Must Have Travel Tools
I’m really looking forward to our travels abroad this summer, so several weeks ago I started the whole planning process. I got so many great sightseeing and restaurant tips from dear friends, which in turn got me really excited! I love the idea of traveling the world and seeing new places, but executing on all of the stuff in the middle is my least favorite part. Between you and I, airports stress me out. However I’m not going to stop traveling… so I’ve adapted to the whole process. From the moment I decide we’re going on a trip, until the time we touchdown at our destination, I need to be on my A game. After decades of traveling I’ve found ways to get myself to (and through) the airport with the least amount of stress...and now I’m sharing them with you!
Planning Travel: Websites & Apps
TripAdvisor is the world’s largest travel site and an excellent planning tool fueled by reviews generated by people who have been there and done that. The website is user-friendly and the app comes in handy when you’re on the go. The travel forums are a great way to find out what other travelers think about their experiences. This is great if you don’t know anyone who’s been to your destination before. The app is also a useful reference tool once you’re in the country and looking for something to do.
Tripit - I can be a little bit old school when it comes to traveling abroad. I typically use a travel agent for these type of trips. (Yes, they still exist). For those of you who don’t use a travel agent, I have heard great things from friends who have used the app Tripit. This app can organize all of your travel plans for all of your trips - flights, hotels and restaurant confirmations into one itinerary for you. It’s a great organization tool. Simply forward all of your confirmation emails from airlines and hotels to firstname.lastname@example.org and your emails will be generated into one master itinerary. You can also send your travel plans and master itinerary to your calendar or anyone you choose.
Airport & Airplane Tips & Tools
Now that all of the planning is done, it’s time to head to the airport! Depending on how far you are traveling, you might be looking at a full day or so spent in an airport or on a plane. Being a travel ninja means you need to be prepared to be as comfortable as possible without falling prey to some very common airport pitfalls. Organization and thinking ahead is key to preventing anything from going wrong with you vacation before it even starts!
Security & Organization
You might be in a ‘sunshine and rainbow’ mood because you’re about to head off on vacation...but you have to remember that criminals don’t take time off. I highly recommend that everyone invest in a travel wallet. Not only does it keep all of your travel documents and id’s organized, but the right wallet will also have an RFID blocker in it to prevent electronic pickpocketing. You do not want to be fumbling through multiple pockets trying to find your drivers license at the TSA checkpoint. Keep all of your identification and forms of currency organized and in one place.
Wallet #1: Zoppen Multi-purpose RFID Blocking Travel Passport Wallet (Ver.4) Tri-fold Document Organizer Holder. Perfect for someone who wants to have all of their important travel items in one place. It holds your passport, a drivers license, three credit cards, paper currency holder as well as a zippered pocket for coin currency, key holder, boarding pass compartment, SIM card holder (great if your traveling to a foreign country and your changing out your SIM card in your phone) and a pen holder (perfect if you need to fill out forms for Customs).
Wallet #2: RFID Blocking Leather Passport Holder For Men and Women. Great for people who just want to keep the basics on hand. Slim and easily fits in a breast pocket. Hold your passport, drivers license, three credit cards, paper currency and boarding pass billfolds neatly together.
Wallet #3: Donword Genuine Leather Travel Wallet with RFID Blocking, Passport Wallet Credit Cards Holder & Document Organizer. Large capacity with various multifunctional slots for boarding pass, 1 coin pocket, 2 long compartments for bills and documents, 8 credit card slots and a slot for 2 SIM cards.
Wallet #4: Wayzing Womens RFID Blocking Travel Wallet / Passport Holder. Versatile and functional; It holds everything you need in an organized manner including your cell phone, passport, cash, credit cards and hotel keys. Keeps your critical information safe with RFID blocking. The wrist strap is a first line of defense if someone tries to grab the wallet out of your hand.
Health & Wellness at 30,000 Feet
Dry Air Quality In the Cabin: Anyone who has logged some air miles knows that the air at 30,000 feet is very cold and cannot hold much moisture. The recycled air and low humidity causes extreme dryness and wreaks havoc on your skin. I don’t know about you, but when I arrive at my destination I prefer to feel fresh and moisturized. Whenever I fly, I like to have the following three things in my tote:
Herbacin Hand Lotion: to replenish the elasticity in the skin on my hands. It contains organic camomile blossom extract, no parabens, no mineral oils, no animal ingredients, no synthetic colors, is minimally fragranced and dermatologically tested.
Aquaphor Healing Ointment: Technically this can be used on any area of your body that has been been exposed to extreme dryness. I love using it on my lips! It’s #1 Dermatologist recommended for dry, cracked skin, and chapped lips. It moisturizes while it heals your dry skin. Just what I need during a long flight!
Korean Face Masks: Now I know what you might be thinking, “Barbara, you use this mask in public?!” I sure do y’all! On a long flight, about an hour before my flight is scheduled to land, I slide one of these one-time use face masks out of my carry on tote and lay back and rehydrate. I’m sure one or two people who might be walking down the aisle do a double take if they notice me, but I don’t care. 20-30 minutes with an aloe face mask sheet on can make all of the difference after a long flight. There is no messy clean up. Just remove the mask. Rub in the residual aloe with your fingers and you’re ready to go!
Stay Healthy Amongst Those Who Are Sick: Let’s face it. Airplanes can hold up to 300+ passengers. What are the chances that you’re going to be on a flight where 100% of the passengers are in perfect health? Slim to none my friends, slim to none!
Travel Wipes: Do not leave home without them! Listen y’all...people are vessels for germs, we all know this. You do not want to get on a plane and be sitting in the same seat where patient zero was just sitting on the previous flight. These Cottonelle Travel wipes are a great compact solution to help prevent you from getting sick on your way to your vacation destination. Have the wipes handy in whatever personal item you carry on the plane (purse, backpack, ect). As soon as you sit down:
wipe down both arm rests,
the tray table,
the knob on the tray table
the overhead air vent.
If you’re sitting in a window seat, wipe down the wall around the window. If you’re sitting in the aisle seat, wipe down the headrest. Think of how many people touch the aisle seat head rest as they are trying to navigate their way down a cramped aisle. No matter what seat you’re sitting in, all of you should wipe down the seat belt buckle! There is a 100% chance that every passenger before you touched that seat belt buckle multiple times.
Hand Sanitizer: Even though you have now sterilized your seat area with your travel wipes, there are still going to be plenty of opportunities for your hands to come into contact with germ-infested areas that you have no control over. The overhead bins and anything and everything to do with the airplane bathroom. These travel sized Purell containers are the perfect solution for a trip of any length. These containers easily attach to the strap of your purse or backpack, keeping them within arms reach at all times.
Infinity Scarf: This tip is more for the ladies; but a lightweight regular scarf would work for men as well. OK, at this point you’ve done all you can to de-germ your seat and all points of contact in this public space. However, there is little to be done if you are sitting next to (or near) someone who is clearly sick and coughing. It’s gross. As a last line of defense I always travel with a lightweight infinity scarf. These scarves serve as an airplane lifesaver for many reasons.
If someone is coughing near by, you can wrap the scarf around your neck, and then around your nose and mouth. It’s not quite a surgical mask, but it’s better than breathing in the germs directly.
An infinity scarf can be used to keep your neck and shoulders warm during the flight. It’s a common belief in eastern medicine that keeping the back of your neck warm is a good way to prevent you from getting sick.
An infinity scarf can also be draped behind your neck and then lightly over your face during the flight if you want to fall sleep. Eye masks are great at keeping the light out, but a scarf over your face is a veil that prevents the passenger in 12C (and anyone walking the aisle) from staring at you while you slumber.
In-Flight Travel Tech: Most planes these days are equipped with TV’s in the headrest in front of you, which is great! Some airlines offer free access to recent movies, tv shows and even live sporting events. There have been times when I have been less than impressed with the entertainment options on a flight, so I always make sure that I bring the following:
Downloaded Media: Friends of mine enjoy downloading audiobooks from Audible, and I like to download movies to my iPad. Depending how long our next trip is, I might do both. It’s really important that you download movies and books before you leave home. Some files take a long time to download and you want to make sure that everything is set while you still have access to wifi.
Noise-Cancelling Headphones: Crying babies. People oversharing loudly in the seat in front of me. Someone snoring in the seat behind me…I don’t hear any of it! I’m a firm believer in never leaving for the airport without noise cancelling headphones in my carry on bag. Even if I’m not planning on listening to music or watching a movie, I use the white noise feature to block out all of the ambient noise around me so I can sleep, or just be left alone with my thoughts. I’m a huge fan of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II Wireless Bluetooth Noise Cancelling headphones, however there are also other models that you can find on Amazon at lower price points that will get the job done as well.
External Battery Pack: A day spent at the airport can cause a big drain on your cell phone (and device) battery. The last thing you want after streaming movies and music your entire flight is to arrive at your destination city with a dead cell phone battery. Be prepared to keep all of your devices powered until you arrive at your hotel. The great thing about these battery packs is that they are compact and easy to toss in your purse of backpack. They don’t take up a lot of room and they can be a lifesaver!
Data Plan Options When Traveling Abroad
When traveling out of the country on vacation you don’t want to be glued to your phone. Get off the Gram and look around friends! However, realistically you are going to need a data plan while you’re traveling to power your travel apps, and for access to a web browser. Depending on which US cell phone carrier you use, there are a myriad of options for you to stay connected.
Verizon TravelPass℠ : Now your wireless plan travels just like you do. For just $5 a day per line in Mexico and Canada and $10 a day per line in more than 185 countries you can take your domestic talk, text and data allowances with you. You're only charged on the days you use your device abroad. It's an economical way to stay connected while you travel.
AT&T International Day Pass℠: Use the data from your wireless plan and get unlimited talk and text while you’re abroad. You’ll be charged a $10 daily fee for each 24-hour period you use it. Each period begins as soon as you accept or make a call, listen to a voicemail, send a text, or use your data while abroad. During the 24-hour period, use your domestic data, send unlimited texts, and make unlimited calls back to the U.S., and unlimited calls within and to all International Day Pass destinations.
Sprint Global Roaming: FREE text & basic data for smartphones in more than 200 worldwide destinations. No need to decide before you travel – opt in to high speed at any time while traveling with just a few simple clicks from your smartphone. With high-speed data passes all data is included with speeds up to LTE. Most destination are $5/day or $25/week.
T-Mobile ONE™: With T-Mobile ONE™, you get unlimited texting and data at up to 2G speeds in 210+ countries and destinations—all at no extra cost. Rates and coverage vary depending on your travel destination.
Helpful Apps To Use While Traveling
Congratulations, you’ve made it to your destination! Now it’s time to hit the ground running. The following apps I find to be extremely useful when you’re in a new city. Several of them are really helpful if you’re in a foreign country where the language and the currency is unfamiliar to you. While apps are a great tool to use while abroad be aware that when you’re using them, you might be painting a ‘tourist’ bullseye on your back. I recommend turning off the sound on the apps and be discrete when you’re using them for guidance in crowded areas. Always be aware of your surrounding no matter where you are!
Navigation Apps: I use navigation apps constantly, even when I’m home here in LA. It’s not that I don’t know where I’m going; I just want to know exactly what time I’m going to be arriving and if there are any traffic jams that could potentially be avoided. When I’m traveling, navigation apps are a necessity to make sure that I get where I’m going in the most direct (and safest) way possible.
Google Maps: Here’s why I love it. Before I leave for my trip I pull up every location that I’m going to be staying at or visiting in the app (hotels, restaurants, museums, etc.) and I save the location. It’s a feature that will star each location and then when you’re in-country you just open your Google Maps app and navigate between one point to the next without having to find the exact address. Google Maps app also gives you the opportunity to download a map that can used when offline. This feature is very important if you are in an area with spotty data service (anyone who has ever been to Iceland or Cuba can relate).
Metro Apps: Major cities often have public transportation apps. I have personally used the Paris Metro app and the NYC Subway app during my travels in both of these cities. I found the apps to be extremely helpful. The Paris Metro Map can plan your route offline, has a step-by-step guide, and essential information you need to know while on your trip. The NYC Subway app also uses a transit route planner with information on how to get from Point A to Point B as well as step-by-step guides to get you there.
Currency Converter Apps: Foreign currency can be really difficult to convert in your head. You’re on vacation, give your brain a break! Currency converter apps are a great way to make sure you’re not being taken advantage of when you’re abroad. The last “surprise” you would want when you get back from your trip is a credit card bill that will make your jaw drop. Be in the know when you’re on the go!
XE Currency Converter: This app provides real time currency rates and even allows you to store and view the rates even when you’re offline. You will never need to wonder again if you’re really getting a good deal in a foreign country.
My Currency Converter & Rates: This app is supposed to be easy to use and supports over 150 different currencies for all over the world. It works offline and also has a switch button to invert the currencies which is a big perk for many people.
Translation Apps: In busy tourist areas you can often find someone who speaks English. However, you should never expect or rely on that when you’re traveling. Always be prepared to communicate with the people who live and work in the area that you’re visiting. Ordering off a menu and greeting locals is always a better experience when you can speak their language. I’m not suggesting that you start ordering Rosetta Stone for every language, but I am here to tell you that there are some pretty impressive language apps out there that can read foreign text for you!
Google Translate: This is a free app that translates texts of 103 different languages. It can even translate offline with no internet. It also offers camera translation by just pointing your camera. This is especially helpful when it comes to figuring out menus in foreign languages and street signs!
iTranslate: This is not a free app. It does however translate conversations and offers camera translation in addition to offering Siri shortcuts. This app also operates while offline while also offering a visual dictionary with photos. So cool!
Wherever you are off to this summer I hope you have a wonderful time! Be safe, plan ahead, and utilize some of the many travel tools that technology affords us these days. Happy Trails!