The temptation to overpack is real — especially when you’re feeling the urge to bring all your essentials. The best travel gadgets, though, will satisfy your needs with clever, compact, and versatile design that not only save you from trouble, but also leave extra room in your suitcase for souvenirs.
From travel pillows and multipurpose tools, to smart glasses and off-the-grid communication devices, these are our favorite 15 travel gadgets.
Best for flying and commuting
Traveling is exciting and all. Flying, though? Not so much. Investing in a nice travel pillow is one of the best things you can do when you’re preparing to pretzel up in a germ-filled flying metal tube for hours.
Think of this adjustable pillow as an infinity scarf made of memory foam. It wraps around different neck sizes snuggly to provide support: Two high points on the back give your head a comfortable resting place, while the two low points up front secure your chin. Unless you want to jerk your head around like you’re trying to stay awake in your third-grade history class, you might want to consider this pillow.
Imagine this: You hop on a 12-hour flight, and by hour six you’ve already run out of good movie options on the plane’s entertainment system. The friend sitting next to you is watching an amazing movie they downloaded onto their laptop. There’s only one headphone jack, and neither of you have wireless headphones. How do you watch it with them without putting the movie on speaker and waking up everyone around you?
This is when an audio headphone splitter comes in handy. This one from Belkin allows you to split audio between five pairs of headphones. You can watch the movie with your entire row if you fancy.
Best for keeping your shit together
No, this isn’t a Swiss Army knife. (Although, that’d be a great travel gadget, too.) This sleek lil’ pen packs nine tools that help you with the daily stuff: A ballpoint pen for immigration forms and travel journals, a stylus for plein air drawings on your tablet, a bottle opener for when you want to crack open a cold one, and philips and flathead screwdrivers for when you need to fix your sunglasses. If you need it, there’s also a file, a level, a ruler, and a box cutter. (You might want to check on that last part before trying to fly with it, though.)
Losing stuff is the worst. Losing stuff in a place where you don’t speak the language well enough to ask for help? Even worse. This one is for my fellow airheads.
The Tile Mate is a versatile Bluetooth-powered finder that can be attached to different objects. With the complementary app, you can view your item’s last known location.
Sure, it only has a 200-feet range; but that’s more than enough for you to locate where you last placed your item. Chances are, your item has been stolen if it’s nowhere near where the app says it’d be. If you can’t even speak the language well enough to ask for help, you probably won’t be able to confront a thief, anyway. If the item is that important, though, you can consider using GPS trackers, which are slightly more expensive than Bluetooth ones.
If you’re making the effort to fly hundreds of miles for a business meeting, or are going to a dinner that you made a point to reserve months ahead of time; chances are, it’s important enough to make sure that you don’t show up with wrinkly clothes.
A handy, compact clothes steamer can do the trick. This one from Hilife can hold up to 240 ML of water, and it’s good for 15 minutes of continuous steaming.
Sometimes you’ll spill wine on one of the only shirts you brought on your trip; other times you’re scrambling for an extra outfit because everything else has a sweat stain. That’s okay — accidents happen. But that doesn’t mean you have to wear dirty clothes for the rest of your trip.
The Scrubba wash bag is a great alternative to hand-washing, which is bound to prune your hands — or worse, hotel laundry services that’ll cost you a fortune. Just dump your clothes in along with some water, close the bag, give it a good rub — and voila, your clothes are ready to be hung dry.
Best for safety
This is as true when you’re traveling as it is when you’re not: It’s better to be safe than sorry.
When you activate this pepper spray, it automatically texts and calls your emergency contacts for free with information on your location. It also triggers a siren to attract attention and uses LED lights to disorient the attacker. This smart pepper spray has a four-year battery life, even without charging it. Slip it into your bag or attach it to a keychain, and you’re good to go!
Maybe you’re planning to adventure off the grid; maybe you just don’t want to pay international text and roaming fees. In any case, the goTenna Mesh will keep you safe and connected to your friends.
Once you download the goTenna app and pair it with your Mesh, you can send messages and GPS locations without cell or internet connection. It generally works within a four-mile radius; but if your friends happen to be outside of the coverage area in the case of an emergency, goTenna can still send out public broadcasts to all Mesh users within that range.
Best for outdoor adventures
Yes, I know the VSSL adventure kit looks compact and lightweight compared to the bulky load of supplies backpackers carry; but don’t underestimate this sleek lil’ tube.
The tube is made of military-grade aluminum, and it packs 72 camping and hiking essentials: A compass, a four-mode LED light that emits SOS signals, water purifying tablets, gear ties, a fire-starting kit, marine-grade ropes, a mini first-aid kit, and more.
VSSL also offers a first aid kit and a flask kit built into the same design — both of which are also great travel gadgets. You can even build your own kit if you want to mix and match based on your own travel needs.
The classic ice-breaker question: “What’s one thing you can’t live without?” The logical answer should always be clean water, and that shouldn’t change when you’re traveling.
This portable purifier is an essential not just for outdoor adventures, but also for trips to the many countries where tap water isn’t immediately drinkable. The water bottle is easy to use: Once you press the filter compartment into the water container, you’ll have water that promises to be free of viruses and bacteria (including Hepatitis A, E. Coli, Salmonella, etc.). It claims to filter out particulates and many chemicals, pesticides, and heavy metals, too.
Best for documenting memories
Some smartphones today have three, sometimes even four, cameras. But there’s one way to trick your phone into thinking you have — not three, not four — but nine cameras even if you really only have one.
This 9-in-1 phone camera lens kit will do the trick. It comes in a small pouch that carries nine lenses, including a super wide lens, a fisheye lens, a telephoto lens, a macro lens, and a kaleidoscope lens. All you have to do is attach the lens to the complementary universal clip and put it over your phone’s camera.
It happens: Sometimes a trip is so good and so memorable that you just want to relive it over and over again. You can do that with Spectacles 3 — sort of.
These smart glasses by Snapchat have two high-definition cameras and four built-in microphones designed to capture 3D photos and videos at 60 fps, which you can wirelessly sync to your phone. If you fancy, you can even add some pretty trippy effects to your videos. The Spectacle 3 also comes with a 3D viewer; the videos you capture will be compatible with Youtube VR, too.
Best for recharging
If you’re out all day exploring, you’d better make sure you have something to recharge your phone with. With this fanny pack, you can do it in style.
This fanny pack has a built-in wireless charger with a 13,400 mAh power bank. The power bank is tucked away in a hidden side pocket, but you can easily remove it and use it independently if you wish. It’s on the pricier side, though; if you’re looking for something more affordable, DIY your own by adding a wireless charger to any fanny pack. Have a phone that doesn’t support wireless charging? This portable charger from Anker should do the trick.
An outlet adapter is an absolute necessity for anyone who’s traveling to a foreign country. Essentially, it lets you plug in any of your electronics into any socket shape.
This one from Dandelion will cover your charging needs in more than 150 countries. It has two USB outlets in addition to an eight-hole socket, so you can juice up three devices at once.
Traveling is equal parts fun and exhausting — so don’t think your gadgets are the only things that need recharging.
This compact handheld espresso machine is just what you need for a morning cup of joe. It’s great for testing out authentic local coffee while you’re traveling, too. It comes with a built-in cup and operates semi-automatically. All you need to do is get some hot water and give your coffee bullet a few nice squeezes. You can even try out multiple types of espresso, like ristretto and caffè lungo.