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The Verge’s favorite travel gear

Oct 20, 2023Oct 20, 2023

By Verge Staff

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It's travel season, which means it's time to pack your bathing suit, your hiking boots — and your tech. We asked the staff of The Verge what their favorite travel gear was, and as you can imagine, we got a wide range of answers — from backpacks and travel apps to power strips and selfie sticks.

So sit back, think about vacation, and take a look at some of the stuff that our editors and writers find most useful when it's time to get out of the house and on their way to relaxation or adventure.

Alex Heath, deputy editor

Let's be honest: most airline apps suck. And if you’re like me and not loyal to any particular airline, it's annoying to bounce between a half-dozen apps of varying quality to check a flight's status.

Friends, there is a better way. A couple of years ago, I discovered Flighty, an iOS app made by aviation nerds for aviation nerds. It uses real-time flight data to let you track just about any route in the world. I regularly get notifications for delays or gate changes before they are pushed to the airline's app or announced in the terminal. It's dark magic that has saved me from serious trip delays and headaches.

The real-time flight tracking is really just one piece of the puzzle; upgrading to the app's Pro subscription gets you a bunch of helpful features like calendar sync, email import, TripIt sync, delay forecast, and more. I’m also a fan of the flight archive that shows you fun stats like the number of airports, countries, and trips around the Earth you’ve taken in a calendar year. The lock screen widget is helpful for putting all the most important info about your flight, such as the remaining duration, front and center as it's happening. I’m not surprised Flighty was nominated for an Apple Design Award this year. It's one of the best examples of indie software for power users that just works and fills a need. I’ll never fly without it.

A well-designed and elegant flight tracker with lots of interesting extras. It's free, but the Pro version costs $49 annually.

Kaitlin Hatton, audience manager

Earlier this year, I committed to traveling more, and so I took a look at the gear I had that could be replaced after years of trekking the globe. My ratty old secondhand carry-on bag was the first thing to be replaced. After several days of weighing the pros and cons of various travel bags, I stumbled upon this Lumesner carry-on backpack on Amazon, and it fit all of my needs. It can carry a laptop, several days’ worth of clothes, my 40oz Hydro Flask bottle, and more. The bag even includes some packing cubes. It's very comfortable, and the weight is well distributed when it's completely full. It's an inexpensive alternative to many name-brand carry-on bags, too. So far, I’ve used it on a handful of trips, and the quality has held up. It also holds onto pet fur, though, so I had to add a small lint roller to my travel necessities. But that's just life while traveling with a dog anyway.

Expandable backpack that comes with a lot of storage space and packing cubes.

Victoria Song, reviewer

One thing I learned while living abroad is that traveling light will make your life a thousand times easier. If the trip is a week or less, you’ll almost never find me with more than a single carry-on and maybe a light personal item. That means my luggage has to be versatile, multipurpose, durable, and spacious enough for several kinds of trips. I’ve gone through many duffle bags and rollaboard suitcases in search of the perfect bag, and I love my Baboon to the Moon Go-Bag Small.

First off, it comes in bright, distinctive colors. If you need to check a bag, this is the easiest and fastest way to differentiate your luggage from everyone else's in the carousel. It's also super easy to spot. Call me paranoid, but I’m pretty sure any thieves are going to have a tough time making off with my incredibly vibrant purple duffle. (It also makes it a lot easier for my travelmates to find me in a crowd.)

The other thing I really dig is that you can wear it in multiple ways. It comes with two straps that can be configured into a backpack or a crossbody bag, depending on what other luggage you have. There are also suitcase handles to make it easier to lift and stuff into an overhead bin. Inside, it has one big mesh pocket that you can stuff your laptop in, and built-in side compartments for stuffing in underwear, socks, and other smaller items. I’m also a big fan of the outside passport compartment. It's so much easier to access your wallet / passport during security as well as stash items like watches, belts, and easy-to-lose items that the TSA makes you take off. Lastly, the outer shell is waterproof and super easy to clean, which came in handy when a kid spilled soda on it at the airport.

The main compartment is also a good size. On my last trip to Google I/O, I managed three sets of clothes, three sets of workout clothes (wishful thinking), two extra pairs of socks and underwear, a jacket and sweater, a giant toiletry bag, a hair dryer brush, a bag containing several chargers, and an extra pair of shoes. And I still had extra room in case I picked up anything during my trip.

Why a duffle? If you’re in the last group to board a crowded plane, it's much less likely staff will ask you to check your bag compared to the smallest rollaboard.

Versatile duffle bag that comes in multiple colors and can be transformed into a backpack.

Dan Seifert, deputy editor, reviews

My favorite bag for toting along all of the chargers and cables my many electronic devices require is the Side by Side. It may not look like it can hold very much because, when it's empty, it's deceptively slim. But reader, it's astonishing how much I can cram into this thing.

For a typical work trip where I might need to charge a laptop, phone, watch, tablet, headphones, and camera batteries, I will load this up with two high-powered multiport USB bricks; a smaller USB brick for backup; a dual camera battery charger; a folding triple charger for my iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods; six USB-C cables of varying lengths; and a Lightning cable. The Side by Side's stretchy side panels will just expand and swallow it all.

And unlike other gadget organizer bags, the Side by Side can be put into my backpack vertically, which takes up less space overall. It's a winner all around.

Premium organizer for cords, chargers, and all the other gadgets you may need to keep your tech going while traveling.

Monica Chin, senior reviewer

Neck pillows seem like a great idea in theory, but I’ve never been able to figure out how to successfully use them to sleep on planes. I’d get cramps in my neck from bending my head that far over, and I hated that they seemed to shift around every time the plane wobbled.

If you’ve ever had these frustrations with neck pillows, what you need to buy instead is this product called the Cabeau Evolution S3. It's a neck pillow that attaches to the back of your plane seat (or train, or bus, or whatever) with a clasp in the front that holds the two sides together. The angle is much more comfortable than that of a traditional neck pillow, it won't shift around during the flight (seriously — it does not move), and it’ll prevent you from accidentally knocking into the people next to you as you sleep. As a bonus, it has pockets on the sides for storing small items. It also comes with a travel bag that clips onto the back, which I use to store essential items that I might need during the flight (chargers, passport, extra headphones, meds) so that I don't have to go digging for them in my carry-on.

My only warning is that I’m five feet, five inches tall, and I’m probably close to as short as you’d want to be to use this. The pillow already rides up onto my cheeks a bit, and I imagine that someone who's a bit shorter than me might just have it straddling the middle of their head.

Well-designed neck pillow that makes sure you can sleep comfortably when you travel.

Victoria Song, reviewer

You know what absolutely stinks when you’re on vacation? Figuring out where to eat on the fly, how to get from point A to point B, and visualizing where all the things you want to do are. Sure, it's not so bad when you’re traveling domestically, but international trips can be a doozy if you’ve never been there before, don't speak the language, and don't know any locals. Which is why I love Google's My Maps feature.

Basically, you can do all your research ahead of time and plot out points on a custom map. Want to group all the restaurants separately from all the attractions you want to visit? Cool, you can do that by grouping them in two separate layers that you can toggle on or off. That way, you can see where the restaurants you saved are in relation to your current location or your next sightseeing destination. You can also assign different icons to different groups to make them more distinguishable at a glance. And everything is viewable from your phone in the Google Maps app, though you’ll need to make sure you’ve got internet access.

This is awesome if a tripmate is vegan, halal, kosher, or has any other dietary restrictions. (It's also great if you need to map out accessible locations for tripmates who may need special accommodations.) Have multiple hotels you’re staying at on a cross-country road trip? No problem. Just group the hotels together and plot out driving directions / routes ahead of time. If you’re a visual person, this can be so helpful in figuring out the most time-efficient itineraries.

The best part is you can collaborate on an itinerary with your travel buddies. You can also send a link to any friends or family if they want to visit the same place at a later date and time. Your custom My Maps entries are also viewable from the Google Maps app so you can take them with you on the go, though keep in mind there's no way to use them offline yet. (C’mon, Google — what gives?) You can also directly import locations from a spreadsheet in case that's your preferred method of listing out spots during the research phase.

I used Google Maps to plan out my honeymoon to Iceland last year. While we didn't go to every location plotted out, it was really helpful visualizing where things were in Reykjavik in relation to our hotel and popular sightseeing locations. It took a huge load off our minds knowing that we had the flexibility to explore and be spontaneous, while having fallbacks in case we were tired and didn't want to think.

The ideal way to plan out your vacation or lay out a route for a business trip.

Barbara Krasnoff, reviews editor

Okay, it's time to admit it — I have a well-used, not-at-all-new, not-at-all-smart car. It's a 2007 Honda Civic, and the most technologically advanced thing it does is allow me to roll down the windows by pressing a button. No Bluetooth, no screens — nothing like that. It's not that I don't like having tech in my car, but I’m the sort of car owner who holds onto their auto as long as possible until it starts to become more expensive to fix it than to buy a new one. And so far, I haven't hit that milestone.

Not that there aren't issues, the most serious of which lately is that the port that I used to plug into in order to listen to my music on the car's stereo system no longer works. (Not to mention the fact that my Pixel 6 doesn't have an audio port anyway.) So I’ve compromised by using a small portable speaker (a several-years-old Ultimate Ears Roll), paired via Bluetooth to my phone, to act as the speaker for my mapping directions, music, and audiobooks. At least this way, while I’m visiting friends and relatives over the summer months, I won't have to depend on the very old-fashioned method of listening to whatever happens to be on the radio.

The Wonderboom is a worthy follow-up to Ultimate Ears Roll, made for outdoor use including water- and dust-proofing.

Jess Weatherbed, news writer

When you go on holiday with your partner or family, you generally get stuck with three options when it comes to taking group photographs: a cramped selfie, leaving someone out to take the picture, or asking a total stranger to take it for you. Not to be dramatic or anything, but I’d rather not ruin my vacation by trying to figure out which individuals nearby are the least likely to dip the minute I hand over my phone. And it's depressing to think that my mum is in so few of our family photos because she was always the person on the other side of the camera.

A decent Bluetooth-enabled tripod can resolve these issues. I’ve had good experiences using Atumtek's Premium Plus Phone Tripod Selfie Stick — it features a discrete, detachable Bluetooth shutter remote that you can pair with your smartphone, sparing you from having to set a timer and run like hell. Simply get into position and use the remote to snap as many shots as you need to ensure it's caught you at a flattering angle. It also extends up to 60 inches to squeeze everyone into a group selfie if you’re using it as a selfie stick. This could be a brilliant gift for any "Instagram boyfriends" who spend hours of their vacations as their partner's dedicated paparazzi.

Expanding up to 60 inches, workable as a tripod, and with a Bluetooth-enabled remote, this selfie stick makes photo taking much, much easier.

Sarah Jeong, deputy features editor

Nobody wants to carry a power strip or an extension cord with them on their vacation. It's probably unnecessary if you’re staying in relatively modern buildings and definitely unnecessary if you’re camping. But sometimes you want to stay in a charming historical hotel or a lovely cabin in the woods, and it's only when you go to charge your devices at night that you realize that the only electrical socket in the bedroom is in the corner farthest away from the bed and there's already two lamps plugged into it.

Older buildings especially suffer from what I can only describe as loose socket syndrome, where those very convenient modern boxy socket extenders with five different USB and USB-C charging ports simply cannot stay in place and fall right out of the wall because they’re too heavy. After one (totally pleasant) vacation where I had to charge my phone, watch, AirPods, and laptop in a weird corner of my room with the plug-in charging hub propped up on a strategically balanced mountain of books and sham pillows, I bought this Anker combination extension cord / power strip. It's not a full power strip — just a cube with a few sockets along with USB and USB-C charging ports at the end of a five-foot cable. I’ve brought it on a few trips since then. It takes up extra space in my suitcase but, each time, has left me feeling vindicated about the purchase.

The three prongs at the end of the cable are static, rather than folding flat for easy packing. This is key because the loose sockets of older buildings reject the beautiful convenience of folding prongs. There are more than enough sockets for one person, and with some finagling (and maybe an extra charging brick), it can accommodate two people's devices.

If you’re traveling overseas, don't forget to purchase a different plug type for the region you’re going to or pack an adapter.

This all-in-one 20W USB C power cube boasts three AC outlets, two USB-A ports, and one USB-C port.

Sean Hollister, senior editor

It doesn't have the USB-C ports of Sarah's solution, but an utterly charmingly low-tech solution that never leaves my suitcase is this compact three-port power strip with a cable that folds around itself. The folding feature isn't just to store the cable and prongs, either — if you wrap it around the brick backward, the plug can snap into place (see those metal clips?) to create a rigid three-port power brick that can hang right off a wall outlet. That's useful when you’re not sure your outlets will be close enough to the floor.

I’m linking to one sold by Element-Hz, but it's a generic white-labeled product. I picked up mine at a garage sale years ago, and it has no branding at all. I’d pay two to three times as much for a modern one that adds a 65W or better USB-C PD port.

Power strip with a wraparound power cord that locks into place for convenience.

Victoria Song, reviewer

In my youth, I forgot to pack plug adaptors for international trips one too many times. Buying them once you’ve landed in another country isn't always easy, either. And if you’re like me, your relatives in rural Korea don't always have more than one plug for your American devices — in which case, you’ll have to share with your six other cousins. Nope. Absolutely not. Which is why I never leave this country without a universal travel adaptor.

Basically, it's six plug adaptors in one. Depending on which one you get, it might come with USB ports so you can charge multiple devices in one outlet. Granted, it's bulkier than buying one or two specialized adaptor plugs, but if you’ve got a multi-continent itinerary, it's a game-changer. What I like about this one from Epicka is that it comes with a spare fuse in case things go sideways with voltage.

The only caveat is that, although it says "universal," it's technically only the four most common types of plugs. That’ll get you by in most countries, but it's not a guarantee in places like Brazil, South Africa, or India. Even so, I’ll take this over price gouging at airport electronics shops or having to take time out of my schedule to visit a local hardware store.

An all-in-one adapter that includes four different plugs that cover over 150 countries.

Nathan Edwards, senior reviews editor

I just got back from a weeklong trip with three small children, and my No. 1 tip is as old as the hills: give yourself plenty of buffer time. Sprinting through the airport isn't ideal, but sprinting through the airport while carrying or herding several kids and their luggage is worse.

Speaking of luggage: pop an AirTag (or Tile tracker) in each checked bag. We haven't actually had to use them to locate our luggage, but I figure it's like carrying an umbrella to ensure it doesn't rain.

I cosign Victoria's multi-port travel charger rec above — we always bring a couple when we visit family overseas — but my new favorite charger for domestic travel is this Anker GaN charger. Its top USB-C port can charge a laptop, and it has another USB-C and a USB-A port, too. We travel with an absurd number of devices — we’re talking two or three phones, three iPads, two laptops, a variety of smartwatches, several sets of Bluetooth headphones and earbuds, and often a Nintendo Switch — and while it can't charge all of them at once, it can charge three of them pretty fast and then move on to the next one. It replaced two laptop power bricks and a bunch of other single-port wall warts in our luggage, and it worked like a charm. I might get another one.

The last thing I want to shout out are the Puro BT2200s kids headphones, which are about as versatile as they come. They have Bluetooth and wired functionality, you can daisy-chain them so two kids can listen to the same input, and they automatically limit the volume to under 85dBA to protect kids’ ears. (My old colleagues at Wirecutter tested them and verified that they work.) On our last plane ride, my older kids used them to watch movies on the seatback screen and wirelessly to play games on their iPads. (Screen time rules go out the window when we’re traveling.) We were using cheap wired headphones for the kids until the 3.5mm plug broke off in the headphone jack of my daughter's iPad. We can't get it out, so we can't use wired headphones, and the iPad won't play out of its speakers because it thinks headphones are plugged in. Bluetooth it is.

Bluetooth headphones for kids which limits the volume range to protect their hearing.

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