Travel Product Review – Sennheiser Noise-Cancelling Headphones

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

You’ll usually recognize the road warriors as you board the plane as they fiddle with their noise-cancelling headphones. And I can finally say that after many years as a frequent traveller, I have finally joined up with the road warriors and invested in a good pair of wireless, noise-cancelling headphones. I wish I had them on my trip to Dubai! Rather than review 5 different headphones (buy 5 and return 4), the purpose of this post/review is to bestow the virtues of quality headphones for travel and to review my new Sennheiser headphones based on real life usage.

For many years, and like many of you, I carried earbuds and/or purchased them on the plane. I even purchased noise-cancelling earbuds a few years back. (They aren’t noise-canceling and aren’t nearly as effective as over the ear 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 snoring guy beside you, the crying baby and/or the arguing couple. They will change your in-flight experience, letting you disappear into a cone of silence and/or song. Deep relaxation and sleep are within your reach. I find it easy to sleep on a plane but only if I can block out the airplane sounds, the baby cries and the frat boys’ banter.

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 subways, buses and long walks down busy sidewalks (in addition to travelling).

I’ve opted for Sennheiser Model HD 4.50BTNC, largely based on their 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 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 – a solid buy (and I did buy them). They provide great value; they are comfortable; fold easily and come with an auxiliary cord when you need to be wired.

Safe travels,

Mark

Travel Product Review – Travel SIM

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Travel SIM – Yes or No?

You’re about to depart on a trip and you’re thinking about how you’ll stay in touch. Do you turn off roaming and data and jump on wireless when you can or do you use your phone abroad with data? I’ve done both but I prefer to be in touch, use my GPS apps and check email periodically. In my travels, having a cell phone is a must for driving directions (think roundabout) , destination information (the next town) and in case of emergency.

 

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Travel SIM – Your Best Option

My personal money saving tip for most travel destinations is to pass on your cell provider’s international travel plan and go for a SIM card instead. A SIM card saves on roaming and data charges while keeping you completely connected. TravelSIM is my top choice because its prepaid (providing cost control), works in over 170 countries and incoming calls and messages are free. You buy it online and it’s delivered within a couple of days. You also get great “bars” in destination (cell reception) because you’re using a local telecom provider. Make sense?

The small challenge here is installing the SIM card. You’ll need to remove your current SIM card and insert your TravelSIM card. It’s easy – use a pin to open the SIM card slot (a thumb tack or paper clip both work); take out your current SIM card; put in the new SIM card, and Voila! Your phone will need to be “unlocked” for the new card to work (if it’s locked, the new SIM card won’t work). Contact your service provider or a cell phone unlocking service.

 

If by chance you didn’t buy a SIM card in advance, you can still buy when you arrive in destination (at the airport, train station or bus station). Just look for a store that sells SIM cards. The cards will be cheap and in many cases an employee will insert the SIM card for you.

 

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Travel SIM – The Bottom Line

You can save a lot of money and get a lot more high-speed data by planning ahead and buying a Travel SIM card.  If you are traveling to multiple countries, you will probably need a separate SIM card for each country unless you buy a TravelSIM card that features multiple countries and zones. If you get a new SIM card for travel, you will be using a different phone number from your regular one. To simplify taking a smartphone abroad, use messaging apps like What’s App or iMessage to maintain your identity and end-to-end encryption. A SIM card for travel keeps you in touch and keeps you off unsecured public Wi-Fi.

Safe Travels!

 

What Every Traveler Should Know Before They Get On the Plane

So you’ve made up your mind, you know where you want to go, you know what you want to do once you get there and you’re ready for an amazing experience. Hold on, pump the brakes and check to see if you’ve done everything you need to. Have you learned something about the culture? Have you learned some basic phrases which could come in handy for when you’re in an emergency? Have you got the right amount of money you will need? Do you know who to call or contact when you’re in need of some assistance? Have you planned any alternatives to things you plan on doing just in case they don’t work out? Just when you think you’ve thought of everything, you find out that actually you haven’t left no stone unturned. This is what every traveller should be doing before they even step one foot on the plane.

Notes at the ready

Even before you have boarded your flight, you should have the money you’re going to use in your suitcase. It’s not good to land and not have any kind of money to use for getting a ride to the hotel, paying for dinner, paying the hotel and for many other things. You need to look for a trusted Currency Exchange service and get the best value you can for your money into the currency you’ll be using abroad. Sometimes currencies are linked together such as the US dollar and the Canadian dollar. The CAD will almost always be worth less than USD because it’s pegged to that fiat. However if you’re exchanging a more valuable currency such as GBP or even the EUR, then you could stand to get back three times more.

An extra set

Planning for the rare occasion might seem trivial but it really does depend on where you’re going. For example if you’re heading into a tropical climate, you should pack an extra set of clothes. During monsoon season especially, sudden and incredibly strong downpours can come out of nowhere. In a hot climate, wet clothes can not only begin to stink, but they can begin to smell as well. It’s cautious and prudent to pack an extra pair of clothes that you can wear in the event that all of your other clothes are either dirty or drenched. This clothing doesn’t have to be heavy, it can just be a light t-shirt and some shorts so they won’t take up much room in your suitcase.

The translating apps

Pick from a range of translating apps and see which one for the language you need is the best. These apps are downloaded onto your smartphone and they come in great for when you need to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak English. Simply speak into your phone’s speaker and the app will then translate your speech into the words you’re looking for.

Before you go abroad you can do these simple things to make your experience much better. The most important is getting a good deal for your currency exchange as without the national coin, you can’t pay for anything.

Business Travelers Like to Have Fun?

If you travel for business, you have your routine. Arrive at your destination; get your rental car; go to your hotel; go to your meeting; repeat… Business travel is just part of the job and a necessity. But if you are like me, even with the many hassles and challenges of travel, you like business travel.

In a recent National Car Rental State of Business Travel Survey, some interesting findings emerged:

  • Ninety percent of business travelers plan to travel at least the same amount or more in 2018 (63 percent will travel the same amount; 27 percent will travel more).
  • Business travelers say they work more hours (57 percent) and have more focus (48 percent) when they travel for business.
  • Ninety-two percent of business travelers are satisfied with their quality of life when traveling for business; 89 percent are satisfied with the amount of business travel they do.Aside from the business/work side of the survey, the desire for pursuing leisure activities while on a business trip also emerged in the survey. Most business travelers feel they deserve a break while on the road. And, most bosses (92 percent) support their travelers in taking time for leisure activities.

Aside from the business/work side of the survey, the desire for pursuing leisure activities while on a business trip also emerged in the survey. Most business travelers feel they deserve a break while on the road. And, most bosses (92 percent) support their travelers in taking time for leisure activities.

Again, if you’re like me, you’ve been to many destinations for business (think Las Vegas, Miami, Montreal, etc.). But have you really experienced those destinations? If not, it’s high time to loosen up and enjoy yourself. Chances are you’ll have a bit of free time during your trip. So why not get out of the hotel room and explore the area? Break your travel routine and change up your next business trip.

With proper planning, business travel can be enjoyable and it offers a perfect opportunity to explore a new city. Here are some travel tips to consider when planning your next business trip:

  • Always take advantage of loyalty programs. Airline loyalty gets you preferred status, free baggage, lounge access and more. Hotel loyalty means nicer rooms and other benefits. Car rental loyalty provides “frequent renter” programs. National’s Emerald Club is among the best and gives you counter bypass, your choice of car, rewards, Drop & Go service, e-receipts, etc.
  • Get ready for security screening. The more you travel, the more routine it should be. As you walk up to security, have your boarding pass ready (on phone or paper). Keep your laptop easily accessible to pull out and place in its own bin. Take off your jacket and place your other personal items in bins. Keep “travel only” socks handy if you are asked to remove your shoes (so you don’t have to walk barefoot on dirty floors). A simple and repeatable routine makes security a breeze.
  • Forget about expensive, noise-canceling, big headphones. Get some noise cancelling ear buds. They’re cheap, compact, takeoff- and landing-friendly (non-electronic), and you can sleep comfortably wearing them. They’re also easy to wear at the gym and on a walk.
  • Traveler technology exists to enhance the traveler experience. Within your company’s travel program, advanced technology is available in real time and may include Travel Alerts (travel disruptions), Flight Tracker (flight change notifications) and e-Travel Tracker (traveler tracking/security). Use technology, i.e. apps, to explore your destination. Top recommendations include city guides like Headout and Guides by Lonely Planet; Open Table for restaurants; and Detour for audio walks.
  • Stay active while away. Ask your concierge for a recommended running route to explore the city in a new way. If you are sitting in meetings all day, head to the hotel’s fitness center or pool after work. Exercise relieves stress and leaves you energized. After your workout, you’ll be ready to enjoy your leisure time and explore the town.

National's Emerald Club aisle

Want to learn more? You can find more info about National’s survey here.

What’s your story? How do you enjoy life on the road? Please share your story on Twitter tagging @NationalPro and/or as a comment on this post below. And enjoy your trip!

 

I was compensated by National Car Rental for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

(Written by Mark Crone for National Car Rental)

 

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.

How to Pass Time on a Long Trip

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Sometimes, while travelling for a long time, the hours just seem to drag by. If you get easily bored on a plane, bus or train, why not try some of these tricks to pass the time and arrive fresh and ready to explore? 

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Catch some Zs

Travelling is a great way to get some extra sleep and pass the time. Although it can be a little uncomfortable for the legs, sleeping on a bus or a train accompanied by the rhythms and the sounds of traffic is hands down the best way to sleep. And don’t hesitate to splurge on a sleeping compartment when on the train. There you can stretch your legs and back, close your eyes and just relax as the train lulls you to sleep. If you have some valuables with you, such as a laptop, camera, phone and money, make sure to keep them close to you while sleeping.

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Shoot photos

All professional travellers always carry their camera with them, and so should you. You’ll get to shoot some beautiful nature scenes, cities, villages and people you don’t get to see every day. Your photos are actually one of the most valuable things you can take home from your adventures, and most people cherish them forever. So, have your camera at hand at all times and who knows what kind of masterpiece you’ll create.

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Watch movies

If you happen to fly, most of today’s flights are equipped with an entertainment system, so you can catch up with the movies you’ve missed in the cinema. However, if you’re travelling by bus, you can take your laptop or tablet and fill it with TV shows and movies to pass the time. They are also good airport companions, especially on long layover flights. 

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Make new friends

Travelling alone is perfect for meeting new people and making new friends. Look for other solo travellers who look bored like you, or start a conversation with your seatmate. Who knows, you might meet some extraordinary people, your future BFF or even your soul mate. However, don’t be pushy, as some people just want to enjoy their trip in peace.

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Bring some cards

No matter if you’re travelling with your friends, family or alone, you should always make some extra space for a deck of cards. This way you can play a variety of games with people and even alone. Solitaire, anyone? Cards are also an amazing way to break the ice and start talking to other people. You can also get one of those travel chess boards with magnets and play a game or two.

Enjoy some music

One thing a traveller mustn’t forget to bring is an iPod or an mp3 player. When you’re down and exhausted, music will pick you up and give you the energy to push forward. It will also relax you and fix your mood. Music is also a great way to tune out conversations, crying babies and loud sounds of the plane or train. But if you just can’t ignore the noises in the background, you can get noise-cancelling headphones such as AKG headphones that will completely isolate you from the rest of the world.

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Read a book

Before, it wasn’t so easy to carry two or three books with you at all times, but today, that’s not difficult at all. Even though you might be a fan of the “real deal”, e-books are much more practical for travelling and they can almost fit into your pocket. Any time is good for reading, but if you’re stuck on a plane or a train, it can really save your life. However, it’s not recommended for people who suffer from motion sickness. 

So, remember these, and next time you go on a trip, you won’t be bored or lonely. Bon voyage, traveller!

How to Enjoy Tokyo Without Going Broke

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It won’t be the bustling metropolitan that will be the first thing that will get to you in Japan, it will be the politeness of it’s people. They take more care of respecting their visitors than any other culture in the world and if for no other reason, you should visit Tokyo to learn a lesson in good manners.

But all that aside, Tokyo is a bustling metropolis center with so many different travel tastes to offer that I could spend months there and never feel like I have exhausted all the secrets of the capital city. From street markets to beautiful gardens breaking up the concrete jungle, it’s a beautiful place to just breath it all in. So take my tips for saving a little here and there that can make a budget trip feel more like a luxury holiday—it’s easy and won’t feel like skimping!  

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1. Choose Your Dates With Care

Like any travel hot spot, the time you decide to take your trip is critical and with Tokyo it’s no different and you can save a bundle if you go in the off-season. I personally prefer to travel when it’s off-season anyway because it means getting to take my time visiting the big things and fewer lines to get into the hot spots.

When it comes to Tokyo, spring means cherry blossoms and makes April and May really busy times to be in the city, as well as the end of summer, and around the holidays for Christmas and New Years, so if you want to make a go of it without the huge prices, go on an unassuming week in October, November, February, or March—it’s the best way to see your money stretch a little further.

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2. Take Public Transport

There’s no denying that taking the subway in Tokyo is an adventure all on its own; with many different lines, crazy rush hours, and more, it’s a no-brainer that you have to have your wits about you as you grab the Ginza line at Omote-sando Station.

But the other no-brainer is that there’s no better, or cheaper, way to get around the city, so grab a map and practice your breathing exercises; it might take a few times to get used to the sardine like conditions if you hit morning traffic from Nakano to Shinjuku or from Kawasaki to Shinagawa.The Pasmo Card is the rechargeable version of the Tokyo Subway ticket system, or you can get passes for specific routes all along the way and it’s much cheaper than taking a taxi anywhere, especially in a city sprawl that means you can’t walk everywhere you need to go.  

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3. Eat, Stay, & Play In A Neighborhood

Tokyo is full of picturesque areas and if you’re going to save a couple of dollars here and there, stay in a place outside of Shinjuku or Harajuku, which will be big cosmopolitan areas that will have the highest prices. My favorite place to stay in is Shibuya and travellers benefit from the great nightlife that surrounds the student and young office worker neighborhood. Its got the “Times Square of Tokyo” location and is close to other big areas so it makes grabbing a train ride to the neighboring district is no big deal.

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I also suggest to look for alternative ways of sleeping: home shares, hostels, Airbnb, and if you’re travelling solo and want a unique take from a local, couchsurfing. Hotels can be expensive in prominent areas, and the share economies in Tokyo are also helpful for getting a bird’s eye look at the local goodies—hosts are always great resources for good finds and it’s good for the finances as well.

Pro-tip: In Tokyo there are really cool, really cheap ways of travelling if you’re trying to cut on spending and they’re called capsule hotels. With just enough space to sleep, and freebies like personal televisions, spots to lock up your stuff, and shared bathroom facilities, it’s for people who like hostels but are light sleepers and prefer to have their own space. But be warned, it’s not for the claustrophobic! Also, if you book using a Japanese site, you’ll get a better price.  

4. Buy A Local SIM Card

My personal money saving tip for most travel destinations is to let go of your cell provider’s international plan and opt for a local SIM card instead. I have an extensive collection with the tiny tech cards from all over the world to prove it, because not only does it save you money in roaming charges, but you also get cheap rates and great bars because you’re tapping into the local providers. What’s better than that?

The first thing I do when I arrive at the airport (or train station, or bus station) is immediately make my way to a cell phone station to purchase the card. Not only will the cards be cheap here and you can get started being connected immediately, you can have the employees help you install. If you grab it at a convenient store and want to do it yourself though, it’s really easy. Just pop open your phone, put in the card, and viola! If you have any trouble getting your phone to start, you might need to unlock it first, but most phones come already unlocked and you can skip this step.  

And the best part is that using a SIM doesn’t interrupt your regular service, so no need for extra hassle or price hikes—it’s a do-it-yourself that will save you and it’s easy.

5. Use Your Credit Cards

While it’s never a bad idea to have a little cash with you wherever you go, I do think it’s a much better system to travel with cards rather than a wad of cash. The charge per transaction from your bank or credit provider is going to be anywhere from 3%-5%, which is going to be a lot cheaper than the price of commission at a exchange center. Not only will exchange places totally rip you off (and doing it at home with your bank requires a lot of planning) but many credit cards offer reward programs for flights, meals, hotels, and more, when you use them abroad so you can get cashback on coupon deals for the next time you travel while you’re abroad.

Also, it’s a great way to keep track of your expenses and doesn’t require that you save all of your receipts. All it takes is one call to your credit card company to make sure they don’t put a hold on your account (I usually authorize a region, just in case I’ll decide on a day trip around) to get started.

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6. Be Judicious With Your Souvenirs

I’m already one to be totally against the bad practices of tourist traps that sell Bangladesh made goods in Paris (like shot glasses and desktop Eiffel Towers), but it will save you a lot of money if you make some smart choices. There are some really great buys, like Kokeshi dolls, that will make you want to throw down the yens.

First, I’m a big fan of Ink Cards and Postagram, two apps that change your photographs into beautiful postcards that can be sent internationally right from your phone, as well as Social Print Studio’s square magnets that make great souvenirs that mean you aren’t carrying around presents in your limited space.

My other souvenir tip is to get small things that represent Japan but won’t be found in the shops—chopsticks, packets of ramen noodles, and stamped subway tickets are great little trinkets that can save big in the long run but also have a personal touch of Tokyo.  

7. Eat Street

Sushi in Tokyo is beyond amazing, and if you’re a lover of the American or European Japanese sushi, let me tell you something: you know nothing. In Japan, there’s no spicy mayo on anything, just fresh fish, sticky rice, and perfect ingredients all around. And that’s why at least one meal you need to make a stop a verified institution for some great Tokyo cuisine. But this is not a wallet-friendly adventure, and the rest of the time, you should definitely save with cheap eats because not only are they good for the budget but they’re delicious as well.

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Supermarkets, street food stands, convenient store, and even ticket machine restaurants can make for a delicious meal that can counteract the fact you dropped a lot of money at dinner Sukiyabashi Jiro because you watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi on Netflix too many times not to.

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Whether you’re headed for the Harajuku fashion, the Shinjuku vibes or the serene temple gardens, Tokyo is a place that everyone should visit at least once in their lives and with a little smart navigating, it can be a trip that everyone can take as well, no matter the budget. So book your flight and get to packing, Tokyo is calling!

Bon voyage!

This post was written by Claire Lovesti; traveler and chief blogger at www.traveltio.com.

All images via shutterstock