Posts Tagged 5 things
Amy Whitley is the newest reviewer here at Practical Travel Gear. She’s a freelance travel writer and founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids, a site for traveling families (and parents who have heard ‘Are we there yet?!’ one too many times). A partner of Best Family Travel Experts, Amy’s articles have appeared in print newspapers, online travel sites, and Redbook. She makes her home in rural Oregon, and travels extensively with her husband and three children. So Amy, what do you always pack?
1. iPad or iPod Touch
As extensive road-trippers, we’re believers in technology on the road. But even more so, we’re believers in streamlining the amount of gadgets, chargers, and books and movies we need to pack. Our iPad 2 tablet is the ultimate multi-tasker: we use it for in-car entertainment, mapping, storing our itinerary, communicating with people at home, and maybe, if I get a spare moment, working. Downloading movies and TV programs onto our iPad allows us to skip the big tote bag of DVDs we used to lug along on every trip, and eReader and audio apps allows us to bring books without the bulk (for car-sick apt kids, I recommend a Tales2Go audio subscription). An unexpected perk: my kids have taken to creating their own movies while in the backseat of our van, creating video travel journals and interviewing one another on the attractions we see. My son’s pocket-sized iPod Touch is not only a source of entertainment while en route, but serves as a camera and video camera while touring sights.
2. Tuffo Family Car Organizer
There are a lot of car storage solutions out there, but I’ve found that most take up more space than the things they’re intended to store! What I love about the Tuffo car organizer is its sturdy, square shape (it won’t get stuffed under a seat and forgotten), its many pockets and dividers (so toys and games don’t get buried), and the way it can be secured with a seat belt. It’s snap-on and off lid doubles as a tray or writing surface, and there are side pockets for water bottles. If you have two kids sharing a back row, the Tuffo provides the perfect barrier to promote personal space while keeping everyone’s stuff on-hand.
3. Airborne Immune Defense
Does it work? Does it not? It depends upon who you ask, but we’ve found that bringing immune defense supplements such as Airborne on the road can stop some minor sniffles and coughs before they take hold (and ruin a vacation). And who couldn’t use a little extra Vitamin C while traveling?
4. Mesh laundry bags
Even if you only use these mesh and nylon bags bags for their intended purpose (storing dirty laundry), they’re a godsend on the road. But we take a whole handful with us when we go (they wad up to almost nothing while empty) as a means to store extra shoes, coats, or rain and snow gear, allowing us easy access to our outerwear when we make a fun pit stop at a beach or snow-park. (No one wants to dig through their suitcase for their boots after pulling up to an impromptu sledding stop! Packing all the shoes and coats in laundry bags also saves precious space in individual bags and duffles.
5. Collapsible water bottles
These bladder-style water bottles are made for travel! (Our favorite is made by Platypus and Tim just reviewed one from Vapur.) Not only do the collapse flat for easy storage (we empty them before going through airport security, slide them into carry-on pockets, then refill them on the other side), but they’re light enough (even while full) for kids to easily carry their own while hiking, city touring, and the like. Most include carabiners to clip onto backpacks or belt loops, and most importantly, they’re just plain fun. Oh, and did you know Platypus makes a wine storage version as well? Good to note!
Colleen Lanin is a freelance writer and creator/editor of Travel Mamas, a site for anyone who wants to travel with children…and stay sane. Colleen is a video blogger for Barilla’s Piccolini.tv, the former editor of the Tree.com Travel blog (by Lending Tree), and a family travel expert at BestFamilyTravelAdvice.com. Her articles have appeared in such publications as Parenting Magazine, San Diego Family Magazine, and 101 Things To Do San Diego. She teaches writing classes through San Diego Writers, Ink and University of California San Diego Extension.
1. Book Light
I love to travel but, ironically, I don’t sleep well when away from home. This is especially true when sharing a hotel room with my young children, who go to bed much earlier than I do. That’s why I always pack a book light so I can stay up reading while my travel mates doze. For those of you who still read old-school books, check out the LightWedge book light, which lights up the page but not the whole room. I suggest getting the soft case too to protect this acrylic light from getting hacked up.
My family tends to get a little (ahem!) backed up when we travel. Apparently we are not alone. A friend told me travelers’ constipation is nature’s way of protecting us from predators because back when we were cavemen the Sabertooth tigers and whatnot would be able to track us down and eat us if we were to “use the restroom” too far from our respective caves. I don’t know if that’s true but I do know that my family eats less fruits and veggies and more corn dogs and ice cream cones when we travel, so I pack a little extra fiber to keep everyone feeling chipper. I like to bring Benefiber Stick Packs. These are individually wrapped powdered fiber servings. You can mix it in your coffee or in the kids’ juice undetected. If you’d rather mix it with plain water, try their Kiwi Strawberry or Cherry Pomegranate stick packs instead.
3. Antibacterial Cream or Gel
Whether on an airplane or visiting museums, amusement parks, or historical monuments there are a lot of opportunities to come into contact with germs while vacationing. To stay healthy on the go, I like Clean brand antibacterial moisturizing hand cream because it’s fragrance-free and doesn’t dry out your hands. My kids like the Pocketbac mini tubes of antibacterial gel in scents like Caramel Apple and Fresh Picked Strawberries from Bath & Bodyworks. Clip one of these onto your purse, diaper bag, or backpack with a handy Pocketbac holder for easy access.
4. Protein Bars
When traveling, whether stuck in an airplane on a tarmac for three hours or while sitting in a conference room on a business trip, it can be hard to gauge when you’ll get your next meal. I have a little bit of a blood sugar issue; I get shaky and cranky if I don’t get enough protein to eat throughout the day. While many travel snacks are carbohydrate-laden, I like to carry a few protein bars wherever I go. I consider myself somewhat of a protein bar connoisseur and my all-time favorite is the Melaleuca Attain Sweet and Salty Nut Bar. They remind me of my mom’s homemade oatmeal cookies and they contain 10 grams of protein each. For a less expensive option that gets the job done, I like SnackWell’s Peanut Butter Cereal Bars, with 8 grams of protein per bar.
I don’t know how many times I’ve gone somewhere to find a hot tub, indoor pool, or nearby water park that I couldn’t jump into because my travel mate didn’t pack a swimsuit. Always, always, always pack a swim suit (especially if you’re traveling with me)! It takes up almost no room and you never know when some body of water will be splashing your name.
Once many years ago, when I packing for a business trip and fretting obsessively about whether to pack one pair of pantyhose or two, my mother wisely observed that “they probably sell pantyhose in Toronto.” That sober advice stuck with me, and when it came time to pass along packing wisdom to my own kids I told them they’d always be good to go with a ticket, a passport and a credit card.
Beyond those essentials, I always bring along:
An unlocked iPhone: Technology—and all the bling that goes along with it—is so essential to a travel writer’s job that it’s as basic as packing a toothbrush and clean underwear. I never leave home without my (legally) unlocked iPhone 4: not only can I swap out SIM cards to cut exorbitant roaming and long-distance fees, but in a pinch it allows me to do anything I can do on my laptop—plus navigate through foreign streets and take great photos.
Earplugs: I carry a pair of orange foam earplugs (I get ‘em cheap at Home Depot) in my carry-on because I inevitably choose the seat next to the guy who drinks five scotches during the first half of the flight and then snores through the last half. And I also carry a second pair in my packed luggage because there are a lot of things that can get lost on a trip and one of them is sleep.
A shawl: I learned the multiple benefits of carrying a shawl even before menopause made easy layering a necessity. I stuff one in my carry-on so I don’t have to pay for a blanket on the plane. I wad it up to use as a pillow on buses and trains. I throw it on to dress up a simple outfit. I use it to cover my head and shoulders when culturally appropriate. (And when I had small children, I occasionally used it as a changing pad and/or to catch barf…)
A Moleskine notebook: Even when I’m not writing an article I’m a compulsive note-taker, and for my money there is no better journal than a leather-bound Moleskine notebook. I like the way the quality paper feels under my pen; they way the built-in ribbon bookmarks my place; and especially the way the little envelope at the back neatly stows ephemera such as business cards and ticket stubs.
A silicone blister-stick: Every traveler has a weak spot—Mike Barish’s crotch, for example, or Jessica Spiegel’s tummy. For me, it’s my feet. Essentially if I put on shoes, I get blisters. This is particularly a problem when I’m in a great walking city such as Berlin or New York. To the rescue: a silicone blister-stick that I can glide over my trouble spots before slipping on my shoes and socks. (I prefer a European brand called Compeed, but there are other brands available in pharmacies and outdoor-adventure stores.) I discovered this little magic bullet a few years ago on a hiking trip into the Grand Canyon, and I haven’t been hobbled since.
Follow Julie on Twitter: @theseboots
Family travel authority Jody Halsted is based in the too-often-overlooked Midwest. Her family travel tales can be found at Family Rambling and Uptake Attractions. Jody also shares her passion for traveling with kids in the Emerald Isle at Ireland with Kids. When not writing — or traveling — she’s talking to tourism destinations about social technology or speaking to crowds at Irish fests about the magic of family trips to Ireland.
Of course there are way more than five things I take when I travel — but many are the things we all bring along, like a camera, Kindle, extra batteries or chargers. That’s not interesting. Here are the five more interesting items that I never leave home without.
1. Shutterbug Cocoon Liner
To say I like bags may be an understatement- which is why I adore my Shutterbug pouch. This quilted liner fits into a large tote or purse and protects my camera, tablet, video camera and other accessories while letting me use the bags I already own. At $32.95 it’s a steal.
2. A nice dress that won’t wrinkle
A classic wrap dress in non-wrinkling fabric is both flattering and suitable for so many situations. I have a few, and my favorites include a black cocktail length in jersey fabric and a pink Bali Cafe Wrap dress from Fresh Produce (in photo above).
I say Crocs and people picture the ugly shoes with holes; few know that Crocs makes cute shoes that are comfortable and great for travel. I have wedge heels and flats and travel with a pair of each — I usually wear the heels and pack the flat — making sure all my outfits will coordinate with the shoes I packed. I’ve toured Walt Disney World in a pair of Crocs wedge heels and not had sore feet! (Many are available here: Crocs line at Endless.com
4. Flexible keyboard
My husband — who totally “gets” my geeky side — bought me an Acer tablet for Mother’s Day. I adore it and it completely replaced my netbook. Because it has a full size USB slot and a mini SD slot I can easily load images from my camera for editing. And the keyboard is nice for short bits of writing. However, since I tend to be a bit long winded at times, I pack a full size flexible keyboard.
5. Trunki and Boost-a-Pak
I specialize in family travel, so my girls are often along for the journey. They each have a Trunki, a ride-on, pull along suitcase and a Boost-a-Pak backpack / booster seat (also made by the Trunki company). We adore dual purpose items! The Boost-a-Pak is currently only available in the UK, so we did pay both the exchange rate and shipping, but the product has more than paid for itself as we don’t have to check car seats!
Chris Epting is the author of 18 books including James Dean Died Here, Roadside Baseball and Hello, It’s Me – Dispatches From a Pop Culture Junkie. He also writes for many publications and is the longtime national spokesman for the Hampton Hotel Save-A-Landmark program. Here’s what always goes into his bag:
1. My well-worn copy of Blue Highways – this venerable, classic travel tome by William Least Heat-Moon sits in my bag like the old friend that it is. Oh, I’ll have some other books and usually a few magazines as well, but Blue Highways makes every trip. I’ve read it many times, and for me it’s so good, that I will just randomly open to it, read a few a few pages, then stow it again until the next time I need a little smile or inspiration. See, it functions not just as entertainment for me, but also as a lesson book – a powerful example of the importance of evocative, descriptive writing. Since I almost always write on the road, a book like this becomes indispensable – because its literary rules of the road are so timeless.
2. Yellow pads and No. 2 pencils – In lieu of travel journals I instead always pack a couple of yellow legal pads and some sharpened No. 2 pencils. It’s what I write with at home and I like to replicate the writing experience as much as I can on the road – that is to say lots of scrawls, random thoughts, snapshot impressions, diagrams, etc. Nothing against nicely crafted journals and fancy pens, but the pads, for me, are a reminder that this whole journey is an ongoing work in progress; a creative continuum from one pad to the next.
3. Maps – either in book form or just map form, I like to take some physical representation of where I’m headed. These days, people tend to get hung up with onboard GPS, handheld mapping and lots of other cartographic gadgetry. That’s fine (and I use those occasionally too), but for me there’s nothing like using an old-fashioned map to get a sense of scope, terrain and organization – even if I’m returning to familiar place. The hand-held, bird’s eye view is invaluable to me. And if the map is worn, creased and has a few miles on it – all the better.
4. A handheld digital recorder – I’m used to traveling with a couple of cameras because I shoot a lot of pictures, video, etc. But more and more I find myself relying on my little digital recorder. Whether it’s for interviewing someone I meet along the way, or even ambient sounds of a sonically pleasing place, my little recorder has come in handy dozens of times. Off the top of my head, I remember a few years ago being at an old-fashioned amusement on a humid summer night. The music being piped through the carousel (“Beautiful Dreamer”), the laughter of children under the stars, the bell from the Strongman Striker, the whoosh of a wooden coaster – that recording made the piece I wrote all the more powerful when I got home.
5. A St. Christopher Medal – My wife packed this in my satchel years ago and I’ve never taken it out, whether I’m traveling with my family or by myself. The medal, in honor of the third century martyr and “Patron Saint of Travel”, is special to me. It’s said to guard against lightning, archers, storms, floods and other threats to we, the wanderers. And these days, I’ll take whatever I can get.