Gizmos and Goodies: Travel Wiser This Year


Ah, travel. The thought of upcoming trips can always bring a smile to my face. Chris and I have dubbed this our U.S. travel year, since by the end of 2015 we will have added Ohio, Missouri, Kansas, Utah, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Louisiana to our list of been-there states. (This is, of course, in no small part due to our partial cross-country drive out to Denver at the beginning of the year.)

In addition to that, we’ll be traveling to Japan in February of 2016 for Chris to complete his sixth and final race in the 6 World Marathon Majors.

Travel is, obviously, an important thing for us. And while I love collecting travel books, and I tend to keep most maps, tickets and other paraphernalia that we collect while we’re actually on these trips, I’d be lying if I said that technology wasn’t a huge help these days when it comes to traveling. So in honor of all you Weary Wanderers out there, I thought I’d share some of my favorite tech gizmos and goodies that make the road less traveled just a little bit easier.

Here goes nothing.

I’ve had this app for a while now, but since Chris and I just moved to a place where we needed a car at the beginning of this year, I haven’t had a ton of chances to use it yet. Still, I’m excited to use the app when we hit the road for our Wyoming/Montana trip in September. Just type in your zip code on the website or hit the ‘Find Gas Near Me’ button on the app and let the magic of GasBuddy do the legwork to find the cheapest gas wherever you are.

onTime and MyTix
While I probably won’t have a ton of use for these two apps anymore, when I was a New York City dweller, I basically lived by them to get home to visit family. The free onTime app from Metro North Rail provides real-time updates on train departures and arrivals, along with track information, for any route you plunk into its database, while New Jersey Transit’s MyTix allows you to actually purchase, activate and use tickets directly through your smartphone (finally!).

Cool or creepy: Sometimes when I’m just walking around Denver, I’ll hear a little ‘ding’ from deep down in my purse, and I’ll pull out my phone to find that Foursquare is recommending a restaurant (or even a specific dish!) near where I’m standing. Okay, so maybe that’s a little creepy, but you actually don’t have to allow the location access on Foursquare to use it when you’re out and about to search for awesome restaurants, bars and shops near where you are.

Ah, road trips — the staple of American travel, am I right? As I mentioned before, Chris and I only recently needed a car in our lives, but I’ll tell you right now that pretty much nothing about having a car excited me, except for grocery shopping and, of course, road trips! So of course I love the idea behind Roadtrippers and plan to use it a ton for upcoming trips. Plan out an amazing road trip by inputting your start location/end location and start date/end date, and asking the app/site to provide you with information regarding hotels, attraction, natural wonders and/or weird stuff. For example, when I use the app to set me up with a route from Denver to Glacier National Park, I’m told the trip will cost about $157 in gas, should take about 16 hours total and covers approximately 916 miles. Set your destinations, then click the little location icon off to the bottom left of your screen and select what you’d like to find (accommodations/attractions & culture/camping & rv/entertainment & nightlife/food & drink/outdoors & recreation/etc.), and the app will automatically pull up the best options on your drive. For example, on the way out to Glacier National Park Chris and I might stop at Bighorn National Forest, Teapot Rock, Yellowstone Art Museum or the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, among many others.

PackPoint Packing List Travel Companion
If packing for a big trip stresses you out because you fear you may forget something super important, that’s where PackPoint can help. Download the app and start by picking if you’re a gal or guy. Then input where you’re going and when, then the number of nights you’ll be staying and the type of trip you’ll be having (business or leisure) and activities you plan to do (swimming, snow sports, working, camping, gym, photography, international, beach and baby are just a few of your options, and you can customize activities if you upgrade to the $2 app version, as well). Hit ‘repeat basics’ or ‘laundry’ if you’ll be able to do that on your trip, and the app will generate a suggested packing list for you. You can check off items as you pack and swipe to remove stuff you don’t need. For example, on my trip to Glacier National Park — where I plan to hike, take photos and do lots of walking — my packing list includes things like camera bag, memory cards, battery and my camera, as well as maybe a handheld GPS, water bottle, bug spray and sunscreen. I find the obvious reminders (things like chapstick, pain reliever pills, wallet, house key and reading glasses to be particularly helpful because, let’s be honest, if I’m going to forget something, it won’t be my camera!)

If you’re a person who prefers checking things off on an actual, tangible list, rather than an electronic one (which sometimes I am), try printing this super cute one (in black & white or color) from a pair & a spare. (Her 5,4,3,2,1 packing guide might be helpful, too!)

Bis bald, friends — and happy travels!

G4: Sunscreens. The Right Kind.

It's fun to draw—but very, very bad for your skin.

It’s officially summer. I’m sure that my air conditioning bill will reflect that fact next month.

As such, thousands upon thousands of peeps will be heading off to the sunny shores of some such beach over the next few months, but the question is…will they be wearing the proper protection?

Check out this awesome list of the 134 best beach and sport sunscreens from The Environmental Working Group. I myself am partial to Kiss My Face products which, luckily, made the list.

Bis bald, friends! And keep your skin safe during all your summer travels!

G4: Substance for the road

I have yet to try this product, but I was intrigued when the press release landed in my inbox. The Journey Bar was developed by Chris Kerslake when he realized that the typical nutrition bars on the market tended to fall apart or squish in his travel bags and backpacks, and that they always tended to taste like either candybars or cardboard.

So he developed the Journey Bar as a savory alternative (currently available in Parmesan Romano and coconut curry). Sounds like a good idea to me—I’ll let you know when I test drive them!

Bis bald, friends!

G4: The Universal Packing List

If you’re like me, you have tons of lists scattered haphazardly about your apartment or house before you leave on any trip (seriously, any trip. Home for a weekend? I’ve got a list for that).

But even though I consider myself the queen of all things list-involved, I could still use a little help remembering all the different Gear, Gadgets, Gizmos, and Goodies I like to bring along with me. That’s why I’m loving the Universal Packing List. Just plunk in a few generic details about your trip (date, guestimated temps, where you’ll be staying, activities you may be partaking in), and the site generates a pretty thorough beginning list for you. Whatever you do, don’t forget where you put the list. That would just be a bummer.

G4: Grounded

I hope this volcano in Iceland stops acting out—otherwise my sister and I will be traveling to Europe like Seth did in Grounded

I mentioned a while back that I was reading a book a friend had recommended to me–and I just had the pleasure of finishing said book. And so here goes my first foray into an actual travel book review…

“Grounded: A Down To Earth Journey Around The World,” written by Seth Stevenson, chronicles the tale of the author and his girlfriend as they travel around the world, roaming from latitude to latitude, without ever setting foot on a plane (well, spoiler alert, that’s not totally true of both of them). They take container ships and cruise ships, buses, trains and rental cars. They even book it for a while on a bike journey.
I have to say that what I liked most about this book was how Stevenson managed to tell his personal journey so well, while teaching me something about the history of travel in the process. (That, and the fact that Stevenson settled it for me—I could never travel around the world the way he and his girlfriend did!) I’ve never known more about the origin of air, ship and train travel. And who even knew you could catch a ride on a container ship?

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G4: The Cutest Little Carry-On You Ever Did See

Carry-On in style

I covet this cute little carry on bag from Pan Am brands. According to the site, “When jet travel began in ’58, Pan Am gave this bag to all its first class passengers traveling to Europe. The perfect traveler with its grab ‘n’ go 15″ handle or its over the shoulder strap..”

It’s seriously cute. I just might need to get me one for my upcoming trip to Europe.

Big bald, friends!

G4: Babes in the Woods

Cute kid. Cute book.

If you were wondering how you could combine your two favorite things—your new baby and your love of hiking/camping/boating— then Jennifer Aist’s ‘Babes in the Woods’ might just be the book for you.

Getting all of the essentials out of the way in the first chapter (clothing, food, sleeping, etc), Aist moves on to the really fun stuff in later chapters, like backpacking with babies and activities around camp. And I love the no-fail recipes section with classic camping goodies like oatmeal and dried fruit,  trail mix and breakfast burritos (okay, so maybe breakfast burritos aren’t the first thing I think of when camping, but it still sounds delicious to me). And with helpful portion sizes and notes, as well as which type of trip the meal would be best served on, it’s hard to go wrong.

If camping with your newborn isn’t your thing, the fun facts sprinkled throughout the book are enough to keep me entertained. For example, did you know that DEET was originally developed by the Army during World War II?  Or that once opossum babies are too big for their mom’s pouch, they climb onto her back, where she continues to carry them until they are too big?

Well now you know!

Bis bald, friends!

G4: A Must-Have for Outdoor Travelers

If you’re seriously wary of involving yourself in any kind of travel that would include sleeping outside, trapping your own food or finding your own shelter, I don’t blaim you. Sure, I’ve gone camping a handful of times. There was that one time in the “woods” near Ocean City with my boyfriend, a best friend and her boyfriend. We slept in tents, collected firewood to roast marshmellows and the boys went fishing—you know, the usual. But it was still, I would say, very, very, far away from being “rustic.” We had showers and actual toilets to use, and we were only about a 5 minute drive from the beach (and you better believe we were at the beach EVERY DAY). But that still counts, right?

Anyway, the point is, with this new book that’s out this month, “Outdoor Medical Emergency Handbook: First Aid for Travelers, Backpackers , Adventurers” by  Drs. Spike Briggs and Campbell Mackenzie, I’ll be prepared for whatever might befall me in my camping (or any other outdoor-centric) travels.

With its color-coded sections—flip to the green section to find out how to best prepare for outdoor travel, or to the orange one for all things emergency medical procedures related—it’s super easy to find what you need at a moment’s notice (which is, I suppose, exactly the type of situation where you’d need this book.)

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Gear, Gadgets, Gizmos and Goodies (G4): Passport Edition

Welcome to your (and my!) first Gear, Gadgets, Gizmos and Goodies post. I’m not sure if I would categorize today’s discussion item as either gear or goodie, so let’s just call it both.

About two months ago, I started gearing (pardon my pun!) up for my holiday trip to Australia (more to come on that later). Suitcase? Check. Camera? Check. Passport. Sure, it’s right here in the bottom drawer of my turquoise jewelry box where I…….frick! Where the *e#$ was my passport!?

Was it a rookie mistake to misplace my passport? Sure. But come on now. Who among us hasn’t misplaced an important travel document at least once in our lives? Of course I eventually found it, stashed at the bottom of some cast-away drawer that I rarely use and have no idea when I would have actually put it there. The point is, while I cannot tell you where the best place is to keep your passport so that you will remember where it is, I would say this: 1. Always keep it in the same place. 2. WRITE DOWN where you so cleverly hid it so that when you inevitable lose it, you’ll have an easy way to find it (just don’t forget where you put the paper that has the hiding spot on it, because then you’ll just end up getting even more annoyed) and 3. If you are in charge of more than just your own passport (Boyfriends? Husbands? Wife’s? Kids?) please, for your own sanity, keep them in one place, all together, as one big, happy family.

Okay, so let’s say you’ve made it out of the house with said passport in your possession, now we can get to the real fun stuff! While some people opt for super fancy (read: expensive!) passport holders, I prefer something a little simpler (it’s your own personal preference if you like the pink.) Give your passport some style of its own, and protection against the elements, with a cute passport cover. Bonus points: If it’s in a bold color, it will be much easier to spot in your overly crowded purse.

Until next time…bis bald…and see you soon!

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