this thing's incredible

This $15 Fan Kept Me Cool on 101-Degree Days in Milan

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photo: Retailer

Some might consider my level of preparedness paranoid and unnecessary, but I prefer to call it farsighted. So last year, when I surprised my mom with Andrea Bocelli concert tickets as part of our inaugural mother-daughter European rail tour, I meticulously planned every detail of the itinerary. But we had a dilemma: The trip would be taking place during Italian high summer.

As the combination of heat, crowds, and long queues loomed, I knew I had to do something to prevent our vacation from ending in hot misery. But the cooling towels I researched required a water source to keep them activated throughout the day, and the moisture-wicking clothing I saw wasn’t necessarily the style I was going for. Purchasing a personal fan came to mind, but most I’d found online were attached to unfashionable nylon lanyards and too ugly to work with my wardrobe of vintage sundresses and linen two-piece sets.

I was determined to have the best of both worlds. After a few days of searching on Amazon, the Jisulife Handheld Mini-Fan caught my eye. With its foldable cover, pocket-size nested design, and smooth, curved shape, it was the total opposite of all the handheld fans I’d seen before. And it rang in at under $20, so I purchased two — one each for my mom and myself — and slipped them into our carry-ons on the way to the airport.

Three days into the trip, we put the portable fans to the test. Arriving an hour earlier than our scheduled train on a 101-degree afternoon, we had no choice but to wait on the stuffy platform in Milano Centrale. My mom and I leaned on our suitcases, switched the devices on, and were instantly met with our own personal breezes. Granted, the results weren’t the same as standing in front of a blasting air conditioner, but the rapidly whirring blades got the stagnant air moving and regulated our body temperatures. From that moment on, the fans never left our sides.

Mom using the fan at Venchi, a chocolate shop and ice-cream parlor in Florence. Photo: It’s Annachiara Barretto-Grignoli

Later, as we traveled back to Florence from the Bocelli concert in the countryside, the fan resurrected my phone — yes, it doubles as a portable charger and a flashlight, the latter of which we used to traverse the uneven cobblestone streets after late-night gelato. Throughout the trip, I only needed to charge the fan overnight (via USB-C) once every two or three days, so I never had to worry about replacing any batteries or packing another cord just for the fan (though one is included).

Its sleek, foldable design never clashed with my carefully selected outfits — or, worse, made me look like a tourist. It was always a welcome guest, even as it transformed into a hands-free tabletop fan that emitted a quiet hum, barely noticeable to our fellow diners, while we enjoyed aperitivo adjacent to the Grand Canal. Instead of judgmental stares, other travelers stopped us to compliment the fans and asked if we had purchased them nearby. “We brought them from home,” my mom and I would say, smiling proudly.

I won’t be traveling abroad this summer, but I still plan to use the fan on hikes, beach days, and at barbecues. And so does my mom — she has already requested that I buy the other four colors.

Some more fans we’ve written about

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

This $14 Fan Kept Me Cool on 101-Degree Days in Milan