27 Nov Updates for 2020: Gift ideas for the traveler on your list
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Best gifts to make active travel more fun, comfy and safe
It’s holiday time. Here are some travel favorites from B, Thorny and Jim. We hope these inspire gift ideas to keep the traveler on your list (and maybe yourself) safe, comfy and with less worry.
Micro sleep sound machine
The full description would be micro size, lightweight, wireless sleep sound machine and Bluetooth speaker with fan, white noise and ocean sounds for a great night’s sleep when you travel. But that is too long for a headline.
Unfamiliar night sounds make sleeping on the road a challenge. We carry traditional white noise devices but they consume valuable luggage space. We use our phone with a white noise app, but the tiny phone speakers cannot fill the room with robust sound to be effective. So we are thrilled to share our discovery of the LectroFan Micro – a 3-inch cube weighing less than 5 ounces that generates 10 different noise-masking sounds and functions as a Bluetooth speaker for music. $29.45.
Carry-on travel backpack
Fellow travelers constantly lust after our carry-on backpack, so it’s worth mentioning again. If there is a hall of fame for luggage, it should include eBags’ Weekender Junior 19” Backpack. Originally intended for travel on discount airlines that don’t charge for bags that fit under the seat, this is now our favorite piece of luggage, and for shorter trips our only bag. The backpack straps tuck away quickly if you wish to carry by the handle. eBags is a company we admire for innovative new products and this one tops the list. Tons of storage compartments keep us organized. And easy access laptop and water bottle pockets make this the perfect carry-on bag. Several color options make identifying your bag easy. $99.99.
Blink home security cameras
Blink video cameras supplement our home security during travel, monitoring our property inside and out. Motion activates the camera, recording a clip and alerting you via smart phone. High-resolution surveillance video provided positive I.D. of thieves during a recent break-in at our office, so I am a big believer in the value of this. Blink cameras also monitor your household temperature, alerting you to heat or air conditioning failure and potentially avoiding costly frozen pipes. Pricing from $80 for a single camera to $300 for a 5-camera system.
Poopouri toilet spray
Before you say “ew, disgusting,” hear me out. B says the addition of Poopouri toilet spray has revolutionized the quality of our travel, and probably enhanced our marriage.
Remember the name Suzy Batiz, Poopouri inventor. I feel certain she will receive a prestigious breakthrough in science award any day. Spray the bowl with these natural essential oils to trap odors beneath the water. It’s the No. 1 selling air freshener on Amazon. A 2-ounce bottle, good for 100 uses, costs $8.39.
Minimalist front pocket wallet
I added a small travel wallet for 2019 to gain RFID protection and a slim profile that fits nicely in a front pocket. I am so pleased that it has become my everyday wallet. Sure, I had to give up carrying a stack of rarely-used credit and membership cards, but the slim profile has to be better for my back (the wallet rides in my back pocket when not in areas prone to pickpockets). I can carry five credit cards, cash and the day’s receipts with ease. Extra credit cards and cash sit in the hotel safe or stashed in a neck wallet or money belt. The wallet’s unisex design and 28 color choices appeal to men and women. $12.99.
Nikon Z50 mirrorless camera
Nikon’s new Z50 mirrorless camera changes the way I travel and the quality and creativity of photos that I bring back home. One day I may shuck the camera and shoot exclusively with my phone, but I’m not ready yet. Especially since switching from a traditional DSLR camera to a lighter, compact mirrorless DSLR.
I want my luggage to be light and compact as feasible for travel and the Z50 mirrorless camera reduces weight and size by half. I want the camera gear I lug daily when touring to be light enough to avoid neck and shoulder pain (an issue with my prior camera system). A mirrorless camera has been on my wish list for some time. The features and price point of the new Nikon Z50 make this the right time for me to jump on board. Nikon Z50 users benefit from improved image quality and impressive digital enhancements like focus, exposure and frame stacking. If you already own one or more Nikon lens, an adapter ring allows their use on the Z50. There’s a great kit with camera, 16-50mm lens, microphone, monopod and more for $1029. I opted for a two-lens package that adds a 50-250mm zoom for $1197 (without microphone and monopod) because I like the telephoto for travel photography.
Swix earmuffs are made for cross-country skiing but I wear them for hiking and other outdoor activities, often under a cap or brimmed hat on cold, windy days. They’re lightweight and come in different colors. I once loaned an extra pair to a friend while hiking and she immediately bought her own. Plus there’s a certain “cool factor” wearing a brand that not many people are familiar with. Yes, I ended that sentence in a preposition. $25.
European travel plug adapter with USB ports
We replaced our 15-year-old European travel adapters this year. That sounds pretty dull until you hear that the new plug adapters include USB charging ports for phones and computers, eliminating the need for multiple plug adapters/power strips while reducing weight, bulk and cord clutter. We opted for a $19.99 2-pack so B and I each have our own. A USB C charging port (required for the iPhone 11) is built-in along with 3 USB ports and 2 American outlets. This was perfect for our recent river cruise, where cabin space is a premium.
Memory foam travel pillow
I share a lot in common with Goldilocks when it comes to pillows. My pillow can’t be too high or too low. It has to be just right or I have a miserable night and neck ache the following day. B says I am delicate. The same goes for those neck pillows popular for long airplane flights. Mine must serve triple duty as a neck, lumbar and butt pillow depending on what needs attention at the moment. My closet is full of failed attempts to find pillow bliss. Happy times are here since testing and falling in love with B’s memory foam travel pillow. Easy to pack, it functions superbly as a sleep/neck/lumbar/butt pillow. $18.
Water bottle from your favorite national park
My national park “happy place” is Yellowstone in winter. Every time I pull a swig of water from my Yellowstone stainless steel water bottle it takes me back to snowshoeing deserted trails and viewing wildlife in Lamar Valley. Despite dropping it on rocks and watching it roll away in parking lots, the bottle still survives. Attempts to locate a single source where you can purchase water bottles for all the national parks was unsuccessful. My Yellowstone water bottle came from Xanterra, a vendor who operates lodging and concessions in the park. I found bottles for several other parks by searching online. $17.
Tried and true gift ideas for travel
Darn Tough is their brand name, not my description of their wearability. But the name fits. This family-owned company makes its socks from merino wool in a Vermont factory and backs every pair with a lifetime guarantee. B loves these for travel, whether she’s trekking a glacier or walking crowded London streets. Her favorite style, Light Hiker Micro Crew, has lighter padding and performs well year-round. All Darn Tough socks wick moisture well and wash easily in the sink so you can take just 3-4 pair no matter how long the trip. Options for every activity and shoe type. Starting at $18
I bought this book as a Christmas gift — and found myself looking at almost every page before wrapping it up. Don’t worry. I flipped carefully so the book still appears new. In Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World’s Most Amazing Places, NatGeo takes you on a photographic tour of the world’s most spectacular destinations, inspiring travel ideas for your next trip. The book is more than just pretty; it’s loaded with useful info for each locale, including when to go, where to eat/stay and what to do. We recommend the hard cover version because it’s a perfect coffee table book, but there is also a Kindle version if you prefer. From $16.99
We’re coffee snobs. The prepackaged coffee in most hotel rooms does not do it for us. Problem solved with the AdirChef Grab N’ Go Coffee Maker with Travel Mug. Compact and light enough to pack in a carry-on, it includes a travel mug (for our second mug we use a stainless steel water bottle). The washable filter basket allows us to drink the type and strength we prefer. When biking or hiking we make double strength coffee so we don’t have to pee as much. Since we use bulk coffee, it is cheaper and more environmentally sound than single-use pods. When not filling our caffeine needs, it’s great for making hot water for breakfast cereal, soups or ramen noodles. Perfect for those times you stay in a cozy national park cabin. $22.09
I own the TG-4 and hope Santa or Mrs. Claus will drop the newest model down my chimney – the camera can handle the impact. I have an unhealthy relationship with this camera and always store it in my backpack or travel luggage. Yes, I have a more expensive camera, but this one is fun. It’s waterproof up to a 50-foot depth, great for snorkeling and playing at the beach. And because I’m clumsy, I’ve tested its toughness without really trying. The Olympus Tough camera is my first option for macro close-up work of wildflowers and bugs. The camera also features a lot of easy-to-use presets for situations such as sunsets, landscapes, portraits, sports and snow. I’m not crazy about the zoom function, but everything else makes me happy. It also has good video, GPS and Wi-Fi sharing to your phone. $449
We discovered LifeStraw from ToTravelToo bloggers Jane and Duncan Dempster-Smith, who spend their life globetrotting. The water filter system gives peace of mind to international travelers by removing bacteria, parasites (including Salmonella, E. coli, Giardia) and chemicals. Traveling stateside? LifeStraw’s carbon filter removes odor and chlorine taste. And we love it for hiking. We used to carry extra water (heavy) or a filter pump (pain in the rear) on long hikes or overnight trips. Now we can drink water straight from the nearest stream, puddle or pond. Ready for the best part? Each purchase helps provide water filters to children internationally where clean water is a challenge. Already have your own favorite water bottle? LifeStraw Universal adds the same protection to your current bottle. From $30
This is a repeat favorite from 2018. Seems we travel with more electronics than ever, which all need charging at the same time. Camera batteries, bike lights, phones and tablets used to mean pulling out hotel furniture to find all available wall outlets, leaving a hazardous maze of wires and chargers. Now things are neat and easy. Our UPWADE power strip with two AC and four USB ports is compact, lightweight and dual voltage for travel abroad. $15.99
We advocate buying travel underwear wholeheartedly. Why do that when you have a drawer full of perfectly good undies, you ask? Who wants to carry around a suitcase full of dirty underwear? Yuck. And why carry 10 pairs when you can carry two? We’re fans of the ExOfficio brand. They’ve given us years of great performance; wash easy in the sink and air-dry overnight. Two pair is plenty. From $18
Another repeat from last year, but still list-worthy. This folding hat packs easily and fits in my back pocket when not in use. The moisture-wicking material and side vents keep my head cooler and drier than other hats. UPF 30 sun protection and sunglass loops are added benefits. $24.95
If you have not discovered these already, your suitcase is about to be transformed. We use small and medium size cubes to pack undies, socks, tee shirts, bike clothes, etc. When we need something from the suitcase we grab out that cube instead of tearing up the entire suitcase to reach the socks we stuck on the bottom. The compression option saves room. Handy when we are trying to avoid checking bags. Nicer shirts and pants go in a garment folder and arrive at our destination wrinkle-free. Eagle Creek is our brand preference. $39 for set (two cubes, one folder)
No, we’re not miners and we’ve never been spelunking, but we do believe a headlamp is an essential piece of travel gear. It could save your life if you had to exit your building at night in the dark. It will help you find that sock that got under the bed. And you’ll take it stargazing or night hiking. Headlamp wins over flashlight because they are so small and lightweight. And navigating in the dark is safer with two hands free. Black Diamond is Thorny’s favorite from his backpacking nights for its durability and waterproofing. B loves her PETZL, which, at half the price, is a better value for general use. $20
When traveling, our phones are constantly in use taking photos, running GPS navigation, and researching places to see and eat. We can’t make it through the day without a recharge. We’ve carried a portable power bank for years to recharge our phones anywhere. But our old model was heavy, so we were thrilled to discover a new style charger at a fraction of the weight and size. With charging cords built into the housing, there’s no cord clutter. The unit charges the average phone twice. At $25, we each carry one for plenty of juice to get us through even the longest travel day. Spoiler alert: All our family members should expect one of these – except Grandma, her old school phone flip phone is not compatible. $25
Think scarf, headband, hat, neck gaiter, bandana and more! You may know it by the brand name, Buff. This takes up no room in our suitcase and performs in more ways than we can count. Winter or summer. Our microfiber headwear wicks moisture and dries quickly. B tried one in wool but it was too warm. Ways that we use it include: breath warmer, hair band, pony tail holder, neck warmer, sun protector, liner under bike helmet and others we’ve forgotten. For men and women. Thorny’s is boring gray. B’s is more of a fun accessory. From $11
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