We used to get all sorts of stressed out over holiday travel—until we realized that 1) the holidays should be about having fun, not freaking out over lots of little things, and 2) even though we may take trains, planes, or automobiles to get to our family’s and friends’ houses, there is a way to pack a few favorite creature comforts so that our holiday trip feels cozy and downright easy—even when the uncles start claiming dibs on the remote control , Dad insists that the house is warm enough to forgo heat entirely, or someone (we’re looking at you, Grandma) keeps leaving a set of dentures in a tumbler on the coffee table.
To make these and other holiday incidents seem like a piece of cake, we’ve put together our must list for traveling in the ultimate comfort. Here’s what you’ll need:
1. Your favorite down or down-alternative bed pillow. We used to consider this a travel luxury, but now we know better: taking your favorite pillow will help you mimic your home sleeping conditions, which, in turn, will help you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly. While a pillow is easy enough to pack if you’re driving or taking the train, this is a tough item to tote along if you’re flying. In that case, gift your hosts with a set of new pillows for their home, timed to arrive a few days before you ring the doorbell. They’ll love the gesture—especially if they haven’t replaced their pillows in a while—and you’ll be able to get some QST (quality sleep time) for the duration of your trip.
2. A great pair of pajamas. Splurge on an early gift for yourself and pick up a pair of soft, drapey, relaxed pajamas in a fun print and a washable material like cotton or Modal. Nightdresses can also do the trick, especially in warmer climates, but we prefer separates, which allow us to look great while lounging, and don’t leave us feeling self-conscious if unexpected visitors stop by.
3. A crazy-soft robe. See above, re: unexpected visitors. Not to mention that these new styles—complete with a hood, extra-roomy pockets, and the silkiest version of fleece we’ve ever laid fingers on—are easy cover-ups for midnight trips to the bathroom, lazy weekend mornings with a mug of steaming coffee and the newspaper, or as a dressing gowns you can hang out in until it’s time to put on your party gear.
3. A cozy knit throw in a fun color. For us, throws serve triple duty: they make the perfect, easy-on/easy-off shawl for breezing through TSA checkpoints and keeping us toasty during plane or car travel, they’re just the ticket for extra warmth at night (especially if you’re staying with hot-blooded relatives who don’t understand why you want to keep turning up the heat), and they’re great for snuggling up with a book and a cup of tea between festivities. Kind of like an adult security blanket, but way more chic.
4. A scarf in a versatile hue. Not only will it keep you warm when venturing into the great outdoors, but a scarf can help elevate the look of your tried-and-true travel outfits. We love these new infinity scarves, especially when paired with leggings or skinny jeans, a cozy tunic sweater, booties, and a chunky cuff bracelet.
5. A pair of foot-pampering slippers. Whether you’re on your feet all day, helping to cook the holiday meals; trotting from party to party in slinky stilettos; or beating a path through the mountains on a family hike, your feet will thank you at the end of a long day if you remember to pack a pair of cushy slippers.
6. Noise-blocking earplugs. Your parents might not be big noise makers, but they might have a dog, a neighbor, or a nearby high-traffic road that is. Spare yourself the noise-induced sleepless nights by packing a set of soft, reusable earplugs. And if you’re very sensitive to light and used to sleeping in pitch-darkness, add a sleep mask to block out streetlights—and the rising sun.
7. A book or a few magazines you’ve been meaning to read and just haven’t gotten around to. Now’s the time to treat yourself!
8. A combo moisturizer/sleep aid. It’s no secret that travel can wreak havoc on the skin, especially during the dry, windy months of fall and winter. Add this lightweight, noncomedogenic serum to your travel bag; a few drops will keep skin feeling supple and hydrated, and with its blend of sandalwood, lavender, and geranium essential oils, it promotes feelings of well-being and may help you nod off faster.
9. A big, multipurpose tote bag to carry all your holiday comfort goodies. For us, the perfect travel tote has to be roomy, durable, and collapsible, in case we need to tuck it under an airplane seat or squash it into the trunk of a car beside a mountain of holiday gifts. We love a single-compartment tote with a wide mouth, practically unbreakable straps, and a bit of stretch, for the ultimate roll, tuck, and go packing experience.