Today marks the beginning of my final week as Moon’s American Nomad – and to be honest, I’m feeling rather bittersweet about it. I’ll miss sharing my experiences, tips, interviews, and travel finds with all of you. In spite of the fact that I’m currently wrapping up work on the second edition of my Moon Florida Keys guide, I’m going to do my best to post something every day this week – in an effort to leave you with as much information and inspiration as I can.
Anyway, back to today’s post…
Kicking off this final week, I’ve decided to share with you a few of my latest travel product discoveries. After all, there are innumerable items available to travelers – of all tastes, budgets, interests, and needs – and it’s not always easy to figure out their benefits and drawbacks from an online catalog. Just do an Internet search for “travel essentials,” and you’ll discover an array of relevant articles and websites, listing everything from compact luggage and stylish apparel to handy toiletries and electronic gadgets. I’ve even written my own share of posts about road trip essentials, RV-ing necessities, and other must-pack items.
But, in all truth, a list of helpful travel essentials could go on forever. Every traveler is unique, after all, and while some people might prefer traveling as lightly as possible, others only feel comfortable when they have access to all the comforts of home.
Still, I’m always on the lookout for new products, and I’m grateful to those who have occasionally sent me samples to review for you, my fellow travelers and soon-to-be-missed readers. So, while perusing the items that I’ve received in recent months, I’ve decided that the following five (all pictured above) might be of some interest.
Even as a travel writer and a frequent traveler, I often find it hard to pack efficiently. Will I need my bathing suit? A fancy dress? A warm coat? Sandals? Boots? Sneakers? Sometimes, depending on where you’re going and what you plan to do once you get there, it’s hard to streamline your baggage. Of course, versatility is often the key when packing. For instance, I’ll typically bring a dress that’s comfortable enough for sightseeing and fancy enough for dining in a nice restaurant, but of course, I’m always open to new ideas. That’s why I appreciate the sleeveless, lightweight dresses offered by Nuu-Muu, each of which is short enough to double as a long top over jeans, yoga pants, or similar garments. Both stylish and loose-fitting, they’re ideal for exercising, touring, lounging on a beach, or going out on the town, and you can even use them as an extra layer in cooler weather. In the case of the one that I own – the figure-flattering X-Dress ($70) – it can serve as both a roomy top or a little black dress, making it suitable for hiking trails, gyms, restaurants, and nightclubs alike. Generally speaking, these dresses fall into one of three categories – Nuu-Muu Classic, which come in various eye-catching colors and patterns; Ruu-Muu, which feature convenient pockets; and Mini-Muu, which are made for kids – and luckily, no matter which one you choose, it will be easy to clean while on the road, as Nuu-Muu apparel only requires a cold wash and a bit of air-drying.
After my husband, Dan, bought me my first (and, so far, only) iPhone, he admittedly set about finding a sturdy case for it. After all, as a classic klutz, I’ve been known to drop – and, consequently, break – more than a few items in my day, and even though we’d purchased the normally expensive iPhone at an extreme discount, I still didn’t fancy breaking it right out of the gate. Ultimately, I ended up with a waterproof OtterBox, and though I’ve had to replace it once (since, unfortunately, the belt clip isn’t as sturdy as the rest of it), it’s certainly spared my phone the typical consequences of various spills, including inadvertent tumbles onto concrete sidewalks. Still, the OtterBox can be rather bulky in certain situations, so it’s nice, from time to time, to have a more streamlined option, such as the Nicea Book iPhone 4/4S leather purse ($70), a slim, lightweight, wallet-style case that fits easily in most apparel pockets and can protect your iPhone from everyday scratches and abrasions. Although it opens like a book, with a magnetic lid that closes firmly, the Nicea still provides access to your iPhone’s camera, flash, headphone port, speakers, volume controls, and battery-charging port – and as a bonus, it features an inner pocket for stowing your ID, a credit card, and perhaps a business card or two. The only drawback for me is that the lid doesn’t close as tightly when the inner pocket is filled. Nevertheless, it’s a handsome case – I have the tea-hued one in crocodile-style leather – and it’s certainly not the only choice available in MapiCases‘ vast array of colorful cases, which are crafted not just for iPhones but also for Android smartphones, iPads, and tablets.
Speaking of iPhones, mine goes pretty much everywhere with me, and while that’s partially because I like to stay in touch with friends and family, particularly my hubby, it’s also because my phone doubles as a Walkman, thanks to music-streaming apps like Pandora and Rhapsody. Unfortunately, though, it’s better to use my phone with earbuds than without them. After all, the little outer speakers don’t amplify the sound enough while I’m walking or biking around my busy French Quarter neighborhood – and they’re even less ideal for a large group of listeners, especially at a noisy place like a public park. Thank goodness, then, for the Etón Corporation, which has produced the Rukus Solar ($150), a wireless, solar-powered, lightweight, and easy-to-carry boombox with Bluetooth compatibility, making it possible to, yes, sync up my iPhone (or other smartphones and tablets) and stream music wirelessly – and loudly. There’s also a USB port that allows you to charge your phone and various other devices, no matter if you’re hanging out with friends at a secluded beach or staying with your family in a primitive campground, and while the internal lithium battery will enable you to use the Rukus for several hours after dark, it also comes with a handy AC adapter, just in case. So, you’d better believe I’ll be using my new Rukus at our next crawfish boil!
If you have a smartphone and you’re anything like me, then you probably employ it as a camera almost as often as you use it as a communication device. The only trouble is that, while we’re busy taking pictures or video clips of famous landmarks, fellow travelers, even a yummy dish at a fancy restaurant, we’re usually missing the actual experience. After all, it’s hard to appreciate the Taj Mahal or Golden Gate Bridge with a phone planted squarely in our line of sight. To solve this dilemma of “phone face,” MirrorCase has designed a sturdy case ($50) that features a high-quality mirror below your phone’s camera lens, allowing you to hold your phone at a horizontal angle and still see the action or scene in front of you while you snap a photo or record a video. In addition, because you’ll be using the free MirrorCase app instead of your phone’s own camera feature, the photos will be automatically flipped and inverted before being saved to the camera roll. The only problem is that, at least for now, MirrorCase caters exclusively to iPhone and iPad users.
If you’ve never heard of radio-frequency identification (RFID), it is, according to Wikipedia.com, “the wireless, non-contact use of radio-frequency electromagnetic fields to transfer data, for the purposes of automatically identifying and tracking tags attached to objects.” U.S. passports and many credit cards contain RFID chips, making them – and you – easy prey for hackers. Luckily, RFID-secure wallets offer a solution for travelers concerned about identity theft. One such option is the HuMn Wallet Mini ($75), a thin, credit card-sized wallet that features two plates made of aircraft-grade aluminum and secured around your ID and banking cards by a durable, shock-cord strap. Sold in a microfiber bag, the HuMn Wallet Mini comes in a whole range of colors, from sunkissed orange and mint green to pearl white and matte black. True, it’s a bit pricier than what I might normally pay for a wallet, but it certainly has helped to put my mind at ease. Of course, according to the “Pickpocket King,” slim wallets are easier to swipe than fat ones, so be sure to keep yours in a safe place.
If you’re looking for additional ideas on the latest travel products – whether for you or for your favorite traveler – you can also take a look at the holiday travel gift guide that I posted a while back. The five-part series is filled with items that relate to inspiration, preparation, protection, convenience, and relaxation.
In the meantime, let me know if you’ve tried out any of the above products – I’d be curious to hear what you think!