JOANNE'S TRAVEL PICKS: A PERFECT ALL WEATHER COAT, WORKING IN BED, AND MORE

IT’S GOT YOU COVERED

As travel journalists, my husband and I need an arsenal of clothing that will take us through any weather condition we encounter. Since we live in Southern California, we really have to rely on some savvy outfitters to suggest the right clothing for our travels to cold weather climes.

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Since we only use carry-on for our voyages, no matter where we go and for how long, we definitely look for versatile, light and easy-to-maintain garments.

We often travel to rainy, windy (and cold) climates, so I was definitely in the market for a jacket for my husband that would protect him from the elements.

His Cache Creek Coat definitely filled the bill during our recent visit to the Canadian Rockies where weather conditions can vary greatly in October. It is light and breathable enough that he was able to wear it on the plane from San Diego to Vancouver without ever having to remove it during the flight! When we arrived in Vancouver, it was pouring rain. No problem. He put up the jacket’s hood and didn’t have to deal with a travel umbrella to protect him from the elements, as I did! And it equally protected him from the nippy wind and cold we encountered in Banff.

For travelers needing lightweight but robust outwear to stand the elements while traveling, this is a product we can highly recommend.

BEDSIDE MANNER

Working daily in front of the computer is a way of life for all of us, and it isn’t going to go away anytime soon. I’m always looking for a way to alleviate the pain of sitting in front of my computer for 10+ hours a day. Even though I take breaks and try to exercise a bit in between, sitting for hours can be exhausting, and painful.

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If you work from home, as I do, the LEVO G2 Deluxe Tablet Stand might just be the answer to your needs. You can sit in a cushy recliner or lie in bed and the Levo will securely hold your equipment at the perfect height and viewing angle. I love using this to read my emails in the morning on my tablet. It’s also perfect for reading a good book on your Kindle as you lounge in your recliner.

I do want to mention that this stand is not designed for use with a heavier laptop. I’m anxiously waiting for LEVO to make a heavy-duty version that will hold my 17” laptop securely and allow me to work on my assignments from the comfort of my adjustable bed.

When that happens, I’ll be their first customer!

SAVING YOUR NECK

As frequent flyers, we are always on the quest for the perfect neck pillow to get us through those tortuous long flights in coach. My husband is one of those people who naps during a flight and constantly wakes up when his head bobs suddenly onto his chest.

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When I saw this new Kickstarter product, NapUpFly, I knew it might be the right device for him. He tested it during a recent flight and gave it a definite “thumbs up.”  The device comes in two parts:  a soft support cushion and a non-restrictive forehead strap that fastens onto your airline seat head rest.  The forehead strap can be moved up and down and is adjustable to all head sizes.

Since my husband loves to listen to music during his flight, the built-in headphone speakers were definitely a welcome accessory.

So for those of you who are prone to “bobbing” during your flight and need some head support, this new product is definitely worth consideration.

MAKING THE WORLD SMILE

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You may not think of toothpaste as part of your travel arsenal, but it definitely something you don’t want to leave behind when you are on the road.  I did come across a product I really enjoyed taking on our trips. The SprinJene line of toothpaste offers a wide assortment of natural flavors. It’s also certified in FIVE categories: Vegan, Gluten-free, Kosher, Halal and Cruelty-free). I loved the Black Seed Oil version and there are lots of children’s options to select from too. They come in convenient travel sizes. Check them out!

 

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 recommendations. My goal is to share my favorite travel tips with my followers, in an effort to improve the travel experience for us all.

 

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

My New HERO

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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

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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 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.

 

 

 

 

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.