Rachel Bilson’s 11 favorite travel essentials you need for your next vacation


There are celebrities who have turned oversharing into a dubious yet remunerative art form. And then there’s Rachel Bilson, best known for her roles in “The O.C.” and “Hart of Dixie.” She’s a gregarious, charming and delightfully candid person, but if you didn’t know better, you’d assume Bilson was the opposite of voluble.

Here’s the thing: All you need to do is listen to her new podcast Broad Ideas, co-hosted with her best friend Olivia Allen, to quickly learn that with Bilson, nothing is off-limits. Her guests, including Kristen Bell, Mandy Moore and Aubrey Plaza, talk about devastating breakups, difficult pregnancies and even more devastating style choices.

“It just felt like the timing was perfect as far as wanting to create a space, primarily for women, to be open, transparent, from my house,” Bilson says. “Everything kind of fell into place and just felt right.

“I’ve learned that it’s okay to talk about tampon strings. Or the birthing experience that was horrendous. And we get pretty detailed in some of our topic episodes. They’re pretty raw, but I also feel, why not? Why can’t we talk about this?”

Now that she’s slowly emerging from Covid-related lockdowns, Bilson is also regaining her travel footing. But what are the comfort items that she always carries along? Here’s what she always has in her carry-on bag when traveling.

$129 at Patagonia

When she travels, Bilson needs a bag that can deliver — and that bag is called the Black Hole. It’s got two removable shoulder pads to be used like a backpack and a 40-liter capacity. “I’m a backpack hoarder — I have way too many backpacks,” she says. “I keep buying backpacks, but the one that never fails is the Patagonia Black Hole. I’m telling you, that is the best carry-on I have ever experienced in all of my long years.”

The Patagonia Black Hole is available in four sizes — 40 liters, 55 liters, 70 liters and 100 liters — and comes in a variety of colors to match every style. It’s made from an incredibly durable fabric that’ll withstand all travel adventures, and the padded, removable shoulder straps are great for easy carrying.

$30.10 $20.96 at Amazon

Bilson leaves nothing to chance when dealing with germs. “I’m a crazy over-planner,” she says. “So even pre-pandemic, I was the person that had my Clorox wipes, Purell wipes, everything, to wipe down the whole area.”

This value pack is perfect, as it comes with both canister wipes and seal packs — the latter of which is great for traveling. Pop one of the resealable packs in your carry-on bag and you’ll have enough disinfecting power for your flight and when you arrive at your hotel.

$719.99 at Amazon

While she brings an Apple iPad for her daughter, she doesn’t cheat herself out of it either. “I would always upload things to my iPad and binge shows because it’s the only time you have uninterrupted time to actually binge — and it’s wonderful,” Bilson says. “I do a little reality when I’m on an airplane, ‘Bachelor In Paradise’ being up there [as] one of my favorites.”

The fifth-generation Apple iPad Air is a terrific option for plane travel, as it’s got all-day battery life and a clear 10.9-inch liquid retina display. Customize your iPad Air with the color of your choice: blue, purple, pink, Starlight or Space Gray. Check out our full review of the Apple iPad Air here.

$129.95 From $79.95 at Amazon

Bilson likes “a wire” when she brings her headphones on board. “I will not do Bluetooth — I’m anti-Bluetooth,” she says, opting for a lightweight over-ear model with a built-in microphone. Plus, they’re battery-free, so there’s no need to recharge them while you’re on the go. And, when it comes to playing in-flight entertainment, with cord headphones, there’s no need for a Bluetooth adapter in order to get the sound straight to your headphones. You can just plug in and listen.

$275 at Jenni Kayne

Jenni Kayne Shearling Moroccan Slipper

For Bilson, comfort comes before anything else. And while others might jet around in heels, Bilson is quite happy with her snuggly footwear. “I am very old-fashioned. I like an actual book — if I’m going to read a book. I’m secretly 80 years old inside,” Bilson says. “I have my cozy socks and slippers in my carry-on. I do love Jenni Kayne’s slippers if you’re going higher end. They’re so comfortable.”

Bilson’s favorite Jenni Kayne Moroccan Slippers are a shearling-lined footwear piece with an ultra-cozy suede outside. Reviewers say they’re so soft and comfortable you won’t want to take them off.

$7 at Target

Universal Thread Cozy Socks, 2-Pack

Along with her go-to slippers, Bilson is a big fan of keeping her feet on the comfortable side with a pair of cozy socks. “My cozy socks are from Target — I like to mix and match,” she says. “But I am a big advocate for comfy feet.” This pack of cozy socks comes complete with two pairs. They’re low-cut, so they’ll fit in most shoes, and they’re lightweight to avoid your feet getting overheated.

$175 at Nordstrom

Bilson is a big believer in the healing powers of elastic waists and the forgiveness of stretchy fabric. “Sweatsuits are my uniform. Aviator Nation are the softest, coziest, dreamiest,” she says. “You need to be comfortable. Also, never fly in a jumper because you cannot pee, and like I said, I’m 80, so I pee about 10 times on a flight. I’m the person that is always getting up to use the bathroom.”

This sweatshirt from Aviator Nation is a great option for travelers. It’s got a vintage feel to it, having gone through an intense breaking-down process. Reviewers rave about this sweatshirt’s design and feel. You’re sure to get compliments while strolling through the airport.

$215 at Nordstrom

While Bilson is a fan of Aviator Nation products because of how they feel, her heart is with The Great when it comes style. “The Great are the cutest,” she says. This flower stamp cotton sweatshirt has a relaxed fit with a fun, dainty hand-stamped floral motif.

$72 at Amazon

Like the professional traveler she is, Bilson makes sure her noggin has a place to rest. “I actually bring a real pillow, but I put two pillowcases on it because once I get to the place, I need to take off the dirty pillowcase that’s been on the airplane,” she says. This pillow from Coop Home Goods is customizable to your needs so you can get the right support for a good night’s sleep on any flight.

$11 $8.66 at Amazon

Lip Smacker Coca-Cola Party Pack

Bilson is super-retro when it comes to her airborne beauty. The Lip Smacker aficionado likes a particular flavor that’s actually hard to find. “What I always carry with me … is the Dr. Pepper Lip Smacker,” she says. “Because it moisturizes, but it’s also a little bit of color. So if you feel you need a little something, this is always in my bag,” she says.

As we mentioned, the Dr. Pepper flavor is hard to find — and you’ll have to pay upward of $30 for a stick if you can find it. As an alternative, test out the other soda-themed Lip Smackers to find your favorite.

$112 at

Kaze KN95 Variety Bundle

Mask mandates may come and go, but Bilson is a permanent convert. “I’m never flying without a mask for the rest of my life,” she says. “I like the really heavy-duty masks, but I also like Kaze — they make comfortable KN95 masks. Kaze fits me the best and fits my daughter the best,” she says.

Looking for a travel credit card? Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best travel credit cards of 2022.

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