside grab handles that make them easier to pull and lift, curved zipper pulls, and more interior pockets. It was so popular that it sold out in six colors. Don’t worry: It’s still available in seafoam green and a cobalt blue if you are interested in buying this suitcase.

Springer Classic Dog Travel Bottle in Green

Dogs deserve travel gear, too!

Courtesy of Springer Pets

19. Springer Dog Water Bottle

Who are we to disagree with Oprah? Among the entries on her Favorite Things list this year was this ingenious water bottle, also featured on Shark Tank. Made from BPA-free plastic, it’s a drip-free way to keep your pets hydrated without having to pack a separate bowl for your flight or road trip. The 22-ounce bottle has a built-in bowl on top: Squeeze to fill the vessel with water and let your dog drink, then release to allow the water to drain back into the bottle below. It comes in mini (15 ounces), flip (20 ounces), and growler (44 ounces) sizes, all with attached carabiners for easy carrying.

Airplane Pockets tray table cover on an airplane seat

This travel device covers dirty tray tables on airplanes and provides extra storage pockets.

Courtesy of Amazon

18. Airplane Pockets Airplane Tray Table Cover

One of the dirtiest places aboard airplanes that’s touched frequently—and not subject to a thorough scrub (or any scrub!) between flights—is the tray table. A flight attendant, who preferred not to give her name as she is still employed by a major U.S. airline, told AFAR that these aren’t, in fact, typically wiped down with any regularity “unless we’ve reported that somebody has thrown up or that there’s been a massive spill of some sort.” Those who are really grossed out and want to take an extra step beyond wiping down the surface can get one of these stretchy airplane tray table covers with built-in pockets.

Green Safego Lockbox

This lockbox has room for your phone, keys, wallet, and more.

Courtesy of Amazon

17. SafeGo Portable Travel Lock Box Safe

On public beaches, this SafeGo lock box allows you to stow your belongings inside and securely lock it to a beach chair or picnic table with its 17-inch steel cable. The portable lock box also has both combination and key access and can fit everything from your cell phone to your camera inside of it.

Blue Away carry-on suitcase

The Carry-On by Away is sized to bring on domestic and international airlines.

Courtesy of Away

16. The Carry-On by Away

Although Away’s Bigger Carry-On is the top choice of our editors, AFAR readers bought more of the brand’s regular size carry-on in 2023. It has all the same updated features as the large Away suitcase mentioned above, just sized down to fit into overhead bins of most airlines. It comes with 39.8 liters of space for packing clothes and only weighs 7.2 pounds.

TravelPro Maxlite soft-side suitcase in black

This soft-sided suitcase comes in classic black, as well as pink, purple, blue, and green.

Courtesy of Travelpro

15. Travelpro Maxlite 5 22" Expandable Carry-On Rollaboard

Our favorite soft-side bag on AFAR’s list of the best carry-on luggage of 2023, this durable nylon suitcase is virtually indestructible, has timeless appeal, and is a fan-favorite of two-wheeled and soft-side luggage devotees. (There’s a reason Travelpro is a go-to brand for flight attendants.) The ultra-lightweight (only 5.4 pounds!) Maxlite 5 carry-on suitcase is sized to meet most domestic airline carry-on size restrictions. In addition to one extra roomy interior compartment, this soft-shell bag also has two exterior front pockets for easy-access stashing. When you need some wiggle room, the suitcase can expand up to two extra inches to maximize its packing potential, but a tapered design keeps it from toppling over. If anything does happen to your Travelpro suitcase, it’s backed by the company’s limited warranty that covers things like broken zippers, wheels, and handles.

Joto waterproof phone pouch next to its box

Keep your phone safe and dry at the beach or pool.

Courtesy of Amazon

14. Joto Large Waterproof Floating Phone Pouch

Travelers looking for ways to keep their valuables safe on the beach gravitated toward this waterproof pouch that can fit most cell phones and is touch-friendly, so you can snap pics while you’re in the ocean, too. While the original has more than 50,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, this newer—and larger—version is designed to float on top of the water and has an extra internal pocket for organizing hotel key cards and credit cards.

Sun Bum leave-in conditioner bottle

Protect your hair from sun and salt water.

Courtesy of Amazon

13. Sun Bum Revitalizing 3 in 1 Leave-In Conditioner

Readers headed off to enjoy sun and sand took advice from our beach vacation packing list and stocked up on this after-sun leave-in hair conditioner, which detangles, conditions, and protects hair from the damaging effects of the sun and salt water. In addition to a four-ounce bottle, Sun Bum also sells it on Amazon in packs of three 1.5-ounce bottles, perfect for your carry-on.

Chimes Ginger Chews bag

This tasty snack also helps ease an upset stomach.

Courtesy of Amazon

12. Chimes Ginger Chews

Getting seasick is no fun—and you especially don’t want to let it ruin a once-in-a-lifetime trip. In AFAR’s guide to preparing for a trip to Antarctica, associate podcast director Aislyn Greene doled out savvy advice for how to handle seasickness while crossing the Drake Passage. In addition to asking your doctor about prescription medicines like the Transderm Scop patch and Promethazine, Greene also recommends packing ginger candies like Chimes Ginger Chews to help ease symptoms.

Blue Rumpl travel blanket rolled up next to a Nalgene for size comparison

Rumpl blankets take up the same amount of space as a Nalgene water bottle.

Courtesy of Rumpl

11. Rumpl NanoLoft Travel Blanket

The Rumpl NanoLoft Travel Blanket is the closest you can get to bringing a sleeping bag on an airplane—minus the bulk. When stuffed into its included carry sack, the puffy blanket is the size of a Nalgene water bottle and weighs only 0.7 pound. When unfurled, it should cover most of your entire seated body from your neck to your toes, and the “Cape Clip” allows you to secure the blanket loosely around your neck so it doesn’t slip off your shoulders while you’re sleeping. Each travel blanket is made from 20 recycled plastic water bottles, and you’ll feel good knowing that Rumpl is a Climate Neutral Certified brand that offsets its full carbon footprint; it also donates 1 percent of its annual sales via 1% for the Planet to support environmental nonprofits like Outdoor Afro, the National Parks Foundation, and more.

One AirTag

This quarter-size product will prevent headaches over lost bags in the future.

Courtesy of Apple

10. Apple AirTag

Staunch members of Team Checked Bag invested in a number of AirTags in 2023. This Bluetooth tracking device is designed to help users locate easily loseable items, such as keys, wallets, or luggage. The disc-shaped, quarter-sized tracker can either be tucked into a pocket or attached with the purchase of an optional key fob and is tracked through Apple’s Find My network (just like the iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods). It can also play a tone and has Precision Finding (an on-screen feature that uses directional arrows and the distance between the phone and the AirTag) for easier locating.

Dark brown wood luggage rack with shelf

Keep your suitcase off your bed with a luggage rack.

Courtesy of Amazon

9. Winsome 92436 Luggage Rack with Shelf

When we told you to stop packing your suitcase on your bed, you listened. We know this because we can see that hundreds of you actually bought luggage racks online to avoid putting those dirty suitcase wheels on your white comforter ever again. While Amazon has plenty of options under $100, this wooden model is a steal at $21 and comes with a bonus shelf underneath for storing shoes.

Two Thule compression packing cubes

These semi-transparent packing cubes have durable compression zippers to maximize your packing space.

Courtesy of Thule

8. Thule Compression Packing Cube

It’s no secret: We here at AFAR swear by packing cubes. Thule compression cubes are pricier than average but durable enough to last for years. Made with bluesign-approved ripstop nylon, they’re semitransparent, water repellent, and manufactured with minimal impact on the environment. Like other compression cubes, these feature a double set of zippers—one that closes the cube and another that zips it even tighter to eliminate extra air and reduce bulk. You can buy them individually or in a set of two with one medium and one small cube. A standard-size carry-on can fit either one medium and two small cubes, or four small cubes on each side.

Small white Bluetooth gadget that plugs into headphone jack

No need to pack an extra pair of corded headphones just for your flight.

Courtesy of Twelve South

7. Twelve South AirFly Pro

If you’re sick of swapping your personal wireless earbuds for wired headphones to enjoy seatback entertainment on a flight, this matchbox-size gadget could be the solution. The Twelve South AirFly Pro wireless transmitter 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 and has a 16-hour battery life.

Three jackets in black, green, and navy lying flat on a white backdrop

This part shirt, part jacket is a great deal.

Courtesy of 32 Degrees

6. 32 Degrees Women’s Lightweight Recycled Poly-Fill Shirt Jacket

Another item from Oprah’s Favorite Things that made our most popular items list in 2023 is this women’s shacket (a lightweight jacket that fits like a shirt) that comes in sizes XS through 2X, and a variety of colors including navy, black, and dark green. Made with synthetic recycled polyester down for warmth, it folds up easily to bring along just in case it gets cold. And at $23, it’s a steal.

Dark gray Trtl travel pillow

The Trtl doesn’t have the bulk of other travel pillows, making it easier to pack.

Courtesy of Trtl

5. Trtl Pillow

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). Sure, it sort of looks like a neck brace, but you won’t care when you’re getting peaceful sleep on an airplane and not waking up with a stiff neck. 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.

Pair of red data blockers

Keep your electronics safe from malware when charging in public places with a data blocker.

Courtesy of Amazon

4. PortaPow Data Blocker

Have you heard of “juice jacking”? It’s a scam in which criminals load malware directly into public charging stations—like the ones you find in airports—to infect your electronic devices. The malware can then export data, including your passwords, to the criminal who installed it. Several companies make USB data blockers, and PortaPow gets consistently high marks online. These devices look like regular USB chargers but have two data wires physically removed from the connector so that your device can be charged but won’t transfer any data.

Vapur Anti-Bottle in blue-green full and folded

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

Courtesy of Amazon

3. Vapur Anti-Bottle Flexible Water Bottle

Of the 10 reusable water bottles we recommended, AFAR readers opted for packability over sturdiness. The most popular water bottle by far was the Vapur Anti-Bottle, a BPA-free plastic water pouch that can roll up into practically nothing when empty.

Black Bombas Compression Socks

Bombas compression socks helps keep blood flowing through your legs on long flights.

Courtesy of Bombas

2. Bombas Everyday Compression Socks

  • Buy now: Women’s Everyday Compression Socks, $28,; Men’s Everyday Compression Socks, $28,

If you’ve ever struggled with swollen feet during a long flight or car ride—or worse, suffered deep vein thrombosis (DVT)—you know wearing a snug pair of compression socks is a must when traveling. The Bombas Everyday Compression Socks aren’t just some of our favorites—they’re yours too. They come with medium 15–20 mmHg compression levels built in from the toe to just under the knee that gently squeeze your ankles and calves to keep blood flowing toward your upper leg. Other thoughtful details include a special honeycomb knit arch support system (great for people with high arches), plus a seamless toe, a Y-stitched heel, and above-the-heel cushioning that extends to the toe. As with all other Bombas sock purchases, for every pair of socks purchased it will donate another pair to a homeless shelter or other community organization.

White travel carbon monoxide detector

Better safe than sorry.

Courtesy of Amazon

1. Kidde Carbon Monoxide Detector

The most purchased item in 2023 by far was this portable carbon monoxide detector we recommended after several traveler deaths in hotels and home rentals reminded us why this safety device is a packing list essential.

Lyndsey Matthews is the former senior commerce editor at Afar, covering travel gear, packing advice, and points and loyalty.
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