The Best Travel Accessories (for Beating the TSA at Their Own Game)

Remember when flying was sexy? To be fair, neither do we. But we’ve seen Mad Men. We know that back in the day, the bros were eating beef stroganoff in pinstripe suits and sipping highballs on Pan Am, and frankly, we don’t think it’s fair that air travel in 2023 feels like traveling inside a sad milk carton with off-brand snacks. We deserve better, friends. We deserve to fly with a little more comfort and a lot more panache. 

Why not pull up to LAX in a wearable, duvet-like housecoat, toting a rhinestone-encrusted water bottle and a fresh strawberry vape pack of gum? Why not take a few extra steps to make your upcoming trips all the better, and avoid catching the dreaded “airplane flu.” Airport chilling is like edging during sex: You’re excited to be on the precipice of your blastoff, but everything you can do to give the buildup more attention and suspense makes the whole experience so much better. Plus, making your tiny toiletries and travel umbrella pre-flight purchases outside of the airport will cost way less and feel more luxurious than getting your credit card declined at Hudson News. The only thing that could ever calm us down on a Spirit Airlines flight is a squirt of Aesop hand sanitizer, a memory foam neck pillow, and a suitcase that rolls better than the hottie from the Scottish Olympic curling team. 

The best neck pillows

We thought travel neck pillows were for chumps for the longest time. But we were reckless, bendy spring chickens back then, flying from cramped hostel to cramped hostel without a care in the world. Now that we’re getting older and feeling a tad less pliable, the guaranteed comfort of a wearable pillow is a welcome relief. Did you know that for every inch that our melon head moves out of vertical alignment, another 10 pounds of pressure are applied to the neck? Noooo thank you. That’s where brands such as Cabeau come in with a 4.3-star rated neck pillow that’s described by some reviewers as “a lifesaver in the middle seat” thanks to its comfy, memory foam material. 

Or maybe you’d like to silently declare yourself the Amy Sedaris of the flight? In that case, here’s a jumbo shrimp neck pillow that will give you sweet Worcestershire sauce and lemon wedge dreams.

Sanitizer that doesn’t smell like a tire

Of course you can buy hand sanitizer at the airport, but it will cost you thrice the amount of your well-earned doll hairs and won’t make you smell like a rich person. Why not add a little sploosh of luxury to those hard-working hands? Aesop is the herbaceous brand loved by everyone from the Kardashians to my Midwestern mom, and its sani smells of mandarin rind, rosemary, cedar, and great credit. 

The best on-the-go sanitizer wipes

We like to think that Daddy Sagan would want you to wipe down your seat before you cozy up to a few hours of Cosmos on JetBlue. FLYGIENE makes some of the most coveted sanitizing wipes on Amazon with a 4.2-star rating, and reviews praising the fact that “they come in a resealable plastic bag, so you can keep them all together, and just grab the one you need, or split them all in your purse, backpack, luggage, car, office drawer, etc.” Has Naomi Campbell taught you nothing?

Fidget toys for nervous flyers

Since ‘rona, overhearing in-flight sniffles has never felt more stressful man. Even the most innocent of sneezes could be deadly, and some people just turn airplane time into an alternate reality in which they can act extra weird, chatty, and disgusting—so if you have in-flight anxiety, you might really enjoy having a fidget toy to disassociate a little bit. Many ASMR-worthy fidget toys have come for the fidget spinner’s crown, but we think this incognito pen-turned-fidget-toy is the coolest for the plane. You can use it to annotate your books, make a mini-motorcycle, or scribble that weird “S” thing everyone drew in school on your sleeping neighbor’s hand. 

Move over, packing cubes

One VICE editor swears by this “magic organizer” that “zips into one single cube, but when unfurled, turns into three hanging shelves and an additional zipper pocket that can hold shoes, belts—whatever.” Basically, this travel organizer allows you to cram double the amount of stuff into your carry-on, so you never have to pay for a checked bag again.

Clear toiletry and makeup bags

I was once rightfully chewed out at an airport in Germany because I forgot that some security checks require all carry-on liquids to be visible. If only I had used this trio of TSA-approved toiletry bags, I might’ve escaped the verlegenheit

Don’t forget your meds (or retinol)

There’s nothing more embarrassing than all of your Xanax spilling across the floor of the airplane because you trusted those shotty pharmacy bottles to hold up under pressure. Stash your vitamins, sunscreen, face wash, and Viagra in these customizable, magnetic, and leak-proof containers.

A collapsible water bottle

No more getting swindled by those $7 Dasanis. Your airport coinage should be reserved for kitsch keychains, duty-free treasures, and unhinged gossip rags only. This collapsible water bottle by Que has a unique, spiral design that takes up very little space in your precious carry-on, but is easily expandable for filling up at the fountain. 

Earplugs that are concert-approved 

Earplugs, like neck pillows, are another underrated lifesaver when traveling—and if you swear that you just don’t like them, chances are you’ve probably only ever had the uncomfortable orange niblets handed to you at shows. VICE editor Hilary Pollack wrote an honest review of Loop’s earplugs, which helped her survive three hardcore shows and a metal festival in bliss. “Not only do they look like cool Klingon jewelry,” Pollack said, “but Loop's earplugs reduce volume instead of rendering your surroundings a muffled mess.” Absolutely perfect for when you need to drown out any screaming bébés or in-flight Karens, but don’t want to be completely unaware of your surroundings. 

Ok, Mr. Wolrdwide

Don’t get stuck buying some $50 power adapter in your destination city that barely works, and is only capable of charging your phone. This World Travel Adapter Kit from Apple will have you covered, no matter where in the world you (or Carmen Sandiego) are.

A silky eye mask 

This mulberry silk eye mask by Brooklinen (currently on sale!) has become a favorite among our editors for its cool, smooth feel, reminding us that when it comes to silk—real silk—your skin can feel the difference. This is the kind of eye mask that will live on your nightstand, will be a lifesaver on the plane, and will come in handy if the lighting in your hotel room or Airbnb is weird. Never underestimate the power of being able to block out the world for a little snooze time.  

Safe travels. Bring us back a shot glass souvenir

The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story.


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