As a frequent traveler for both work and play, I’m always trying out electronics and accessories to make my life on the go easier. Today, I’m sharing my top 10 travel essentials for ladies, including my favorite affordable carry-on, a practical but professional backpack, and the best external battery pack.
Because I only travel with a carry-on, packing the right stuff makes mixing travel for business and pleasure so much easier. Most recently, this past summer, I had to pack for a 3.5-week trip that included a conference in Boston, a black tie wedding in 95-degree New York summer, and a city/beach/wine vacation through Spain and Portugal—all in a single carry-on and backpack (both of which are included on this list).
I need luggage that I can park at the office—that I can also run after a bus with on cobblestoned streets. I need a backpack that looks polished enough to wear to a conference but can also withstand a day of hiking. I need lightweight sneakers that I can wear on the plane, on a walking tour, and to the gym.
Over the years, I’ve found the right mix of work-to-play accessories that offer both form and function. Below, I’m sharing my top 10 travel essentials that help me stay sane and organized on the road, whether it’s making sure my sleep is restful, my electronics are charged, or my clothes are wrinkle-free.
When my Samsonite suitcase broke, I started shopping around for a black replacement suitcase that would be light enough to easily take around the world, durable enough to be checked, professional enough to take on business trips, and distinct enough to be recognizable on a carousel. I love Away’s polished carry-on bags, but these days their suitcases are so ubiquitous that it seems like it’d be easy to accidentally grab someone else’s bag, or vice versa. I don’t check my bag often, but when I do, I don’t need a breakage or mix-up slowing me down.
The Calpak Ambeur carry-on is incredibly lightweight and affordable to boot. With a hard shell, expandability, and 360-degree spinner wheels, it has all the key features I’m looking for. The interior storage is convenient, with a zippered divider with zippered mesh pocket and two elastic pockets on one side, and clip-in straps on the other. It also has a TSA-approved combination lock, though I personally never lock my luggage.
The wheels aren’t nearly as smooth as Mike’s TUMI, but for a fraction of the price, I’m very happy with it. Since it’s sold on Nordstrom and Shopbop, if you keep an eye out you can score a pretty good deal. (When I purchased, they were selling the carry-on as a standalone item but seems like they might only sell it in the luggage set now.)
2. Dagne Dover 365 Backpack
Since I’m often going straight from a work trip into vacation, I wanted a backpack that could work for both. I usually just travel with my Louis Vuitton Neverfull if I’m going from city-for-work to city-for-play or my Cuyana leather tote if I need something a little more rugged. But on trips where I’m expecting to take a lot of public transport or do more outdoorsy activities, a backpack is more practical.
I’d seen some cute leather backpacks, but they’re just not that practical on an international trip—they’re generally heavier and don’t have the storage that I need. I discovered Dagne Dover on my IG feed and immediately loved their clean, stylish designs. The Dagne Dover 365 backpack has a place for everything: there’s an airmesh tablet/laptop sleeve, two airmesh interior pockets, two zipper exterior pockets, and While the price tag seems hefty for a neoprene bag, it’s also very durable and dirt-resistant.
3. Cuyana Passport Wallet
My girlfriends bought me this pebbled leather passport wallet as a gift right before I moved to Japan, and I still use it regularly on international trips. With pockets and slots for your passport, boarding pass, cards, and pen, it’s perfect for storing your essentials in one place.
4. Tempurpedic Sleep Mask
While sleeping in this tempurpedic eye mask on a plane can get you some weird stares, the tempurpedic material is the loveliest cushion over weary eyes. Paired with earplugs, this makes falling asleep in a room with a loud AC or at an Airbnb on a noisy streets so much easier.
Mike originally turned me onto these noise cancelling headphones, which are a mainstay in any traveling consultant’s bag. The noise cancelling functionality is incredible at tuning out other noise during a flight, whether you’re listening to music, watching a movie, or just taking a nap. The microphone picks up my voice well when I’m taking calls at the airport or in Lyfts, and the earbuds stay securely in your ears while running.
6. Anker Powercore 10000 External Battery Charger
As someone who’s constantly checking work email and editing photos on my phone, I run through battery quickly when I travel. The Anker Powercore 10000 is a deck-of-cards-sized external battery charger charges up quickly and can charge my iPhone 8 three and a half times! If you need something even more compact, the cylindrical ultra-compact PowerCore 5000 offers closer to two charges, but is perfect for slipping into your pocket or a small clutch.
I love taking this mini hair dryer on trips where I’m unsure if we’ll have hair dryers, like rustic cottages on Squam Lake or a Colorado mountain cabin weekend. It’s so tiny that I don’t feel guilty about taking it along. Though small, it packs a powerful punch, and dual voltage feature makes it ideal for travel.
8. MUJI Clear Travel Bottles
I decant all of my favorite toiletries into MUJI’s sleek and simple travel bottles. This three-bottle set is perfect for shampoo, conditioner, and body wash, and I like to keep my Shiseido moisturizer in these travel-size cream jars. They have a huge variety of sizes and types—including sprays bottles, pump bottles, mini-jars, etc.
9. Pursteam Handheld Steamer
I’ve had a full-size steamer at home for years, but when traveling, I used to be that girl that hung my silk clothing in the shower and ran the water on hot until most of the wrinkles fell out. As a professional working woman (and near-professional bridesmaid) of 8 years, it’s no longer OK to leave the house in questionably wrinkled clothes. This handheld steamer packs down small enough to fit in my carry-on, and its steam is powerful enough that I’ve ditched my full-size steamer altogether.
10. Nike Roshe Sneakers
While I love my Greats Royale Blanco leather sneakers for a polished casual sneaker, the leather material makes them a somewhat stiff shoe—so after a long-haul flight my feet can’t always squeeze back into them! (Let’s just say I’ve had an embarrassing moment or two de-planing.)
I found a pair of Nike Roshes on the sale rack at Nordstrom and have been wearing them nonstop ever since. They’re comfortable for both workouts and light hikes—all while being sleek enough to wear with jeans and a leather jacket for a day of exploring a city.