Joanne's Travel Tips: My First GoPro, a Summer Wrap, a Belt with a Cause, and Living Sand-Less



Okay, I admit it. I'm somewhat of a camera snob. I wouldn't dream of going on a press trip without my Canon SLR and several lenses. For years, fellow journalists have suggested I add a GoPro to my arsenal of equipment, especially for snorkeling, biking, and other adventure shots. It took the loss of two waterproof point-and-shoot cameras (one fell through a slot in a pier as I got of a kayak and another was ruined because the battery enclosure opened up as I was trying to follow a sea lion) and a near accident on a bike ride trying to shoot video with my SLR, to change my mind.

Oh, and the fact that I only had to spend $199 for a HERO GoPro sealed the deal.

I had one of those "what took me so long" moments the first time I packed my new GoPro on a press trip, which happened to be a small ship cruise through Costa Rica and Panama. Between hiking through jungles and snorkling daily in the crystal clear waters, my HERO saw plenty of action. Its miniature size and the many available adapters and holders made it so easy to shoot in a variety of circumstances. HERO features a 2-inch touch display, is waterproof to 30 feet and is extremely durable. A handy voice command makes control and mode changes a snap.

The image quality (especially for a device so small!) was impressive:  HD Video (1440p60 and 1080p60) with normal and wide angle 10MP photo performance. And did I mention that the HERO features video stabilization that helps smooth out the shakes? It even offloads your photos and videos to the GoPro app that creates shareable videos automatically (no more fumbling with your SD card or plugging your camera into a computer), so friends and family can travel right along with you.

The real test came a few days ago, as I was biking through the vineyards of Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley. No more clutching the handle bars with one hand as I try to maintain my balance snapping photos in the other. Thanks to a cool headband, the HERO captured beautiful photos and images, every step (pedal) of the way!

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This amazing camera is definitely my new HERO!


It's a Wrap

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Now that summer is upon us, your probably aren't thinking of adding a travel wrap to your suitcase unless you are heading to Northern climes. But think again. A lightweight linen wrap can add a stylish touch to your outfit as well as protecting you from the sun or an unexpected chill.

I love the MerSea line of travel wraps, which are a must for a traveler like me, who ONLY takes a carry on, no matter how many weeks I am traveling.











Belt with a Cause

Tired of being asked to remove your belt when you go through security because there is just a bit of metal on the buckle? If so, consider a Jelt Belt, a retro-inspired, multi-functional belt for everyday use, especially while traveling. The belt consists of super strong, stretchy 100% recycled elastic made from recycled plastic bottles (yes, I too was surprised to learn of yet another product made from plastic bottles!)

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The patent-pending design has a low-profile buckle and a non-slip grippy inner gel that holds on tight, keeping the belt in place and your pants on.

Started as a social enterprise, Jelt Belt is committed to social responsibility by donating a portion of their sales to organizations that support veterans, families and the environment. The belts are manufactured in Montana as part of the Women's Prison Montana Correctional Enterprise, giving women prisoners the skills and confidence to live a more productive life when they are released.











LIVING Sans Sand


A sandy beach may be beautiful to look at and photograph, but it isn't fun when the fine sand turns your beach bag into a soggy mess. Living here in beautiful San Diego, our family loves to spend time on our region's gorgeous beaches. I've gone through countless numbers of beach bags, but I must say, the CGear Sand-Free backpack stands up as one of the best for keeping our wet towels and swimsuits relatively sand-less after a day at the beach.

The mesh bag can be carried or used as a backpack (which we prefer, especially when we are carrying a heavy cooler). A patented technology allows sand to fall out of the bottom, but prevents it from getting in when you set it down on the beach. While you can't avoid picking up some of those pesky grains during a beach visit, this bag certainly does an excellent job in keeping your experience relatively sand-less.

CGear actually offers a full line of products, from beach mats to footwear, that promise to give you a sand-free life when visiting your favorite strand. 



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.

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

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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


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.