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Whether you have platinum airline status or you’re planning a rare getaway, figuring out what to pack can be overwhelming for even the most well-traveled jet-setters. From the obvious considerations, like luggage, packing cubes and toiletry bags to tech accessories and comfy extras, like neck pillows, eye masks and cashmere wraps, travel essentials run the gamut. There’s travel-day outfits to consider, nourishing skincare to pack and functional and practical tech to remember. For your next in-flight or cross-country trip, check out our list of the most essential travel items for women.

Packing necessities


Cadence capsules

I’m particular about staying in a routine, especially when it comes to a skincare regimen. But fitting full-size pump bottles, glass jars and droppers in a toiletry bag is just not realistic. So I turn to these Cadence Capsules, which are leak-proof, magnetic and customizable containers for skin-care, hair-care and body-care. Plus, they’re incredibly substantial, unlike many flimsy plastic travel bottles.

EACHY Travel Makeup Bag,Large Capacity Cosmetic Bags for Women,Waterproof Portable Pouch Open Flat Toiletry Bag Make up Organizer with Divider and Handle

Eachy Toiletry Bag

I love a travel toiletry bag or cosmetic case that opens flat. It’s the only way I can actively comb through everything I’ve stuffed in there. The other necessities: pockets, compartments and a handle. The EACHY Large Capacity Cosmetic Bag has all of the above, and it zippers into a pretty compact and packable rectangle.

Travel Essentials Away Jewelry Box

Away Jewelry Box

Travel jewelry boxes exist at a variety of price points, and generally, if the quality of leather and interior padding is good, and the compartments fit your needs, you probably can’t go wrong. I prefer one with a padded rod element for rings, as my ring stack tends to get priority when traveling. Another bonus is if there’s some element for wrapping dainty necklaces.

Travel Essentials Bagail Packing Cubes

Bagail Packing Cubes

Packing cubes save my sanity. Not only do they help me organize everything from my own outfits to my son’s newborn essentials, they also ensure your suitcase doesn’t become total chaos upon arrival. These have more than 21,000 five-star ratings on Amazon.

Travel Essentials Dagne Dover Carry On

Dagne Dover Landon Carryall, Large

The Dagne Dover Landon Carryall is a bestseller for a reason. The neoprene wipes clean, it’s sleek, it features a laptop sleeve and a luggage sleeve, and it comes in five sizes. The large is the ideal carry-on size in my opinion—it’s not as big as a weekender but there’s still room to stuff it with anything extra you can’t fit in your luggage.


Top Tote Clip

Yes, hats shield your face from the sun and can pull together a vacation outfit like no other accessory, but simply put, they’re an absolute hassle to pack. If you’re uninterested in ruining the shape of your headwear in your luggage, let me introduce you to the Top Tote Clip, which uses a high-powered magnet closure to secure your hat brim on-the-go and a hex clip to clasp on to most bag straps.

Travel Essentials Life Art Eyeglass Case e1708106060239

Life Art Eyeglass Case

It might look bulky, but this hardcover case rolls up to protect three pairs of sunglasses or glasses in your luggage. It’s an essential for anyone’s eyewear.

Travel Essentials - Cotton Quilted Pouch

Cotton Quilted Pouch

You might think there are too many bags, pouches, carryalls, boxes, cases and cubes on this list. But when it comes to travel essentials, the limit simply does not exist. I love these cotton quilted pouches to toss in my bag and compartmentalize things so I can feel more put-together. The more pouches I have at the ready while packing, the easier it becomes to separate my essentials from my son’s, for instance. Any opportunity to pre-sort and distribute must-haves will become a time-saver.

Toiletry Essentials

Travel Essentials Laneige lip sleeping mask

Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask

I treat this leave-on lip mask as a balm that I reapply throughout the day, especially during long flights. It’s a constant bestseller and best-of-beauty award winner for a reason. It delivers intense moisture and antioxidants, and I can see a difference in my lips if I forget it at home.

Travel Essentials Instant Angel Moisturizer

Dieux Instant Angel Moisturizer

Your skin goes through the wringer during travel. High altitudes, dehydration, lack of routine, a compromised skin barrier. I have relatively dry skin, especially in the winter or during travel, so I can handle something richer. For that reason, I love Dieux’s Instant Angel Moisturizer, an uber-nourishing face cream that provides lasting hydration and leaves the skin’s barrier feeling strong, smooth and firm.

Travel Essentails - Innisfree Sunscreen

Innisfree Daily UV Defense

Do you really need to wear sunscreen on an airplane? The answer is a resounding yes, especially if your seatmate won’t shut their window. A JAMA study found that flight crews were twice as likely to get melanoma than the general population. And that could be because the intensity of UV radiation increases by about 10 percent every 3,000 feet, according to the World Health Organization. My go-to is Innisfree Daily UV Defense, a water-based, SPF 36 sunscreen.

Travel Essentials - Ouai Detox Shampoo

OUAI Detox Shampoo

During vacation or general travel, my hair is on a strict dry shampoo diet. Which means that depending on the length of the trip, it’ll need to be detoxed. I always carry a travel-size Ouai Detox Shampoo with me for that reason—it’s clarifying and deeply cleanses away dirt, oil and product buildup. Plus, it smells amazing and uses keratin to strengthen.

Travel Essentials - Ouai Hair Oil

OUAI Mini Hair Oil

Another mini OUAI product, the Hair Oil is a lightweight, multitasking oil that prevents heat and UV damage, ideal if you’re heading somewhere warm. It has a high-gloss, super-smooth finish. 

Travel Essentials - Living Proof Dry Shampoo

Living Proof Dry Shampoo

Go ahead and stock up on mini dry shampoos. I prefer the Living Proof Dry Shampoo for its ability to absorb oil and sweat while also adding body and texture. Plus, the scent is unforgettable—in a great way. I also use Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak and Batiste Dry Shampoo, both of which keep my hair looking clean but at a drugstore price.

Travel Essential It Cosmetics CC Cream Foundation SPF 50+

IT Cosmetics CC+ Cream

There is not another foundation you’ll find in my makeup kit. Technically a CC cream, it’s buildable and offers far more coverage than most on the market. It has SPF 50 as well—a win for my fair skin, no matter the weather.

Travel Essentials Rare Beauty Liquid Blush

Rare Beauty Blush

Rare Beauty blush has been a prominent fixture in makeup bags across the country since it launched, and there’s good reason. The liquid blush delivers a high-quality pigment and a soft glow. There is a learning curve for first-timers as you figure out the right amount to apply (less is more), but with that said, one tube lasts quite a long time. And it’s a multi-tasker (great for travel) that I use on my cheeks, lips and eyelids.

Travel Essentials Spornette Wooden Handle Brush

Spornette Carry On Wooden Handle Mini Hair Brush

I might forget a hair dryer or hair spray, but there’s one item that’s always in my purse: a travel hair brush or comb. The Spornette Mini Travel Hair Brush fits easily into a small bag, so it’s space-saving and ready to de-tangle. 

Clothing and Accessories

Travel Essential 2 Piece Set

Anrabess Amazon Set

There’s a fine line between comfy loungewear and pajamas. For travel days, I need a loungewear set that provides comfort. But more importantly, I need it to look entirely put-together. I’ve worn this Amazon set from Anrabess (I’ve bought a few items from this storefront) and found the fabric is substantial and the quality is great. I love topping it with a trench coat or long wool coat, depending on the weather.

Travel Essentials Cashmere Travel Wrap

Cashmere Travel Wrap

Perhaps my least favorite element of in-flight travel is the constant change in temperature. That’s why you’ll always find an oversized cashmere wrap in my bag. This one from J.Crew is a great choice, and another favorite is from White and Warren. These scarf-like blankets are compact and incredibly soft, plus they’re relatively wrinkle-resistant and lightweight enough to not add any more bulk to your bag. 

Travel Essentials Wolaco Leggings

Wolaco Women’s Distance Full Tight

One tip to help you stray from overpacking: Choose practical items that you can build outfits around. I might go for a run wearing these compression Wolaco Leggings, but if I don’t hit the pavement, I can also top it with a loose white T-shirt and dark sweater in the winter or a matching sports bra and loose linen button up in the summer, and I’ll have an easy casual outfit.

Travel Essentials Skim Set

SKIMS Soft Lounge Sleep Set

This should go without saying, but a classic menswear-inspired top and matching pant make the perfect pajama set. This SKIMS set is my go-to, especially for travel, because it’s made from an ultra-soft modal rib fabric, so even when I’m not toasty in my own bed, I can sleep soundly.

Travel Essentials Autry Whirlwind Low Sneakers

Autry Whirlwind Low Sneakers

I’m all about packing a neutral sneaker for travel to make sure it’ll work with as many pieces in my wardrobe as possible. Casual dress? Sneaker. Satin skirt and tee shirt? Sneaker. Wide leg dress pants? Sneaker. My go to is the Adidas Samba OG in beige/white, a Reebok Club sneaker or a New Balance 327. I also love these Autry Whirlwind Low Sneakers.

Travel Essentials Big Effing Clip in Cherry Kiss

Emi Jay Big Effing Clip

It’s hard to imagine a time when a claw clip wasn’t in my tote. Low-maintenance hairstyling is essential on travel days, and the Emi Jay clips are a fan-favorite. The material is heavyweight, but it doesn’t dig into your head or cause a headache. Plus, the color options act as a statement accessory.

Tech and Electronics

Travel Essentials Apple Air Tag

Apple AirTag

This one is obvious, right? I keep one in the zippered pouch of my checked luggage (and my husband has one with his golf clubs at all times). AirTags operate on Apple’s Find My network, which makes it easy to track down my luggage if it’s ever delayed or on the off-chance that it doesn’t make my flight.

Travel Essential Chargeable Mirror

Rechargeable Mirror

Nine times out of 10, hotel lighting isn’t going to cut it. How many times have you pulled up a chair to the window and did your makeup in natural light using a mini handheld mirror? A portable, rechargeable light-up mirror can make all the difference. This foldable one fits easily in a carry-on, but there’s still a considerable amount of space to look into.

Travel Essential Yogasleep Hushh Portable White Noise Sound Machine

Yogasleep Portable White Noise Machine

Before I had my son, a white noise machine seemed pointless—I didn’t need help falling asleep. Today, I don’t travel without one. It’s mainly for him, but I can’t deny the soothing effects as it drowns out every distracting sound. I’ve bought this Yogasleep Hush Portable White Noise Machine multiple times, and it has more than 22,000 five-star reviews.

Travel Essential INIU Portable Charger

INIU Portable Charger

Another highly rated Amazon pick (almost 70,000 five-star reviews), this slim, high-speed portable charger is a travel essential. It allows you to charge three devices at one time, including an iPad, iPhone, AirPods or Apple Watch.

Travel Essential Conair Handheld Steamer

Conair Handheld Steamer

This one is a bit bulkier, and you can definitely find smaller travel steamers, but I like the quality here. It comes with multiple attachments, including one with a silicone band that pulls clothes taut as you steam; a fabric spacer for delicate fabrics; and a bristle brush that loosens fibers (and even gathers lint). You can also steam vertically or horizontally, without leaking water on your clothes.

Self-Care and Wellness

Travel Essentials - Dieux Forever Eye Mask

Dieux Forever Mask

Dark circles from that red eye flight? Tired eyes from early morning travel? Try an eye mask. But not just any eye mask. A few years ago, I purchased Dieux’s Forever Eye Mask, which is made of medical-grade silicone and is entirely reusable. Place your serum or oil of choice under your eye, add Dieux’s mask on top for 15 minutes, and it works by sealing in the moisture. It’s luxurious and you simply add it back to the reusable tin when you’re done.

Travel Essentials - Lunya Washable Silk Sleep Mask

Lunya Silk Sleep Mask

Lunya is known for their washable silk pillowcases, scrunchies and sleep masks that maximize comfort. Perfect for travel, this mask acts like a weighted blanket for your face, submerging your eyelids in darkness. Plus, silk is great for your skin.

Travel Essentials - Touchland Hand Sanitizer

Touchland Power Mist Hydrating Hand Sanitizer

What do you look for in a hand sanitizer? Personally, I need it to moisturize. I don’t want to have to follow up with hand lotion. The Touchland Power Mist smells great, is nourishing, refreshing—and sanitizing.

Travel Essentials - Organifi Green Juice Travel Packs (30ct.)

Organifi Green Juice Travel Packs

Everything Organifi Green Juice promises—to reduce cortisol levels and detox the body—is exactly what you need during travel. It’s offering your body superfoods, including ashwagandha, spirulina, chlorella and moringa in a great-tasting to-go pack.

Travel Essentials - Eboost Super Powder 20 pack

Eboost Super Power Energy Packs

Want to fend off jet-lag symptoms? Beyond staying hydrated, you can also try increasing your electrolyte and antioxidant intake, which will help with muscle cramping, headaches and sleep issues. Eboost Super Power Energy Packs include a blend of vitamins, electrolytes, antioxidants, nootropics as well as other daily essentials. And bonus: There’s 110 mg of natural caffeine per serving.

Women’s Travel Essentials FAQs

What is the 5-4-3-2-1 packing rule?

There are a few variations to the 5-4-3-2-1 packing rule. But in general, the idea is that you can make it through five days of travel by packing the following: five sets of undergarments, four tops, three bottoms, two pairs of shoes and one hat, watch and bag. The idea is that you adjust it based on your needs. It’s essentially an on-the-go capsule wardrobe that allows you to sensibly mix and match outfits. The key is finding like-items or items that coordinate enough together that you’re comfortable mixing and matching.

 Is it better to fold or roll clothes when packing?

There are pros and cons to each, but I find that using a mix of both (and packing cubes) works best. For instance, T-shirts and casual dresses are great for rolling, but bulky sweaters tend to take up more space when rolled. Here’s a general break down:

  • Fold: Sweaters, denim, formal shirts, dress pants, jackets. For bulky sweaters, fold and place those on top of your closed packing cubes.
  • Roll: All other clothes, including T-shirts, pajamas, casual dresses, underwear, swimwear, etc. Make sure to fill the gaps in your suitcase with rolled items.
  • Packing cubes: Compress rolled clothes in the packing cubes to take up the least amount of space.

What should you pack for a 10-day trip?

If you’re heading on an extended getaway, you’ll want to be smart about packing. Put your basics to work here. Before any trip, I’ll make my bed and lay everything I pull from my closet on the bed. Then I’ll edit it down once. And eventually edit it down once more before placing it in my suitcase. In a perfect world, I imagine the outfits I’m going to create before deciding on a piece. The below will depend entirely on where you’re going (this will look different for Vail vs. Maui, for instance). But here’s a general checklist that you can follow and personalize.

  • 4 to 5 tops
  • 3 bottoms
  • 1 dress or semi-formal outfit
  • 10 undergarments
  • 1 travel day set (wear twice)
  • 2 sets of exercise clothes, including socks
  • 2-3 sets of pajamas or sleepwear
  • 1-2 lightweight jackets
  • 2-3 sweaters or cardigans during colder weather
  • 3 pairs of shoes (1 sneaker, 1 dressy heel or flat, 1 sandal or boot, depending on the weather)
  • 2 bags (one big, one small)
  • Sunglasses
  • Jewelry

What is not allowed in a carry-on bag TSA?

Items not allowed in your carry-on bag include flammables (including Aerosol sprays), liquids over 3.4 ounces (including large bottles of sunscreen, contact solution and lotion), household tools (hammers, screwdrivers, etc.), sporting equipment, firearms and weapons.

Whether you’re heading to a destination across the pond or just planning for a quick weekend getaway, organizing your thoughts—and suitcase—means less chaos when you arrive and more time enjoying your travel.

Megan O'Neill Melle is a dynamic Senior Editor at Reader's Digest, bringing over a decade of expertise in magazine and digital publishing. With a flair for turning captivating ideas into engaging narratives, Megan has a proven track record in guiding editorial strategy for major publications like Parade, showcasing her editorial acumen and passion for storytelling.

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