Packin’ It In

Four Key Pieces of Travel Gear

It’s never been more important to pack lightly these days. With many airlines charging for checked baggage, you can save money by carrying-on your luggage or otherwise condensing items to limit the number of bags stored in the airplane’s hold. It’s also key to pack smartly to make your way through airport security lines in an efficient manner. Here are a few pieces of travel gear that can help make your travels more convenient, affordable and hassle-free.

Checkpoint-Friendly Laptop Bag

If you travel with a laptop for work, or to keep in touch with family back home while on vacation, consider using a checkpoint-friendly laptop bag. With a checkpoint-friendly bag as your carry-on, you don’t have to remove your laptop to put it in a grey bin all by itself down a conveyor belt through the security line. That gives you peace of mind that your laptop will stay safe in a padded case, and reduces the chance that you’ll accidentally leave your precious hard drive behind, since it remains in your bag the entire time!

Laptops can sail through security in such bags because they typically open up and fold-out “butterfly style” to allow X-ray screeners to see into the bag without anything impeding the view to your computer. That means you cannot slip any chargers or other items into the zippered laptop sleeve on the bag. They come in backpack and briefcase styles, and some are on convenient wheels. Check out offerings from such companies as Tom Bihn, Briggs & Riley, Samsonite, Eagle Creek.

Solid Travel Toiletries

If you are just carrying on your luggage, your toiletries must fit in one quart-size bag in 3-oz.-or-less containers. To circumvent this TSA regulation, consider packing solid toiletries — items that don’t have to go into the quart-size bag. For example, Travelon makes small laundry soap sheets that dissolve in water and allow you to do some hand-washing of underclothes in any hotel-room sink; they retail for just a few dollars and come in containers of 50. LUSH cosmetics makes solid shampoos, soaps and perfume with all-natural ingredients. Check in your local drugstore or supermarket for travel-sized packs of makeup-remover or face-cleanser towelettes; Olay, Dove and Neutrogena all make these types of handy travel items for women.


Whether it’s an Android or an iPhone, having a smartphone loaded with all sorts of travel apps can make navigating unfamiliar roads, new cities and foreign restaurants a lot more fun! Sure, if you’re traveling on an escorted tour, you have a tour director to help smooth the way for you everywhere. But if you have a GPS-enabled smartphone, it’s so much easier for you to figure out how to get from point A to point B when you’re enjoying some free time exploring a neighborhood on your own. Voice translators on your smartphone can help you communicate with taxi drivers and waitstaff, and currency converters assist in figuring out foreign prices. If you don’t have a smartphone, consider upgrading to take advantage of all the great mobile apps for travelers for your next trip.

Versatile Battery Charger

There’s nothing worse than running out of power for your camera, video camera, phone, laptop, e-reader or other battery-operated gadget that you need (or really want to have) on vacation. With a charger like the one made by iGo, you have one “plug-in” and then carry different small “tips” for your different electronic items. Power Monkey is a portable solar-powered charger — so you can charge your items without even having an electrical outlet present; this is great for foreign travel because you don’t have to worry about having an adapter for various types of wall outlets.

Duracell produces a slim portable charger that you can keep in your purse to charge small items like smartphones and iPods — up to 35 hours of back-up power. If you’re road-tripping or renting a car at your destination for on-your-own exploration, consider the Black & Decker power inverter, which plugs into your car’s 12-volt power outlet. It effectively gives you a household plug as well as a USB port for charging everything from DVD players to laptops to cell phones and more.