Must-have gadgets and accessories for safer winter (and pandemic) travel

November 6, 2020, 1:00 PM UTC
Updated December 19, 2020, 4:11 PM UTC

Not everyone has time to shop around (not to mention most people have no desire to shop in stores at all right now) and look for the newest items on the market that could appeal to the loved ones and colleagues on their gift-giving lists. (Or for themselves, because let’s be honest, we look at holiday gift guides and deals for ourselves just as much as for others.)

For anyone still planning to travel this holiday season, consider these accessories that could bring some peace (of mind) and joy on earth.

Courtesy of Billie Simone, Lindsay Albanese, Happy Labs, Edward Field, and Monos


Billie Simone Jewelry: Now that wearing face masks has become the norm, we’ve all taken to our own ways of keeping the mask on our person when not on our face while outdoor dining, for example. Instead of tying the mask around your wrist or sticking it in your pocket, this chain borrows from the same concept as chains for eyeglasses, using hinge closures around the face mask straps to keep it securely around your neck. Available in three lengths and either gold filled or sterling silver, the Gemini mask chain can be styled in different ways, including as a necklace or triple wrap bracelet, when not used to hold a mask. SRP: Starts at $128.

Google: Hands down, the Pixel is the best line of Android phones on the market. Google’s flagship smartphone is a cut above the rest, year after year, for a number of factors: the lack of bloatware, how amazingly easy it is to set up (especially if you’re upgrading from an earlier Pixel—you really just connect the included USB-C cord and go), and most of all, the camera. The Pixel series really gave the iPhone some competition, and until recently, really was above and beyond with a 16-megapixel camera. The Pixel 5 continues to escalate what a smartphone camera can do, with unparalleled low-light and nighttime shooting quality and HDR+ for automatic color and lighting enhancement. SRP: $699 for the 128GB version without a contract.

Halo Life: This is by far the best face mask for traveling I’ve seen yet. It’s easy to breathe through and comfortable on your face for hours upon hours at a time, on the ground and in the air. It’s truly smooth enough to sit on your face all day and it won’t bother you. The maker of the masks has had time to get the perfect construction right: Long before the advent of COVID-19, the Halo Life masks have been tested for use on crowded and polluted streets in major cities as well as during wildfires in California and Australia. Halo Life has incorporated proprietary SETA Nanofilter technology from New Zealand that filters out virtually all airborne particulates, including smoke, dust, exhaust fumes, toxins, odors, pollens, pathogens, and pollutants. Halo Life’s nanofilters block harmful airborne particulates, capturing 98.8% of virtually all airborne pathogens and contaminants. SRP: $30.

Haerfest: New York City-based accessories brand brings a cool, modern vibe to all of its jetsetter products. For a more casual but sophisticated mask strap, this 12-inch, lightweight, leather strap has a back-slider that keeps masks tight and adjusts easily to any length, and hardware clips swivel and rotate in all directions for a no-hassle experience. The brand also makes the most dignified backpacks imaginable, suitable for both men and women, with dedicated laptop pockets for 13-inch and 15-inch notebooks and additional storage space with zip and magnet closures to keep accessories secure. SRP: Starts at $198 for the Apollo backpack and $18 for the mask strap, both on sale for the duration of the holiday season.

Monos: The CleanPod UVC sterilizer can disinfect 99.9% of common bacteria and pathogens. With a press of a button, a high-energy beam of UVC (ultraviolet C) light is emitted from the specialized LEDs, effectively sanitizing surfaces without the use of chemicals, within 30 seconds. The LEDs contain no mercury and power on immediately without any warmup time. SRP: $90.

Wander Gloves: From the maker of the TopTote clip for securing your hat while traveling, these gloves are designed to keep your hands safe by avoiding dirty, contaminated surfaces—while looking like a jet-setter at the same time. Available in two shades (gray and lilac) and one-size-fits-all, Wander Gloves are antibacterial, UV-protectant, machine-washable, and reusable. They offer touch-screen functionality on the index finger and thumb, and they can be easily stored in a carrying case to avoid cross-contamination when not in use. SRP: $29.


Aether: The matte-finish, nylon-and-spandex blend on this goose down, water-resistant jacket has tremendous stretch and ease of movement, making it ideal to tote along for any kind of winter travel (and adventure in years to come when adventure is safe again). There is a center-front zipper, and for storage there are hand pockets (one with a hidden phone pocket) and an interior patch pocket with a Velcro closure. There is also a rib knit at the body hem, and stretch-nylon binding at the interior seams, sleeve-cuff openings, and hood opening. SRP: $425.

Naked Cashmere: This unisex wrap is cut for a soft and airy silhouette. The Karlie shawl can wrap around your whole upper body, and while lightweight it is also 100% cashmere, making it ideal for virtually any travel scenario or location, especially layering over your clothes on cool nights (or cold airplanes). And it will elevate almost any look from day to evening wear. SRP: $175.

Sarah Flint: The New York designer is a favorite with Hollywood stars and Main Street shoppers alike thanks to her classic shoes that were designed with a 21st-century mindset for comfort. The brand’s latest debut is the Ilene loafers, made in Italian leather or suede, depending on your fancy. Once the shoes are broken in, you can plan to get a lot of mileage out of them, and they are slim, so they should fit well in any suitcase to class up any outfit. Note that these run a bit small, so size up if you can. SRP: $425.

Vivobarefoot: Perhaps after a face mask, there is nothing more critical to safe and enjoyable travel than a good and comfortable pair of shoes. Vivobarefoot goes even further with the Geo Court Canvas sneakers, which are made from recycled canvas and touted to be vegan. Designed for everyday use, the shoe sits on a statement hexagonal-textured rubber sole that wraps high around the heel, providing an overall more breathable experience (for your feet). SRP: $150, available in both men’s and women’s sizes.


Happy Labs: 2020 has been a year filled with challenges for everyone, and that has increased our stress and anxiety levels and taken a toll on our overall mental health. CBD was already buzzed about before 2020, but the industry has exploded this year. Each hemp plant used in Happy Labs products is traced from seed to shelf, and each product features a QR code giving consumers access to certified lab test results specific to their product batch. And not all CBD products have to slow you down: Designed to add pep and vigor, the Pick Me Up Pill contains 60 milligrams of caffeine (equivalent to one shot of espresso) in addition to vitamins B6 and B12, vitamin C, and 30 milligrams of CBD. SRP: $60.

Impact Snacks: No matter how or where you’re traveling, it’s a good idea to bring your own prepackaged snacks during a pandemic. Impact Snacks is a Generation Z–founded, plant-based snack brand that touts to be so dedicated to conscious consumerism that Impact Snacks’ packaging is made from entirely plant-based bioplastics. Even the 100% home-compostable, certified marine-biodegradable wrappers are completely edible. (Although it’s still not recommended.) Fortunately, the vegan superfood bars are tasty on the inside, each featuring Lion’s Mane, a nootropic mushroom that boosts brain function while targeting nerve damage, anxiety, and depression. There are two flavors available—Iced Caramel Latte and Dark Chocolate Brownie—each incorporating at least 10 grams of plant-based pea protein, six grams of prebiotic fiber, and superfoods such as almonds, maca, and kale. SRP: $21 for a box of seven.

Next Stop Candles: This one is best for a “staycation.” As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to spike daily to harrowing levels, it might be worth considering putting off your travel plans if you can. So if you’re staying home, you can at least set the mood to somewhere else with Next Stop Candles, a line of scented, hand-poured candles emitting peaceful aromas from Maui to Mykonos. Each candle is inspired by a destination around the world, uses vegan wax (including coconut and soy), and has a wooden wick for a more even burn—for approximately 60 to 80 hours of burning time. SRP: $40 for an individual candle, and there is a “frequent flyer club” membership for regular deliveries.

Olika: Among the CDC’s top guidelines for helping curb the spread of COVID-19 is washing your hands frequently. If you can’t make it to a sink with soap and water right away, hand sanitizer is the next best thing. Made with natural aloe, glycerin, essential oils, and 65% ethyl alcohol, Olika’s signature hydrating formula kills 99.9% of germs and provides long-lasting hand moisture. The clip-on version is petite and ideal for on-the-go sanitization, and packs a punch with more than 300 mists per package. SRP: $15.

Welly: The 200-piece Excursion first-aid kit is packed in a durable, reusable, and recyclable tin and keeps supplies easy to locate, whether that be in your home, car, or RV. Included are a variety of sizes of bandages (including waterproof ones), wound prep pads, medical tape, hydrocortisone and antibiotic packets, and ibuprofen. SRP: $35.


Edward Field: At luxury price points, Edward Field has built its products for lifetime use. Available in black or tan brown with dual inside pockets, the Duffel weekender-style bag is soft, buttery, and has that new car, er, leather smell. The Italian leather is full-grain, ethically sourced (specifically, sourced as a by-product of the meat industry), and it’s all put together in California. SRP: $1,195.

The North Face: The sleek Kaban Charged Backpack can haul 26-liter loads while also keeping your devices charged thanks to an integrated, chargeable power supply, providing up to a week’s worth of half-hour boost charges. The hero feature here is the Joey T3 console, which can be managed on a smartphone app via Bluetooth. The system includes a distance alarm (which could help you in case you’re prone to leave your bag behind by accident), a find-phone feature to locate a lost device (up to 150 feet), and phone power for up to 25 additional hours of talk time. As far as the actual backpack goes, the stand-up design makes it easy to access gear and is divided up into compartments intended for the tech savvy. The laptop compartment has an ejector handle that lifts your laptop out of its pocket for easy access, and the front three-quarter-zip compartment houses a padded and fleece-lined tablet sleeve. SRP: $200.


Fluenz: Back in ye olde days of early 2020, circa early- to mid-March when life in quarantine began, many of us set out with a spin on New Year’s resolutions, pledging to take up new hobbies, bake bread, and perhaps learn a new language. If you weren’t able to achieve any of these things, first, that is completely acceptable, and no one should be hard on themselves these days. But if you’re still looking to make the most of your time and perhaps optimistically planning a trip abroad, there’s still time to brush up your language skills beyond the guidebook basics.

Ideal for the Zoom culture we live in now, Fluenz is a custom and live one-on-one language learning experience conducted via videoconferencing that allows you to learn at your own pace from anywhere, anytime. Students can set up lessons with language instructors (not bots!) according to their own schedules, for roughly 90-minute lessons either twice or three times. (And even those metrics are flexible. This really is a learning service that is optimized for each individual student’s needs, both timing and aptitude.) Right now, Fluenz is available for learning six languages: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Mandarin. SRP: Packages range from $187 to $408, depending on the number of levels taken.

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