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I'm a world traveler, and these are my packing essentials, starting at just $3

My go-to gear includes a do-it-all Turkish towel, an anti-theft day bag and affordable sandals just as comfy as your Birkenstocks.

towel, neck pillow, sandal, battery pack
Pack wisely with these travel gear picks I swear by. (Amazon)

Everyone loves a good summer vacation. You get some time to unwind, relax, maybe sit by the beach and enjoy time with people you love. To keep things stress-free, you need to take the essentials, which means your packing game has to be tight. And if anyone knows how to pack a suitcase, it's me — because I live out of one! As a remote worker, I spend lots of time abroad. Trust me: Understanding how and what to bring can make or break a trip. And no, it's not all about cute outfits — you want things that conjure comfort, safety and a sense of familiarity. Some of my essential pieces of travel gear are unexpected, like an HDMI adapter and a skin-quenching face cream. Keep scrolling to see what I mean.

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One of the least predictable things about travel is sleep quality. Will you get noisy neighbors? Construction? While staying in Bali, I had a rude awakening — I was literally awoken by the sound of roosters every morning at dawn. Lesson learned: Now I never travel without foam earplugs. If you're not an earbuds person or can't sleep with yours in, just invest in these: You'll thank me later.

$3 at Amazon
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$3 at Walmart

Not everyone considers an HDMI adapter essential, but I do — and here’s why. A lot of hotels and vacation homes offer smart TVs, but that means you have to log in to your own Netflix, Hulu and other accounts. And then you forget to log out, which is a security risk. This adapter connects your iPhone, Android, Macbook, Chromebook or a host of other devices to any flatscreen TV with its HDMI cord attached and mirrors whatever's on your screen. I don't travel anywhere without mine.

$7 at Amazon

Sometimes, after a long flight, my ankles would stay swollen for a few days. Edema, or foot and ankle swelling, is a common side effect of airplane travel and happens when you're sitting in one spot too long, causing fluid to accumulate in your extremities. It's not too dangerous, but it's pretty uncomfortable and unsightly. So now I wear compression socks on most flights, and I prefer these because they come in black, white and gray — but they have fun colors and patterns too if you prefer that!

$13 at Amazon

I thank myself all the time for buying a Turkish towel years ago. It's durable, highly absorbent, ultra-thin and takes up about the same luggage space as a pair of pants. I got mine in Croatia, and it's been my constant companion all over the world, holding up through countless beach days, road trips and machine washes. It doubles as an on-the-go blanket too.

$13 at Amazon

I like to spend as much time as possible in beach towns, and I practically live in these slides. They're more affordable than Birkenstocks, but just as comfortable (they're heaven, in fact), and they've never given me blisters or pain of any kind. It speaks volumes that these flip-flops have more than 41,000 five-star reviews.

$25 at Amazon

Here’s another great way to keep your skin — and your whole body — hydrated while you travel: Drink water! Novel idea, huh? It's even more important if you're walking a lot, touring ancient ruins or doing anything that puts you in the blazing sun all day. This top-rated water bottle makes it easy: It has a loop handle that lets you hook it onto a bag or a belt and carry it hands-free.

$24 at Amazon

A portable charger, or power bank, is an indispensable travel item that's going to save the day, so don’t don't leave home without it. Why? Because now that we mainly use our smartphones to take pictures, get directions and even pay for things, it's important to have that phone always juiced up when you're out sightseeing, on a boat trip, on a long hike — there are a million scenarios in which your phone can die. I would be stranded without this gadget. Anker is one of the leading names in portable technology, and this particular charger is a hit with over 54,000 perfect ratings.

$26 at Amazon

I hate to admit it, but there have been times I've been on the go without time to wash my dirty laundry, so inside the suitcase it went with all my clean clothes! Perhaps you've had the same conundrum with sweaty gym clothes. The solution is a travel laundry bag like this one. It creates a shield between my dirty and clean clothes. When you get home, you can toss the entire thing — bag and all — right in the washer! It's so convenient.

$28 at Amazon

Just like you have certain things in your closet that are your go-to items, I have certain things in my luggage. And, if you've got a tropical escape on your itinerary, one thing you will thank yourself for packing is this button-down blouse with sleeves you can roll up or down. It's perfect to throw on over a tank top and lightweight enough to toss in your tote bag when it gets hot. I tuck mine into jeans for a walk around town and throw it over my swimsuit on a beach day. Pro tip: Get one that's machine-washable and doesn't wrinkle easily.

$30 at Amazon

Here's a hack for making any hotel room or Airbnb feel like home: Bring a Bluetooth speaker to fill the space with your favorite tunes, podcasts or audiobooks. My constant companion is this one from JBL. It's so lightweight that I often forget I'm carrying it. I also bring it to the pool or on beach outings, because it's waterproof to the point of full immersion. Amazon customers have given this little red beauty over 45,000 five-star ratings.

$33 at Amazon

Neck pillows are a dime a dozen, and yes, they do make travel so much more comfortable. But I also get back pain from traveling, so sometimes I need pillows in other places. This is one of my favorite Amazon travel finds, and it comes with its own travel case. It's flexible so you can conform it to your shape and for different sleeping and sitting positions. The cover even comes off and can go right in the washer.

$48 at Amazon

I never push fear-based travel advice, but pickpocketing and card skimming are real problems, so take safety precautions and enjoy your trip with a clear head. This bag converts into a crossbody, which keeps your stuff close and in front where you can see it, and RFID technology protects all the cards in your wallet. It's got lots of handy compartments too, so you don't have to dig through a bottomless pit to find your keys, wallet, phone and all your little accessories.

$54 at Amazon

The low humidity on planes is notorious for drying out skin, and then there are the elements, jet lag and forgetting to hydrate on your trip. They all take a toll on the skin. I have a small stash of skin care with me while I travel, and a lightweight hydrating moisturizer is essential. I'm loyal to ingredients, not brands, and this moisturizer contains two of my favorites: plant-based squalane and hydration superstar hyaluronic acid. 

$60 at Amazon

These never leave my electronics travel pouch. They have superior noise-canceling and audio abilities — I even sleep with them if I'm in a noisy neighborhood — plus they're sweatproof and waterproof. They've seen me through long trips on planes, trains, automobiles ... and boats! A fully charged case will give you 30 hours of tunes.

$127 at Amazon

After having some dental work done, I knew I didn't want more — so a serious toothbrush was a must! This one not only removes more plaque than a regular toothbrush, but it alerts you if you're pressing too hard and lets you know when it's time to replace the brush head. There are four modes to choose from, and a handy travel case keeps things hygienic. It has a slim, portable charger too.

$123 at Amazon

In this connected world, it just makes sense to travel with a piece of luggage that also charges your phone; it’s so helpful when you're stuck at an airport gate or on a long bus ride. Flight attendants and pilots swear by Travelpro luggage, and if you take a look at what they're rolling through the airport, you'll often see this brand. I use this 20-inch soft-side carry-on — it's more expandable than a hard-side spinner, meaning I can jam in a lot more stuff.

$365 at Amazon

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