While Instagram can certainly make it look like fashion girls’ suitcases are full of fun, fancy pieces, anyone who travels often knows that while your cool outfits are the ones that make the photos, the bulk of your luggage tends actually to be made up of “boring” essentials. At least that’s the case with our editors, and personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As someone who travels pretty regularly, I’ve found that it’s definitely worth it to stock up on basics rather than fill your suitcase with excessive options you likely won’t end up using. Think lounge leggings over your fourth back-up top, dust bags to protect your prized possessions, and more. Just what else are those critical items we can’t travel without? Keep scrolling to see, read about, and shop each of our editors’ picks.
“Every suitcase I pack is usually about 80% the same items as the last time, with new outfit-specific pieces sprinkled in. The first thing I tend to reach for is a pair of go-to jeans, which right now is the Pinch by Agolde.”
“Unless I’m going somewhere that I’m certain has no sun, pool, or spa, I always pack a simple black backup bikini in case a tanning or pampering opportunity presents itself.”
“I used to skimp on loungewear in favor of (unnecessary) items, but I’ve learned over the years that it’s better to have something to wear in your downtime than to be equipped with seven going-out tops for a four-night trip.”
“I always bring two to three duster bags with me in my suitcase to either protect my nicer shoes, or to stuff dirty clothes or swimsuits in once my trip has come to an end. They’re also great for packing accessories like belts, scarves, hair accessories, etc.”
“I live in black slip skirts, so not packing one would be a crime. They’re the best travel clothing item, hands-down. Wear it with a sleek black crop top for a night out, with a T-shirt and sneakers during the day, or with a printed blouse for a nice dinner. If you’re looking to save room in your suitcase, this is your best bet.”
“Last but not least is a white tank top. I always pack one ‘just in case,’ but then it ironically becomes the most-worn item on whatever trip I’m on.”
“Packing cubes are one of the most game-changing pieces you can find in my suitcase. They allow you to organize all your similar items together, meaning that you don’t have to unpack your entire suitcase just to dig out a pair of pajamas.”
“Speaking of pajamas, I discovered Lunya earlier this year and can’t live without their pajama sets.”
“I’ve grown so accustomed to wearing this cozy crewneck when I travel that now I won’t even step onto an airplane without it. It’s my go-to layer to combat the chilly plane temperatures, and it’s also the kind of item I usually end up reaching for throughout my trip.”
Shop the matching High-Waist Biker Short ($56)
“I don't know when it happened, but now I’m the type of person who squeezes in a workout on vacation. It’s not without a little motivation, though, that I get up early and hit the gym. Right now, that motivation is coming in the form of this powder-blue set from Alo.”
“Anywhere I go, my Levi’s denim jacket goes. It’s machine-washable and takes up minimal space in my suitcase. Plus it’s easy to layer with in the winter, and defends me against aggressive A/C in the summer.”
“I don't bother with multiple pairs of sneakers when I travel—just this white leather Veja pair that goes with literally everything. They took a few wears to break in, but now that they are, I can walk around in them all day and remain blister-free.”
“These are my travel pajamas and have been for years (in fact, that reminds me that it’s probably time for a new pair). They’re so soft and lightweight, and they really take the guesswork out of figuring out what sleepwear to pack, which is probably an afterthought for most people.”
Also available in more sizes.
“I travel more often for work than for pleasure, so I carefully plan my outfits in advance to make sure I look as stylish and presentable as possible. I even snap pictures of myself wearing the looks to reference while I’m on the trip. Beyond these outfits, I always make sure to include one extra throw-on dress for those unplanned moments of the trip—running out to grab a meal after a day of meetings or a day of being dressed up for fashion week. When the bulk of my suitcase is fussier outfits, there’s nothing better than knowing I can take it all off and throw on a comfortable dress after hours.”
“I always pack Nike zip-up hoodies for flights because I’m a germaphobe; I put the hood up before I rest my head on the seat. Plus the hood can also double as a sleep mask if you order a size up. It’s crucial to have a zip-up one because it slips on and off easier at security and in your seat.”
“For every trip I take, I pack a pair these easy cotton Madewell T-shirts. I usually pack one V-neck and one crew-neck. I have them in practically every color, but I use the white, gray, and black more than anything. They’re super versatile, comfortable, and easy to pair with skirts, jeans, and shorts.”
“It may sound obvious, but seamless (yet comfortable) underwear are a must on every trip—especially handy when pairing with slip dresses and tailored pants. These Calvin Kleins are my favorites.”
“I never travel without a cozy yet chic cardigan—the perfect, easy cover-up for the plane, evening dinners, meetings, and layering during the day. This Nordstrom Signature cashmere cardigan is super soft and chic.”