The Best Luggage and Travel Accessories for Spring and Summer 2023
Whether you’re ready to hit the open road, fly away to far-flung destinations or sail on the high seas, you’ll want to check out these top picks for packing up your clothing and gear this busy travel season.
With many destinations already seeing record-breaking numbers of tourists over spring break, late spring and summer of 2023 are shaping up to be one of the busiest years yet for travel. Experts say the number of travelers is higher than pre-pandemic levels – despite rising prices for airfare, hotels, cruises and other related travel expenses.
With this increase in travel, you’ve probably seen many ads touting the latest and greatest travel-related accessories, carry-on luggage, and comfy clothes and shoes specifically designed for long-haul flights. Some gear is designed to simplify the packing process, maximize your luggage space (especially if you’re trying to fly with only a carry-on bag) and make your overall travel experience more pleasant.
Travel can be stressful, especially when flights are full and popular destinations are packed with tourists wielding selfie sticks. Anything you can do (or anything you can pack) to make your experience a smoother – and more memorable one – gets my vote. If you can do it in style, that’s even better.
With many flights, cruises, hotels and road trips under my belt since the end of last year, I’ve had a chance to test out a selection of travel products. Here are six items that I’ll continue to use as we head into one of the year’s busiest travel times.
Bee & Kin Midi Nomad Backpack
Best for: A European getaway or weekend city break
I’m a long-time fan of backpacks with a well-used, and large collection of Longchamp’s backpacks and other brands in my closet. So, when I was asked if I wanted to review Bee & Kin’s leather backpack, I was excited to try something different than the lightweight fabric bags that I usually travel with.
The Midi Nomad Backpack is made of supple Italian pebble-grain leather. It has cotton drill lining, adjustable leather straps and a single zippered closure – and I ordered it in a rich coffee color that is perfect for year-round travel. It goes with almost everything. The soft, padded Spandex interior pocket will accommodate a 13-inch laptop or iPad. You’ll also find plenty of space inside for your wallet, a small cosmetics bag or other personal items.
Two exterior side pockets are perfect for storing a water bottle, your keys or another smaller accessory you’ll need easy access to. One nifty feature is the separate outer zip pocket that’s designed to house Bee & Kin’s wireless charger. When you’re ready to charge your phone, slip it into the phone pocket next to the charger and then hit the white button on the charger to initiate the charge. (The charger is an additional cost).
The midi version is smaller than the company’s original full-size Nomad Backpack, and it’s much lighter in weight. The original backpack weighs a whopping 6 pounds, 3 ounces, making it very heavy to carry on your back – and that’s when it’s empty. The midi size weighs considerably less at 2 pounds, 6 ounces. Of course, that’s still heavier than most fabric bags, such as the Ranier Deluxe Backpack that I reviewed last November.
When this backpack becomes uncomfortable to keep on my back, I place it on top of my carry-on bag and secure it with a luggage strap or belt, which you can find on Amazon. When I arrive at my destination, I offload the items that I can keep in the hotel room and use the backpack as a handbag. Problem solved – and it’s a more sophisticated look to carry the leather bag over a cloth version.
Dimensions: 11.6″ x 5.5″ x 13″
Weight: 2 lbs., 6 oz.
Price: $275 on Bee & Kin’s website
Shure AONIC 40 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones
Best for: Noisy aircraft and long-haul flights
After traveling with this version of Shure’s noise-canceling headphones, I am now a total convert. I avoided packing anything but a regular set of earbuds for years, even with the long haul trips and endless hours of watching movies in flight. Now I know why many people travel with their headphones, even if it does take up space in your carry-on bag – it’s SO worth it.
In addition to the clear studio sound quality of the headphones, there are three digital ANC settings for extended low-frequency noise cancellation. If you want to listen to the flight attendant when she comes around with the selections for dinner, you can hit a button and tune back into the noise on the plane.
Other features include up to 25 hours of battery life, with a 15-minute charge equal to five hours of use; a preset equalizer (EQ) or customize your own with the free Shure app; Bluetooth 5 wireless technology and a 3.5mm analog audio input to stay connected to a device or the inflight entertainment system. The headphones are also lightweight and comfortable – and they fold up into a round carrying case that fits nicely into your backpack or carry-on luggage.
Price: $249 on Shure’s website
NOMATIC Carry-On Pro
Best for: Short business trips
NOMATIC’s Carry-On Pro and Carry-On Classic offer essentially the same capacity (at 29 L vs. 30 L), but the Pro version features an exterior compartment with a separate tech case that accommodates up to a 16-inch laptop. While I would typically choose more interior storage space for clothing, shoes and accessories, I was intrigued by the ability to store my laptop within the carry-on luggage in the separate exterior compartment and have easy access to it (without unzipping the entire bag) while waiting in lounges at the airport. I typically pass on using my laptop many times because I want to avoid opening my bag in front of a room full of people.
While the Pro version is best for a minimalist traveler that plans to use the bag for one- or two-night trips, using the laptop space for other essential items provides almost as much as much space as the Classic Carry-On. You can actually unzip and remove the interior panel that separates the exterior compartment from the rest of the bag. When you do this, you can fit quite a few items of clothing in the suitcase, especially when using the compression panel.
For longer trips when I have a checked bag and a piece of carry-on luggage, I use the Carry-On Pro to store my computer, work papers and personal items like jewelry, makeup and shoes that I don’t want to leave in a checked bag. I also put my wallet, passport and lip balm in the tech space. When I do this, I don’t have to carry a handbag or backpack that I’ll need to store under the seat on the flights. When I arrive at my destination, I have my foldable and lightweight Longchamp Le Pliage Backpack to use as a handbag while I’m there.
Notable features of this carry-on bag include the nearly indestructible durable polycarbonate exterior, smooth and quiet Hinomoto wheels, a removable tech case with a strap, interior organization spaces for your tech gear, additional zippered pockets for personal items, TSA locking YKK zippers and a folding compression panel.
Outer dimensions: 22″ x 14″ x 9″
Capacity: 29 L
Weight: 8.86 lbs.
Price: $549.99 on NOMATIC’s website
The Un-carrier On – T-Mobile and Samsara Luggage
Best for: A five-day vacation, especially a girl’s getaway or a short cruise
This limited edition carry-on smart suitcase with a fun (and vibrant) magenta color – which is also the Pantone color of 2023 – is a collaboration between T-Mobile and Samsara Luggage. The 23-inch spacious bag is a game changer for me as its interior layout and capacity provide sufficient space for me to travel with just a carry-on bag. I recently traveled to a conference for four days with the suitcase, and I even had a few pieces that I did not wear, which was shocking. The charging station takes up some interior space, so I could pack even more into the bag without that feature.
Highlights of the luggage include Tag Smart Luggage tracking (Apple Air-Tag), a charging station with a USB-C port, wireless phone charging capabilities and a flat-top working surface that is excellent while sitting in the waiting area if you need a workspace. In addition to the luggage tracker and charger, the suitcase also comes with an eight-item packing set with T-Mobile and Samsara branding. It includes drawstring cosmetic, duffle, shoe and garment bags to stay organized and maximize space. The 360-degree spinning wheels are some of the smoothest operating wheels I’ve experienced – and there are TSA locks and a telescopic handle. In addition, the durable polycarbonate exterior is made with recyclable materials.
The interior is spacious and is separated by a zippered compartment – and you can secure the packing bags on the other side with elastic straps. I found that the open interior design maximized the packing space – and the technology perks made this a fun bag for travel. So, if you’re looking for a colorful and functional option for your spring and summer getaways, this bag is one of my top picks.
Dimensions: 9.8″ x 15″ x 22.5″
Capacity: 45.6 L
Weight: 9.68 lbs.
Price: $325 on the Samsara Luggage website
QuietOn 3.1 Sleep Earbuds
Best for: Light sleepers and noisy hotels
These earbuds are the one item I can’t live without at home or on the road, especially when I’m trying to sleep in a noisy hotel or on a late-night partying cruise ship. I reviewed the previous version of these earbuds, the QuietOn Sleep Earbuds, in February 2021. As a big fan of the earbuds, I jumped at the chance to review this newer version when I was asked.
The latest version, QuietOn 3.1 earbuds, are more comfortable and fit more snuggly into the ear than than the prior version – and they block out more noise. I’m also impressed with the long battery life of 28 hours with one charge.
One of the features they mention on the website is that you can still hear your alarm clock when wearing the earbuds, which is true, so there’s minimal chance of oversleeping (unless you keep hitting snooze). The earbuds come with several sizes of tips (so you can find what is most comfortable for your ear), the charging case and charging cable.
These earbuds have been one of my favorite items to review because they really work, they’re lightweight, easy to pack, and useful both at home and when I’m traveling.
Price: $289 on QuietOn’s website
Sidney Byron Suncatcher Beach Tote and Pouch
Best for: A beach getaway
This fun and stylish natural jute tote is perfect for a beach or girl’s getaway when traveling by car or by plane. The bag’s interior is made of a soft terrycloth fabric – and you can secure the contents inside with a drawstring closure. Inside, there’s one open pocket and one zippered pocket. On the outside of the tote, there’s a small exterior pocket on the front, and on the back, you can use the straps as a trolley sleeve or carry up to three wide-brim hats to shield you from the sun. There are also two jute straps to carry the bag on your shoulder.
The tote is large enough to carry a towel, coverup, flip-flops, sunglasses, sunscreen, a book and other items you may need for a relaxing day by the pool or on the beach.
I have the bag in yellow and white (with a yellow interior) with the multi-colored pom tassel, so it’s colorful and fun. I also like the matching zippered and lined pouch (also with a pom tassel) for items you need to keep away from the sand, such as your phone, eyeglass case, wallet and lip balm. There’s also a small pocket on the inside of the pouch.
As an added benefit, natural jute and cotton are eco-friendly, sustainable, recyclable and biodegradable. The bags are made in India by local craftsmen and artisans.
Check out Sidney Byron’s website for other great bags, totes, scarves, yoga accessories, Mahjong travel sets, and more.
Dimensions: Tote – 18″ x 14″ x 5″ Pouch – 11.5″ x 8″ x 1″
Price: $140 on Sidney Byron’s website
Ellie Rose Crossbody Phone Bag
Best for: No-fuss travelers
This sleek vegan leather crossbody bag is easy to pack in your suitcase for a night out when you don’t want to carry your regular handbag but must take your phone, ID, credit card or cash. The front pouch will fit phones as large as an iPhone Max. And the zippered pocket on the back will hold a credit card and driver’s license with RFID blocking to keep your information safe. As an option, you can also remove the detachable 52-inch metal chain and slip the bag into your handbag to use as a small wallet.
If you need to carry a tube of lipstick, a pair of glasses or other bulky items, this crossbody bag won’t work for you, unless you can stash the other items in a jacket or coat pocket. However, it’s a great compact and no fuss option when you need a secure place to store your phone, ID and credit card while shopping or meeting friends out for the evening.
The bag comes in blush and black.
Dimensions: 7.5″ x 4.5″ x .65″
Price: $30 on the Ellie Rose website
*Top image credit: Freepik
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Disclosure – I partnered with several companies to review their products. While I received a complimentary item or service, the views expressed here are my own.