This holiday season, whether you’re driving over the hill and through the woods or taking a transatlantic aeroplane to get to grandma’s house, the better you pack the smoother your journey will be. The comfort of long travels comes down to one essential piece of luggage: the Carry-On (or, if you’re roadtripping, the one bag you don’t chuck in the trunk). When the wonderful Jee Kim, founder of Peasants and Travelers, sent us the P&T Doctor’s Bag to test drive, I immediately knew that this hard-shelled beauty was born to make my flights to Marseille and Tel Aviv more bearable. The collapsible metal frame is perfect for keeping contents organized and easy to access, even with the stingiest of allotted leg room. Small interior pockets can hold your basics: wallet, phone, passport… and the lovely gingham blue lining will surely brighten the journey. A detachable shoulder strap, leather accents, nickle hardware, and a choice of black or brown make this bag an understated, overachieving accessory. Now… what to put inside?! Here are my 24 essentials. Details below…
1 I never take along my daily wallet when traveling. I prefer a larger, slim pouch that I can fit my passport, ticket, id, cards, cash, and change quickly inside. This lovely embossed green pouch from Comme des Garçons is the perfect solution. Get it here!
2 Absolute travel necessity: a super-soft pillow that fits in your bag. This 100% cotton/fleece ducky pillow by Manuella (check out our Duck Duck Goose Gift Guide for another great Manuella find) has a nifty tie that you can use to attach to your chair’s headrest. Available in a handful of great colors! Get it here!
3 Along the lines of literature, I like to take a mix of the highbrow good stuff and lowbrow time-killers. New York Mag, with its juicy gossip, recipes, product reviews, and (my favorite) crossword, will be sure to gobble up an hour or two of travel time. Get a subscription here!
4 Why airplanes are so damned freezing is a mystery to me. I’ve learned my lesson time and again and now never travel without extra layers of warmth. A great item to stuff in your bag is a thicker, cozy pair of socks. These sweater-knit knee highs from Old Navy are a great, budget solution that will surely keep your digits warm and live up to your style standards. Get a pair here!
5 Rules, rules, rules. The whole clear pouch, anti-liquid thing can be a bit annoying, but, it is what it is. These inexpensive pouches from The Container Store are great for carrying the few toiletries still allowed on board. Available in three sizes. Get a pair here!
6 Don’t leave home without your Radiolab. Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich’s brilliant show will surely be a source of laughter and exploration during your flight. By the time you land, you just might know a thing or two about parasitic wasps that the whole family would love to hear over Xmas dinner. Download the podcasts here!
7 I get about two paper cuts a day as it is and, when you combine those stats with the terribly dry airplane air, I’d be bonkers not to pack bandaids. This nifty first aid kit by Kabalab has all a klutz might need: an emergency info card, bandaids, and cotton swabs – all packed up in a little plastic carry case. Get it here!
8 I feel naked without a pen in my bag at all times. Besides, what will you use for that crossword? Pencil!?!? Pff!!! These chic ballpoints from writing tool royalty Caran D’Ache are available in gobs of colors, write like a charm, have the perfect weight (they’re metal), and use replaceable cartridges. I literally have these in every single damned color. Get it here!
9 Aside from a magazine, I carefully select two books for the journey. That way, I can change my pace if one or the other isn’t living up to my expectations. I don’t see how Chicken with Plums, the latest graphic novel by the talented Marjan Satrapi (of Persepolis fame), could be anything but a page turner though… Book review to come shortly… Get it here!
10 Along with your snuggly new socks, a long, light scarf is a multitasking travel marvel. Wrap it once or twice around your neck or use it to hide under for a light-free nap. These raw-edged buffalo plaid scarves by the Gap are the perfect length and made of 100% cotton. Several styles and colors available… Get it here!
11 I can’t make it an hour without tea. Tea calms my nerves, keeps me hydrated, and is a sure-fire homeopathic winner against jetlag. Kusmi Tea has several of their blends available in miniature tin collections – the perfect size for travel. If you’re more of a tea bag fan, well, they have those too… Get it here!
12 How are you going to drink that scrumptious tea if you don’t have a container? By all means, don’t count on the airline to provide you with an adequate vessel. Last time I did that I got a Styrofoam cup just large enough for a desperately needed shot of whiskey. Count on the Japanese to make the king of all tea travel mugs: Zojiruchi’s stainless steel mug with strainer will keep your bevie nice and warm while you fall in and out of a snooze. There’s even a secret compartment in the lid that holds a tea bag or loose tea! Seconds as a great hand warmer… Get it here!
13 Well duh! What’s a flight without your favorite iPhone apps? And how are you going to call your forgetful uncle to tell him he’s supposed to pick you up from the airport? Incase has oodles of bright, sturdy cases for your hipster gadget so there’s less of a chance you crack your screen when you throw it on the ground, cursing AT&T’s crappy 3G network. Get it here!
14 Look, just because you’re thousands of feet above the ground doesn’t mean your teeth don’t need a good scrub every few hours. And I’m sure the people squeezed into your row would appreciate a neighbor with minty fresh breath. Just, pack a freaking toothbrush, would you? While you’re at it, you might as well have some fun with Sanrio’s bigwig: it’s a Hello Kitty travel toothbrush! Sold. Get it here!
15 Second book on the holiday travel list: Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. The book studies the unparalleled running skill and story of the Tarahumara Indians living in Mexico’s treacherous Copper Canyons. This will be sure to motivate any runner during a rather gluttonous time of year… Book review to come shortly… Get it here!
16 I’m blind as a bat and, although contacts trump glasses in most cases, the air in a plane in as harsh as sand scraping against my cornea. These nifty little contact cases (they clip to the lid of your contact solution) by Kabalab are a saving grace. There’s even a little hole to attach it to a keychain or cord for easy retrieval. Get it here!
17 Although you could use your scarf (eew, please don’t), a handkerchief comes in handy right as things could get awkward. You know how a runny nose can go from mere sniff to waterfall before you can say achoo? Well, chances are the flight attendant is caring for the guy who can’t unfold his dinner tray and your nose is left to fend for itself. With Muji’s city map hankies, you’re snot free and have a slightly damp guide to London, Tokyo, Paris, or New York at your immediate disposal. Gezuntheit! Get it here!
18 Look. Nivea’s been around for 100 years. They know a thing or too about hydrating. Your skin will thank you. Get it here!
19 Sometimes the worst happens and you get stranded in an airport terminal far far away for just long enough to be miserable and not quite long enough to get out and enjoy the foreign land. Well, at least you packed an All-in-One adapter (try the Franzus Travel Smart model) to recharge your iPhone, iPod, Powerbook, etc… Some airplanes even have outlets in the loos… Just in case you want to be that asshole that recharges his computer in the bathroom. Get it here!
20 My favorite lip balm – like making out with silk. Beiersdorf!? Nivea and Labello? In one life? Thanks buddy. Now available in the States. Get it here!
21 This subtle chewing gum has just enough fragrance for a fresh kick. New York City sweetheart Choward’s has been around since the 1930’s and their line of nostalgic mints and gums (choose from Violet, Lemon, Spearmint, or Peppermint) aren’t overpowering like many of today’s sweets on the market. Added plus: great vintage packaging. Get it here!
22 Yeah, you have an iPhone. But, if you’re a real music geek, you don’t keep your digital library on your phone. I adore my 160 GB iPod Classic and store nearly my entire music library on the thing. It’s like having the whole world in your hands… Tip: turn down the brightness and your battery will last twice as long. Get it here!
23 These Panasonic monitor headphones are out of this world good. Not only is the sound impeccable – blocking out the misery around you, but not a soul can hear the cheese you’re listening to. They’re snuggly warm in cold weather too! Get it here!
24 Chicken or beef? I’ll pass. Hasn’t anyone ever gone 12 hours without a full course meal? Why people eat airplane food is a mystery to me. For that possible craving, I find that Clif Bars are the perfect snack to tide me over ’till I can bite into a fresh croissant! Bon Voyage mes amis! Get a 12-pack here!