When You Travel Frequently, You Need Different Gear

Jessie Beck

In 2015, I kicked off the new year in Portugal, spent a spring weekend in Portland, and headed to 3 conferences for work in Boston, Seattle, and Bangkok. I also attended 3 weddings — all of which were on the east coast (I’m in California) — spent 2 weeks traveling in Asia after the Bangkok conference, and skirted off to Joshua Tree for a short trip over Thanksgiving.

Living a bi-coastal life (both my partner’s family and mine are back east), while being a travel industry professional with insatiable wanderlust means that I travel a lot. I’m also not alone. From business travelers to individuals who’ve moved far from home, many of us fall into the “frequent traveler” category (3+ trips per year).

We need travel gear that can withstand these frequent trips. Our gear has to be sturdy, versatile, carry-on only, and easy to move around with. Prepared for the constants of travel (e.g. bad airport food and hotel coffee),  with strong dislike of wasted travel time, we want credit cards, memberships, and apps that help us benefit from our trips.

To help this demographic create the perfect pack, scroll on for our comprehensive buying guide for frequent traveler gear

Choosing a Bag

As a frequent traveler, you need a bag that’s sturdy enough to withstand the miles and versatile enough to work well in any situation. Roller bags are a drag. Literally. And they threaten to ruin your trip. Choosing a carry on travel backpack means choosing freedom. Freedom of movement. Freedom from lost luggage. Freedom from baggage fees.

If you’re worried about weight in your transition to carry on only, try this:

Etekcity Luggage Scale ($10)

Okay, not a bag, but definitely a must have. Avoid luggage fees by weighing your luggage beforehand with a simple and affordable luggage scale like the Etekcity Luggage Scale.

Outbreaker Travel Backpack ($299)

The Outbreaker travel backpack is the fully featured carry on backpack for urban travelers. 

Obsessively organized, this bag will take whatever the road throws at you and do it comfortably. The fully adjustable harness means that you can fit this bag to your body type specifically.

Wirecutter named this bag the best carry on travel bag, and for good reason. 

Setout Travel Backpack ($199)

Setout travel backpack is the maximum sized carry on for city travelers. This backpack is “just right” for most travelers and has plenty of room to bring everything you need.

The Setout travel backpack packs like a suitcase and carries like a backpack. Well padded hip and shoulder straps means that the weight is properly distributed to your hips and the carry is a comfortable one.


Choosing the right daypack takes some thought. Yes, there are a plethora of cheap “one size fits all” daypacks on the market, but guess what? They’re cheap, and one size does not fit all.

Ask yourself what you plan to use your daypack for, and then search for the features you actually need, instead of settling for what the glitzy marketing tells you you need.

Outbreaker Daypack ($99)

Pack the Outbreaker Daypack flat in your carry on for one bag travel.

When you arrive at your destination, carry the daypack for any day of adventure: from sightseeing to working remotely from a cafe to exploring a new city on a drizzly day. No extra rain protection required.

Made of waterproof sailcloth, your laptop will stay dry, safely tucked into the computer sleeve along the padded back of the bag. The padded shoulder straps mean a comfortable carry, even with the added weight of your office set up. 

Setout Packable Daypack ($39)

With the Setout Packable Daypack, you can carry everything you need for a day of sightseeing.

The padded, mesh shoulder straps and back panel will breathe and feel comfortable, even on a hot day. For one bag travel, it packs into its own front pocket and is easily stowable inside your carry on.

This backpack doesn’t have a computer sleeve, but it will carry everything you need for a day of urban adventures and takes up almost no space in your travel backpack when it’s not in use. Perfect.

Packing Cubes

Take your packing to the next level with a set of packing cubes. You know how the inside of your bag ends up a jumbled mess by the third night of your trip? No more. With well designed packing cubes, everything has a place and it’s easy to keep things organized.

Outbreaker Packing Cubes ($59)

Well-made cubes stand up to the rigors of frequent travel.

The Outbreaker Packing Cubes are made from waterproof sailcloth, a strong but lightweight fabric that won’t rip or tear. They’re designed to fit perfectly in your Outbreaker Backpack and will last as long as your luggage.

You can actually stack two sets of these in the 45L Outbreaker bag. That’s a lot of space, and all of it well organized.

The mesh tops allow you to see what you’ve packed so you don’t have to dig through everything in your bag to find that one item .

Setout Packing Cubes ($39)

The Setout Packing Cubes are different.

They’re made of the same high-quality heathered polyester and YKK zippers as your carry on and are designed to fit perfectly in the Setout Backpack. Complete with curved edges.

Your packing cubes will last as long as your luggage.


For frequent travelers, it’s great to have accessories that will help you in any location and on any trip — rather than just one corner of the globe. From converters to phones, below are frequent traveler essentials:

Converter: Apple’s World Traveler Kit ($34)

Apple’s World Traveler Kit is a great option for Mac users. “It converts voltage for you, so you don’t have to think about it,” says Taylor Coil. You can also easily bring just one of the converters, rather than the whole set, for single-destination trips.

Converter: Lenmar 5-Piece International Converter Set ($10)

A more affordable option is the Lenmar 5-piece set. Although it doesn’t convert voltage for you like Apple’s World Traveler kit, the converters are durable — I’ve had the same set for over 10 years now — and tiny.

Phone: Your Normal Phone — Unlocked

There was an almost unanimous consensus among the frequent travelers I talked to that using your normal phone while abroad is the way to go. While some providers, like Verizon, sell phones that are already unlocked for international usage, others, like AT&T, will require that you request they unlock the phone before you can do so. T-Mobile has instant compatibility in any country.

Once you arrive in your destination, simply pick up a SIM card and a tourist phone plan at the airport.

Phone: Your Normal Phone — Unlocked

There was an almost unanimous consensus among the frequent travelers I talked to that using your normal phone while abroad is the way to go. While some providers, like Verizon, sell phones that are already unlocked for international usage, others, like AT&T, will require that you request they unlock the phone before you can do so. T-Mobile has instant compatibility in any country.

Once you arrive in your destination, simply pick up a SIM card and a tourist phone plan at the airport.

Portable Charger: Anker PowerCore 20100 ($40)

Being able to charge your devices on the go with a battery cell is essential for frequent travels. Though a little heavy, the Anker PowerCore 20100, “Holds a ton of juice, and continues to demonstrate reliability” It has enough power to charge your devices several times over when fully charged.

Kindle Paperwhite ($100)

For books and e-readers, the Kindle paperwhite came in as a top option for frequent travelers. For those who prefer to limit the number of electronics they travel with, though, the free Kindle app on iPhone is another option to consider — especially for short, local trips where you may or may not even have enough time to read.

In-Flight Accessories

What you carry with you when you fly matters. It can mean the difference between a comfortable flight experience and arriving feeling rested and ready to go, and a profoundly uncomfortable start to your trip. Plan ahead for your in-flight gear.

Bedtime Bliss Eye Mask ($13)

Eye masks are an essential for any trip to help frequent travelers catch up on some zzz’s on the plane, or sleep in and battle jet lag.

Though I tend to just stick with whichever free eye mask I was given on a recent trip, the Wire Cutter recommends the Bedtime Bliss Eye Mask.

Headphones ($20 – $450)

Comfortable, noise-canceling headphones are an accessory that most frequent travelers wouldn’t dare sit through a flight without. For headphones, there are several recommendations to choose from:

  • Bang and Olufsen Beoplay H7 ($450): Expensive, but beautiful and comfortable with great sound. They also fold flat making them easy to travel with.
  • Bose in-ear noise cancelling headphones ($300): They’re small enough for travel and the noise canceling is your best friend in a noisy city.
  • Yurbuds ($20 – 50):  With lock-in technology, they don’t fall out, and are good for running.
  • SOL Republic Relays ($32): These earbuds have buttons. They’re good for music, phone calls, and the gym since they don’t fall out.
  • Sony MDR-7506 ($100): Full-sized headphones that are great quality and pack down small.

Still looking? Check out our complete breakdown of the best bluetooth headphones for travel.

EO Hand Sanitizing Spray ($5)

For keeping clean on the run, flight attendant Charity Yoro recommends EO Hand Sanitizing Spray. “It doesn’t dry out your hands like normal hand sanitizer, which really sucks on a plane.”

Wool Socks ($20 – 30)

Wool socks are much more effective at keeping your feet warm on long flights than regular cotton socks. Smartwool’s line of socks come in a variety of patterns, dry pretty quickly considering their weight, and last. I only use mine on flights or camping trips, but probably buy a pair every couple of years.

Visconti Soft Leather Case ($27)

The Visconti soft leather passport case will help keep your passport from wear and tear during frequent travels, and has pockets to keep track of other important documents like immigration papers, boarding papers, or your yellow fever card.

Cabeau Evolution Pillow ($40)

I’ve found that what works for some in the travel pillow department, doesn’t always work for all. Inflatable travel pillows are wonderfully compact but not always the most comfortable.

The Cabeau Evolution pillow lies soundly in the middle. It’s made of memory foam but squishes down to the palm of your hand. Also, “the flat back makes it infinitely more comfortable than other options,” says Taylor.

Reusable Water Bottle

As a frequent traveler, having to pay for bottled water is the worst. We recommend the Vapur water bottle ($14), which is both sturdy and can collapse when not in use. 

Another option is the Grayl water bottle ($60 – 80), which will both contain and purify your water.

Men’s Clothing

There is some debate over whether frequent travelers should invest in travel specific clothes, go with what’s already in the closet, or build a capsule wardrobe. Whichever camp you fall into, these are some of the best choices out there for men’s travel clothing:

Outlier Slim Dungarees + Futureworks ($140 – 198)

The Outlier Slim Dungarees and Outlier Futureworks pants frequently make it on our list of travel clothing favorites. They’re both lightweight and durable, whereas the Futureworks looks a bit more professional — a big plus for the frequent business traveler.

Mission Workshop’s Signal 5-Pocket ($225)

Mission Workshop’s line of clothing is meant to be breathable, durable, and “Help you cover the most ground possible”. It’s my partner’s favorite pair of pants for both travel and everyday use. They look equally nice dressed up or dressed down, and can withstand a lot of roughhousing (e.g. mountain biking). And, oh yeah, they’re girlfriend approved!

Myles Apparel Everyday Shorts ($58)

For a pair of shorts that work equally well in an active or casual situation, the Myles Apparel Everyday Shorts come well recommended by Tortuga’s own Fred Perrotta.

Uniqlo’s Line of Clothing

From the Merino Crew Neck to the Ultra Light Down Jacket, and plenty of items in between (jeggings for men, anyone?) Uniqlo’s clothing has long been a favorite among our group of travelers for being affordable, comfortable, and versatile. They also tend to be very basic in design and easy to mix and match with other items.

Sperry Boat Shoes

Finding the “perfect pair of travel shoes” is a hard one — even for the most frequent of travelers. The Sperry Boat Shoes, however, come close. They work in casual and classy situations and are easy to slip off at airports. The only downside is that you’d probably want to bring a separate pair of shoes for jogging, hiking, or other outdoors activities.

Women’s Clothing

The more I travel, the more I try to rely on what I already have in my closet. I tend to keep all of what I wear in a single color pallet (blue, grey, black, white) and as a result find it really easy to grab a set of clothes that I can easily mix and match on the road. Most of our women’s clothing picks for frequent travelers are also items you’d find in our normal closets. That said, there are a few pieces of clothing that are good to have on hand for their trips.

H&M Tops ($10 – 15)

A couple of basic t-shirts and tank tops are a must have for frequent travelers. I like to have a simple white and black v-neck on hand at all times. H&M sells some decent, yet affordable, options. As Taylor Coil says, “They’re surprisingly durable and look good with everything from mini skirts to jeans.”

The only downside is that I do tend to replace them semi-frequently (once a year at least).

Nike Fleece-Lined Leggings ($95)

A good pair of leggings will be able to double as pants on your travels. Nike’s Fleece-lined leggings do this and are also warm enough to use as a layer under your jeans if things get cold. Lululemon leggings ($98) are another great alternative.

Zara Jeggings ($40)

Jeggings are a traveler’s best friend. Though jeans can be bulky and hard to hand wash, jeggings are lighter and just as durable. The only downside is that they aren’t always as warm in cold-weather destinations.

Zara makes an affordable and surprisingly jean-looking jegging. They come in multiple styles (high-waisted and low-waisted) and colors for you to choose from as well.


For cool to cold destinations, a good pair of ankle boots are a must-bring. Angela Rollins, a Tortuga Concierge, opts for the Cobb Hill Bethany boot. “They zip up in the back, so they’re super easy to take off… good rubber sole too, they never slip.” Personally, I love Aldo’s line of boots and have found some great basic black boots on Asos (though both pairs I’ve bought are of lesser quality and wear through easily).

Otherwise, a pair of basic black flats or sandals will be versatile enough for most trips — and a closet essential regardless of how often you travel.

Infinity, or Blanket Scarf

Large infinity or blanket scarves are priceless for being in buses, planes, or any high-AC environment. Wrap it around your neck as a part of your outfit, or unwind it and use it as a blanket. I’d recommend checking your favorite brand (like Zara, Anthropologie, or Forever21) in the fall to snag a great deal.

For more clothing recommendations, I’d also suggest looking at the Ultimate Gear Guide for Short-term Travelers. All of Laura’s clothing suggestions also work well for frequent travelers.


Frequent travelers, don’t waste your money (or time) buying travel sized toiletries for each trip you leave on.


Invest in some reusable containers that you can easily fill with your normal products. Alternatively, you could reuse the bottles you get from that one time you purchased travel sized shampoo, or conditioner. GoToob’s reusable silicon containers ($15 for a set of 3) are by far the favorite of Tortuga’s family of frequent travelers.

Gotubb and, “Contact cases are also great for small amounts of lotion, sunscreen, makeup, etc,” says frequent traveler Laura Lopoch.

If you’re looking for a good toiletry bag to keep everything organized in, The Wirecutter recommends Eagle Creek’s Packit Slim Kit ($38). Just be warned, “The bag is so well organized, that it’s easy to overstuff it and not allow it to close” says one reviewer.

Got pills? The Lewis-n-Clark Delux Organizer ($10) is great for long and short trips alike. Simply remove one of the pouches for quick trips.

Skin Care

Maintaining self care on the road can be tough, but it’s important. Just like managing a great travel wardrobe, makeup on the road is best when minimal. Travel can also take a toll on your skin, making it even more important to take good care of your skin.

For skincare, Vasanti Brighten Up! ($34), an exfoliator and cleanser, is Taylor Coil’s go-to. While in-transit (especially on planes), Alba’s 3-in-1 face wipes ($8) are good to pack to use between washes.

A travel fav throughout the blog is Dr. Bronner’s, which can be used as shampoo, soap, and “detergent” for hand-washing clothes. (In a pinch, you could also use a bar of soap.)

Fitness: Workout Gear for Frequent Travelers

Frequent travel, especially if you’re spending a lot of time in conference rooms, eating in airports, and sleeping on planes, makes it hard to stay fit. However, there are some great, packable workout items that you can toss in your bag. Choose one that you feel comfortable using as part of your on-the-road workout routine:

Jump Rope ($18)

The PowerMax Beginner Speed Rope ($18) was recommended as the best budget jump rope by Gear Patrol. It’s simple, lightweight, and easy to bring with you anywhere. Now all you need is a good routine!

Travel Yoga Mat ($40 – 60)

For travel yoga mats, David of Do Yoga With Me recommends choosing between the Gaiam SOL Bhakti 1mm Ultra-Light Yoga Mat ($40), Jade Travel Yoga Mat ($62), the Manduka eKO Lite 3mm ($46), and the Manduka eKO SuperLite Insight Travel Yoga Mat ($40). Giam’s mat is the most lightweight, whereas the others will provide better padding.

Lightweight Running Shoes ($90)

According to Well Well Well, the Nike Free 4.0 FlyKnit (Women’s / Mens; $90) are some of the most packable running shoes out there. They were designed to “fit like a sock,” which translates to “packs down small” as well. In addition to packing down well, they also gotten great reviews in terms of comfort and quality.

Portable Kettle Bells ($40 – 73)

For anyone who’d like to bring weights, without the weight, on their next trip the portable kettle bells do the trick. Pack them down empty and, then, when you’re at your destination fill them up with sand or water to use as weights.

“Virtual” Items: Apps, Memberships, and Credit Cards

In this final section, we’ll be going over a few non-physical items for frequent travelers to buy, download, or sign up for. These virtual items will especially help frequent travelers save time and money — things that can quickly add up while on the road.

Best Time & Money-Saving Travel Apps

  1. Evernote: Keep track of addresses, phone numbers, or that great restaurant recommendation your friend of a friend texted you.
  2. MiFlight: Gives you estimates on the security line wait at airports around the world. Most reliable in high-trafficked airports.
  3. TripitPro: In addition to organizing your travel reservations (hotels, flights, etc.) for you, it also gives real-time updates on gate changes and delays.
  4. Airline apps: If your airline has an app, download it. Some, like United, will even let you bypass the check-in counter entirely by letting you download a virtual boarding pass through their app, and send you a notification if there’s a gate change or delay.
  5. Award wallet: Keep track of your frequent flyer miles, hotel rewards, etc.
  6. The Points Guy: I haven’t tried it yet, but I will. This app will help you figure out which credit card to maximize your rewards and travel.
  7. Waze: Find out how long it’ll take for you to get to the airport before hailing a cab… just in case it looks like it’ll take 30 minutes more (or less!) than you expected. You can also use Google Maps for this.

Bonus: Google Maps (Android | iPhone). Use it to create a map on your desktop or phone for every trip, then save it locally to your phone. It’s also handy to pass on to friends or reference later if you want to look up where that great Italian pizza spot was.

Best Frequent Flier Program

Although you should absolutely have a frequent flyer number for every airline you fly on, it’s better to consolidate your points on a few. For example, instead of signing up for a separate frequent flyer number on an Eva Airline flight, consolidate your points into your United program.

That said, some of the best frequent flyer programs to be a member of include:

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards: On this program, you have the ability to earn a companion pass — by far the favorite rewards program among the Tortuganauts.
  • United MileagePlus: United’s upgrades for mid-tier status is good, but what I really like is the number of partner airlines in the Star Alliance that I’m open to flying with.
  • AAdvantage: The Points Guy says, “In term’s of upgrades [it’s] hard to beat.”

Best Credit Card for Travelers

Chase Sapphire 

This card has by far the best recommendations — from NerdWallet to The Points Guy and (seemingly) everyone who works at Tortuga, it’s the best travel rewards credit card out there. It has 0 international fees and 50,000 bonus points when you sign up. The only con is that the annual fee of $95 is on the high side.

CapitalOne also has 0 international fees on all its credit cards. The CapitalOne Venture card gets you 40,000 bonus points on sign up and has an annual fee of $65. I also love how easy it is to redeem rewards via their app.

Lastly, Amex is helpful to have because of their cheap insurance, but isn’t as widely accepted (both at home and abroad) and shouldn’t be the only credit card in your wallet.

TSA Global Entry ($100 for five years)

If you travel frequently, it’s worth the $100 fee to get your TSA Global Entry. It’ll give you access to express lanes in security and customs (within the U.S. at least) and save you a lot of time — especially if you call JFK your home airport (yikes). Just make sure you don’t make the rookie mistake I did by signing up for TSA Pre-Check. They both cost about the same, and TSA Pre-Check is included in the TSA Global Entry program as a bundle.

Costco ($55 – 110 per year)

Yes, a Costco membership can actually help you save money while traveling — not just on groceries. Get access to cheaper gas (throughout the U.S. at least), free bathrooms, and discounts on car rentals.


The key to building out a great line of gear as a frequent traveler is to invest in good quality, versatile items. Some other key takeaways include:

  • For luggage, go for sturdy and dependable
  • For daypacks, keep it simple
  • Packing cubes will help you stay organized and access your items quickly, but luggage with lots of compartments, like Tortuga, works equally well
  • Make sure you have a set of converters for everywhere in the world on hand and that your normal phone is unlocked for international use
  • Invest in in-flight accessories that will help you stay comfortable, healthy, and rest well
  • Travel clothes should be durable and versatile, but if you keep the usual staples in your closet, you should already have them at your disposal
  • For toiletries, we’re all about the reusable containers and a little extra love when it comes to skin care
  • Pack a workout routine to help you stay fit on the road
  • Don’t forget about “virtual” items, like TSA’s Global Entry and time-saving apps, that are a frequent traveler’s best friend


Want more like this?

Get weekly gear reviews, travel hacks, and packing tips sent straight to your inbox. We’ll send you a carry on packing list right away.