Shop must-have compression packing cubes, portable travel scales, and weekender bags.

In my years as a frequent international flier and Italian travel writer, I’ve come to learn (sometimes the hard way) that the items you pack can greatly impact your experience of being suspended some 30,000 feet in the air in a metal contraption for over six hours at a time. My biggest takeaway: it pays to be prepared. 

Through trial and error, I’ve fine-tuned my travel essentials packing list to include everything from spinner carry-on suitcases and compression packing cubes to portable luggage scales and travel adapters. The good news is that all of my favorite items can be found at Amazon, and they're starting at just $9. So without further ado, these are the 12 travel essentials I always pack to make my international flights smooth and stress-free, whether I’m traveling around the world to slake my newest destination obsession or returning home to Italy.

Related: Amazon Prime Day 2024 Is Right Around the Corner — Here’s Everything We Know About the Major Shopping Event

Gonex Compression Packing Cubes 


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I never understood the hype around compression packing cubes until I tried them out for myself during a recent week-long road trip through Ireland. This bundle of four from Amazon-loved brand Gonex, in sizes ranging from S to XL, can compress a wardrobe's worth of clothes and is great for an overpacker such as me. I recently used them on a 10-day trip home to Rome and still had plenty of room left in my carry-on suitcase for shoes and toiletries. Now that I’m officially a compression packing cube believer, they come with me on every international trip. 

Travel Inspira Portable Digital Travel Scale 


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Any overpacker knows the pain of reaching the airport check-in desk and having to pay an exorbitant fee for overweight luggage — believe me, I’ve had to reluctantly shell out cash more than once. As a precaution, I purchased this small portable digital scale, I haven’t paid any overweight baggage fees since (much to my wallet’s pleasure). Compact enough to pack away into a personal item, the easy-to-use scale can weigh your luggage in both pounds and kilograms. Currently on sale at Amazon for $10, it’s a handy gadget that could potentially save you hundreds of dollars at the airport.

Twelve South AirFly Bluetooth Wireless Audio Transmitter


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There’s nothing quite like watching a movie on an international flight with a handful of snacks and a crisp glass of ginger ale, at least in my opinion. However, I’ve had my movie experience ruined a handful of times by the subpar earphones handed out on flights, which can never quite drone out the airplane’s engines or fit right in my ears. This traveler-loved, pocket-sized Bluetooth audio transmitter lets me connect my wireless earphones to the airplane’s seatback television, so I can enjoy crisp audio quality without any wires getting in the way. It has vastly improved my international flight experience, and at a humble $35, is worth every penny.

Samsonite Freeform Hardside Expandable Spinner Carry-on Suitcase


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A sturdy carry-on suitcase is always with me whenever I travel internationally, either as my primary luggage or simply for extra space in the (probable) case my European shopping sprees get out of hand. I always make sure that my carry-on is a spinner suitcase, which I find is easier to navigate busy airports and cities with.

While I just invested in the Samsonite DLX Voltage Global spinner carry-on, you can snag this lookalike at Amazon from the same Travel + Leisure-trusted brand. It comes with smart features like expandable sides, TSA-approved locks, and an interior divider pocket. And, with 10,000-plus five-star ratings from Amazon shoppers, it’s not surprising that it’s currently the best seller in the carry-on luggage category

Tessan Universal Travel Adapter


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A universal travel adapter is a must-have for any international trip, which is why I always have one or two on hand. This one from Tessan is one of my favorites because of its wide coverage — it can work in over 150 countries across Europe, Asia, and Oceania. Plus, it comes with four USB ports that can charge up to five devices at a time, so it’s a great option if you’re traveling with family or friends.

Although the device can be a bit bulky to pack away, I always keep one in my checked suitcase and one in my carry-on or personal item bag in case of long layovers and missed or canceled flights.

Apple AirTags 4-pack


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Apple AirTags are my absolute best friends when I travel. Not only do they give me peace of mind when I fly and have layovers, but they’ve also helped me track my lost luggage more times than I can count. I was once able to see that my suitcase had been left behind in Dublin during a layover flying from Boston to Rome, and was able to track it when it eventually arrived in Italy and was making its way to my house via an airport worker. 

I also use them in my everyday life to keep a close eye on my keys and wallet, and have yet to change their battery even though I’ve had them for two years. Although pricey, they’re worth the investment — and the good news is that they’re currently 20 percent off at Amazon.

Amazon Fire 10-inch Tablet


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Bibliophiles know the power of a good book and are well acquainted with how easy it can be to lose track of time when you’re engrossed in a story. My paper-thin Amazon Fire tablet, which easily fits into my personal item or carry-on suitcase, is always on me when I travel, and I can easily pass the hours reading a book or two on particularly long flights. 

The Amazon Fire tablet doesn’t just stop at books, though — you can play games (I’m a big fan of in-flight Solitaire), catch a movie or show via Netflix or Disney+, listen to music on Spotify, and even jump on a Zoom call. It’s an incredibly versatile device that’s great for traveling, and to sweeten the deal, it’s currently on sale for $95.

Topbag Family Passport Holder


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As a triple citizen, I always carry all my passports with me when I travel, which can be a bulky ordeal. While mine was gifted to me years ago, this TopBag Family Passport Holder is a close match. Capable of holding up to six passports, which is ideal for families or friends traveling together, the wallet also comes with a cash pocket and six card slots so you can keep all your essentials in one, easy-to-reach place. It’s slim enough to fit into a personal item and comes with a handy strap that you can wear around your wrist for easy access. 

Miady Dual USB Portable Chargers 2-pack


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This pack of two pocket-sized portable chargers, roughly the same size as an Apple iPhone, is essential for long international flights, especially ones with layovers. I’ve brought these all over the world with me, from Iceland and Ireland to Rome and India. They're small enough to fit into a crossbody bag and each portable charger comes with two USB ports that can charge two devices at a time, which I usually use to juice up my cell phone and Amazon Fire tablet during long flights. Currently on sale for $18, these portable chargers have enough power to get you anywhere you need to be and back, as their near-76,000 five-star ratings can attest to.

Uto 3-in-1 Crossbody Bag


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I purchased this crossbody bag for a recent week-long road trip through Ireland, and have since crowned it my official travel purse for its durability, ample storage features, and sleek silhouette. It can easily survive the wear and tear of traveling long distances thanks to its water-and-scratch resistant synthetic-washed leather exterior — seriously, it emerged from my Ireland trip virtually unscathed despite suffering comical amounts of wind, rain, and mud. 

What's more, the crossbody bag comes with three zippered compartments, one of them detachable, plus a removable chest-level coin purse. Inside, I can fit my three passports, wallet, keys, lip balms, hand creams, Apple AirPods, portable charger, and phone cable — with room to spare. The bag’s budget-friendly price tag, now on sale for $23, is just the cherry on top. 

Monogrammed Luggage Tag


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Trying to find your suitcase at baggage claim can be tricky, which is why I make mine stand out with this small but chic monogrammed luggage tag. Made from supple PU leather, the black luggage tag is virtually scratch-free and comes with a subtle privacy shield to cover your personal information. It’s an extra step to ensure that my bases are covered in case my luggage gets lost, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s pretty cute, too.

Etronik Weekender Bag


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Weekender bags are all the rage these days, and for good reason. They’re sleek, spacious, and easy to carry — essential criteria for any kind of travel. I usually bring my flight attendant-loved Béis Mini Weekender Bag with me on international flights for its sturdy exterior, stiff-zippered bottom shoe compartment, and ample storage space. For those who don’t want to splurge on Béis’ $98 version, you can score this budget-friendly weekender from Amazon-loved brand Etronik (which I also own) is on sale for $36. 

Available in over 20 color and pattern variations, the Etronik Weekender Bag features a bottom zippered shoe compartment, a USB charging port, a toiletry bag, two shoe bags, and a detachable and adjustable shoulder strap. Because of these smart features, which have earned it over 7,000 five-star ratings, I used the bag every weekend for nearly a year when taking four-hour bus rides between Boston and New York City. Even though I’ve now upgraded to Béis, the Etronik bag is still in great shape and ready to go when I need it.

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