Joanne's Travel Tips: The Perfect Travel Wrap, Internet Hotspot Heaven, & More

It's A Wrap

A few months ago, my husband Tony and I spent the entire month of October traveling in Europe, with just one small carry-on and backpack each in tow. I’ve written about how to travel carry- on only in several posts, and each time I return from such a trip, I find a few more items to recommend to my readers.

 A travel wrap is an essential if you go the "carry-on only" route.

A travel wrap is an essential if you go the "carry-on only" route.

Shoulder-season travel is a special challenge, as you have to prepare for every weather condition that might arise. Since we were traveling from Germany to Greece, I knew I had to have an outer wrap that would adjust to the fluctuating temperatures along our route.

I found just what I needed on the Mer Sea website—a classic travel wrap that would serve as a blanket on our chilly plane trip over the big pond, as well as a welcome companion on Europe’s city streets and on our cruise ship voyages.

Not only does this wrap look quite elegant, it is very well made and drapes beautiful in a variety of configurations over the body.  It provided great protection and warmth during some chilly rain storms in Bavaria and on a drafty vaporetto ride in Venice. It washes and dries well, even without access to a dryer (I draped it over our ship’s balcony to dry overnight, which it did despite the humidity in the air).

As an added bonus, it comes with a matching bag that, when stuffed with the wrap, serves as a comfortable travel pillow. This means you can carry it on the plane without packing it in your carry-on, saving space and weight for other items.

Thumbs up to this product! It is going to be my staple on all my future trips.

Internet HotSpot Heaven

Having a reliable internet connection while on the road is important to any traveler, especially for journalists. While many tech pundits claim that free Wi-Fi is available all over Europe, we had just the opposite experience during our previous trip last year. That is why, this time around, we decided to give RoamingMan, a global, pocket-sized portable Wi-Fi hotspot that works without SIM cards or cables, a try.

 You're connected all over Europe (and many other countries) with a RoamingMan hotspot. The only way to go.....

You're connected all over Europe (and many other countries) with a RoamingMan hotspot. The only way to go.....

It became our best friend as we traveled through 8 countries in four weeks. Just switch it on and you will be able to connect your phone and laptop for instant internet gratification. It offers unlimited global data in 68 countries around the world.

This device connected to the strongest 4G networks available, and is capable of simultaneously connecting up to five devices. The cost is $9.95 per day for this comprehensive service and the device will arrive at your door one or two days before your departure. You’ll return your device via a pre-paid shipping label.

While we were only two people on the network, you can imagine how ideal and cost effective this would be for family vacations, trips with friends, or business trips with colleagues, since one device can keep five people connected.

As working journalists, it was such a pleasure to be able to effortlessly access the internet to download maps, research web sites, email, and upload to our social media and websites in any situation. Whether we were on a bus, train, or walking along Europe’s city streets, we had internet access. We were in Internet heaven throughout our long trip!

 

Record Your Travel Memories Just Like in Past Centuries

Journal Images.jpg

Okay, it may be cool to take travel notes these days by talking into your cell phone, but my husband is old school and loves to chronicle our adventures the old-fashioned way, with a travel journal.  This gorgeous leather-bound diary looks like something right out of a Masterpiece Theatre episode—and is fine enough to be put on permanent display on our bookshelf when its pages are full. Check them out at Soothi.com.

 

Knit Kicks

 LOVE these shoes for all sorts of activities!

LOVE these shoes for all sorts of activities!

I realize this travel column is about items that make traveling more comfortable and less stressful, but when I come across a product I love, I take the liberty to report on it. These slip-on sneakers from the folks at Zenzee have certainly made the hours I spend in front of the computer more comfortable. The cushioned platform provides arch support and after a few wears, they stretch and form to your feet for the ultimate in comfort.

I only wish I could tuck these into my carry-on during our press trips, but I’m afraid their size (though they are lightweight) makes this unpractical. You can’t have it all.

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer:  Please note that the opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own and will not receive any future compensation based on sales arising from my recommendation. My goal is to share my favorite travel tips with my followers, in an effort to improve the travel experience for all.

 

 

 

For a travel in"VEST"ment you won't regret, consider a ScotteVest

My fascination with the ScotteVest began after one of those travel horror moments you like to think would never happen to you.

My husband and I were touring Paris in early May, on a national holiday. We boarded a packed bus that brought us to the Louvre, but our “magical” afternoon took a turn for the worst when, in the middle of the square, my husband realized his wallet and passport had been “magically” stolen by quite an accomplished thief during our transit!

We spent the next four hours in a Parisian police station, filing a report which actually yielded us no benefit, even with our trip insurance in place. Much of our trip to Paris was ruined because of this incident, as you can imagine.

Bottom line is, it is YOUR job to protect those precious belongings, so upon our return home, I made it my mission to thoroughly research all the travel vests out there to ensure this would never happen again.

Hands down, the ScotteVest won out over all the competition!

My husband doesn’t like heavy vests (and we often travel in warm climates), so we opted for the featherweight vest for men. Since he waxed poetic about the vest during our recent trip through Switzerland, I am quoting his remarks directly:

"On my recent travel to Switzerland, there’s no doubt the ScotteVest, with its 14 convenient pockets, played a huge role in making my entire travel experience worry-free.

The benefits were instant when we went through security at our home airport in San Diego. The items I normally carried in my trousers and jacket pocket were transferred into assigned pockets in my vest. This included my wallet and passport (which were placed in the RFID pockets for security) and several miscellaneous items such as phone, keys, pens, eyeglasses, and wristwatch.

It is so convenient to have all your items safely nestled in your vest, with no need to use  those TSA item trays and worrying about whether you will walk away and forget them in the stress of the moment.

Everything is packed right there, in the vest. There’s even room for an IPad or tablet. The zippered pockets and special RFID area bring a secure aspect to this vest. Nothing will fall out, plus you will be protected from scammers with the RFID feature.

As a photographer and a writer on the go I had a convenient pocket for my journal and pen and pencils that I use to chronicle my travel adventures. Other items such as camera SD cards and batteries all tuck away in the vest within easy reach when needed.

 Tony wore his vest every day during a recent Swiss press trip. It served him well as a photographer's vest when it wasn't protecting his belongings in crowded cities.                                                                                                                       © Joanne DiBona

Tony wore his vest every day during a recent Swiss press trip. It served him well as a photographer's vest when it wasn't protecting his belongings in crowded cities.                                                                                                                       © Joanne DiBona

If you love listening to music on the road, there is a convenient internal route through specially designed channels for headphones/bud wiring. The feature eliminates the clutter of wires often experienced when operating player devices externally.

The vest was extremely comfortable in all weather conditions we encountered. It took me through unseasonable, scorching heat one day as we hiked through the mountains, and protected me from a chilly wind another day, when the zipped front of the vest served as a windbreaker.

The ScotteVest has become my constant traveling companion and there’s no way I would ever leave home without it."

 

 

Disclaimer:  Please note that the opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own and will not receive any future compensation based on sales arising from my recommendation. My goal is to share my favorite travel tips with my followers, in an effort to improve the travel experience for all.

 

 

 

 

In Award Miles Booking Hell? Juicymiles.com Just Might Save Your Day

I just returned from mileage points hell.

For years, my husband and I have been happily charging everything we purchase on a handful of different credit cards that stuff our wallets, saving up for “that big day” when we would blow our mileage wad on the trip of a lifetime.

Well, that trip materialized--in the form of a month-long grand tour of Europe.

With almost a million mileage points under our belt, we naively thought we had the skill set to easily book business class seats to our destination. After all, how difficult could it be?

The answer: EXTREMELY!

 © Joanne DiBona

© Joanne DiBona

Thinking we could easily do this on our own (especially because our travel dates were off-season), we started a week-long journey into the endless quagmire of mileage sites in our quest to redeem our points for an actual ticket. Our first problem was the fact that our dates weren’t flexible, as we had booked two separate cruises and had to tailor our schedule around the embarkation/debarkation dates for each. Our location on the West coast also compounded the problem, as mileage flights out of San Diego seemed to be non-existent, at least to our untrained eyes.

Finally, I came to my senses, and realized we needed help-- big time.

Thus began my search for a service that helps those mileage holders (who have no clue as to how to redeem their miles) translate their points into an actual ticket. I did my research and, based on some stellar online revies, decided to go with Juicymiles.com. The fee of $125 per itinerary booked seemed reasonable, seeing we had just exhausted a week of our communal time in this quest.

To say that our assigned agent was a mileage angel from heaven is an understatement. He worked diligently from the get-go, and through all sorts of frustrations, such as flights disappearing the moment we were ready to book them!  

When you start working with a Juicy Miles agent, you will receive enough information to make a decision on the flights (#of stops, time of day, etc.) without seeing exact flight details. Once you pay your fee and are ready to book, the flights will be revealed to you. They won’t book any flights until they receive your acceptance and no payment is required unless you are completely satisfied with your proposed itinerary.

It doesn’t get better than that.

If you feel comfortable having your Juicy Miles agent book your flight for you (as we did), even more stress is removed from the process.

Our happy ending:  we got our lie down seats in business class with a combination of miles and cash, but at a fraction of what these business class seats would have cost us had we purchased them outright.

Trust me, it will be the best $125 you will ever spend!

Disclaimer:  Please note that the opinions expressed in this review are strictly my own. I paid the fee for the Juicy Miles service, and will not receive any future compensation based on sales arising from my recommendation. My goal is to share my favorite travel tips with my followers, in an effort to improve the travel experience for all.

 

Light Feels Right, Especially When you Travel. Review of BZEES Travel Shoes

If you’ve been following my blog, you know my fondest word of advice to all you travelers out there is: TRAVEL LIGHT.  This means packing all your belongings in a carry-on which is small enough to stow on the plane in the luggage rack above you, and keeping your personal items (and any expensive gadgets) in a small bag that you can place underneath your seat.

I know many of you may balk at this suggestion, but my husband and I managed to tour Europe for 25 days in all weather conditions with our small carry-ons and backpacks. And were we ever glad we did! The sense of freedom to have just a small piece of wheeled luggage to accompany you on your travels is worth its weight in gold.

If you haven’t seen it, here is the link to our blog on this subject.

This is why I am constantly in the lookout for travel items that are super light and take up nominal room in a carry-on. The most challenging item, especially for us ladies, is packing shoes (to go with every outfit and activity) in limited space.

When I stumbled upon the BZEES website while searching “travel shoes,” I was intrigued by how they were marketed as super lightweight . But could they stand up to the rigors of travel?

In my desire to answer this question, I recently put a few pairs of BZEES travel shoes to the test.  The first thing I noticed was that they were, indeed, the lightest shoes I had ever experienced. This  is important because we often travel internationally and stricter weight restrictions on carry-on bags are enforced on intra-country flights.

As if this weren’t enough, they were also super comfortable, due to their free-foam foot beds, air infused outsoles, and dynamic stretch uppers. An added bonus is that they are machine washable, so important if you are off on a month-long adventure as you can just wash them in the hotel sink or laundromat.  Just remember not to put them in a dryer, as they need a natural air-dry to maintain their shape.

I easily packed a Knockout Sandal in my carry-on for a two-week press tour through California, and wore the Slip Ons on the flight (and wore them as well on all my hiking, biking and walking adventures, too.) The sandals were elegant enough to wear for more formal occasions, as well as for pool-side receptions, and the like.

 

 

 

 

Black Slip On.jpg

You may note that both of these shoes are black, which I find easiest to coordinate with all my outfits, but they do come in many colors. The key, however, to carry-on packing is to choose a color theme and only pack items that match this theme.

 

 

I haven’t tested out the Wink water shoe as yet, but will be doing so soon on an exotic adventure that includes lots of kayaking.  A special design promises to remove excess water easily, so that you are not bothered by “wet feet” –in any capacity—during your adventure.

Check out their web site at:  www. BZEES.com

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: Please note that the opinions expressed in this article 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.

 

 

 

 

What to Wear in Paradise--Joanne's Fashion Tips for Tropical Climes

Ladies, if you are traveling to a tropical destination anytime soon, let me share my favorite wardrobe suggestions with you. These items served me well during a recent 2-week trip through the Hawaiian Islands, both in a luxury hotel and on a boutique expedition cruise ship. 

Walk All Day in Comfort

Since it’s always a good idea to put your best foot forward, I’ll start with the amazingly comfortable and chic NAOT sandals, which had me walking on air during my two week sojourn in the Hawaiian Islands.

 NOAB's Sara Sandal

NOAB's Sara Sandal

While I dislike hyperbole as much as the next person, I can honestly say that these, without doubt, were the most comfortable sandals I have ever had the pleasure to wear.  The secret lies in the construction of the footbed.  NAOT engineers its insoles with a blend of natural latex and cork designed to replicate the shape of the foot. The insoles also boast excellent arch and heel support, which no doubt also contributes significantly to their amazing comfort.

Whether trekking through Hawaiian trails, strolling through picturesque towns, or lounging by the pool, these super comfy sandals will keep your feet happy throughout the day and evening. Oh, and did I mention all this comfort looks fashionable, too?

It's also interesting to note that the NAOT sandal is considered the “shoe of peace,” as each shoe is handmade in Northern Israel by the joint effort of Israelis and Palestinians—all the more reason to consider ordering your travel footwear through this company.

Making a Fashion Statement

I guarantee you’ll feel like a Hawaiian princess in any of the designer dresses and separates available in the Shahida Parides collection of resort wear.  I know I did, each time I slipped into my gorgeous poppy red lace-up kaftan. Renowned designer Shahida combines the latest fashion trends with her signature bold patterns and bright colors, and there’s no question you will make a fashion statement in any of her unique and beautifully crafted clothing items.

 Making a fashion statement on board UnCruise Adventures' Safari Explorer, off the coast of Mauai

Making a fashion statement on board UnCruise Adventures' Safari Explorer, off the coast of Mauai

My dress, designed to be worn three ways (V-neck, off-the-shoulder, and strapless gown) served me beautifully for a variety of occasions--from lunch on our hotel terrace to an elegant evening reception on the beach, as well as for other casual activities in between.

Hand-made of exquisite silk crepe fabric, with sparkling beading embellishing the bodice, the kaftan was as delightful to wear as it was to care for. A hand wash and hang to dry was all it needed to regain its fluidity and good looks.

What I especially loved about this dress is that I didn’t have to sacrifice style for comfort. This is the ultimate dress solution for women of any size and age who want to be comfortable, fashionable and chic.

And I can’t count the number of compliments I enjoyed each time I stepped out in this beauty. 

 

Good Looks and Versatility

Comfort, good looks and versatility don’t often go hand in hand, which is why I can highly recommend the Blue Ginger line of clothing. The company has been selling exclusively- designed resort wear in Hawaii for over 30 years, so it’s no surprise they’ve come up with the perfect solution for the island visitor.

Two indispensable clothing items--a full-length flowing dress and a short sleeved top that reached mid-thigh--became my best fashion friends during this voyage. As an added bonus, they took up almost no room in my carry-on bag, the only piece of luggage I bring along on all my trips.

The quality of Blue Ginger's fabric is superb and feels light, smooth and silky against the skin, even under the hot tropical sun. Even after several washings, the items maintain their color (the rich blue ginger pattern is achieved through a unique Batik dying process) and need no ironing.

Talk about versatility.  It was amazing how many times I wore my short sleeve top for a variety of scenarios. It served as a swim suit cover-up, a sun protector while kayaking, a lounging jacket, and as a quick outfit over leggings for stepping out to a casual dinner.

 Living the Aloha Lifestyle, Hanalei Bay, Kauai

Living the Aloha Lifestyle, Hanalei Bay, Kauai

My elegant Blue Ginger dress also served me well when the occasion was a bit more formal. It was perfect for several social engagements on land, as well as for the dinner evenings aboard our Hawaiian Island cruise.

Check out the Blue Ginger web site for resort attire and accessories for the whole family.

 

Disclaimer: Please note that the opinions expressed in this article 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

When I discovered the Genius Pack 22”, I knew I had found the ultimate in carry-on spinners.

I tested it out on a recent 10-day trip, and it emphatically earned 5-Stars in my book. Made of quality materials meant to hold up well on the road, this spinner looks as good as it performs. 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 removable laundry bag with a built-in compression system that neatly compacts your dirty clothes by expelling unwanted air through an integrated air valve. Your dirty laundry is stored away from your clean clothes. When your trip is done, just unzip the laundry bag and take it straight to the laundromat or cleaners. This is certainly a welcome convenience for the traveler on the go. 

Other ingenious organizing conveniences are the built-in underwear, socks and electric chargers compartments, which eliminate 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

A Springtime Trek Through Old Japan: The Kiso Road

There is no better way to discover the beauty of Japan than by seeing it on foot. 

Walk Japan a pioneer of off-the-beaten-path walking tours of the country, offers a wide variety of excursions for every fitness level in key locations throughout Japan. Check out my photo essay, recently published on 

USA TODAY TRAVEL/10Best

which details a magical Walk Japan trip that took us from the modern city of Nagoya to the historic old city of Matsumoto via the ancient Kiso Road and Nakasendo Way.

IF YOU GO: TRAVEL ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR A TRIP TO JAPAN

Staying Connected

Everyone worries about staying connected while traveling abroad—and about racking up hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in roaming charges with your local provider if you aren’t careful.

One solution many opt for is to purchase a roaming data bundle from your U.S. provider. But I found a less expensive and extremely effective solution through CellHire. The company offers super fast 4G-LTE coverage with unlimited data (and that is the key here, as you will need it to access maps, information, Skype and your favorite social networks) for $14.95 a day-$79 a week-$159 a month. They also allow five users to connect to the MIFI, so this is a no brainer for families or people traveling in groups.

The connectivity was flawless. Whether I was in a train speeding through the Japanese Alps, overnighting in a remote mountain inn, or walking through city streets, this device was a lifesaver. Very simple to use, it also boasts hours of battery life. Sweet!

Cellhire also offers a variety of other connectivity options, so check them out before your next trip abroad.

Powering Up

My internet connectivity issue being solved, my next worry was how to power my phone and laptop while I was traveling on foot over hiking trails and by train from town to town.  This is when my Apelpi external battery charger came to my rescue.

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In addition to packing a hefty 6400 mAh capacity via two USB ports (and robust enough to charge multiple devices throughout the day), this charger doubles as a fashion statement. Who can resist a red (or pink or green) apple doing its thing next to your phone or tablet?  Light-weight and extremely durable (it was dropped by mistake a few times and survived the abuse), this will definitely be my favorite tech accessory on my future trips.

Keeping Healthy

Sure, keeping connected on international trips is important…..but so is keeping healthy.

I had heard about the importance of wearing compression socks on lengthy international flights for people with deep vein thrombosis and other circulatory disorders, but I never considered them for myself—until I ran across the stylish RejuvaHealth line!

The company features a series of slimming, shaping and supportive stockings, leggings and socks that utilize graduated compression to relieve soreness, pain, and reduce the swelling that often occurs on long flights.

Figuring it was worth a try, I opted for a pair of Rejuva Knee High Coolmax compression socks for the flight as well as a pair of black footless compression leggings for the walking trails. I selected the 15-20 compression level, which was perfect for me.

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To be honest, I didn’t expect much. But now I am convinced I will never fly again without a pair of compression socks nurturing my restricted circulation! I can’t believe what a difference they made in my comfort during that long flight, especially when I couldn’t move my legs except for under the seat for hours on end.

The leggings also made a significant difference on our trek--when we hiked more than 7 miles daily—in that I didn’t get the soreness in my calves as I expected. I’ll soon add more RejuvaHealth items to my travel wardrobe, to be sure.

This simple SLR Holder makes life easy for the scenic photographer

My husband Tony and I, who work together as a travel journalist team, were faced with a dilemma when we learned we would be traveling to the Galapagos Islands on a photo assignment.

It was time to make some changes.

We managed to ignore the frustration we’ve felt for years, annoyed at the “thump thump thump” of our Canon SLRs across our chests, as we hiked over rocks and crevices on our travels in search of the perfect scenic photos.  Strapping our cameras around our necks was okay for city tours, but the moment we got out into nature, we were constantly frustrated by the discomfort our SLRs caused during strenuous hikes. We were also ever fearful of damaging our equipment in the event of a slip and fall on a treacherous path.

There had to be a better way.

A short internet search later, we found the perfect SLR carrier, HoldSLR.

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This ingenious holder attaches onto a belt or backpack, giving you immediate access to your camera when that perfect shot comes along. No more fumbling through your photo bag or backpack to find your SLR.  This camera holder allows you to access your SLR at a moment’s notice to capture those magical moments in photography that can truly disappear in an instant.

Our backpacks were not equipped with frontal straps, but we quickly determined that the HoldSLR worked beautifully strapped to the belts of our pants.

We can highly endorse this product! It is the perfect solution for field, landscape, wedding, adventure, and travel photographers who need to get to their camera quickly, and above all, comfortably.