Top 10 Travel Products

Top 10 Travel Products!

I travel more than 100,000 miles every year for work (yeah, you read that number right) and after people say, “Uh, wow!” and “Uh, how does your husband feel about that?” people always, ALWAYS ask the same thing: “Uh, got any travel tips?”

Uh, yep. In fact, I have more than tips, I’ve basically distilled my travel regime down to a science. I know exactly what I’m taking, where it goes in my suitcase, and the fastest route to the airport lounge for one last glass of wine to fill up my water bottle and to check my email like the responsible person I am.

Because I’m asked so often what it takes to travel so much, I thought it would be fun to compile a list of my must-have travel products. There’s more to the process of professional business travel than a quick shopping trip can do, but these 10 essentials will get you moving in the right direction!

  1. The Sherpani Soleil bag. My friends and colleagues have joked that I should become a spokesperson for Sherpani, such is my intense love for this bag (uh, Sherpani? I’m open.) It’s a sturdy tote that’s professional enough to carry to client meetings, yet will sling over your shoulder or torso messenger style, and ALSO becomes a backpack when you suddenly have your hands full, a sore shoulder, or find yourself doing a little surprise hiking (what, it happens!) It also has a luggage strap, so it will slide onto the handle of a roller board suitcase like buttah. BUTTAH. Laptop sleeve, water bottle pockets, and just the right amount of space make this bag the best $100 I’ve ever spent on travel accessories. BUY ONE RIGHT NOW WHY ARE YOU STILL READING THIS.
  2. Bose noise canceling headphones. You know that roaring in your ears when you get off the plane? That ain’t happening if you wear these headphones. They cut out the ambient noise just enough so that you can still hear the world around you, but it’s just low enough that you can block it out. Crying babies and overly chatty flight attendants on Southwest, I’m looking at you. It also sends a subtle message to your seat neighbor to pretty please ZIP IT.
  3. Vaseline. This is really a life essential more than a travel essential, but I won’t get on a plane without it, so it makes the list! Vaseline replaces about 10 other things in a cosmetic bag, from eye makeup remover to lip balm, hand cream to soothing a cut or scrape. The travel size pot is about two bucks at Target and they are in every suitcase and tote I own, just in cases.
  4. Burt’s Bees grapefruit face wipes. These are a life saver, especially for international flights or long layovers. The grapefruit smell is lovely and can make even the most tired traveler feel a little more pulled together upon arrival.
  5. E-reader. I use a B+N Nook and downloading books from the library couldn’t be easier. I spend more time on planes reading than watching movies, and the e-reader makes it easy to carry thousands of books – or at least the complete Outlander series. (I cannot be the only person obsessed with these books, right? RIGHT?)
  6. Oversize scarf. I usually reach for my pale blue pashmina from Paris, or this giant tartan, but any big scarf will do. I use them as blankets on the plane, to bundle up in case it’s cold, and to jazz up the basic blacks and grays that make up 90% of my wardrobe.
  7. iPhone and extra charger. While I dream of the day we all get tired of screens and go back to typewriters and letters, it’s not happening. I have a little folder on my phone just for travel apps. My favorites are WhatsApp for free global texting, CityMapper for navigation, the United app for checking in and mobile boarding passes, the AirBnb app to keep in touch with hosts, and Skype Qik to send fun videos to friends and family!
  8. Glass water bottle. Fo much flying is bad enough for Mother Earth without buying plastic water bottles and effectively punching good old M.E. in the face. I try to combat this in a small way by filling up my glass water bottle pre-flight and saying no to all those little plastic drink cups from flight attendants.
  9. Eye mask. A must for international flights, but sometimes I want to get a head start on sleep coming back from the East Coast, when I might land at midnight or 1 am. Eye masks help you sleep like a champ and help you channel your inner Holly Golightly, too.
  10. Airport-approved footwear. With admission into TSA Pre, I no longer have to take my shoes off and it’s like traveling in 1992 (thank you, Baby Jesus) but in those rare instances Pre is closed and you end up like Shoeless Joe, you don’t want to be that schmo holding up the line trying to unlace your gladiator sandals. These fly slip on sneaks are my current fave. And here I thought Aerosoles were just for grandmas!

What are your travel must-haves?! I’d seriously love to hear!

Aerosoles slip on shoes
lordandtaylor.com

Linea evening shawl
$36 – houseoffraser.co.uk

Bose
bestbuy.com

Bkr fragrance
ahalife.com

Iluminage eye mask
nordstrom.com

Therapy lip care
target.com

Mura tech accessory
luxurylaunches.com

Traveling Well

Travel quote

As everyone’s Summer travel winds down, these quotes seemed wonderfully apt.

Travel is a big part of my career, both as a communications consultant and as a writer/dreamer/observer of life. But it definitely took some time to wrap my head around the fact that life is unspooling all around me, whether I’m at home or not.

At first, traveling so frequently felt like a treat. Then, an exhausting interruption. Finally, I’ve decided the best way to travel both frequently and well is to simply embrace it as part and parcel of my everyday life. I can live my life – all book reading, coffee drinking, running, writing minute of it – whether I’m in my apartment in the San Francisco fog belt or in the heart of London…which, coincidentally, is also probably ensconced in fog. I guess I just love clouds that are low to the ground.

Champers on a plane

The trick is to develop some travel rules, especially for business travel. Here’s what I need to travel well:

1. Always find time to run. If that means at 10pm so I can tire myself out like a hamster on a wheel, or just getting up 20 minutes earlier in the morning, I always find my run.

2. Coffee is a must. Whether I’m in Dallas or Denmark, starting the morning with the ritual of coffee is a way to center myself for the day.

3. Write every day. I write every single day, no matter where in the world I am. Whether it’s a blog post, a snippet of a short story, or some hard hours of planning and research for my novel, writing brings me back to a state of internal-ness that is easy to lose when surroundings are unfamiliar or chaotic.

4. Indulge intelligently. At first, every work trip felt like vacation, and to me , vacation is a free-for-all. A little Tuesday-Thursday rumspringa to indulge in everything. A few headaches and extra LBs later… It’s not worth it. I continue to eat as I normally do (plus or minus a few delicious shared desserts) and instead, indulge by watching an episode of Scandal or going to be at 9pm because there’s no one there to judge. Ha!

What does traveling well mean to you?

PS – a great airplane playlist, and how to blend in while traveling.

Europe Taught Me…

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If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen that I’ve been, well, everywhere in the past few weeks. Germany, Switzerland, France, Italy, Nashville! Oh the glamour. If you’ve been to Nashville, you know glamour, amirite?

I am so fortunate to have a job that sends me all over the world, and not just because I love to travel. The experience of seeing new things and checking the box on a new country is, to me, secondary to the things you learn from people in other countries. For example, in France two weeks ago, I learned that even though my French is “making progress” (which is nice person code for “still pretty bad”) I am still nowhere near fluent enough to be ordering things unsupervised. Especially not cocktails. Some cocktails are delicious, while others may or may not taste like mushroom. What is a martini rouge? Still don’t know, and also do not recommend that you order one yourself. Unless you like your drinks like you like your mushrooms: mushroom-esque.

Key learning #1: stick with wine. This is just a life learning, really.

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The other (and probably more important) takeaway from this trip was around spontaneity. I’m a major planner and I love checking things off a list and getting shit done. I haven’t always been this way, but that’s what we’re working with now. Traveling with a colleague who is the complete opposite of that was a wonderful exercise in letting go of planning and fully embracing a wander mentality. Shall we hop on a train to Milan and wander with gelato in hand? Yes. Shall we hop on a train to Zurich and spend hours touching soft things in their opulent department stores? Yes. Would that have made a daily agenda item? No. Am I extremely delighted it happened? YES. Always make time to wander.

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Other things I learned:

. Swiss people are the nicest people in the world. Courteous, friendly, and kind. And with its big city amenities, college town energy, and alpine air, Zurich is the most perfect city in the world. I’m moving.

. Tina Turner also lives in Zurich. This newfound knowledge neither persuades nor dissuades me.

. Fondue makes a great lunch. And snack. And dinner.

. Do not buy the large bottles of interesting beer at the beginning of the day. Rookie move all the way.

. Italians are too cool for you. They are also too cool to explain things to you, so if you want that panini you gotta throw some ‘bows and yell at somebody until you get it. But seriously, jump in there.

. It pays to leave extra room in your carry-on to bring back chocolate.

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Have you been anywhere recently? What did you learn? DO TELL!

The Art of Blend

praha

When I was in Prague last month, what struck me about Prague wasn’t so much the pork ribs or the incredible architecture or the flooded river (and accompanying lack of riverside beer gardens, sadly) but the…Americans. Or, as Rick Steves puts it, The Ugly Americans.

My countrymen, I am calling you to the carpet.

I saw white sneakers. I saw a lot of talking on cell phones, LOUDLY, in public. Worst of all, I saw…fanny packs. I also saw some being rude to waiters, some grumbling about why people don’t all speak English, and just a lot of  pushy American behavior. GUYS! Come on. Aren’t we better than that? Though perhaps it’s feeling better than things that got us into this mess to begin with. Hmm.

It’s one thing, I suppose, if you just don’t give a shit about how you’re coming across to people who are nice enough to host you in their country. Some people don’t. That must be freeing for you.

However, there are many people who don’t intend to behave this way. They just haven’t had the pleasure of traveling abroad and simply aren’t acquainted with the European way of going about your business.

If I may, I’d love to add a few tips to the list to help everyone – us and them – have a more pleasurable experience with the Americans:

1. Try to blend in. Instead of sparkling white New Balance sneakers, perhaps you might consider a cushy ballet flat or a well-made loafer or boat shoe? Or, when all else fails, a classic pair of Converse in fresh white or their Euro cousin, Bensimon sneaks. Dr. Scholls inserts are a wonder for tired feet. Investigate.

Nothing screams I AM AN AMERICAN like a windbreaker. Any and all mentions of breaking wind should be reserved for classy fart jokes. Invest in a classic trench coat for rainy days and a light cardigan with a scarf for less cold days when a lighter layer will do. And even if you don’t want to invest, per se (though we talked about that, remember?) you can get a perfectly fine trench coat at the Gap and some colorful pashminas at any open market from Galway to Versailles.

trench

Finally, instead of a fanny pack (I can barely type those two words) have you considered an over the shoulder tote in classic leather? Or maybe a small cross body handbag that’s easy to tuck inside a larger, more unobtrusive bag like the Longchamp le Pliage? Look into it.

2. Learn before you leave. The coffee break podcasts from Radio Lingua are fabulous for learning the romance languages, plus a few others. The episodes are short and you can easily ramp up on greetings, directions, counting and introducing yourself with minimal effort. It’s not important that you have a flawless conversation, but it is important to try.

Chatting

For those who want to take it to the next level, a small guide book with some words and phrases can be an awesome accompaniment to all that gum you have stashed in your purse.

3. Jump in! Get flowers at the local market to spruce up your rented flat or hotel room. Get coffee at the local cafe and chat with the barista as best you can. Shop the local markets, engage the neighbors, and jump into the daily doings of wherever you are. Not only will you make friends, but you’ll have a more authentic experience.

peonies

4. Manners trump all. When everything fails – and it will – and you are lost and feeling like an outsider, make like Kate and smile, smile, smile.

<> on August 19, 2011 in Birmingham, England.

Approach a local, smile, and ask as politely as you can if they speak English and if they can help you. When someone approaches you here, you are often more than happy to help them, right? Same goes overseas, if you are polite. Barging up to someone and yelling about where’s the train station? and where’s the samiches? is not a great tack to take.

With a smile and some consideration, you will often get back on track in no time. Not to mention, serious global traveler brownie points. And possibly even brownies. If you are lucky enough to run into a baker. And then you call me right away.

And if you run into Kate Middleton, hold her down until I get there.

All images sourced via Pinterest

Summer Europe Essentials

Last time I went to Europe – and, actually, every time I’ve ever gone to Europe – it’s been either Spring or Fall. I dislike Summer in general (yes, I know, bring out the pitchforks!) and especially for travel because it’s hot and muggy nearly everywhere but San Francisco. Among the many reasons to love San Francisco: ease of bodily temperature regulation.

Also, it’s crowded, and it’s a well documented fact that when I wander around Europe, I prefer to do it sans people in white sneakers and fanny packs.

To help, I thought it would be fun to pull together a summer Europe packing list. Bonus points if you can fit it all into a carry-on, as I intend to! Please note operative word – intend.

Europe Summer Essentials

Genius Travel Tip

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While traveling, I like to walk a lot. And when you walk a lot, inevitably, you don’t want to be carrying a bunch of crap. It’s a core truth of both physics and shopping. Google it if you don’t believe me. To avoid any and all crap schlepping, I have a very tiny purse.

But, also inevitably, you see something you must have and then you buy that something, and then you are stuck carrying that something all the live long day because, of course, the something will not fit into your tiny purse. Must-have somethings never fit into tiny purses. This, also, is a law of physics.

What to do? Carry a large bag in anticipation of somethings? Not buy that something and regret for the rest of your days? NAY FRIENDS! I have a solution. And it is only $10.

Get thee to a J. Crew (or the internet) and purchase a BAGU bag. They fold up into a tiny square, fit easily into a tiny purse, and are ready and waiting to absorb up to 50 pounds of adorable something.

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If you don’t need them, they remain hidden in your tiny purse, not bothering you whatsoever. And when you need them, they will save the day. Bonus: they are chic enough to tote around and not feel like you are a bag lady. No offense, bag ladies with Internet access.

It’s impossible not to offend someone sometimes. This is not a law of physics, but a law of life. You heard it here first.

Glamour Camping Tip

For those who are more about glamping than camping, I thought this campfire tip was hilarious and brilliant:

To waterproof matches, dip them in nail polish!

I can just imagine my friends rummaging through our camping box and coming out, confused, with matches the color of Sugar Daddy or High Maintenance, my go-to red. Next week is our first camping trip of the season – I might try it!

Check out 25 more genius camping tips and how to stay adorable in nature.

Happy Summer! Let’s bust out those tents and hiking boots!