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

You can never be too prepared when you're away from home — take it from a professional jet-setter.

first-aid kit, swimsuit, neck pillow, Sneakers, luggage
You probably know plenty about what you'd like to bring on your next trip. How 'bout some priceless advice from a (very) frequent flier on what to pack? (Amazon)

Travel is the ultimate stress reliever — but even fun trips come with occasional headaches, from flight delays to unfamiliar local customs. It doesn't matter if you're traveling mere hours from home or halfway across the world; expecting the unexpected is the name of the game.

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So, yes — there are things that will always be out of our control, but we can prepare for some of the most common travel mishaps before leaving for the airport. And who better to ask than someone who travels for a living? I reached out to my friend Emily, who's been a flight attendant for over 10 years, for her suggestions on what to pack before hitting the skies. These are her essentials for ensuring your trip goes as smoothly as possible — and they're all $25 or less.

Available in 32 colors and combos, these socks can alleviate in-flight swelling and discomfort by encouraging blood circulation. "There are so many senior flight attendants with varicose veins who wear compression socks," Emily observed, adding, "I also love the Medi Qtto brand of nighttime compression socks from Japan." 

$15 at Amazon

Why packing cubes? "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 explained. This quartet features compression zippers, which create a vacuum-sealed effect that'll allow you to use every square inch of luggage space. 

$25 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 with a whole lot more peace of mind. 

$15 at Amazon

"I obviously don't use them when I'm working, but get one that you love for traveling," Emily said. "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, supportive memory foam, this top-seller can be compressed to half its size and packed away in a small carrying bag to save space. 

$24 at Amazon

"I always have one folded in the outside pocket of my suitcase," Emily said. "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 totes come in a slew of fun colors, and you'll probably find plenty of uses for them once you're back from your trip.

$12 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, this kit has everything you need (and then some) to take care of unexpected cuts, scrapes and more. It includes bandages, gauze, antiseptic towelettes and a CPR mask, just to name a few items.

$20 at Amazon

An on-the-nose musing from Emily: "I don't think this is 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.

$16 at Amazon

"Staying hydrated is hard, but so important for your health," Emily stressed. "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 four flavors with this pack: Glacier Freeze, Fruit Punch, Glacier Cherry and Lemon Lime.

$17 at Amazon

"You don't need a travel blanket, but bring layers," Emily advised. "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 pockets give you a place to warm up your cold hands.

$19 at Walmart
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$27 at Hanes$21 at Michaels

"Airplanes are super loud — it's important to protect/conserve your hearing," said our high-flying expert. Agreed! These super-soft plugs help with noise reduction and are great for alleviating the painful pressure many people experience when they fly.  

$20 at Amazon

Per Emily: "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

"Every time I didn't have [a swimsuit] with me, I've always regretted it — aka, I got stuck somewhere with a nice pool and no bathing suit," Emily said. There's a reason this sleek suit is so popular — it's simple, soft and durable, and it features a bit of flattering ruching and compression for extra support. 

$20 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," Emily said. "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.

$22 at Amazon

"A good road snack goes a long way and will keep you from price-gouging at the airport," Emily said. "And gum or Starburst (anything chewy) to help your ears pop. My personal favorites are GoMacro bars and ginger chews." Gin-Gins check those boxes and help curb nausea and motion sickness.

$24 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.)

The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.