One thing on my agenda for the summer: spending as much time as possible at the beach. I used to hate the beach, if you can imagine, but after a trip to Hawaii during which I was all but forced to become a beach bum (life can be so hard sometimes), I found a love and appreciation for it that has lasted ever since.
If that sounds like you, you’re going to want to read this guide from Wirecutter, a New York Times company that reviews and recommends products. It covers all the gear you’ll need for the beach this summer.
But if the beach isn’t on your road map this summer, here are five cheap(ish) things you’ll need for any vacation, whether you’re hopping a flight to a foreign country or just driving a few hours upstate to the countryside.
(For even more great gear picks, check out Wirecutter’s full travel guide, and let me know on Twitter at @timherrera where your travels are you taking you.)
A bulky, clumsy suitcase can quickly turn into an unnecessary stressor when you’re forced to haul it around on a trip. My current piece, for example, has torn plastic lining on the inside, which provides the added function of scraping my hand every time I pack and unpack.
Avoid my mistakes and pick up Wirecutter’s top pick for carry-on luggage, the Travelpro Platinum Magna 2. It’s on the higher end of cheap(ish), but a reliable carry-on is one piece of luggage well worth the investment.
Ditch the Ziploc bag into which you’re frantically shoving your toiletries 30 seconds before bolting to the airport (no? Is that just me?), and pick up Wirecutter’s favorite toiletry bag, the Sea to Summit Traveling Light Hanging Toiletry Bag.
Last fall I traveled to Seoul, South Korea, for the first time — a 14-hour flight from New York. (Seoul is a beautiful, magical city, by the way. Here’s a good way to spend 36 hours there.) That’s a long flight by anybody’s measure. But I had my travel pillow with me, and it made all the difference in making the journey a little more bearable.
This is an essential item for all long-distance travel, and because the gulf in quality between a so-so travel pillow and a great one is enormous, it’s an item worth investing in. The one I used, and Wirecutter’s top pick, is the Travelrest Ultimate Memory Foam Travel Pillow.
Portable device charger
Carrying an external battery pack is a no-brainer, and something worth doing in your day-to-day life, too — not just while traveling.
Wirecutter has a few recommendations, depending your needs, including a pocket-size charger, something for everyday use and a pack with some extra juice.
This underrated and overlooked piece of gear is the Batman of traveling: there when you need it, invisible when you don’t, and critical in the fight against organized crime and supervillains in the city of Gotham. (Note to self: Fact-check that last bit.)
Wirecutter has a few picks depending on what you’re looking for. Personally, I have fallen in love with the Platypus Meta Bottle — it collapses into an easily stowed size — and the Thermos Intak 24-Ounce Hydration Bottle, a reliable, everyday workhorse.