Best Birthday Gifts for Travelers

the ultimate gifts for travellers

Finding the right present for anyone is a difficult task. The person you are buying the present for might be your best friend, your boyfriend, girlfriend, even your brother, but that fact doesn’t make the gift-picking process any easier. So, the best way to find the right present for them is to see what things they like or think about their hobbies just a little bit. Do they like reading? Do they like listening to music or perhaps painting pictures, or photography? Are they into fashion? Or, in the case of our today’s topic, do they like to travel? If the answer to the latter question is yes, then these are just some of the things that you can use in order to give the most original and, most importantly, useful gift for all the travelers out there.

The scratch-off map

One of the most popular gifts for travelers lately has been the scratch-off map of the world. This map has been all over Instagram and other social media, and more and more people tend to buy one in order to scratch the country they have been to. This is an amazing way to motivate people who like to travel, to travel even more, and to travel to destinations that are quite exotic. Having a map in front of you with all the countries that you have seen and all the ones that still remain to be visited is, first of all, an amazing way to decorate your walls and secondly, a great motivation board for anyone who likes to travel. Apart from that, this type of gift might be a cliche right now, but it’s helluva lot of fun.

A nice watch

best gifts for travellers

Even though you might not think “trip” once this gift comes to your mind, getting the traveler in question a watch is indeed a great idea. First of all, watches are always important – they are not only amazing fashion accessories, but it is something that can prove itself quite useful. As far as travelers are concerned, this might even be more useful for them, as they are traveling to countries in different time zones, so it is always important for them to have a watch by their side. However, the case with buying a watch in these situations is a bit more complicated, as you cannot buy them any type of watch. For example, it wouldn’t be a good idea for them to travel with a very fancy and expensive watch, so instead focus on one that looks amazing, is very fashionable, and is of high quality, such as a good automatic watch that they will be able to use both in formal and nice events but also in sporty combinations. Apart from all of these reasons, a watch is also a great gift because this is one of the rare items that they will be able to use even after they come back.

Portables

This is definitely not the sexiest gift that you can come up with, but it is definitely one of the most useful ones for travelers. The first option is the portable charger, which is, if you really like to travel, your #1 thing you need to have by your side. However, there are different brands, different price ranges, and power banks of different power, so you can get the most powerful one. This type of gift is one that will make everyone extremely happy as charging your phone while on a trip is really an excruciating job. Apart from that, bear in mind that power adapters might differ from country to country, so getting them a universal USB travel power adapter is also an amazing option. This will most certainly prove rather helpful and is also quite original.

A great travel bag

a great travel bag for travellers

Traveling with a bag that is not meant for trips is quite a task, and if you have traveled somewhere taking your things in a regular backpack, then you know what it means to have something in it but having to reach it. So that this doesn’t happen to your fellow traveler, you can find a good travel backpack that are quite popular nowadays. These bags are extremely functional as they have different departments for laptop and tablet, a shoe compartment, a pocket for the water bottle, a compartment for documents, and even some hidden compartments and pockets where you can store your valuables. In case a traveler has this type of a travel bag, then they might not even need luggage.

You’re buying a gift for a person who likes to travel. Perhaps not the easiest task in the world, but there are so many different options that you can go with. The only thing you need to do is think outside of the box and try to put yourself in the shoes of a traveler. What would you like to get if you were traveling a lot?

11 Things I Never Travel Without

This Post Was Originally Published on the TuGo Travel Blog on July 19, 2019 by Mark Crone

Whether travelling for work or on vacation, you want your trip to be smooth and easy. To do that, you need to pack a few things to make your trip as easy and comfortable as possible. Here’s my list of things I always travel with (and never travel without):

1. Money/Credit Cards

Credit cards offer the convenience and security of access to your funds and credit any time. Even with a credit card, you’ll still need travel money for tips, snacks, cabs, and other “cash only” items. It’s easy to get major exchangeable currencies like the U.S Dollar, Great British Pound or Euro before you go. Other currencies, for example Poland’s Zloty, are best purchased in small quantities for your stay while in that country.

2. Travel SIM

sim

While Wi-Fi is tempting, it’s not secure in public places and is very limiting when you travel. A SIM card saves on roaming and data charges while keeping you connected. TravelSIM is my choice because its pre-paid (providing cost control), works in over 170 countries and incoming calls and messages are free.

3. Tablet/iPad

Between flight delays and in-flight entertainment, this is an absolute must to keep informed and entertained. There’s nothing worse than getting on a 4-hour flight without the airline app required for viewing in-flight entertainment, or a 4-hour flight delay while sitting at an airline gate. Watch Netflix, look at social media, receive emails, or your Kindle. On the plane, you can watch movies that you’ve missed. Before you know it, you’ll be at your destination!

4. Hard Case Luggage

away-luggages

I usually travel with a small backpack (for my gadgets) but always take a smaller hard case luggage as well. They’re lightweight, sturdy and easily fit in the overhead bin. Your belongings are better protected with a hard shell, they’re easy to pack and unpack, and even easier to roll around the airport.

5. Portable Power Bank & Adapter

A pocket-sized portable charger is a great toy to have for travel or anywhere. Keep it in your pocket or bag to charge your phone when you can’t find an outlet. When you’re travelling abroad, it’s also a good idea to invest in a combination adapter/converter. You can plug it into different electrical outlets and convert power from 220/240V down to North America’s 110/120V to use your devices.

6. Noise-cancelling Headphones

bose-noise-cancelling

These are essential in today’s world of packed flights and delays. Travel is certainly easier when you can “noise cancel” the snoring neighbour beside you, the crying baby and/or the arguing couple. With these headphones, deep relaxation and sleep are within your reach. One of the best choices is the Bose QuietComfort 35. Although there are wireless ear bud options from Apple (AirPods), they aren’t really noise-canceling and aren’t nearly as effective as over-the-ear headphones.

7. Note Pad/Pen

I always carry a notebook and pen when I travel. Nothing fancy required here, just a small notebook and everyday pen (often a hotel branded giveaway). You can always jot down your thoughts, to-do list, next blog post, etc. at any time and won’t forget to hit “save”.

8. Toiletry Bag

bies


Amenities and toiletries vary greatly by accommodation and destination. An Air BnB may not have any; a resort may have soap on the wall in the shower; a better hotel may have product that leaves you with skin rashes. It’s easy enough to pack a toiletry bag with small travel-sized containers. If you’re not checking your bag, make sure you pack your <100 ml liquids in a small clear bag to show at security.

9. First Aid Kit

A small and basic first aid kit that includes medication is a must. Painkillers, band aids and other medical essentials come handy during travel, especially if you get a small cut or catch a cold. With a first aid kit, you’ll save time and money being able to take care of yourself!

10. Water Bottle

swell

A water bottle or travel mug is a real travel essential. If you’re off to explore, hike or even just relax on a beach, you need to stay hydrated throughout the day. And by bringing your own reusable bottle, you’ll be doing your part to save the planet from plastic water bottle waste.

11. Phone and/or Camera

You won’t forget your smartphone when you travel (or camera if you have one). You’ll need it for your boarding pass and other important travel apps. But you may well forget your phone charger, so here’s your reminder: don’t forget it! If you happen to forget one, go to the front desk of any large hotel and let them know that you forgot your charger in the room. Chances are, they’ll pull out a basket full of various chargers that were left behind. Choose the compatible one for your phone, and you are back in business.

And of course, don’t forget the essentials like travel documents and travel insurance. You can’t get around the world without your passport, and you shouldn’t travel without the protection or peace of mind that travel insurance provides.

Safe travels,

Mark

Travel Product Review – Sennheiser Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Travel Product Review - Sennheiser Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Photo by C. Cagnin on Pexels.com

It’s easy to spot the road warriors as they wait at the gate and board the plane. They are the ones listening intently with their noise-cancelling headphones. And I can finally say that after many years as a frequent traveller, I have become an official road warrior with my new wireless, noise-cancelling headphones. I really wish I had them on my long trip to Dubai! But rather than review 5 different headphone brands (buy 5 and return 4), the purpose of this post/review is to bestow the virtues of quality headphones for travel. And also to review my new Sennheiser headphones based on real life usage.

For many years, and like many of you, I carried earbuds (or purchased them on the plane when I forgot to bring them). I even purchased noise-cancelling earbuds a few years back. (They really aren’t noise-cancelling and aren’t the same as headphones). While travelling with earbuds in your pocket or handbag is beyond easy, listening with them on a plane is like being in the dark ages. If you travel with any regularity and/or commute by transit or walk distances, you simply must get yourself a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.

Travel Product Review - Sennheiser Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Photo by Jason Toevs on Pexels.com

Headphones are quite simply essential in today’s world of packed flights and delays. Travel is certainly easier when you can “noise cancel” the loud and unwanted sounds all around you. They will alter your in-flight or commuter experience, letting you disappear into a cone of relative silence and/or into your favourite song. Quiet time and even sleep are highly possible. I find it pretty easy to sleep on a plane but only if I can block out the airplane sounds, baby cries and the loud conversations.

There are plenty of great headphones in the market. Sony, Beats, Bose and Marshall all make great headphones. Whatever you choose, make sure they warrant the investment (generally $200-$1,000) and are worthy of being in your carry-on. They must be comfortable, portable (fold up), have great sound, cancel noise, and have enough battery life to last through a long day of travel. And will they fit with a decent travel pillow? Keep in mind that if you are a commuter, you’ll be using them on trains, subways, buses and/or long walks down busy sidewalks (in addition to travelling).

I’ve chosen the Sennheiser Model HD 4.50BTNC, based on their price point and reputation for fidelity. They are middle of the pack in terms of cost ($250-$300) and quality. You’ll pay more for many other models from Sony, Bose and Sennheiser too.

Travel Product Review - Sennheiser Noise-Cancelling Headphones

The lower price comes from a mostly plastic outer shell (fine with me), and a canvas sack carrying case (instead of a rigid case). The 4.50s fold up easily for carry-on and provide very good stereo sound (my opinion). Sennheiser’s NoiseGard™ active noise cancellation lets you enjoy silence or music in peace. If you spend more on a higher-end model, you will undoubtedly get more but I’m perfectly happy with my first pair of quality, noise-cancelling headphones. I’ve travelled with them and had an almost silent plane ride with music and sleep. The battery life is decent at close to 19 hours (2 hours to charge).

My verdict – they are a solid buy (and I did buy them). They provide great value; they fold easily; are comfortable and come with an auxiliary cord when you need to be wired. Perfect for travel!

Safe travels,

Mark

The Italy Road Trip

The Italy Road Trip was planned for quite some time. The dilemma was how do you see all of what Italy has to offer in 2 weeks? Well the answer is you don’t. It’s just not possible in just 2 weeks. So what do you see. And where do you start? Well right here.

THE ITALY ROAD TRIP – GETTING THERE

Choose your airline (it’s Air Canada for me from Canada). In order to hit the ground running (with a 6 hour time difference), I need to fly Business Class (sometimes) or Premium Economy (this time). The extra room and increased comfort make the long flight enjoyable. I absolutely have to sleep so I bring along my new travel friend, my Palmate Travel Pillow, to get to sleep and stay asleep. I want to be ready to go and awake on Day 1!

THE ITALY ROAD TRIP – VENICE

Arriving in Venice, we leave the airport in a water taxi and begin the short journey into the historic canals of Venice. After checking into our hotel, we grab an espresso and head out to explore the streets of Venice. Tourists are absolutely everywhere and the streets are packed. Making our way along main walking routes and over bridges, we manage to find side routes and squares where the locals are. Small neighbourhoods with cafes, restaurants, shops and Venetian homes are a lot more interesting than the main streets. On Day 2, we jump on the public water taxi (Venice transit) to get around easily and get into the main tourist areas. There’s a lot to see in Venice including Piazza San Marco, the Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs and the Doges’ Palace. But do yourself a favour and take the time to get off the main paths and explore!

THE ITALY ROAD TRIP – PROSECCO

We leave Venice in a rental car and head up to the Prosecco Region (the hills between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene in the province of Treviso). It’s mid-September and we manage to hit full grape harvest. The area is alive with extra workers and tractors with grape packed trailers. There are many wineries to visit but look for Prosecco Superiore DOCG. Most will have a fee based tasting (5-10 Euro per person) and will provide a generous sample of their product (3-5 wine samples). If you choose to buy a bottle or 2, the wine fee will be reduced or waived (depending on your purchase amount). Among the best wineries to visit: San Gregorio (family owned- you’ll meet father, mother and sisters);  Col Vetoraz (with a wine vending machine on the small road to the winery); and Villa Sandi (great wine and restaurant).

THE ITALY ROAD TRIP – TUSCANY

There are so very many reasons why you should include Tuscany in your Italian Road Trip. You can start with a glass of Tuscan wine; then move onto the fresh and delicious food; then admire the views; and last but not least enjoy the people. Classico Chianti wine (noted by the black rooster on the bottle neck) is exceptional. The Classico label is only available to Chiantis produced from grapes in the the Chianti Classico subregion covers an area of approximate 260 km2 (100 square miles) between the city of Florence to the north and Siena to the south. The other more well known wine in the area is the “Super Tuscan”. The American name for a deep red wine blended from Syrah,Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. It’s priced to take advantage of the aura in the marketplace. Villa San Andrea is among the very best wineries to get a Super Tuscan (and other quality wines). This small winery is a neighbour to the famous Antinori winery. For 10 Euro, Villa San Andrea provides an intimate winery tour and tasting. Their Super Tuscan is far less expensive than the winery next door. They also have 7 other high quality and affordable wines.

Within Tuscany, there many towns to visit including Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca, Montalcino and Florence. San Gimignano stands near the top for me. It’s a very well preserved medieval village with shops, museums, sevral small hotels and restaurants. “Le Vecchie Mura” is one of the top restaurants in town and a personal favourite. It is divided in 2 parts- an inside restaurant and across the laneway is an outside terrace (weather dependent). Authentic dishes feature deer, rabbit, wild board and of course pasta, steak, and local wine. Enjoying a long meal here overlooking Tuscany is something special.

ITALY ROAD TRIP – AMALFI COAST

The rugged coast and the views are worth the trip to the Amalfi Coast. And driving there adds to the anticipation. Heading south along the highway through Naples, we make our way through Sorrento and its long mountain tunnel. Positano is our destination and our base for 3 days on the Amalfi Coast. Positano has some incredible views. It also has great hotels (Le Sirenuse, Villa Rosa); some great restaurants right on the beach (Chez Black and Le Tre Sorelle- both highly rated and right beside each other) and lots of small boutiques for shopping. Staying in Positano, you can easily make day trips down the Amalfi to small towns like Ravello, Minori, Furore and others.

We drive to Rome Airport and overnight at a Rome Airport hotel before leaving the next day. Except for the return flight, the trip is over. The Italy Road Trip was among my top trips ever. And that’s saying a lot given the amount of travelling that I have done over the years. Each area/stop well worth the visit to immerse yourself in the history, culture, food and wine of Italy. The biggest issue is when is the next Italy Road Trip?

Travel Product Review – Palmate Travel Pillow

The Palmate Travel Pillow is my very first travel pillow. I’m a regular air traveller and have been for a very long time. I have the very good fortune of being able to sleep and/or nap quite easily on any flight – be it 1 hour or 12 hours. It’s time for a travel pillow.

There are a lot of travel pillows in the marketplace. You can buy them at the airport; at luggage stores; online, etc. The new Palmate Travel Pillow aims to be different and it is. It has cool and practical in one. And it does the job!

Palmate Travel Pillow
Palmate Travel Pillow

Palmate Travel Pillow – What Makes It Different?

Most travel pillows are round or shaped like a horseshoe. The Palmate is square and uber cool looking. It’s designed to mimic the way you would hold your head with your hands. It cradles your head in all directions. The Palmate fits comfortably around your neck and keeps your head from moving.  There are cut-outs on both sides to fit earbuds or even headphones. There’s even a secret built-in vent at the back to keep you cool. The Palmate’s cotton cover is soft and can be removed from the memory foam for washing. The Palmate Pillow also comes with a black cloth carry bag, a lint roller and earplugs. It is a bit bulky but you can tie the black carry bag to your carry-on or make room in a knapsack.

Palmate Travel Pillow – Does It Work?

In a word, yes. My only issue at all with sleeping on a plane is “the headbob”. You fall asleep sitting and your head falls forward or sideways. The “headbob” doesn’t happen to me with the Palmate around my neck. It works just like a neck brace or collar so that your head doesn’t move. Unlike a neck brace, it’s comfortable, plush and can be easily adjusted as you want.

Palmate Travel Pillow – Where To Buy It?

Get it from Amazon for $28.99. You can also buy it directly from Palmate.

Travel Product Review – The Slicks Flexible Travel System

Carry-On Made Easy

Travel inspires and helps us to understand people and other cultures. Travel takes us to faraway places; to simply visit relatives; to see the world. For as long as we’ve traveled, there has been our extra travel companion, like it or not, called “luggage”. Starting back with a “travel chest” (on a steamship and/or stage coach); then onto extra large suitcases and to where we are now (crazy for carry-on). If you have elite status with your favorite airline, chances are you have “free” first bag or 2, priority baggage (first on the baggage carousel when you land) along with priority check-in. If you don’t have elite status or you are on a shorter trip, chances are you prefer carry-on.

While it’s great to travel, and to look forward to travelling, the worst part (at least for me) is packing. I dread packing. But I’ve just come across the answer to my packing prayers- The Slicks Flexible Travel System. It has it all. It’s a backpack and briefcase combined into a carry-on.

Slicks Bag as a briefcase

I’ve got the Slicks Biz Bundle. It combines backpack, trip cover, wash bag and suitcover in one. It’s the Swiss Army knife of luggage!

The Slicks Pack is super sturdy and can be a back pack or a briefcase (store the back straps in the pack and use the side handles). The back pack on its own is perfect for trips to and from the office or campus.

The Trip cover is the wardrobe bag that attaches inside the Pack and has a place for the wash bag, laundry bag (included) and room for underwear, socks, shirts, etc. It also includes a shirt cover to keep shirts folded and not wrinkled.

The suit cover can fold 4 times to keep your suit or nice outfit wrinkle free and attaches inside the Pack as well.

Here’s the best way to see what I’m talking about – Click Here for the full Slicks visual tour!

Slicks bag fitting together
Slicks bag as a backpack

This modular backpack/suitcase has a place for everything and everything in its place. It will keep you away from the baggage carousel (worth the price alone) and keep you well organized. With all of its components and accessories, it provides great value. It’s carry-on heaven!

PROS

  • Looks great, well designed
  • Carry On
  • Perfect for a weekend away or 3-day trip

CONS

  • Not enough room for a weeklong trip or more than 3 days
  • Not ideal for checked baggage (but not what it’s meant for either)

All in all, a great piece of luggage and I highly recommend it. If you are interested in getting Slicks luggage, go to the Slicks website for more information and to order direct. And here’s my Promotion Code that will save you 10% at checkout – MarkTravelSlicks (valid until April 30, 2018).

Safe Travels!

Mark

Dealing with Common Travel Emergencies

Dealing with Common Travel Emergencies (2)

The majority of trips and overseas vacations go without any significant issues. But even the best plans and carefully designed schedules can turn into a stress-fueled disaster and completely ruin your vacation. Whether it’s a missed flight, stolen documents or misplaced credit card, travel emergencies happen more often than you think and unless you adequately prepare for them, your trip overseas can easily be replaced with a disappointing ride home. Here are some common travel emergencies people experience, as well as a couple of ways to deal with them and avoid them in the first place.

Missed or canceled flight

Missed or canceled flight

Some of the most common reasons travelers end up missing their flight includes oversleeping, arriving at the gate far too late, long security lines and late connections. Although most of these can easily be avoided by being more responsible with your scheduling and arriving at the airport a little bit earlier than usual, flight connections tend to be the weakest point of an otherwise carefully planned travel schedule. Booking a connecting flight might be cheaper, especially when you’re working with a limited budget, but spending a couple of extra bucks on a direct flight is ultimately a better idea. If you absolutely cannot afford a direct flight, then try to have at least a few hours in between the flights.

Road trip emergencies

Road trip emergencies

While you might prefer catching a quick flight to your dream destination, there are those who prefer taking the road and turning their trip into a proper adventure. The only issue is that all it takes is a small mechanical failure or a moment of carelessness to completely ruin your trip. Make sure to check your car for any issues and inspect everything from the tire pressure to your windscreen wipers. Another common issue people report experiencing is getting their keys locked inside their car. If you happen to find yourself in such a scenario while traveling through the greater Sydney area, there’s a professional locksmith in East Ryde on call ready to provide you with assistance regardless of the time of the day.

Lost or stolen documents

Lost or stolen documents

Losing your documents while traveling domestically is very stressful, let alone losing them in a completely foreign country. If you happen to experience losing your passport or ID or having them stolen alongside your wallet and belongings, contact the local police and file a claim with your travel insurance agency. Losing your papers in a foreign country, however, requires traveling to a consulate or the embassy and dealing with issuing fees and filling out paperwork. Scan every important document you have with your smartphone before traveling or print out copies and give them to a person you trust in case you also lose your phone or laptop.

Lost or stolen money

Lost or stolen money

Carrying all the credit cards and money you have in a single wallet is a sure-proof recipe for disaster. While cash is often misplaced or simply stolen, credit cards can also get stuck in an ATM or simply be denied for one reason or the other. This is why it’s important to have more than one financial resource available at all times. Make sure you always have small amounts of cash on you for regular purchases and a debit or an ATM card in case you run out of money, but always have a spare card just in case and split your resources between your different bags and belongings.

No matter what type of emergency you experience, whether it’s losing your ID and passport, getting stuck in a middle of nowhere in the middle of your road trip or you find yourself in a middle of a crisis situation, the single most important thing is to remain calm and collected. Avoid lashing out at the people around you and be patient. The majority of stressful situations can be avoided with careful planning ahead so try to prepare as best as you can, keep your cool and try to find a silver lining while you wait for your situation to get resolved.