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Pack This: 11 Versatile Travel Essentials You Can’t Do Without

You’ve seen them in the airport security line with their sleek, tiny suitcases — those travelers who embark on multi-week vacations with just a 20-inch carry-on and a smug smile. How do they pack their lives into shoebox-size bags? Well, we’ve discovered their secret.

If there’s one rule of thumb by which smart packers should abide, it’s this: Pack multi-purpose items. You can pack half as much (and say “sayonara” to airline baggage fees) if you’ve got the right travel gear. Read on to discover 11 must-pack travel essentials that do double duty on the road.

Packing Organizer Meets Shelf

These packable shelves from Shelves To Go fit squarely into a suitcase, separating dirty from clean or jeans from jammies. But here’s the fantastic part: Once you arrive in your destination, there’s no need to unpack. Just lift the shelves out of your suitcase and hang the whole heap in your closet. Packable shelves are an excellent product for travelers embarking on an itinerary that involves multiple hotel stays. You can buy the shelves online at

Purse Meets RFID-Blocking Wallet

The Pocket Crossbody bag from Baggallini is a midsize bag that’s big enough to hold a water bottle or a guidebook but small enough that it won’t weigh you down. Inside is an RFID-blocking wallet that can double as a wristlet for a night out while simultaneously protecting your credit cards from RFID skimmers. Buy the bag online at

Jacket Meets Carry-On Bag

You can find jackets with a plethora of pockets in pretty much any travel supply store. But SCOTTEVEST has more pockets than your average travel jacket — to “help you achieve Pocket Nirvana,” according to its website. Some of the SCOTTEVEST jackets have as many as 43 pockets sewn into them, including an RFID-blocking sleeve for credit cards or passports, ultra-thin pockets for pens, and dedicated pouches for tablets and phones. Find the products online at or

Money Belt Meets Belt

Not only does the Eagle Creek All-Terrain Money Belt hold up your pants (an important undertaking), but it also has a zippered pocket in which you can hide your cash. Because this is, after all, a belt, the product doesn’t offer as much room as a typical money belt (the flat zippered pouch that you can wear under your clothes). Still, we like the idea of taking the whole money belt thing literally. Buy it at

Wrap Meets Sunscreen

Magellan’s Sun Protection Wrap, which features 30-plus ultraviolet protection factor (UPF), shields female travelers from harsh sunbeams while keeping them warm in cold airplanes, on windy cruise balconies and in dank medieval churches. This shawl with sleeves is very versatile, and it’s a useful product for women visiting destinations or sacred sites where a head covering is appropriate. Just pull the fabric over your head to make an impromptu veil. Buy it at

Neck Pillow Meets Furry Friend

Puzzled Super Soft Plush Neck Pillows are for kids, but I must admit I wouldn’t mind carrying one of these animal-shaped pillows myself — especially in economy class. They look comfy. Kids can use these C-shaped stuffed animals to combat all kinds of in-air angst, from stiff necks to turbulence-induced terror. Find them online at

Hammock Meets Bug Spray

In many destinations — like Alaska, where the mosquito is the unofficial state bird — the worst part of relaxing outside on a hammock is the bugs. Enter the Eagles Nest Outfitters DoubleNest Hammock with Insect Shield. It’s a packable, lightweight hammock that has room enough for two people when it unfolds. The hammock has been treated with permethrin, a safe and odorless insect repellent that wards off mosquitoes, ticks, mites and other pests. You can buy the bug-beating hammock at

Shirt Meets Bug Spray

If they can make a bug-repellent hammock, they can make a bug-repellent shirt. And they did. ExOfficio has a handful of Bugsaway shirts for men and women, which reduce bug bites and keep pests at bay with built-in permethrin insect repellent. Additionally, the shirts offer 30-plus UPF sun protection and are made of quick-drying lightweight nylon. (We can’t think of a better style statement to make in destinations where malaria is a risk.) Buy the shirts online at

Luggage Scale Meets Flashlight

The LOOP Luggage Scale is a tiny little lifesaver for overpacking travelers. You can weigh your suitcase before you leave home to find out whether you’re under the 50-pound limit most airlines have for checked bags. Additionally, the scale doubles as a power bank (for charging your smartphone) and a flashlight. You can use the LED light to illuminate dark parking lots, overhead bins and poorly lit sidewalks. At just six inches long and 4.8 ounces, it’s small enough to slip into your suitcase without taking up too much room. Buy it at

Sleep Mask Meets Ear Plugs

The Sleep Master Sleep Mask is made of dark padded fabric that wraps around your face and covers your ears; this patented design muffles sound while simultaneously shielding tired eyes from light. The Sleep Mask doesn’t completely eliminate noise, but you can pair the mask with some ear plugs for a serious sound-stopping effect. Buy it online at

GPS Case Meets Dash Mount

We recommend the Bracketron Nav-Pack for travelers who bring their own smartphones or GPS devices to use for navigation in rental cars. This product is both a carrying case for your device and a mount that displays a GPS screen on your dashboard. The weighted dash mount lets travelers prop up their devices on the car dash (without leaving telltale suction marks on the car windshield, which lure petty thieves). Buy the case online at

We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

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