Here are a few travel tools that I have picked up over the years in random order. I will continue to add to this list over time. 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.
- 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.
- Neon 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.
- Online Language Program:
I recently discovered Transparent Language. Unlike other language programs, Transparent specifically focuses on the basics that tourists require — how to use transportation; order food; stay in a hotel, etc.
- Resistance Bands for Exercising:
Often, you do not need any extra help to exercise on a trip. You either swim endlessly at a beach vacation or walk so far you feel like your feet will fall off. My biggest problem is finding the space and equipment necessary to keep up with my non-aerobic exercise. I am too cheap to buy a guest pass to a gym. In the past, I bought pairs of weights and stashed them unobtrusively at the homes of my family. They would promptly forget I bought the weights; become confused and distressed at the idea of work-out equipment in their homes; and donate the weights as quickly as possible to charity. My new solution is to download work-out videos to my phone and use resistance bands. The bands weigh nothing in your suitcase, but can give your muscles a challenge.