Travel Tech to Make Your Trips A Little Easier in 2017

August 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Every year, there are new gadgets and apps to that promise to make our traveling life a little easier. Whether it’s a cell phone attachment that works as a digital scale and a battery charger, or a coffee shop guide app that shows you all the coffee houses in the world’s major cities, there are lots of new things that can help you make your next trip much easier and enjoyable.

These are a few of the different gadgets, gizmos, and gewgaws to consider getting before your next family vacation.

Waze is one of my favorite travel tech options when I'm on the road

Waze is one of my favorite travel tech options when I’m on the road

1. Get Waze on your mobile phone. It’s a few years old, but it’s by far the best GPS app out there. You may love your Garmin, and you may use Google Maps on your phone, but honestly, I’ve learned to use and appreciate Waze far and above the others. I became a believer when Waze diverted me around a 3-hour traffic jam in Atlanta by changing my route 30 seconds before I reached the 10 mile line of cars.

That’s because Waze, which is owned by Google, gathers its traffic data by aggregating anonymous data from all the Android phones, iPhones using Google Maps, and even Waze users traveling on the road. Then it converts that data into up-to-the-second traffic patterns, alerting you to traffic slowdowns, accidents, construction zones, police cars, and even road hazards. (My next post will discuss how exactly all this works.)

You can download TV shows and movies on Netflix now. If you or your kids have some favorite shows you want to watch, Netflix will let you download them on your home wifi so you’re not at the mercy of crappy hotel wifi or racking up big data charges on your cell phone bill.

Or if you’re like me and have an old wifi-only iPad, you can’t download anything in the car. So download a couple shows, and let your kids watch in the back seat. (Or you can watch when you reach your hotel.) You can also buy movies and TV episodes on iTunes, and save those to your hard drive or phone, which also makes them available even if you don’t have wifi.

Wear a SCOTTeVEST to carry your tech.. SCOTTeVEST is like one of those fly fisherman vests I used to wear on my yearly fishing trips, but they look much classier. For one thing, all the pockets are on the inside, giving you a smooth exterior. For another, they’re designed specifically to carry your electronics gear. I’ve seen SCOTTeVESTs that will hold an iPad in a back interior pocket, phone, charging cords, battery backup, notebook and pen, sunglasses, passport, and so on.

I’ve also read a few travel articles by extreme “no luggage” travelers who will pack everything they own — which amounts to one extra pair of underwear and t-shirt — into the back vest pocket, as well as their tech, and travel the world wearing their luggage.

Use a Bluetooth shutter button to take better selfies. Prop your camera up on a flat surface or use a miniature tripod. Then, when you’re all posed and ready to go, press your Satechi Bluetooth remote (or other brands; there are dozens to choose from) and it will snap a picture. No selfie stick, no asking strangers to take your photo, and nothing that shows half your arm; just a nice, normal photograph. I’m not a big fan of selfies, but I’ve used one of these remotes before and it’s changed the way I take photos when I travel.

Carry a couple short charging cords like the myCharge PowerCord or an Anker 1 ft. charging cable. I like these smaller cables because they fit into my work backpack or even my pocket with ease. As long as I’ve got my laptop, or even a converter cube and a hotel desk lamp, I don’t need to whip out one of those 6-foot boa constrictors every time I need a power boost.

You might also want to consider the Ventev portable chargestand. This is both a charger and a phone stand. It will charge your phone for up to 12 hours of talk time, and you can use it in either horizontal or vertical orientation to watch your favorite videos on the plane or before you go to sleep. It has a built-in cable, so you can use it horizontally, and is available for both Apple and Android devices. It’s ideal for a hotel or home nightstand charging station but can double as a battery pack on a flight or car trip.

What’s some of your favorite travel tech? Do you have anything you like to carry to make your vacations easier? Share them in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Erik Deckers (used with permission)

How to Travel with Your Pet

December 23, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

For many people, pets are a part of the family. They would no sooner be left behind on vacation than one of the children.

But if you want to travel with your pet, whether by car or by plane, there are a few things I recommend you do to make sure your furry companion is comfortable and less stressed.

Use a pet carrier when you travel with your pet by plane, or if they hate car travel.

Make sure your pet carrier is large enough for your cat or dog to turn around.

Traveling By Car

If you’re traveling by car, pack a pet carrier, whether a collapsible soft-sided or hard-sided model. Depending your pet’s size, the right carrier may not fit into your car, so make sure you test this out before purchasing one. You may not want to keep your pet in her carrier the entire trip, but if you do, there are a few things you need to remember.

  • Keep your pet in the back seat. Air bags can cause serious injury in case of an accident.
  • There are special “sky boxes” for small dogs, and I’ve seen seat belt harnesses for larger dogs. Cats should ride in enclosed carriers, however.
  • Make several stops so your pet can have a bathroom break. They may be nervous about riding in a car, and may have to go more often than they do at home. Also, be sure to clean up after your animal. Don’t leave “anything” behind. Read more

Luggage Buying Guide for Teenagers

November 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

When you travel with children, you long for the day that they’re old enough to have their own luggage and carry it or pull it behind them. When my kids were 4 or 5, we got them their own suitcase, complete with favorite cartoon character on it. It didn’t hold much, although we could fit a week’s worth of clothes into the tiny bag, and they could pull it behind them.

Now that they’re older, they’re responsible for packing their own suitcases when we travel. The only problem is, my 14-year-old son doesn’t want to be seen with a Thomas the Tank Engine suitcase anymore. Ditto for my daughters and their Hello Kitty bags.

The Atlantic Ultra Hardside luggage collection

The Atlantic Ultra Hardside luggage collection

When they were old enough, they wanted new suitcases to reflect their individuality and personal style. But as their father the travel writer, I got them bags that were functional and practical instead, without all the screened print designs. Here was my reasoning.

1. Your luggage will last for years. Your personal style will change.

I got my first suitcase when I was 27, and I carried it on flights for about 15 years. Then I got my first Travelpro bag and I was a convert. It was so much lighter and roomier. And because I took good care of it, I’m still carting it around with me.
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The World’s Most Family-Friendly Airlines

August 26, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

How important is the family friendliness of an airline to you? For some family travelers, they see the plane as a means of getting from point A to point B. For others, vacation begins the moment they lock the front door, and flying is a part of the experience.

EVA Air is one of a few family-friendly airlines, with its Hello Kitty themed airplanes.Either way, if you’ve only got a limited number of days to travel, there’s no reason to make even a few hours miserable. And as everyone knows, if Mama the kids aren’t happy, then nobody’s happy.

Some airlines have figured this out. They’re working to be as family friendly and fun as possible, as a way to attract more vacationing families.

I saw a recent article on the Huffington Post about some family-friendly airlines around the world. They’re offering reduced child fares, children’s food menus, and even child-oriented entertainment, all geared toward infants, toddlers, and children under 12. Here are a few airlines to consider for your next family vacation.
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How to Fly With a Baby

July 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

I remember the first time I ever flew with any of my kids. We had just adopted our oldest daughter, Madison, at a year old, and were flying home from Bolivia with her. She had been such a good child during our month in Santa Cruz, so we assumed she would be fine on the airplane.

It's tough to fly with a baby, but it's possible.We may have overestimated her patience and goodwill just a little. Not too badly, but enough that we knew we needed to prepare next time.

I dodged that bullet when my wife, Toni, brought our second oldest daughter, Emma, home from Haiti five years later. She took that trip by herself, while I stayed home with Maddie.

But we had learned enough those times, so when Toni brought our son, Ben, back from Haiti two years later, his flight was about what you’d expect: some crying, some drama, but nothing she couldn’t handle. I, of course, stayed home to be with our girls, so I missed out on all the fun.
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