As most of you know, I LOVE to travel. And, if you have read any of my travel articles, you know that my trips are very diverse and always done independently.
While I was camping in Havasu Canyon in April, I came to realize the importance of having the right “stuff” for your travel activities. This month’s column, my annual travel column, will focus on some new gadgets and tips and items you should never leave home without.
Personally, I have never had a problem with any crime or missing articles while traveling, but I know that there are some steps to take to ensure you are protected. Too often people who are traveling are victims of petty crime because they are careless. Here are some tips and gadgets to minimize your risks:
- Travel Smith (http://tinyurl.com/7om3tmb) has a clever way to hide some of your valuables in hotels where thieves are least likely to look. The Garment Hideaway ($25.00) is styled to resemble a woman’s tank top and conceals five plastic pockets and three stash pockets for jewelry, documents and other valuables. Two side zippers keep the fabric in place. Hang it under a jacket or tuck it in a dresser drawer, and leave your room with confidence. I would not use it to store large sums of cash or very expensive jewelry, but it is perfect for watches and other items.
- For more security, travel smith has a Pacsafe® Slashproof (http://tinyurl.com/7pchlv5) portable safe: Reinforced with an internal layer of eXomesh stainless-steel mesh, this rugged canvas bag is a highly secure, portable, and private safe. Simply place your valuables inside, cinch the top, and lock the braided-steel wire to a fixed object. It’s large enough to secure jewelry, small electronics, passports, and wallets.
- There are many people who are uncomfortable in hotel rooms, and the Bellhop Travel Door Alarm provides security with its loud, high-pitched 91dB alarm that will definitely wake you up and startle an intruder. The device also features a very handy LED flashlight. This is just one of many door alarms.
- Whenever I travel, I carry a small backpack with some personal items. Although I do not keep my money or credit cards in it, I still do not want to have anyone take anything. One tip I learned was to use a large safety pin to “lock” your backpack zippers to make it harder for pickpockets. Most pickpockets will simply go onto easier pickings. May sound silly and simple, but I always do it.
Tech Gear – The “Charging” Tourist
Although I do not yet have one, there is a backpack that charges your mobile devices. You charge the backpack and it will charge whatever devices you carry. Since I always use a small backpack when I travel, this sounds like a great idea. It is from PowerBag (www.mypowerbag.com/backpacks/backpack.html), and I have seen it on Amazon for about $89.00.
For those that travel internationally it can still be a hassle to use a cellphone without costing a fortune. Mobal (www.mobal.com/international-cell-phones/) is a UK company that sells phones for as little as $29.00 that can be used in 170 countries. There is no contract – really. There is no monthly fee – really. You buy the phone and have it activated whenever you travel internationally. You only pay for what calls you make. Admittedly, the per-minute fee is high, but it is perfect for emergencies or quick calls. When my husband and I go to Europe, I never worry about going out for a run alone because we each have a phone, and I can call my husband if necessary. We love them. They are really as simple as that. They are great alternative for simple, quick phone calls.
Although I have taken my laptop with me when I travel domestically, I never took it with me when I traveled internationally because it was too much trouble and there are many internet cafes all over Europe. Then I bought my iPad and have not taken my laptop since. I took my iPad to Germany, and it was great.
There are many reasons to buy a tablet but traveling is just a bonus. You can check your email, exchange photos and documents (if necessary), listen to your hometown radio station, use the GPS function, get tourist information, and many more functions. If you travel a lot, this is a great tool.
The SteriPEN is for travelers who wander off the beaten path. This hand-held device works like a water purifier by destroying bacteria and pathogens to make drinking water safe. At $100, it’s a little pricey, but it could prove indispensable for travelers who frequently visit more exotic destinations.
Digital Luggage Scales
Digital luggage scales help fliers maximize their luggage space, without running the risk of incurring exorbitant baggage charges or frantically unpacking overweight suitcases at the check-in desk. Devices such as the Balanzza Mini can be simply attached at the bag handle and lifted to get an instant and accurate reading of your bag’s weight.
Portable Cell Phone Charger
On a business trip, your cellphone is your lifeline to the outside world. Modern smartphones help you stay on top of e-mails and in touch with clients and contacts. That’s why portable phone chargers have become vital pieces of equipment for an experienced business traveler. Some of the best available include the Kensington iPhone Battery Pack and Charger, which enables a full recharge of any mini-USB device while on the go, and the Powermonkey-eXplorer solar charger, which uses sunlight to restore power.
There are actually more items that I never forget to take and as a former Girl Scout, I am always prepared for any catastrophe. I hope you have a wonderful travel vacation this year.
Never, Ever Leave Home Without...
- Extension Cord. Let’s face it, we all have to sometimes stay in less than first class accommodations, and these places never have enough outlets, so an extension cord is a lifesaver. Also, if you travel internationally, you just plug the extension cord into the adapter and you can plug in more than one device.
- Portable Speakers. Since I love to listen to the radio on my iPhone or iPad, the speakers are great to hear throughout the room. Much better than the miserable radios that are in most hotel rooms.
- Small Flashlight. Many years ago, while in Lake George there was a terrible storm that cut off electricity for hours, and it gets really dark in the country. I have never left home without a flashlight since. And, if you camp, get a headlamp for those night time bathroom trips. Trust me, they are the best.
- Swiss Army Knife. Although you cannot take them on the plane, I have used them for everything.
- Duct Tape. This can fix anything.
- Epson Salts. Nothing like a hot soak in the tub after a long hard day sightseeing.