Travel Tools

I didn’t set out to write a “How To” travel series.  Yet, it appears I am writing one.  Here are the first in the series:

How To: Drive on the Left Side of the Road

How to: Behave at a California Beach

How To: Speak a Foreign Language for Travel

Here are a few other random travel tools that I have picked up over the years.  I receive nothing in return for any specific recommendations below.

  • Hiking Boots for Cobblestone:
    If I step on a cobblestone just right, a nerve in my left foot feels as if it is being electrocuted.  I only share this shocking bit of personal news, because my husband found the perfect solution.  For all those lovely old, cobblestone streets, pick up a pair of really good hiking boots.  They are made for rough terrain, and they work like a charm.
Image of cobblestones in Varenna, Italy

Cobblestones in Italy-Pretty, but Ouch!

  • Travel Flushable Wipes:
    As long as we are being shockingly personal, travel flushable wipes just make everyone feel better on long journeys.  The wipes are sold in travel packs, which are useful for the plane or train.
  • Sun Umbrellas:
    One can buy umbrellas specifically made for sun protection.  You feel about ten degrees cooler under the umbrella, and you don’t have to worry about sunburn. Of course, your sister may mock you for using your sun umbrella, until, hypothetically, you are in Paris on a really hot day in May 2011 and you find her trying to creep under your sun umbrella while you are distracted.  Then, she begs you for room under your sun umbrella, and you say no, because she was mean to you.  Hypothetically.
  • Luggage Locks and Cables:
    Why, yes, everyone knows about luggage locks.  However, here are two particular uses.  One, I lock belongings in luggage when my room doesn’t have a safe.  The locks aren’t foolproof, but they provide an extra bit of theft prevention if I get lazy and don’t want to carry all my valuables with me.  Please note: This is risky and should only be tried with valuables you don’t care THAT much about losing.

    Two, I sometimes must leave my luggage in a not-very-secure storage area if the hotel room isn’t ready.  I find this to be true especially in Europe.  I use a cable and lock my husband’s suitcase to mine.  I think, but cannot prove, that it would be awkward to walk away with two suitcases locked together.

  • Travel Pillow:
    After searching for many years for a travel pillow that actually facilitates sleep, I finally found the Turtl pillow.  It is a really simple wrap-around pillow that keeps your neck stationary.  This appears to be the key to getting some rest.  I bought mine on Amazon.
  • Travel Binoculars:
    If you have room in your luggage, a small pair of travel binoculars comes in handy for hiking, seeing details on historic buildings, and viewing stained-glass windows in old churches.
  • Travel Organizer App:
    I can’t live without my travel organizer app anymore.  My app helps me keep track of flights, rental cars, trains, hotels, activities, restaurant reservations, etc.  There are several on the market, so pick the one that makes your life easiest.  I use TripIt Pro.
  • Luggage Handles:
    Many people use fun luggage tags or handles to identify their suitcases at busy airports.  However, my solution is to use neon soft luggage handles.  They just stand out better than anything else I have tried.
  • Compression Packing Bags:
    It took me a long time to buy compression packing bags.  Rookie mistake.  The bags really do create more room in your suitcase. I pack all my clothes in the bags, and then squeeze the air out by kneeling on the bags.  They are easy to use.  I bought Lewis N. Clark bags, and they work well and have lasted several years thus far.
  • Mobile Phone Companies that Offer Free, Unlimited International Internet Access:
    I switched to a new mobile phone provider solely for the free international internet access/texting. I was a bit skeptical that it would work well, but I was wrong.  I understand that switching your phone plan can be difficult, so this is not a recommendation for the faint of heart.  However, free, unlimited internet and texting access is a game-changer for international travel.  I use T-Mobile.
  • Pack Old Clothes:
    A friend told me that instead of trashing clothes that have reached their end of life, he packs them for trips.  His clothes get one more use while traveling, and then he throws them away before he comes home.  This gives him extra room to pack new treasures found on his trip.  This tip isn’t meant to take away from donating clothes you no longer want to charity.  We are talking about shirts with a stain, a pair of pajamas or underwear with a hole(s) in them, your favorite shirt that is now pink.  These are clothes you would have tossed regardless of your travel status, but are perfectly fine to wear in your hotel or on a hike.
  • Travel Hair Straightener:
    It took me years to find the right travel hair straightener.  Small enough to fit in a carry-on, but large enough to straighten thick, long hair quickly and efficiently.  BaBylissPRO Nano Titanium Mini Straightening Iron is a travel hair straightener with one inch plates!