The best travel gear for graduates

While it’s hard to pin down an exact date, sometime in the next year or so it will become much safer to travel. At that point, you’ll want to see your new grad off on a trip. After all, your child might have finished school, but that doesn’t mean they’re done learning. And one of the best ways for them to find out both about themselves and different cultures is to experience a new place first hand. When they’re ready, see them off with a few of our travel essentials that will help them stay connected — and have more fun — while on the road.

None of the gadgets we recommend in this list are of much use if your grad can’t charge them when they’re away from home. If they own a MacBook, you can save them money and headaches dealing with different electrical standards by getting them an all-in-one charger like PlugBug Duo from Twelve South. It works with all existing MacBook power adapters and comes with five different electrical plugs, providing coverage for Australia, Canada, China, continental Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore and the US. It also features two built-in USB-A ports, making it possible to charge three devices at the same time. If your grad doesn’t need the extra USB-A connections, another option is the $29 World Travel Adapter Kit from Apple. Either way, you’re giving them something that will serve them on many trips to come.

Buy PlugBug Duo at Amazon – $60

Crying babies, turbulence and rowdy passengers — there are so many sounds that can make an already trying travel experience even more tiresome. Speaking from experience, comfortable and capable noise-canceling headphones can go a long way toward making all of that easier. Thankfully, you don’t have to look far to find the best option in the field: Sony’s flagship WH-1000XM4.

Outside of masterful noise canceling you can customize to your preferences, the M4 has one feature that makes it especially suited for traveling: You can get up to 30 hours of playtime on a single charge, and another five hours after just 10 minutes of charging. In other words, they’ll easily get your adult child through a marathon of flights and layovers. If the $348 M4 are outside of your budget, Sony still sells their excellent predecessor, the WH-1000XM3 for about $239.

Buy WH-1000XM4 at Amazon – $350

There’s no such thing as the perfect backpack, but if there’s one that gets close, it’s the Daypack Original from Topo Designs. Made in the US with Cordura fabric and YKK zippers, it’s built to last. I’ve had one since 2017 that I’ve taken on trips to Europe, Hawaii, South Korea, Japan and parts of the mainland US and Canada. I’ve returned each time without any frayed stitching on my backpack. Topo’s trademark classic styling is complemented with details that make it particularly fit for traveling. A 21.6-liter capacity will allow your grad to carry a surprising amount of stuff with them when they land on the ground. Internally, there’s a sleeve big enough to accommodate most 15-inch laptops, and high contrast fabric makes it easy to see inside when you need to find a specific item. It also has dedicated pockets for water bottles and plush shoulder straps.

If you want to get your new grad a backpack they’ll be able to take with them to any workplace, we like the Classic Backpack from Bellroy. It features a 20-liter capacity, a 16-inch laptop sleeve, water-resistant fabric and a chic design that won’t stand out when they’re wearing professional attire.

Buy Topo Designs Daypack at Backcountry – $149Buy Classic Backpack Plus at Bellroy – $115

The Fujifilm X-E4 is the successor to the X-E3, a camera I’ve packed on every trip I’ve taken since 2017. What I love about the X-E3 is its unimposing exterior and size. It strikes the perfect balance between portability and image quality. The $849 X-E4 makes an already ideal travel camera even better by adding a tilting 3-inch LCD touchscreen, USB-C connectivity and Fujifilm’s latest 26.1-megapixel X-Trans 4 CMOS sensor. Oh, and did I mention it’s the company’s smallest interchangeable lens camera and weighs less than a pound? Add to that Fujifilm’s film simulations and Bluetooth connectivity, and you have a camera that will allow your kid to take great photos and easily transfer them to their phone to share over social media.

What’s more, you can buy the X-E4 with a 27mm prime lens. Don’t judge this lens by its small size, though: It’s sharp across its entire aperture range and has a field of view that will make composing shots easy. It’s worth noting Fujifilm has one of the best and most comprehensive lens ecosystems of any camera manufacturer. For almost every expensive piece of glass like the 56mm f/1.2, the company offers a more affordable f/2 alternative that is light, compact and weather sealed. That makes the X-E4 the perfect starter camera.

Buy Fujifilm X-E4 at B&H Photo – $1,049

Every trip involves some amount of downtime. Between long flights and train rides, as well as lengthy layovers, there are plenty of opportunities to do some reading and last-minute research. For that reason, an e-reader like the Kindle Paperwhite is the perfect travel companion. Not only is the Paperwhite the weight and size of a small paperback, but even the 8GB model can hold thousands of books. And if the trip your grad plans to take involves the beach, the latest version is waterproof as well. Best of all, with the Paperwhite’s battery good for up to six weeks on a single charge, there’s one less cable and charger for them to carry on their trip.

Buy Kindle Paperwhite at Amazon – $130

You’ll notice there’s more than one photography-related item on this list. The reason for that is that no one camera is perfect for every task. The X-E4 I just mentioned is great for stills, but if your grad is on the more adventurous side, an action camera like the GoPro Hero 8 Black will be a better fit. While it’s not the company’s current flagship, the $350 Hero 8 Black still has a lot going for it, including a more practical design than its predecessors and support for GoPro’s Linear mode, which removes lens distortion in real-time while recording at 4K. Where it might sense to spend the extra $100 to get the latest model is if your grad plans to do a lot of vlogging since the Hero 9 Black features a color front display.

Buy GoPro Hero8 Black at Best Buy – $350

Peak Design is known for making some of the most practical camera bags and accessories you can buy. But over the last few years, it has also made a name for itself in the travel bag space. If you want to help your grad organize all their cables and gadgets before they leave for their next trip, look no further than the company’s Tech Pouch. It has a handful of nifty features that separate it from the competition. Exterior handles make it easy to open and hold the pouch, even on a plane flying through turbulence. Meanwhile, inside you’ll find loops and Peak’s signature origami dividers there to make it easy to organize things like pens, SD cards and batteries. Another handy detail is a cable passthrough that allows you to keep a power bank within its interior and connect it to your phone in the front pocket. Oh, and the nylon exterior is water-resistant, so your grad can relax knowing all their electronics are secure from any accidental water damage.

Buy Tech Pouch at Peak Design – $60

At some point during their trip, the battery on your grad’s phone is likely to run low or even die at a critical moment. It could happen when they’re trying to navigate a complex subway, for example. That’s a stressful moment, especially if you’re in a place where you don’t speak the language. Help them avoid situations like that with a power bank. There are a lot of capable models out there, but we like the ones Mophie makes. Specifically, the Powerstation PD XXL with its 20,000mAh cell, 18W PD fast charging, and a mix of USB-A and USB-C ports. It will allow your grad to quickly charge three devices simultaneously, so that they can easily avoid that dreaded moment when their lifeline to the internet dies.

Buy Mophie Powerstation XXL at Zagg – $70

I never leave my house, let alone travel anywhere, without a water bottle. There are so many reasons to bring one with you on a trip, not the least of which is that you’ll avoid needing to buy any plastic ones. Seattle-based MiiR makes some of the best reusable bottles in the business, with one of my favorites being the company’s 23-ounce, insulated, narrow-mouth style. It’s perfect for travel because it can keep liquids either hot or cold for long periods of time, and it won’t sweat or transfer any flavors to a drink thanks to the medical-grade stainless steel that coats its interior. It also looks great and comes in a variety of vibrant colors, so there should be one that will appeal to your grad.

Buy MiiR bottle at Amazon – $30

Between flying and the eventual jet lag that sets in after hopping countries and continents, getting a full night’s sleep can be a challenge. That’s where a sleep mask can help and one I’ve found to be better than the rest is made by a company called Manta. At this point, it makes a lot of different models, so take a look at their website to find the one that will best suit your kid. That said, the original Sleep model is a best place to start. What makes it stand out is that the eyecups aren’t sewn into the mask. Instead, they’re attached to it using velcro, allowing you to reposition them to make the mask as comfortable as possible. The company says they’re also 100 percent effective at blocking out any light, a claim I’ve found to be accurate.

While we’re on the subject of masks, why not also get your grad some extra face ones? After all, even if they’re vaccinated, you’ll want the peace of mind that they’re taking care of both their own personal safety and that of the people around them.

Buy Manta sleep mask at Amazon – $30

Okay, one last photography item, we promise. If your grad has a relatively recent phone like the iPhone 12 or Galaxy S21, they don’t need a dedicated camera to take great-looking video during their trip. But what can help is a smartphone gimbal like the OM4 from DJI. Making some of the best commercial drones in the world, DJI knows a thing or two about camera stabilization. The OM4 will help your grad film smooth and cinematic footage while they’re on their trip. New to the OM4 is a magnetic pop socket-like mechanism that makes attaching your phone to the gimbal much easier than a traditional clamp mount.

Buy DJI OM4 at Amazon – $149

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