Joanne's Travel Accessory Tips: How to Make Life Easier, Safer, and Healthier On the Road

The Smartest Piece of Luggage You Will Ever Know

My quest for the perfect airline carry on spinner bag seems to be never-ending.  Since my husband and I travel with only carry-on in tow, regardless of how long our trip, finding the perfect bag can be a challenge.

When I discovered the Genius Pack 22”, I knew I had found the Granddaddy of all carry-on spinners.

I tested it out on a recent 10-day trip, and it clearly got 5-Stars in my book. Made of luxurious materials meant to hold up well on the road, this spinner looks as good as it acts. What sets it apart from other carry-on bags is a long list of bells and whistles that can make living out of a suitcase more of a pleasure than a curse, especially on longer trips.

One of the coolest features is a laundry bag with a built-in compressor that neatly compacts your laundry contents by expelling the unwanted air through an air valve.  Pressed against the wall of your luggage, your dirty laundry stays separated from your clean items, certainly a welcome convenience for the traveler on the go. The bag is removable, so you can take it straight to the laundromat or cleaners. 

Another ingenious organizing convenience is the built-in underwear, socks and electric chargers compartment, eliminating the need for packing cubes for these items. These are located in the top cover, leaving ample room in the body of the spinner for your bulkier clothing items.

In all, the bag comes with 17 “genius” features, which include a zippered expander that adds up to 25% more packing space; an external jacket wrap (I used it to carry my bulky raincoat as I rushed through the airport); convenient external compartments to store your water bottle, umbrella, and magazines/portfolios; and a built in add-a-bag strap, which I used to cart my camera gear.

As if the above weren’t enough, the bag also has a portable battery pack integrated in the luggage so you can recharge your device wherever your trip takes you. The ability to juice up your phone from your carry on is an amazing convenience, especially in busy airports where finding a charging station not shared by the masses is a rarity.

For those travelers who can’t live without music in their ears, another feature integrated into the luggage is a compact mini speaker so you can listen to music while you unpack, or just about anywhere your journey takes you. Both the battery pack and speaker system are sold separately.

All this smartness is contained in a bag that measures 22” x 14” x 9”, so it is compatible with current size restrictions for most airlines.

www.geniuspack.com

A UPF 50+ Protection Hat That Makes a Fashion Statement

In preparation for a recent trip to Hawaii, I knew I needed a packable hat with major UPF protection. My dilemma was to find a hat that would take me from hiking through the trails to sipping a Mai Tai on a luxury hotel veranda. I knew I had to replace my tried-and-true khaki hat which, while it did the trick to block out the rays, was hardly a fashion statement.

My online search for a stylish, packable, large-brimmed hat with maximum UPF protection led me to the Wallaroo Hat Company website, where I found my dream hat: the Savannah. I am a lover of large brimmed hats because they offer the most protection from the hot rays of the sun and, in my opinion, are also very fashionable and flattering.

This hat has lots of features I love, including the fact that it fits my larger-sized head perfectly (an internal drawstring makes it adjustable, so it is a true one size fits all). It also rolls up nicely in my carry-on and immediately pops back into shape.

It was a good feeling to know that I was receiving UPF 50+ protection, as Wallaroo hat fabrics are tested by the Australian Radiation Protection Agency and block 97.5% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

My only recommendation for improving the hat would be to add an adjustable drawstring to keep the hat from blowing away. I almost lost mine walking on the windy trails of Kauai and it was a challenge to keep it on my head. I would have been very distressed to have lost it!

www.wallaroohats.com

Wow--a Waterproof Daypack That Fits In Your Pocket

As photo journalists, my husband and I are always on the lookout for a super lightweight daypack to serve us during our travels around the world.

We were happy to discover Matador’s Freerain 24 backpack, as we realized we would need such a product on our recent 25-day, carry on only, adventure through Europe.

It was hard to believe that such a road horse packs away into a 6 X 3 inch travel bag, but it does. It actually took less room in my carry on than my travel umbrella, and weighed less, too (an unbelievable 5.5 oz).

The day bag itself is water resistant (with comfortable, breathable straps) and it protected our equipment and contents during a few light rainfalls. It has a 24-litre capacity, which means you can pack quite a bit into its folds. It is superbly constructed and its sleek grey exterior is quite classy, and serves the traveler well under any circumstance.

Together with a base layer photo protector bag, which Matador also offers, I felt confident bundling up my extra camera in the well-padded pouch on our day trips through Europe’s cities.  Filled with protective down and sturdily constructed, the camera base layer fits most DSLR cameras with common lenses. It can be used in a variety of ways to protect your equipment while on the road.

We’ll be using this bag again and again not only on our travels, but also on our local hiking excursions. You can’t beat its versatility, and it is as light as a feather and stores away in your pocket!

Check out Matador's entire line of products.

Tech Tip for the Traveler: Find Your Stuff While on the Road

Here's my tech tip for the traveler, especially if one is forgetful and misplaces everything from car keys to cell phones and even a “lost” rental car in a parking lot.

The Nonda compact triangular shaped tracker is a mere 1.5 inches per side and .25 inches thick Once you download the free app to your Android or iPhone, it performs several handy operations.

Finding your keys in a hotel room: With the device attached to your key chain a tone will emit when you are near the location.

Finding your phone: This happens to all of us, especially while traveling. It actually calls your phone. The ringtone will lead you there.

Finding your rental car: This feature is linked to Google Maps and will display a location map and arrow to direct you to your lost car.

You can also take cell phone photos with the “Camera Shutter” feature to remotely control the phone’s camera. It’s been fun running through the various features of this tiny giant. I can think of other applications (child, pet and lost luggage locator) when it would come in handy.

5 Stars to NONDA for a clever and useful travel tool. And the price is right!

Learn more about this device HERE

Protect Your Valuables While On Travel....In Your Scarf or Around Your Tummy!

Protecting your valuables, especially in big city crowds, is something you may not think about until it’s too late. During our recent trip to Europe, my husband was robbed of his wallet (carelessly placed in his zippered pant pocket) on a super crowded Parisian bus.  While he lost some cash and his credit cards, we were relieved that we did not have our passports stolen.

Why? I was carrying them (as well as my wallet, phone and Euros) in an ingenious product called Sholdit. It can be best described as a scarf that serves as a hidden purse. It has a generous zippered compartment that will keep your valuables safe, especially in heavily crowded areas, since no one (even a thief) would guess that your scarf is actually a sort of money belt.

I wore it double wrapped around my neck, so that my valuables sat in front on my chest (the safest place on your body) but were indiscernible to the casual observer. The scarf can be worn a variety of ways and can even transform into a clutch bag, if desired.

sholdit.com

Travelgenixx money belt.jpg

Alas, it was too late to retrieve our losses from the theft, but I did put quite a bit of research after our trip in finding a money belt my husband would wear on our next adventure to parts unknown. He gave a total thumbs up to the TravelGenixx money belt, available for $14.95 on Amazon.com. It is extremely well made, especially considering its reasonable price, and boasts a sturdy, and adaptable, belt system. With his valuables safely on his tummy, no thief will get the best of him again!

There's a smaller version available for ladies, too.

 

Flip Out Over the Flip Belt

Speaking of keeping your items secure, especially during a hike or run, the Flip Belt is a must-have for those of you who embrace an active lifestyle.

I chose the larger, Zipper Edition of the belt. The belt fits snugly but quite comfortably around your waist or upper hip. A front zippered pocket holds your phone or passport. There are three other access points built within the belt, one of which has an internally secured key hook.

It’s a great feeling when I am walking or hiking to know that my personal items will not inadvertently fall out of my pocket onto the trail. The belt is available in a variety of sizes, depending on how you wish to wear it. 

My only suggestion would be to make the front zipper pocket an inch or so wider to accommodate the super large cell phones that are popular today. I have a Samsung Note 5 in a protective case, and while it fits (very snugly) in the zippered pocket, it is difficult to remove to answer a call. Otherwise, this product gets my thumbs up!

 flipbelt.com

Give Your Legs A Break While Traveling: Fashionable Compression Socks

I’ve written about them before, but I also wanted to mention yet again how much I depend upon RejuvaHealth stylish line of compression socks. I wore my fashionable pair of black dot knee highs on the long flight to Europe, and again realized what a difference they made in my comfort as I sat for hours in my cramped airline seat.

I also wore them on our long city walking tours. I’m convinced they made a significant difference in that I didn’t get any soreness in my calves after trekking for miles on Europe’s cobblestone streets.

rejuvahealth.com

A Refillable Water Bottle That Fits In Your Pocket

Finding the perfect water bottle for travel is not as easy as you might think. I’ve carted all sorts of shapes, sizes and configurations on my travels but never really came up with one I thought might be a winner---until now.

The Hydaway Collapsible bottle is an ingenious device which folds down easily to fit in your bag, carry-on, or even in your pocket. It's perfect if you are traveling light. The 21 oz. bottle carries around the same amount of liquid as your standard plastic water bottle.  I’d love to see an even larger version of this versatile and convenient carrier.

hydawaybottle.com

 

Disclaimer: Please note that the opinions expressed regarding these travel products are strictly my own. I was not compensated by the companies represented in my reviews, nor will I receive any future compensation based on sales arising from my recommendations. 

My goal is to share regular, unbiased reviews with my readers for products that make travel more comfortable and efficient.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discover Alaska's Mystical Beauty from an Un-Cruise Boutique Adventure Cruise

Thinking about taking an Alaskan cruise? You might want to consider a boutique small ship expedition cruise: the perfect combination of comfort and adventure.

It's an unforgettable experience, as I hope my travel article Alaskan Mystique, featured recently in the San Diego Union Tribune Travel section, conveys.

Since a picture is known to be worth 1,000 words, please check out our travel galleries (©Joanne and Tony DiBona) on Juneau and our experience sailing through Alaska's Inside Passage to Glacier Bay National Park.

 

 

Juneau: Picturesque Portal to Alaska's Amazing Wonders

Please enjoy my 10BEST/USA TODAY photo essay on the beautiful city of Juneau, Alaska.

Juneau's colorful history and incredible scenery began drawing visitors back in the early 1900's. Today, the picturesque city, which is the capital of Alaska, is a popular cruise port and a favorite destination among adventure travelers.

Cruise ships of all sizes make their way down the Gastineau Channel from Juneau to explore Alaska's Inside Passage and Glacier Bay National Park. Juneau itself offers a wide variety of visitor activities and amenities. It is home to the breathtaking Mendenhall Glacier, one of the world's few urban, "drive up" glaciers. 

View a complete PHOTO GALLERY OF JUNEAU on my photography website, www.joannedibonaphotography.com

The beautiful city of Juneau Alaska as seen from Mount Roberts Tramway © Joanne DiBona

The beautiful city of Juneau Alaska as seen from Mount Roberts Tramway

© Joanne DiBona

How to Pack "Carry On Only" for a 25-day European Adventure Under All Weather Conditions

It's happened to all of us. We come back from a vacation, start to unpack our luggage, and wonder why we burdened ourselves with clothing and items we never used.

There is an art to packing smart. As travel journalists and photographers, my husband Tony and I have years of experience exploring destinations around the world, weeks at a time, with nothing but a small backpack and one wheeled carry-on bag in tow.

I’ve been asked many times to write an article outlining my tips for carry-on only travel, especially when encountering a variety of possible weather scenarios. I’ll use a recent 25-day press trip to France, Germany and the Czech Republic (from April 24 to May 18) to outline how I managed to avoid the expense and burden of carrying excess baggage through Europe, while having everything I needed to survive the fluctuating weather conditions we encountered.

CHECK THE LONG TERM WEATHER FORECAST FOR YOUR DESTINATION

This may seem obvious, but it is an important first step in knowing what weather conditions may greet you. Of course, if you are going to Hawaii at any time of the year, you'll only need your bathing suit, sarong and a few Aloha shirts, but if you are heading to Central Europe in spring, you need to be prepared for any weather condition.

Our first destination was Frankfurt, Germany and we learned that snow flurries were in the forecast the first few days of our trip. That meant we needed winter hats, gloves, and warm jackets (the ubiquitous quilted jacket popular around the world is ideal, as it can stuff down to nothing in your carry on, but will keep you nicely protected from the elements when you need it).

We also packed a few silk undergarments, which weigh nothing but, in a pinch, can also protect you from the cold even under a lightweight top. Needless to say, we also packed two travel umbrellas. Lightweight, waterproof rain jackets with hoods are also a great option if you have enough layers packed to keep you warm enough should the temps drop into the 30s, as they did during part of our trip. Just note that they should be “waterproof” and not just “water resistant.” It makes a difference in a real deluge. The same holds true for your walking shoes. They should be cushioned well to protect you from the romantic, but rough, cobblestone streets of Europe and should also be waterproof. There is nothing worse than walking along in rain-soaked shoes, trust me.

IT 22" Spinner...Our preferred light weight luggage for carry on travel  

IT 22" Spinner...Our preferred light weight luggage for carry on travel

 

We recommend IT LUGGAGE which works well for us as they are very lightweight and pack an amazing amount of wardrobe items for their size.  Weight, and size, is important when you have to lift your bag into your plane's overhead bin. Before you travel, do check your airlines' carry-on size and weight restrictions. This spinner, which measures 22" x 14" x9", is pretty much the standard measurement across all airlines. Our IT bags are not waterproof (we learned this the hard way when we were caught in a torrential rainstorm in Naples and our clothing was soaked through for days), so be sure to bring along rain resistant covers (even 30-gallon trash bags will work in a pinch). 

 

 

 

My large cashmere black shawl, as well as a colorful Pashmina wrap, came to my rescue numerous times on this trip. I used the cashmere shawl as a soft blanket on the long flight and as a welcome head and shoulder scarf during the snow storms of our first days in Germany.

The key to getting this bulky clothing transported is to wear it on your flight. You can always store it during the flight in the overhead bin. Don’t forget to pack a light tote in your carry on to transport these heavier items when the weather warms (since they won’t fit in your luggage as you wore them on the plane). You will have to don them again on your return flight,  but then again, they can be placed in the bin and stuffed in your tote upon disembarkation.

MIX AND MATCH TO GET THE MOST FROM YOUR WARDROBE

Okay, now you are protected against the elements, but there is again the question of what you should take along to cover all your fashion needs.

In Europe, times have definitely changed. In recent years, Europe became as casual as America and you can't really point out an American from a European anymore (we were once very obvious with our white tennis shoes, printed T-shirts and baseball caps, but no more!)  I noticed the Europeans are now wearing these very same clothing items that once screamed "Americans".

I found the best clothing choices for my trip were two pairs of black leggings (lightweight and washable) that I could pair with a variety of washable, quick-dry tunic tops.

The key here is quick-dry. There are a variety of companies that offer such options (including ExOfficio , the king of washable underwear that dries completely overnight).  I added a pair of heavier stretch “jeans,” which looked the part but were much quicker to dry than the real thing. I did pack a black pullover, but found that I didn’t really need it, as my silk underwear (and shawl) kept me quite warm even on the coldest days.

I also included a lightweight no-iron black dress and a TravelSmith black pant suit in my luggage, since part of our trip included a river cruise and there were occasions when we wanted to “dress up” a bit on board. In this case, scarfs are your best friend! I packed five scarfs in my carry on: one Pashmina for warmth and color and four feather-light silk scarfs of various designs and colors.

I also packed a lightweight sundress which I actually wore on the four or five days during our trip when the temps soared into the ‘80s. A pair of cushioned black slip on shoes took little room in my bag, but looked nice with my dressier outfits (as my normal hiking shoes would definitely NOT have made a fashion statement).

MEN'S SELECTIONS

For some reason, men seem to get by with significantly less clothing than us ladies, which allowed me to stuff a few things of mine in Tony’s bag!

His needs were easily met. He practically lived in a pair of black, quick-dry Columbia Silver Ridge cargo pants. In retrospect, I should have purchased a second pair for him in another color as they seemed to keep him comfortable no matter what the temperature.

I also packed a pair of Banana Republic black washable wool pants and a black suit jacket for a few occasions on the cruise, but most travelers wouldn’t need this, as casual is king, even in Europe.

I also included two lightweight wool sweaters which he wore over his silk underwear on really cold days, as well as a selection of those quick-dry, moisture wicking tops (both long and short-sleeved) he could wash and wear throughout the trip. He also carried a supply of quick dry undershirts and underwear, and a lightweight pair of slip on black shoes. His black lightweight quilted jacket served him well, keeping him warm and comfortable on the cold days.

Socks are also one of the most important items on such a trip as this, which involved miles of daily walking. We both elected to purchase Thorlo socks with their specialized padding to avoid any foot problems. They worked!

On a cautionary note, but important to add to this article, is the fact that Tony fell prey to a pickpocket on a very crowded bus in Paris. He thought his wallet would be safe in a zippered pocket in his Columbia pants, but that was not the case. Lesson learned.

We were advised that the SCOTTeVEST company offers excellent anti-theft solutions, and we will research some options and report on our findings in an upcoming blog. 

THE NOT SO PRETTY PART

If you are going to master the art of traveling with a carry on, you also must accept the fact that you may have to use your bathroom sink to hand wash your underwear (there is always the disposable option, which we don't prefer but some travelers love) and other items. You'll find laundromats in bigger cities, too, and many hotels and cruise ships offer laundry service. 

I bring along a supply of Forever New powder soap, which does an excellent job. I also don't travel without collapsible hangers. As you probably have experienced, there are never enough hangers in any hotel closet. These lightweight hangers are invaluable for hanging the drip-dry items you need to wash from time to time, as well as allowing you to hang your wardrobe when the supply of hotel hangers is exhausted.

ZIPLOC® BAGS—A TRAVELER’S BEST FRIEND

You can't have enough Ziploc® bags in your luggage. They take up no space, but they are incredibly useful in a variety of occasions. Stuff them somewhere in your carry on, and you won’t regret it.

I label them prior to travel to organize my cosmetics, medications, and sundry items. I use my trusty label maker to identify each baggie, so I know where to reach when I need a particular item.

This also helps with the few liquids I carry along. Remember, with carry-on baggage, you have to be careful about liquids, sharp objects such as scissors, and other items you could otherwise store in checked baggage but may not be admissible in carry-on luggage.

LABEL EVERYTHING YOU CAN FOR AN EASY FIND

I go even further to help organize and find my items during a trip. I purchase small screw on jars and put a calculated dose of cosmetics and skin creams I need for the time I am traveling. The trick is to label them properly. I use my label maker to make certain I know what every jar contains.

To save luggage space, I use a purse organizer to carry all my cosmetics for the trip in my backpack (which, by the way, is a nice large black quilted bag that looks more elegant than your average hiker backpack, but does the job!). By using the jars, you can pack your entire arsenal of creams, cosmetics, medications and vitamins into this bag, and you will always know where to find it for easy reach.

Our backpacks, by the way, are used almost exclusively to transport our cameras, computers, lenses, batteries, chargers, etc. Most leisure travelers wouldn’t need to devote so much space to equipment, so extra items can be carried in your second carry-on of choice, be it a purse, small duffle or backpack. Again, check with your airlines to see what size restrictions apply to your second carry on item.

TIP: Recharging all our equipment, including our cell phones and camera batteries each evening, was made easy thanks to the purchase of the European iFer charging strip, available at a very reasonable price on Amazon.  Do check to make sure that you are charging items that can accommodate voltage inputs from 110 to 220 volts. Most computers, photo accessories, hair dryers and curling irons, etc. have this range, but do be certain yours does as a plug in without the 220 volt capability will fry your appliance.

STAYING HEALTHY

It’s not easy to stay healthy in an airplane, train or bus where dozens of people are sneezing and coughing, but I do have my tips on keeping healthy en route, which seem to have worked well on my last two international adventures.

Definitely take along a supply of sanitary wipes. When you enter your aircraft, use a wipe to disinfect the tray, seat belt attachments, monitor and even the light switch above. Disinfect everything around you that a previous passenger could have touched.  

I can’t say enough about Dr. Bronners lavender hand sanitizing spray. Tony and I used it continuously, not only on the plane, but also during our many bus and walking tours on land. After grabbing handrails, punching elevator buttons, using public toilets without soap, and in so many other situations when we knew we were surrounded by germs, but needed a hand cleanse, this sanitizing spray came to the rescue.

I attribute the fact that we did not get ill on our last two international trips, thanks to the diligent use of this product. The spray is non-GMO, certified organic, smells wonderful, and is definitely our go-to for keeping healthy on our travels.

Dr. Bronners.jpg

IN CONCLUSION

Thanks for your patience with this relatively long article, but I hope you find this information, gleaned from years of practice traveling with carry on only, of value. Please feel free to add your suggestions to the list, as we look forward to hearing your ideas and implementing them.

Happy Travels!

Disclaimer:  We were not compensated for our recommendations by the companies mentioned in this article, nor were we given any gratis samples, having personally purchased all items highlighted in this report.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lompoc California....A Wonderful Visitor Destination Just Around the Bend from Santa Barbara

If you haven't thought about visiting Lompoc while touring California's Central Coast, think again.

Lompoc is known as the City of Art and Flowers, and it delivers on those promises and much more. 

Lompoc's Glorious Flower Fields, © Joanne DiBona

Lompoc's Glorious Flower Fields, © Joanne DiBona

Nestled just one hour northwest of Santa Barbara California, Lompoc is an emerging destination that offers a rich historical past, a picturesque wine trail and local tasting rooms featuring award-winning varietals, nationally-renowned civic murals, the awe-inspiring historic La Purisima Mission, rugged ocean vistas, hiking and biking trails, and just about any activity you have come to enjoy in other Central Coast locations. 

Please enjoy my USATODAY PHOTO GALLERY of this beautiful destination.

It's Bluebonnet Time in the Birthplace of Texas

Conveniently located halfway between Houston and Austin on Hwy. 290 in Washington County, the historic and quaint town of Brenham Texas offers the visitor a variety of experiences. An historical downtown features a wide array of antiques and specialty shops, as well as a variety of lodging and dining options.

Brenham's Colorful Historic Downtown, © Tony DiBona

Brenham's Colorful Historic Downtown, © Tony DiBona

The nearby Washington-on-the-Brazos State Historic Site features a state-of-the-art visitor center and is the location of Independence Hall, where founding fathers signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. The George Bush Presidential Library is located in nearby College Station.

In Spring, Brenham is a popular destination for travelers who descend upon the region to view the bluebonnets that proliferate in the fields and pastures.

Close Up of the Famous Texan Blue Bonnet © Joanne DiBona

Close Up of the Famous Texan Blue Bonnet © Joanne DiBona

 

Click HERE to see a USATRAVEL photo gallery on this region.

USA TODAY Features Photo Show of Catalina Island as a Winter Holiday Destination

In the winter months, Catalina Island, located just 22 miles off the coast of Southern California, is a perfect winter visitor destination, especially during the holidays. A photo gallery  is currently featured on USA TODAY's 10Best home page.

View on Avalon Harbor, Catalina Island   © Joanne DiBona

View on Avalon Harbor, Catalina Island   © Joanne DiBona


Joanne DiBona Honored with San Diego Press Club Excellence in Journalism Award

I am proud to announce that my travel article, Natural Selection…An Enchanting Cruise through the Galapagos Islands, has won First Place in the recent 42nd Annual San Diego Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards in the category of Daily Newspapers & Websites: Travel.

Travel is always a tight and crowded competition category, which makes this award especially significant.


Southern California's Enchanting Catalina Island--The Pleasures of an Off-Season Visit

 
A winter rainbow provides a magical backdrop above the historic Avalon Casino on Catalina Island. Photo:  Joanne DiBona  

A winter rainbow provides a magical backdrop above the historic Avalon Casino on Catalina Island. Photo:  Joanne DiBona  

Fall and winter are the perfect seasons for a visit to Catalina Island, located just 22 miles off the shore of Southern California. Summer crowds are gone, and Catalina is relaxing, romantic, and filled with all sorts of activities and events for every taste. Read how my husband and I spent our December birthdays on this magical island. San Diego Union-Tribune, Catalina Without the Crowds, October 18, 2015. 

See a complete PHOTO LIBRARY of all the images of this trip to Avalon and the Catalina Backcountry.

 


Stepping Back in Time: Spirit of Old Japan Permeates Walking Tour of Ancient Highway

Since I was a little girl, I've always dreamed about visiting Japan. I finally made it to my enchanted land and discovered it in a uniquely adventurous way:  on foot. Enjoy an account of my trek through the heart of central Japan on the ancient Kiso Road and Nakasendo Way.

To view a complete library of all the images of this incredible journey, please access the file at Joanne DiBona Photography

To view a complete library of all the images of this incredible journey, please access the file at Joanne DiBona Photography

Lompoc California: Discover What's Around the Bend in California's Central Coast

If you haven't thought about visiting Lompoc while touring California's Central Coast, think again.

Lompoc is known as the City of Art and Flowers, and it delivers on those promises and much more. Nestled just one hour northwest of Santa Barbara California, Lompoc is an emerging destination that has it all: a rich historical past; a wine trail and local tasting rooms featuring award-winning varietals; nationally-renowned civic murals; the awe-inspiring historic La Purisima Mission; scenic back roads; rugged ocean vistas; hiking and biking trails; and just about any activity you have come to enjoy in other Central Coast locations. 

Colorful murals such as this can be found throughout the charming town of Lompoc.

Colorful murals such as this can be found throughout the charming town of Lompoc.

Visit EXPLORELOMPOC.COM for information about lodging choices and recommendations for places to see and things to do in this fascinating, and yet-to-be-discovered Central Coast destination.

The slide show below will give you a quick taste of what Lompoc has to offer the visitor. For a more in-depth look at this destination, visit my Lompoc Scenic Photo Site. All photos on this site:  © Joanne DiBona/ © Tony DiBona

Click the arrow to the right below to start the slide gallery.

San Antonio Texas--What's Old is New

While San Antonio, Texas is deservedly proud of its iconic landmark, The Alamo, the city offers a wide variety of attractions and activities for visitors of all ages. The recent expansion of the world-famous River Walk has also stimulated renovation projects of historical sites along its way, as well as new construction. A cultural tourism mecca, San Antonio's history can be seen today in its 18th century Missions and historic downtown, as well in its many outstanding museums. Recreational activities abound along the river and in the city's parks and neighborhoods. Colorful festivals year-round, a rich ethnic heritage, a vibrant dining scene, and a convention center expansion are just some of the reasons visitors continue to make their way to San Antonio for business and pleasure. 

All photos © Joanne DiBona  © Tony DiBona, All Rights Reserved

CLICK ON ARROWS AT RIGHT TO VIEW A PHOTO GALLERY OF SAN ANTONIO

Joanne's Newest Travel Picks....for comfort and safety

Summer travel is in full swing and I’m always looking for items that make me feel more comfortable and secure, whether I am traveling to Europe or to our local San Diego beach.

If, like me, you find it difficult to snooze on a long flight because you are distracted by cabin lights or a seat neighbor who won’t stop talking, the
1 Voice Sleep Headphones Eye Mask  is for you.  The mask itself is made of memory foam, is plushy and comfortable, and does a great job of blocking out all light due to its generous size.

Eye Mask.jpg

But the really cool feature is the fact that the headphones are built right into the mask, so the only thing between you and soothing music on your phone or MP3 is a light cord (provided).  

Oh yes, did I mention the mask is machine washable, making it easy to keep clean.

Having just one item that takes the place of two also saves room in my travel carry-on—always a plus.

 Speaking of beaches, I now have a favorite water tumbler to cart along in my beach bag—Zerowater.  In my quest to rid myself (and the environment) of plastic water bottles, I now make my own filtered water using this innovative system. Just fill it up with tap water and let its 5-stage Ion filter do its job on all impurities such as aluminum, lead, mercury, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. The tumbler does such a great job in removing these pollutants that it has earned top endorsements by Good Housekeeping, the Water Quality Association, and the National Science Foundation.

TUMBLER.jpg

The sturdy, leak resistant and BPA-free bottle holds a substantial 26 oz of water, perfect for a hot day at the beach.  It pays for itself, especially if you are a frequent flyer. Just cart it empty through airline security and head to the nearest public water fountain—knowing you are getting the purest of filtered water without having to pay those inflated prices for bottled water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who ever thought self-defense could be stylish?  I always carry pepper spray, especially when I am walking in a big city on my travels, but I always end up tucking the ugly spray container in my purse (which sort of defeats the purpose if I needed it quickly).

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The Blingsting pepper spray line was created by a mother-daughter team whose love for anything cute and sparkly got them thinking that, if women had fashionable choices for personal safety, they would be more likely to keep them handy. The spray comes in 8 colors to match any outfit, and it’s even refillable so if you have to use your sting, you don’t have to lose your bling!

Be warned, however, that the spray (which is so cute you might forget to take it off your bag) is not allowed on commercial aircraft. It is certified for use in all 50 states.

Being safe never looked so good.

Catalina Island: California's Island Resort

Although just 22 miles off the Southern California coast,

Catalina Island

remains a world apart from the hustle and bustle of the mainland. The town of Avalon, founded in 1887 as a seaside resort, evokes a charm that is undeniably unique and captivating. It's no surprise that it was a favorite stomping ground for the rich and famous over the decades. View a SLIDE SHOW to see this magical island through my eyes (and camera lens)!

 The picturesque harbor in Avalon, Catalina Island   © Joanne DiBona       

Il Cortile Ristorante....an Authentic Taste of Italy in Paso Robles California

The quaint city of Paso Robles, with its picturesque historic downtown and renowned wine region, delights the visitor with its share of Central Coast charm. But it also offers something very special: an authentic taste of Bella Italia at the Il Cortile Ristorante in the heart of downtown.

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While the restaurant's hip, chic décor evokes California cool more than rustic Tuscan, the spirit of Italian cuisine definitely is reflected in the innovative and extensive menu. Having traveled many times to Italy, the birthplace of our parents, my husband Tony and I pride ourselves on our knowledge of the authentic cuisine of our heritage.

Our culinary tour of the Old Country began with our “antipasti” a masterfully seasoned plate of grilled octopus in a spicy vinaigrette, followed by carpaccio di anatra, thinly slice duck blanketed with gorgonzola sauce, balsamic reduction and caramelized onions.

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Il Cortile's pastas are all home­made, which was clearly evident after our first bite of our secondi piatti, second course. Tony claimed that his selection (ravioli stuffed with lobster and served in a shrimp-­infused tomato sauce) ­­competed nicely with his Sicilian grandmother's similar family recipe. I, in turn, savored ravioli stuffed with ricotta and tossed with asparagus in a light white wine sauce. To be honest, my grandmother never came close to creating such a wonderful dish.

Magnifico.

Our main course featured the restaurant's signature osso bucco which, as it should, melted off the bone to be enjoyed in its rich sauce. Paired with 2011 Halter Ranch Syrah, it was indeed a culinary match made in heaven.

We ended the meal with Il Cortile's Panna Cotta, a light creamy dessert topped with fresh Central Coast berries. Once again,Tony declared it was every bit as delicious as his grandmother's version and as he admitted later, may have been even better!

Il Cortile offers an impressive wine list, but if you wish to bring your own special vintage, there is a $20 corkage fee with a limit of two bottles.

 So, when in Paso Robles, do as the Romans do (or visitors who love incredible Italian cuisine) and enjoy an authentic taste of Italy at the Il Cortile Ristorante in the heart of downtown.

Savor the Best in Food, Wine, & Art at Maine's Kennebunkport Festival

The Kennebunkport Festival is an annual celebration of the best food, wine and art that Maine has to offer. Now in its 13th year, this classic event takes place in early June in the picturesque seaside  village of Kennebunkport, Maine. The festival is packed full of prominent chefs, bartenders, sommeliers, musicians, and artists that will make appearances in some 40 events, including cocktail parties, intimate gourmet dinners hosted in private homes, a gala party, a grand tasting event, art shows, after-parties, and an outdoor concert. 

View the SLIDE SHOW below for some highlights of the festival.

All photos ©Joanne DiBona unless otherwise noted