1. A five-year Global Entry membership that'll *also* include TSA PreCheck for when you're getting out of Dodge. It'll seriously shorten your security line times and end up being a great value if you get out of the country at least once a year and fly domestically a few times annually. (This combo is $22 more than five years of PreCheck alone.) Cheers to your full breakfast spread you'll be eating post-security while others are in the regular line, taking off their shoes (ick).
I put off getting TSA PreCheck and even Global Entry for YEARS despite flying ~10x a year because I'm a person who likes to get to the airport early and have getting through security down to an efficient routine. However, my breaking point was July 2021 when I had to wait soooo long at the airport when coming back to the country from Croatia (I had Mobile Passport at the time, but the machines were broken so I had to wait in line with everyone else). I went to Italy about a month later after signing up for Global Entry and coming back into the country was a breeze. I just had to let a machine take my picture, print out a receipt with said picture, and then place it in a nearby TSA agent's open palm. Then onto baggage claim! I've since used the Global Entry portion six times and the TSA PreCheck about a dozen times since getting it. So I feel as if I've already gotten my money's worth in less than two years.
Apply with the Department of Homeland Security for $100. Once you're approved, you have to do an in-person interview and if approved on the spot, you can have your TSA PreCheck and Global Entry privileges available immediately. I just so happened to find a date for my interview the day before I flew to Italy and was able to update my boarding passes and flight reservations with my info to reap the benefits ASAP.
BTW, check out my tips for travel during the pandemic.
2. A packing list pad so you can rest assure that you DID bring everything you intended, including which things you wanna include in your carry-on and which things you wanna check.
Promising review: "I hate packing — I mean, I really hate packing! I am always afraid I am going to forget something, and the entire ordeal is a stressful one for me. Since I have to travel a lot, this is a game changer. No more guessing if I forgot my underwear — everything I need is on this list. I am thinking of just keeping one bag totally packed, filled with the items on the list, and just add my suit in when I am ready to travel. :)" —Dr. Oceanfront
Get it from Amazon for $7.
3. A Carhartt backpack with a dedicated pocket that fits up to a 17-inch laptop so when you've gotta pull your computer out at airport security you can do it in one quick move instead of taking it out of your backpack and then a zippered holder.
Promising review: "I’m transitioning to using this bag as my daily. I already really preferred it over my last bag. It feels great and looks great and I’m looking forward to use it more.
I got a 13-inch HP computer and a 2017 Macbook Pro to fit nicely in the dedicated laptop sleeve. I currently have two notebooks in the bag and plenty of room for more." —henry
Get it from Amazon for $59.99 (available in five colors).
4. Or a reversible vegan-leather travel tote for anyone who'd rather fool with a shoulder bag that'll still hold basically everything you'd need on board your flight. Simply reach in and pull out that laptop or toiletries bag you've gotta put out in the tray.
Promising review: "I bought this bag for a trip I recently took and am extremely pleased with it. The versatility of being reversible (dark to light) was a plus, getting two for the price of one. It is soft and supple, and holds a ton of stuff! My 13" laptop/tablet fit perfectly and there was still room for a lot of other travel stuff. The magnet that holds the flaps together was strong, too. I would definitely purchase this product again and will use it on future trips!" —D. Webb
Get it from Amazon for $39.99+ (available in 17 colors).
5. Plus a handbag organizer with LOTS of pockets to help you easily track down your ID, a pouch to take off those giant earrings before going through security, that half-drunk bottle of water you've gotta toss, and just about anything else you'll need to take out and put in a tray.
Promising review: "I have always purchased handbags with lots of pockets and sections because I hate having to dig around trying to find something in the gaping hole of purses with no sections. But I have passed up so many cute bags because of this, and I was frustrated with having to do so. I purchased this medium size organizer, and I couldn't be happier!! It is very well-made, and it has so many great pockets to organize everything I need. THE BEST PART is, I can easily lift it out of one purse and put it into another one, and I always know where everything can be found. I wish I had gotten one of these years ago. When I first ordered this organizer, I didn't realize it had two zipper compartments on each side, and I was tickled to discover even MORE storage!!! With all the fun colors and patterns, it was hard to select one, but I've always been partial to polka dots. I love it and can't imagine anyone not being has pleased with this as I am!" —Ronna
Get it from Amazon for $8.99+ (available in sizes S-L and in 27 colors).
6. A wheeled carry-on bag small enough to qualify as a personal item on super stringent airlines. It can fit underneath an airplane seat! You can avoid checking a bag, glide through security, *and* don't have to hurt your shoulder by carrying a duffel bag that'd also fit strict bag measurement policies.
Now you won't even have to pull your suitcase outta the overhead!
Promising review: "This is the perfect bag that will fit Spirit's 'strict' personal item policy. I was able to fit it under my seat on Spirit and had no problems from any flight attendants about its size (no one even checked to begin with). Very lightweight and easy to maneuver around. All the zippers and wheels work perfectly. I recommend investing in this bag if you're a college student and/or travel a lot for short breaks." —Haegi Oh
Get it from Amazon for $55.94 (available in three colors).
7. A weekender bag that'll easily slide over the handle of your wheeled suitcase in case you're in the market for a new personal item. (It'll also fit under an airplane seat according to reviewers.)
Promising review: "I’m so happy I purchased this bag! I’ve been using a backpack as my carry-on for years but saw this and thought I’d give it a shot. I was able to pack a small backpack (approx. 12"x14" but the top was folded), a purse (approx. 10"x6"), Beats headphones (in their bubble case), a pair of Birkenstocks, and a travel blanket with plenty of room to spare. The side zipper/compartment is SO convenient to hold your cellphone/wallet/passport for easy access. I love that it sets nicely on top of a carry-on size bag without toppling over. The bag also has a shoulder strap which was nice to use when actually boarding the plane." —Jen
Get it from Amazon for $34.99 (available in 10 colors/patterns).
8. A simple luggage strap can hold your essentials like a travel pillow, jacket, personal item, and more as you scoot along through the airport and once you land. Here's to quickly gathering all your stuff post-screen and freeing up those hands!
Promising review: "I love this little gadget. I used it to attach my jacket and computer bag to my luggage on an extended business trip. It made my airport walks so much easier. Now that I'm back home, I've been using it daily to attach my jacket or cardigan to my work bag or purse." —Michele
Get it from Amazon for $8.49+ (available in four colors).
9. Or a travel belt can help you easily secure your personal item (aka, a large purse or backpack) to the top of your rolling bag. See, getting through airport security *can* be a cinch. (Sorry.)
The travel belt is adjustable to 38 inches to fit most bags. The belt itself is vegan leather with elastic accents and a quick-release buckle.
Cincha Travel is a small business in California that develops adjustable travel belts made out of vegan leather. The brand donates 100 airline miles for each purchase, which are used to reconnect separated migrant families.
Promising review: "Love this! I am constantly struggling between holding my jacket and two carry-ons. This is the perfect solution! I can’t wait to start using it when I’m back to regular business travel." —Allison
Get it from Cincha Travel for $40 (available in 15 colors, can be monogrammed for an additional $15).
10. A trifold travel wallet so all your important documents are in one place and you're not wearily holding up the line when it comes time to show the TSA agent your passport and boarding pass.
The wallet has a passport pocket, boarding pass compartment, three credit card slots, an ID slot, a slim card pouch, slim pocket, a ticket slot, a cellphone pouch, a coin zippered pocket, key holder, and pen holder.
Promising review: "Guys, I'm beyond happy with this. I've been looking for a passport and ticket holder for a while but had never found the right size until I decided to try out this one. Besides, the material feels high quality and long-lasting, the red color is even better in person and it's wildly pretty." —BazantSol
Get it from Amazon for $12.99+ (available in 33 colors).
11. Breathable, washable travel sneakers — they'll work just great as airport shoes OR rolled up in your luggage while you wear your bulkiest shoes en route. Slipping 'em on and off while you groggily walk through security will feel like a cakewalk.
I own these and have worn them sooo many times. And as far as washing goes, they wash really well! You'll just have to make sure that you put them in a well-ventilated area to dry because they do take a while to dry. I discovered this a few years ago when I ventured into an extremely muddy corn maze and got my foot stuck in muck. I hosed off my shoes beside the farm's pig pen and expected to have to throw them away. The light gray (which I own in addition to this burgundy hue ^) washed really well, and then nearly a year later I wore them alllll over Athens, including trekking up to and all over the Acropolis where I saw tons of people fall. Did I mention they have excellent traction and you can wear 'em without socks?!
Get them from SUAVS for $56.80 (available in five colors and whole sizes 5–12).
12. Or some no-tie elastic shoelaces you can add to your go-to sneakers so you can easily slip them on and off at security. But the laces won't look any different!
Promising review: "At first I was skeptical that these laces wouldn't hold my shoes on tightly enough, but I decided to give them a try in my Converse Chucks. They're fantastic! I like the way the 'hidden' fasteners sit inside the shoes below the eyelets, but on top of the tongue, and I can't feel the fastener at all with my foot in the shoe. I've had them in for around eight months, and they're still just as elastic as ever. They haven't stretched at all and show no signs of wearing out. I loved them so much that I bought five more sets to put in all of my shoes! No more triple knotting my shoes so they don't become untied. I tie knots pretty slowly so these laces have honestly saved me tons of time. I couldn't be happier with them." —lucidity
Get them from Amazon for $9.99 (available in 38 colors).