How to travel with sex toys
When you just can’t leave home without them

You know that moment in Home Alone where Catherine O’Hara is sitting on the plane to Paris and she finally figures out what she left at home? And it’s the worst thing she could’ve possibly left at home? That’s how we feel when we forget to pack our sex toys. Like we may as well turn around and beg, borrow, and steal to get back home to our beloved babies, even if it means riding for hours in the back of a Budget truck with the Polka King of the Midwest. So, needless to say, we travel with our toys. Here’s how we do it:

Take the batteries out

We once witnessed a little girl at the airport loudly asking her mom, “What’s that buzzing sound coming from your suitcase? Is it your toothbrush?” Based on the look on mom’s face, it wasn’t her toothbrush. If you’d rather avoid the quizzical stares of all the children and grandmas waiting to board your flight, just take the batteries out of any battery-operated toy you have. A good hack to avoid losing the batteries in the bottom of your bag when you need them most is to put them in a Ziploc bag and tape the bag to the toy.

Make sure your lube is travel-sized

It may actually be a thick goo, but the TSA says it’s a liquid, so if you’re carrying on, it has to be 3.4 ounces or less, and you’ll have to put it in a clear quart-sized bag. Or, if you use a type of lube you can buy at a drugstore and you have a little extra cash to throw around, you can always pick some up at your destination so you don’t have to fly with it.

Check your bag

On the other hand, if you don’t want to have your lube on display next to your laptop and shoes, or risk having the TSA pull out all your favorite toys in front of everyone in line at security, your best bet is to check your bag. You could still get one of those unfortunate slips in your checked luggage saying that the TSA opened your bag, but at least you won’t have to be there to witness it.

Weigh it first

It’s everyone’s nightmare: you get to the front of the line to drop your bag off, and it’s one pound over the weight limit. Suddenly you’re that frazzled person with the wide open suitcase trying to make sure no underwear falls out and touches the dirty floor. And what are you going to do if the heaviest things in your bag are your sex toys? Unless you’re prepared to shove them in your tote, just weigh your bag before you leave for the airport so you can make any adjustments in the privacy of your own home. Here are some nifty suitcase weighing contraptions.

Consider your accommodations

Not every trip is to an isolated mountaintop cabin or a yurt in the middle of the desert. For those times when you’ll be traveling with or visiting friends or family, you may want to consider quieter toys, like these.

Keep it family-friendly

Also, if it’s a trip to a shared space, think about whether anyone will be coming into your room. Your dad? A curious niece or nephew? You probably don’t want your vibrator laying on top of your clothes in plain sight. Depending on how many toys you’re packing, perhaps a large cosmetic bag could do the job, or there’s always the tote-bag-with-handles-tied-in-a-knot trick.

How to start using sex toys during partnered sex

A guide to sex toy liberation

Whether you’re a sex toy connoisseur with five bins of toys under your bed, or you’re a total newbie, it can be scary to bring up the topic of incorporating toys into your sex life with a partner. And that applies to new partners as well as ones who have been around for a while—some people in long-term relationships have only ever used sex toys when masturbating, never with a partner.

But the truth is, sex toys don’t have to be just for solo play and lots of people don’t just use them that way. For many people, sex toys can be an amazing tool for having satisfying sex, so why shouldn’t they make an appearance during partnered sex as well?

We (virtually) sat down with sex educator and owner/founder of Spectrum Boutique, Zoë Ligon, to get her take on it, and in celebration of Talking is Power Month, we’ve put together some tips on how to negotiate this process with a partner.

Be direct and make it about you

Some people worry that their partner will take it as a comment on their skills if they suggest using toys in bed. Try approaching the topic with a direct statement about what you like and want. Zoë suggests something like, “I use vibrators to orgasm, let’s use this toy next time we play!” It’s direct, it’s simple, and who doesn’t want to make their partner orgasm?

Be vulnerable

You don’t have to pretend like you’re feeling totally confident if you’re not. And Zoë points out that “some people feel that if they’ve had sex without toys for a long time, it’s more awkward to bring it up in the midst of a relationship.” If this is your situation, she says, “You could try saying, ‘I’ve been anxious/shy about what gets me off, but I’ve noticed that sex is more pleasurable/comfortable for me when I’m using (whatever sex toy).’”

Don’t scale back out of shame

Some people feel embarrassed to bring out the toys they really like in front of a partner because they think those toys are “too much.” Remember that we live in a puritanical society that has trained us to be ashamed of our sexuality, especially if we’re women, have disabilities, or are part of any other marginalized group. Also remember that you’re only hurting yourself by scaling back your desires to try to fit what you think is socially acceptable.

And really why should your partner care what size, shape, or function a toy has that you’re using on your own body? It’s okay to embrace what you actually like! You don’t have to enjoy petite, demure, light pink sex toys only! Zoë concurs: “I say, hey—bring out the big ol’ wand if you want! That can be a perfectly acceptable toy for a beginner who loves powerful vibrations.”

Consider trying out a toy on your own

Trying out a new toy by yourself first is “not mandatory but certainly helpful if you are feeling apprehensive about introducing it into partnered play,” says Zoë. On the other hand, if you have a partner who’s down to experiment, it can be fun to try new toys together. “And it may make it feel less ominous if it’s something you can discover together,” adds Zoë. “Ultimately you know yourself and your partner, so follow your intuition.”

Remember what you want is normal and valid

There’s nothing wrong with you! Anything you want to do that’s consensual is perfectly wonderful!

How to pick the perfect sex toy for everyone on your list

The best way to spread some socially-distanced holiday joy

This year has been rough on all of us and the holiday season already looks a lot different from what we might be used to. There will be no cookie swaps, no latke parties, no communal bowls of eggnog, and no gathering around a piano belting out seasonal songs. It would be understandable for anyone to want to crawl under the covers and bah-humbug it until 2020 is just over already. But maybe instead, we should spread holiday cheer and help this year go out with a bang (pun entirely intended) by giving the gift of good orgasms to our nearest and dearest.

Sure, you can give a sex toy to your partner, with or without the promise to use it together, but think more broadly. Sex toy use has been skyrocketing during the pandemic because lots of people have had more time at home. Couples living together are experimenting, and people living alone are masturbating or having sex via secure video platforms—all of which can involve toys if you want it to. Perhaps you could give one to your bestie who misses in-person dating, your roommate who lives apart from his partner, or all of the members of your now-virtual book club who tend to chat about sex rather than the latest Liane Moriarty novel. Just make sure you get consent first (as always)—a quick text asking if it’s okay to gift them a sex toy will ensure that everyone is comfortable and on board.

Here are some of our top suggestions for the people on your list:

1. For the toy newbie: A bullet vibe

This is a great present for someone who is new to sex toys or still a little shy about using them. Bullet vibes are a classic for external stimulation because they are discreet (easier to hide and quieter than bigger toys) and portable but strong nonetheless.

2. For the jewelry lover: A vibe necklace

For those who might have fun being a little less discreet, however, there is the Crave Vesper vibe necklace. Thinner than a standard bullet vibe and made out of stainless steel, this attractive toy is worn on a chain but comes off for using or recharging via USB cord. It’s available from a lot of sellers, including Uncommon Goods (in case you’re already getting other gifts from there), and it comes in silver, gold, and rose gold.

3. For the old school toy lover: A wand vibe

Sometimes sold as personal massagers and great for sore shoulders and necks, wand-style vibrators provide top notch external stimulation. Wand vibrators are generally bigger and more powerful than little bullet vibes, so those who need strong vibrations to get off will do well with this type of toy. The Hitachi Magic Wand—made famous by pioneering sex education Betty Dodson—is considered the gold standard by many, and there’s now a rechargeable cordless version. But there are tons of wands to choose from these days, some of which are easy on the gift budget (think $15-$25).

4. For the G-Spot or P-Spot curious: Something with a curve

There are still debates to be had about the G-spot, but most experts agree that there is a spot on the top wall of the vagina that can increase pleasure when stimulated. Curved vibrators and dildos are designed to reach this special place. Multi-end versions—often called rabbits—have a larger, dildo-esque part that goes inside the vagina (those designed to stimulate the G-spot will be curved upwards) and a smaller bullet vibe bit that stays outside and stimulates the clitoris. There are many different ones to choose from (though only some look like actual rabbits). Or, for friends with penises, consider a p-spot or prostate stimulator—there are lots of styles, but we like the ones that have one part that goes into the anus and another that stays outside to massage the perineum.

5. For the clitoris-owning oral sex enthusiast: A suction toy

Clit suction toys are all the rage right now. They use pulsating air to mimic the sensation of sucking. Many users say it feels like expert oral sex. Like other toys, clit suckers come in different configurations with various speed and pulsation settings. There are also some that have an insertable component to provide internal stimulation at the same time as the suction, and others that have a small a tongue-like vibrator built into the suction mechanism. And, for the clit owner who likes a little personality, try one that looks like a baby chick or penguin in a tux.

6. For the penis owner who enjoys jerking off: A sleeve

[Masturbation sleeves—made famous by the Fleshlight—are soft and squishy sheaths that mimic the sensation of being inside a partner. (These are not the same thing as penis sleeves, which can be used during partnered sex.) Though most are cylindrical, and the penis slides in and out, some are flat sheets that can be wrapped around the penis. The sensation of being enveloped is one that lots of people with penises enjoy. And there are some fancy ones that come with built-in vibrators to add to the experience.

7. For penis owners and their partners: Rings

This time we’re not talking about jewelry. Vibrating rings slide on and rest at the base of the penis. The pressure and vibration often feel good for the wearer but it’s their partner who may have the best time. For penis-in-vagina sex, the vibrating part can be positioned to provide direct clitoral stimulation during penetration which some people need for orgasm. And the vibration can help those who sometimes have pain with penetration. Speaking of pain, we’d also like to call your attention to OhNut, which could be a good present for a friend who’s mentioned that penetration hurts (though they should still talk to a health care provider about it). It’s not a sex toy but a special sleeve that’s placed at the base of a penis or sex toy. It acts as a buffer by controlling the depth of thrusts. It comes in two widths and you can adjust it by stacking rings.

8. For the anal-play curious: Butt plugs

A basic of ass-play, butt plugs come in a lot of different sizes and materials (silicone, glass, steel), and they may or may not vibrate. Butt plugs differ from other dildos and vibrators because they aren’t usually penis-shaped. Instead, they are tapered at the top, widest in the middle, and narrower at the bottom with a flared base that stays outside the anus at all times (toys or objects that don’t have a flared base can actually get put too far up the rectum and need to be removed surgically). For the friend new to anal experimentation, start small.

9. For the long-distance couple: App-controlled toys

Many couples are forced to be apart these days and rely on video sessions and old-fashioned phone sex to get intimate. Enter teledildonics. Toys of all kinds—from butt plugs to rabbits—are now made to sync with smart phone apps so that someone far away (or even just in the next room) can control the speed or intensity of the toy their partner is holding. These tend to be pricier than other toys but may help your favorite couple keep the magic alive until lockdown is over.

10. For the one who has everything: Try something cute

For the friend who already has boxes full of toys under their bed, consider upping the adorability factor. Cute Little Fuckers is a brand of toys made for people of all genders that gets good reviews for being accessible. Their toys have powerful motors and come in the form of three distinct characters—Trinity, Starsi, and Princette Puppypus—who each have their own identity and educational webcomic series. Here are some other cute options.

These toys can be on the doorsteps of your closest friends with a few clicks. Many of the higher end manufacturers sell directly from their websites but dedicated sex toy sites (like BabelandGood Vibrations, or Spectrum Boutique) may offer wider varieties. Amazon also has a big selection and chains like Target and CVS have been getting in on the action (now that’s a pun) online and in stores. Throw in a bottle of high quality lube (water-based is the safest bet since silicone-based lube can damage some toys and oil-based lube isn’t compatible with condoms) and you will be voted best elf this holiday season.

And, of course, it’s not just acceptable—it’s totally advisable—to throw an extra toy or two in the cart for yourself.