Airport Survival Kit: 11 Travel Essentials Under $20 That Will Save Your Trip

Backpack and hat sitting on docks
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As a frequent traveler for work — frequent as in I’m a member of T.S.A. PreCheck, Global Entry and even Clear — I like to think I’ve mastered the art of packing. No matter the means of transportation, I travel smart, bringing only the essentials and maybe one or two things to make my life on the road, well, a little cozier.

My three biggest woes with travel are that: 1) I get dehydrated (did you know there’s a lack of humidity in airplane air, and that’s why you get dehydrated?), 2) I get cold (I’ve read airlines keep cabins frigid so people don’t faint!), and 3) I am uncomfortable (those tiny seats are awful).

So here’s what I pack to tackle those issues and more, all for less than $20.

Magellan double-wall insulated tumbler ($9.99): Staying hydrated is key, so this tumbler is a must-have. It saves you money in the long run (because you don’t have to spend $8 on a bottled water), plus it keeps your drinks hot or cold for several hours. Bonus: It’s way less expensive than a YETI.

Sheet masks (16-pack for $10.59): There’s nothing better than inexpensive sheet masks that moisturize and keep your skin looking lively and healthy. I’m all about buying these on Amazon in bulk. The masks contain different extracts ranging from seaweed to rose and are ideal after a long day of traveling. I swear by these and wear one after a long flight right before bed.

YOGI ginger tea ($3.99): This is an essential in my purse, especially when I’m headed on a flight. Air travel (or any travel, really) tends to upset my stomach. Chalk that up to stress or nerves, but ginger is a lifesaver that chases queasiness away. Plus, it’s great for digestion — also crucial to mind while traveling, as it’s not always easy to follow your normal eating routine on the go. You can grab this tea at Target, and save $5 when you spend $50 on select products.

Baseball cap ($8.99): There’s no sense in getting dolled up for flights or road trips. So I prefer to throw on a simple baseball hat. But not any old baseball hat. I up my style game — even if it’s with minimal effort. And in this case, a trendy sequined baseball cap is the ticket.

Neck travel pillow ($18.95): Three cheers for an inflatable travel pillow that isn’t bulky and doesn’t cause you to hyperventilate while trying to fill it with air. When deflated, this pillow is so small that it easily fits into purses and backpacks. It has a push-button inflation device that fills the pillow in less than 60 seconds. Did I mention it’s super comfy?

Hydralyte effervescent electrolyte tablets (20-count for $9.11): This electrolyte formula results in rapid rehydration and is a preferred alternative to sports drinks. Reviews applaud it for helping with recovery from upset stomachs while dining and drinking abroad. Just drop a tablet in your water tumbler, and let it do the work! (Please note that I’m not a doctor, so be sure to consult with your physician before taking anything.)

Go-To Eyeshadow and Cheek Palette ($17): This tiny palette rocks a range of shadows, an illuminator, blush and bronzer. It’s your solution for not bringing your whole makeup kit on the go. The colors will take you from day to night, and there are enough variations for beauty gurus to still have some fun with. Just don’t forget your makeup-remover towelettes!

Silicone Travel Bottle Labels (4-pack for $5.99): You don’t need me to tell you that bringing tiny bottles for liquids like shampoo, conditioner and face wash is preferable over lugging the actual-size products. However, helpful additions to those bottles are these labels that say “Shampoo,” “Conditioner,” “Body Wash” and “Lotion.” Now you don’t have to fret about accidentally putting body wash on your hair.

Earbuds ($12.98): I pack headphones for every adventure. Call this a lesson learned after many a flight in which other passengers openly watched — and listened to — movies on their laptops. It’s not that I don’t appreciate “Mamma Mia!”; it’s just that I’d like to have a choice on whether or not I hear “SOS” while flying more than 30,000 feet in the air. The pair featured is durable, affordable and easy to pack.

Scarf ($16.90): You can’t control the temperature in an airplane cabin, and it can get way cold up in the sky. Come prepared with a scarf. This one is large enough to wrap around you but light enough to rock in warmer destinations. Plus, it will even fit in your purse.

Travel Laundry Bag ($5.99): Don’t even make me recount the times I’ve panicked when realizing I had nowhere to put my dirty clothes while traveling. Take this compact bag with you, and you’ll avoid those “eek” moments in which you try to crumple everything into a tiny corner of your suitcase.

More Travel Tips I’ve Learned Through the Years

Woman packing for a trip
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  • Opt for an aisle seat whenever possible. If you’re hydrating, you’ll be getting up frequently, and an aisle seat makes things less inconvenient for your neighbors.
  • Keep snacks in your purse — you never know if you’ll be stranded on the runway.
  • Carry hand sanitizer and Wet Ones to wipe down airplane trays.
  • Take advantage of the extra space in your shoes to store socks when packing.
  • Buy a pair of cheap slippers to fold up and keep in your purse or your suitcase.

Safe and happy traveling!

Sara Skirboll is a beauty aficionado with an advanced degree in savvy savings. In fact, she’s the Shopping & Trends Expert at RetailMeNot.