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We asked a flight attendant to share her travel must-haves — they're all $25 or less

pink sneaker, purple packing cubes, first aid kit, travel neck pillow
You probably know plenty about what you want to bring on your next trip. How 'bout some priceless advice from a (very) frequent flier about what you should bring? (Amazon)

Experiencing the unexpected is part of the thrill of traveling — but some surprises are more welcome than others. Even the most fun trips have their headaches, whether it's that screaming baby sitting in back of you on the plane, painful ear popping or getting to your hotel abroad and realizing the phone charger you brought is incompatible with the outlets. While we don't often have much control while we're away from home, there are steps we can take to preempt those peeves before leaving for the airport ... and to make our time away comfier and saner. And who better to ask about that than someone who travels for a living? I reached out to an acquaintance of mine named Emily, who's been a flight attendant since 2012. Having flown all over Asia, Europe and beyond for over a decade, she knows a thing or two about being as prepared as possible while en route. These are her essentials to ensure your trip goes as smooth as possible (and they all happen to be $25 or under!).

Quick overview
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"It’s nice to keep organized when you’re constantly packing and unpacking, and you can keep your dirty items separated from your clean items," Emily explains. The four different-sized cubes have compression zippers on the outside to create a vacuum-sealed effect that'll save valuable room in your suitcase. 

$27 at Amazon

"Compression socks for your circulation and leg longevity!" she exclaims. "There are so many senior flight attendants with varicose veins — wear the compression socks. I also love the Medi Qtto brand of nighttime compression socks from Japan." Available in 30 color combos, these can help alleviate swelling and discomfort by encouraging blood circulation. 

$15 at Amazon

Emily's motto? "Safety first, always!" You can install this lock on any inward-opening door in seconds: Just place the metal part into the door strike, close the door and attach the red piece to the metal piece. Now no one will be able to enter from outside, and you'll enjoy your hotel or Airbnb stay with a whole lot more peace of mind. 

$15 at Amazon

Says our high-flying expert: "Airplanes are super loud — it’s important to protect/conserve your hearing." Agreed! These super-soft plugs not only help with noise reduction, they're also great for alleviating the painful pressure many people experience when they fly. 

$20 at Amazon

"I obviously don’t use them when I’m working, but get one that you love for traveling," recommends Emily. "You never know when you’ll need it on and off the plane (delays and cancellations happen all the time — you’ll be glad you have a pillow)." Made of comfy yet supportive memory foam, this top-seller can be compressed down to half its size and packed away in its small carrying bag to save space. 

$20 at Amazon

"You don’t need a travel blanket, but bring layers," she advises. "A cozy sweater, or packable hoodie, anything. Just don’t show up empty-handed in shorts and a T-shirt. Even if you’re going to Hawaii, you’re not in Hawaii yet. As my mom always used to say, if you ever crash on a snowy mountain, you’ll be glad you brought a sweater." A fleecy lining makes this zip-up hoodie super cozy, and its front pouch pockets give you a place to warm up your cold hands!

$15 at Amazon

"I get it. Your airport fashion game is important, BUT you never know when you’ll have to sprint through the airport, and you can’t anticipate how much your feet will swell in altitude," she explains. "Have something cozy besides your cute shoes to slip on." Pre-flight, you can easily get in and out of these cushy kicks at security; after landing, their lightweight soles will keep your feet happy on walking tours and beyond. 

$25 at Amazon

Per Em: "Goes without saying — you never know what kind of plug/voltage you’re going to be dealing with." This highly rated doodad has four types of plugs that work in over 150 countries, as well as several USB ports and an AC socket. You can charge up to six devices at a time!

$23 at Amazon

"I always have one folded in the outside pocket of my suitcase so I never am without one," says Emily. "A lot of places (domestic and international) will charge you bag fees. Just keep your tote with you in case you go on a grocery run or to a farmers market." These versatile bags come in a slew of fun colors, and you'll find plenty of uses for them once you're back from your trip, too!

$12 at Amazon

"Every time I didn’t have [a bathing suit] with me, I’ve always regretted it — aka, I got stuck somewhere with a nice pool and no bathing suit." There's a reason this sleek Speedo is an Amazon No. 1 bestseller — it's soft yet durable and features a bit of compression for extra support. 

$28 at Amazon

Some real talk from Emily: "I don’t think it’s a miracle product to ward off colds the way that it was advertised, but it really keeps the inside of your nasal cavity lubricated, so I don’t feel like a dried-up corpse after long-haul flights." NASA used to include this in its medical space kit, so if it's good enough for astronauts, just imagine how effective it can be for airplane passengers! 

$18 at Amazon

"A good road snack goes a long way, and will keep you from price gouging at the airport," she says. "And gum or Starburst (anything chewy) to help your ears pop. My personal favorites are the GoMacro bars and ginger chews!" These top-sellers have been known to help curb nausea and motion sickness, too!

$23 at Amazon

"Staying hydrated is hard, but SO important for your health," Emily stresses. "You are so, so dehydrated on planes. Give yourself some extra electrolytes! I love the Gatorade zero-sugar packets you just add to water. The little hint of flavor helps me drink more water, too!" You'll get to try three flavors with this pack: Fruit Punch, Glacier Freeze and Grape. (There's also a combo with Orange, Glacier Freeze and Glacier Cherry.)

$30 at Amazon

Emily's final pick? "Last, but not least: basic first aid. Even if you don’t end up using it, you’ll be glad you have it!" With 100 pieces, you'll have everything you need (and then some) to take care of unexpected cuts, scrapes and more. This kit includes bandages, gauzes, antiseptic towelettes and a CPR mask, just to name a few. 

$20 at Amazon

If you have Amazon Prime, you’ll get free shipping, of course. Not yet a member? No problem. You can sign up for your free 30-day trial here. (And by the way, those without Prime still get free shipping on orders of $25 or more.)